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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

    May 5, 2021 at 9:11 am

    There are several threads on the exodus journey as far as the Red Sea crossing, so it is hard to choose the best one for some posts. In another thread,* I said that the 19th-century explorers were doing just great working out the route before the archaeologists got involved. William Matthew Flinders Petrie was one such… who also happened to become the first stratigraphic archaeologist! But not before he had done his best on the exodus route. I agree with Petrie on the direction of the exodus route and the locations of the early stations (more or less). He got the journey correct as far south as Elim at Ayn Musa. But from there, lacking the Har Karkom option for Mount Sinai in the Southern Negev, he has to stretch the itinerary to reach Jebel Musa in the Southern Sinai. Petrie’s assistant and companion Charles Trick Currelly wrote the last four chapters on Mount Sinai and associated regions. Perhaps Petrie was not prepared to commit to a Southern Sinai.


    Petrie, W. M. Flinders. Researches in Sinai. New York: Dutton, 1906.

    [203] The position of the Israelites is said to have been in Goshen (Gen 47:27) identified with the western end of the Wady Tumilat, where it begins to branch from the Delta. Next, they were employed in building forts in the Wady Tumilat [204] at Pithom and Rameses (Ex 1:11). The latter of these towns was their rallying point for departure (Ex 12:37), whence they travelled to Succoth, which is the Egyptian Thuku, a district near Pithom, presumably east of that place, which is now known as Tell el Maskhuta. Thence they camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness, and this is therefore somewhere near the east end of the Wady Tumilat. It seems that this is the district of Aduma, as the Bedawyn [bedouin] of this land in the time of Merneptah asked to pass the Egyptian frontier at the fort of Thuku to go to the lakes of Pithom for pasture….

    [204] The Israelites were ordered next to “turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon”… (Ex 14:2). Of these names only Pi-hahiroth has been found anciently, in Paqaheret, of which Osiris was god (Naville, Pithom, pl.8). The sea we know to have extended up thru the Bitter Lakes to near Ismailiyeh [a modern town on the N shore of Lake Timsah], for as late as Roman time this was known as the gulf of Hieroopolis, which is Pithom. Now the only Serapeum or shrine of Osiris in this region is that about 10 miles south of Ismailiyeh, described as 18 miles from Pithom-Ero in the Antonine itinerary. And thus the “turn” which the Israelites took would be a turn southwards, down the west side of the Hieroopolis Gulf [Bitter Lakes extension of the Suez Gulf]. There must have been a Migdol-tower on the hills behind them, and Baal Zephon on the opposite side of the gulf. Here they were “entangled in the land, the wilderness had shut them in,” not having rounded the head of the gulf [into Sinai], as would have been expected. This part of the gulf was probably the shallowest, as it is now dry land [205] between the Bitter Lakes and Lake Timsah. Here, therefore, was the most likely place for the “strong east wind” (Ex 14:21) to blow the waters back and leave a dry crossing. Hence the “wilderness of Shur” was the east side of the gulf between the present Bitter Lakes and Lake Timsah (Ex 15:22). The name of Shur occurs in two other passages; it is “Shur which is before Egypt” (Gen 25:18) and Hagar is said to flee to Beer-lahai-roi, between Kadesh and Bered, in the way to Shur (Gen 16:7,14). These show merely that Shur was a district somewhere on the east border of Egypt.

    The miraculous sea crossing