Most people are familiar with the biblical miracles of parting the Red Sea; surviving three days in a fish’s belly (and being spewed out good as new); walking on unfrozen water and turning it into wine; resurrecting the dead, etc. These have all been done to death, so in this series, we’re going to take a look at some of the lesser-known miracles of the Bible: the ones that often pass by without notice.
13 women having 3 million great-grandchildren
The question is typically posed: How could 70 people have 3 million offspring in only four generations? We’re going to explain the rationale behind that question, answer it, and then show why it may not be the right question.
The Bible states that the members of Jacob’s family who went to Egypt were 70 in all, and gives the names of 57 of these as men–leaving 13 of them to be women (Gen. 46:8-27). Moses was only the third generation from one of these people (Kohath, who begat Amram, who begat Moses (Gen. 46:11, Ex. 6:18-20)
From 57 men and 13 women, how many people could there have been in four generations? [Not three generations, because Moses was certainly old enough to have children at the time of the Exodus from Egypt.] The Bible tells us that there were 603,550 Israelite men over 21 years of age who crossed over the Red Sea with Moses as they fled Egypt (Ex. 38:26). For each of these adult males, we could safely assume that there was at least one woman (603,550) and three children (1.8 million). That would make a total of well over three million people!
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most prolific women have had great-grandchildren in the hundreds. For 13 women to achieve 1.8 million great-grandchildren would require an average of 139,281 great-grandchildren per woman! This, in turn, would require each woman on average to give birth to 53 children (with at least 52 of them being females.) [This meets the quantity criteria, however, it does not give us 603,550 adult males at the end of four generations. For that, the women would’ve had to have been even more pro-creative!]
Let’s say that all of these women had 26 child-bearing years (from sexual maturity at age 14 to age 40). That’s not enough years to meet their quota of children with single births every year So, each woman would have to bear at least 26 pairs of twins. Every one of those children would need to survive and reproduce. Every single female child and grandchild would likewise have to meet this incredible quota of offspring: giving twin births every year of their lives between the ages of 14 and 40.
The above scenario would be extremely unlikely. Women: Can you imagine getting pregnant again 3 months after giving birth–every year? Men: Can you imagine trying to raise 53 children on a slave’s wages? We could safely call it a miracle.
But, of course, Bible-defenders will claim that we’ve got it all wrong; they tell us that the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years (Exod 12:40-41). Okay; that certainly helps! Now, with more than four centuries to play with, our Israelite women only had to produce 4 children apiece to arrive at 3 million Israelites after 16 generations. That’s still remarkably fertile, but, alas, not a miracle.
However, don’t be dejected; even with 430 years there are still some hidden miracles at work here.
Moses: Old Enough to be Dead?!
How could there only be four generations (at least in Moses’ line) in 430 years? After 430 years no one from the fourth generation would still be alive; they’d be over 300 years old.
Unless, of course, the men in Moses’ line fathered children after the age of 100, and Moses was at least a hundred years old when he crossed the Red Sea.
Oh, but even this “solution” leads to
|Year||Person/Event||Person’s Age||Age at death|
|0||Kohath (son of Levi) journeys (we’ll assume as a newborn) with Jacob to Egypt (Gen 46:11)|
|133||Kohath fathers Amram||133||133 (Ex 6:18)|
|270||Amram fathers Moses||137||137 (Ex 6:20)|
|430||Moses crosses Red Sea||160 (Ex 12:40-41)|
|470||After 40 years wandering in wilderness Moses dies||200|
For all of the above genealogy: Ex. 6:16-20
Now here’s the miracle: the Bible plainly tells us that Moses died at the age of 120 (Deut 34:7). That means he had been dead for forty years before he ever led the Israelites out of Egypt! Quite a feat! No wonder he was reluctant to speak in public; the smell would’ve been overwhelming!
But, other Bible-defenders will tell us that the other Bible-defenders have it all wrong: the Israelites weren’t in Egypt for 430 years; they were only there for half that time (215 years) based on Galatians 3:15-17. So, we could now have a live Moses to lead them as follows:
|Year||Person/Event||Person’s Age||Age at death|
|0||Kohath (son of Levi) journeys (as a newborn) with Jacob to Egypt (Gen 46:11)|
|67||Kohath fathers Amram||67||133 (Ex 6:18)|
|135||Amram fathers Moses||68||137 (Ex 6:20)|
|215||Moses crosses Red Sea||80 (Ex 12:40-41)|
|255||After 40 years wandering in wilderness
|120 (Deut 34:7)|
Very good. But wait, that means we also need to cut in half the amount of time for our 13 Hebrew women to produce 3 million descendants.
