And on Monday I came across some numbers that simply "don't make sense" to me. I'm wondering how anyone else might reasonably interpret them.
In the Book of Numbers, chapters 1 and 2, if I'm reading the text correctly, we get an enumeration of all males "from twenty years old and upward, all who were able to go to war" (1:20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, and 45-46; also 2:4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28, 30 and 32). --I actually took the time to align all the specific numbers mentioned in chapter 2 to the numbers mentioned in chapter 1; and I checked the math to see if all the numbers added up. (They did.)
As I read this unbelievably repetitive portion of text, I kept wondering:
Why does the author keep repeating himself? Why not simply say something along the lines of, "The number of men from twenty years old and upward able to go to war, numbered by clan, by their fathers' houses, were as follows: From the the tribe of Reuben, 46,500; from the tribe of Simeon, 59,300; from the tribeUnbelievable repetition!
of . . . "?Why, instead, this lengthy repetition of verbiage:
The people of Reuben, Israel's firstborn, their generations, by their clans, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of names, head by head, every male from twenty years old and upward, all who were able to go to war: those listed of the tribe of Reuben were 46,500.And so on and so forth.
Of the people of Simeon, their generations, by their clans, by their fathers' houses, those of them who were listed, according to the number of names, head by head, every male from twenty years old and upward, all who were able to go to war: those listed of the tribe of Simeon were
59,300. . . .
But I slogged through. And the ultimate summary of both chapters--chapter 1 and chapter 2--is that there were 603,550 men 20 years old and upward who could be expected to go to war in behalf of Israel at that particular point in history.
"But the Levites [i.e., the tribe of Levi--the priestly tribe] were not listed among the people of Israel" (2:33).
So then I came to chapter 3. And in chapter 3 we have the census of the Levites. And I checked the numbers there, too, and I agreed with the author that, according to what he had written in 3:21ff, if those verses are accurate, then "All those listed among the Levites,
But then I ran into a problem.
And [YHWH] 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 [YHWH] --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 [YHWH] commanded him. And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names, from a month old and upward as listed were 22,273."What's the problem, John?"
And [YHWH] spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle. The Levites shall be mine: I am [YHWH]. And as the redemption price for the 273 of the firstborn of the people of Israel, over and above the number of the male Levites, you shall take five shekels per head; you shall take them according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel of twenty gerahs and give the money to Aaron and his sons as the redemption price for those who are over."
The problem is the number of firstborn!
You've got 22,273 firstborn males a month old and upward among a male population of 20 years old and upward of 603,550! If the 603,550 included all males a month old and older, the math would be slightly better. Indeed, assuming the kinds of population numbers we see in various parts of the world, where the average age is, say, 15, then the statistics would be somewhat better.
But let's take the Bible at its word. There were 603,550 men aged 20 and up, and there were 22,273 firstborn males a month old and older.
That means that, among a minimum of 603,550 men, there were a maximum of 22,273 firstborn males.
603,550/22,273 = 27.1
Do you begin to "feel" the problem I felt?
If these numbers are to be believed, and if I have interpreted the Bible correctly, then, at best, only one in 27 men was a firstborn. On average, each father had to have had 27 sons. Add in the daughters (who weren't counted), and you'd have parents averaging somewhere above 50 children per couple.
--Anyone want to suggest some solutions to this conundrum?