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603550, (see also Exod. xxxviii. 26.) containing only the number of men from twenty years old and upward,' exclusively of the Levites, who amounted to 22000, when added to the women and children, and to the mixed multitude,' which, we read, accompanied them, must have produced such an immense population, it has been said, as could scarcely have existed in that confined part of Egypt, called the land of Goshen, much less in the deserts for forty years, without the intervention of a continued miracle, which is not pretended; or in the country of Canaan, a great part of which was at that time uncultivated, (Jos. xvii. 18. 1 Sam. xxiii.) and from which the Gibeonitęs, the Jebusites, the Canaanites of Gezer, Bethshan, Sidon, and other natives, we know, were not expelled.
It is more difficult to conceive how Pharaoh could think of vanquishing snch an host with six hundred chosen chariots,' and such others as could be provided, in the calamitous state of Egypt; how the Israelites should be sore afraid, and flee before him,' or dread to encounter a single tribe of barbarians, called the Philistines. The whole number of people, that departed from Egypt, including every description of persons,
has been calculated, in a rough way, to amount to some millions. The author of "The Companion to the Holy Bible' says six millions. This has furnished not only ground of cavil to unbelievers, but matter of extreme difficulty to the friends of revealed religion, who have, for the most part, implicitly acquiesced in the account given in the Holy Scriptures, without considering whether the various translators of the Hebrew Bible carefully examined and understood the notation in the original, or more particularly, whether that had not been altered, mistaken, and unavoidably corrupted, by the Jewish Rabbis, and other copyists, through a long series of years, after the Hebrew had ceased to be a living language.
Let us endeavour to trace some of the principal facts relating to this interesting, but very complex, subject. It is extremely probable, that the numbers in the Bible were originally written in words at length ; and that, in the formation of the largest sums, the simple operation of addition was used, as in the mode of computation by the ancient Abacus : but it should be remembered that all our Bibles were translated, and are corrected, from copies made between the year of our Lord 1000 and 1457.
About this latter date, the Hebrew MSS.” says Dr. Kennicott, “ were reduced by Masoretic regimen to an almost “ absolute uniformity in their various depravations.” In the first simple notation, the words expressing different numbers were connected by the particle , (vau, or and,) which, in all languages, means addition. Thus, in giving an account of the ages of the antediluvians, Moses says, taking Methuselah for an instance, that all his days were “ nine and sixty years and nine hundred years." There is the same notation observed in recording the ages of all the persons mentioned in the fifth chapter of Genesis, and in other parts of that book. Hence, we may observe, that the small numbers are mentioned first, contrary to what Buxtorf says, “ majore semper præcedente," (Thesaur. Gram. ad init. p. 7.) “ the larger number always preceding,” which relates to later times; and that the vau is equivalent to the plus sign in algebra : but where this important copulative is omitted, it should seem that the numbers are factors to each other, like the Greek numerals A, F, &c. on the Parian Chronicle; and that multiplication is intended. Thus, because there is no vau between the nine and the hundred, in the age of Methuselah, it is read 900 years, and not 109 years, which it would be if the vau were inserted. So, also (1 Kings iv. 32) it is said of Solomon's songs, that they were a thousand and five;' but the Septuagint, translating from a copy where the vau was omitted, reads five thousand. Unfortunately, this was anciently a very small character, not unlike some forms of the manuscript gimel, zain, yod, and nun, and in copying a manuscript, it might be easily dropt, or supplied, without the least intention to alter, or deprave the text.
It should be remembered, that the Hebrews had no compound numerals from 100 to 1000, resembling the Greek tpraxborov, Tecoupaxócios. &c. or the Latin trecenti, quadringenti, fc. but, in Hebrew, every multiple of a hundred is expressed by two separate words, as in English, thus, three hundred,' four hundred &c. and the insertion, or omission, of the vau, determines whether 103 and 104 be meant, or 300 and 400. This consideration alone will show how
much the numbers in the Bible might have been affected by the use of a single letter. The Reader will certainly ask if this function of the vau, as a numeral, is always attended to in our translation ? if numbers between which it stands are always added, and if others, where it is omitted, are always multiplied ? It must be answered, No. Two instances, out of many that may be produced, will be sufficient. It is said, 2 Kings xix. 35. that the angel of the Lord smote in the camp of the Assyrians 185000 men. The Hebrew notation here is, an hundred, eighty and five thousand;' without any vau between the hundred and eighty ; but in the parallel text, Isaiah xxxvii. 36. the notation is an hundred and eighty and five thousand; where the vau indicates addition, and makes the sum 100+80+5000, or 5180, a much more probable number than the former. In Daniel, (ch. xii. 12.)we read, “ blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand, three hundred and five and thirty
days; ” and though this is rightly taken as addition; yet, in Hebrew, there is no vau, or and, except between the thirty and five.
