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Observations on the use of the number 1,000 (’elef II אֶלֶף) in Scripture

I was recently notified that a respected conservative was entertaining the possibility that the word 1,000 in the Pentateuch meant either "troop" or "clan." If that were the case, the number of male Israelites exiting Egypt would be less than 1/10th of the 600,000 number in English translations. That set me looking at the use of the number 1,000 (’elef II אֶלֶף) in Scripture.

In nearly all the discussions of the "problem" of the large number in the Pentateuch I have read, there is very little actual discussion of the way in which the word 1,000 (’elef ) is used in the Pentateuch or elsewhere.

I suspect this is because the linguistic data is so straightforward and consistent that such a discussion would serve to minimize rather than highlight the "problematic" nature of the text. In fact, I have never seen anyone suggest that the word ’elef  is mistranslated on the basis of textual analysis.

The consistent basis for suggesting alternative transla…