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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Saturday, September 29, 2012

So you think you “know” the Bible? By Samuel Martin

So you think you “know” the Bible? By Samuel Martin

Note also: I would like to express my appreciation to CNN Commentator Roland S. Martin (@rolandsmartin) for his comments that partially gave me the idea to formulate this post. “Thanks, Roland”

One of the most important things that I as a Christian can “know” is to possess an accurate understanding of God, His Nature, Character, Attributes and Power.

This is in fact the greatest need of the Christian as has been so eloquently elucidated in Dr. Bullinger’s definitive statement on the “knowledge” of God: The Greatest Christian Need (found all over the web). Dr. Bullinger said the following, which is the opening statement of his paper, with which I heartily agree:

There is one thing that the Christian needs more than he needs any other thing. One thing on which all others rest; and on which all others turn.

It is certain from the Word of God, and also from our own experience, that “we know not what we should pray for as we ought”. But “the Spirit Himself helps our infirmities” (Rom 8:26). He knows what we should pray for. He knows what we need. He makes intercession for us and in us. He teaches us how to pray, and in Eph. 1:17, we have His prayer set forth in these words: “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM.” This, then, must be our greatest need: A true knowledge of God."

Today, we can “know” this more precisely by paying close attention to His Word as Dr. Bullinger also shows.

Over the years, however, I have encountered many people who find my views against corporal punishment/smacking/spanking of children to be:

1. Pure stupidity
2. Ridiculous
3. Laughable
4. Not worth even considering for a moment
5. Liberal nonsense
6. Not in any way congruent with what the Bible teaches on the subject
7. And at worst even heretical

I have engaged in many discussions with people who when they see some of the assertions I make and use the Holy Scriptures to back them up, their eyes just roll over and they just give me this:

· Fella, your ideas are just one brick short of a load
· Thanks but no thanks
· You poor misguided soul

Who am I, I ask? Just another one of those misguided Christian who doesn’t know Bible truth if it came up and slapped me in the face! Right?

Do you mean to tell me that the Bible suggests something different than what most Christians believe about this issue and what is taught in literally millions of pulpits globally?

“I mean come on, Martin? Are you serious? Can you read English? I mean are you an idiot?”

A laughing matter?

This is the reaction I’ve gotten many, many times from well-intentioned Christian brethren who are doing their best to serve the LORD.

To some people, the whole matter is so seemingly ridiculous in their minds that it becomes funny!

This is the reaction that many get from Michael Pearl - Pearl has publicly appeared unapologetic in his writings on corporal punishment/spanking/smacking. (March 2010): “Michael Pearl laughs at his critics.” - http://pearlchildtraining.blogspot.com/2010/03/michael-pearl-laughs-at-critics.html

It is the same reaction we get from Detective Robert Surgenor of the Family Defense Network of Ohio, a well know proponent of corporal punishment and the author of the book “No Fear”.

In his book on page 41, Surgenor’s dad, a born again minister (who Surgenor quotes authoritatively in his book), said: ”When I hear that spanking actually produces violent children my sides hurt – from laughing.”

So, are we noticing a trend here?

Many Christian pastors and teachers think that anyone, and I mean anyone, who suggests anything different from the obvious, clear, simple, plain and understandable teaching of the Bible on spanking/smacking children, is funny and deserves to be laughed at because of their inability to grasp even the simplest of teachings of the Word of God. I mean the inability to grasp these teachings that a child in grade school is supposed to understand is so pathetic on the part of people like me that it is laughable to them!

Now, I am one of the nicest guys I know, just ask me and I’ll tell you so. (as my dear departed father used to say) But many people think I am seriously misguided and as I said, some accuse me be so far off base and that I am just ignoring the simple, plain and clear unambiguous teachings of the Word of God.

Let’s be clear. To most Christians, when it comes to what the Bible teaches about corporal punishment, there is nothing to debate. There are no discussions to be had, no new understandings to be learned, and no points to be clarified.

The Bible, the Word of God, is perfect and they “know” without question, uncertainty, or ambiguity what the Bible teaches about spanking/smacking/corporal punishment.

1. The Word of God is absolutely clear in its advocacy of corporal punishment
2. There is nothing to misunderstand
3. There is no need for any new information
4. The Bible says and means that kids should be spanked/smacked

Case closed!

Well, does it?

Now, in my book, “Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking/Smacking Controversy”, (which can be obtained free without obligation here - http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/) I have made a case that the Biblical teaching concerning corporal punishment/spanking/smacking children is not so straight forward as many of our dear brothers and sisters in Christ would have us believe.

I have made the following statements of facts which my book purports to prove. These are:

ü Fact: The Bible does not teach that spanking a child will save him from Hell
ü Fact: The Bible does not teach that spanking a child should bring tears
ü Fact: In Bible times, the texts concerning spanking children found in Proverbs were not applied to young children under the age of about 10 years!
ü Fact: Some of the most respected Christian theologians of our time including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Karl Barth and Rev. Dwight Moody rejected spanking children
ü Fact: The main Christian advocates for spanking children now are not usually trained Christian theologians teaching in universities, but most often are conservative fundamentalist Christian pastors, Christian politicians, Christian psychologists, lay church members and Christian school leaders
ü Fact: Well-meaning Christian advocates of spanking children have developed doctrines surrounding what they believe the Bible teaches about spanking children which are not found in the Bible at all
ü Fact: Well-meaning Children’s Rights activists, who are not trained Bible scholars, have entered this debate attacking the Bible with disastrous results
ü Fact: Many Biblically conservative Jewish Rabbis, who have the Old Testament as their Holy Scripture, reject spanking children today

Features of this volume
Ø 353 Separate Biblical Texts Referenced
Ø 82 Separate References from Hebrew and Christian Scholars
Ø 39 Authoritative Biblical Reference Works Utilized
Ø Key new information revealed from an early Egyptian text which is also found today in the Biblical book of Proverbs concerning spanking

These abovementioned statements are backed up with abundant facts to prove my assertions (see www.samuelmartin.blogspot.com for book reviews and see also http://redemptivechristianity.com/?p=214, but still we have people whose minds are closed and refuse to consider any other point of view other than the one they hold.

Once again: Case Closed!

Now, if I am correct in some or all of my assertions, it appears t hat the understandings that some people have are very seriously misguided? Why is this the case?

The reason that we have such a problem concerns the approach that many dear brothers and sisters in Christ take when it comes to interpreting Scripture. They take a very literal view and have no trouble transporting Biblical texts, words, and information out of their original contexts and transplanting them rod, switch and paddle into our modern world and contexts today.

Add to this a reliance on 400 year old Bible translations and an almost superstitious approach to the Bible which is almost idolatrous. Herein, lays the major problems we have. There are other issues, but these are the main ones.

A comparison to another simple/plain/clear Bible teaching which in fact is also not that way at all

Now, comparisons can be helpful to allow us to place an issue in a context, which can be useful to help develop a great understanding of not only the issue at hand, but perhaps other issues which are like it.

This is especially the case concerning those Bible teachings which seem, on the surface, to be so clear and plain.

One of these teachings which we find great interest in among fundamentalist Christians concerns the number of Israelites who left Egypt during the time of the Exodus. This issue is going to be the case study for our comparison.

To many believers, on this point, the Bible is clear. We know, according to some interpretations, that between 2 to 2.5 million Israelites left Egypt under Moses.

In this case, I will be relying on research done by my late father, Prof. Ernest L. Martin (1), concerning this issue. All of the research in this article concerning the population of Israel at the Exodus is my late father's original research. I am adapting it here for comparitive purposes and linking it to the debate about the corporal punishment of children.

