Question:

When Jesus fed the thousands of people, the Bible says 5 and 4 thousand for both of the times, but how do we know it was exactly that number? Was it exactly 5 and 4 thousand? Did they just round or guess or is it exact?


Answer:

"Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties. ... Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men" (Mark 6:39-40, 44).

"For there were about five thousand men. Then He said to His disciples, "Make them sit down in groups of fifty"" (Luke 9:14).

"Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children" (Matthew 14:21).

A trick to counting a large number of items is to count out smaller groups and then count the groups. You are less likely to make a mistake this way. When the people were seated for the feeding of the five thousand, they were divided into groups. Mark's statement is a bit vague, but Luke is more precise. The people were seated in 100 groups with 50 men in each group. Even then, with such a large crowd you can be off by one or two, so the number is given as about five thousand. Notice also that only the men were counted, the women and children were not included in the count.

"Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away" (Mark 8:9).

"Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children" (Matthew 15:38).

In the feeding of the four thousand, how the people were seated is not mentioned, but we can assume a similar method was used as with the feeding of the five thousand. Again, the number is a close estimate and not meant to be an exact number. And again, the women and children were not counted.