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— WHEN —

- Generations

- New chronology 1

- New chronology 2


- 10 plagues

- Tiny Exodus

- Big Exodus

- Travel days


- Unknown

- Reeds, papyrus

- Located

- Changes


- Succoth

- Etham/Shur

— ROUTES #1 —

Pharaoh → Red Sea

- Routes map

- Roads to Etham

- Wadis to Etham

- Etham → Tip Aqba

- Etham → Nuweiba


- Tip of the gulf

- Nuweiba Beach

- Delta Exodus

— ROUTE #2 —

Red Sea → Mt. Sinai

- Marah

- Dopkah

- Alush

- Sinai option 1

- Sinai option 2

— MISC —

- Moon Mountain

- In the land of

- Travel days

- List of stops

- Water from rock

- Jordan crossing

- Maps & Lists

This page was last updated on 7 Augustus, 2021.

Tiny Exodus

The Brooklyn papyrus contains a long list of names of slaves. This list is dated around Exodus time. There were many Hebrew names on the list, so that gives extra credibility to the suggested date.

1. Very unlikely things

Many people assume miracles for every thing they don’t understand and/or to push their doctrine. Yes, God did humanly impossible things. But the Bible always very clearly gives Him credit for those things. Some things in this section are very unlikely and the Bible gives God credit for them. Not the vast military strength, skills and courage of the Israelites.

Exod 12:37 And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.

Num 1:45-46 So all the numbered men of the sons of Israel by their fathers’ households, from twenty years old and upward, whoever was able to go to war in Israel, all the numbered men were 603,550.

Greek historian Herodotus, 484-425 BC, stated that (603,550 soldiers) would outnumber the total Egyptian army.
Men is better translated as mighty men or warriors. Obviously we don't know how big the family of each man was. The warrior age was about 20-50. So we should add a few elderly men. Say a total of 700,000. Assuming a 50/50 male/female ratio it would add up to 1.4 million people above 20.

It’s also commonly assumed there were about the same amount of younger and older than 20. That would double the number to 2.8 million. Those numbers are quite reasonable but could easily be stretched to 4 or even 5 million. I’ll use the most commonly accepted number of 2 million. Some estimations as high as 3 million.

2. Very unlikely things - Pharaoh's army

In his zeal Pharaoh did not wait to have his chariot made ready for him he did it with his own hands, and his nobles followed his example. Samael granted Pharaoh assistance, putting six hundred chariots manned with his own hosts at his disposal.

Exod 14:7 And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.

These formed the vanguard, and they were joined by all the Egyptians, with their vast assemblages of chariots

Exod 14:7 And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.

Exod 14:7 and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them.

 and warriors, no less than three hundred of their men to one of the children of Israel,

The Israelites were outnumbered 300 to 1.

each equipped with their different sorts of weapons. The general custom was for two charioteers to take turns at driving a car, but to overtake the Israelites more surely and speedily, Pharaoh ordered three to be assigned to each. The result was that they covered in one day the ground which it had taken the Israelites three to traverse.

Now when the Egyptians had overtaken the Hebrews, they prepared to fight them, and by their multitude they drove them into a narrow place; for the number that pursued after them was six hundred chariots, with fifty thousand horsemen, and two hundred thousand foot-men, all armed.
Jewish Antiquities - Book 2, chapter 15, section 3

In this quote Josephus states the whole Egyptian army was 50,000 + 200,000 = 250.000 troops. That’s excluding the number of soldiers on the unknown amount of chariots.

I think it’s safe to assume that the chariots were the smallest in number. Meaning below 50,000. But I’ll make a very generous estimate and double the troops and assume the total army was 500.000 Egyptian troops.

The Israelites were outnumbered 300 to 1.  500.000 / 300 = 1667 Israeli.

I have a strong feeling something is wrong with Josephus story. Maybe it should be 1:30 or even 1:3.

Now the entire multitude of those that went out, including the women and children, was not easy to be numbered, but those that were of an age fit for war, were six hundred thousand.
Jewish Antiquities - Book 2, chapter 15, section 1

Here Josephus tells us there were 600,000 Israelite soldiers; a number very well known from most Bibles. Many believe the total number of Israelites was 2-3 million.

When the Israelites beheld the huge detachments of the Egyptian army moving upon them, and when they considered that in Migdol there were other troops stationed, besides, more, indeed, than their own numbers, men, women, and children all told, great terror overwhelmed them.

Legends of the Jews - Book III, chapter 1

Josephus tells us that the Egyptian troops outnumbered all Israelites combined.

As a comparison, the US army has about 1.5 million troops and 321 million citizens. Things were different back then. 25% of the Israeli served in the army back then.  But not even that is an answer to the insane numbers. Even if half the population was in the army, then we should double the above numbers to calculate the number of Egyptians citizens in total. Using Josephus number that means ancient Egypt’s population equals that of modern China.
Egypt’s total population is estimated at 5 million.

Using an Egyptian army of 2.5 million and a 1:30 ratio the number of Israeli is 83,333 which is much closer to the conclusion of this page

While there likely is an error in how much the Israeli were outnumbered, it can be assumed they were outnumbered because Josephus mentions that twice. That’s not possible with a total Egyptian population of 5 million, which included the Israelites that left.

