Nothing in the Torah is by chance, and so it is not without significance that the Torah reports: “All those who descended from Jacob were 70 soul” (Exodus 1:5), using a singular word, soul, for the unified group. These 70 souls were the foundation of a nation that was to become a separate and unique force in the world.

Within Jewish tradition, the number 70 is very significant when discussing nationhood. Traditional texts discuss that there are 70 core languages and that the greatest sages, and those who were members of the Sanhedrin, were required to know them all (Talmud Megillah 13b). These 70 languages correlate to the 70 nations of the world (listed as the descendants of Noah in Genesis 10 – 11).

The nation of Israel, created generations later when Abraham sought out a relationship with the Divine, is outside of the these 70 and has been instructed to be “a light unto the nations” (Isaiah 60:3). In the time of the Temple, the Jewish people brought sacrifices for each of the 70 nations during the holiday of Sukkot.

The number 10 represents completion, while 7 is a number that symbolizes nature perfected. God structured the world with 70 nations, and brought down 70 souls to Egypt to serve as the foundations of the nation of Israel.

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