It deserves notice, that, though, in noting the ages of the Patriarchs before the flood, the mode of numeration is to begin with the units, and proceed to the tens, and lastly to the hundreds, yet not only here and elsewhere, but also in the books of Exodus and Numbers, which were likewise written by Moses, the notation is inverted; and the larger numbers are written first. See Exod. xxxviii. 26. and Numbers, ch. i. 23, 25, et seq. It appears, also, that numbers were sometimes recorded promiscuously, without any regard to their rank, in what we now call the Numeration Table. Where we meet with tens before units, and hundreds, sometimes before, and sometimes after thousands, we may regard such notation as a transcript from the ancient Abacus; in which the numbers were put without order, as we find them in a common account, consisting of various sums.-See Ezek. xlv. 12. and Theocritus, Idyl. xiv. 44. and xvii. 82.
Speaking of the men of Beth-shemesh, (a small town belonging to the tribe of Judah,) who were destroyed for looking into the ark, it is said, (1 Sam. vi. 19,) that “ he smote of the people, fifty thousand and threescore and ten men.” This is our translation ; but the Hebrew is “ seventy men, fifty, a thousand men.” Now, if the vau has been omitted between the fifty and the thousand, the number will then be 70+50+1000, or 1120
Some of the ancient versions have 5070, and Josephus has only 70. The reader will judge of the probability attached to these numbers, and to the change, or alteration, which might have been made in the original text. In the same manner, if the vau were introduced, as the sign of addition, between some of the respective numbers of the eleven tribes, in this first chapter, the sums would be greatly altered ; but this is by no means recommended as an expedient to ascertain the real numbers, or to correct the sacred text with accuracy: it is only proposed, on the present occasion, as an illustration, to show the important functions of the vau, as a numeral.
Other conjectures may deserve consideration. The aleph, being the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, is used for the great leading number, a thousand; it means, also, a chieftain, or leader, probably at first of 1000 men. We find it in this sense, 1 Sam. xviii. 13. It signifies, also, the company, or regiment, as we should now say, itself; (see Parkhurst's Lexicon, or Bochart, Phaleg. p. 667.) and it is remarkable, that throughout this chapter, it is always in the singular number, 758, not D'abx, as usual, though not invariable, on other occasions. Is
it not possible that, in transcription, the word aleph might have been mistaken for a numeral, when it was intended to signify the tribe, or the chieftain, who, we read, was to preside over it, and who, as a qualification, was to be the “head of the house of his fathers ? " Num. 1. 4. The consideration, that all ancient MSS. were written without any break, or space, between the words, favors this supposition.
That there are many and great mistakes throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, with respect to numbers, will scarcely be denied ; and that there are some which pervade the numbers mentioned in this chapter, we may be induced to believe, not only from the magnitude, but from the comparative smallness, of the number of first-born, which was only 22273. (See Num. iii. 42.) When it is considered, that the Israelites were polygamists, and that it was the first-born of the mother who was numbered ; (Exod. xii. 12.) that a man might have three or four wives; that these people gloried in being prolific; that the number of the men was 603550; and that 22273 dues not allow one first-born male to 27 of those men, who were “20 years old and upward,' without including such as were somewhat younger; we must suppose, that there has been some derangement, or akeration, of the numbers, though the sums in Exodus, and in other parts of this book, seem to have been regulated, in some measure, by the total here given.
Farther, when Joshua (iv. 12, 13.) mentions the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, he makes them amount only to about 40,000 men, and this is corroborated by 1. Chron. v. 18; whereas, if we take the estimate from Numb. xxvi. they will be found to be 110,580. Commentators endeavour to reconcile the enormous difference by supposing, that only a detachment of them crossed the Jordan ; but this is scarcely consistent with their previous covenant with Moses, which was, that they were “ to go all of them armed over Jordan, and every man prepared for battle.” See Num. xxxii. 21, 29. The supposition, that the numbers are greatly enlarged, will be strengthened by considering, that throughout the beok of Joshua, containing the history of the principal battles of the Israelites, we no-where read of more than 40,000 being brought into the field ; and that, in the song of Deborah, which, from its poetry, admitted of amplification, when she deplored the degeneracy of the Israelites, and the disgraceful circumstance of their being disarmed throughout the land by their enemies, instead of talking of hundreds of thousands, she only says,
there a shield or spear seen among 40,000 in Israel ?” Judg. v. 8. This would not have been any great national calamity, if all the rest had been completely armed,
To the Editor OF THE CLASSICAL JOURNAL.
If the following Inscriptions are of any value to your Journal, I shall be happy to forward others occasionally, which I have collected in my late travels in the Mediterranean. I am, your's, &c.
1. Sarcophagus of black granite at Alexandria Troas ; some of the letters were tery
much worn. The part, on which the Inscription is curved, stands out in alto relief, as also do the two suspended Lachrymals on the surcophagus.-The exter. nal measure of the coffin is seven feet eight inches.
The above was evidently part of a sentence, informing by whom the temple was built, und in whose Archonship. It may be written thus:
ΗΡΩΣΑΣ ΑΝΕΘΗΚΕΝ ΑΡΧΟΝΤΟΣ ΜΕΝ *