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For two hundred and ten years, Bnei Yisrael were in Egypt. 70 souls entered, among them only 2 unmarried women (Dina and Serach) and also Yocheved who is said to have been born right at that moment.

If we take Jacob and his sons out of the equation (of those who will continue to procreate from that moment), we have 54 males (at least one with a wife, since Perez came in with sons) and 3 females. From these came forth millions within the next 210 years.

How?

Were there actually more than 70 souls (if so, why are only 70 mentioned?)? Did each couple have an abnormal amount of children (as far as I know, not a single couple such as this is mentioned in the Torah)? Was it something supernatural?

marked as duplicate by Daniel, Isaac Moses, Y     e     z, Danny Schoemann, Gershon Gold Dec 29 '14 at 2:23

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  • @Daniel I'm not sure you're right. That other question includes the premise that 20% died by מכת חושך; this one is just asking for the numbers. Answers will be similar, but I think the questions are distinct enough. – Shokhet Dec 28 '14 at 1:59
  • If there are no other answers available, I'd accept Daniel's. Six children per couple for 10 generations would result in a population of ~4000000. Since Pinchas was born before the Exodus, we know there were at least 6 generations at that point. It's possible that 10 generation were reached and perhaps exceeded. Although I'm not sure how many generations before Exodus are mentioned in the Torah. Most family info is about Moses, his siblings and parents. They might not be the best example, since the number they cumulatively add to the population isn't particularly high. – Echad-Ani-Yodeya Dec 28 '14 at 2:22
  • Please note too the Tana whose opinion is that Ya'akov had twice as many children as are listed at each birth. . . and other opinions that accord with it explaining how the number 70 (or 66) is just the immediate family but there were more spouses and relatives around as well. I believe the Torah itself alludes to this fact. – WAF Dec 28 '14 at 19:06
  • @Shokhet I don't think that minor detail makes the questions substantively different. – Daniel Dec 29 '14 at 1:28
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Let's say the average couple has six children in total, when the parents are about 20. Then, after 210 years, the population of 70 will increase to (6/2)^(210/20) * 70 = 7.16 million people.

If the children were born when the parents were teenagers, then even five children per couple would lead to millions after 210 years.

Thus, there's nothing so surprising about such large population growth. What is surprising is that the rest of the world did not grow so much.

  • 6 children starting at 20 is a generation of about ~25. Also you haven't accounted for deaths in that calclulation – Double AA Dec 28 '14 at 3:56
  • @DoubleAA I didn't say "starting at 20"; I said "when...about 20". And I did account for deaths; assuming immortality would give a much larger result. – Ypnypn Dec 28 '14 at 3:59
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Rashi to Shemot 1:7 writes:

וישרצו: שהיו יולדות ששה בכרס אחד

and swarmed: They bore six children at each birth.

( Chabad text and translation )

שפתי חכמים on that Rashi (citing שמות רבה) explains that this is learned from the fact that there are six different, apparently extraneous wordings that describe the growth of the Jewish people in Egypt.

In fact, that מדרש רבה (Shemos 2:8) brings an opinion that there were twelve children per birth:

דָּבָר אַחֵר, כָּל אַחַת וְאַחַת יָלְדָה שִׁשָּׁה בְּכֶרֶס אֶחָד, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל פָּרוּ וַיִּשְׁרְצוּ וגו'. וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר, דִּכְתִיב: פָּרוּ שְׁנַיִם, וַיִּשְׁרְצוּ שְׁנַיִם, וַיִּרְבּוּ שְׁנַיִם, וַיַּעַצְמוּ שְׁנַיִם, בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד שְׁנַיִם, וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ אֹתָם שְׁנַיִם, הֲרֵי שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר. וַיַּעַצְמוּ, יֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים שִׁשָּׁה בְּכֶרֶס אֶחָד. וְאַל תִּתְמַהּ, שֶׁהֲרֵי עַקְרָב שֶׁהִיא מִן הַשְּׁרָצִים יוֹלֶדֶת שִׁבְעִים.‏

( text taken from Torat Emet 357 )

You can't bring proof from the בני לוי ( Moshe, apparently, was born alone ) that there weren't abnormally large amounts of children (as you did in comments to this answer), because the Ramban (cited by Rav Frand, here) writes that the Leviim did not receive this blessing, because they were not made slaves by the Egyptians.

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    But the Torah doesn't mention any couples from Egypt with abnormally large amounts of children. Wouldn't at least one example such as this be important to mention? Amram and Yocheved have 3 children. Aaron has 4 children. I think Miriam has one boy. Kehat has 4 boys (the most among his siblings). Leviim are not the best example since they are the fewest of number, but even they grew an abnormally large amount. – Echad-Ani-Yodeya Dec 28 '14 at 0:37
  • Actually, I'm pretty sure that the leviim were not included in the rule of "6 children per set," because they weren't included in the slavery; I'll see if I can find you a source that says that explicitly, I don't have one off hand. – Shokhet Dec 28 '14 at 0:43
  • @Shokhet: according to here the source is the Ramban in Parshat Bamidbar: torah.org/learning/ravfrand/5766/bamidbar.html – Menachem Dec 28 '14 at 5:57
  • @Menachem Thanks. I glanced around to see if I could find the specific citation, but I couldn't. I'll add it to the answer, anyway. Thanks! :) – Shokhet Dec 28 '14 at 18:54

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