Numbers chapter 1 records that there were 625,550 adult men in Israel.

Numbers chapter 3 records that there were 22,273 firstborn sons in Israel.

I'm no mathematician, but if 625,500 / 22,273 = 28.08, wouldn't that imply that there were about 28 children in each family in Israel at the time of the Exodus, or am I just really looking at this in the wrong way?

28 per family seems excessive, particularly since, in the genealogical records we have available, no families at that time seem to come close to that size.

Any ideas?


1 Answer 1


The thing to remember is that the bible only counts male firstborns not just any firstborn. So the value of 22,273 cannot be the true value of all the Israelite households. Since, on average, only one out of two households will yield male firstborns we need to multiply the biblical value of 22,273 by two, which brings us to 44,546. Now divide the number of adult males by 44,546 we get like 13.4, a value which is much more reasonable.

Other factors to include are firstborn sons that were born after a miscarriage which may delegitimize their firstborn status in biblical law, and other similar scenarios, these factors may well have contributed to the low ratio of firstborns to males in households.

Since we cannot be sure what criteria were to be fulfilled in order to be considered a firstborn, in biblical law, we should be weary of estimating sizes of families based on the number of firstborns.

See this post for lengthier discussion.

  • 1
    I'm in the process of looking over that other post. Thanks for showing it to me. I don't think we can solve this with gender though. Even if we did have 44,546 firstborn (sons and daughters), we'd also duplicate our census numbers, because they only counted men. Multiplying both sides of the equation by two gives us no change in the solution.
    – Truth
    Mar 6, 2019 at 15:18

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