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Home Forums Location of Mount Sinai The issue of the wilderness of Shur

  • Historical Faith Society

    Administrator
    December 18, 2020 at 4:47 am
  • Deborah Hurn

    Member
    December 30, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    According to the Exodus narrative, from their point of emergence after the Red Sea crossing, the nation of Israel takes a three-day journey into the Wilderness of Shur:

    Exo 15:22-23 JPS And Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. (23) And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.

    This is the only place in the exodus itinerary where the Wilderness of Shur is mentioned. The Way of Shur (road) is not mentioned in the exodus itinerary–only the Wilderness of Shur. The Way of Shur is named only in the story of Hagar in Genesis:

    Gen 16:7 JPS And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.

    The Numbers itinerary represents Israel’s three-day journey through the Wilderness of Shur as taking place through the Wilderness of Etham:

    Num 33:8 JPS And they journeyed from Penehahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness; and they went three days’ journey in the wilderness of Etham, and pitched in Marah.

    This appears to be the only instance of a biblical wilderness with dual names. There may be a geographical explanation that involves proximity or contiguity of the wildernesses Shur and Etham.

  • Roger Waite

    Member
    January 1, 2021 at 2:41 am

    Bill Schleigl, author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, correctly notes that the location of the Wilderness of Shur is well known to us and is immediately to the east of the defensive border of Egypt. It probably takes its name from the wall or shur that defended the eastern border of Egypt.

    In Abraham’s time this Shur was on the way to Egypt from Hebron and Beersheba. In Genesis 16:7 Hagar, who came from Egypt, is returning to Egypt and comes on a spring on the way to Shur. The way to Shur is the road from Hebron and Beersheba in Israel’s central highlands that goes to Egypt parallel with but some distance south of the coastal Mediterranean route (Way of Horus).

    Since the Israelites passed through the Wilderness of Shur after they crossed the Red Sea this is clearly the best evidence in support of the Red Sea crossing occurring at one of the Border lakes or the Gulf of Suez. Bill Schleigl appears to support a crossing over Lake Timsah rather than the Bitter Lake.

    That said, Glen Fritz makes a good case for the mountain range that goes from Edom down to Midian as being called Shur and the area near it being the Wilderness of Shur as it acted like a wall. The functional meaning of Shur is mirrored in the Arabic name Al-Hejaz, which means “the barrier” and this referred to the mountain chain of northwest Arabia extending between Mount Seir in Jordan and Medina.

    Those who support a Border Lakes crossing might scoff at this suggestion of a second Wilderness of Shur. However, Border lakes theorists are essentially proposing the same thing with regards to one of the Border Lakes being called Yam Suph, the Hebrew that is translated as Red Sea.

    The only body of water that, without question, is called Yam Suph is the Gulf of Aqaba as noted in 1 Kings 9 where Solomon built a naval base. For one of the Border Lakes to be the crossing site requires there to be multiple Yam Suphs just as I am suggesting that there was more than one Wilderness of Shur.

    That mountain range from Edom down to Midian could be another place called Shur meaning wall (a quite generic name), just as the Bible mentions a place called Succoth in both Egypt and Israel.

  • Deborah Hurn

    Member
    January 4, 2021 at 10:58 am

    Here are all the Bible quotes for Shur/Shihor/Sihor:

    (Gen 16:7 JPS) And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.

    (Gen 20:1 JPS) And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the land of the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar.

    (Gen 25:18 JPS) And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Asshur: over against all his brethren he did settle.

    (Exo 15:22 JPS) And Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.

    (1Sa 15:7 JPS) And Saul smote the Amalekites, from Havilah as thou goest to Shur, that is in front of Egypt.

    (1Sa 27:8 JPS) And David and his men went up, and made a raid upon the Geshurites, and the Gizrites, and the Amalekites; for those were the inhabitants of the land, who were of old, as thou goest to Shur, even unto the land of Egypt.

    (Jos 13:3 JPS) from the Shihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the border of Ekron northward – which is counted to the Canaanites; the five lords of the Philistines: the Gazite, and the Ashdodite, the Ashkelonite, the Gittite, and the Ekronite; also the Avvim

    (Jos 19:26 JPS) and Allam-melech, and Amad, and Mishal; and it reached to Carmel westward, and to Shihor-libnath.

    (1Ch 13:5 JPS) So David assembled all Israel together, from Shihor the brook of Egypt even unto the entrance of Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim.

    (Isa 23:3 JPS) And on great waters the seed of Shihor, the harvest of the Nile, was her revenue; and she was the mart of nations.

    (Jer 2:18 JPS) And now what hast thou to do in the way to Egypt, to drink the waters of Shihor? Or what hast thou to do in the way to Assyria, to drink the waters of the River?

