Exodus Numbers

A hundred years ago archaeology had unearthed almost nothing of Biblical import, and the scoffers seemed justified in saying that the Bible was nothing more than fanciful myths or legends. One of their favorite scoffs concerned the Hittites. According to the Bible, they were one of the mightiest nations facing Israel after the Exodus. Yet the “higher critical” view maintained that if the Hittites existed at all, “No Hittite king could have compared in power to the king of Judah.” Then some evidences of a Hittite nation were discovered at Carchemish in 1871, and in 1906 Hugo Winckler excavated Hattusa, ancient capitol of the mighty Hittite nation.

From that day to this, hardly a year has gone by without some major archaeological discovery confirming the Biblical account. Those “higher critics” have been all but silenced, and some archaeologists and historians even use the Bible as one of their most reliable ancient source documents.

But to be fair, some major archaeological discoveries seem to contradict the Bible. One of the worst of these involves the numbers of people and nations, which the Bible seems to regularly inflate beyond all reason. A good example is the men of Bethshemish (1 Sam 6:19), when 50,070 were struck down for peeking into the Arc of the Covenant. It is inconceivable that 50 thousand men plus their wives and children ever lived in the town of Bethshemish. It has now been uncovered as the modern site of Tell er-Rumeileh. It covers roughly seven acres, and seems more fit for a population of 1,000 than 100,000.

Believing as I do that the Bible is inerrant only in its original languages, I conclude that somebody made a mistake in translation. In this case the solution is easy, as the Hebrew word for thousand (Strong’s 505) comes from a root word meaning “to associate with” as in a family or clan under one patriarch, and can therefore also mean family, clan, head of a family, leader, or chief. The correct translation should read that 70 men died, of which 50 were leaders in Israel.


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