The Route of the Exodus as Envisioned by the 562 BCE Exilic Narrator 
(Augmented by Archaeological Investigations)

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

Please click here for this website's most important article: Why the Bible Cannot be the Word of God.

17 October 2003

05 Jan 2004 Revised and Updated

21 Nov..2009 Warning: I NO LONGER understand that the crossing of the Red Sea is at Clysma/Suez as preserved in early Christian traditions- its at Ras el Ballah.

Please click here for my latest map (21 Nov. 2009) showing the site of Israel's "crossing of the Red Sea" 
in the Exodus as being at Ras el Ballah (my Baal-zephon)

Note: By clicking on the blue underlined urls in this text, one is taken to maps or other related articles at this website. Please note, If you have downloaded this article to read "off-line" the blue-underlined urls embedded with the text will NOT appear and you will NOT be able to access the maps and related articles- this applies to ALL my articles posted at this website.

This is NOT simply a "re-hash" of previous scholarly identifications. It is not my intent to cover every proposal ever made on the sites, such an undertaking is beyond the scope of this brief article. My "major purpose" in this article is to make a number of NEW PROPOSALS for the various sites. Please click on the following url for "my" map showing the sites of the Exodus : "Route of the Exodus Map Sites"

For a selection of various "Route of the Exodus Maps" by other scholars like Yohanan Aharoni, Magnus Magnusson, William H. Stiebing Jr., Colin J.  Humphreys, Menashe Har-El, etc. please click here.

Advisory :This is a "work-in-progress," and I would reccomend monthly "future visits" for more updates as more maps are prepared to accompany this article.

Introduction :

I understand that the Exodus account was written in the Exile ca. 562 BCE. Although a late composition, it probably does preserve Pre-Exilic traditions going back to the Early Iron I period (ca. 1220-1100 BCE). Many scholars understand that the sudden appearance of over 200+ small agrarian villages in the Hill Country of Canaan in Iron I is the settling of the land as described in the bible under Joshua and I am in agreement with this assessment.

I also understand that two differing origins traditions are fused together and are behind the Exodus traditions. The notion of Israel wandering in the Sinai I suspect to be a Canaanite tradition, recalling Late Bronze Age and Early Iron I  Ramesside Era Egyptian Asiatic Miners working the mines of Serabit el Khadim and Har Timna and Wadi Amran in the southern Arabah, periodically returning to the Negev and Kadesh Barnea (Tel Masos) at the end of the mining season. The notion of a conquest from the east, that is, from Transjordan, is recalling invasions from Aram (Syria north of Damascus) by Arameans in Iron IA (1220-1100 BCE).

Having established via archaeology, that "most" of the places mentioned in the Pentateuchal narratives were in existence and contemporary with each other, ONLY in Late Iron II, ca. 640-587 BCE, as noted by Professors Israel Finkelstein, William Stiebing, and Burton MacDonald, one would think that ONLY Late Iron II sites should be sought for in identifying "The Route of the Exodus."

First, let me say, that the Late Iron Late II  Israelites or Judaeans (ca. the 9th-6th centuries BCE) did NOT possess the "sophisticated pottery chronologies" developed by Sir Flinders Petrie and his successors. So, these Late Iron II  peoples would have NO WAY OF KNOWING if a site or encampment in the Sinai, Negev or Arabah was Stone Age, Early Bronze II, Middle Bronze IV, Middle Bronze I, Late Bronze, Iron I or II.  

I am suggesting here that sites from ALL these periods may be conflated and fused together, so, in my frame of reference, it is "unproductive" for scholars to INSIST that the encampments of Israel, as enumerated in the bible,  in the Wilderness MUST BE Late Bronze or early Iron I.  It just may be that the Iron II  Israelites identified Stone Age sites as well as Iron Age as Israel's encampments. I cannot say if  "all"  40+ sites were actual sites, some may have been "made up" from the narrator's imagination. Undoubtedly some sites were real. 

