New Evidence from Egypt on the Location of the Exodus Sea Crossing: Part II

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Excerpt If the Reed Sea can be located somewhere along the marshy lake district of the Isthmus of Suez, which separates the cultivated delta from the barren desert, then the place names in the Exodus account can be centralized to a specific area... Continue reading

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This article was first published in the Spring 2006 issue of Bible and Spade. 

If the Reed Sea can be located somewhere along the marshy lake district of the Isthmus of Suez (Byers 2006), which separates the cultivated delta from the barren desert, then the place names in the Exodus account can be centralized to a specific area. Everything prior to the sea crossing would have taken place in the area from the easternmost branch of Nile delta (Goshen) to the marshy lakes. Everything after the crossing was in the desert immediately to the east.

While archaeological research in the delta is severely hampered by the region’s high water table, during the last two decades it has received significant attention. These results have helped clarify a number of place names in the Exodus itinerary.

Rameses

Rameses (Ex 12:37; Nm 33:3) was the starting point of the Exodus. There is no reason to doubt that Biblical Rameses is the same as Pi-Rameses in Egyptian texts (Kitchen 2003: 255; Wood 2004; Hoffmeier 2005: 53, 55). The city, whose full hieroglyphic name was “House of Ramesses, Beloved of Amun, Great of Victories,” was originally built on the eastern bank of the Pelusiac, the easternmost of the Nile’s five ancient branches. As the final waterway in the eastern delta before the border, there was no other significant body of water for the Israelites to cross before the sea. Because of the shifting of the delta streams over the centuries, the Pelusiac branch is dry today, but its former presence is clear from geologic probes at the site.

At this location, ancient cities were built and rebuilt over many centuries. Spread over eight square miles beneath the modern villages of Tell el-Dab‘a, Qantir and Ezbet Helmi today are the consecutive ancient Egyptian cities of Rowaty, Avaris, Peru-nefer and Rameses.

Following the Bible’s own chronology, the site was probably called Rowaty when Jacob moved there (Gn 47:11), and later Peru-nefer when they rebuilt it (Ex 1:11) and departed it in the Exodus (Ex 12:37). It was only named Rameses after Pharaoh Rameses II rebuilt it again some 200 years after the Israelites exited Egypt. This is the name that stuck (Wood 2004; Byers 2005: 4–7; Kitchen 2003: 255).

The author reviewing excavation plans at Ezbet Helmi, site of the royal palaces at Rameses in the time of Moses. It was discovered in the eastern Nile Delta beneath the sites of modern villages and their agricultural fields. Ongoing excavations by Manfred Bietak at the modern villages of Tell el-Dab’a and Ezbet Helmi, and Edger Pusch at Qantir have uncovered a succession of ancient cities. The earliest city here, inhabited by Semites (Asiatics), was called Rowaty. The following city, called Avaris, was also settled by Semites during the period of the Hyksos rule. The next city, at the time of the Exodus, was probably known as Peru-nefer. The final city in this area was built by Rameses the Great (1279–1212 BC) and he named it after himself. Its full name was “House of Ramesses Beloved of Amun Great of Victories.” Sometime before 1069 BC, the course of the Nile migrated away from the city and the site was abandoned.

Succoth

Succoth (Ex 12:37; Nm 33:5–6) was the first stop (the second place mentioned in the Exodus itinerary). The Hebrew name (meaning “temporary shelters,” “tents” or “booths”) probably corresponds to the Egyptian name tkw (Tjeku), a site known in Egyptian texts and preserved in the modern Arabic name of the village located at the ancient site, Tell el-Maskhuta. Linguistically, the hieroglyphic name is probably borrowed from Hebrew (Hoffmeier 2005: 65). Both names probably reflect a site where, from early times, Semitic-speaking people, desert clans and merchant traders camped along the Wadi Tumilat. It may not have been a permanent city, but a site of camp-style dwellings—probably structures constructed from bundles of plant stalks and branches as can still be seen in the delta region today. Such a meaning makes sense, as the Israelites would not have wanted to have to deal with an occupied Egyptian town as they were departing the country (Shea 1990: 105–106; Kitchen 2003: 257–58; Hoffmeier 1997: 179).

The fact that Tjeku was regularly written with the hieroglyphic determinatives of a throw stick (meaning “foreign”) and the foreign land sign, suggests that while still in the delta and Egypt proper, it was near the border and maybe an area where foreigners lived (Hoffmeier 1997: 179; 2005: 65). While Tjeku may well have referred to a region—that is, the Wadi Tumilat area—there was probably a specific site in the region known as Succoth/Tjeku (Hoffmeier 2005: 65–68). Such a site fits with the archaeology of modern Tell el-Maskhuta, found in the Wadi Tumilat about 15 mi (24 km) southeast of Rameses (Hoffmeier 2005: 65). Fittingly, excavations at the site have not identified a city here during the time of the Exodus (18th Dynasty; mid-15th century BC).

Thus the Israelites did not leave Rameses after the final plague and head east to Canaan by the most direct and fortified route—the Horus Road. Instead, they took a route southeast to Succoth in the Wadi Tumilat, a road that led toward the Sinai (Hoffmeier 1997: 187–88; 2005: 65–68).

Tell el-Maskhuta, ancient Succoth. The first stop in the Exodus itinerary was Succoth. This Hebrew name probably corresponded to the name of the ancient Egyptian site called Tjeku. Both ancient names are still reflected in the name of the modern Arabic village Tell el-Maskhuta. Maskhuta is located at the eastern end of the Wadi Tumilat of the Nile’s eastern delta, the very area the Biblical text places Succoth. At the time of the Exodus, Succoth (“booths” in Hebrew) was probably not an actual Egyptian city, but a temporary campground for Semites (Asiatics) coming into the delta from the Levant.

