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Home Forums The route of the Exodus through the Red Sea How many days and how far per day to the sea?

  • Historical Faith Society

    December 18, 2020 at 4:35 am
  • Deborah Hurn

    December 30, 2020 at 4:44 am

    In the Exodus narrative, the stations from Rameses in Goshen to the Red Sea crossing are three: Succoth, Etham, and Pi-hahiroth:

    Exo 12:37 JPS And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, beside children.

    Exo 13:20 JPS And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.

    Exo 14:1-2 JPS And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: (2) ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn back and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal- zephon, over against it shall ye encamp by the sea.

    In the Numbers itinerary, the regular form “they journeyed” and “they pitched” suggests daily stages and hence a three-day journey:

    Num 33:5-7 JPS And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses, and pitched in Succoth. (6) And they journeyed from Succoth, and pitched in Etham, which is in the edge of the wilderness. (7) And they journeyed from Etham, and turned back unto Pihahiroth, which is before Baal-zephon; and they pitched before Migdol.

    The question of the number of days’ journey from Rameses to the Red Sea crossing is somewhat dependent on the impression gained from the whole itinerary. If the other stations appear to be daily stages in both the narrative and itinerary, the case may be strengthened that there were only three days’ journey to the crossing. If the demonstrable ‘gaps’ in the rest of the itinerary (and there are some) cannot be explained and seem to be ‘selective’, the case may be strengthened that there were more than three days journey to the crossing.


      January 2, 2021 at 11:11 pm

      Just curious: What itinerary? What gaps? Are these itinerary and gaps found in the bible or due to a lack of biblical knowledge as well as the influence of extra-biblical sources/speculation? Where exactly?

      At this point in the history of the world, I think it’s probably wise to take a short cut and listen to the discussion of today’s and this web-site’s scholars, rather than retrace the multi-millennial collection of misconceptions, antiquated maps, & arguments of those in the past who struggled without the realistic means to gather todays spectacular knowledge in order to conclude anything. is a great start.

      Searching for the Red Sea Crossing

  • Deborah Hurn

    January 2, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    The Wilderness Itinerary (as it is sometimes called) is a composite of all the itinerary data in the biblical texts with bearing on the journeys of the exodus and wanderings era. The itinerary form as found in the Numbers itinerary and in places in the Exodus and Numbers narratives, and the Deuteronomy review has these terms: “and they set out נָסַע from X” and “and camped חָנָה at Y” (see Num 33:5ff). Usually these intervals appear to indicate daily stations, but in a few places there are ‘gaps’ where the distance between named stations is clearly more than one day. So there are three days without named stations in the Wilderness of Shur/Etham (Ex 15:22; Num 33:8) and three days likewise in the Wilderness of Paran (Num 10:33). Another obvious ‘gap’ in the itinerary is between Ezion-geber on the Elath Gulf and Kadesh-barnea in the northeast Sinai (Num 33:36), a distance of around 140 km along the Darb al-Gaza. There are other gaps, but I won’t list them here.

  • Deborah Hurn

    February 17, 2021 at 11:10 am

    This topic has sunk to near the bottom of the second page of discussions, so here goes to get it to the top. The question of how many days’ journey from Rameses to the Red Sea is important for deciding the likely location of the crossing. The first post above lists the stations of the exodus journey with the observation that both the Exodus narrative and the Numbers itinerary seem to be describing daily stages. As established in other discussions on the HFS forum, it is unlikely that the Israelites as a large mixed pastoral group with wagons and livestock were able to travel more than 20 km a day or keep up that pace for longer than three days. The best resource for the daily rate of travel in the Ancient Near East by era is:

    Davies, Graham I. “The Significance of Deuteronomy 1.2 for the Location of Mount Horeb.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 111, no. 2 (1979): 87–101.

    If anyone would like the pdf, email me at [email protected]. Davies gives a thorough treatment of the distance of a day’s journey in the ANE in Biblical, Apocryphal, Classical, Early Christian, and Modern times.

    • Thomas Donlon

      February 17, 2021 at 7:09 pm

      In the Collector’s Edition to Red Sea Crossing 1 Tim Mahoney relayed that in ten days Jacob, his flocks and children fled from Laban and covered 350 miles. What is that 50 kilometers a day? The Israelites though according to scripture had the advantage of “abundant rains” and a pillar of fire and protection so their feet would not swell. They also left in “haste” were “carried on eagles wings.” Also if you watch the first of Tim Mahoney’s films David Rohl is saying that the grave’s at Avaris (the city the Israelites fled from which was under the city of Ramses showed that when the Israelites became slaves they were dying at age 32 – 34. Also I understand (but I’m not about to look it up) that African Slaves in North America who were also treated brutally tended to die young.

