[b-hebrew] Exodus Miracles and 'elep

Kevin P. Edgecomb kevino at bombaxo.com
Tue Aug 3 15:57:01 EDT 2004

I'd like to suggest another possibility for explaining the range of impossibly large numbers not only in the Exodus and Numbers texts, but throughout the Hebrew Bible.  I think it more likely that late in the Persian period or early in the Hellenistic period, and editor or editors consistently altered the numbers included in the historical texts by factors of either 10 or 100.  The idea was suggested by what appear to be a few "misses" and by the similarly motivated alteration of numbers in earlier Assyrian texts as described in Marco De Odorico's _The Use of Numbers and Quantifications in the Assyrian Royal Inscriptions_ (Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1995).  I've put my notes on this idea online here:


Although I don't think this is entirely conclusive, I do find that this proposal deals with the presence of impossibly large numbers throughout the Hebrew Bible much more effectively than the only partial solution of using an alternate meaning for 'elep in only certain cases.  Clearly the authors were using numbers, despite the sophistry of their interpreters. "Hundreds" add up to "Thousands." "Units" do not add up to "Clans." Incidentally, however, my proposal does end up in presenting roughly the same numbers as he "'elef as clan" approach.

I would certainly appreciate any comments on the idea. One of the things I'm not settled on is the lack of control as to whether the numbers were multiplied by either 10 or 100.  The factor chosen is only what seems likely in comparison to what is known from other sources in some cases, but is still not sufficiently solid for my satisfaction.  It's only a suggestion, but a working one which does certainly show some potential.

Kevin P. Edgecomb
Berkeley, California

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