Etham

Etham (Ex 13:20; Nm 33:6) was the next stop after Succoth. While the origin of the Hebrew term is obscure (Hoffmeier 2005: 69–70), there is good reason to suggest that the Hebrew name originated in the name of the Egyptian god Atum (Kitchen 2003: 259). The Exodus itinerary places Etham at the eastern end of the Wadi Tumilat, and the modern Arabic name “Tumilat” also preserves the name of the same deity (Hoffmeier 2005: 62, 64, 69).

Whether a fort or another type of settlement, its specific situation “on the edge of the wilderness” suggests a location so close to the border lakes that it could be identified with the desert on the other side. Hoffmeier proposes a site just outside (east) of the Wadi Tumilat proper (2005: 70), while Kitchen suggests a location near modern Ismailiya, at the northern end of Lake Timsah (2003: 259). Either way, at this point in the Exodus, Israel appears to be at or near Egypt’s eastern border.

The next stop is the critical one for placing the actual location of the Reed Sea crossing. This third stop after leaving Rameses was identified by a major shift of direction for the Israelites. The Hebrew term clearly means they “turned,” but does not indicate in which direction (Ex 14:2; Nm 33:7). Their next stop was a camp site identified by four named places: Pi Hahiroth, Migdol, the sea, and Baal Zephon (Ex 14:2; Nm 33: 7). All four Hebrew toponyms (place names) have a counterpart in New Kingdom Egyptian hieroglyphics, and they are all located in the same region. In fact, three of the four place names of Exodus 14:2 are mentioned in the same New Kingdom text.

Hoffmeier (2005: 73) points out that turning north, and traveling 31 mi (50 km) from the Lake Timsah region to the northern end of Ballah Lake, would put the Israelites in the region of modern Qantara. That is where recent northern Sinai archaeological research suggests the toponyms of Exodus 14:2 were located.

The Biblical statements are extremely precise, providing a very specific set of reference points. Scolnic notes that there is nothing close to these types of reference points to identify Mount Sinai (2004: 98). It may also be indicating that these sites should be understood to be located in a precise narrow area, each even within sight of the Israelite encampment (Scolnic 2004: 98–99).

A booth in middle Egypt. While the “booths” of Succoth (Ex 12:37, Nm 33:5–6) might generally be considered tents of animal skins, it is very likely that such temporary shelters in the ancient Nile Delta were made of vegetable material—stalks, branches and leaves. Such shelters still dot the landscape around agricultural fields in rural Egypt.

Pi Hahiroth

Pi Hahiroth (Hebrew, “the mouth of the canals”) may actually come as a popular Semitic etymology from an Egyptian term (Hoffmeier 2005: 105–107). Noting a toponym from Papyrus Anastasi III 2.9, Hoffmeier suggests that the Hebrew came from the hieroglyph p3 hrw, meaning “the canal” (2005: 106–107). This Egyptian name was used for a canal in the northeastern edge of the delta and it is quite reasonable that the Exodus itinerary is referring to the very same location. In addition, this is the region of Egypt where ancient canal traces have been most widely identified (Byers 2006: 18). Their presence here would have facilitated trade and provided security on Egypt’s eastern border.

Migdol

Migdol, literally “tower” in Hebrew, was regularly used for a fortification structure. But migdol is a known loanword into Egyptian (mktr), meaning “fort,” “fortification” or “stronghold” (Hoffmeier 1997:189; Scolnic 2004: 101). Its mention in the Exodus itinerary immediately before the sea crossing indicates it was nearby.

As far back as Gardiner, scholars have associated the Migdol of the Exodus itinerary with the Egyptian frontier town Migdol in Jeremiah (44:1; 46:14) and Ezekiel (29:10; 30:6), as well as Magdolo of Greco-Roman times. Recent research, however, has suggested that these migdols were located at different sites in different periods (Hoffmeier 2005: 95–96).

It is reasonable to suggest, on the other hand, that the Migdol associated with the third stop on the Exodus itinerary is identified with the Migdol of Men-maat-re (Seti I), the third fort named along the ancient Horus Way (Kitchen 2003: 261; Hoffmeier 2004: 65; 2005: 103–105; Scolnic 2004: 104). As a Semitic loanword, “migdol” becomes a significant term. Not widely found in Egyptian texts in different periods (Hoffmeier 2004: 61; 2005: 102–103; Scolnic 2004: 102–108), the few references that we do have point to a location in Egypt’s northeastern frontier
along the road to Canaan.

On the ground in the northeastern delta region, our present knowledge of the region suggests the best candidate for the Migdol of the Horus Way is found at a site known as T-78 (Hoffmeier 2005: 102). While this identification is not yet fixed, the route of the Horus Way is certain and Migdol’s precise location has been narrowed to within just a few kilometers at the southern tip of an ancient lagoon on the Mediterranean coastline (Hoffmeier 2004: 65–66; 2005: 102–104; Scolnic 2004: 119–120).

Reference to a Migdol in the Exodus account in the same region and at the same time period suggests a correlation between the two sites. That would make it possible to fix the location of the Migdol of the Exodus in a precise area just to the northeast of the Ballah Lakes.

 

Migdol of Men-maat-re (Seti I), most likely the Migdol of Exodus 14:2. It was the third fortress along Egypt’s Horus Way, depicted between the hind legs and tails of Seti I’s chariot horses (E) in the Karnak relief of his campaign to Canaan (see Bible and Spade, winter 2006, page 21). The fort is shown with crenelated walls and an adjacent pool of water. Locating this fortress is critical to determining the Exodus sea crossing locale. Since the border fortress of Tjaru, the first fortress on the Seti I relief (B-C), has been identified as Hebua I by means of an inscription, the second fortress, “Dwelling of the Lion” (D), is most likely Tell el-Borg, and the third fortress, Migdol, is probably Site T-78, a New Kingdom site ca. 5 mi (8 km) northeast of Ballah Lake. If this location is correct, it would place the Exodus sea crossing at the northern end of the Ballah Lake.

