[b-hebrew] Exodus Miracles and 'elep

Dora Smith villandra at austin.rr.com
Tue Aug 3 13:44:23 EDT 2004


Thankyou very much for informing us of the evidence that elan meant clan and
not thousands.

Of course it did.   It makes far more sense.

Dora Smith
Austin, Texas
villandra at austin.rr.com
----- Original Message -----
From: "Walter R. Mattfeld" <mattfeld12 at charter.net>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tuesday, August 03, 2004 6:27 AM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Exodus Miracles and 'elep

> Uri wrote :
> "It needs hardly be pointed out that the ancient authors and redactors of
> these narratives would have been mortified by the possibility of natural
> exlanations that detract in any way Yahweh's ability to perform miracles."
> I would have to agree with Uri's observation about an ancient Israelite's
> reaction. Yet I do believe that this methodology, for modern scholars, is
> "on target."
> It is quite evident that a number of physical phenomena associated with
> Exodus wanderings are attested in Nature. Seas do periodically dry up and
> then refill. For example the Nile delta is called the tongue of the
> "sea" which God will dry up. In antiquity this delta became a sea every
> upon the flooding of the Nile. An ancient Greek visitor remarked that the
> villages in the delta were built on high landforms that became islands at
> the time of the flood, reminding him of islands in the Aegean sea. Then
> Nature (God ?) would _dry up_ this sea with the abatement of the flooding.
> Another location is the head of the Gulf of Suez, where tides vary by ten
> feet, low tides exposing shoals east of the modern port of Suez.
> A wind from God blows over the sea, making a path. Powerful winds are
> attested in the Spring (when the Exodus is understood to have occured).
> are called Khamasine winds (howling dust storms) and can reach wind gusts
> 55 miles per hour ! These winds occur in the Isthmus of Suez area, the
> area associated by some with the route of the Exodus. A recent book
> exploring the miracles of the Exodus and relating them to natural
> of Egypt and the Sinai is  by Professor Colin J. Humphreys. _The Miracles
> Exodus, A Scientist's Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the
> Biblical Stories_. HarperSanFrancisco. 2003. pp.362).
> Humphreys also explores the notion of Mount Sinai possibly being a
> as noted by Peter Kirk in an earlier post. He suggests it might be Mount
> Bedr in Midian, just north of Medina in modern day Saudi Arabia. He
> attempted to argue that the Pillar of Cloud which led Israel to the sacred
> mount was an erupting Mt. Bedr.
> I was fortunate to recently be able to purchase a used copy of Baruch
> Halpern's book _The Emergence of Israel in Canaan_. Chico, California.
> Scholar's Press. 1983, and was intrigued by his critique of Professor
> Mendenhall's earlier proposal that Hebrew _'elep_ meant "clan" instead of
> the traditional reading of "thousand" in regards to tribal lists
> with the Exodus event. I found his arguments convincing that the
> reading of 'elep as "thousand" is correct and that Mendenhall was wrong in
> arguing it meant "clan."
> Halpern noted that a number of scholars have accepted Mendenhall's
> because it solved for them the fantastically large numbers involved in the
> Exodus, 600,000+ Hebrew armed warriors leaving Egypt, extrapolated with
> wives, children, and grandparents to a horde approaching 2 million souls !
> By reading "clan" much smaller numbers could be envisioned for the Exodus
> trek. By the way, Humpreys has accepted Mendenhall's reading.
> Having concluded that the traditional reading of 'elep meaning "thousand"
> correct, Halpern then argued that these huge numbers meant for him that
> tribal numbers were a creation of the Priestly redactor of the Exile, and
> not to be trusted as reflecting the real numbers involved in the Exodus.
> Regards, Walter
> Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.
> mattfeld12 at charter.net
> www.bibleorigins.net
>  Below is an excerpt of Halpern's argument on 'elep :
> The 'elep problem, "thousand" or "clan" ?
> Reference : Baruch Halpern. _The Emergence of Israel in Canaan_. 1983.
> Chico, California. Scholar's Press. pp. 334.
> Professor Halpern has critiqued Mendenhall's proposal that the tribal
> appearing in the various Exodus accounts are historical and of that
> He argues that they are unhistorical and most likely arise from the
> Source (rendered P in the below excerpts) in the Exilic period or later.
