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What part of Exodus has been demonstrated to be wrong?

According to the book of Exodus, 600,000 adult male Hebrew warriors left Egypt (Exodus 12:37). A more precise number is given in Exodus 38:25-28 and Numbers 1:46 of 603,550. By the end of the 40 years in the desert, the number of adult male warriors was 601,730 (Numbers 26:51). These clearly are not transcription problems as the numbers are precise and while different, they are consistently reported around 600,000 throughout the various accounts. If the adult male warriors numbered around 600,000, it is reasonable to assume that there would have been a similar number of adult females, and a proportional amount of both children and old people. In total it seems that there would have been in excess of 1.5 million people leaving Egypt. This is 3 times the population of cities such as Seattle (563,000), Portland (529,000) or Denver (567,000) and way more than twice the current total population of Jerusalem (around 706,000 in 2005). Regardless of how many females and children there were, it is a huge number. In addition, according to the Biblical account, none of the people who left Egypt entered the Promised Land. Yet the number that crossed the Jordan was approximately the same as the number that left Egypt. This means that there were about 1.5 million births and 1.5 million deaths in 40 years (well over 100 births and deaths per day every day). So the first question is: What happened to all of these corpses? Forget the red herring about tents and animal skins. As the archeological finds of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi texts attest, this region is excellent for preserving even fragile papyrus texts. Where are either the biological or the technological remains of the 1.5 million Hebrews who died in the wilderness? Where is there any evidence of either their metal work or pottery that are found in every other culture from the same time period and that are specifically described in the Biblical texts (where did all the gold go that was used in the tabernacle)?

These numbers also present many practical difficulties. For example, the able-bodied warriors, marching 50 men abreast would have presented a line seven miles long. When we add women and children, the line would stretched about 22 miles so that the last of them could not have started until the first had traveled the full distance, which would have been about 2 days journey for a mixed company like this. Or if they traveled in a square, it would have been a tightly packed block of people over 1 square mile. How would instruction have been given to start, stop, change direction etc. And the sheep and “very much” cattle must have formed another vast column of similar proportion. What did this enormous herd of cattle and sheep feed upon? The animals could not live on the manna, nor could the people drink the manna. Num. 20:5 and Deut. 8:15 affirm that the rock which miraculously yielded water did not follow them through the desert. Where did 1.5 million plus nomads get drinking water throughout 40 years in a desert?

In numerous laws and references (see especially Exodus 35-40), the tabernacle was to be placed in the center of the camp of all the people. If we allow only 4 feet square for each person, the Hebrew encampment would have been more than 1 mile in each direction with the tabernacle in the center and all their animals outside of the camp. If we accept more realistic density rates, the size of the camp grows significantly. Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) is one of the most densely populated cities on earth. It has about 29,000 people per square kilometer. Using these figures would mean that the size of the Hebrew camp would have been almost 5 miles across. Apart from the logistical nightmare of setting up, moving and resettling a community of this size on a regular basis this size of community present great difficulties even for such basic issues as personal hygiene. For example Deut 23:12-14 commands that every person go outside the camp for the “call of nature”. There were the aged, the sick, young children and women giving birth. It would have been clearly impossible for them to travel ½ mile every time they needed to relieve themselves, much less 2.5 miles for those near the center of the community.

But the issue really becomes bizarre when we consider how important animal sacrifices and religious rituals were to this community. Sacrifices for 1.5 million people were required to be performed by the priests (Lev 17:5) in the tabernacle (about 150*75 feet according to Exodus 35-40), which was located at the center of the community. The account of the exodus goes into elaborate detail concerning both the reason for and the type of sacrifices that were to be offered by every Hebrew person and/or family. A pigeon was to have been sacrificed as a sin offering for each newborn child (over 100 every day). In addition, there were burnt offerings, meat-offerings, peace offerings, sin-offerings, trespass offerings, thanks offerings and many more. How many priests were assigned to facilitate all of these sacrifices? According to Exodus 29:9, Exodus 40:15 and Num. 3:10. only Aaron, his sons and their descendants were to be priests, and the text only mentions two son sons - Eleazer and Ithamar. Aaron’s grandsons are never mentioned either by name or by inference, but even if Aaron’s sons had large families immediately after leaving Egypt, they still would not have been able to become priests until they became adults. So that mean that for at least some significant period there were only three priest for 1.5 million people who were commanded to all regularly make a wide variety of sacrifices exclusively by a priest and exclusively at this tiny (relatively speaking) tabernacle. On top of this, the animals lived outside the camp, so every sacrificial offering had to be lead alive for at least 2.5 miles through the camp to the tabernacle, slaughtered there and offered as a sacrifice to God, and then the remains taken back outside the camp and burned on “wood with fire.” (Lev 4:11-12 and 6:10-11). Apart from the vivid visual image of a steady stream of live animals being transported one way for sacrifice and the remains of the sacrifice being carried back outside the camp for disposal, where in the desert did the wood fuel for the fires come from? And by the way, where, when they were living on manna in a desert with no alternate source of food, did they get the grain for their grain offerings – as required by Exodus (29:41, 30:9, 40:29), Leviticus (35 references), Numbers (57 references) and Deut (1 reference)?

Furthermore, how could Moses have “called all Israel and spoke to them” (Deut 5:1) or how could Joshua have “read the words of the Law before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.” (Josh. 8:34-35). This problem is then compounded by the assertion in Deut 7 where the Israelites were commanded to destroy 7 nations “greater and mightier” than them. Multiplying the number of Hebrew armed men by 7 gives us 4.2 million armed men in Canaan. When we add women, children, the elderly and the infirm, we reach a number well over 9 million. This is about the size of the population of New York City, and 1.5 times the entire population of the current nation of Israel There is NO archeological evidence that a population even close to this size ever existed in that geographical area. Even with modern scientific farming techniques, desalination plants, food importing, apartments buildings and constant immigration Israel has only attained a population of about 6 million.

To cap this all off, according to I Kings 20:15, many years later the total population of all of Israel, including men, women and children, was 7,000. To see a society drop from over 1,500,000 to 7,000 would be a catastrophe of epic proportions. Yet there is no record of such a disaster in either the Bible or non-canonical sources.

On the basis of the biblical evidence alone the number of Hebrew warriors that left Egypt and/or crossed the Jordan 40 years later being 600,000 is totally unbelievable and demonstrably false. The demonstrable difficulties of accepting the exodus account as factual have been well documented for at least the last 150 years (as only one of many examples see “The Pentateuch and Joshua Critically Examined” written in 1862 by J. W. Colenso, an Anglican missionary and Bible translator for the Zulu people). Yet many evangelical scholars continue to insist that the story of exodus is accurately reported. The most charitable thing I can say about them is that they are so blinded by their preexisting assumptions about God and the Biblical text that they cannot read what the text actually says.


Paul T
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