This interpretation that there were 2-2.5 million Israelites who left Egypt under Moses is arrived at mostly due to the interpretation of three verses. These are:

“And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds.” (Exodus 12:37-38 ESV)

“So all those listed of the people of Israel, by their fathers' houses, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war in Israel—all those listed were 603,550.” (Numbers 1:45-46 ESV)

“This was the list of the people of Israel, 601,730.” (Numbers 26:51 ESV)

These are two “censuses” taken at the beginning and end of the Exodus along with a general narrative statement in the book of Exodus.

Now, here there is no ambiguity, no confusion, no lack of clarity to many: The Bible means 600,000 plus armed men for the war. Case closed! End of story!

On the basis of these verses, many Christian commentators have stated that with these numbers of just men of warrior age (20 -50 years), this would make the overall population some 2-2.5 million Israelites who left Egypt.

But is this the case?

Now, this prodigious number of people creates some logistics problems for Bible interpreters, scholars, historians and archaeologists. But for some well-intentioned believers, there is no problem because they “know” the clear and plain teachings of the Holy Scriptures!

We have to understand also that when we read the narratives of what happened to this supposed mass of people in the narratives associated with the Exodus period and the arrival of the Israelites into the Holy Land, all of these narratives must be taken into consideration when it comes to interpreting the data from other sections.

If you think that it is possible to solve this question only by proposing an answer that purports to address the logistics problems outlined in these three texts (Exodus 12:37-38); (Numbers 1:45-46); (Numbers 26:51), I am sorry to tell you, IT WON’T WORK! Think I am misguided, keep reading!

Now, some scholars have just abandoned any faith in the Holy Scriptures at all and just said that the Exodus stories are just simple fairy tales and it is simply logistically impossible that Moses had that many men in his army. You can find many such views on the Web.

But if the Bible says that there were over 600,000 armed men for the war, let me be clear: I believe it! However, rather than asking what the Bible “says” or what is might “appear to say” or “mean,” let’s look at the whole counsel of God concerning this question (or any other question like, for example, corporal punishment/spanking/smacking of children) and let us try to figure out what the Bible means through what it says. I think that everyone will agree that what the Bible says is important, but what it means is vastly more important.

Let us be clear. It is impossible to interpret those three verses in Exodus and Numbers without considering all of the information in the whole of the Exodus narrative. That is simply not fair or intellectually honest. You’ve got to come up with a meaning for all of the texts in this section to make the whole story make sense or else you’ve just got a story which makes no sense at all and then those of us who love and believe Scripture are made out to be believers in fairy tales and who ignore scientific or logistical facts. Whatever we do we need to be intellectually honest with the Holy Scriptures.

Let me be clear. I believe the Holy Scriptures are God’s revealed Word to mankind. I believe that God has provided us the answer to this question and to all questions we may have. It is clear that God, whose Word is Truth (John 17:17) knows and possesses, all truth!

The Exodus and the Population figures – What really happened?

Now, God has given us the information we need to understand pretty accurately to know what was taking place in the time of Moses related to the Exodus if we will pay close attention to the whole counsel of God in His Holy Scriptures! Herein lies the answer we are seeking and herein also may lie the answer we are seeking concerning God’s view on corporal punishment/smacking/spanking. We have to be willing to look at the whole picture.

I think that anyone with any reasonable approach to Scripture has to agree that this is the right way to do things. “All things should be done decently and in order.” (I Cor. 14:40) To this text, we can also add the following: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15)

First, it must be agreed and understood that the Bible says that there were just over 600,000 armed men for the war and it says that three times. This is meant to be understood as referring to 600 hundred thousand. This is exactly what the phrase in Hebrew says and it means exactly 600,000 plus the few thousand extra mentioned.

Many people have come along and seen the problems with this prodigious number and said that the meaning here is not “thousand”, but it means ‘families’ or many other words. This interpretation has been around also for about 75 years or so.

A recent commentary now connects a military meaning to the Hebrew word for “thousand” and adds the term “platoon” or “squads” to an already mixed up subject.

