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Home Forums Location of Mount Sinai Timeframe, distances and campsites between the sea and the mountain

  • Historical Faith Society

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

    December 30, 2020 at 12:38 am

    Israel left Rameses in Goshen on the 15th day of the first month of the new Hebrew year which started with the new moon (new lunar month) 2 weeks before the exodus:

    Exo 12:2 JPS ‘This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.’

    The people left the Red Sea coast and entered the Wilderness of Sin on the 15th day of the second month, i.e. a full month after leaving Egypt:

    Exo 16:1 JPS And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.

    Num 33:10-11 JPS And they journeyed from Elim, and pitched by the Red Sea. (11) And they journeyed from the Red Sea, and pitched in the wilderness of Sin.

    This means they took a full month to get from Rameses to the Wilderness of Sin. Some take this as evidence that the journey from Rameses to the Red Sea was a long way, i.e. as far as the Gulf of Aqaba.

  • Deborah Hurn

    January 4, 2021 at 10:19 am

    So let’s continue examining this leg of the journey from Goshen to Sinai. It has taken a month for the Israelites to leave the Red Sea coast (see Bible quotes above). This is quite a surprise for a sea crossing in the Suez Isthmus (whether in the border lakes or the Suez Gulf) which is relatively close to Egypt. What on earth were they doing?! Having a holiday?

    Those who think the Red Sea crossing is on the other side of the Sinai Peninsula in the Aqaba Gulf see the lapse of a month as reflecting the ~250 km walk necessary from Goshen. But they run into a big problem with the location of the Wilderness of Shur which comes after the Red Sea crossing, yet cannot be on the far side (east of) the Aqaba Gulf according to other biblical indications (there is another forum thread about this). Anyone want to get into this?

    • Jonathan Lankford

      January 4, 2021 at 10:43 am

      Hi Deborah.

      Could the traditional location of the wilderness of Shur be dependent on the the traditional location of Mt. Sinai? Based on all the references in the Bible regarding Shur, it appears to consistently be in Arabia as well. Where was the Wilderness of Shur? – Doubting Thomas Research. I guess I’d like to know more about the reasoning for the traditional location of Shur, which I admit am not well-versed in.

      • Deborah Hurn

        January 4, 2021 at 10:56 am

        Hi Jonathan. It is 1:00 a.m. here so won’t be back for a while. I will post the Bible quotes for Shur over on the Wilderness of Shur forum, and also the quotes for Shihor/Sihor (apparently the same place). Have a go at reasoning out the location of Shur and the Wilderness of Shur.

    • Trish Williams

      August 13, 2021 at 12:36 am

      Hi Deborah, It took the Hebrew nation 60 days to arrive at Sinai from Egypt. When they left Egypt on the 15th of Abib they went south toward the Red Sea. On the evening of the third day after leaving Egypt they crossed the Red Sea to Sinai.

      • Deborah Hurn

        August 26, 2021 at 5:39 pm

        Hi Trish, sorry I missed this, I took a break from HFS to finish my dissertation (nearly done). I must have turned off all notifications also. The chronology of the exodus journey is a bit misleading in the English (and possibly also in the Hebrew). The Israelites arrived in the Wilderness of Sinai on the 1st day of the third month (ביום הזה “in that day”, i.e. the start of the month), not the 15th. So the total journey is about 6 weeks from the 15th day of the first month. If you read up in this thread you will find the full discussion. The 50 days from leaving Egypt to receiving the Law is the “Pentecost” interval, matched also between Jesus’ crucifixion and the coming of the Holy Spirit. So the nation was at the mountain for about a week before Moses received the commandments, bringing the total to 7 weeks.

  • Deborah Hurn

    January 4, 2021 at 10:21 am

    Another mystery… why are there no stations in the Wilderness of Sin? And why do the named stations start up again once they leave the Wilderness of Sin but before they enter the Wilderness of Sinai?

    Exo 17:1 JPS And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, by their stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and encamped in Rephidim; and there was no water for the people to drink.

    Num 33:11-15 JPS And they journeyed from the Red Sea, and pitched in the wilderness of Sin. (12) And they journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, and pitched in Dophkah. (13) And they journeyed from Dophkah, and pitched in Alush. (14) And they journeyed from Alush, and pitched in Rephidim, where was no water for the people to drink. (15) And they journeyed from Rephidim, and pitched in the wilderness of Sinai.