    • Deborah Hurn

      Member
      February 2, 2021 at 8:38 am

      Looking over these quotes for Shur and Shihor (a variant of Shur) it is hard to see how advocates for a Saudi Sinai and Aqaba crossing can justify their case biblically. AFTER the Red Sea crossing, the Israelites went out into the Wilderness of Shur for three days (Ex 15:22; cp. Num 33:8).

      Many regions are poorly attested in the biblical texts, but the Wilderness of Shur isn’t one of them. Shur is closely associated with Egypt: See שׁור אשׁר על־פני מצרים lit. “Shur that is to the face of Egypt” (1 Sam 15:7) and מן־שׁיחור מצרים lit. “from Shihor [of] Egypt” (1 Chr 13:5). The land that Joshua failed to conquer includes the Northern Sinai, described as the stretch between Shihor of Egypt and Ekron of the Philistines (Josh 13:2-3).

      David, when in exile in Philistia, raided the peoples of the Northern Sinai as far as Shur of Egypt (1 Sam 27:7-11). But he told Achish king of Gath that he was raiding Israelite tribes in the Negeb. Both these regions are ‘adjacent’ to Philistia—Sinai to the SW, the Negeb to SE. For sure David wasn’t travelling some 250 km to the far side of the Red Sea (Aqaba Gulf) to raid whoever lived down there.

      • Deborah Hurn

        Member
        February 3, 2021 at 7:36 pm

        Here is the section on Shur from James Hoffmeier’s Israel in Egypt. I only have it in Kindle, which makes it easy to copy sections, but then there is no page no.

        Hoffmeier, James K. Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York, NY: Oxford University, 1996.

        Exodus 15:22 calls the wilderness of 13:18, “Shur.” According to biblical sources, the Wilderness of Shur is located on the other side of yām sûp. (Exod. 15:22), “east of Egypt” (ISam. 15:7), and “Shur and on toward Egypt” (ISam. 27:8).115 The references from I Samuel are helpful because they refer to events taking place in the Negev and moving toward Egypt, squarely placing Shur or the Wilderness of Shur south of the coastal highway and north of central Sinai. In other words, Shur would be situated in Sinai, east of El Ballah Lake in the north and the Bitter Lakes to the south.116 The word Shur (šûr) means “wall,”117 and its use in the Hebrew Bible has been associated with the line of forts that defended Egypt’s frontier, thought to be the same as the “Walls of the Ruler” of “Sinuhe” and “Neferti” (Cf. chap. 3,§I).118 With the discovery of the Eastern Frontier Canal, Weissbrod and Sneh propose that Shur refers to the canal and its embankments, which could be included in the Walls of the Ruler.119 Others, however, maintain that Shur alludes to the beginning of the mountainous region east of Suez known as Jebel es-Sur or er-Rahah.120 [loc. 5570]

        • Deborah Hurn

          Member
          February 3, 2021 at 8:49 pm
          Beitzel, Barry J. Where Was the Biblical Red Sea? Examining the Ancient Evidence. Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2020. https://www.logos.com/product/192980/where-was-the-biblical-red-sea-examining-the-ancient-evidence.

          This book is a new release that specifically addresses the problems discussed in this forum:

          [48] “Unlike a lack of geographical clarity that exists for Etham and the wilderness of Etham, we have relatively lucid, revealing geographical indicators for the location of Shur and the wilderness of Shur.”

          [49] על־פני מצרים al-pene mizraim lit. “to the face of Egypt”… al-pene occurs nearly 20x in the OT in explicitly geographical context (quotes)

          [49-50] Lists and discusses all instances of על־פני al-pene meaning without exception “near, opposite, facing, beside, adjacent”. “I have found no unambiguous exceptions to this syntactical or geographical reality found embedded in such a construction.”

          [51] Accordingly the clause שׁור אשׁר על־פני מצרים shur asher al-pene mizraim Shur that before Egypt (JPS Gen 25:18; 1 Sam 15:7) plainly designates a close geographic proximity to Egypt…. To locate the site of Shur and the wilderness of Shur in the Transjordanian mountains… more than 200 roadway miles (322 km) from the eastern edge of Egypt, or to argue that al-pene in these two texts merely denotes the latitude of Shur, not the location… is in my view an extraordinarily glaring violation of Hebrew lexicography and grammar and a strained and unsustainable assertion with respect to Hebrew syntax.

  • Deborah Hurn

    Member
    February 3, 2021 at 9:54 pm

    The issue of the Wilderness of Shur is a fatal flaw in the case for Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia.

    I just searched Joel Richardson’s book for “Shur” and this is the only result:

    “Next, we look to the other end of the exodus. In chapter 15, we’re informed that after they crossed the Red Sea, they went into the wilderness of Shur for three days (v. 22).”

    Richardson, Joel. Mount Sinai in Arabia: The True Location Revealed (p. 105). WinePress Media. Kindle Edition. 