So, the numbers are very wrong but point to a Tiny Exodus.

3. Very unlikely things - Amalekite army

Exod 17:8 Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.
Exod 17:9 And Moses said to Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.
Exod 17:10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
Exod 17:11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.
Exod 17:12 But Moses hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
Exod 17:13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

God kept an eye on the Israelites. We don’t know the amount of Amalekites but I think everyone agrees they should have been huge in number if they engaged in battle with 600,000 soldiers and a crowd. The Amalekites were constantly on the winning hand as soon as the Israelites lost God’s support when Moses lowered his hand. For an army of that size to survive in such an acrid environment very complex logistics are needed. It’s not just that every warrior packs a bottle of water and a few slices of bread and that’s it. Keep in mind that 600,000 is the complete size of the army of the United Kingdom.
Please note that God is given credit for this impossible event.

4. Very unlikely things - Cities

The Israelites defeated several cities during their voyage. The most famous is Jericho. Archeologists have found Jericho and the walled part was just 5 to 6 acres. While city walls have a tactical advantage they don’t make a city larger. The city contained people of all ages. No way it could harbor a huge army that could withstand 600,000 attacking Israelites. In fact archeologists estimate no more than 3000 lived in Jericho. The Israeli army marched around the city. If they stayed a little from the walls for safety it still would be less than a mile marching. But 600,000 men would have encircled the whole city without marching at all. But the Jericho story is clear; it was not the Israelites that were victorious. It was God.
Please note that God is given credit for this impossible event.

Speaking of cities, even during the time of king David and Solomon the Israeli cities were small. But they wouldn’t be if the population kept growing at rates suggested in section 8, because the nation would be 100 million by then. That’s not a tiny nation that needs protection from God. That’s a nation that was 2x larger than the whole world population as section 9 shows.

5. Very unlikely things - Water

God provided bread and meat. That’s unusual, a miracle, so Scripture clearly gives God credit for the daily food supply. Scripture also gives God credit for the time Moses struck the rock and water came out. But Scripture clearly doesn’t say God provided water (nearly) every day. That simply means they had to find water for 2 million people plus animals on daily basis. Not the most logical thing in a desert. Very likely they traveled from oasis to oasis but the amount of water in a oasis is limited.

6. Very unlikely things - Arrival at the camp

Exod 16:1 And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.

Lets start with the assumption they left in a huge row of one person wide and were spaced 1 yard between. A row of just the warriors would be 603,550 yards or 342 miles long. If they walked non-stop at a speed of 3 mph it there would be 114 hours, nearly 5 days between the first and last warrior entering the camp. Assuming they ‘only’ walked 8 hours a day the last warrior would arrive 14 days later. Obviously the women, children, carts and animals traveled with the warriors. Let’s assume the wife, children etc of each warrior’s household walked next to him. A very wide row. But still 342 miles long. And that’s unrealistic  positive because when walking that close together it gets uneasy and people step on each others heels etc. Not to mention that sheep and goats hinder an orderly march. But, obviously, if the group was 100x smaller they arrived 100x sooner. Within little over a hour.

Deut 23:12 Thou shall have a place also outside the camp, where thou shall go forth abroad.
Deut 23:13 And thou shall have a paddle among thy weapons, and it shall be, when thou sit down abroad, thou shall dig with it, and shall turn back and cover that which comes from thee.

A camp for millions would be something like 5x5 miles. That’s 2.5 miles from the center of the camp. That’s quite a walk if you ate burritos last day :-)

7. Very unlikely things - Roads of Edom

Exod 13:18 But God led the people about, through the road of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.

Deut 1:2 It is eleven days [journey] from Horeb by the road of mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.

Num 20:17 Let us pass, I pray you, through your country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed your borders.

They traveled over a road and never left that road.  Say the road was ‘4 people wide’. When assuming 2 million spaces one yard between, that’s a 284 mile long row, excluding animals cart etc. Spaced 1 yard is very little. 2 or even 3 is more likely.  That’s a extremely long row. I doubt the king would have given permission for that.

The fact that they asked for permission to travel over a road means exactly that, they traveled over roads and not like in movies swarmed out as far as the eye could see. In v17 Moses even specifically promised not to leave the roads.

Taking a more reasonable distance between each traveler and their cattle and carts, the line would be nearly 3000 miles. That would be from Egypt all the way to China.

8. Very unlikely things - Each mother had 108 children

Num 3:43 And all the firstborn males by the number of names, from a month old and upward, of those that were numbered of them, were twenty and two thousand two hundred and three score and thirteen.

22,273 firstborn males. The number of warriors was over 603,550 men above 20 years old. (Between 20-50)
The commonly accepted age distribution for that era is 50% below and 50% above 20 years of age.
That means there were a total of 1,207,100 men of all ages.
Divided by the firstborn gives 54 males per family.
The commonly accepted boy/girl distribution is 50/50. A grand total of 108 children per couple.

And that’s ignoring couples that aren’t able to get pregnant and stillborns.