  • Deborah Hurn

    January 30, 2021 at 12:16 am

    The Numbers itinerary of the journey from the Red Sea crossing to the mountain is as follows:

    Num 33:8-15 NRSV They set out from Pi-hahiroth, passed through the sea into the wilderness, went a three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham, and camped at Marah. (9) They set out from Marah and came to Elim; at Elim there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there. (10) They set out from Elim and camped by the Red Sea. (11) They set out from the Red Sea and camped in the wilderness of Sin. (12) They set out from the wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophkah. (13) They set out from Dophkah and camped at Alush. (14) They set out from Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink. (15) They set out from Rephidim and camped in the wilderness of Sinai.

    • Red Sea crossing (from Pi-hahiroth)
    • 3 days in the Wilderness of Etham (or Shur, cp. Ex 15:22)
    • Marah
    • Elim
    • Red Sea
    • Wilderness of Sin
    • Dophkah
    • Alush
    • Rephidim
    • Wilderness of Sinai

    The Exodus narrative skips the second mention of the Red Sea, passing straight from Elim to the Wilderness of Sin. It also skips the stations of Dophkah and Alush, passing straight from the Wilderness of Sin to Rephidim.

    Exo 16:1 NRSV  The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.
    Exo 17:1 NRSV  From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

    Note that in both records there are no named stations within the Wilderness of Sin. In both records, the people just enter it and exit it. Yet they spend at least a week in this wilderness, receiving the manna and quail for the first time (Ex 16).

    Note also that the three stations following their exit from the Wilderness of Sin lie in an unallocated (unnamed) region between the Wilderness of Sin and the Wilderness of Sinai. These are all important data in determining the route of the journey. Have these data been properly accounted for in proposed journeys to Jebel Musa or Jebel el-Lawz? I can tell you they have not, despite many attempts by scholars and amateurs to match these details to the features of the region.

    Jebel el-Lawz and other Saudi candidates for Mount Sinai are in particular trouble in regard to the Wilderness of Shur whose location and extent in the Northern Sinai is well known from references outside of the exodus narrative (Shur: Gen 16:7; 20:1; 25:18; 1 Sam 15:7; 27:8), Shihor: (Josh 13:3; 1 Chr 13:5; Isa 23:3). By the scenario presented in these references, the Wilderness of Shur cannot lie on the far side (east of) the Gulf of Aqaba. Thus the Red Sea crossing cannot be in the Rift Valley (the Aqaba Gulf or its isthmus), only in the Suez Gulf or its isthmus.

  • Deborah Hurn

    February 14, 2021 at 6:06 am

    I just measured the distance between the shore opposite Nuweiba on the Aqaba Gulf and Jebel al-Lawz. It is 57 linear km inland to the SE. You can look it up in Google Earth Pro: Nuweiba: 28°58’24.30″N 34°39’13.53″E, Lawz: 28°39’15.29″N 35°18’16.48″E. Check the ‘Terrain’ box in the Layers panel on the L for a 3D view, and zoom in and around (you might need a tutorial if you haven’t used GE before).

    Into this distance (just 57 km) must fit all the wildernesses and stations listed in the Exodus narrative and Numbers itinerary (see the post above this one), beginning with a 3-day journey into the Wilderness of Etham/Shur to Marah, then Elim, then the Wilderness of Sin (entry plus exit), then Dophkah, then Alush, then Rephidim, and finally, entry into the Wilderness of Sinai to camp by the mount.

    What on earth were the people doing for those three days into/along the coastal strip? The mountains of the Western Hejaz meet the coast not far S of the ‘landing’ point. There really isn’t anywhere to go but N along the coast *away from* Jebel al-Lawz which lies to the SE. Three days’ walk to the N of the ‘landing’ point would bring them to Elath (65 km). But they were still on the Red Sea shore a month after Passover (note the timeframe as explained in the post above). What, did they go turn around and come back S to go to Jebel al-Lawz? How do you fit Marah, Elim, Red Sea (again), Dophkah, Alush, and Rephidim into 57 km along one or two narrow mountain wadis (check it out online)? And what rationale would there be for the detailed description of such an unremarkable journey?

    As for the wildernesses, into that short distance of 57 km must fit the wildernesses of Etham/Shur, and of Sin, and of Sinai, and also of Paran, because after a year’s encampment the people left the Wilderness of Sinai and directly entered the Wilderness of Paran for another three-days’ journey (presumably not the same as the one in the Wilderness of Etham/Shur) (Num 10:12, 33). Also, how did the people know they were in a ‘new’ wilderness? What geographical features distinguish one wilderness from another? Looking at the terrain here I can see only two regions: the coastal strip and the rough mountains along the E side of the Aqaba Gulf.

