Tag Archives: exodus

Did An Army of 600,000 Israelites Conquer the Land of Canaan?

The traditional Sunday School image shows Joshua leading about 600,000 armed Israelites into the land of Canaan, across the river Jordan. But was that really the size of Joshua's army?

The traditional Sunday School image shows Joshua leading about 600,000 armed Israelites into the land of Canaan, across the river Jordan. But was that really the size of Joshua’s army?

When we read about the nation of Israel crossing the river Jordan to enter the Promised Land, in Joshua 4, something stands out, if you read very carefully. Joshua 4:13 tells us this:

About 40,000 ready for war passed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho (ESV).

From this verse alone, you might think that there were a total of 40,000 soldiers in the army of Israel, set to conquer the land. The problem is that according to a census taken prior to the crossing of the river Jordan, of all of the Hebrew men of fighting age (Numbers 26:1-4), the census gave a total number of 601,730 (Numbers 26:51). A previous census taken near the beginning of the wilderness journey, just after the Exodus from Egypt, reveals about the same number, 603,550 (Numbers 1:45-46). The second census is different in that the first generation in the wilderness had perished, replaced by a new generation, leaving only Joshua and Caleb from the first generation still among them, but the numbers are in the same ballpark. Clearly there is a problem lining up the 40,000 armed men that crossed the Jordan with the some 600,000+ recorded in each census.

Nevertheless, the problem is more difficult than this: Assuming a 600,000+ army, this would give you a much larger population total, if you include women and children, at least around 2 million.

That is a lot of people.

In Deuteronomy 7:1-7, we read that God was sending the Israelites into a land to clear away seven different nations of people, each nation being larger than Israel herself. That means at least 14 million people were living in the Promised Land that Israel was to possess, in Canaan, which would be greater than the current population of the corresponding land in the Middle East now. Considering that Gaza alone is one of most densely populated places on earth, it is difficult to comprehend such large numbers of people in the ancient near east, particularly when the current archaeological data shows that the land of Canaan was far less populated then than it is now.

How do we try to resolve this difficulty?1
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Did the Exodus Really Happen?

Is there any archaeological evidence to support the Exodus of the Bible?

This week, Jews all over the world are celebrating the Passover, the annual feast remembering God’s deliverance of the Hebrew people from the bonds of slavery in ancient Egypt. Is there a genuine historical basis for these events surrounding the Passover?

After the release of Ridley Scott’s movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and a new documentary film by Timothy Mahoney, Patterns of Evidence, which seeks to re-examine the archaeological evidence, there is a renewed interest in understanding how the exodus of Moses and the Israelites from underneath the yoke of slavery in Egypt might have happened.  This fascinating and highly recommended essay by Jewish scholar Joshua Berman explores the issue of the historicity of the Exodus. Berman takes a position similar to mine, in that once we dismiss the notion of a “massive” event involving 2 to 3 million people, that really should be numbered more in terms of several tens of thousands (see Numbers 3:43 for one additional piece of evidence that Berman cites), a lot of the intellectual hurdles to accepting the biblical story tend to fall off.

On the others side, over the years there have been a number of attempts made by some documentary filmmakers exploring these questions, often suggesting some rather controversial theories. How does one go about evaluating these different claims?

In a 2014 lecture, Egyptologist James K. Hoffmeier at Trinity Internation University and Wheaton College geologist Stephen Moshier consider some of the more controversial theories and review them in the light of Scripture and the available evidence.  As a follow-up to this previous extensive Veracity posting on this topic, you might find Hoffmeier and Moshier as providing a more modest perspective that nevertheless still honors the biblical record.  The bottom line: while there are a plethora of different proposals for resolving the questions surrounding the Exodus, there is enough evidence to rule out some of the more extravagant claims.


Patterns of Evidence: One Night Showing Tonight!

On Monday, January 19, 2015, selected movie theatres across the country will be showing a special documentary film, Patterns of Evidence. The story is about a filmmaker, Timothy Mahoney, who had a crisis of faith when he learned from the consensus of critically minded scholars that the Exodus, the famous story of Moses leading the people out of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea,… NEVER HAPPENED.

Well, at least, that is the conclusion that is drawn from many archaeologists of the ancient Bible periods. True, the study of archaeology has yet to provide demonstrative evidence confirming the Biblical account of the Exodus. Therefore, many come to the conclusion that the Exodus was simply a “made up” part of the Bible. In other words, the story in the Bible is just as fictional as Ridley Scott’s version of it in Exodus: Gods and Kings, introduced with extensive background discussion to the archaeological issues involved here earlier on Veracity. But is there another way to approach this issue and arrive at a different conclusion?

In Mahoney’s documentary film, he looks at the possibility that the search for the Exodus has focused on the wrong time and place. Having not seen the film myself, I can not myself offer a review, but you may want to look at the following reviews from Answers in Genesis and the Gospel Coalition.

To find a film showing for this one night in your area according to zip code, look here. (In Williamsburg, Virginia, it is at 7pm at the High Street Movie Tavern). A 6:30 pm discussion led by Fox News commentator Gretchen Carlson and featuring author Anne Graham Lotz, Eric Metaxas, Father Jonathan Morris, and Dennis Prager precedes the film. If you attend the film, I would like hear your thoughts about it, as I am not sure myself that Mahoney’s case is without difficulties. Take a skeptical friend. It is sure to be controversial and generate plenty of conversation. Does the filmmaker make a convincing case?

UPDATE: January 20

Check out the Veracity review of the film by viewing the comments section below, given by Veracity’s own John Paine. Thanks, John!


Exodus: Gods and Kings and The Min and Max of Digging

So, what type of archaeological evidence would a mass migration of escaping Jewish slaves leave behind to be discovered some three thousand plus years later?

For whatever reason, the year 2014 has turned out to be a year of Christian-themed cinema, with movies ranging from a creative re-interpretation of the Noah story to the dispensationalist Rapture event of the End Times, Left Behind. To end off the year, film director Ridley Scott promises a real blockbuster, Exodus: Gods and Kings, with an all-star cast. Here is the theatre trailer:

The story is indeed a familiar one to students of the Bible. A Hebrew man grows up among the ancient Egyptian royalty, only to be called by God to lead his people out of slavery under the defiant eye of Pharaoh and across the Red Sea. But what will Ridley Scott’s epic deliver?

One of the main concerns of potential movie goers will be the historical accuracy of the film. A recent poll indicates that if the story is mostly consistent with the biblical account, over 70 percent of Americans surveyed will see the film, whereas if it is inaccurate, close to under 70 percent will forgo it. The problem is figuring out what is meant by “historical accuracy.” If you had a shovel over there in Egypt, what would you discover?

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