Questions From Readers
● According to Exodus 12:37, there were 600,000 able-bodied Israelite men who left Egypt, besides little ones. Since 600,000 adult males imply a total population of about two million persons, how could it be that there were only 22,273 firstborn males, as stated in Numbers 3:43? Would not this make families unreasonably large?—A. R., Panama.
As for the firstborn, we are told: “All the first-born males by the number of the names from a month old upward of their registered ones came to be twenty-two thousand two hundred and seventy-three.” (Num. 3:43) Superficially there might seem to be some discrepancy, as this would make about ninety persons to a family, if one male firstborn were counted for each family. However, it should be noted that it is reasonable to conclude that there were as many female firstborn as male. So this would cut the size of families in half, or to about forty-five persons to each.
Secondly, what of the firstborn males who were fathers themselves? We note that the number of 600,000 able-bodied male Israelites (exclusive of the Levites) included those “from twenty years old upward.” (Num. 1:18) We remember, too, that when the tenth plague struck Egypt, it did not kill Pharaoh, who himself most likely was a firstborn; but it killed his son who was not yet of age. So there would be many more firstborn males in Israel than the 22,273, but they would not be included in the figure given at Numbers 3:43, since that number refers only to minors. It would not refer to fathers or grandfathers or great-grandfathers who were firstborn. Since it is reasonable to conclude that about three generations were living at one time, this would cut down the size of the families still more.
Families of such numbers may still seem large, but we remember that Jacob had thirteen children by two wives and two concubines. This points to another factor: that in Israel both polygamy and concubinage were practiced, and only the firstborn of the father, not the firstborn of the mother, was considered the firstborn. Thus in the case of Jacob, each of his wives and concubines had her firstborn, but Jacob had only one firstborn, Reuben.—Gen. 49:3.
From where did excess wives and concubines come? For one thing, the Bible record tells us that at the time Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi took it arbitrarily upon themselves to avenge the honor of their sister Dinah, they killed every male of the city of Shechem but took women and children as spoils, the women doubtless serving as both servants or slaves and concubines. Further, it may be that there were more women in Israel than men just as in some lands today the number of women exceed the number of men. Under the institution of polygamy such women had husbands and families.—Gen. 34:29.
Especially enlightening as to how the large families can be accounted for is Jehovah God’s direct blessing: “The sons of Israel became fruitful and began to swarm; and they kept on multiplying and growing mightier at a very extraordinary rate, so that the land got to be filled with them.” “With seventy souls your forefathers went down into Egypt, and now Jehovah your God has constituted you like the stars of the heavens for multitude.” (Ex. 1:7; Deut. 10:22) With Jehovah’s blessing upon them, the Israelites increased so rapidly that Egypt’s king became alarmed. So we see that there is nothing incongruous about the estimated total of two million Israelites and the number of 22,273 male firstborn.
● Are we to understand from Genesis 8:22 that seasons as we know them today, with their extreme conditions, will exist in the new world?—E. E., United States.
In his heart Jehovah said, as recorded at Genesis 8:22: “For all the days the earth continues, seed sowing and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, will never cease.” Some years ago an inquirer posed a problem in this connection, in saying:
“My question is as stated in Genesis 8:22. As long as the earth endures there shall be winter. Now we know the winter season brings aggravation. Streets become covered with snow and ice, cars slide, accidents are caused, people fall on the slippery ice, get their feet wet, catch cold, and winter certainly is not comfortable. Would you regard that in a sense as living under perfect conditions? Contending with that would not be like living in a paradise. Would it?”
Now, these sentiments are quite understandable. Yet, even today, is the winter season always as bad as all that? It depends on one’s outlook. It is a thrill to behold descending snowflakes! Silently the hills, the trees, the fields—yes, and even city streets—take on a soft, white blanket of snow. Really, it is a joy to behold! Many see the seasonal beauty in their surroundings, if they live in areas of the earth where this spectacle takes place. Of course, they must properly equip their automobiles to drive under such conditions, or they may simply choose not to use them at all when the roads are slippery. Persons who dress properly are not uncomfortable, nor do they get their feet wet. Human imperfection does play a part at any time of the year, and so, in ice and snow, some may fall or others catch cold. But even today under present conditions winter, in regions where it graces the terrain with snowy whiteness, can be a beautiful and enjoyable time of the year. There are, of course, many places on earth that do not have snow and ice in the winter season, with the conditions these produce.
The statement at Genesis 8:22 must, of course, be taken in conjunction with other promises concerning the perfect conditions due to obtain under God’s kingdom. What Jehovah meant at Genesis 8:22 was that the condition of equable climate that prevailed over all the earth before the Flood would no longer exist. Why? Because the great water canopy responsible for such a condition had fallen, resulting in the seasons described at Genesis 8:22. However, as God produced sudden revolutionary changes in earth’s living conditions by the deluge of Noah’s day, with extremes now of heat and cold, so at Armageddon and with the inauguration of his Messianic kingdom he can produce rapid changes that will ameliorate any hard conditions of winter or disagreeable features of other seasons.
Will this be accomplished by a restoration of the water canopy? Will the Creator again suspend it in space so as to produce a hothouse condition on this earth in order that a uniform temperature may again prevail around the globe? The Bible does not say so, whereas the formation of the antediluvian water canopy was part of God’s creative work on one of his workdays before he began his seventh day by ceasing from such creative works for the earth. His rest day has yet a thousand or more years to go. It is sufficient to say that Jehovah God, who already knows what he will do, will handle matters perfectly. He will bring about the most desirable and enjoyable conditions through his King Jesus Christ. This change, which will do away with unpleasant seasonal conditions, will harmonize with God’s restoration of paradise and his removal of death, pain, sorrow, sickness and crying.—Rev. 21:4; Deut. 32:4.