The Possible Population Of Palestine -- By: G. Frederick Wright

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 058:232 (Oct 1901)
Article: The Possible Population Of Palestine
Author: G. Frederick Wright


The Possible Population Of Palestine

G. Frederick Wright

The intelligent modern traveler in Palestine cannot fail to be impressed with the passage in his Baedeker relating to the ancient population of the country,1 which, while giving correctly the estimates, speaks of them as evidently exaggerated. According to Num. 1:46 and 26:51, the males above twenty years of age capable of bearing arms numbered 603,550; while in the time of David (2 Sam. 24:9) there were 1,300,000 men capable of bearing arms, the age-limit being presumably the same as that mentioned in Numbers. If, as is usually done, we reckon the total population to be four times the number of adult males, it would be, in round numbers, 2,500,000 at the time of Joshua’s entrance into Palestine, and in the time of David, four hundred years later, 5,000,000. Reckoning the area of Palestine, including the land occupied by the tribes east of the Jordan, at 10,500 square miles, this would give a population of 240 to the square mile in the time of Joshua, and 480 to the square mile in the time of David; whereas the total population at the present time (650,000) is only about sixty-two to the square mile.

When the traveler rides over the treeless mountains-from Dan to Beersheba, and witnesses the present neglected condition of the country and its consequent infertility, it is, indeed, difficult for him not to believe, with his guidebook, that the early estimates found in Numbers and Samuel are exaggerations. Especially is this the case if

he has come from the United States, where land is so plenty that high cultivation has not been a necessity, and where the average population to the square mile, excluding the Territories, is only twenty-six; that of Iowa, one of the richest agricultural States, being but forty-one. If, however, he has approached the country from some of the more densely populated regions of the world, where the conditions of life are still somewhat similar to those in the great centers of population three thousand years ago; and if, at the same time, he examines somewhat carefully the physical conditions of the country, he will be less likely to assume at once either exaggeration on the part of the sacred writer or error in the transmission of the figures.

If one has gone from Egypt to Palestine, density of population such as is involved in the census report of David’s officials will not be at all staggering, when due account is taken of the natural resources of the country. The arable land of Egypt is estimated at 11,24...

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