How Many Israelites were there?
1 Chronicles 21:5 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.
1 Kings 20: 15 Then he mustered the young leaders of the provinces, and there were two hundred and thirty-two; and after them he mustered all the people, all the children of Israel--seven thousand.
1 Kings 20:20 And each one killed his man; so the Syrians fled, and Israel pursued them; and Ben-Hadad the king of Syria escaped on a horse with the cavalry.
Why don't these numbers match up? 1 Kings suggests there were very few Northern Kingdom Israelites alive only several hundred years after David's census. Let's examine the historical context:
David took over rulership of the large but insignificant Kingdom of Israel from Saul in 1010 BC and quickly built it into "perhaps the single most powerful kingdom on earth at that time". (REF: Halley's Bible Handbook.) When David took his official census of ALL the Israelites prior to the end of his reign in 970BC it had grown to between 5 Million and 8 Million people.
1 Chron 21:5-6 In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah. But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king's command was repulsive to him.
So, there are 470,000 fighting men in Judah alone, plus 630,000 in the North, with Levi and Benjamin uncounted. 1.1M x 6 = 6.6 Million total Israelites, plus the uncounted Levites and Benjamites. Whatever else may have been going on there, there is no doubt that the Kingdom of Israel was a major population center in that part of the world. (It would be similar in population to almost the entire Chicago Metro area today.)
At only 6 Million people, Israel at that time made up 10% of the global population, as large relatively as the United States and Canada and much of Mexico combined today. The pre-split Davidic Kingdom of Israel was not just a trivial blip in history, but a major population force.
After the death of David and Solomon, the Tribes split into the northern Kingdom of Israel, (taking with it the Name and Title Israel, along with the Birthright), and the southern Kingdom of Judah (which took the scepter). From these naming rights alone we can assume the 10 tribed Northern Kingdom was not smaller than the Southern Kingdom, and was probably a lot larger. The Kingdom of Judah picked up parts of the tribes of Levi and Benjamin, however small that contribution may have been.
So in 931 BC we can safely assume the Kingdom of Israel (the new northern Kingdom) had at last 4 Million members, and probably closer to 5 Million. That's almost a Million fighting men.
The next significant checkpoint in history is the battle of Quarqar (or Qarqar) only a hundred years later, in 853 BC. King Shalmaneser 3 of Assyria was already making his move on the small nations along the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean, and was eyeing the large Kingdom of Israel. A large stone tablet in The British Museum reports a coalition of forces including a small force of Israelites (200 chariots and 10,000 men) and others, led by King Ahab, held back the Assyrians advance. But the Assyrians claimed victory (for they owned the tablet) by killing of 14,000 Israelites. But there had to be a whole lot more Israelites than that to fight the Assyrians to a draw.
Shalmaneser tried to capture the Israelites again in 850 BC, and was thwarted again by another coalition of forces, including Israel. This is recorded on the same famous Black Obelisk, erected in Nineveh, and discovered by Layard in 1846 AD. (The Black Obelisk is in the British Museum, along with 23,000 Assyrian tablets and monuments documenting the people, events, and times.) In 850 BC we have no reason to believe there were fewer northern Israelites, but probably more. At least 5 Million total, probably more like 6 Million, a solid One Million fighting men.
Now along comes I Kings 20:15 talking about the same King Ahab suggesting there were only 7,000 total Israelites in the North, so we presume about 1,000 warriors. But the Assyrians said there was a HUGE force against them, made up of warriors from many countries and city states, of which only 10,000 were Israelite warriors. And the Assyrians killed 14,000 of them while fighting to a draw.
Something is not adding up here. This sole population citation from I Kings 20 is WAY out of line with the rest of the Biblical population accounts, and with the voluminous historical accounts of the Assyrians. If I Kings 20 had said "...King Ahab donated 150 chariots and 7,000 fighting men to the coalition..." it would make perfect sense. As it is, that single low number stands out like a sore thumb. It is what in Statistics they call an "outlier". I believe this I Kings "outlier" must be a mistranslation or a simple copy error somewhere along the way.
But let's go ahead assume for moment I Kings 20:15 is literally true. That would mean in only 80 years (931 BC - 853 BC), the great and powerful Northern Kingdom of 6 MILLION citizens shrank to only 7 THOUSAND. Oh, Really????? Now that would be some kind of totally undocumented Holocaust. I don't think so.
Playing heavily into interpretation of Kings and Chronicles are such powerful collateral Biblical verses as Hosea 1:9-11
.....for you are not my people, and I am not your God.
" Yet the number of the children of Israel
Shall be as the sand of the sea,
Which cannot be measured or numbered.
And it shall come to pass
In the place where it was said to them,
"You are not My people,
There it shall be said to them,
"You are sons of the living God.'
Then the children of Judah and the
Shall be gathered together, and appoint for themselves one head
Clearly, the Children of Judah and the Children of Israel were separate people or they would not have been called out separately.
This "Great Nation" promise was given to the Kingdom of Israel (the Northern Kingdom, the Children of Israel), not to the Kingdom of Judah. It speaks of the coming growth of Celtic Europe and America, followed by the rejoining of the "sticks", the "Kingdoms". The Great Nation promised here cannot come to pass if it shrinks to the size of an insignificant American Indian Tribe (even if it has it's own Casino). Only the Northern Kingdom fits the scenario.
In contrast, the Southern Kingdom, after returning from Babylonian captivity never became a great nation among the giants of the globe. It has instead maintained a relationship with it's prosperous and generous Celtic cousins around the world, living among them whenever possible, to this day.
Finally, the default "excuse" for where the
Lost Tribes of Israel
went, "Well, they must have been assimilated", is 2nd only to "The dog ate my
homework" in the creative history department. Like the
lost homework, the trail of that excuse is also without documentation. That
dog clearly don't hunt!
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