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This is a followup question to the question about Jesus speaking to crowds of 5,000 people without audio installation.

The book of Exodus says that Israelites had 600,000 men of fighting age. And often it has paragraphs like this:

Exodus 35:4

Moses said to the whole Israelite community, "This is what the LORD has commanded:

There are many, many more examples like this. Sometimes, when Moses says something, and then events happen that affect the whole community:

Numbers 16:31 (NIRV)

31 As soon as Moses finished speaking all of those words, what he had said came true. The ground under them broke open. 32 It opened its mouth. It swallowed up those men. In fact, it swallowed up everyone who lived in their houses. It swallowed all of Korah’s men. And it swallowed up everything they owned. 33 They went down into the grave alive. Everything they owned went down with them. The ground closed over them. They died. And so they disappeared from the community.

So, how was a community of at least 600,000 males able to hear Moses when he addressed them? That is 30-times more people than would fill Madison Square Garden.

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Why would such a question be voted down, I wonder? Care to leave a reason? –  Gregory Magarshak May 28 at 16:10
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I do not have anything to back this up with so I'll only leave a comment. The intuitive way, and how I have read it, is that he speaks to the leaders of various groups. The people was not only a big blob + one leader. –  user129107 May 28 at 17:00
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Yes: it simply says "said to the whole community"; there is no detail about how that was achieved. Actually, it probably doesn't matter how it was accomplished, which is why it's not specifically mentioned. As it's not specifically mentioned, @user129107's method of delegated word-of-mouth seems reasonable. What is important is that the message reached the whole community. –  Andrew Leach May 28 at 19:04
    
ineffectively? :) –  wax eagle May 28 at 19:23
    
Maybe a side question to determine translation on hermeneutics.stackexchange.com ? –  The Freemason May 29 at 2:41

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Most commentators follow a common Jewish understanding that the Jewish leaders immediately relayed his words to their clans or households.

Unto all Israel. It cannot be supposed that Moses spoke to the whole multitude of the people so as to be heard by them. Hence the Jewish interpreters say that he spoke to the elders of the people, who carried his words to the people at large. This is just; for what was thus mediately communicated to the people might be fairly described as spoken to them; and we find from other passages in the Pentateuch that the phrase, “the elders of Israel,” in the mind of the writer, was equivalent to “the congregation of Israel” (comp. e.g. Exod. 12:3 with ver. 21; Lev. 9:1 with ver. 5). But through whatever medium conveyed, it was to the people that these words were addressed; this is emphatically a book for the people. (The Pulpit Commentary: Deuteronomy 1:1)

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I would note that there is a set of skills and techniques, now largely lost because practice of them is largely unnecessary, by which (mainly) men in the past were able to speak to large numbers of people without artificial amplification. Abraham Lincoln and Edward Everett spoke at the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg on 19 November, 1863, addressing about 15,000 people outdoors, without artificial amplification.

I don't mean to suggest that these means would make it possible for one person to speak to a single audience of 600,000, but I do expect that Moses might have been able to address an audience much larger than a modern reader might assume.

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There are several ways. First of all, if God told Moses to speak to all the people, He would give him the ability to do so. At Pentecost, He gave the Apostles the ability to speak in tongues, and I would guess He gave Moses the ability to do something similar. Also, if Moses gave an important message, people would spread it.

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