Baal Zephon

Baal Zephon (Hebrew, “Baal of the North”) is the deity from the pantheon of Ugarit and famous as one of the gods of Canaan in the Old Testament. Worship of this Semitic god was allowed in pantheistic Egypt, but never included in the pantheon of native Egyptian gods. Baal worship was known in the northeast delta where Egypt is nearest to Canaan and where a large percentage of the population was probably Semite soldiers, sailors, merchants and travelers (Hoffmeier 1997: 190).

Although “north” could refer to the northeastern delta area, it may relate to the region where Baal worship originated—the mountainous region of the Levant. While Baal Zephon may conjure up an image of worship in conjunction with a mountain, such an identification is not necessary.

While a sixth-fifth century BC Phoenician papyrus presented Baal Zephon as the principal deity of Tahpanhes, Hoffmeier notes that Jeremiah (2:16; 43:7–9; 44:1; 46:14) and Ezekiel (30:18) do not call the city Baal Zephon, but Tahpanhes (2005: 107). The Arabic-named archaeological site Tell Defeneh (probably a corruption of Tahpanhes), in the Ballah Lake area today, has had very little excavation. To date, however, the archaeological evidence from the site does not support an identification with Baal Zephon.

Instead, Hoffmeier again points to the Papyrus Anastasi III 2.8, where a broken part of the text speaks of “the waters of Baal” (2005: 102–103). Like Pi-Hahiroth/p3 hrw, it is associated with water and located in the northeastern delta area. While the specific location and exact nature of Baal Zephon is unclear in both Exodus 14:2 and the Papyrus Anastasi III, they both put a “Baal” site in the same area at the same time.

Map of the northeast delta. Based on the most recent research from Egypt, place names of the Exodus narrative prior to the sea crossing can now be placed on the map. Departing Rameses, the Israelites did not take the northern international highway (the Horus Way = “the road through the Philistine country,” Ex 13:17) toward Canaan. Instead they traveled south to the Wadi Tumilat and then east past Succoth to Etham. At God’s direction, from here they “turned back” to the north and went up the west side of the ancient Ballah Lake. Somewhere at the northern end of the lake, not far from the ancient Mediterranean coastline, were the sites of Pi Hahiroth, Migdol and Baal Zephon. Taking the Exodus narrative at face value, and utilizing the most recent archaeological research from Egypt along with place names from Egyptian texts during the same period, evidence suggests the Reed Sea crossing was in the area of Abu Sefeh, modern Qantara, at the northern end of the Ballah Lake.

Summary

The Exodus itinerary indicates the Israelites departed Rameses but did not take the Horus Road that began at Rameses and was the direct route to Canaan. Instead, they headed southeast through the delta to Succoth in the Wadi Tumilat. Following the route eastward toward the desert, they stopped again at Etham facing Egypt’s border and the desert on the other side. At this point, the Bible says the Israelites turned, and the simplest understanding of the text suggests the direction was “back” (Hoffmeier (2005: 71–72). The specifi c direction is not indicated, but it is clarified by the place names at their next stop. While a turn to the south would put the Israelites at the Gulf of Suez, recent research from excavation and surveys in the region indicate they turned north (Shea 1990: 108; Scolnic 2004: 97–99; Hoffmeier 2005: 72–73). It was a choice made at God’s direction and which, apparently, pleased Pharaoh (Ex 14:3).

After the critical “turn back” to the north of Exodus 14:2, the Israelites’ next stop is identified by four toponyms: Pi Hahiroth, Migdol, the sea and Baal Zephon. All four Hebrew names have hieroglyphic counterparts for locations in the delta’s northeast corner. Three (Pi Hahiroth, the sea and Baal Zephon) are found in the same text (Papyrus Anastasis III), and each relates to a body of water. As Hoffmeier notes, the convergence of all three terms, each relating to a body of water in the northeast delta region, is quite remarkable (2005: 106–108). Migdol is mentioned in several New Kingdom texts. The fact that these texts are from the same general period (New Kingdom Egypt) only heightens the connection. All the names point to the area between Ballah Lake and the ancient Mediterranean coastline for the location of events in the Exodus narrative.

At this point Pharaoh’s army overtook the Israelites. Unable to go forward because of the sea and feeling trapped, the Israelites confronted Moses (Ex 14:11–12). There, in an area along Egypt’s border in the delta’s northeastern corner and facing the “Reed Sea” God performed a miracle and led them supernaturally across Egypt’s border into the desert of Shur. Taking the Exodus account as historical, and utilizing all the recent research from excavations and hieroglyphic textual studies, it appears that the miracle took place in the northeastern corner of the Suez Isthmus. The Reed Sea that was crossed would most likely have been the ancient Ballah Lake, a large body of water that is no longer there, since it was drained during construction of the Suez Canal (Byers 2006: 15).

Conclusion

Many of the sites named in the Exodus itinerary have been connected to their counterpart Egyptian names as a result of recent textual and archaeological research. With the help of geological and topographical surveys we are now able locate them in the eastern delta region. For the fi rst time, scholars are able to locate these sites on the map and trace out the Exodus route in the Nile’s eastern delta.

Admittedly, our present archaeological, geological and textual knowledge is not sufficient to understand each name or pinpoint its location precisely on the ground. But research in that region is expanding rapidly. Literally every year we are getting new insights into that region’s rich Egyptian history and its connection to the Bible. This research is consistently demonstrating a correlation with our understanding of the Old Testament in general, and with the Exodus narrative in particular.

If the Exodus itinerary is to be taken seriously as a historical document, then the location of these place names in the Wadi Tumilat and the northern Suez Isthmus makes it the most likely location for the yam suph crossing. At a critical juncture in the Exodus, apparently very near Egypt’s eastern border, the Israelites turned north. Consequently, the “Reed Sea” would have been one of the large lakes sitting on Egypt’s eastern border. With the presently available evidence, the ancient equivalent to the modern Ballah Lake seems most reasonable to this writer.