> Halpern finds fault with Mendenhall's notion that 'elep in the tribal list
> means "clan" rather than the traditional reading of "thousand."
> Halpern (Emphasis mine) :
> "From this brief survey, it should be plain that the P lists represent a
> late monarchic or an exilic retrospective view of early Israel"
> ...Mendenhall maintains that the P lists of Numbers 1 and 26 are
> nevertheless pre-monarchic. He bases his claim on the observation that the
> term 'elep, usually a "thousands," can also denote "the muster of a
> mishpaha, or clan." As a result, he continues, it is legitimate to read a
> text such as Numbers 26:18 -"these are the mishpehot of the children of
> according to their musters: forty 'elep and five hundreds"- as stating
> Gad consisted of 40 clans: together these fielded 500 warriors. The
> attraction of this scheme is immediately apparent: it disposes of
> claims that correlate with no reality in ancient Israelite history, claims
> so exhorbitant as in fact to defy the agricultural and industrial
> of Israel in the pre-Mandatory period. Having thus simultaneously
> why any author would make such substantial claims (the author did not) and
> disembarrassed himself of the claims themselves, Mendenhall finds that the
> drastically smaller population figures he has produced are consonant with
> early date for the lists.
> The first element of Mendenhall's argument is indisputable. 'elep does
> the meaning "clan," "clan muster" in such passages as Judges 6:15; 1
> 10:19-21. Moreover, the advantages of Mendenhall's reading generally are
> manifest. However, there are problems that beset the hypothesis. The first
> two of these have to do with the totals of the muster in Numbers 1:46;
> 26:51.
> Numbers 1:46 states that Israel could field 603,550 warriors. Even if one
> reads the foregoing list with Mendenhall, it is impossible to regard this
> a statement that Israel's 603 clans produced 550 warriors. First, the
> numbers do not tally (Mendenhall's reading produces 5,550 warriors in the
> Numbers 1 list). Second, it would tax our imagination to suppose that the
> avarage Israelite "clan" could field only .91663 warriors. The only
> to make is that the verse is in error. So, one reads Numbers 1:46 to say
> that Israel had 603 clans, which together fielded 5,550 warriors.
> rather than 730 warriors (the figure there being 601,730).
> This is the first weakness of the hypothesis: there is no reason to supply
> any figure before the 730 of Numbers 26:51 or the 550 of Numbers 1:46, let
> alone the specific figures that must be chosen. Moreover, there is no
> to suppose that the Israelite reader to whom these texts were directed
> divine that he was expected to supply these figures -how could the
> be expected to understand that the notation 601,730 or 601 thousands and
> really meant 601 clans and 5,730 people ? But this first difficulty is
> compounded by a more serious one. Read with Mendenhall, the lists and the
> summations do not tally. Numbers 1, read with Mendenhall mentions 598
> "clans" and 5,550 warriors. Numbers 1:46 has the same number of warriors
> we supply the figure 5,000; but it thinks there were 603 "thousands" or
> "clans". Numbers 26 has 596 clans and 5,730 warriors. But Numbers 26:51
> (601,730), even read with Mendenhall to imply 5,730 warriors, has 601
> "clans." (pp. 113-115. Halpern)
> ...If one reads Numbers 1 and 26 as they have traditionally been read-
> 40,500 meaning 40,500- then the totals reported in Numbers 1:46, 26:51 are
> accurate...If the traditionalist who arrived at the sums in Numbers 1:46,
> 26:51 treated the tribal census figures not as encipherments, but as
> figures, earlier traditionalists may well have done the same. That is, not
> only is there no evidence that the Israelite expected to understand
> "thousand" = "clan" code as Mendenhall understands it; there is evidence
> Israelite did not understand it so.
> (p. 115. Halpern)
> Overall the P lists hold out little hope for the recovery of pre-monarchic
> traditions. Quite the reverse, the census lists show every sign of
> artificiality in their recollection of early eras. The transmissional
> process has created an Israel so amply bestowed in its muster that only
> technological backwardness could possibly account for its failures on the
> field -against enemies numbering in the tens and hundreds. It follows
> logically that the P reports are not likely to be fruitful for the study
> pre-monarch Israel." (p. 116. Halpern)
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