“About six hundred thousand men on foot, beside children. Also a mixed multitude went up with them.” (Exodus 12:37-8)
1- The exact number given in Numbers 1:46 and 2:32 is 603,550.
2- There were actually 599.999 men. The Shekinah was added to the number to fulfill God’s promise “I will go down with you to Egypt and I will surely come up with you” Genesis 46:4
3- The Zohar claims 600,000 holy chariots likewise departed Egypt with the Jewish People. Perhaps this means that the mixed multitude of converts to Judaism (see #6-8 below) are holy chariots that add energy to the Jewish People, or that Jews who influence non-Jews to join the Jewish People, add a wheel to help balance our chariot.
4- “besides children” excludes both women and children. Rabbi Jonathan said the elderly were also not counted i.e. only men of military age 20-60 years old.
5- “men on foot” i.e.walking. This is obvious so the text means something extra. It teaches us that just as a man walks on two feet so each man walked together with his wife. Therefor women are included in the 600,000. A midrash from an early feminist rabbi.
6- “A mixed multitude” This refers to other peoples in Egypt who had converted to Judaism says Rashi.
Egyptians who had married Jews says Rabbi Luzzato.
Non Jewish slaves and prisoners of war who took advantage of the opportunity to escape with the Jews says Rabbi Hertz.
A multitude of children from mixed marriages now made the decision to join themselves to the Jewish people says Rabbi Maller.
7- “A mixed multitude” of non-Jews. Rabbi Ishmael maintained there were 120,000 of them. Rabbi Akiba said: 240,000. Rabbi Nathan said: 360,000. Rabbi Joshua said the mixed multitude (of converts) outnumbered the Jews fivefold.
In the future converts will outnumber Jews tenfold (Zechariah 8:23) and most of them will be descendants of Ishmael.
8- “A mixed multitude” Many mixed couples split up. Some, but not most, of the non-Jews married to Jews left Egypt. Most, but not all, of the Jews married to Egyptians stayed in Egypt. There were even a few cases where a non-Jew left Egypt with the Jewish people and the Jewish spouse stayed behind. It was like Russia in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
9- The Hebrew word for thousand can also mean a extended family clan chief; so the original account meant 600 clans, or about 50-60,000 people. Later generations took it to mean thousands and still later generations took it to mean only adult men and provided exact numbers for each tribe to make the numbers work. The events grow as they are retold. Believers expand things as lovers expand the virtues of a beloved.