    I am surprised to observe the serious shortcomings of this candidate. I didn’t realise the distance from the shore was so short. Even coming from the Tiran Straits to Jebel al Lawz as Rudd supposes is only 100 linear km, and the situation with distinguishing the wildernesses is no better. Jebel Musa is a far more credible candidate just from being in the Sinai Peninsula and a sufficient distance from the Red Sea crossing site (wherever it is in the Suez Isthmus) to account for the extended journey of three days, three wildernesses, and six stations. But I go for Har Karkom in the Central Negev because the itinerary details work even better for that candidate.

  • Thomas Donlon

    February 14, 2021 at 8:07 am

    Something may have impressed the HFS staff, if they posted this question. They also sell a couple of Glen A Fritz’s books. His scholarly biography on the HFS site says the following.

    Environmental Geographer – Researcher, Author

    A former surgeon, Fritz obtained a PhD in Environmental Geography as part of his quest to investigate the biblical exodus from Egypt. During his graduate work he was also able to visit the land of Midian 2003, and evaluate Jabal al-Lawz as a potential site for Mount Sinai. Realizing that the location of the miraculous sea crossing was not only a historical mystery, but the chief clue for the route to Mount Sinai, Fritz pursued the topic for his 2006 doctoral dissertation, entitled The Lost Sea of the Exodus. The latest version of this work is the 2016 Second Edition. He has also published The Exodus Mysteries of Midian, Sinai & Jabal al-Lawz (2019).

    Deborah, have you read any of those books? I am guessing he has some route mapped out in his books. Whether it is true or not I don’t know. I haven’t read his books and I’m not going to comment. And I’m wondering what changed between his first edition and his second edition. And the more expensive and thicker book published in 2019, does it have all the material in the earlier book? I’m reluctant to go buying $50 and $100 books with all my money problems and my limited time to read. Has anyone bought the book(s)? If so please offer a comment or summarize something.

    • Deborah Hurn

      February 14, 2021 at 8:45 am

      I don’t have Fritz’s books, Thomas. He is one of the eleven scholars on the HFS, so he can come on here if he wishes to discuss the exodus itinerary. I cannot imagine a scenario in which it is possible to explain how three days, three wildernesses, and six stations can lie along a route over a distance of only 57 km between the E coast of Aqaba and Jebel al-Lawz. Knowing what I do of how this works in the Sinai and Negev, I would need a lot more than arbitrary identifications (which is all I have seen so far from Fritz and other advocates for the Saudi Sinai candidates). The wildernesses must be distinct, the sites must be water-sources, the daily stages must be of an adequate length, the roads must be established ancient paths, and the location of the mount must also account for the ongoing journey to Kadesh starting with three days in the Wilderness of Paran, yet another wilderness to fit in the coastal strip along the Aqaba Gulf. Are such expectations too high, too literal? There are many scholars who think so. But if we are going to use biblical data to identify Mount Sinai, we have to use all the data and not pick and choose which details suit our preferred theory.

      • Thomas Donlon

        February 14, 2021 at 7:16 pm

        To anyone: If anyone can summarize or answer my questions (raised in my earlier comment above) about Glenn Fritz’s book, please do so. To Deborah: When I look at a map, Google Earth in particular, I acknowledge the short distance “As the crow flies.” But I see mountains and Wadis and don’t see the direct established ancient trade routes. To my eye this is a bit of a maze. I don’t know which Wadi’s are navigable for a large group of people with wagons(?). I’m not arguing for the location, I’m just arguing for why I (with my limited knowledge of all this) can “imagine” that Fritz’s itinerary might work. (I think you said you couldn’t “imagine.”)

        As I read some of your views, some explanations you have don’t easily match with the Bible as I read it. I apparently need to rethink and come to a new conclusion regarding the census values as laid out in the Bible. (This is deep stuff …transmission of the Hebrew text maybe that during the 64 year reign of the murderous and wicked King Mannasseh scribes lost enough knowledge of the scrolls that they botched some copying or “corrected” some scripture.) Then you have to interpret ten days from Kadesh to Horeb. 40 days to Horeb becomes time spent there and a return journey. Not all fits simply. The Bible is brief in in its descriptions. One book covering everything from the creation of the world to the end of the world and into eternity isn’t always super-abundant in details. A new Jerusalem coming down from space or being in orbit around the earth. For anyone with a specialized interest in a particular time frame — the beginning of the universe to prophecies about the end of the universe and beyond — each wants to know more.

