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Home Forums The route of the Exodus through the Red Sea The detour to a dead end – the different options Reply To: The detour to a dead end – the different options

  • Deborah Hurn

    December 30, 2020 at 8:55 pm

    The Exodus narrative and Numbers itinerary of the exodus journey both describe a “turn” between the station of Etham and the station at the site of the Red Sea crossing, Pi-hahiroth:

    Exo 13:18-20 JPS But God led the people about, by the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea; …. (20) And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.

    Exo 14:1-3 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. (3) And Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel: They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.

    Num 33:6-7 JPS 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 first implication of these texts is that the nation left the Way of the Wilderness of the Red Sea at Etham which road would otherwise have continued to (and through) the Wilderness of the Red Sea.

    The second implication is that the path taken by Israel represented some unexpected change of direction, a ‘bend’ in their route, albeit to a known and named cluster of three sites: Pi-hahiroth, Migdol, and Baal-zephon.

    The third implication is that this change of direction from the expected route took them to the Red Sea shore nonetheless.

    The fourth implication is that Israel was in some way trapped (“entangled” and “shut in”) at Pi-hahiroth such that they could not continue on their pathway out of Egypt.