SEGMENTS FROM CHAPTER FOUR: IS IT GOD’S WORD?
By Joseph Wheless
THE WONDERS OF THE EXODUS
THE exodus is so wonderful, and so humanly impossible that its accomplishment by Providence deserves our special attention. We will therefore attentively review its wonders, which are superlative if one Bible wonder may excel another; they differ rather in wonder as one star differeth from another star in glory.
“IN THE FOURTH GENERATION”
The exodus took place in the “fourth generation” from the time of the original migration into Egypt. We have seen the four degrees from Jacob: Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses. Making extreme allowance for length of life, we have been able to sum up only 350 years for the “sojourn in Egypt,” though the inspired text says 430 years; at all events, the exodus was “in the fourth generation” (Gen. xv, 16).
Watch the Chosen People grow and multiply: “Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now Yahveh thy God hath made thee as the stars of the heaven for multitude” (Deut. x, 22). The seventy Jacobites who migrated into Egypt were the slow increase of the 215 years since Abraham. According to the schedule in the text (Gen. xlvi, 8-27), of these 70 there were 68 males and two females: Jacob and his twelve sons; their 51 sons (grandsons of Jacob); four sons of two of the grandsons (great-grandsons of Jacob); and two females, Dinah, daughter of Jacob, and Serah, daughter of Asher and grand-daughter of Jacob. Joseph and his two sons by his heathen Egyptian wife were already in Egypt, but are included in the seventy; two of the sons of Judah, Er and Onan, were killed by Yahveh in Canaan before the migration (Gen. xxxviii, 3, 7, 10; xlvi, 12). These 51 living sons of the twelve sons of Jacob who came into Egypt give an average of 4 1/4 male children to each of the sons of Jacob; none of the twelve is recorded to have had any children, sons or daughters, after their arrival in Egypt, except the one daughter to Levi, Jochebed, who married her nephew Amrarn, father of Moses (Ex. vi, 20), and was thus the mother of Moses and his great-aunt. Adding the four great-grandsons of Jacob to the 51 grandsons makes 55 male descendants of Jacob; these, together with Jacob and his twelve sons and the two women, make up the total of seventy, though this does not include the wives of the twelve. But it is stated: “all the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt … besides Jacob’s sons’ wives … all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten (Gen. xlvi, 26, 27).
Assuming that all the 55 male descendants of Jacob who came into Egypt married and had only sons for children, or sons to the average of 4 1/4, and that this average held through the four generations, the Hebrew population in Egypt would naturally augment in about the following manner: The first generation (offspring of the twelve) that came into Egypt was 55 males; liberally allowing five male children each, the second generation, sprung from these, would number 275; the third generation, offspring of the second, would number 1375; the fateful “fourth generation,” that of Moses and the exodus, would reach the sum total of 6875 male persons. This liberally estimated natural increase is obviously exaggerated; it allows five male children to each male of the four generations, and takes no account of females, who would naturally be quite half of each generation, to furnish wives for the contemporary generation and mothers for the next. Moreover, it errs in discounting mortality and assuming that each male of each generation would live at least until he was married and had his five male children. Thus the actual total of males must be less than the 6875 above allowed. Even on the impossible hypothesis that not one died throughout the four generations of 215, or 350, or 430 years, so that all would be living at the time of the exodus, the grand total would be but 8580 persons. But we know, of course, that this assumed immunity from death is not true, for “Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that [first] generation” (Ex. i, 6); and it is a safe assumption that most of the first three generations died before the exodus.
Any rational rearrangement of these obvious vital statistics, allowing anything short of fabulous increase, could make no appreciable increase in the totals stated. Even if we begin the count of the “four generations” with that succeeding the original 51 sons and four grandsons of the 12 sons of Jacob, and count their 275 assumed offspring as the first generation, we should then have: first, 275; second, 1375; third, 6875; fourth, 34,375 altogether. But this would be a fifth generation to “sojourn in Egypt,” and therefore unscriptural.
THE HOSTS OF THE LORD OF HOSTS
Hear now what “holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” to tell us about the numbers of this exodus. The inspired record, after relating the “spoiling of the Egyptians” by the Chosen says: “And the Children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about 600,000 on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle” (Ex. xii, 37, 38)
Only about a year later (Num. i, 1), at Sinai, the formal census of this warrior host was taken, of every male “from 20 years old and upwards, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel even all that were numbered were 603,550” (Num. i, 45, 46)! Even in this host the Levites were not numbered (i, 47); when afterwards they were separately numbered, “all the males from a month old and upward were 22,000” (Num. iii, 39). On the very conservative, and quite inadequate, basis of estimating these warrior-males to be but one out of every four of the old men, women, and children, we should have a Hebrew population of 2,414,200 souls, not counting in the 22,000 Levites and the great mixed multitude of slaves and camp-followers who accompanied the hosts of Yahveh. The Jewish Encyclopedia and most accepted authorities estimate the total numbers of the exodus to be about 3,000,000!
SOME PREGNANT FIGURES
If the sacred historian had taken his stylus and a scrap of papyrus and calculated a bit, be would have figured out that in order to accomplish this prodigy, each of the 55 males of the first generation in Egypt must have had 40-odd children each, about equally divided between males and females; each of these 20-odd males must have had again 40-odd children, male and female, and so on to the fourth generation, in order to have produced 603,550 soldier-men twenty years of age and over, or the total of 2,414,200 (or more) children of Israel who set out from Egypt.
But the inspired history nowhere indicates any such prodigious proliferation among the Chosen People in Egyptian slavery. The highest number of children in one family anywhere noted during the “sojourn” is the five daughters of Zelophebad; Amram had only three children, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam; Aaron had four sons (two of them killed by Yahveh) and no daughter.
The mothers of Israel were also evidently of the Hebrew race; it is hardly probable that the Hebrew slaves were permitted to marry the free native women; if this had been customary, the Syrian “seed of Abraham” would have been sadly mixed in 430 years. Indeed, that the fact was otherwise is implied by the inspired statement (Ex. i, 19): “the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women” in child-birth, which clearly indicates that the wives of the Chosen were also of the Chosen. it follows that it is out of the seventy only that the 2,414,200 and more of the exodus could have sprung, and it is evident that they could not. At best, 8000 is a liberal calculation, if not one of them had died in the 430 years; and Yahveh himself, immediately after the exodus, says that his Chosen were “the fewest of all people” (Deut. vii, 7).
But we will not discount the inspired arithmetic, and will accept its figures, which lead to some highly interesting considerations. Where and how did these children live, and move, and have their being in Egypt — at that time (1491 B.C.) the mightiest and most splendid empire of the world? This is the first puzzle. Already, shortly after the death of Joseph, the “new king which knew not Joseph” is found complaining to his people: “Behold, the children of Israel are more and mightier than we” (Ex. i, 9); and he therefore made slaves of this more numerous and more mighty race, and set them to building his treasure cities and to other construction jobs, for which Egypt had long been famous, as witness the Great Pyramid, built (3933 B.C.) but a few years after the celebrated garden of Eden was closed down in the fall. All this host of Israel could hardly have lived in the cities along with their masters, as there were probably no cities large enough to contain them. They were necessarily scattered in the country, and for the curious reason that these poor slaves at the time of the exodus owned several millions of sheep, horses, and cattle, “even very much cattle,” and great areas of land would be required to pasture them all.
Let us look the sheep in the face. Moses told the children, in instituting the passover, on the eve of the Exodus: “Take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover” (Ex. xii, 21). These lambs were to be “without blemish, a male of the first year,” and were to be taken, “every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house” (Ex. xii, 3); though if a household were too little to eat a whole lamb, the next-door neighbors might be invited to share it. Very liberally allowing ten persons to one lamb, 2,414,200 persons would require 241,420 male lambs of the first year for this one day’s passover sacrifice. There would probably be as many female lambs of the same year, which would make 482,840 first-year lambs, to say nothing of the sheep and goats. Sheep-raising statistics show that, in average flocks of all ages, the total number is about five times that of the increase of one season’s births; this would give us exactly the same number of sheep as of Hebrews, 2,414,200. Modern sheep-raisers seldom have grazing lands which will support more than two sheep to the acre. Allowing five to the acre for biblical Egypt, 482,840 acres of land, or 754 square miles, nearly two-thirds the area of the state of Rhode Island, would be required merely for pasturing the sheep of the slave Israelites, not allowing for their other cattle and horses, none of which had been killed in the plagues, and of which the children of Israel had large “flocks and herds, even very much cattle.” So the children must have been scattered through the land and have considerably overflowed the bounds of their original ghetto of Goshen in order to tend their herds — if slaves could be allowed to own property and to attend to their own affairs.
THE AMAZING PASSOVER
All Scripture, besides being “given by inspiration of God,” is said to be “profitable for instruction”; we find other curiously instructive features of this exodus passover. In Exodus xii we have the tangled and marvelous story. Yahveh tells Moses that “in the tenth day of this month” the people should “take every man a lamb, … and ye shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” — of the fourteenth day; and “of the blood, strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses wherein they shall eat it.” For the ceremony he gives particular directions: “And thus shall ye eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste” (xii, 11). It is here ordered that there should be a four-day interval between the “taking” on the tenth day of the month, and the killing on the fourteenth day; but Yahveh overlooks this, or changes his mind, for he says: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt. … And this day shall be unto you for a memorial” (xii, 12, 14). “Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel,” and told them to take “a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover,” and strike the blood on the door posts (xii, 21). “And it came to pass that at midnight Yahveh smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt” (xii, 28). This clearly proves that the entire passover transaction, from the first commands of Yahveh about the lambs to the massacre of the first-born at midnight took place all on one day, and at latest on the “tenth day” — the four-day interval is forgotten and eliminated.
But how was such a thing possible? We see the two and a half million people scattered over an indefinitely large territory; Yahveh appears sometime during the day (the tenth), and tells Moses and Aaron: “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel,” giving them life-and-death orders and minute passover cooking instructions, which they must perform that same day “in the evening” in order to escape the massacre of the first-born. Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and repeated the instructions to them. There were no telephones or radio broadcasting plants in those days to help disseminate this order in all its details to the head of every family of Israel, scattered throughout Egypt, or Goshen, or the Delta, or wherever they were, so that they might pick out 241,420 first-year male lambs without blemish, kill and cook them, according to entirely new recipes (xii, 8-10), and strike the blood, in this novel way, on the door posts, so that, says Yahveh, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” How these fateful orders were ever delivered “unto all the congregation of Israel” in that fraction of a day Yahveh only knows, as it is not revealed unto us in his Holy Word.
1 of 4 parts: THE WONDERS OF THE EXODUS
2 of 4 parts: THE MARCHING ORDERS
3 of 4 parts: MIRACLE AND MATHEMATICS
4 of 4 parts: THE GREAT ENCAMPMENTS