Naming of the sea crossed in the Exodus as the “Red Sea” was an unfortunate choice. Not a translation, but an historical interpretation, it has kept serious Bible students from looking in the correct location for solid evidence of the Exodus. But today, the most recent research from Egypt is providing a historical basis for one of the most important events in the Old Testament.

Editorial Note: Further information on the Tjaru fort was published in 2008. http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/06/Archaeologists-find-ancient-army-HQ-in-Sinai.aspx

Recommended Resources for Further Study

     
Bible and Spade
CD-ROM
Archaeology and
the Old Testament
Moses and
the Gods of Egypt

Bibliography

Byers, Gary A.
2005 Israel in Egypt. Bible and Spade 18: 1–9.
2006 New Evidence From Egypt on the Location of the Exodus Sea Crossing, Part 1. Bible and Spade 19: 14–22.

Gardiner, Alan
1920 The Ancient Military Road Between Egypt and Palestine. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 6: 99–116.

Hoffmeier, James K.
1997 Israel in Egypt. New York: Oxford University.
2004 The North Sinai Archaeological Project’s Excavations at Tell el-Borg (Sinai): An Example of the “New” Biblical Archaeology? Pp. 53–66 in The Future of Biblical Archaeology, eds. James K. Hoffmeier and Alan Millard. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans.
2005 Ancient Israel in Sinai. New York: Oxford University.

Kitchen, Kenneth A.
2003 On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans.

Scolnic, Benjamin E.
2004 A New Working Hypothesis for the Identifi cation of Migdol. Pp. 91–120 in The Future of Biblical Archaeology, eds. James K. Hoffmeier and Alan Millard. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans.

Shea, William H.
1990 Leaving Egypt. Archaeology and Biblical Research 3: 98–111.

Wood, Bryant G.
2004 The Royal Precinct at Rameses. Bible and Spade 17: 45–51.

 

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Comments Comment RSS

11/21/2008 7:52 PM #

     This article and its assumptions are clearly outdated. it is now understood that “House of Ramesses, Beloved of Amun, Great of Victories"
was located at Tjaru based on Payrus Anastassi and other evidence that the Pharoahs maintained a primary residence at the fortress.

    This would make all theories of any wanderings within the Delta null and void. New evidence the Delta was heavily populated and militarized makes the notion of thousands of people wandering a bit preposterous to be kind.

   However the major key is the well known fact the military travelled by ships within the Delta. There simply would never have been a need for Pharoah to mount a "chase" by chariot in such a small area surrounded by rivers and interlaced with canals.

    The ideas presented here are simply old, based on 19th century notions now buried by new arcehological discoveries.
   It is simply time to abandon old ideas about the Exodus and accept the realities of ancient Egypt, and its military/ political structure which totally precludes any "wandering" in the Tumilat or any crossing of Lake Balah now known to have been heavily populated and militarized on both sides.
    

  

Rob - 11/21/2008 7:52:43 PM

11/22/2008 2:14 AM #

Dear Rob,

Thanks for contacting the ministry of ABR and for your interest. Below, please find links that deal more extensively with the archaeology being done in the delta at Rameses by Manfred Bietak. The identification of Ramesse at Tel el-Daba is really beyond dispute.

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...ossing-Part-I.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...ssing-Part-II.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...ct-at-Rameses.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...es-at-Rameses.aspx

We believe you should reconsider the evidence by carefully reading the articles, then doing further research. This is not based on 19th century arguments, but the latest excavations being done in the Delta.

I hope this helps---Henry Smith

abr - 11/22/2008 2:14:21 AM

12/7/2008 2:08 AM #

Dear ABR,

Thanks for these fascinating articles regarding the Exodus and the Reed Sea crossing.  As a Christian, it's always exciting when new discoveries are made that further validate the biblical record and refute the critics.

One question: Since, according to the article, the Reed Sea (the ancient Ballah Lake) that was crossed is no longer there due to being drained during construction of the Suez Canal, have any excavations been done in this "drained area" yet or are any planned in the near future?  

I'm always hearing/reading how the scoffers point to there not being any evidence found of the Exodus.  It seems reasonable why nothing can be found at the “booths” of Succoth, but it seems surely something could be found where Pharaoh's army was completely washed out now that the area is drained out.

Dan - 12/7/2008 2:08:16 AM

1/6/2009 4:09 AM #

Regarding Ballah Lake as the Red Sea crossing point:

No wilderness before the crossing: Ex 13:18; Judg 11:16.

Not far enough away to justify their bitter complaints about being in the wilderness: Exodus 14:11-12

Assaults common sense: Too close to Goshen: 30 km: "Ballah Lake was the Hebrew weekend fishing hole"

Army would never pass through the sea, but move to the "other side of the sea" as Hebrews exit the Sea.

No security from Egypt on other side. Israel would not rejoice, they would keep running!

Pillar of fire need couldn't hold back army and is still needed after the crossing point.

Red sea (yam suph) means: Red Sea! Calling the Red sea, the "Sea of reeds" is a guess based upon an inference of etymology. The same word is used of both freshwater bulrushes: Ex 2:3,5; Isa 19:6 and saltwater ocean plants: Jonah 2:5. So for those not content to call it just the Red Sea, they should be consistent and call it: "sea of plants" "Sea of weeds". Calling it "Sea of Reeds" creates a bias towards a freshwater body and causes us to rule out the Gulf of Aqaba. Likewise calling the Red Sea "Sea of Seaweed" biases towards a saltwater body. Although the Gulf of Aqaba is the Red sea, we feel it best to just stick with what the Bible called it.