Actually, this isn’t too big of a deal: we just have to increase their output from 4 children to 6 children. The unlikeliness factor is still large, but not so huge as to rate the word “impossible.”
So, for the Bible-defenders in the 215-year camp (which may be the minority) there is no miracle here. But I’ve unearthed some related ones for us to enjoy:
1. More, yet fewest!
There were more Israelites than Egyptians (according to Exodus 1:7-9) yet a chronologically later Bible book [supposedly also written by Moses] states: “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people.” (Deut. 7:7)
2. Three Million down to 7 thousand!
We are later told in the Bible that the entire population of Israel was only 7,000 (1 Kings 20:15). What happened to the rest of the descendants of three million of “God’s chosen people” whom he was allegedly “blessing” in the “land of milk and honey” during that time?
3. Two over-achieving midwives!
According to Ex 1:15 there appear to be only two Hebrew midwives.
Averaging the number of births in the 10 years leading up to the 1.8 million children gives us a Hebrew birthrate of 86,221 per year, or 236 per day, which is 10 per hour. If two midwives worked 12 hour shifts every day, they would have 6 minutes per delivery (including travel time).
But first-time deliveries typically take 8 hours. If the midwives only attended to first-time deliveries (letting the experienced take care of themselves) and only 1/4 of the women were first-time mothers, that would consume 472 hours per day, requiring a bare minimum of 39 midwives working 12 hour shifts around the clock.
Of course, the “That doesn’t mean what it says” school of biblical interpretation will tell us that when the Bible indicates that there were only two midwives, it doesn’t mean midwives at all, but rather the leaders of the midwives’ union!
So maybe the real miracle here is that anyone believes the “that doesn’t mean what it says” interpretation.
4. An Egyptian Princess bathed in the Nile.
Why would a princess bathe in a river polluted by the putrefying bodies of slave babies? If the Egyptians were obeying Pharaoh’s order (which would be implied by Moses’ mother taking the drastic action of floating her baby down the river), then over a hundred male babies were being pitched into the Nile every day. It would be the last place on Earth a princess would choose to bathe in. Another miracle!
5. Wrong-way infanticide.
When I was researching this article I wrote a simulation program to determine how the birth numbers could be arrived at by tweaking the parameters. One thing I experimented with was varying the ratio of male to female babies. I found that the 3 million could be reached within the 430 years by each woman giving birth to as few as 3 children–as long as two of the three were female (and the culture and economy permitted the average Joe to have two wives.) But, if the ratio were changed to two boys and one girl we ended up with a population under a thousand after 430 years!
What this drastic difference proves is that reducing the number of males has no appreciable effect on the population compared to reducing the number of females. (Think about it: 100 women and one man can give birth to 100 babies a year. But one woman and 100 men can only give birth to one.)
This is why when infanticide is practiced the victims are universally female. The Egyptians weren’t idiots. If they were trying to curb the Hebrew population, and were willing to resort to this barbaric practice, then they would’ve drowned the girl babies, not the boys.
But, history shows that the Egyptian culture did not endorse infanticide. The Bible’s account is a calumny against Egyptian morality as well as an insult to their intelligence — and ours.
6. Take my jewelry: please!
According to Ex. 12:35-36 The weary Egyptians willingly gave the Hebrews their jewelry.
After having weathered all these plagues, and having their crops destroyed, their cattle killed, their water-supply polluted, their firstborn murdered: all supposedly by the Hebrew’s God, we are to believe that the Egyptians wished them well and gave them gifts of jewelry. “Oh, you’re leaving? My goodness, don’t go empty-handed. Even though our family is now destitute, and in desperate need of our few remaining resources to feed our surviving children, we really want you to have the gold chain that we were going to hand down to our firstborn daughter whom your god murdered in punishment for his forcing Pharaoh not to release you.” Yeah, right.
7. Think rush hour traffic is bad today?
3 million slaves left Egypt in a single day, with enough provisions, cattle, firewood, and wealth to sustain them for 40 years in a barren wilderness. This despite the fact that they would’ve formed a column some sixty miles in length. If the leader began at 1:00 AM the one bringing up the rear would’ve taken his first step by 7:00 AM the following day (assuming no one stopped to rest during those first 30 hours.)
