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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 Reply To: What direction? – The way of the Philistines and the way of the wilderness of Yam Suph

  • 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.]