        Literary structures of groupings of threes or sevens or forties how precise are these numbers?

        One person thinks of himself as a “Dumb Farmer” and other people have a focus on technology that warrants words like “geeks” or “nerds.” People with specialized knowledge but that communicate well, may at times compromise with technical accuracy, and this may make some other experts in their field furious. When God writes to us does he do so each time explicitly pointing out that he knows the beginning from the end, or does he relate to us from our perspective inside time and space.

        Jesus told the disciples “I have much to say to you but you can’t bear it now.” (John 16:12)

        John 7:51. I’d like to read other viewpoints for myself about Exodus matters. Perhaps this is a case of 2 Samual 17 where the advice of Hushai the Arkite was thought better than that of Ahithophel. (Other thoughts than yours might be wrong or misleading.)

        But maybe I’m not that interested. At one point you wondered what is the point? (You were thinking of the Saudi locations being pushed.)

        It is not easy taking knowledge from one person and giving it to another. Especially in a highly debated field with lot’s of people with lot’s of different opinions. And each viewpoint has trade-offs. Did Israel really leave Egypt on the first day after the Passover? All these interpretations and different beliefs. Supernatural or natural pillars of smoke and fire? Bitumen? Volcanoes? Emotional attachment to ideas? Each one having their “old wine” that they are reluctant to give up for the new wine? Were the Israelites leaving Egypt, a bunch or young fit slaves (who typically would have died in their thirties due to lack of healthcare and brutal working conditions) in which case they could march on adrenaline and excitement for days on end with the light of a pillar of fire, or did they have a bunch of old folk among them who would spend most of their time walking sideways trying to dig for water and barely make six miles of walking a day? Opinions differ by as much as an order of magnitude of how much ground the Israelites walked in a day. Opinions on the population that left Egypt vary by over two orders of magnitude. Each opinion then affects the viability of certain living areas whether short-term or long. And might just one mistaken assumption throw off an entire theory? Some people have different views on when humans arrived on the scene. Are “Neolithic” finds placed in the right context? Can they be dated accurately? Or are some of them Israelites? Unending fields of expertise required to confirm or discard various theories.

        You and Fritz have worked on some topics related to the Exodus for 20 years. Fritz seemed to have a primary focus on the crossing site and you have a higher focus on the true location of Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb, the location of the giving of the ten commandments.

        (I was about to go on a detour and remark about differences in the ten commandments in the torah.) As I just looked at scripture I came across a verse somewhat helpful or worth considering as we’re trying to figure out the Israelite population. I’ll post it here and then maybe quit for the day. “Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” (Exod. 23:30 NIV)

        • Deborah Hurn

          February 15, 2021 at 6:10 am

          Thomas, you should post Exodus 23:30 over on the Population of the Israelites during Exodus discussion. That verse and Deuteronomy 7:1 about seven nations of Canaan greater and mightier than Israel pretty much ends any doubts that the census numbers have been corrupted. The Israelites were a mixed population of all ages. The young, sick, and elderly could ride donkeys and wagons where available. Still, as you note, their overall progress each day was probably modest even if they travelled extra hours in the first three days.

          Yes, Google Earth shows that the granite range that bounds the eastern shore of the Red Sea gulf is a maze of steep narrow mountain wadis just like the corresponding granite range of the Southern Sinai. Granite is impermeable, unlike the limestone that runs the length of the Land of Israel and the Central Negev. Limestone absorbs and channels water and can, therefore, support vegetation for flocks and herds. Granite regions characteristically only support a few woody shrubs in the wadi floors.

  • Deborah Hurn

    February 15, 2021 at 8:41 pm

    Thomas, you asked about the sets of three. From the integrated exodus itinerary, note that there are three stations in Goshen (Rameses, Succoth, Etham), three sites at the Red Sea crossing (Migdol, Pi-hahiroth, Baal-zephon), three days in the WoEtham/WoShur, three stations on the Red Sea coast (Marah, Elim, Red Sea), and three stations approaching Mount Sinai (Dophkah, Alush, Rephidim). This pattern of three sites per region continues throughout the entire integrated itinerary from Goshen to Canaan, through 48 stations (actually 45, but three are visited twice). Many more elements in the wilderness narratives appear in sets of three… roads, wildernesses, regions, national territories, origins, destinations, campaigns, miracles, just about everything. This is a divine text. Only Almighty God can make ‘random’ terrain and historical events fit a numerical pattern.

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