Israel is understood to have wandered the wilderness for 40 years, and to have herds of cattle, sheep and goats. Thousands are portrayed as dying in the wilderness, struck down by plague by their outraged God. I suspect that these notions arose from observed physical phenomena, that is, the primitive seasonal dwellings of stone with their associated herd pens and burial tumuli from Stone Age to Iron Age times "became" Israel's encampments.  Because these seasonal sites or encampments exist in the hundreds and perhaps even thousands all over the Sinai, Negev and Arabah, the Iron II Israelites may have "imagined" that these phenomena had to be evidence of a great horde of people wandering the wilderness for a long period of time, building all these sites. Hence the reason Israel was said to have been in the hundred-thousands when she left Egypt. Hence, also, the reason Israel needed to be portrayed wandering these wilderness areas for an extended period of time -How else to account for all these dwellings, herd pens, and burial tumuli, which were EVERYWHERE ?

Professor Yohanan Aharoni (The Land of the Bible, A Historical Geography. Philadelphia. Westminster Press.1967, 1979) has noted that not all sites mentioned  the Hebrew Bible have been identified by scholars. Some sites have "lost" their names. Some names are recoverable in nearby land marks like a Sheikh's tomb, or a wadi, or a land-form. Some site names were transferred to nearby newer settlements in the Hellenistic era when many ancient tells were abandoned, the abandoned original site or ancient Tell taking on a different name. 

Professor Aharoni also observed that site names appearing as Arabic Toponymns, might be preserving a rendering from either Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin. My research has substantiated his observation. That is, a number of "new" proposals on my part, have identified the sites as being preserved in Arabic from the Greek form found in the Septuaginta bible and the Latin form found  in the Latin Vulgate bible.

I have NOT attempted to "document" all the following proposals as to what archaeological time period is attested, what follows is based primarily on similar word forms "perhaps" preserved in Arabic toponyms. But, IN GENERAL, the sites should NOT BE LATER than ca. 562-560 BCE, when I understand the Primary History, Genesis-2 Kings, was written.

Professor Peet (1923), a prominent Egyptologist in his day, noted that one needed "to distinguish" between the route of the REAL Exodus and the IMAGINED Exodus, noting that the biblical account was written down many centuries after the event had occurred.

Peet :

"The question of the route of the Exodus has proved a happy playing-field for the amateur. The reason is, as always in such cases, that it is a field where it is extremely difficult either to prove or disprove anything at all, so that the sage and fool may work in it almost on level terms. Even in the more scholarly discussions of the subject one point of vital importance is almost always overlooked. The whole geography of the sojourn in Egypt is, as has been demonstrated in the last chapter, anachronistic, having been imposed on the original tradition long after the events themselves. Thus we are not in a position to discover what route the Israelites really followed, except in so far as we may conjecture it by the application of common sense to the problem. All we can hope to recover is the route which the compilers of the 9th century BC and onward thought that they followed, which is a very different thing." (pp.125-126. "The Exodus." T. Eric Peet. Egypt and the Old Testament. Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1924. England: The University Press of Liverpool Ltd. 1923)

For those readers who would like to "take a stab" for themselves at identifying sites mentioned in the Exodus, be advised that you will need maps made before the modern State of Israel came into being. Maps of the Sinai, and of Palestine made under the British Mandate are the best for conducting research. Special care should be made to obtain highly detailed maps whenever possible, ideally 1:25,000 or 1:40,000 or 1:50,000 or, less satisfactorily, 1:100,000. Scales of 1:250,000 or larger just don't have the detail to pick up sites with. The problem in post 1948 maps is that the modern Israelis have changed the names of many sites, wadies and landforms. Sometimes the site's name is merely a Hebrew rendering of an Arabic name. On other occasions where scholars "thought" a biblical site "ought to be" they gave it a biblical name, which is not reflected in Arabic. Still other sites bear names not related to Arabic or biblical sites. As regards a site's name, as noted by Professor Aharoni, the name could have been preserved in Arabic from either its original Hebrew form, or a later Aramaic, Greek or Latin rendering. His chapter on "Toponyms" is excellent on the problems one faces and is a "MUST" read for anyone undertaking this interesting and challenging adventure ("The Study of Toponymy." pp.105-124. Yohanan Aharoni. The Land of the Bible. A Historical Geography. Philadelphia. Westminster Press. 1979)

Another problem is that placenames in the Sinai may not have been originally Hebrew. Its just possible that what we have in the bible is a "Hebraized rendering" of foreign names. The Hebrew may approximate the sound, but have a different spelling (or different prefixes and suffixes tagged on to the site name to make the name conform to a Hebrew word meaning). For example Moshe (Moses) is supposed to be Hebrew according to the bible, but Egyptologists assure us it's a perfectly good Egyptian name, Mose (Mes).