Also Succoth means: "block, stop the approach, shut off, cover" TWOT

Steve Rudd - 1/6/2009 4:09:36 AM

2/24/2009 9:08 PM #

Septuagint was supposed to have been translated from Hebrew by Jewish sages, or with their close supervision. In critical studies of bible, liberal scholars do not assume inerrant copying through the centuries. On the contrary, mistakes are recognized. The Septuagint could be more accurate in regard to "Red Sea", being based on the best Hebrew copy of its time, now lost to us. Also, oral tradition of the translating sages should be respected. Finally, if the current bible uses "Reed Sea" in other contexts clearly referring to either of the Gulfs of Aqaba or Suez, then the argument for a fresh water lake or marsh is weakened. The only advantage of a fresh water lake/marsh crossing is that a natural explanation is more believable, as opposed to a miraculous path between "walls of water" through a deep sea.

I can't believe a strong wind could produce such a phenomena without a lot of collateral damage, including any people in its path. The only natural cause I can imagine is a narrow band of continental crust rising above sea (lake?) level, perhaps from a surge of rock magma beneath it. The waters return when the land subsides in an earthquake lasting perhaps half an hour. I read somewhere a Jewish legend that the crossing was over 12 paths, one for each tribe of Israel, not a single narrow path confined by high walls of water as popularly portrayed. The retreat southward of Gulf boundary since an ancient time (before the Exodus?) could indicate that the land failed to subside to its original elevation, leaving the Gulf shallower than before. Of course, build up of sediment could achieve the same effect.

-Dave

David Noble - 2/24/2009 9:08:05 PM

8/4/2009 8:01 PM #

I appreciate the biblical approach to archeology. Are we in danger, though, of doing the same as atheistic archeologists, only in the opposite direction, of using our interpretations (of biblical events and passages) to form conclusions about our findings? What about the traditional sites; just because they were named in a vision by Queen Helena, doesn't mean they are wrong. I admit they might be, and there is reason to explore further. What about the research of Ron Wyatt, which leads to somewhat different, but also related conclusions?

Dick Derksen - 8/4/2009 8:01:09 PM

10/5/2009 4:37 AM #

Brothers,

I am constantly amazed by "people of faith" who demonstrate absolutely no faith at all toward the clear teaching of the Bible.

The crossing of the Red Sea took the Israelites out of Egypt. That's obvious. What I am amazed at is that people argue that the crossing was across the Western finger of the Red Sea (the Gulf of Suez) and not the Eastern finger (the Gulf of Aqaba). Because the Sinai Penninsula is part of Egypt, it is rediculous to say that crossing the Gulf of Suez would have taken them out of Egypt! The crossing MUST have been through the Gulf of Aqaba.

There is absolutely no archaeological evidence of a Gulf of Suez crossing. To suppose that the crossing was through shallow water goes against the Bible's narrative. To suppose that the crossing was through the Delta region is also ignorrant. There is concrete archaeological evidence of a Gulf of Aqaba crossing. There is also evidence of the Israelites camping in Saudi Arabia.

This evidence is nothing new. Why are Christians and Jews even considering ignorant notions of a Gulf of Suez crossing? Read the Bible. Study history. Study Geography. It all comes together quite nicely. Embrace reason. The Jews crossed the Gulf of Aqaba into Saudi Arabia. It isn't that difficult, people.

Gary wentz - 10/5/2009 4:37:54 AM

10/6/2009 4:28 AM #

Dear Mr. Wentz,

Thanks for your comments. Here is a brief response:

1. Putting "people of faith" in quotes is an implicit attack on the credibility of our Christian witness. It is insulting to impugn our relationship with God by putting our standing with Christ into question with no basis. I would venture to say that you are projecting your own shortcomings about this subject onto us, something Jesus warned us all about. We are willing to accept well thought out criticisms of our IDEAS. We do not accept personal attacks couched in sarcasm, especially from our Christian brethren.

2. I have bad news for you...the Sinai Peninsula was not considered part of Egypt proper in antiquity. When the Israelites left the delta, they were no longer in Egypt.

3. Here are several articles debunking the Saudi Arabia theory:

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...-Saudi-Arabia.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...-Saudi-Arabia.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...with-Mt-Sinai.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...h-of-Mt-Sinai.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...f-Mount-Sinai.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...es-at-Rameses.aspx

4. You say: "There is concrete archaeological evidence of a Gulf of Aqaba crossing. There is also evidence of the Israelites camping in Saudi Arabia." The opposite is the case. There is not ONE SHRED OF EVIDENCE from archaeology to support the Saudi Arabia thesis. This idea was propogated by Ron Wyatt and more recently by Robert Cornuke. Their theories have been thoroughly discredited. This is an excellent book on the subject of Ron Wyatt:

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../product.aspx?id=108

After you have thoroughly read these articles, you will find that the Saudi Arabia theory is completely and utterly wrong. We are not certain where Mt. Sinai is thus far, but it is clear the Biblical data eliminates the Saudi Arabis hypothesis as even a remote possibility.

In Christ,

Henry Smith-ABR

ABR - 10/6/2009 4:28:06 AM

10/13/2009 1:46 PM #

You have it right.  This follows the evidence produced by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, who drew the same conclusions regarding the Sea of Reeds; the need for fresh water (the Wadi Tumilat); and the surrounding ruins at the end of the wadi.  After a strong Chamsin wind blew all night and dried the lake bed (i.e., Lake Timsah), the Israelites crossed the Sea of Reeds.
Then they marched three days (south) to the Bitter Lakes (i.e., Lake Marah).
Since "Marah" means "bitter," and since the Bitter Lakes are - for such a great number of people and livestock - some three days' march from lake Timsah, then this adds up, yet no one seems to mention it.  In summary, the Exodus began at Avaris (earlier, Zoan), and the march followed a fresh-water stream that was fed by the Nile (the Wadi Tumilat), and then crossed Lake Timsah, before marching for three days to the Bitter Lakes, i.e., "Mar-
ah."