“Translation challenges occur throughout the Bible, but numbers in the Old Testament present us with a special challenge. In Exodus 12:37 the ESV says that Israel consisted of about 600,000 men. Since we’re not given the number of women and children, there’s no way to be certain about the total population. However, a popular guess has been around 2 million people. And that’s where we get the imagery of 2 million people marching out of Egypt on the night of the exodus.

But we have a problem. In his excellent commentary on Exodus, Douglas Stuart uses the NRSV to show that the Hebrew word for “thousand” has been translated in a variety of ways: thousand, cattle, clan(s), division(s), family(ies), ox(en), and tribe(s). After giving a possible explanation for why this term has such a broad range of meaning, Stuart argues that the Hebrew word should be connected to Israel’s military. And that means “platoon” or “squad” are better translations than “thousand.” But how many soldiers were in a “platoon”?

Stuart surmises that each platoon would have had about a dozen soldiers. So six hundred platoons would give us about 7,200 fighting men. Based on that number, Stuart estimates that the total population of Israel would have been about 28,800—36,000.[1] http://www.bible-bridge.com/israels-population-exodus-2-million-36000/

This “answer” only addresses one very small aspect of this issue and ignores a whole other range of questions that we are going to talk about now related to this story.

Now, I am going to assert that when the Bible says in Exodus and Numbers “thousands” (Hebrew: אלף), it means exactly that: thousands! Not families, platoons, squads, clans, tribes or divisions! It also does not mean “cattle” or “oxen”. No, not at all.

Note: Let’s be clear on this. One of the reasons that some well-intentioned people have suggested alternative meanings to this word “thousand” is to try to attempt to address the fact that the logistics associated with the Exodus if 2-2.5 million persons are just impossible. 

But, if that is the case and it does mean “thousands”, then we are talking about a population of 2-2.5 million people wandering around in the Sinai desert, which is basically a logistical impossibility. So what is the answer?

Now, it is important to understand that it is possible mathematically that could have been a population of 2-2.5 million Israelites in Egypt at the time of Moses. This is quite easy to demonstrate. Scholars have pointed this out as a possibility.

At the beginning of the period of the Exodus when Moses took the children of Israel out of Egypt, there were a number of events mentioned that we need to pay attention to.
Now, we read the following in Exodus 1:

“These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. (Exodus 1:1-5)

By this time, Joseph was already in Egypt and we can say that Jacob, 70 persons and Joseph and his wife and two sons, makes 75 persons in total. (Acts 7:14)

Now, from 75 persons, it is possible by the sixth generation after the time of Jacob, when the Exodus took place, when one reads the genealogical tables in Exodus and Numbers, you will note that normally there were 4-6 men born to each family.

So, say there were five men born to every Israelite who went down to Egypt. After the first generation, the number would reach 350 men. 

Generation Two = 5 male children X 350 – 1,750 male children
Generation Three = 5 male children X 1,750 – 8,750 male children
Generation Four = 5 male children X 8,750 = 43.750 male children
Generation Five = 5 male children X 43,750 = 218,250 male children
Generation Six = 5 male children X 218,250 = 1,091,250 male children

So, it is theoretically possible from the 70 in the first generation, that after six generations, you could theoretically have 2 million people or slightly more just by normal increase.

Now, let us see what the historical record tells us what happened to the Israelites in Egypt.

“Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” (Exodus 1:6-7 ESV)

Now, as we have shown and as some scholars have pointed out, within six generations it is possible that the Israelites could have grown to a prodigious number. This is what seems to have taken place. There is no reason that they could not have grown to a huge number of people. Now look what happened.

“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” (Exodus 1:8-10 ESV)

This text says that the number of Israelites had even exceeded the number of native Egyptians. So, the Israelites, the vast number, were placed under servitude.

But, look what happened. They continued to increase in population.

“But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.” (Exodus 1:12 ESV)

So, then a strategy to reduce the population began to be implemented against the Israelites.

“Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” (Exodus 1:15-16 ESV)

So, this strategy to reduce the population of the Israelites was implemented by the King of Egypt. At first, it was not successful, but later the King of Egypt began to implement a stricter policy of killing male children.

