Where Did It All Begin?
The Israelites did not find themselves in Egypt by default, their journey to Egypt happened over several years. However, it all began when Joseph was sold by his brothers to Egypt as a result of the long famine that was ravaging their homeland their land, Canaan.
When the remaining 11 brothers could not stand the famine any longer, they too had to sojourn to a land of plenty, which happened to be Egypt at that time.
Naturally, they began multiplying in Egypt and as was tradition, the rulers of the land had to do something to contain the Israelites’ fast-spiraling population.
Pharaoh of the time declared that all Israelites be enslaved by Egyptian masters. And in a bid to ensure their population was contained, a decree was issued where all the Egyptian midwives were tasked with killing all the Hebrew baby boys.
The children of Israel, through Moses, began crying unto the Lord for deliverance from their persecutions, and the rest is history. Also, it is important to remember that the Israelites stayed in Egypt for a total of 430 years before their deliverance could come.
So, How Many Israelites Left Egypt?
According to Exodus, there were about 600,000 men on foot that left the land of Egypt on the day of the Exodus. Inlay terms, these were the able-bodied men that did not include women, children, and people living with disabilities at that time.
However, various scholars have argued that the total number of people could be around 2.4 million. This figure was arrived at by including the total number of women, children, the old and disabled, as well as Egyptians that might have chosen to escape along with the Israelites.
It is important to remember that the Bible does not mention women and children often, and numerical expressions are always made only in relation to men. Proponents of the 2.4 million figure argue that in the second year following the Exodus, Moses was commanded by God to take a census of all men that were fit for war.
He gathered all the Israelites from the 11 tribes but the tribe of Levi. Descendants from the tribe of Levi, also known as Levites, were not required to fight. It is from this lineage that God preferred the priests to be drawn, with the first prominent priest being Aaron.
In this census, Moses was able to count 603,550 men who were able-bodied and of the ages of 20 and over.
In any given demographics, it is normally believed that people that are fit for war normally account for one-quarter of the entire population. This means that the figure 603,550 was roughly a quarter of 2.4 million people.
Why Is It Difficult To Arrive At A Solid Figure?
When it comes to the number of Israelites that left Egypt, we can only work with rough estimates. As we have already mentioned, the only figure we are sure about is the 603,550 able-bodied men.
However, this census was conducted a whopping 2 years after leaving Egypt, so we do not know how many able-bodied men died on the way from reasons other than the ones mentioned in the Bible. We also do not know how many children were born in the course of the first two years.
Another thing that makes it difficult to arrive at the actual figure is that Israelites left Egypt at a time when most of their male babies were murdered.
So, even if we proceed based on the assumption that able-bodied men usually constitute a quarter of the entire population, we will still fall short of estimating the number of children that left Egypt.