Sure Pharaoh killed lots of baby boys, that could have influenced the numbers, but not enough to get the ratio down to something more sensible like 1:4 or even 1:8.

Let’s have a more realistic look at 22,273 firstborn males. Let’s assume 10 children per family. That would be 5 boys. A total of 111,365 boys.
That’s 55,683 of fighting age; not over 600,000. So there are several ways to conclude the numbers are impossible and somewhere something is wrong.

9. Very unlikely things - Egypt’s and world population

Then there is this pesky graph: Source
How can 2 million Jews leave Egypt when there lived no more that 2-5 million people in Egypt? Exodus took place around 1500 BC. That’s at the P of LP in the graph below.

The world population at the time of Exodus was about 39 million. Click, Click, Click, Click. Israel is often called the smallest among nations but 2 out of 39 million is about 5%, which isn’t exactly small. If we would assume it’s a reference to surrounding nations they had contact with we would speak about 19 million assuming half of the worlds population lived in the area the Israelites visited. 19 million is a very generous number. That would make Israel 10% of the population. Not smallest by any means. By comparison the present day ‘tiny nation’ USA is just 4% of the worlds population….

Deut 7:1 When the LORD your God shall bring you into the land where you go to possess it, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you;

Deut 7:7 The LORD did not set his love on you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people:

To be 2 million in size and still be the fewest among the remaining 37 million there could have been only 18 other nations. A very low number which is even lower considering the other nations were (much) bigger and mightier and that only with God’s help the Israelites survived. But we know that there were 70 nations because during atonement day 70 oxen were sacrificed. Click One for each nation. If Israel was 2 million people then the world population should have been way above 70x2=140 million because Israel was the smallest of all nations.

Exod 23:29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against you. Exod 23:30 Little by little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.

Israel was to small to occupy the whole promised land; so God gave them more land as the population grew in size. In 1960 Israel was just over 2 million -link-, so why was Israel back then to small to populate Israel? Afteral many assume the Exodus was of 2 or even 3 million people.

Joshua 15 describes the boundaries of the promised land. But that's not the land they occupied from the start. They had to conquer it. So when they entered the promised land they occupied just a fraction of the total area of the promised land. Unfortunately I can't find anything that specifies that area. But Scripture makes a point of the fact they were to small to occupy the whole land and they would slowly expand. They were so small if God would have removed all enemies in a single days the number of wild animals would become a danger to His people.

10. Two midwives fearing Pharaoh

Exod 1:7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
Exod 1:8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.
Exod 1:9 And he said to his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:

Let’s ignore that if the Israelite were so mighty they didn’t need God’s help to escape.

Who are “we”? The whole Egyptian population? Was Israel, smallest nation of all, really more in number than the Egyptians? Meaning at least 51% of the total population? Or just in the area they were enslaved? Whatever the case, it seemed to worry the Pharaoh, but not much because he only appointed slave masters to control them and reduce their numbers with hard work.

Exod 1:10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falls out any war, they join also to our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.
Exod 1:11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.
Exod 1:12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.  And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.

The fact that Pharaoh didn’t kill anyone yet, shows that while he wasn’t happy with their numbers he felt they could be controlled. Meaning they were not  mightier when being put under taskmasters. I find all of that quite odd if Israel was 51% or more of the entire population of Egypt because with such numbers things are already way, way, out of control.
Who prefers the most common interpretation of 2 million and that the Israelites literally outnumbered the Egyptians must also agree with the historical numbers given above. If 2 million is over 50% of the population of Egypt the total population is less than 4 million.
Ok, it’s true that all of this took place quite a while before the actual Exodus and the numbers of both Egyptians and Israelites have changed, but it still serves as a good example I think.

Exod 1:15 And the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah.
Exod 1:16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the birth-stool, if it be a son, then ye shall kill him, but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
Exod 1:17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive.
Exod 1:18 And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said to them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the male children alive?
Exod 1:19 And the midwives said to Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women, for they are lively, and are delivered before the midwife comes to them.

The text seems to state there were a total of 2 midwives who were addressed by their name. If so the Israeli population couldn’t have been very big.

Exod 1:20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.

Pharaoh tried to deal with the matter by ordering to kill all baby boys. His plan failed and Israel kept growing and becoming mightier. They were already mightier and more in number in v9. Wouldn’t they have completely controlled Egypt by now?

Exod 1:22 And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.

Pharaoh takes the matter out of the hand of the midwifes and order everyone to cast baby boys in the river. That sets the stage for Moses in his basket. It would take another 80 years until the Exodus starts. We aren’t told how effective drowning of baby boys was and how long it continued.  It didn’t reduce the number of adult males that were able to fight Pharaoh at that very day. But once again I must note that Pharaoh thought he still was in control because drowning baby boys only effects future generations. If Pharaoh felt an immediate treat he would also have killed men (nearly) at fighting age.

11. Impossible to give accurate numbers

While this article proves the Exodus wasn't even close to 2.4 million people, it's impossible to give accurate numbers.

The censuses only counts men able to serve in the army. They don't count:


 Throughout this article the following scientifically accepted rule use.

