Mailvox: crunching the marriage numbers

MC sends the following info regarding the Israelites and their marriages:

Numbers 3:40-43 provides us with a census of the firstborn in Israel. The number given is 22,273 firstborn sons. We may safely conclude there were at least 22,273 families in Israel, since a family cannot have more than one firstborn son. There were, no doubt, families which had no sons.

That has no bearing upon this remarkable fact:

22,273 families are responsible for a total count of over 600,000 fighting men (Numbers 1:46). If you take 600,000 and divide it by 22,000, you get 27. The average Israelite household with sons had 28 of them!

The patriarch Jacob required four wives to get twelve sons. Is it too much to suppose that the typical Israelite needed twice as many wives to get 28 Sons? What about the daughters? If there was a daughter for every son, then there was 56 children per Israelite household, on the average scale. There is no way to know how many wives the average Israelite may have had, but it is impossible that the average woman could have had 56 children. Israelite society was a polygamous society.

So, a birth rate of more than twenty times the replacement rate versus one that is sub-replacement level. Here’s a question for the Christians: what supernatural entity wishes for the human race to multiply? And, on the other hand, what supernatural power actively works to see it extinguish itself?

Still confident that monogamy is God’s plan for Man?

The numbers aren’t quite right, though. The number of fighting men presumably included the fathers, so the correct formulation would be (600k – 22k)/22k, although this also assumes that the grandfathers are too old to fight which is unlikely considering that nomadic warriors usually don’t retire to Florida. Nevertheless, the basic point remains.