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Moses 603,550 Fighting Men

The Book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Torah (Pentateuch, Five Books of Moses), deals with numbers, all sorts of numbers, including how many Israelites departed Egypt with Moses for the Promised Land.

Numbers 1:45-6 notes that Moses had 603,550 men from twenty years of age and upward able to go forth to war. When we add women, children, and non-Israelites, the number of people trekking their way to Mount Sinai with Moshe Rabinu (Moses the Teacher) sometime during the 13th century BCE comes to over 2 million.

The modern academic study of the Bible, noted for challenging traditional belief, considers the notion of 2-million people wandering the Sinai desert quite implausible. As N.H. Snaith wrote in Peakes Commentary on the Bible, When on the march, they would constitute a column twenty-two miles long, marching fifty abreast with one yard between each rank. It does strain credulity.  

Marching, let’s assume,  ten abreast, and not including their donkeys, herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats, they would have formed a column 150 miles long, according to archaeologist Eric H. Cline (From Eden to Exodus). Even more preposterous.

When you think about it, if Moses had over six hundred thousand fighting men, the Israelites would have been able to fend off Pharaoh’s pursuing army at the Red Sea and would not have required the most celebrated miracle in the Hebrew Bible to save them. Something certainly doesn’t add up.

Consider also, as the Israelites neared Mount Sinai, they were attacked by a nomadic tribe, the Amalekites. Exodus 17:8-13 describes the ensuing day-long battle, which went back and forth until the Israelites finally won out.

The Amalekites had attacked with an army of perhaps several thousand and were met presumably by an equal numerical force of Israelites. If Moses troops had indeed numbered some 600,000, it would have been a slaughter.

Another point, Deuteronomy 7:7 stresses that the LORD chose Israel even though ye were the fewest of all people.  According to the Encyclopedia of the Archeology of Ancient Egypt, Egypt’s population at the time was 3 million. With an Exodus population of 2 million, 2/3 of mighty Egypts, the Israelites would hardly qualify as the fewest of all people.