David Doerr - 10/13/2009 1:46:31 PM

11/3/2009 11:52 PM #

David Doerr - I agree with you. Have you heard of a Canaanite city in the marsh called Tebah or Tebai? I have been trying to find something on it but have had no luck. It was said that the inhabitants were mystics.

Susan Burns - 11/3/2009 11:52:22 PM

11/25/2009 9:13 PM #

Using maps of Egypt created _before_ the Suez Canal of the 1860's changed the topography of the area and its hydrological features, namely the so-called Ballah Lakes, I determined these "lakes" did not exist until _after_ the 1865 Canal was created. Earlier this area was a Ballah "inlet" getting its water from the Nile via Lake Menzaleh. Hoffmeier thus _errs_ in siting the crossing of the "Reed Sea" (Yam Suph) as near these "lakes." I have proposed the Reed Sea crossing was near the south end of the Ballah "inlet," west of Ras el Ballah (my proposal for Baal-zephon). The crossing of the Reed Sea was in reality the crossing of a shallow marsh-ford west of and adjacent to Ras el Ballah. Migdol is Bir el Makdal and Pihahiroth is Bir el Rouq, nearby sites. Etham is Wadi Tumilat and Birket Et-Timsah. From Ras el Ballah (my Baal-Zephon) Israel went south to Marah (the Bitter Lakes) then Elim (Ayun Musa) and the wilderness pf Sin (Hosan abu Zenna) near wadi Gharandal, to Dophkah (Wadi Dafari). Click on the following url for my article and its maps (1797-1860 made _before_ the Suez Canal changed the ancient hydrological features of the area).

http://tinyurl.com/ycwfhn8

Walter R. Mattfeld - 11/25/2009 9:13:17 PM

12/13/2009 2:29 PM #

David Doerr apparently is _unaware_ that maps made in 1830s through the 1850s _before_ the Suez Canal was created and changed the hydrological topography of the isthmus, that Lake Timsah was described as being a "dried up lake." It received water from the Nile only during the annual inundation from the end of June through September. Thereafter the water evaporated away the rest of the year. As Israel's Exodus was in the Spring (March-April) this lake was probably dry by this time and would receive no more water till the end of June, thus making it an _unlikely_ site for the Crossing of the Red Sea.

Walter R. Mattfeld - 12/13/2009 2:29:29 PM

7/9/2010 5:43 PM #

One of the plagues during the Exodus involved ". . . the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation." (Ex 9:24)  This, of course is not normal - thunder, lightening and hail throughout Egypt - yet that is what is recorded to have happened.  A thousand years later, Herodotus was recording that forest existed across the entire extent of northern Africa.
Israel was heavily forested in places at the time of the Conquest.  It's diffi-
cult, therefore, to compare the climate of 19th century Egypt, of the present era, with the climate of 15th century B.C. Egypt, with certainty.  If the storm described in Exodus 9 happened, there would have been plenty of water in Lake Timsah, and in the other lakes, too.

David Doerr - 7/9/2010 5:43:36 PM

7/12/2010 9:02 AM #

From the article, "Debunking The Exodus Decoded":

"Exhibit F: Santorini Pumice in Egypt. The second major premise of The Exodus Decoded is that tectonic activity caused the eruption of the Santorini volcano and triggered earthquakes, bringing about the plagues in Egypt. Jacobovici says the eruption took place in 1500 BC at the time of the Exodus. The date of the eruption is a hotly debated topic. Carbon-14 samples suggest a date of ca. 1625 BC, whereas conventional historical dating places the event at ca. 1525 BC. Pumice from the Santorini eruption was found at Tell el-Daba. Here, we run into another major chronological difficulty. The pumice was found in an archaeological stratum later than the reign of Ahmose (Bietak 1997: 124–25). Thus, there is a chronological disconnect between Jacobovici’s Pharaoh of the Exodus and the eruption of Santorini."

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...xodus-Decoded.aspx

ABR - 7/12/2010 9:02:13 AM

7/12/2010 12:55 PM #

Re post: 7/12/2010 10:02 AM

The reference to 1525 BC is to the eruption of Santorini, not the Exodus!

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...mes-Hoffmeier.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...nquest-Theory.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...odus-Conquest.aspx

ABR - 7/12/2010 12:55:23 PM

4/7/2011 12:17 PM #

Good article overall. The linguistic equation of Maskhuta with Sukkoth is a bit of a stretch, although I realize that is not the author's idea (Kitchen, Hoffmeier). It is important to note however, that Maskhuta was occupied by a Hyksos village from about mid 18th to early/mid 16th centuries BC. This may have a bearing on throwing out the site as a possible location for Pithom.

Mike - 4/7/2011 12:17:24 PM

4/7/2011 3:06 PM #

If I remember correctly, it was on September 27, 2010 that the highest tempterature ever recorded in Los Angeles broke the thermometer that was used to register the official temperature.  (113 degrees.)  The highest recorded temperature for Los Angeles during June, 2010 was 81 degrees.  Logic does not necessarily apply to the phenomena of ancient weather events.  The logic that I would use to reason through the problem is that which was defined by Moses in Leviticus, chapter 26.