      I’ll have to see evidence from the grave reports at Avaris that this is NOT true before I believe there were a bunch of old people among the fleeing Israelites. Flock expert and should I say “Legend”(?), Temple Grandin who was in the film also was in extra material in the Collector’s Edition. She was quite confident that the flocks could walk anything that the people would walk.

      A point brought up in the film by Temple Grandin and others is that you can have two different sets of criteria for optimum speed. Bedouin who are just grazing their sheep, trying to keep the animals in top shape, peak condition are going to focus on grazing. However if you need to drive them and aren’t concerned about them losing some weight, they can outwalk people.

      The departure from Egypt was in the spring when there is more rain. Glenn Fritz chose a path that followed Wadis where water would have puddled.

      Would the same be true for any traveling in Saudi Arabia? The granite rocks would have held water …

      I have no desire to commit to a viewpoint on this when I haven’t heard the other viewpoint. “The first to present his case seems right…” When I ignore this principle I find I easily get caught in an error.

      • Deborah Hurn

        February 17, 2021 at 7:42 pm

        Thomas, the distance by road (around the Fertile Crescent) between Haran and Mount Gilead 15 km N of the Jabbok River is more than 400 km, which would be 65-70 km per day. Something is wrong with that data… either Haran is not the one in Turkey, or the biblical number is corrupted or the account incomplete. There is no way a large pastoral group with women and children can walk that distance, ancient armies don’t even attempt it (15 miles, 20 km), and as far as I know only marathon runners could do it (I read of one who covered 100 km in 24 hours), and could only sustain that rate for one 24 hour period (which is the equivalent to three days of ‘normal’ walking). I went on an urban pilgrimage in 2016 and walked 30 km per day for two days. That was eight hours of walking per day. The ages of those participating were from 9 yrs to 85 yrs. We weren’t carrying anything but a small backpack. All food and water was provided by churches along the way. In the ME it would be necessary to rest in the hottest hours. All the great hiking trails of the world (here in WA we have the Bibbulmun Track) have overnight shelters about every 20-30 km, depending on the terrain. As for livestock, yes they can run for up to 30 km/per day or even more if necessary but will lose condition as you say. Australia’s beloved bush poet, A.B. Patterson, penned these lines regarding the standard rate for sheep on the Overland trails:

        Now is the law of the Overland that all in the West obey –
        A man must cover with travelling sheep a six-mile stage a day;
        But this is the law which the drovers make, right easily understood,
        They travel their stage where the grass is bad, but they camp where the grass is good.

        • Deborah Hurn

          February 17, 2021 at 8:11 pm

          oops, that should be “more than 400 miles” i.e. 650 km.

        • Deborah Hurn

          February 17, 2021 at 9:29 pm

          typo: “Now this is the law of the Overland…”

      • Deborah Hurn

        February 17, 2021 at 7:59 pm

        Do you really think the Israelites were teleported unnatural distances through the wildernesses?

        People were living a long time in the ancient world if we take the patriarchal ages as they stand. During the wilderness period, they were living to 60 yrs old as this is the age by which the adults over 20 yrs at exodus had died out before the conquest (Num 14:33; Deut 2:14).

        I don’t believe that Avaris is an Israelite town… it was founded by the Hyksos invaders into Egypt and the Israelites were not the Hyksos. That is all a very unfortunate connection. The original Hyksos were savage iconoclastic barbarians who plunged Egypt into a Dark Age.

        Granite will not hold water unless there are ‘thamila’ (potholes), and these are pretty small, rare, and unsafe to drink from. In steep granite regions like the Western Hejaz, as you can see in GE, the water rushes out through wadis and does not stay in the area (you can see that effect along the coastal strip).

        • Thomas Donlon

          February 18, 2021 at 11:01 am

          I don’t believe that Avaris is an Israelite town… it was founded by the
          Hyksos invaders into Egypt and the Israelites were not the Hyksos.

          Tim Mahoney interviewed Manfred Bietak who excavated the area. Manfred stated that the original situation was such that he thought they arrived at the “invitation” of the government. He thought they had “a special status” or it was “a tax free zone.” Incidentally this is under the city of Ramses. So the scripture that mentions the Israelites built the city of Ramses what are we to make of that? Maybe later, somehow or other, God-willing, and the creek don’t rise, or the snow to be shoveled doesn’t pile up too much, and work doesn’t get that busy or I don’t get distracted with other life concerns … maybe I’ll somehow find the energy and with God’s help or luck or non-luck I’ll come across the dig reports online regarding Avaris grave sites… and maybe I’ll be able to piece the information together and maybe I’ll come up with a coherent response describing what Tim, David and other’s described about the situation in Avaris.

          But right now other things need to be taken care of. So we can get back to discussing the ancient works of God later.

  • Deborah Hurn

    February 17, 2021 at 9:14 pm

    Here is a section out of my current draft on the Land of Egypt:

    Biblical and historical indications locate Egypt’s eastern border at a distance of three days’ journey from the Delta. Egypt comprised all the land watered by the Nile (Ex 7:19-21) as determined by Herodotus in his consultation with Egyptian priests who in turn cited a god and an oracle:

    The god however… said that that land which was Egypt which the Nile came over and watered, and that those were Egyptians who dwelling below the city of Elephantine drank of that river.

    Thus it was answered to them [the priests] by the Oracle about this: and the Nile, when it is in flood, goes over not only the Delta but also of the land which is called Libyan and of that which is called Arabian sometimes as much as two days’ journey on each side, and at times even more than this or at times less.”

    Herodotus. “An Account of Egypt: Being the Second Book of His Histories Called Euterpe.” Translated by G. C. Macaulay. Gutenberg. Accessed November 22, 2020. II:18-19 (grammar defective)

    Herodotus’ statement about the Nile waters extending into Arabia by two day’s travel is consistent with the details of the exodus journey, a total of two days’ journey from the royal precinct to the Suez Isthmus:

    Day 1. Rameses to Succoth (Ex 12:37; Num 33:3, 5)

    Day 2. Succoth to Etham (Ex 13:20; Num 33:6).

    Egypt’s eastern border in the Suez Isthmus is confirmed by incidental biblical references. According to the exodus narrative, the Israelites left Egypt on the same day they left Succoth (Ex 12:37; cp. v. 51; 13:18) to encamp at Etham “on the edge of the wilderness” (Ex 13:20; Num 33:6). At the next station, Pi-hahiroth on the Red Sea shore, the Israelites considered themselves to be outside of Egypt (Ex 14:11-12; cf. Judg 11:16). Shur lies “before [or east of] Egypt” (Josh 13:3; 1 Chron 13:5), another marker of the eastern border of Egypt. Lake Timsah in the central isthmus receives its water from Nile floods via an east-flowing wadi, Wadi Tumilat, thereby making Etham part of Egypt in Egyptian reckoning (so, Herodotus).

    • Deborah Hurn

      March 2, 2021 at 6:29 am

      From all the biblical indicators above, it is possible to draw some conclusions about the exodus journey:

      Etham and Shur are both Egyptian border towns. Shur is on the Way of Shur to/from Canaan. Etham is on the Way of the Wilderness of the Red Sea to/from the Red Sea and thence to Arabia. Both border towns lie in the Suez Isthmus, the long shallow valley between the Mediterranean and Red Seas through which now runs the Suez Canal.

      At Etham, the Israelites were “at the edge of the wilderness”, i.e. at the border of Egypt. When they left Etham they left Egyptian territory, as revealed at the next station, Pi-hahiroth, where they spoke of being in Egypt in the past tense (Ex 14:11). The overall impression is of single consecutive daily stages: two days to the Egyptian border (Succoth, Etham); one day to Pi-hahiroth (the Red Sea crossing site); and then three days without water in the wilderness of Shur/Etham to Marah.

      Moses is giving a complete account of the journey. He names every station somewhere in the Pentateuchal narratives. Where there are ‘gaps’ in the itinerary (there are only three), the people are travelling through regions with no water sources, hence no named stations. Moses is quite the historical pedant, it turns out. His travel notices are inconsistent with a largely undocumented exodus journey across 250+ km to the far side of the Sinai Peninsula. Let’s take the biblical texts as they stand, and stop trying to distort, deny, and discount the details.

