Everyone has their own idea of what a search engine should do—perhaps to find things they want. Once they find it, what are they going to do with it? This is not well articulated, and I want to talk about that here.
I’m going to do something with my search engine results…
Really? Let’s talk about that.
In the case of the lexical search engine, this is an important consideration. I know I’m stating the obvious, but for the sake of argument it’s a good idea to be clear. If my intent is simply to read something, my search endeavor is finished. But, if I want to further digest and organize found material, I have to have a road map for how I’m going to assemble the pieces.
What if I’m constructing an argument, or assembling evidence in support of an hypothesis?
Return to Goshen
I’ll construct my hypothesis by way of example: Did over 600,000 men leave Goshen in Exodus, or was it some other number? That’s a good question, and other people have wondered about it too. There are many lines of inquiry related to this question, which I’ll enumerate below:
- The Israelites had been in Egypt for 400 or 430 years. How large would the population get after approximately 200 generations? Could it reach over half a million, given typical ancient world mortality rates, availability of food, stable social structure and a desire to have offspring?
- How large would a group of 600,000 men be? Taking the number at face value, it records 600,000 men, but what about family members, servants, slaves and unaffiliated people? The more likely number, if we accept 600,000 men and their families and servants, would be closer to 1.5 million or even higher.
- How large was the Egyptian military at that time? Could Pharaoh reasonably expect to hinder such a large group even if he wanted to? At face value, 600,000 men could mean 50% were a potential military threat, therefore the Israelite fighting force could have been 300,000 men. Pharaoh would need at least as large an army, if not more in order to subdue them. And would he kill them all? If he wanted their slave labor, he would not want to decimate them completely. What were Egyptian military siege tactics? How did Egyptians think and act militarily?
- How much stuff could the escaping Israelites expect to carry with them, like food, belongings, furniture, bedding, bullock carts, livestock? How?
- If from 600,000 to 1.5 million did walk away from Goshen, by whom and how was this group organized? Was it along tribal lines? Who went first? Who brought up the rear?
We’ll stop there as you can see where I’m going with this. Exodus was a huge tactical operation for both the Israelites and the Egyptians. There are many bits of information we need to construct a reasonable scenario. And how do we search for it? And assuming we find the bits and chunks we need, how do we grab, annotate and do attribution on them? What if a source is quoting or attributing a source with is no longer extant? How do we properly delineate the chain of information? And how do we know we’ve considered all viewpoints, and created a realistic scenario?
Given the above outline, you can see that the problem is not a trivial one. I’ll explore more of the questions in subsequent posts.