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Home Forums The route of the Exodus through the Red Sea What direction? – The way of the Philistines and the way of the wilderness of Yam Suph

  • What direction? – The way of the Philistines and the way of the wilderness of Yam Suph

  • Historical Faith Society

    December 18, 2020 at 4:34 am
  • Deborah Hurn

    May 7, 2021 at 9:28 pm
    1. The Way of the Land of the Philistines
    2. The Way of the Wilderness of the Red Sea

    Note that both these roads are named for the land of their destination, not the land of their passage.

    The choice between these two ancient roads translates to:

    1. WotLotP: an overall NE route from the Eastern Delta (towards the Med Sea coast) or
    2. WotWotRS: an overall SE route (towards the Red Sea coast).

    There is no way these two roads can be construed to head in the same direction as some 20th-century commentators have supposed.

    According to the Exodus narrative, a significant choice of direction was made at Succoth:

    Exo 13:17-18 JPS  And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said: 'Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt.'  (18)  But God led the people about, by the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea; and the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt.

    Continuing here with notes from 19th-century commentators:

    Bartlett, Samuel Colcord. “The Exodus of Israel.” <i style="font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;">The North American Review 131, no. 284 (1880): 26–43.

    [26] The minute accuracy of the text is inconsistent with any later date.

    [35] Goshen unquestionably included Wady Tumilat, the valley of the modern canal and railway, a narrow, fertile strip that shoots east of the Nile…. The general line of march is clearly indicated through Succoth to Etham “on the edge of the wilderness” that lies east of Egypt, then by a ‘turn’ to the Red Sea by a route probably not far from the line of the present railway from Ismailia to Suez.

    [35] Much has been heard since 1874 of Herr Brugsch’s theory of a northeasterly journey, not through the Red Sea, but along the Serbonian Bog. The theory had been advanced by Hermann von der Hardt (1726) and was advocated at large by Schleiden many years ago…. The objections seem insuperable, while the arguments are specious rather than satisfactory…. [36] A fundamental objection to his theory is the fact that Yam Suph of the Hebrew, which he would transmute into the Serbonian Bog, was definitely settled by a body of Jewish scholars at Alexandria, who wrote in Greek when the Egyptian was a living tongue, and who in the Septuagint, finished two hundred years B. C., distinctly give it as the Red Sea.

    [36] The alternative choice [to the NE route] is the southern march toward the Gulf of Suez. Here, some writers (M. Ritt, M. de Lesseps, and others) have [37] endeavored to find a crossing of the marshes or by some narrow track (such as the heights of Serapeum or of Chaloof), assuming that the Red Sea then extended as far as the Bitter Lakes, if not to the Crocodile Lake.

    [38] [SCB thinks Mount Sinai is Jebel Musa, hence his stretching of the exodus route as far as the Suez Gulf. He has a deep Suez crossing but avoids any description of it.]

    [40] Beyond Sinai the route of the Israelites is difficult to trace, for want of absolutely certain landmarks in the narrative.

    [41] [At this date, Bartlett does not know for certain where Kadesh is.]

    • Deborah Hurn

      May 8, 2021 at 8:43 am

      It is a mystery why the Way of Shur is not mentioned as an option for the exodus from Egypt. This is the only road between Egypt and Canaan named in the patriarchal narratives (Gen 16:7) and is almost certainly the road by which Jacob and his family entered Goshen (Gen 46:28-9). The Way of Shur runs directly east from Goshen, passing through Kadesh and Beersheba to Canaan. Its terrain is better suited to pastoral nomadic travel because it runs south of the sandy coastal plain where there is no pasture for flocks.

      Nonetheless, having instead taken the Way of the Wilderness of the Red Sea and crossed the Red Sea, the Israelites find themselves in the Wilderness of Shur anyway:

      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.

      That same wilderness is called the Wilderness of Etham in the Numbers itinerary:

      Num 33:8 KJV And they departed from before Pihahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness,<b style="font-size: 1rem;"> and went three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham, and pitched in Marah.

      Etham and the Wilderness of Etham appear nowhere else in scripture other than the story of the exodus. If Etham was a site and region to the NE of Egypt (according to those who advocate for an NE exodus towards the Med coast), one would expect the name to appear again in connection with Shur which is frequently located in Northern Sinai according to other biblical texts (Shur, Gen 20:1; 25:18; 1 Sam 15:7; 27:8; Shihor/Sihor, Josh 13:3; 1 Chr 13:5; Isa 23:3; Jer 2:18).

      The only scenario that fulfils what *is* and *is not* stated in the exodus narrative is a SE exodus from Succoth and a Red Sea crossing in the mid-isthmus border lakes region. When Israel emerged from the water they were in the southern portion of the Wilderness of Shur at its interface with the Wilderness of Etham which runs S to the Wilderness of the Red Sea (the Suez coastal plain). The nation camped again on the Red Sea before entering the Wilderness of Sin (Num 33:10-12). No other theory of the exodus journey can account for this detail.

  • Deborah Hurn

    May 13, 2021 at 11:19 am

    So here is a summary of a SE exit from Egypt and an exodus journey across the Central Sinai to Har Karkom as Mount Sinai. The Way of the Wilderness of the Red Sea from Succoth at Tell el-Maskhuta would pass SE to Etham on the Serapeum ridge and thence ESE down the E side of the isthmus to the Red Sea coast. But instead of crossing the isthmus SE at Etham into Sinai, Israel turns S to Pi-hahiroth on the NW shore of the Great Bitter Lake (at the mouth of the purported pharaonic canal). A wind-setdown effect along the N shore of the GBL effected by the strong SE Hamsin (wind) is feasible. After crossing the isthmus between the lake and the displaced floodwater, Israel rejoins the WotWotRS, passing SSE thru Marah at Bir el-Murrah and S through Elim at Uyn Musa, to an unnamed camp on the Red Sea (Suez coast) at Ras Sidr. The month is made up with R&R on the Suez coast at Elim and Ras Sidr.

    Then Israel leaves the WotWotRS and crosses the Central Sinai (Wilderness of Sin) via Wadi Sidr and the Darb ash-Shawi (this road unnamed in the Bible), along which there are no surface water-sources, hence no named stations. After leaving the Tih plateau (Central Sinai), Israel passes NNE through 3 named stations in the Paran wadiDophkah, Alush, and Rephidimtowards Har Karkom at Mount Sinai. The Wilderness of Sinai is the Negev Highlands region (S of the Ramon Crater) of which Karkom is the S-most promontory. Thus, with a SE exodus, a Bitter Lakes crossing, and the Wilderness of Sin as the long-haul journey across the Peninsula, the biblical travel noticesnames, waters-sources, features, and distances–line up very well with the biblical accounts. No stretching or sketching. All known roads, sites, and regions.

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