  • Bruce Stewart

    April 22, 2021 at 10:40 am

    Could it be that where they stopped to rest for a night and where they “set up camp” are two different things?

    • Deborah Hurn

      April 22, 2021 at 11:16 am

      Hi Bruce. I call the night stops where there is no named site (and hence no water source) a ‘dry camp’. This does not happen as much as we may imagine, for there are springs every 15-20 km or so through much of the southern wildernesses and the ancient roads tend to connect them. Hence the “itinerary form” of Numbers 33.

      The debate over whether the Exodus narrative and Numbers itinerary describe daily stages (for the Suez Isthmus crossers) or far-flung stations interspersed with many dry camps (for the Rift Valley crossers) requires careful attention to the text. The questions to ask in regard to the journey from Goshen to Sinai are these:

      If, say, most of the named stations had several dry camps between them, why are the three days without water after the Red Sea crossing noted in both records? (Ex 15:22; Num 33:8)

      Why is there a second Red Sea camp after Elim? (Num 33:10-11)

      Why are there no named stations listed in the Wilderness of Sin? (Ex 16:1 cf. 17:1; Num 33:10-11)

      Why do the named stations resume again after leaving the Wilderness of Sin? (Num 33:11-15)

      These are questions for historical geography, and it’s a headache getting a complete picture of the itinerary from the data of text and terrain.

  • Deborah Hurn

    April 29, 2021 at 6:10 am

    I don’t know if I have posted on this before, and haven’t time to make a thorough case, but will sketch it briefly.

    For my MA thesis, I studied Passover Week. Part of the investigation of the 1st Passover in Egypt was to compare it to the 1st Passover in Canaan, forty years later. The similarities have relevance to the number of days’ travel to the Red Sea crossing because there is a strong correspondence of events with the Jordan River crossing.

    Basically, the events of the week after the first Passover in Egypt match those of the week before the first Passover in Canaan. A comparison of these weeks, the first and last of the wilderness era, reveals a parallel structure: a departure (Rameses, Abel-shittim), a water-crossing (Red Sea, Jordan River), and a destination (Marah, Gilgal), all within the space of 8 days. There are so many comparisons, I can only allude to the necessary few:

    From Joshua chs. 3-5: The people left Shittim early a.m. and camped at the edge of the Jordan (this is the 1st day). At the end of the 3rd day (i.e. 2 more days), they receive instructions for the crossing. The officers tell them they will cross “tomorrow” (the 4th day). They come up out of the water on the 10th day of Abib (Josh 4:19), and camp at Gilgal until Passover. We know that Passover is on the 14th. So Passover is on the 8th day after they left Abel-Shittim (which we can work out was on the 7th), inclusive.

    From Exodus chs. 12-15: The above sequence is in mirror image to the first Passover week which starts with Passover on the 14th Abib. They leave Rameses on the 15th (i.e. after midnight of the 14th) and camp at Succoth, leave Succoth on the 16th and camp at Etham, leave Etham on the 17th and camp at Pihahiroth (that’s three days). They leave Pihahorith and cross the Red Sea in the early hours of the 18th, seem to spend a day rejoicing on the shore (Ex 15), and then travel for 3 dry days to Marah (19th-20th-21st), which brings us to the 8th day after Passover, inclusive.

    So we get this pattern for the 1st Passover in Egypt

    Passover+3+crossing+3 = 8 days incl.

    and the other way for the 1st Passover in Canaan

    3+crossing+3+Passover = 8 days incl.

    Yes, it is hard to track with the Hebrew day starting at sundown, e.g., took me ages with pen and paper. But the pattern is too good to suppose that there is nothing in it. For me, leaving all geographical considerations aside, this symmetry for the journeys at either end of the 40 yrs is the death blow for any Aqaba crossing theory. The Aqaba Gulf is some 250 km away across the Sinai Peninsula which journey would have taken about 2 weeks after Passover.

    Thus (referencing my recent post on the Border Lakes thread) Israel crossed the Suez Isthmus N of the Great Bitter Lake, in a similar way to how Israel crossed the Arabah Isthmus N of the Dead Sea (a greater bitter lake). The two periods of 8-days are bookends to the exact 40 yrs of wilderness wanderings and they are in mirror image. This is a divine text with divine maths. Yet another meta-chiasmus across the books in the Bible. This is why source criticism is bankrupt. Also why it is best to call off the search for those mirage-y chariot wheels in the Aqaba Gulf.

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