Genesis has several series of generations where we’re left to speculate how many people may have been in a given region – or on the planet as a whole. The following table shows the male population we can expect given a certain number of sons. By the way, be sure to check out the Genealogical Ages of Genesis for more of the same.
For example, assuming the ten generations from Adam to Noah are literal, what would the world population be at the time of the flood if each man had 5 sons. Or 7 sons. Or 10 sons. If 10 sons sounds outlandish, bear in mind that Jacob had 12 sons (and at least 1 daughter) and that Josephus says that Adam and Eve had 33 sons and 23 daughters. So if we were to, just for grins, say that each generation had an average of 7 sons (and 7 daughters) then in the 10th generation (Noah’s generation), we would have almost 300 million men (and 300 million women). The number of people alive would include at least the previous 2-3 generations (or more, if you’re considering the average lifespan of Noah’s time). So the number of people alive (both men and women), could easily be 659,103,312. Yes, it’s a wild guesstimate, but even if we factor in premature deaths from wars and disease, the table below shows that these numbers are not unfathomable.
If that scenario sounds too outlandish, I would encourage you to re-think the situation.
Bear in mind that when given an agrarian culture, with plenty of fertile land and natural resources, and a clean gene pool, there’s no compelling reason to have few kids. In fact, the more kids a couple has, the better off they are (more kids = more hands = more workers = more profit), and there would be no incentive to not produce many children. Furthermore, pre-flood humans lived about 10x longer than we do today. If today’s females can give birth up to about 35 years of age, we can safely assume pre-flood females could give birth up till they were about 350 years old. So the next question we need to ask is how frequently did they give birth? Once every 3 years? Every 5 years? For grins, if a mom started giving birth at age 25 and birthed 1 child every 7 years, each couple would have roughly 50 children. If having 50 children sounds outlandish, bear in mind that Josephus wrote that Adam had 33 sons and 23 daughters. No, Josephus isn’t inspired, but in light of this reasoning, his statement isn’t as outlandish as it might sound. In fact, it’s quite reasonable! If 50 children per couple was anything close to the norm, then the “10 sons” column on the Generations page presents woefully low numbers.
This tabulation can also be applied to the population at the time of the Exodus. Although we’re told that the genealogy of the line of Christ had 4 generations during the 400 years of captivity, we’re not told how many generations the rest of the Israelites had. They started with 70 men (), and were “very fruitful and multiplied” so that the land was teeming with them. Assuming each Israelite family had 7 sons, this table gives us a rough idea of what the population might have been at the time of the Exodus (Numbers says it was 600,000 men, but we don’t know if that also includes the Egyptians that left with them at the time of the Exodus).
|Gen||3 Sons||5 Sons||7 Sons||10 Sons||15 Sons||20 Sons|
1:1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.
8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.
15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” (ESV)