In the beginning of Ekev, Moshe describes wonderful things that will befall the Jews when they adhere to God's will. It says among them (7:16–19) that "you shall consume all the peoples…. Will you say to yourself, 'These nations are more numerous than I; how will I be able to drive them out'? You shall not fear them. You shall surely remember what the Lord, your God, did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt: The great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm with which the Lord, your God, brought you out. So will the Lord, Your God, do to all the peoples you fear." (Judaica Press translation.)

My kid asked: It seems Moshe picked the wrong question-answer combination. If the Jews' concern is that the nations would be more numerous, how is a reference to Egypt mollifying? The Jews were seemingly more numerous than the Egyptians (see "more numerous… than we are" in Sh'mos 1:7–9).

(I very tentatively propose that the analogue here is that the many Jews who left Egypt are being compared to the many gentiles who will leave Canaan or be killed. Alternatively, that the Egyptians' oppression (after Sh'mos 1:9) killed out enough Jews that the Jews did not outnumber them. But if either of those is the explanation, I'd love to see some source that says so.)

  • 1
    not sure what happened to the comments, but the Kli Yakar says that Pharaoh was saying "even though they are not yet more numerous than us, they are stronger than us" -- sefaria.org/Exodus.1.9?with=Kli%20Yakar (on the other hand, he says that "our enemies" is a euphemism, and he meant the Egyptians)
    – Menachem
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 20:22
  • @msh210 The end of the pasuk explains, the miraculous abilities/mighty hand of the Lord G-d far surpasses any concern for numbers, arms, etc.
    – Fei23
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 1:20
  • 1
    1:12 refutes your second explanation; they multiplied under oppression, rather than being killed off. That said, 4/5 (or perhaps 4999/5000, according to the Midrash) died out during Choshech.
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 2:37

1 Answer 1


Firstly, it is highly unlikely that the Jews were in fact greater in numbers and strength than the Egyptians. Many Mefarshim there in Shemos 1:9 (e.g. R' Avraham ben Harambam, Malbim, Hakesav Vehakabbalah, and more) note that רב ועצום ממנו does not literally mean that there were more Jews than Egyptians. Even according to those who do interpret it that way, that Passuk is not Hashem speaking, but rather Pharaoh using scare tactics to motivate his nation to control them, and likely untrue.

This is the simplest understanding, stated by many Mefarshim there in Shemos (see above link), and stated explicitly here by Seforno:

כִּי תאמַר... אֵיכָה אוּכַל לְהוֹרִישָׁם... לא תִירָא מֵהֶם – כְּשֶׁתּאמַר ״אֵיכָה אוּכַל לְהוֹרִישָׁם״, בִּהְיוֹתָם ״רַבִּים... מִמֶּנִּי״, ״לא״ תּאמַר זֶה עַל דֶּרֶךְ שֶׁ״תִּירָא מֵהֶם״ אֶלָּא עַל דֶּרֶךְ שֶׁתַּכִּיר שֶׁזֶּה הָיָה נִמְנָע לוּלֵי ה׳ עֶזְרָתָה לְךָ. וְזֶה כִּי זָכר תִּזְכּר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה ה׳ אֱלהֶיךָ לְפַרְעה וּלְכָל מִצְרָיִם – שֶׁהָיוּ רַבִּים וַחֲזָקִים מִמְּךָ.

כי תאמר...איכה אוכל להורישם, לא תירא מהם, for you will say that they outnumber you. Do not say this in a manner which will inspire fear in you, but reflect on the fact that this would be an argument only if the Lord your God had not already demonstrated that with His help you can overcome. זכור תזכור את אשר עשה ה' אלוקיך לפרעה וכל מצרים, they outnumbered you by a far greater margin than the Canaanites and they were stronger than the Canaanites. (Alhatorah translation)

Even if we were to assume (unlike the above) that the Jews were greater in number and strength, this was prior to them getting enslaved. Once they were enslaved, we are told that they had no spirit to fight back, and were very weak, so at that point, the idea of having no chance in battle is indeed a good parallel to draw.

(IMHO, the entire above discussion is moot. The point of these verses is to show that Hashem has and will continue to perform miracles to fulfill what he has promised to his chosen nation. It is irrelevant as to the exact details of each case.)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .