TL;DR: An estimated
1.66 million people crossed the Red Sea.
The goal of this post is to determine if the Bible gives the
quantity of people who crossed the Red Sea. Exodus 12:37 gives a number of 600,000
men leaving Egypt on foot. The task is to determine a multiplier which will
give an estimate to include women and children.
Besides the 600,000
listed in Exodus 12:37, no other
population details are provided for this event. However, there are other
passages where details are given as the focus of the book. Numbers 2 lists the number of fighting men except for the tribe of
Levi. With this exception, there are 603,550
fighting men listed. This number of fighting men seems to correlate by order of
magnitude and role to the 600,000
from Exodus 12:37, additionally Exodus 13:18 says that Israel went up
in martial array (NASB) from the land
of Egypt. The following table is a breakdown of the fighting men from each
tribe and the total.
Table 1.
Numbers 2 census of fighting men.


Judah

74,600

Numbers 2:3, 4

Issachar

54,400

Numbers 2:5, 6

Zebulan

57,400

Numbers 2:7, 8

Ruben

46,500

Numbers 2:10, 11

Simeon

59,300

Numbers 2:12, 13

Gad

45,650

Numbers 2:14, 15

Ephraim

40,500

Numbers 2:18, 19

Manasseh

32,200

Numbers 2:20, 21

Benjamin

35,400

Numbers 2:22, 23

Dan

62,700

Numbers 2:25, 26

Asher

41,500

Numbers 2:27, 28

Naphtali

53,400

Numbers 2:30, 31

Total:

603,550

Numbers 2:32

Numbers 3
compares the number of firstborn men in all of Israel (vs. 43) to the number of Levite men one month and older (vs. 39). Of the tribes, Levi is the
only one where the total number of men is stated without qualifiers, e.g.
"fighting men" or "first born." Levite men numbering 22,000 will serve as a baseline by
comparing Levite subsets to the whole. One such subset is given in Numbers 4:48 where the number of Levite
men between the ages of 30 and 50 years of age is given as 8,580. The ratio of total Levite men one month and up to those ages
30 to 50 will be used to extrapolate total males of Israel and later total
population. Ages 30 to 50 is a 20 year span. By dividing the number of Levites
between ages 30 and 50 by the number of years, an average number of Levite men
per 1year age group ages 30 to 50 can be found.
50  30 = 20 years

eq. 1

8,580 / 20 = 429 per
1year age group

eq. 2

Next, a number of men per 1year age group must be found for
those outside of the ages 30 to 50. To accomplish this, we must know the life
expectancy of the average Levite. Psalm
90:10, which is accredited to Moses (a Levite), says, "The days of our years are three score years
and ten; and if by reason of strength, they may be four score years yet is
their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."
(KJV). That is, 70 years or 80 if by strength. For the purposes of estimating,
75 will be used as an average. Since we know that the Levite men between the
ages of 30 and 50 number 8,580, the
remaining 13,420 (that is 22,000  8,580) are spread between the ages of 0 and 30 and 50 and 75.
13,420 / (30 + [75 
50]) = 244 per 1year age group

eq. 3

Now these proportions of the tribe of Levi will be applied
to the rest of Israel's population. The life expectancy of a Levite was
determined above, however Deuteronomy
2:14 and 16 gives a clue as to
the life expectancy of the fighting men in that it took 38 years for all of the
fighting men to perish from Israel, just "as the Lord had sworn to
them." Numbers 14:29 gives the
details of the Lord's oath, "your
carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you,
according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have
murmured against me." (KJV). From this verse, it is clear that those
who fell were those who were numbered (Numbers
2) and that those who were numbered were twenty years old and up. The
minimum age of fighting men is confirmed in Numbers 26 where it describes a recount of those men able to go to
war (vs. 2) and specifies 20 years
and over. Adding 20 to 38 gives a life expectancy of 58 years old.
Having established the age range of the fighting men as 20
to 58 years, the correlating number of Levites from age 20 to 58 must be
determined. Multiplying the number of men per 1year age group times the number
of years ages 20 to 30 and 50 to 58 (18 years) and adding them to the known 8,580 figure found in Numbers 4:48 gives the number of
Levites 20 to 58 years.
18 x 244 + 8580 =
12,972 Levite men between 20 and 58

eq. 4

To complete the ratio, the total number of Levite men from 1
month to 58 must be determined.
(30 + [58 – 50]) x
244 + 8580 = 17,852 Levite men 1
month to 58 years

eq. 5

The ratio of Levite men age 1 month to 58 to Levite men age
20 to 58 to then is:
17,852 / 12,972 =
1.3762 ratio

eq. 6

Using this ratio, multiplying the number of fighting men 603,550 (Numbers 2:32) by 1.3762 gives 830,602
total men of the other tribes 1 month and up. Because Numbers 2 does not count the Levite men, 22,000 must be added to 830,602
to obtain a total of 852,602 men age
1 month and up. Assuming an equal count for each gender, this number is doubled
to 1,705,204 for the total Numbers 24 population. The Red Sea
crossing and Numbers 24 occurred
about two years apart so the numbers will be different. Making assumptions
about demographic stability, again calculate a ratio of fighting men to Israel
as a whole. Because the Levites were not set apart until Numbers 3, we will assume the Levites are included in the number of
men leaving Egypt on foot in Exodus
12:37. To accommodate this, add the Numbers
2 number of fighting men to the estimated number of Levites of the same
age.
603,550 + 12,972 =
616,522 number of men age 20 to 58

eq. 7

1,705,204 / 616,522
= 2.7658 ratio of total population to men age 20 to 58

eq. 8

In conclusion, multiplying 2.7658 times the 600,000 described in Exodus 12:37 gives an estimated
population crossing the Red Sea as 1.66
million people.
Items
for further investigation:
·
The estimates for
Israel's population have a bulge between the ages of 20 and 58 resulting from
the Levite tallies (Numbers 3:39 and
Numbers 4:48). This is
counterintuitive.
·
There is a large
variation between Moses' observation in Psalm
90:10 and the life expectancy of fighting men derived from Deuteronomy 2:14, 16 and Numbers 14:29 and even Moses' own lifespan
provided in Deuteronomy 34:7.
·
The number of
Israel's first born in Numbers 3:43
(not covered here) appears to be extremely low.
·
The implications
on the miracle of dividing the Red Sea.
·
How these ratios
can be applied to other passages like the feeding of the 5000 in Matthew 14:21, Mark 6:44, Luke 9:14, John
6:10.
Suggestions? Have I made a mistake? Have I missed a crucial
passage? Comment below.
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