    Joel has nothing more to say on this topic. Yet itinerary matters are central to the question of the location of Mount Sinai and the route of the exodus. Most of the diagnostic data for Mount Sinai is in the accounts of the Israelite journeys. As Barry Beitzel points out regarding the various candidates, they all claim features that might suit the biblical Mount Sinai. But they cannot all claim to comply with, let alone fulfil, all the requirements of the wilderness itinerary. See the first post in this thread: https://historicalfaithsociety.com/forums/discussion/attributes-of-the-proposed-mountains/

    Attributes of the proposed mountains

  • Roger Waite

    Member
    February 4, 2021 at 6:44 pm

    Deborah, I believe you have missed my point altogether.

    You won’t get any argument from me that the non-Exodus references to the Wilderness of Shur refer to the desert that extends east from the Bitter Lakes to the wadi El Arish.

    Given you don’t appear to believe in a Gulf of Suez crossing I would hazard a guess you believe the crossing site was at one of the Border Lakes.

    If so, you believe that the Yam Suph of the Exodus was another Yam Suph than the well attested Yam Suph of 1 Kings 9:26 and Exodus 23:31.

    In a similar way I am arguing that that there is a fair case for another Wilderness of Shur. The Arabic name of the mountain range along the west coast of Midian is Al-Hejaz meaning the barrier or wall which is what Shur means.

    The Border Lakes do not fit two of the major crossing site clues – a deep water crossing (Isaiah 51:10, Exodus 15:10, Psalm 77:19) and mountains trapping the Israelites (Antiquities of the Jews, 2, 15, 3). The Gulf of Suez matches the first but doesn’t quite match the second clue on closer inspection.

    Logic therefore necessitates exploring the option of a different Wilderness of Shur for the Exodus given the Gulf of Aqaba does match the two major crossing site clues if we wish to harmonise ALL the clues and NOT reject biblical and other data as is the habit of so many biblical minimalists.

    If people want to support a Border Lakes crossing and reject the clues of a deep water crossing and the entrapment (which Josephus adds was due to mountains) then why do they reject some clues and keep others?

    If one is going to reject the biblical clues about a deep water crossing and say it is made up fiction then couldn’t the reference to Israel going through the Wilderness of Shur just as easily be fictional as well?

    Or maybe the Bible got the order wrong since Etham was before the crossing and the Wilderness of Etham / Shur is spoken of after the crossing?

    On the other hand, if one is genuine about harmonising ALL the data then the meaning of the Al-Hejaz range opens up a way to do that with this Exodus reference to the Wilderness of Shur.

    • Deborah Hurn

      Member
      February 4, 2021 at 9:35 pm

      If so, you believe that the Yam Suph of the Exodus was another Yam Suph than the well attested Yam Suph of 1 Kings 9:26 and Exodus 23:31.

      Roger, it is all one Red Sea. The ancients were not so ignorant as to not know that the two arms of the Red Sea were connected, and further, that the Red Sea was also connected to the great Southern Sea that opened an entirely different world to the Mediterranean.

      Beitzel, Barry J. Where Was the Biblical Red Sea? Examining the Ancient Evidence. Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2020. https://www.logos.com/product/192980/where-was-the-biblical-red-sea-examining-the-ancient-evidence.

      [6] When classical literature refs the “Red Sea” (Greek: erythra thalassa; Latin: mare rubrum), several different bodies of water may be in view, including the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden, the classical Gulf of Arabia (= modern Red Sea), the Gulf of Suez, or the Gulf of Aqaba/Elat. See map p. 63. [Beitzel]

      The Border Lakes do not fit two of the major crossing site clues – a deep water crossing (Isaiah 51:10, Exodus 15:10, Psalm 77:19) and mountains trapping the Israelites (Antiquities of the Jews, 2, 15, 3). The Gulf of Suez matches the first but doesn’t quite match the second clue on closer inspection.

      The Great Bitter Lake is deep and large enough to drown the army. It is at least 10 m deep. After centuries of being dry, there was also a thick salt-pan in the bottom (which has probably dissolved now with the Suez canal going through the lakes) which would increase the depth.

      Josephus’ account of the exodus is fanciful on many points other than the mountains. See this thread for some quotes: https://historicalfaithsociety.com/forums/discussion/the-detour-to-a-dead-end-the-different-options/#post-20757

      Or maybe the Bible got the order wrong since Etham was before the crossing and the Wilderness of Etham / Shur is spoken of after the crossing?

      The Bible did not get the order wrong. Yes, Etham (a name attested in the Eastern Delta) was a site before the crossing, and the Wilderness of Etham/Shur was the region traversed immediately after the crossing. “Etham” is one of many toponyms from the exodus era which attach not only to a region but also to a site or feature. The site or feature always lies within the region, of course. This is one datum by which we can discern that the crossing site was close to the Eastern Delta.

      The detour to a dead end – the different options

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