David Doerr - 4/7/2011 3:06:32 PM

10/3/2011 6:58 PM #

Religion is about faith; it is not about science (geography, geology,etc...). Consequently, I strongly believe that all and every single attempt to make relationship between geologic / geographic evidences and some religious text will certainly fail. And after all, what is the importance of the site of the Exodus, if any given site was to be precisely confirmed, or not? Nothing at all, I guess. The importance of the event is a spiritual one, for those Muslims, of the epoch (you call them Jews, but they were not Jews, they were Muslims, just as Moses was Muslim, like Ibrahim, Ismail, Isaac, Jaboc and Joseph) who escaped the injustice of a Pharaoh. That is all, nothing else. The site of the event has not any particular importance. I know most of you will not agree upon what I am saying, but almost all the Egyptians of the epoch of Moses were not agree to what he said too. I just do like him, you have your religion, and I have mine. Full stop.

fahmy - 10/3/2011 6:58:04 PM

10/4/2011 10:47 AM #

Dear Fahmy,

Are you a Muslim, as your name would indicate? If so, you believe that God is the Creator of the world. You also believe God created man in the world, and was actively involved in the life of Abraham. This means you believe that God acted in a real sense in this world we live in, not an imaginary world that exists only in the pages of a book. If He acted in our world in any real sense, then He acted in history, doing things that were just as real as what you think Mohammed did, and just as real as the things we do each day - eat, sleep, go to work, etc. When we do these things, we leave behind real evidence that we did them; the bed looks unmade after we've slept in it, there are dirty dishes on the table after we've eaten our meal, the car is no longer in the garage after we have gone to work, etc.

In the same way, when God acted in the world in the past, He did so in ways that take into account real geologic and geographic details, for they are real things, just as real as your bedroom where you sleep, the dining room where you eat, and the garage where you keep your car. If any religious text reports truth about God, then we can expect that what it reports and what we find in the world will match up. So, it certainly does matter whether we can precisely confirm a site reported by the ancient biblical writings, for the agreement we DO find, over and over again, gives evidence that those ancient writings tell the truth of God's actions that took place in the world. This shows that the atheist is quite wrong when he says there is no God. The atheist is a blind man who refuses to see what is clear to anyone with eyes to see; he clings to a myth that somehow, by pure chance, nothing became everything we see today! To dismiss the importance of any event recorded in ancient writings that are artificially labeled "religious" (in the case of the biblical scriptures, they are actually historical) as only "spiritual," is to imply that, in some way, the reported event was NOT as real as the unmade bed and dirty dishes we leave behind each day. Certainly, the events in the Scriptures often have a spiritual meaning - but that is ONLY because the events really happened in the world, taking into account actual geology and geography and leaving evidence behind that the events took place.

You are quite right that the Jews of the Exodus epoch were not called "Jews" at that time. They were called the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as there was not yet any geographic area named "Judah" which gave to the people who lived there the name "Jews." This means they were not Muslims either. "Muslim" is only a label to identify those children of Abraham through Hagar who decided to embrace Mohammed as a prophet. Not all the children of Abraham and Hagar do.

I hope you will deal honestly with the data in the biblical writings, and come to see that even though religion involves faith, it is based - if it is a TRUE religion with a real God behind it, not one made up of fiction stories - on actual events that happened in history. Only a God who acts in history, and who will hold every man accountable for believing true facts and not stories, deserves our obedience - and our love for reaching out to us, to forgive our sins because of the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus.

In His service,

Rick Lanser
ABR

ABR - 10/4/2011 10:47:18 AM

3/14/2013 5:25 PM #

I love Scripture and especially reading the Old Testament.  I am presently attempting to find the Israelites path through Exodus and the Ark of the Coverant.
Keep up the Good work.

Ray

Raymond O'Donnell - 3/14/2013 5:25:35 PM

3/15/2013 12:36 AM #

Raymond, Look no further! Join us this May in a real archeological dig just north of Jerusalem. Lots of people to talk to and learn from. Check out the dig information on this website on the home page. We dig at Maqatir which is biblical Ai.
Steve

Steve Rudd - 3/15/2013 12:36:33 AM

3/16/2013 11:52 AM #

Ray
   Your studies may be aided by a more accurate understanding of the climactic conditions of the Land of Canaan at the time of the Exodus. Long story short, the Levant at the time of Moses was a land able to support animals now only found in Africa, such as hippopotamus, hartebeest and aurochs, giant cattle about twice the size of cows today. This informations can all be found in studies by the university of Haifa titled " Distribution and extinction of ungulates during the Holocene of the southern Levant." and can be found online. In addition recent discoveries have been made in the Negev that shed light on what the climate was like at the time as well...They are called KITES, man-made funnel shaped stone structures designed to trap herds of deer, gazelles and other animals...there about 11 of these in the Negev some miles long dating from the time of Moses and even earlier.

In short, the Land of Canaan at the time of Moses was indeed a land of milk and honey, not the devastated land we see today. Even the ancient Egyptian records mention the dense forests and rivers, and the high number of lions in Canaan. And it stand to reason, that the Negev was once able to support herds of animals so vast, structures miles long were built to capture them.

It is unfortunate so many of us look at the land as we see it today..ruined by deforestation by the Romans among others (they turned North Africa, once the breadbasket of the world into a desert) It's climate was not as we see it today...enough rain fell to feed a number of rivers that supported the hippopotamus.

   The reality of the ancient climate must be considered. For example, the Negev was indeed dry, but still able to support herds of ungulates.

i hope this tidbit of information will be of some help in your studies

Rob

Rob Acosta - 3/16/2013 11:52:01 AM

12/9/2013 6:14 PM #

Location of "Succoth". If Josephus was right and Israel left from the WEST side of the Nile then we are looking in the wrong place for Succoth. “So the Hebrews went out of Egypt...Now they took their journey by Letopolis [west side or Nile], a place at that time deserted, but where Babylon was built afterwards...." (Antiq. II, 15, 1)  There are three descriptions in the Bible about Succoth.

Innocent In Numbers 33:3 the children of Israel leave Rameses and are on their way to Succoth. And the Bible says Israel left Egypt “In the sight of all the Egyptians” (Numbers 33:3b). They would of necessity have had to have been somewhere close by a large population of Egyptians to use such an expression, but not out on the eastern desert.

(B) So why would “all” the Egyptians come out while Israel was leaving? “For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn....” (Numbers 33:4) This is a mass funeral for the whole nation of Egypt; a lot of rituals, ceremonies and mummification that could take days if not weeks will have to be precluded as every family, including those who would normally hold the funerals, now goes to the cemetery with their own loss.