“So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people,

“Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” (Exodus 1:20-22 ESV)

Horrifyingly, there was a mass destruction of the male children of the Israelites at this time. There could have been thousands of boy babies who died during this awful period.

Under this time, the Israelites were under a great community stress due to a huge loss of boy children.

Now, we all know the story of God raising up Moses and the story of how the Israelite people left Egypt. They went over the Red Sea and when the first “census” took place in Numbers 1, the number of men armed for the war reached over 600,000:

“So all those listed of the people of Israel, by their fathers' houses, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war in Israel—all those listed were 603,550.” (Numbers 1:45-46 ESV)

Now, there is no doubt at this number, 603,550 men. But there is a problem in all of this.

First, there was a great decimation of male children in Exodus 1 which is one of the reasons Moses’ ministry started. Even Moses himself was saved miraculously.

There was a great decimation of the Israelitish population at that time. It really makes a person wonder if there really were 603,500 men as the book of Numbers seems to teach who passed over the Red Sea?

Now, people have been wondering about all of this for centuries.

How do we understand this? There are just so many problems with the issue of there being some 2-2.5 million Israelite people leaving Egypt and passing over the Red Sea.

Now, during the time that the Israelites were leaving Egypt, they had a war with the Amalekites.

“Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.” (Exodus 17:8-13 ESV)

Now, if there were 600,000 plus Israelites armed men for the war, one would imagine that if the Amalekites were able to “prevail” at some times, they would also have had to have a similar number of people out there in the wilderness of Sinai?

There was very little water and food out there, so you start to get into logistical impossibilities very quickly, if there were indeed 600,000 plus men being discussed.

What this seems to show is that one feels that there were not so many people as the first chapter of Numbers seems to indicate.

This is not the only thing.

Note also that when the Israelites left Mount Sinai and got close to the land of Canaan, they sent out the 12 spies for 40 days. After not entering the land and being turned back into the wilderness for 40 years, the Israelites left again to go once more to Canaan.

Now, in traveling to Canaan, it says the following:

“Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that we have met: how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time. And the Egyptians dealt harshly with us and our fathers. And when we cried to the LORD, he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory. Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King's Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, lest I come out with the sword against you.” And the people of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will pay for it. Let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him.” (Numbers 20:14-21 ESV)

Now, let us understand what this says. It says that the Israelites asked to pass through the country of Edom, which is modern day Jordan, and not to pass off of the small highway path that lead through the country. This is precisely what is written here.

Now, we are here talking about the Israelite peoples with their wagons, people and animals. In the old days when the western part of America was being settled, the old wagon trains would normally stretch out their wagons and you might have a total of 500-1,000 people covering a mile of territory.

So, on one dirt track, which if there were 2-2.5 million people, say, 1,000 per mile that would be from the Sinai desert to the United Kingdom! It is almost logistically impossible to imagine.

Also, when the Israelites arrived in the Holy Land, we all remember the story of the Israelites going around Jericho, the whole story logistically makes no sense if you are talking about 2.5 million people.

According to archaeological evidence of ancient Jericho, it has been shown that no more than 3,500 people lived in that village (which comprises no more than about ten acres) at any time during this period! With all of the people who lived around the village, you are not talking much more than 10-20,000 at the most. The whole Jericho narrative just makes no sense if you have this mass of 2.5 million people needing the walls to come down by a miracle to overpower a village of 3,500 people! It is just really silly to think of 2.5 million people marching around Jericho. It is logistically ridiculous.

I can attest to this myself considering that Jericho is some 20 miles from my house and I have been there in person many, many times.

In addition, it seems also to be very difficult to believe that 2.5 million people were accompanying Moses when it comes to his discussion with his father-in-law Jethro. Note it here:

“Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace. So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.” (Exodus 18:21-27 ESV)

Moses was told to develop a chain of command. Note that at no time did Jethro say he needed to have command over 10,000 persons, or over 100,000’s, no! Not at all! The largest unit described is 1,000 persons over which someone was designated.

