Exodus Ch. 12 we read there were 600,000 Israelite men, plus women and
children, putting the total number at about 2,000,000. Yet, in Ex. Ch.
14 it appears the crossing of the Red (Reed) Sea took only one night. I
know the Hebrew word "elef?" can be interpreted in various ways,
thus allowing the number to be reduced substantially. But if the logical
interpretation is one which puts the Israelites at several thousand, then
why are modern translations not giving a more accurate rendering of the
Apparently you are
referring to the term for one thousand—elep in Hebrew. Actually, I think
the translations throughout have given an accurate rendering of the term.
The term can be used figuratively, especially of God, as innumerable. But,
in a census, it seems more likely it would be used literally. This term
is used for some variation of 600,000 (the number of men of military age)
in Ex. 12:37; 38:26; Num. 1:46; 2:32; 11:21; and 26:51. In the Num. 1:46
passage, it is the total of other multiples of 1,000 and in Num. 26:51,
a later census, the numbers that are added, as well as the total, are all
slightly different than the earlier census. It would be stretching credulity
to use these numbers figuratively in a census, in so many different places,
and with slightly different totals. The whole pattern is too much the normal
use of numbers to possibly interpret a significantly lower figure. Another
indication that hardly anyone interprets this as a lower figure is the
consistent charge of the critics that this number is too large for the
time the Israelites had been in Egypt, too many for the Exodus, and too
many for the Sinai wilderness to support (all of which have reasonable
solutions). Evidently all these critics accept the 600,000 figure, and
thus, the total population of 2 million or so.
Now to the sea crossing. Two things need to be kept in mind. First of all, there is no necessity for all of this to take place in 24 hours. There are only two time references in this account: the strong east wind blowing “all that night”, and the Lord looking down “in the morning watch.” The morning watch would have been 2 to 6 AM. So, it must have been the night following the drying out. Also the Egyptian army wasn’t right behind the Israelites or there would have been casualties. It sounds to me like the throng moved off the morning after the wind dried out the sea and the Egyptians reached the sea some hours later. The Lord looked down on the Egyptians sometime in the early hours of that morning and troubled the army with wheel problems to slow them up. Then, sometime later, the Bible doesn’t say how long, but presumably on the second day, with the Israelites marching, Moses was told to stretch out his hand to bring the waters back. In fact, that could have been well into the second day. So the Israelites could have reached the other side after 30+ hours of marching. It is even possible there was another day in there, depending on how much the Lord slowed up the Egyptians.
Secondly, the Israelites undoubtedly did not cross in single file or
even on a narrow front. The sea could have been opened to a width of several
miles so that the throng could have moved across in a mass. Their camp
would have taken up several miles along the shore so they probably just
moved straight out across the dry sea bed.