INDEFINITE NUMBERS - There are figures in the text, such as "three", "seven", "forty" and "seventy" which seem very unreliable, since they appear too frequently in relation to the normal statistical distribution of numbers. We cannot reasonably accept that these figures always indicate exact quantities. Likewise they cannot be rejected out of hand as being unreliable. It is, therefore, necessary to understand why they are used and if they have a precise meaning or not....(read more)

THE AGE OF THE PATRIARCHS - We could presume when it comes to numbers different than these, that they must be accepted as exact and reliable, but it is immediately evident that this is not always so. The ages of the Patriarchs and of others in the Pentateuch, for example, are clearly unacceptable. One then wonders if these figures are casual, without any informative value. However, a thorough examination reveals that not a single one of them is the fruit of the compiler's imagination or of a mania for exaggeration. Rather, they are due to a great error of interpretation.
It would seem that the compiler or some other writer before or after him did not understand the nature of the figures as they came from the original oral or written source. He must have had a veritable passion for numbers, and also evidently had a mania for calculating the ages of the leading figures based on the numbers given in the narrative. But unfortunately he made no distinction between exact figures and indefinite ones. ...(read more)

THE NUMBER OF THE JEWS OF EXODUS - In order to understand the events narrated in the Pentateuch, it is of utmost importance to establish precisely how many Jews took part in the Exodus.  To begin with, one reads in Exodus 12,37 that "six hundred thousand men left Rameses.”  Before leaving Mount Horeb Moses performed a census (Num. 1,1-47) and repeated the process a few years later in the Moab Valley, prior to the invasion of Palestine (Num. 26,1-51).  Rather than a true census, it was a head-count of those men able to bear arms and be incorporated into the army.  The resulting figures were  603,550 and 601,730 respectively--completely disproportionate, since these numbers would indicate an overall population of at least three million, something quite unreal.
It is practically certain that these figures, instead of resulting from a mania for exaggeration, are the result of a misunderstanding.  The Hebrew word for thousand, "elef,” also means "chief.”  Sir Flinders Petrie, deducing that those "elefs" were heads of families, calculates a population of about five thousand people.  Using the same hypothesis, C.S. Jarvis estimates the population at about twenty-seven thousand.  Dr.  Anati, basing his calculations on the size of the encampments discovered at Har Karkom, presumes a population of twelve thousand people. ...(read more)

A memorandum encrypted in the biblical text - In Numbers 31, 32-47 there are figures that have nothing to do with the subject of that chapter, that is the booty made by Fineas, son of Eleazar,when he exterminated 5 midianite tribes on Moses' order. Most probably a Jewish priest, during the exile in Babilon, exploited this chapter to insert a "reminder" of some secret knowledge transmitted by the Babylonian priests. ... (read more)

Mythological numbers - The chapter 5 of Genesis reports a list of “antediluvian patriarchs” , with their precise age. Apparently these figures are a nonsense as well this sequence of personages. Any attempt to understand their meaning, apart from the simple acceptance of those data typical of orthodox religion, is a sterile exercise of fantasy. The first 11 chapters of Genesis in all evidence are a mythological account, similar to the various mythologies of the same area. …(read more)