Busy Midwives in Bible Times
|Hobbit’s in Egypt?|
When the Israelites were in captivity in Egypt, Pharaoh made an unusual request. He called the Israelite midwives before him, and commanded them to kill all Hebrew male children as they were born.
Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiph’rah and the other Pu’ah, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. – Exodus 1:15-17
Did you notice that there were only two midwives, and they are mentioned by name? They must have been pretty busy women.
How busy were they? Well, Exodus 12:37 numbers the Israelites who left Egypt at 600,000 men, plus women and children. According to the Bible, the total population of the group would have been around 1.8 million in total. If we assume that the Israelites lived for an average of 80 years, and that their birth rate was stable, that means that there would be an average of 22,500 births per year, or 61 per day. If these two women worked 12 hours per day, seven days per week, each one of them would deliver a baby every 23 minutes.
But, actually, the birth rate must have been much higher than this. It could not have been stable. According to the Exodus 12:40, the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years. During this time, 70 immigrants multiplied to 1.8 million. So, the birthrate must have been accelerating. The number of births by the time that Pharaoh gave his command would be much higher than my original forecast.
There is yet another problem with this story. According to Exodus 6:16-20, Moses was the great grandson of Levi. Moses’ grandfather came to Egypt as a child with his father. So, this population of 1.8 million arose from a mere 70 immigrants over only three generations. Even if we ignore the fact that the combined ages of the generations listed only comes to 352*, not 430, we are still faced by a huge problem. By my calculations**, each woman would need to have 320 babies, with zero mortality rate.
I don’t know who I pity more – the women, or the midwives?
*These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merar’i, the years of the life of Levi being a hundred and thirty-seven years. The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shim’e-i, by their families. The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uz’ziel, the years of the life of Kohath being a hundred and thirty-three years. The sons of Merar’i: Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to their generations. Amram took to wife Joch’ebed his father’s sister and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being one hundred and thirty-seven years. – Exodus 6:16-20
These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,… All the offspring of Jacob were seventy persons – Exodus 1:1,2,5
The time that the people of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. – Exodus 12:40
So, Levi came to Egypt with his son Kohath, among others. Kohath lived to be 133 years old. His son Amram, who lived to be 137 years old, became father to Moses. Moses was 80 years old when the events of the Exodus took place.
If we give the Bible the benefit of every doubt, and assume that Kohath was a newborn baby when he came to Egypt, and that each man fathered a child on the day of his death, we come to the following calculation:
Entered Egypt, Kohath is a baby – Year 0
Amram is born Add 133 = Year 133
Moses is born Add 137 = Year 270
Exodus begins Add 80 = Year 350
Now, if we assume that Amram and Kohath fathered their children on the day of their death, and the children were born posthumously, then we can add another year and a half, giving an absolute maximum of 351.5 years in Egypt.
So, even if we accept the unbelievable life span of these men, and make ridiculous assumptions about their age when reproducing, the numbers still do not add up.
**Here is the calculation for the required birthrate.
Jacob’s generation (given) 12 persons
Kohath’s generation (given) 70 persons (35 females)
Amram’s generation 35 x 320 = 11,200 persons (5,600 females)
Moses generation 5,600 x 320 = 1,792,000 persons
Therefore, in order for the population to grow from 70 persons to 1.8 million in only three generations, a birthrate of over 320 children per family, with zero mortality would be required. This is rather curious since Moses ancestor’s (see above) only averaged three male children per family, so some woman must have had to make up the slack.