For research within the boundaries of ancient Israel, that is, from Dan to Beersheba, the finest map is the 1878 1:63,000, 25 sheets, highly detailed map created by the Palestine Exploration Fund still headquartered in London. The British Museum's Cartography Department is an excellent source for photocopies of maps of Egypt, the Sinai, Negev, Palestine and Trans-Jordan. Another source for photocopies of maps, but not as comprehensive as the British Museum, is the Cartography Department of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. One should first request a copy of the "map sheet index" for a given area and then request maps from this index. For up-to-date archaeological maps of the Sinai, Negev, Arabah and Israel, the publications by the Survey of Israel in Jerusalem are outstanding, identifying sites by archaeological periods. The problem ? These highly detailed maps tend to be written in Hebrew. There are any number of so-called Bible Atlases, but their maps are NOT useful for site identifications from the original Arabic. Tubingen University in Germany also produces outstanding and detailed maps of ancient sites based on the latest archaeological research, under a series commonly referred to as TAVO, or Tubinger Atlas der Vorderer Orient. The problem: They are written in German and are very expensive.

I have noted that a number of scholars have observed that, at times, the geographical locations mentioned in the narratives are confusing, that is they don't always line up correctly as they should (cf. Redford, Kraeling, MacDonald, etc.). If I am right in assuming the Primary History was written ca. 562-560 BCE in the Exile, it may just be, that the narrator had only "vague, foggy ideas at times," just exactly where these places where. That is to say, that although he could place the site within a general context like Egypt, the Sinai, Trans-Jordan and Canaan, the specific parameters of one site's juxtaposition to another doesn't always "fit." If I am correct in my suspicions, then one will have to be careful about expecting all the sites to align correctly with each other. Scholars have also noted "geographical errors" in the New Testament as well.

The reader is advised that there are a number of CONFLICTING  PROPOSALS by scholars for sites in the Exodus' itinerary. It is NOT my intent to discuss ALL these proposals  here. I highly recommend Professor Burton MacDonald's "East of the Jordan" Territories and Sites of the Hebrew Scriptures (Boston. American Schools of Oriental Research. 2000) for an in depth coverage of the various proposals for Transjordan. The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman,, has many fine articles as well (6 vols. 1992. Doubleday Publishers. New York). Perhaps one of the "most detailed" investigations into Exodus itineraries is G. I. Davies. The Way of the Wilderness, A Geographical Study of the Wilderness Itineraries in the Old Testament (London. Cambridge University Press. 1979). He discusses identification attempts by early Christians, Jews and Moslems, followed by recent scholarship. I highly recommend his work, he provides an extensive and comprehensive bibliography on the subject arranged by Author. Another useful work on site identifications is Zecharia Kallai, Historical Geography of the Bible, The Tribal Territories of Israel (Jerusalem & Leiden. The Magness Press, The Hebrew University. E. J. Brill. 1986. 543 pages). J. Simons, The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament : A Concise Commentary in XXXII Chapters. (Leiden. Brill. 1959), is another useful work. A recently released work which should also be consulted is G.S.P. Freeman-Grenville, et. al., The Onomasticon By Eusebius of Caesarea (Palestine in the Fourth Century A.D.). Jerusalem. Carta. 2003. ISBN 965-220-500-1). Eusebius was Christian who attempted to identify various places of his day, the 4th century CE, with locations appearing in the bible.

The Exodus, Myth or Fact?

Weinstein noted that there is NO evidence in the archaeological record for a massive migration of thousands of Hyksos from the Delta to Canaan, which challenges Manetho's claims. Manetho was an Egyptian historian who wrote a history of Egypt in the 3rd century BCE, in Greek for his Ptolemaic king. He claimed that the Hyksos were allowed to leave Egypt and return to Canaan. 

Weinstein (Emphasis mine):

"One explanation offered by historians and archaeologists for the biblical exodus is an Israelite folk memory of the Hyksos expulsion from the eastern Delta in the third quarter of the 16th century BC...As it turns out, one looks in vain for a substantial influx of Egyptian cultural features into late-16th-century BC Palestine. In fact, just the opposite situation seems to be true in most areas of the country...In summary, there is NO EVIDENCE for the influx of a large population from Egypt into Canaan at the transition from the Middle Bronze Age to the Late Bronze Age...These data raise the question of whether the bulk of of the Egyptianized Asiatic population of Avaris ever left Egypt or simply abandoned Tell el-Daba and other Hyksos sites and moved elsewhere in the delta and farther south." (pp.94-96. James Weinstein. "Exodus and Archaeological Reality." pp.87-103. Ernest S. Frerichs & Leonard H. Lesko. Editors. Exodus, The Egyptian Evidence. Winona Lake, Indiana. 1997)

Weinstein also noted there was NO evidence for an Exodus of thousands of Asiatics from Egypt in the Ramesside era (Emphasis mine) :

"In summary, the meager Egyptian finds at early Israelite sites [Iron I, ca. 1220-1000 BCE] as well as the Karnak reliefs and the Merenptah stela provide no data that would bolster the historical validity of the biblical account of an exodus from Egypt...The only question that really matters is whether any (non-biblical) textual or archaeological materials indicate a major outflow of Asiatics from Egypt to Canaan at any point in the 19th or even early 20th Dynasty. And so far the answer to that question is NO." (pp. 92-93. James Weinstein. "Exodus and Archaeological Reality." pp.87-103. Ernest S. Frerichs & Leonard H. Lesko. Editors. Exodus, The Egyptian Evidence. Winona Lake, Indiana. 1997)

Weinstein concludes that if there is any historical underpinings of an Exodus from Egypt, it had to have been of small group of peoples :

"If there was an historical exodus, it probably consisted of a small number of Semites migrating out of Egypt in the late 13th or early 12th century BC, ultimately settling in southwestern Canaan, where their Egyptian heritage would allow them to melt into the populace without leaving us anything to permit us to identify them as a distinctive group. But even if such an event did take place, the impact of these immigrants on the material culture of the Israelite settlements in the hill country in the 12th and 11th centuries BC would have been minimal. Were it not for the Bible, anyone looking at the Palestinian archaeological data today would conclude that whatever the origin of the Israelites, it was not Egypt." (p. 98. James Weinstein. "Exodus and Archaeological Reality." pp.87-103. Ernest S. Frerichs & Leonard H. Lesko. Editors. Exodus, The Egyptian Evidence. Winona Lake, Indiana. 1997)

Ward in his summary noted that traditions do not arise out of thin air, there must have been some kind of event that is being recalled :

"Now folk memories do not come into existence out of nothing. Folk memories, the oral tradition of a family, a tribe, or a people, arise out of something. There is a historical kernel of historic fact buried there somewhere. It may be totally obscured by later elaboration, additions, explanations, or whole episodes grafted on just because they make a good story; or as has been proposed, a faint rememberance that at one time in the past a few of those who would later become Israelites were in Egypt and migrated to Canaan, and this was associated in later tradition with some other historical age, such as the Hyksos period." (p.108. William A. Ward. "Summary and Conclusions." pp. 105-112.  Ernest S. Frerichs & Leonard H. Lesko. Editors. Exodus, The Egyptian Evidence. Winona Lake, Indiana. 1997)

It must be pointed out here, that while it is true not one single Late Bronze-Iron I encampment has ever been found of the "thousands" of Israel in the Sinai, NEITHER have "any" encampments been found of the "thousands" of Asiatic prisoners of war marched to Egypt by the warrior pharaohs of the Late Bronze Age. To be sure, Egyptian way-stations in the northern Sinai along the "way of Horus" (the biblical "way of the Philistines") have been found by the Israeli archaeologist Oren and his colleagues, but to my knowledge, NO encampments about these stations with campfires attesting to thousands on their way into an Egyptian captivity. Yet the annals of these pharaohs mention the "thousands" they herded to Egypt. Archaeologists have documented the destroyed cities of Syria-Palestine mentioned in Egyptian annals, but as to finding an actual Egyptian encampment for the thousands of troops near the destroyed sites - not one encampment has ever been found. 

Another problem in regards to an Exodus of hundreds of thousands, with their herds of cattle, sheep and goats, is that the "puny" wells of the Sinai could not support such a huge host, a few hundred people, at most, can only be supported. Investigations into the ancient climate of the Sinai reveal that it has not changed appreciably since Stone Age times. Repeated archaeological surveys of the Sinai by the Israelies in the late 1960's and into the 1970's failed to find any encampments left by Israel. The only encampments for the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age (eras asociated with the Exodus) were of Egyptian miners.