Males below 20, males above 20, females below 20, females above 20, all are 25% of the total population.

But obviously that's no guarantee it's always accurate.

12. The biological impossibility of 600,000 men

Num 3:39 All that were numbered of the Levites, which Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the LORD, throughout their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand.

Num 3:42 And Moses numbered, as LORD commanded him, all the first-born among the sons of Israel.
Num 3:43 And all the first-born males according to the number of names, from a month old and upward, of those who were numbered of them, were twenty-two thousand two hundred and seventy-three. .

Num 3:46 And for the redemption of the two hundred and seventy-three of the first-born of the sons of Israel, who are over and above [the number of] the Levites,
Num 3:47 thou shall take five shekels apiece by the poll. According to the shekel of the sanctuary thou shall take them (the shekel is twenty gerahs),

There were 22,000 Levites from a month old and up. v39
They should redeem 22,273 firstborn non-Levites. V43
Because there are to few Levites (v46), the remaining 273 where redeemed with 5 shekels each v47.
The math checks out so there is no corruption. It’s clearly intended to be accurate because it involves redemption.
The above simply means there where 22,273 firstborn* non Levites.

Exod 12:37 And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children

It’s generally accepted the number of men above and below 20 is about equal.
Likewise the number of males and female is about equal.
600,000 x 4 = 2,4 million people.
Among those 2,4 million people are 22,273 firstborns about to be redeemed.

Each firstborn had 107 brothers and sisters on average.
Each mother had 108 children on average.

That’s a biological impossibility.

*= Num 3:39,43 states it were males of 1 month and older. Likely because many children died at a very young age. This means that a woman had even more than 108 babies.

13. How the errors crept in - Some boring groundwork

BDB Definition:
1) a thousand
1a) as numeral
2) a thousand, company
2a) as a company of men under one leader, troops
→ And leader

13a. About vowels and consonants

Like every language, Hebrew changed over time. The ancient Hebrew had no vowels. In English that would mean an alphabet without A, E, I, O or U.

Test → tst

Testing → tstng

Walk → wlk

Walking → wlkng

While the Hebrew language was written without vowels, vowel sounds where used when speaking Hebrew. The pronunciation of a written word involved adding unwritten consonant sounds.

What does blnd mean? Blend? Blind? Blond? Blonde? Or perhaps bland?
The answer is you can’t know by reading ‘blnd’. The Hebrews had the same problem. They solved that by orally passing down the knowledge on how to pronounce ‘blnd’.

The pronunciation was passed on from generation to generation until 800-900AD

In that century the Masoretes copied the ancient vowel-less manuscripts and added vowels signs/points so the pronunciation was known from the text. Not just from passing down from generation to generation.
All OT translations are based on the Masoretic text.

It’s not certain that the pronunciation was flawlessly passed down generations.

So sometimes the Masoretes translated ‘blnd’ as ‘blind’ but it should have been ‘blend’ (that’s my example, not an actual fact).

The most ancient manuscripts had the word ‘lp. The

Original     Masoretic       English
‘lp      ‘allup      leader → Gen 35:15, Psa 55:13

‘lp      ‘elep       1000 → Gen 20:16, Num 3:50
‘lp      ‘elep       group → Judg 6:15,  1Sam 10:19
‘lp      ‘elep       group under one leader

Click here for more information on vowels.

Archeological evidence dated 1400-1200BC, 840BC and 700BC proves ‘lp meant troop in that time. Please note that only proves it was (also) used as such at those times; but scholar Noth claims the original meaning of ‘lp was only troop and (much) later it got an additional meaning of 1000.

13b. How did the numbers get translated to as we have them?

As we saw above the Hebrew word ‘lp can be translated as ‘troop’ or ‘thousand’. Let’s assume the original verse read like this:

Num 1:46 Even all they that were numbered were 598 ‘lp (troops) and 5 ‘lp (1000) and 550 [men]

Num 1:46 Even all they that were numbered were 598 troops and 5,550 [men]

→ The original reading

Num 1:46 Even all they that were numbered were 598 ‘elep (1000) and 5 ‘elep (1000) and 550 [men]

→ Masoretic translation
→ The first ‘elep somehow got misunderstood. Because the verse looked weird that way the scribe added the what he assumed to be both 1000’s

Num 1:46 Even all they that were numbered were 603 (598+5) ‘elep (1000) and 550 [men]

Num 1:46 Even all they that were numbered were 603,550 [men]

→ The result as we know it

Below the same verse in two translations showing the confusion over ‘lp

TS98 1Sam 23:23 “So look, and learn all about the hiding places where he hides. And you shall come back to me with certainty, then I shall go with you. And it shall be, if he is in the land, that I shall search for him throughout all the clans of Yehudah.”

KJV 1Sam 23:23 See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hides himself, and come you again to me with certainty, and I will go with you: and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah.

Below some verses showing  family, clan, household, troop are all valid translations

Judg 6:15 And he said to him, Oh my Lord, with which shall I save Israel?  behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.

1Sam 10:19 But today you have rejected your Elohim who Himself is your deliverer from all your evils and your distresses; yet you say to Him, But set a king over us! And now present yourselves before the face of YAHWEH, by your tribes and by your families/household.

Judg 6:15 And he said to him, Oh, LORD, with what shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.

1Sam 10:19 But today you have rejected your God, who alone saved you from all your evils and tribulations. And you have said: ‘By no means! Instead, appoint a king over us.’ Now therefore, stand in the sight of the Lord, by your tribes and by your families.”

1Sam 23:23 Look and find out all the places where he hides. Then come back to me with accurate information, and I’ll go with you. If it turns out he really is in the region, I’ll search for him among all the clans of Judah.”

Josh 22:14 They sent 10 leaders with him — one family leader for each tribe of Israel. All of them were heads of their families among the clans of Israel.

13c. The Bible is never wrong

That’s true, God’s word is never wrong. But translations are manmade. An man isn’t flawless.
BTW it doesn’t mean there are dozen of translation errors. Well that’s how I view it. It’s just one mistake that’s used over and over again. An honest mistake.
As an example someone translates ‘Moby Dick’ and thinks Moby is shark instead of a whale. How many errors are in that translation? Just one? Or a lot because the word shark can be found dozens of times in the book?

Translation is also an science. It improves over time. Sometime the meaning of words wasn’t known. So translators gave it a educated guess. No doubt honest but could be wrong. Maybe they had several translations and after debating for weeks they settled on the translation we see today in many Bibles. Translators without a doubts are very educated and good at everything related to translation. But when they were discussing the best translation they had asked a archeologist, mathematician to share their insight, they might have picked another translation.

Personally I just want to get the numbers right. For others it’s totally irrelevant. For them the event counts, not the exact number. That’s so, but still it’s my opinion we should get as closely as possible to the real numbers.

Those flawed numbers are also used to attack the credibility of the Bible. And that leads people astray. And that fact alone could be a very big motivator to get the numbers correct.

14. Tribes, families, troops, teams and men

Num 1:3 From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: you and Aaron shall number them by their armies.

That verse gives us a very big hint about translations. The census is about counting men that should join the army. Troops are very common in the army.

Num 1:25 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Gad, were 45 thousand six hundred and fifty.

Retranslated with the knowledge from the above section:

Num 1:25 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Gad, were 45 families six hundred and fifty.

45 families, totaling 650 people, formed the tribe of Gad.
That’s 650/45=14 per family on average.
The generally accepted number is that 50% of the men where above the fighting age of 20. 50% below add up to 28 men per family. A 50/50 men, woman ratio gives 56 people per family. This must not be understood as 56 children from 2 parents. It includes the extended family like uncles, aunts, nephews, grandparents etc.

A group of 45 families formed the whole tribe of Gad. In section 15 it’s shown by Scripture that the tribe of Levi was made up of several families.

2nd census Numbers 1                   2nd census Numbers 26

Reuben     46,500 (11=500/46)  Reuben     43,730 (17)
Simeon     59,300 (5)          Simeon     22,200 (9)
Gad        45,650 (14)         Gad        40,500 (13)
Judah      74,600 (8)          Judah      76,500 (7)
Issachar   54,400 (7)          Issachar   64,300 (5)
Zebulun    57,400 (7)          Zebulun    60,500 (8)
Ephraim    40,500 (13)         Ephraim    32,500 (16)
Manasseh   32,200 (6)          Manasseh   52,700 (13)
Benjamin   35,400 (11)         Benjamin   45,600 (13)
Dan        62,700 (11)         Dan        64,400 (6)
Asher      41,500 (12)         Asher      53,400 (8)
Naphtali   53,400 (8)          Naphtali   45,400 (9)
           ------- +                        -----– +
Total:     603,550 men             Total: 601,730 men
           (598 troops)                   (596 troops)
           (5,550 soldiers)               (5,730 soldiers)

The above, in bold, is the classic interpretation of the military censuses. The alternative interpretation is reading the number before the comma as the number of troops and the the numbers after the comma as the total number of men in those troops. I added the average rounded number to give an indication of the average size of the troops as (..).
5,550x4=22,200. Every single person combined, excluding Levites who were not drafted. As a side note, some scholars believe the above numbers are all people, male and female of all ages.
Besides that the numbers are more credible that way, it also seems supported by Scripture

Num 1:18 And they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, by their polls.

Num 1:20 And the children of Reuben, Israel's oldest son, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;

Close reading shows it were three censuses wrapped into one.

And that’s exactly what the table shows. For example the tribe of Reuben:

Num 1:3 From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: you and Aaron shall number them by their armies.

At the start of the chapter we read the reason of the census is counting men of 20 and above to serve in the army.

5-14 men in a troop certainly is (very) small to present day standards but seems to be an plausible number for that time.

In 1887, in the Egyptian town of Tell el-Amarna, 380 clay tablets were discovered. The were dated fourteenth century BC. Two of those tablets mentioned troop sizes of  10 and 20 men. So the Israeli troops were reasonably sized for that time.

The conclusion of all of this:

15. 300 missing Levites

Num 3:39 All that were numbered of the Levites, which Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the LORD, throughout their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand.

A little above the total was 22,300. A difference of 300. An explanation is that in the ancient days numbers weren’t spelled out as in the verse above. A single letter was used. The letter used for 500 (caph) looks very similar to the letter used for 200 (resh). So Gershon should read 7,200 instead of 7,500. Possible, but then the thing with the numeral 8 no longer exists. Of course there is no direct proof it ever existed; but neither is there any direct proof of a scribal error.

A summary of the important numbers:

22,300  = 21 families totaling 1,300 males. → Num 3:21-35
22,000  = 21 families totaling 1,000 males. → Num 3:39
                                               —––- -
Difference                               300 males of one month and older.

Gershon 7,500 men above 1 month old.
Kohath  8,600 men above 1 month old.
Merari  6,200 men above 1 month old.
        —– +           
Totals  22,300

15a. Theory #1 - Copying error
Ancient Hebrew had no numerals so they used letters.
Especially with poor handwriting, a 3 looks like a six.
And a 2 looks like a 5.
8,600 should be 8,300 → Majority view.
7,500 should be 8,200 → Minority view

The Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts read 8,600 and 7,500, the LXX reads 8,300.

15b. Theory #2 - 300 firstborns
300 Levites were firstborns themselves; they only could redeem themselves, not others.
1300/300=4.3 sons per family/couple. Add daughters and the average family size is 8.6 + parents. A very reasonable number that acts as verification of this theory.
22,300/300= 74.3 sons x2 = 148.6 children per couple. An impossible number that refutes 22,300 being the number of Levites.

That  leaves a 1,000 that could redeem others.

15c. Theory #3 - Jobs

Num 3:15 Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers, by their families: every male from a month old and upward shall you number them.

All 3 branches of Levites are counted in v21-35 → 22,300 in total

Num 3:38 But those that encamp before the tabernacle toward the east, even before the tabernacle of the congregation eastward, shall be Moses, and Aaron and his sons, keeping the charge of the sanctuary for the charge of the children of Israel; and the stranger that comes near shall be put to death.
Num 3:39 All that were numbered of the Levites, which Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the LORD, throughout their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand.

Starting in verse 38 a sub-group of Levites is being counted. The group that serves in the Temple/Tent of meeting. 22,300

Exod 28:1 And take you to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons.

Only the sons of Aaron can be priests. The word son should be read as descendant. That would be for example include Aaron’s grand grand grand children.

1Chr 6:1 The sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
1Chr 6:2 And the sons of Kohath; Amram, Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel.
1Chr 6:3 And the children of Amram; Aaron, and Moses, and Miriam. The sons also of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.

The above 3 verses give us a lot of information. Verse 1 shows the origin of the 3 branches mentioned in Num 3:21-39.
More importantly: Levi → Kohath → Amram → Aaron

While all 3 branches were Levites only the Aaronite branch was allowed to serve in the Temple. To be clear, Aaronites are Levites too.

What does this mean?

As shown above the numbers should be read as:

21 families 1300 men.
21 families 1000 men.

Gershon 7 families     500 men above 1 month old.
Kohath  8 families     600 men above 1 month old.
Merari  6 families     200 men above 1 month old.

        —– +           —–- +
Totals  21 families    1,300 men above 1 month old.

Above I’ve shown there are 300 Aaronites but Scripture states 600. Let’s investigate.

Ezra 3:8 In the second year after they had come to the temple of God in Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak initiated the work, along with the rest of their associates, the priests and the Levites, and all those who were coming to Jerusalem from the exile. They appointed the Levites who were at least twenty years old to take charge of the work on the LORD’s temple.

→ Rebuilding the Temple, so totally unrelated to this study

Num 8:24 This is it that belongs to the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait on the service of the tabernacle of the congregation:

→ Trainee priests doing manual labor. Likely work like cleaning, carrying, etc

Num 4:39 From thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, every one that enters into the service, for the work in the tabernacle of the congregation,

→ The ‘real deal’

From the above 4 age groups can be derived.

The 600 contains all 4 age groups.

The 300 missing are: Group 1 and 4 or Group 1, 2 and 4.
Most likely Group 1 and 4, because the second group had a supporting, but important, role in the Temple.

The above solution is fairly close to age distribution mentioned in section 11. It mainly depends on how many lived beyond 50 years of age.

15e. Big families
There are 5,550 non-Levite males of 20+.That means the non-Levite male population is 11,100. There are 1,273 non-Levite first borns.Non-Levite average men per family is 11,100/1,273= 8.7
Double that for women and the family size is 17.4 children. That’s extremely high because all families start with 0 children. (34.8+0)/2=17.4. The largest family was 35 children. That said it wasn’t that extreme because newly weds weren't half of the families. If they married at the age of 20 the oldest would get married when the last child of the family was born. So a family grows from 0 to 17, stays at that level for a few years and then it shrinks because of marriages. Assuming 1 birth and marriage (at 20)  a year a family goes from 0 to 17 back to 0 in 37 years of marriage. That averages out at 9.2 persons. Double that makes an estimated 18.4, which matches quite well with the 17.4 calculated earlier.