C’mon, people: this is a story for children (or child-like minds.)
8. Impossible magic!
Jehovah is the creator, right? The only creator, right? And even though he “rested from all his works” on the seventh day (which Witnesses and others tell us is still continuing today) and has done no act of creation during this “day,” (WT Feb 1, 1955 p. 95 and WT Oct 1, 2001 p. 30) in one of his plagues on Egypt he created enough frogs on the spot to “cover the land.” That’s the first
But, we are told, Pharaoh’s magicians then “did the same thing.” (Exodus 8:1-8) The Watchtower tells us that magic comes from Satan. So, evidently Jehovah is not the only creator: Satan created frogs too. (How they could tell, though, is a mystery: since there were already frogs “covering the land” how could they tell if more were added?)
We also have to wonder why the Egyptian magicians would voluntarily and willingly harm their own land by increasing the plague of frogs.
Even though the Bible tells us that blood is so sacred that a Jehovah’s Witness dares not have a blood transfusion (because “the life is in the blood” Lev 17:11), Jehovah turned all the water in Egypt into blood. So then, all the water had life in it (as well as someone’s “personality” according to the Watchtower Sep 15 1961 p.564). So no one could drink it without violating the “everlasting covenant.”
The Israelites would’ve died of dehydration within a few days. But here’s another impossible miracle: we are told that Pharaoh’s magicians once again “did the same thing.” (Ex 7:19-22) But “doing the same thing” would’ve required them to turn water into blood — but there was no water; it had already all been turned to blood! So this is another account in the Bible that we simply cannot believe, try as we might.
9. Violating Freewill in the Cause of Vanity
Jehovah does not cause anyone to sin, right? If people sin it’s their own fault, right? (James 1:13-15) Going against God’s will is a sin, right?
Okay, so God’s will was to release the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. Pharaoh had agreed to let them go (Ex 12:31-32), and in fact, they were on their way when we read:
“I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
It seems that even the dumb loyalty of Pharaoh’s soldiers was not enough to make them continue in their foolish pursuit of the Israelites. But, lest their freewill interfere with God’s showing off, God the puppet-master took control and hardened all of their hearts!
10. Absent Evidence
Bible-defenders are fond of quoting the adage: “Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence.” But they are mistaking negative evidence for absent evidence. Let’s take an example: A schoolchild, prone to playing hooky, tells his mother that he attended school that day. But when the mother calls the school principal he tells her that none of the teachers saw him that day, and he was not checked off on the attendance sheet. While it’s true that there is an “absence of evidence” for his attendance, the facts present convincing negative evidence to reasonably conclude that he skipped school that day.
There is negative evidence of:
- a massive Hebrew population in Egypt
- the Egyptians having engaged in massive slavery within their borders
- the Egyptians having practiced infanticide on a massive scale
- millions of people emigrating en masse from Egypt into the Sinai desert
So we can reasonably conclude that none of the above things happened.
The borders of Egypt were well guarded and logs were kept of all movement in and out: but no mention of the 3 million. There is no evidence of human habitation in the area of Goshen during the period when the Bible tells us the Hebrews spent 38 of their 40 “wandering” years after leaving Egypt. Many of the cities they supposedly did battle with are known to have been unpopulated at that time.
This cannot be explained (as it typically is by believers) by saying the Egyptians were too embarrassed to write about their butts getting kicked by the Hebrews. We’re not just talking about written Egyptian historical records here. We’re talking about artifacts. People don’t live in a country for over two centuries without leaving a trace. You can’t take 3 million people and march them through a desert for 40 years without leaving a trace. It’s impossible (or, if you prefer: an unadvertised, inadvertent “miracle.”)
The conclusion — that the Exodus did not happen at the time and in the manner described by the Bible — seems irrefutable when we examine the evidence at specific sites where the children of Israel were said to have camped for extended periods during their wandering in the desert (Numbers 33) and where archaeological evidence — if present — would almost certainly be found.
Sites mentioned in the Exodus are real… Unfortunately for those seeking a historical Exodus, they were unoccupied precisely at the time they reportedly played a role in the events of the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness.
–The Bible Unearthed, pp. 63-68 (Simon & Schuster, 2001) by Israel Finkelstein (Director, Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University) and Neil Asher Silberman (Director, historical interpretation, Ename Center for Public Archaeology and Heritage Presentation, Belgium; and Contributing Editor, Archaeology magazine)