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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Mixed Multitude

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(עֵרֶב , e'aeb;' Sept. ἐπίμικτος, Vulg. promiscuum), the designation of a certain class who went with the Israelites as they journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, the first stage of the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:38). In the Targum the phrase is vaguely rendered "many foreigners," and Jarchi explains it as "a medley of outlandish people." Aben-Ezra goes further, and says it signifies "the Egyptians who were mixed with them, and they are the mixed multitude' (אֲסִפְסוּ, Numbers 11:4) who were gathered to them." Jarchi, on the latter passage, also identifies the "mixed multitude" of Numbers and Exodus. During their residence in Egypt marriages were naturally contracted between the Israelites and the natives, and. the son of such a marriage between an Israelitish woman and an Egyptian is especially mentioned as being stoned for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:11), the same law holding good for the resident or naturalized foreigner as for the native Israelite (Joshua 8:35). This hybrid race is evidently alluded to by Jarchi and Aben-Ezra, and is most probably that to which reference is made in Exodus. Knobel understands by the "mixed multitude" the remains of the Hyksos who left Egypt with the Hebrews. Dr. Kalisch (Comm. on Exodus 12:38) interprets it of the native Egyptians who were involved in the same oppression with the Hebrews by the new dynasty, which invaded and subdued Lower Egypt; and Kurtz (Hist. of Old Cov. 2:312, Eng. tr.), while he supposes the "mixed multitude" to have been Egyptians of the lower classes, attributes their emigration to their having "endured .the same oppression as the Israelites from the proud spirit of caste which prevailed in Egypt," in consequence of which they attached themselves to the Hebrews, "and served henceforth as hewers of wood and drawers of water." That the "mixed multitude" is a general term including all those who were not of pure Israelitish blood is evident; more than this cannot be positively asserted. In Exodus and Numbers it probably denotes' the miscellaneous hangers-on of the Hebrew camp, whether they were the issue of spurious marriages with Egyptians, or were themselves Egyptians or belonging to other nations. The same happened on the return from Babylon, and in Nehemiah 13:3 a slight clew is given by which the meaning of the "mixed multitude" may be more definitely ascertained. Upon reading in the law "that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God forever," it is said "they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude." The remainder of the chapter relates the expulsion of Tobiah the Ammonite from the Temple, of the merchants and men of Tyre from the city, and of the foreign wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab, with whom the Jews had intermarried. All of these were included in the "mixed multitude," and Nehemiah adds, "Thus cleansed I them from all foreigners." The Targ. Jon. on Numbers 11:4 explains the "mixed multitude" as proselytes, and this view is apparently adopted by Ewald, but there does not seem to be any foundation for it. (See MINGLED PEOPLE).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Mixed Multitude'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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