15e. Conclusion
Three views, one conclusion. There were a 1,000 redeeming Levites.

16. Levite teams
There is another oddity with the numbers all end with zero. Most are multiples of hundred. That’s quite odd because numbers like 46,523 are to be expected in the census lists. The easy way out is simply claiming everything is possible with God and He just made sure it were round numbers. No way to refute such a claim but there may be another reason.

Maybe the numbers are just rounded for the convenience of the reader. But that doesn’t seem to be how God works. He’s usually very accurate. When He’s not words like ‘about’, ‘nearly’, ‘over’, ‘many’ etc are used to show Scripture gives an approximation.  If the numbers were rounded, why aren’t Reuben and Gad rounded to the nearest 100 like the other tribes? Another oddity is that the numbers of the 12 tribes contain every number from 0-9 but not the number 8*. It’s possible but makes random luck less probable. Has God put a deeper meaning in the text? (For numbers of the 12 tribes see section 14)

The thirteenth tribe (without land), the Levites, also end with zero but they have the number 8 in the Kohath branch.

First column
Num 3:21 Of Gershon was the family of the Libnites, and the family of the Shimites: these are the families of the Gershonites.
Num 3:22 Those that were numbered of them, according to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, even those that were numbered of them were
seven thousand and five hundred.

Num 3:27 And of Kohath was the family of the Amramites, and the family of the Izeharites, and the family of the Hebronites, and the family of the Uzzielites: these are the families of the Kohathites.
Num 3:28 In the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were eight thousand and six hundred, keeping the charge of the sanctuary.

Num 3:33 Of Merari was the family of the Mahlites, and the family of the Mushites: these are the families of Merari.
Num 33:4 And those that were numbered of them, according to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were six thousand and two hundred.

Num 3:39 All numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the mouth of YAHWEH, by their families, all the males from a son of a month and upward were twenty two thousand.

Second column
Num 4:36 Their numbered ones, by their families, were two thousand, seven hundred and fifty.
Num 4:37 These were those numbered of the families of the
Kohathites, everyone who is serving in the tabernacle of the congregation, whom Moses and Aaron numbered by the mouth of YAHWEH, by the hand of Moses.

Num 4:40 even those numbered of them, by their families, by their father's house were two thousand, six hundred and thirty.
Num 4:41 These were those numbered of the families of Gershon, everyone who is serving in the tent of meeting, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the mouth of YAHWEH.

Num 4:44 even their numbered ones by their families were three thousand and two hundred.
Num 4:45 These were those numbered of the families of the sons of Merari, whom Moses and Aaron numbered by the mouth of YAHWEH, by Moses' hand.

Num 4:46 All those numbered, whom Moses and Aaron and the rulers of Israel numbered, of the Levites, by their families, and by their fathers' house,
Num 4:47 from a son of thirty years and upward, even to a son of fifty years, everyone who is going in to do the work of the service, even the service of burden in the tabernacle of the congregation,
Num 4:48 even their numbered ones were eight thousand, five hundred and eighty;

Tribe       1+ month       30-50 years old
Gershon     7,500          2,630*
Kohath      8,600          2,750*
Merari      6,200          3,200*
            —–––-+         —–––- +
Totals     22,300          8,580
           (21 families    (7 teams)
           (1,300 men)     (1580 men)

*=50+30+00=80 → another coincidence?

The Kohath branch/family of Levites was the branch carrying the Ark of Covenant. It was the branch of Moses and Aaron. The other two branches don’t have the numeral 8 in their numbers but only with their numbers the total of 30-50 year olds could have two 8’s in them.

17. Mirrors
Counting the numerals of the 12 tribes shows another oddity. Mirrored.

See Section 14 for the table with numbers.
1 is used  1 time.
2 is used  3 times.
3 is used  4 times.
4 is used  10 times. → Center of the mirror.
5 is used  10 times. → Center of the mirror.
6 is used  4 times.
7 is used  3 times.
9 is used  1 time.

Then we have Reuben and Gad; the two tribes which don’t have multiples of 100 as their totals. Listed between those two tribes is Simeon (which is a multiple of 100) Using the numerals of those 3 tribes we get another mirror.
See Section 14 for the table with numbers.
3 is used  1 time.
4 is used  2 times.
5 is used  4 times. → Center of the mirror.
6 is used  2 times.
9 is used  1 time.

Levite mirror
See Section 16 for the table with numbers.
2 is used  1 time.
5 is used  1 time.
6 is used  2 times. → Center of the mirror.
7 is used  1 time.
8 is used  1 time.

Even without understanding what it means , it must be admitted something deeper is going on. God has hidden information to be found. Presently I don’t know the deeper significance of the mirrors besides being proof of an error free text.
With this in mind I reject Section 15a.

18. The slaying Levites

Exod 32:27 And he said to them, Thus said the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.
Exod 32:28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

Num 3:39 All that were numbered of the Levites, which Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the LORD, throughout their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand.

