The Bible Slam: Numbers Chapter 01

The tribes of Israel and their war-ready populations are identified.   Men 20 years and up were all added to each army.

The Levites were not numbered amongst the armies because their job was to assemble, disassemble and move the tabernacle around and perform the priestly functions.

See the discussion points below about the absurdity of the population polls and army listed in this chapter of the Bible.

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Discussion Points.

At first glance, the numbers add up:

Reuben 46500
Simeon 59300
Gad 45650
Judah 74600
Issachar 54400
Zebulun 57400
Joseph/Ephraim 40500
Manasseh 32200
Benjamin 35400
Dan 62700
Asher 41500
Naphtali 53400
603550

Although the military members of the tribal tallies add up, the 603,550 number is absurd.   Not accounting for the "fact" that the Levites were not numbered, women were not numbered, children and teenagers under the age of 20 were not numbered, and people unable to go to war were not numbered — based on the Old Testament accounts — each woman would need to have an average of 51.6 children with no infant mortality.   This means that each would have to be constantly pregnant from ages 15-40 with twins (see discussion).

According to Numbers 1:17 through 1:18, Moses and Aaron had everyone gather up for the military poll.   How did these two men, with no computers, pens, ink or paper keep track of over 600,000 people?

Compare the ancient Hebrew's military size of approximately 600,000 with that of the United States military as of 2008/2009 (info from Wikipedia):

Component Military Enlisted Officer Female Civilian
United States Department of the Army Seal.svg Army 548,000 456,651 88,093 73,902 243,172
USMC logo.svg Marine Corps 203,095 182,147 20,639 12,290
US-DeptOfNavy-Seal.svg Navy 332,000 276,276 51,093 50,008 182,845
Seal of the US Air Force.svg Air Force 323,000 261,193 64,370 64,137 154,032
USCG S W.svg Coast Guard 41,000 32,647 8,051 4,965 7,396
Total Active 1,445,000 1,174,563 224,144 200,337 580,049
National Guard.gif Army National Guard 353,000
United States AR seal.svg Army Reserve 205,000
MarforresLogo.jpg Marine Forces Reserve 40,000
United States NR Seal.svg Navy Reserve 67,000
Air national guard shield.svg Air National Guard 107,000
Air Force Reserve Command.png Air Force Reserve 67,000
United States Coast Guard Reserve emblem.png Coast Guard Reserve 11,000
Total Reserve 850,000
Other DOD Personnel 97,976

The Levites must have been almost as mighty as the Biblical armed forces, since the tabernacle that they were charged with moving around weighed at least 11 tons .  This doesn't account for the weight and size of the ark and other items they were charged with transporting.

The numbers are fanciful, at best.   They're reminiscent of other exaggerated headcounts (this video includes someone's political statement, but the numbers tossed around illustrate the point):

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