Dating the Pentateuch- Canaan's Conquest Anomalies

Jonathan D. Safren yonsaf at
Tue Jan 25 13:18:46 EST 2000

Walter Mattfeld wrote:

> I have dated the Exodus with the Hyksos expulsion of the 16th century BCE
> because it is "the only event in all of Egyptian history" where a large
> number of Asiatics fled Egypt for Canaan, and who lived in the eastern
> delta, "matching somewhat" the "historically garbled and fantascized" Exodus
> account.

Dear Walter,
What makes you think that in the real Exodus (assuming there was one), a "large
number of Asiatcs fled Egypt for Canaan"? Because Exodus and Leviticus give the
typological number of 600,000 to ishow that God was keeping his promise of
multiplying the seed of Abraham into a great nation??
First of all, the 600,000 indicates only the men aged 20-60. Adding women,
children and the aged, we easily get to 2,000,000. Assuming the Israelites
marched 10 abreast with a meter between each, the length of the column would
have been 200 km. If they marched 20 abreast, 100 km. Picture them starting to
move in the morning. Lacking electronic communications, the word to move would
have to have been passed down the line. Then the first echelons would have
started moving, then the second, and so on. By nightfall, MAYBE the last
echelons would have started to move. And, by then, of course, they would have to
stop. And think of the dust, the stink, the pack animals, if any! It would
really have taken a miracle to feed and give drink to al that horde.
This might explain very well why it took the Israelites 40 years to cross Sinai.

I'm being facetious, of course. What I really mean is that the number of 600,000
men is imaginary, that the real number was nothing like it.
   Secondly, one can get an idea of the real number of Israelites by what is
said betwen the lines in the Wilderness narratives. The Israelite camp was
small, and it was possible to make a circuit of it in a short time (look at the
story of the Revolt of Korach). Likewise, the Israelites could approach Moses
personally, meaning he wasn't situated very far from any of them - certainly not
100 km.Moses personally conveys his instructions to the Israelites, and judges
them personally (until his father-in-law gives him a word of advice).
While still in Egypt, the Israelites made do with two midwives.
The total impression is of a band of a few hundred, maximum a couple of
thousand, fleeing, frightened slaves, not a mass "army" of Israelites.
Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College
44905 Beit Berl Post Office

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list