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2011-10-26

Weíve now reached the point in the story that the entire book is named after, the Exodus.

I have a couple issues with Exodus 12:37-42. Letís start with a quibble. Back in a rather ill-fitting passage (Genesis 15:13) God told Abram that his offspring would be slaves in a strange land for 400 years, but now weíre told that the the Israelites were there for 430 years. This isnít a big deal, since the Israelites lived for awhile in Egypt before becoming slaves, so we can assume they had a period of 30 years before becoming enslaved.

To me, that sounds reasonable on its own, but Christian apologists give it a more complex twist. They interpret the 430 year span starting when God first mentioned it to Abram back in Genesis. However, Abram spent decades of his life after that journeying around Gerar, Moriah, and finally settling in Canaan. Only a brief amount of his time was actually spent in Egypt; through Isaacís adult life, and the majority of Jacobís life, the family remains in Canaan. Yet, apologists count this as time in Egypt. They total up 215 years from the time Abram was told about the enslavement to the time Jacob moved with his families to meet Joseph in Egypt. Add another 215 years to make up the difference, and boom, youíve got 430 years in Egypt. Even if we ignore that over 130 of those first 215 were spent in Canaan, the total still doesnít fit because God told Abram this his offspring would be slaves for 400 years.

Also, if Abrahamís clan was only in Egypt for 215 years, that makes their already unbelievable population growth even more inconceivable, which brings me to my second point, how on Earth did the Israelites go from 70 people to 2,000,000 in 430 years (or 215 if you believe the apologists)?

My estimate of 2,000,000 people comes from The Jewish Time Line Encyclopedia which says that if you have 600,000 men as the bible says, and you include the expected number of women, boys, and girls, youíre looking at around 2,000,000 total people. So, how do you get from 70 to 2,000,000 in 400 years and only 4 generations (according to the time line back in Exodus 6? And donít forget, the previous Pharaoh wiped out every first born save Moses.

If there really were 2,000,000 people, along with an additional several million animals, you canít just up and leave, can you? To picture it in todayís terms, imagine if every single person in the city of Houston, Texas decided to leave town all at the same time, in the same direction, with a good portion of their possessions with them. The streets would be jam-packed in deadlock; it would be rush hour times a million. The cityís layout just wasnít built to allow for millions of people being mobile all at once, and thereís no reason to think Egyptís is either.

 

Comments

Maju writes:

 

One of my interests is population genetics and there is a "pop" school (mostly amateurs) who believe that such miracles as 70 people having 2 million descendants in 400 years are perfectly possible. For example, according to them, some 8% of Mongols, Kazakhs and others (at least 2 million people) would be direct descendants of Gengis Khan, who lived roughly 800 years ago.

[Ref. Wikipedia: "Descent from Genghis Khan": section 6 and footnotes]

Their argument is always that people, notably highly polygamous and fertile men, can have lots of offspring (maybe in the hundreds), and that their offspring would do the same once and again. The rest of humankind would be passive receivers of such wave of super-people and the whole humankind would be replaced every few millennia.

It's untenable but there is people who believe in such things without need to resort to gods nor miracles: they can believe in such things just appealing to "evolution" in a pseudoscientific manner. Their "logic" is something like Gengis was a very successful man and so were many of his sons, this must be genetic advantage which has boosted the family.

However in reality Gengis Khan had four known sons (one of which is often claimed to be from a different father) a these had 1-4 sons each, all quite normal.

TheAlmightyGuru writes:

 

I have no doubt that we could engineer such a population growth spurt. Surely we could do this with rabbits who don't have the cultural rules of marriage and fidelity to get in the way.

My problem comes from the facts of the story. Yes, Israelite sometimes took multiple wives, but there is no mention of poor Israelite slaves having tens of wives and hundreds of offspring. I've only ever read of extremely wealthy or powerful men ever having huge numbers of children like that.

The largest problem is that the bible only shows four generations of offspring between the Israelites arriving and leaving, yet still exploding from 70 to 2,000,000.

Baughbe writes:

 

Between differing "Biblical Scholars" the Exodus supposedly happened around the 12th to 15th century BC. At which time there would have been an estimated total world population of 35 to 45 million people. So at best this is saying 4% of all the world were these slaves who were but a small part of the total population of a country which took up about 2% of the total landmass of the earth. And considering that a large portion of Egypt was desert and largely uninhabited, that made for an extremely dense population, existing in a very small space, using farming methods that would have been totally inadequate to feed that dense a population on that sparse amount of usable farm land, no matter how fertile that riverside property was. If you believe that, boy have I got some bargains for you.

Maju writes:

 

"The largest problem is that the bible only shows four generations of offspring between the Israelites arriving and leaving, yet still exploding from 70 to 2,000,000".rnrnThat's called highly successful proselytism. Or "adoption".

On a side note, I was not aware that the Bible was so precise in the figures. Two millions! Did they even have a word for "million" back then?

Ah, ok: you derive it from a figure of 600,000 men. Were they all adult free men? If so two million may be a low estimate, because it'd be one wife, five kids plus slaves... multiply by ten: six million.

Even being conservative, as in using the quasi-official historian measure for household in Medieval Europe: five people, that would be three million.

Not that I believe it, just that's what my logic would suggest.

NightFairy writes:

 

Perhaps god just let them stay longer for bad behavior

someguy writes:

 

if they had a 70 people to begin with and they broke up into couples and each couple had 15 children each and nobody ever died they would have about 1/4 of a million in four more generations (not counting the first)

if we assume that the number of 70 was only counting males and we assumed they had another 70 womenfolk they would be at almost half a million.

but if we allow that they that they all had 22-25 children and nobody died the numbers play out around 2 million (25 for 70 people to start with 22 for 70 males with assumed counterparts)

if we assume that we started with 70 people and they all married an Egyptian every time and had 13 children each and nobody ever died they would be at about the 2 mil mark not including their Egyptian spouses. who i am assuming stayed behind to attend the funerals.

face check. writes:

 

Thanks all for your calcations. Only to add the 70 represents Jacob
Offsprings not including wives or others


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Oh the irony!