In several biblical passages, the word translated “thousands” (alafim) means not thousands but clans. It is sometimes suggested on this basis that the passage in Numbers 1:46 should be understood to refer to 600 families or clans, rather than 600,000 men. It is an ingenious theory, but it founders. For example: The number of the Israelite firstborn sons who went on the Exodus as given in Numbers 3:43 is 22,273. Since the number is exact, the word elef cannot be translated as family or clan. Moreover, the context makes clear that the reference is to individuals (firstborn Israelites), not families or clans. If there were 22,273 firstborn Israelites, the total number of families had to be more than 600. See Sarna, Exploring Exodus, pp. 98–100. Sarna writes, “The structures of thought within which the biblical writers operated permitted them to conceive of reality in ways quite different from our own … [The account as a whole] is not meant to be history writing in the modern sense of that term, but a historiosophical understanding of a complex of events that happened in historical time” (p. 100).