So, when you look at what Jethro said, it doesn’t look like we are talking about such prodigious numbers of people.

In addition, note also Exodus 33:7-10:

“Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door.” (Exodus 33:7-10 ESV)

Now, this was before the tabernacle (the portable Temple) was set up and Moses allowed the people to set up a camp. Here you can get a general idea of how many people there were. It says that all of the people could observe this scene described here. This would be a logistical impossibility to view were there 2.5 million people camped in one spot.

Now, these are problems that present to us difficulties. Some people just ignore these points and pay no attention and just focus right in on one, two or three texts and often choose not to pay close attention to the whole counsel of God and His Word. This is what I have found in my studies concerning the issue of corporal punishment and the supposed advocacy for that practice found in the Biblical book of Proverbs in particular.

Now, what is the answer? Is there one? Yes, there is and we need to pay attention to what the Bible teaches on this subject. The Bible provides all of the essential clues.

Now, how can we really know how many people there really were? First you have to look at another census of people mentioned in Numbers 3:43, it says the following:

“And the LORD said to Moses, “List all the firstborn males of the people of Israel, from a month old and upward, taking the number of their names. And you shall take the Levites for me—I am the LORD—instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the cattle of the people of Israel.” So Moses listed all the firstborn among the people of Israel, as the LORD commanded him. And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names, from a month old and upward as listed were 22,273.” (Numbers 3:40-43 ESV)

This actual census of the first born males in Israel at the time of the Exodus was 22,273!

This is of all of the generations of the Israelites living at the time from a month old and upward. Now, we know from Psalm 90, written by Moses himself that during this period people lived to be 70 or 80 years old.

“For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:9-10 ESV)

While Moses lived to be 120 himself (Deuteronomy 34:7), he was a little older than most of his colleagues according to Psalm 90.

So, when you add up all of the generations, you have Moses at that time being 80, you have perhaps his children and grandchildren and great grand children being discussed when we look at Numbers 3:43 and its discussion of the first born.

We note also in the Ten Commandments, it speaks about the third and fourth generation of families:

“You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, …” (Exodus 20:5 ESV)

If there were three generations of first born males under discussion, then one simply needs to divide the 22,273 by three! So, this gives you just about 7,400 families! So, if you then look at the genealogical records, you find that if there are five male children per family, then you have about 35,000 male children under discussion. Of course, you have to add the females as well.

Now, if these 22,273 firstborn males refers to the firstborn of the 600,000 plus armed men for the war, then every single woman had just over 27 male children! When you add in the girl babies, this number is doubled to 54 children per woman. This is just really nonsensical, but clearly this is not what is being stated at all. There is another way we have to understand the use of this figure 600,000!



Now, we start to see the whole story making better sense when we start getting smaller numbers in mind. Note the following, which took place in the last year of the Exodus:

“While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. … Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand. (Numbers 25:1-9 ESV)

Then, in the very last chapter of the book of Numbers, the Israelites warred with the Midianites, note how many warriors were selected from each tribe of Israel?

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the LORD's vengeance on Midian. You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war.” So there were provided, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand from each tribe, together with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand.” (Numbers 31:1-6 ESV)

So, what happened to the 600,000 armed men for the war, when here at the end of the Exodus period after 40 years, only 12,000 armed men are present, 1,000 from each tribe?

So the general population of Israel, when they crossed over the Jordan river would be no more than 20-40,000 persons in total.

Now, what about the 600,000 armed men for the war? How do we explain this? The answer is in Numbers Chapter 1, verses 17-18:

“Moses and Aaron took these men who had been named, and on the first day of the second month, they assembled the whole congregation together, who registered themselves by clans, by fathers' houses, according to the number of names from twenty years old and upward, head by head,…”(Numbers 1:17-18 ESV)

This is a “census”, but it is not a “census” like you and I are familiar with today.

When we undertake a “census”, it is a “census” of living people, but what took place there in ancient times is not the same kind of “census” that you and I are familiar with today!

