Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

God promises Abraham a number of times that he would father a great nation whose numbers would be like the stars in the sky or the sand on the beach.

However today there are less than 14 million Jews, hardly close the amount of stars visible with a mediocre telescope, while of course nowhere near the billions of stars in existence.

How do you explain this unfulfilled promise?

share|improve this question
1  
possible duplicate of Why is the Jewish Population so small? –  Seth J Oct 26 '13 at 23:15
    
Imray, you actually commented on that question. Did you forget it existed, or is there something about that question that you think isn't addressed that you've felt the need to ask separately? Because if you intend to be asking a different question, it's not clear (to me, at least) what the difference is. –  Seth J Oct 26 '13 at 23:19
1  
@SethJ The question you refer to seemed to be asking from a practical and historical perspective. My question is from a religious view; if this prophecy was given, why is it so far from being fulfilled? –  Imray Oct 26 '13 at 23:24
    
@SethJ I move to merge those answers here. –  Double AA Oct 26 '13 at 23:26
    
@double aa, why not the reverse? –  Seth J Oct 26 '13 at 23:35
show 6 more comments

4 Answers 4

It is imagery. The promise was not that there would be exactly as many Israelites as stars. It was that this man without a child would have 'many, many' descendants, as has already been the case in history, and anyway, who knows how many Jews will yet exist in future as well.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The Bible says in Deut 10:22 (and a few other places as well) that: "Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the LORD thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude."

This was at the time the Israelites were about 3 million people (by some accounts) after coming out of Egypt. In other words, the Bible considers that this promise was already fulfilled when there were about 3 million Israelites.

Of course, this is a major blow to anyone who insists on a literal interpretation of the Bible..

share|improve this answer
3  
I don't understand your last sentence. –  Double AA Oct 27 '13 at 16:39
    
There are about 200 billion stars in our galaxy alone, and there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. Yet the Bible says that 3 million people is as many "as the stars of heaven." So if the Bible is the Word of God, then either God did not know how many stars he himself created, or what he said cannot be taken literally (though many religious people claim it should be taken literally, like Young Earth Creationists) –  Spherus Oct 27 '13 at 16:57
2  
That just disproves those who insist on a stupid interpretation of the Bible. No one with half a brain thinks David was hoping for two little pigeon wings to sprout from his shoulder-blades (Psalms 55:7). Literal reads don't have to be stupid reads. –  Double AA Oct 27 '13 at 20:16
add comment

The above blessing does not refer to numbers in one generation but to permanence for all time. Chinese are here today but who knows about tomorow. while the promise to avraham is that the Jews will be here forever and ever. This is something only God can guarantee.

Related to this, Mark Twain observed.

”...If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

  • Mark Twain (“Concerning The Jews,” Harper’s Magazine, 1899)
share|improve this answer
    
Clemens is not referring to the Jews' population size. I don't see how this answers the question. There are clearly more living people in China now than all Jews ever combined. –  Double AA Oct 27 '13 at 7:39
    
my intent is to give an alternative interpretation. that the above blessing does not refer to numbers in one generation but to permanence for all time. Chinese are here today but who knows about tomorow. while the promise to avraham is that the Jews will be here forever and ever. This is something only God can guarantee. –  ray Oct 27 '13 at 8:22
    
Interesting. Aside from making that clearer in your post, do you know of any commentator who has suggested this before you? Or is this your own innovation? –  Double AA Oct 27 '13 at 8:24
    
from Rabbi Uziel Milevsky zt'l former chief rabbi of mexico. see beginning of this audio: dafyomireview.com/audio/m04-3_flaws_of_man_and_role_of_jews.mp3 according to that, this was the symbolism of the brit mila pact which God made with Avraham. it was on the reproductive organ since tht reprents continuity. –  ray Oct 27 '13 at 8:28
    
i admit though, that this interpretation is probably not the simple meaning. simple meaning sounds more like "too numerous to count". –  ray Nov 4 '13 at 6:20
add comment

I have a better question: Why did God underestimate the numbers? Recall that Abraham did not have a telescope, and thus could only be aware of a few thousand stars. God promised a few thousand, and fulfilled His oath a thousand-fold.

share|improve this answer
1  
If God meant "stars" as 10^3 then what did he mean by "sand"? Certainly, Avraham already knew that there were more than 10^3 grains of sand on the beaches. –  Double AA Oct 27 '13 at 8:26
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.