       The Egyptians did not just bury their dead anywhere; they, as we do today, had cemeteries. Now the largest cemetery in Egypt was Saqqara, which was up on a ridge overlooking Memphis. Several kings were buried there, and a number of pyramids were built there. So, we have “all” the Egyptians seeing the children of Israel, “for” they were burying their dead. All the Egyptians were not just aimlessly wandering around, but they were all going to the cemetery, and would have been there by the time Israel got there. If the children of Israel did not go to Saqqara, they would not have had all these Egyptians observing them. It would have been quite a scene; the Egyptians mourning all their firstborn; and the children of Israel in the same place, on their first day of freedom, but instead of burying someone they are removing a body – Joseph’s.

(C) It is clear that they had a motive to go to Succoth; they had to get Joseph’s body! Joseph was the great patriarch who had saved Israel, Egypt and all the surrounding nations from starvation (Genesis 41:57). Before he died, he had made the children of Israel promise him that they would take his bones back to the land of Canaan when they left Egypt.

In Exodus 12:37 Israel has arrived at Succoth, and in Exodus 13:19, Moses takes the bones of Joseph, and in the next verse Israel leaves Succoth. Succoth must have been a place of burial! This last point is seldom mentioned in connection with the site of Succoth, but the first two points I have never seen mentioned. That “all” the Egyptians saw them, and that it was because (“for”) they were burying their dead, which would have been at a cemetery! These three points do not fit with the routes the others have chosen, and the locations they have for Succoth.

Joseph’s wife came from “On” (Heliopolis, Genesis 41:45) and as both Josephus (Antiq. II, 7, 6) and Eusebius said, the children of Israel also lived in Heliopolis before they were made slaves. (Eusebius who quote Alexander Polyhistor, first century B.C., also has Sais as a part of Goshen which is on the west side of the Nile. Praeparatio Evangelica, Book 9, 23:3). This would have made Heliopolis at the least a part of Goshen, but Joseph lived at Memphis because he worked for the king of Egypt. Though Joseph was close by them, “and thou shalt be near unto me…” (Genesis 45:10), he did not live there in the land of Goshen, but had to travel there to meet his father Jacob. “[A]nd they came into the land of Goshen. And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen...” (Genesis 46:28-29).

The Testament of Joseph (first century B.C.) describes the struggle that Joseph had with Potiphar’s wife, and she lived in Memphis (verse 3). “And I sought the Lord early, and wept for the Egyptian woman of Memphis...” (verse 12) “About that time the Memphian wife of Potiphar...” (verse 14) “Now the Memphian woman was...” (verse 16) “Now the Memphian woman pointed me out to her husband...”3(Memphis was on the west side of Nile)

It is reasonable to believe that a man of Joseph’s stature in Egypt would have been given a burial in a place of honor, “He [Joseph] was buried in the sepulcher of the kings” (Babylonian Talmud4, 400 A.D.?). “Moses knew that he [Joseph] had been interred in the mausoleum of the Egyptian kings”.5 (Legends of the Jews) Succoth is not some question mark out on the desert, but a royal necropolis. But the other routes have it a day’s journey east from the Delta and out on the desert, nor is it a place for a major burial ground, as was Saqqara.

They left Egypt before they came to Succoth. There has been much said about where did the children of Israel cross the border of Egypt? “And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the LORD did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.” (Exodus 12:17, 41, 51) The Bible says when they left that first day that they also left Egypt!

It was not necessary to cross the Sinai Peninsula and then to cross over the Gulf of Aqaba in order to leave Egypt. It is true that the Egyptians had some control of the Sinai Peninsula and had mines there, but Israel left Egypt before they ever reached the desert of Sinai. Israel left Egypt on that first day, the “selfsame day” they went “out of the land of Egypt.” The ancient writers (Strabo, Geography, Book XVII, 30, and Herodotus, Book II) referred to the hills above the Nile valley as Arabia (on the east), and Libya (on the west). These hills or cliffs rise to a height of 150 to 800 feet. So how did Israel leave Egypt on a one day’s march from Goshen? They went up to the hills above Memphis where Saqqara was, and therefore into what the ancients called the Libyan Desert. Officially, they had left Egypt.    

The name “Succoth” is Hebrew and means “booths” (Strong’s #5523). Saqqara (the cemetery of Memphis) was originally called after “Sokar”, the Egyptian god of the dead. And most believe the name Saqqara (Arabic) came from the name of this god Sokar. But one problem with this belief is that in the Arabic name Saqqara, the “r” is not silent, but in the Egyptian god named Sokar the “r” is silent. However, for the Hebrews, the Egyptian god named Sokar = Sk (“r” silent and again no vowels when written) could have sounded to them as Succoth = Sccth = Sk. I am no scholar in the original languages, but it at least looks more likely than the Egyptian place name of “Tjeku”, and out of all the other routes for the Exodus Tjeku is the best they have.

Though the name Succoth means “booths” or “tents”, archaeologists will still use it for sites that are not connected to its meaning. “It is not at all surprising that the Hebrew word should mean tents. We have here an example of what is called ‘popular etymology,’ a philological accident which constantly occurs in mythology and geography. A name passing from a language to another keeps nearly the same sound and the same appearance, but it undergoes a change just sufficient to give it a sense in the language of the people who have adopted the word. The new sense may be totally different from the original.”7 (Egyptologist Edouard Naville, The Store City of Pithom and The Route of the Exodus El Maskhutah, 1903, p.7)

It was an easy day’s march from where Josephus said they started from (about 12 miles), and was the largest cemetery in Egypt, a fitting place for Joseph (both a ruler in Egypt and who lived in Memphis), and also where “all” the Egyptians would have gone and seen Israel “for” they were burying their dead.

G. Matheny

Matheny - 12/9/2013 6:14:23 PM

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