They registered themselves by clans, by fathers’ houses according to the number of names from twenty years and upward. What happened?


This is exactly what this text teaches.

The LORD did not need to check first whether or not if it was fine or ok with Christian people in the USA or Europe to decide how He undertakes His “censuses”. However, He does urge those same people to study His Scriptures to know what it is He is teaching on any subject!

Isn’t it interesting in Hebrews 7:9, 10, it says the following:

“One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.” (Hebrews 7:9-10 ESV)

Levi, who was the fourth generation away from Abraham, is here reckoned as paying tithes to Melchisedek, even though he had not even been born yet!

This is exactly what we are talking about here with the 600,000 persons, but in a reverse way!

These 600,000 plus people are not only the living people, but also represent pedigrees of names going back to Abraham! This understanding can make the whole Exodus narrative make sense in light of the whole counsel of God.

When you understand how God (not you or I) counts people, everything begins to make sense!

Summing up

When we look at this issue, we can see something that requires us to take a bigger picture point of view concerning the issue of understanding how many people there were at the Exodus.
If we home in on just one text, we are potentially going to miss out on the truth.

The same thing is the case concerning the on-going debate about corporal punishment/smacking/spanking. If we just look at one or two Scriptures and think that we “know” the truth, that the information is so clear and plain, we may find ourselves wandering around with 2.5 million people in a spiritual desert with no spiritual food or water! This, unfortunately, today is the state I think we are currently in in understanding this issue of corporal punishment/smacking/spanking!

But, as I have tried to show in my book, which addresses some 353 Biblical texts in developing a comprehensive argument to attempt to display the whole counsel of God on this subject, we may find a whole different picture – which in fact could very well be the true picture – materializing.

To conclude, if you would like to examine this matter for yourself, I am happy to send you my free ebook “Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me; Christians and the Spanking/Smacking Controversy”. Please download the free ebook here - http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/.

Blessings from Jerusalem

Samuel Martin

(1) The reconstruction of the information related to the population of Israel at the Exodus comes from the book by Ernest L. Martin "101 Bible Secrets Christians Do Not Know" (ASK Pubilcation: 1993)


Rachel said...

So interesting! Thank you for writing amd clarifying such an important subject!

Rachel said...


Samuel Martin said...


Thanks for your message. I am glad you were blessed by the post.

Best wishes from Jerusalem.

Sam Martin

Samuel Martin said...

Some people say the number is higher more like 2.5 - 3 million.

The problem is concerns the fact that when one goes on that same road today and considering that we are talking about men, women, children, older people, wagons and animals, if you have three million people, even at 10,000 persons per kilometer, you have a line of people stretching 300 kilometers long. This is the problem. Logistically it won't work.

Samuel Martin said...

Yes, it does say "600,000", but you understand census according to your understanding of what census means.

If you just focus in on that one text without taking into account all of the other logistic issues in the Torah and many other texts which show clearly that it was not 600,000 individuals, you will not address the issue in an appropriate way. Coming up with an answer for one text does not address the other probelms which have been raised in the larger article.

Christina said...

Reading the responses of people who object to the discussion... who laugh at those who offer a perspective different then their own.. indicates a hardened heart. A person who does not "have ears to hear" as Jesus said.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit,
I believe you have the truth on this issue and for those who proudly lead others in their way of (I believe) sin, it would require a great deal of humility and true repentance.

It is the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things, who convicts, who is our Counselor who can change a mind, heart, and behavior. This truth, just like salvation can fall on hardened, or shallow, or weed choked soil and die. It's not for us to till the soil or pull the weeds.

Our job is to plant the seeds or water the soil. And there is a lot of soil out there that is already convicted by the Holy Spirit, that is searching for some truth about Christ-like treatment of children, and when they receive the truth they will "produce a crop thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown."

It seems to me that Jesus didn't spend much time on those with hardened hearts. He spent his time with the many meek, humble, hurting, and thirsty people that ready to receive truth and repent.