I have been aware of this difficulty over numbers—such as it is—for many years. I have twice read Dr. Young’s argument in MS., the first time some years ago. Earlier I had read what Dr. Garstang has to say on the subject, for I bought a copy of his “Joshua Judges,” in the year of its publication. Much earlier still—at least thirty years ago—I was aware of the uncertainty of the higher numbers in Hebrew records and of the great disparity in this matter between our version of the Old Testament and the Septuagint rendering. Difficulties have to be faced as they arise but I have never regarded it as part of my duty to advertise them.
I would like to cite a kind of parable taken from real life. Some years ago I knew an estimable man who, having retired from city business, thought to supplement his slender means by cultivating a garden—quite a sound idea. As a preparation he began to study the weekly paper called “The Smallholder”. Unfortunately “The Smallholder” at that time was particularly dealing with the subject of pests, and the amateur was so overwhelmed with the number of pests that he never started gardening at all.
No doubt any experienced gardener could tell the beginner of a thousand ways in which his crops may possibly be ruined, but this is not the best training. Let the amateur learn the elements of his craft and start with constructive work. He can deal with the pests as they come. They are only negative, like critical objection; and true cultivation is something much more than the mere killing of pests. It is possible to have a wonderful garden in spite of all the blights and it is possible to have a wonderful faith in spite of all the critics, but we shall never have either the garden or the faith if we only think about blight. Pests can all be overcome but they waste a lot of time, and too much thought about them may rob us of time that is of vital importance. As in religious matters there are always at least six men trying to pull down for every one who is trying to build, I have felt it a duty to keep as much as possible to constructive work. Let beginners be thoroughly equipped with a knowledge of those facts, the cumulative force of which has turned some men from atheism to a living faith even in our day. They will then be able to follow the life trail and take the difficulties in their stride.
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Author: Islip Collyer
Keywords: Exodus, Exodus from Egypt, Population of Israel, Population, Size of the children of Israel, numbers, numbering, numbering the children of Israel, counting, errors, errors in the Bible, inerrancy, inerrancy of the Bible, Bible is full of errors, scribal errors, Bible inerrant
Bible reference(s): Exo 1:12, Exo 12:38, Exo 38:26, Num 1, Numbers 2, Numbers 3, Num 4:36, Num 4:40, Num 4:44, Num 4:48, Numbers 26, Num 31:36, Deu 7:7, Deu 10:22, Josh 6:3-4
Source: “The Statistics of the Exodus (II),” The Testimony, Vol. 8, No. 93, September 1938, pp. 392-4.
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