The Route of the Exodus :

Goshen, the land of  :

Most scholars understand Goshen to refer to the eastern Delta of Egypt and I concur. Naville (Edouard Naville. 
The Store-city of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus. London. Egypt Exploration Fund. 1885) localized Goshen near Bubastis and Saft el Henneh, including the west end of Wadi Tumilat, as the "land of Kes" appearing in Egyptian inscriptions at Saft el Henneh, noting that the 3rd century BCE Greek translation of the bible called the Septuaginta renders Goshen as Gesem. However, the mention of Moses confronting Pharaoh and his court at Zoan (Greek: Tanis, Arabic: San el-Hagar) suggests the biblical narrator had in mind a region to the north of Saft el Henneh, near Tell ed-Daba (Avaris ?), Khatana-Qantir (Pir-Ramesse?) and San el-Hagar. Perhaps Goshen has been preserved at the site called Faqus, north of az-Zaqaziq, and south of San al-Hagar?

The descent into Egypt under Joseph and Jacob/Israel is usually placed in the Hyksos period, the 15th Dynasty, ca. 1663-1555 BCE. The Egyptian "oppression" of Israel is usually correlated with the defeat of the Hyksos by Pharaoh Ahmose I ca. 1555/1530 BCE and the rise of the 18th Dynasty. Israel's settling in Goshen or the "land of Ramesses" suggests an anachronism for some scholars as this area would have been called the "land of Ramesses" only after the reign of Ramessess II, ca. 1279-1212 BCE.

The bible portrays Israel "dwelling unto herself" in the land of Goshen. The Egyptian practice was usually to disperse slaves the length and breadth of Egypt, not keep them concentrated in only the eastern Delta. The only time Asiatics as a large community dwelt in the eastern Delta "unto themselves" was under the Hyksos, so apparently the biblical traditions may be recollecting events as far back as Hyksos times.

The late famous American bible scholar William Foxwell Albright, proposed that Israel settled in Egypt in Hyksos times and that Israel's "Egyptian oppression" began under Ahmose I and the defeat of the Hyksos. Various dates exist for this latter event, 1580-1530 BCE. According to biblical traditions, Israel was to endure a 400 year oppression in Egypt and then obtain her freedom (Ge 15:13; Ex 12:40-41). If one subtracts 400 years from Ahmose I's defeat of the Hyksos ca. 1580-1530 BCE, an Exodus date of ca. 1180-1130 BCE is obtained in the Ramesside Era, or the 20th Dynasty. Many scholars have identified Israel's settlement of the Hill Country of Canaan with the 200+ small agarian Iron I settlements of ca. 1220-1100 BCE. Israel's "Egyptian Captivity" then, more or less co-incides with the rise and fall of the Egyptian Empire under Dyasties 18-20.

Finkelstein, an Israeli scholar, has sounded a note of caution about attempts to "precisely" date the Iron I settlements. He understands that the settlements could have been made at "any time" between the late 13th through the 11th century BCE.


"Based on the testimony of the Merneptah stele, Dever dates the foundation of the Iron I highlands to the late 13th century BCE. But, from a pure archaeological point of view, it is extremely difficult to provide a precise date for the beginning of the Iron I settlement in the highlands. Moreover, most of the sites were probably established in the late 12th, if not in the 11th century BCE." (p. 209. Note 1. Israel Finkelstein. "Ethnicity and Origin of the Iron I Settlers in the Highlands of Canaan, Can the Real Israel Stand Up?" pp. 198-209. Biblical Archaeologist. 59:4. 1996)

I suspect what Finkelstein is alluding to is that excavations have suggested an Egyptian presence of some kind in Canaan as late as Pharaoh Ramesses VI, ca. 1141-1133 BCE. This Pharaoh's statue was found at Megiddo, and Egyptian style houses exist at Beth-Shean, Lachish and Tel Masos of this era. To the degree that the bible's narrator is UNAWARE of Israel contending with Egypt in Canaan for the land, this suggests a possible settlement of AFTER 1133 BCE when Egypt had withdrawn from Canaan. