The Ratio of the Males to the Firstborn in the Exodus

As I was doing some research on the Levites as a type of Christianity, I ran across some very odd numbers.  The number of firstborn forms a very small ratio of firstborn to males.  Notice the following citations.

Numbers 1:2  Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls;

3  From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies.

Moses counted the male children of Israel 20 and older and came up with the following numbers:

[Coming out of Egypt]

Numbers 2:32 BBE These are all who were numbered of the children of Israel, in the order of their fathers’ families: all the armies in their tents together came to six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty. (603,550)

[Coming out of the wilderness]

Numbers 26:51  These were the numbered of the children of Israel, six hundred thousand and a thousand seven hundred and thirty. (601,730)

Having noticed that there were 603,550 males over 20 who came out of Egypt, we notice that at the same time there were only 22, 273 firstborn males.

Numbers 3:42 BBE So Moses had all the first sons among the children of Israel numbered, as the Lord said to him. 43  Every first son from a month old and over was numbered by name, and the number came to twenty-two thousand, two hundred and seventy-three. (22,273)

The firstborn is the first male born to a man no matter how many wives he has.  He may have many sons but only one firstborn.  If you compare the number of firstborn males with the number of males in the children of Israel, you observe some astounding statistics.  There are 603,550 / 22,273 = 27 males for every firstborn male.  That means that every firstborn male has 26 brothers and presumably that many sisters.  Every firstborn would therefore have had about 54 brothers and sisters.  Such an astounding ratio at once excites our curiosity.  The only possible way that I have been able to reconcile the number of the children of Israel with the number of firstborn involves polygamy.  If the men of Israel had on the average ten wives with five children each, then you could account for the 54 brothers and sisters of the firstborn.  Why would there have been such an astounding ratio of men to women?  If we reflect upon Israel’s recent past we remember Pharaoh’s command

Ex 1:22  And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.

Can it be that the ratio of firstborn to males reflects the enormous discrepancy between men and women caused by Pharaoh’s command to kill all male children?  It would be reasonable then to find that many of the women of that generation had to settle for being a second, third, fourth or even later wife.  We know that the practice of killing male infants was begun before Moses was born and he was 80 years old when he returned to lead Israel to freedom.  If Pharaoh’s command had been in force for 80 years, then it would account for the huge difference between males and females in Israel.  For 80 years the children of Israel had been forced to kill most of their male children.  The result was a population that was highly skewed toward women.  The continuation of Pharaoh’s policy does not, however, account for the large numbers of males implied by the ratio of 27/1.  In order to account for the large ratio of males to firstborn there must have been very large families with a presumably normal distribution of male and female children.  That is, most adult males must have had harems and very large families with an almost equal number of boys and girls.  In order for men to have had large numbers of male children and low numbers of firstborn, the men must have had large numbers of wives and Pharaoh’s policy of killing boys must have ended.

In order for the high ratio of males to firstborn to be observered but the gender distorting effects of Pharaoh’s policy to have persisted until the Exodus, the old policy of Pharaoh must have ended about 20 years before the Exodus.  The men of the generation who had somehow lived through the murder of the infants must have had many wives and many sons, but their sons must have been too young to begin families of their own.  If the generation produced after the end of Pharoah’s command was old enough to have children, then the ratio of males to firstborn would have fallen dramatically to about 6/1 due to the greatly increased availability of men who would start families and produce children with just one wife.  In the generation that grew up in the wilderness, the ratio of men and women would have returned to normalcy (about 1/1) and harems would no longer have been necessary. 

The most amazing thing about this analysis is that the ratio of males to firstborn is exactly what you would expect if the Bible record is true.  In an obscure number in a seldom read book the veracity of the Bible record regarding Pharaoh’s command to kill the innocents is validated in a totally unexpected way.  Buried in obscure statistics in the Book of Numbers is verification that the Bible record accurately records the history of the times.  In a totally unexpected way the Bible is once again shown to be true and thus the word of God, for, as the record says, God cannot lie, and yea, let God be found true, but every man a liar. 

About James Johnson

Bible student for 60 years. Preacher of the gospel for over 40 years. Author of commentary on Revelation, All Power to the Lamb. Married with children. Worked in aerospace and computer engineering for over 40 years.
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2 Responses to The Ratio of the Males to the Firstborn in the Exodus

  1. Kirsten Ahlbrecht says:

    I was also struck by the ratio of firstborn males to all males of fighting age, and so found your website. But I also researched the definition of firstborn male, and learned that a boy with an older sister does not qualify (statistically over half the families), nor a boy with a deceased older brother (also affected by murdered babiy boys)

    • The account in Numbers is right after Israel came out of Egypt and became a nation. The laws you refer to regarding who is a firstborn males are rabbinic laws brought into effect centuries later. The simple rule in effect at the time appears to be whatever son of all the wives was the oldest was the firstborn. It wouldn’t make any sense to have families with sons that did not have a firstborn son.

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