That verse is a thorn in my side because it plainly states 22,000 :-)
I think it simply means 21 families and 1000 warriors. See  section 15 for an explanation of  the 300 difference.
(If it were really 22,000 then at least 19,000 wouldn’t have followed God’s command and killed)

If you read Numbers 3:21-39  you find the following numbers of Levites.
Geshon 7,500; Kohath 8,600; Merari 6,200 males of 1 month old and above. Converting those numbers to families gives:

Gershon 7 families     500 men above 1 month old.
Kohath  8 families     600 men above 1 month old.
Merari  6 families     200 men above 1 month old.
        —– +           —–- +
Totals  21 families    1,300 men above 1 month old.

Half (see section 11) was below warrior age.
So each Levite killed 3000/650=4.6 people on average.

But more importantly and on topic is that we can derive a rough estimate from that number.

1300x2=2600 Levites, male and female (section 11)

13 tribes x 2600 = 33,800 people in the Exodus.

19. Households and families

Let’s take Gad as an example again. 45 families and 650 men. That can’t be just households because in that case each household should have on average 14.4 men above 20. That’s 57.6 children in total (section 11)

The households were numerous but not that big. Especially if we consider that children married at young age. Puberty was the legal age to marry. Ages as low as 13 are mentioned but other sources states 16+. Whatever the exact age the chances are that many boys left their parents before reaching the fighting age of 20 and for that reasons wouldn’t be numbered in their parent household.

So the  family extends what today is a group of people with the same last name. So lets assume that each 20 year old male (=warrior) has his own household. Obviously it takes some time to built a larger household because all start as just two. Man and wife. Lets also assume all children left their parents before the age of 20. The max number of number of children is say 20. I think that ‘s very high because it means she’s pregnant all the time. The infant mortality rate was quite high. Let’s also take the very bold assumption there are 20 children and none is 20 yet and still living at his/her parents.

Taking those extreme numbers each warrior had a 22 person household including his wife and himself. That would mean 5,550 warriors equals 5550x22=122,100 persons. But in reality most women don’t get 20 children. Miscarriage and infant death, deceases, accidents, murder etc decrease the numbers even more. Add to that the fact that it’s impossible a 20 year old has 20 children unless he has many wives or we start assuming many quadruplets.

Even when using extreme birthrates we arrive  at a number 16x less than the often assumed 2 million.

20. Pedigree

Num 1:18 And they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees/ancestry after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, by their polls.

Num 1:20 And the children of Reuben, Israel's oldest son, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;

Can it be that the numbers Moses asked for were not just the number of people that were alive at that time but the total amount in their family tree; dead and alive?

Gen 25:8 Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people.

Deut 32:50 “Then you are to die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people,

The Egyptians [once lodged ac complaint against the Jews centuries after the Exodus and] said: It is written in the Torah,"Let every woman ask of her neighbor jewelry of silver and gold...."[Exod.11:2]. Now give us back what is ours! Gehiba replied: For four hundred and thirty years Israel was enslaved in your midst, six hundred thousand people [in all]: give each of them two hundred zuz per year, which totals eight million six hundred thousand mina, and then we will return to you what is yours!
James Kugel, The Bible as it Was,  p326.

The key here is that the payment was for all slaves during 430 years. Also keep in mind that it all started with only 70 people which multiplied exceedingly according to Exo 1:5-7. Indeed 3 million most certainly is exceedingly but when all things taken into account unrealistic.

So once again I want to point to the word pedigree or ancestry in Num 1:18.
It doesn’t mean ‘count who’s alive today’. It counts all men who at least reached the age of 20 starting at…? Start of the 430 years? All the way back to the twelve fathers of the twelve tribes? That’s a whole different discussion; but whatever the answer it’s far back into history than the day Moses spoke Num 1:18.

While this view can’t be used to count the number of people that were alive when the Num 1:18 census took place, it does support the much lower numbers. As a matter of fact, it demands much lower numbers.

Heb 7:9-10 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receives tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

Levi was the fourth generation from Abraham. So he as was in the loins of his father who was in the loins… etc. But still he was counted as having tithed Melchisedec by with Abraham’s hands.An action done by a man is also counted as done by his descendants.So considering unborn Levi was counted among those who tithed Levi, it’s not impossible to count the dead in a census.

21. Conclusion

Symbolic only:
If we assume all the numbers given have symbolic (numbers and mirrors) meaning then we have nothing to determine the total number besides very vague guidelines like “smallest nation”.
The beauty of the patterns found shows the text is uncorrupted.
At this point I have no clue what the symbolic meaning can be.

Real numbers:
If we assume the numbers given are literally correct then the Exo 12:37 should be read as about 600 troops, which perfectly aligns with the 598 troops we found in Numbers 1. Those numbers (598 and 600) being so close, prove the claims made on this page to be valid.

So the numbers of Exodus are:

There are other low estimates:

A combination of symbolic and real numbers:
The patterns (mirrors, etc) found act at the very least as proof for the numbers being uncorrupted by scribal errors. The deeper meaning as I wrote before I don’t know.
Personally I believe in it’s a combination of both because most often the Bible combines history with a symbolic meaning.

The Numbering of the Israelites. Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux.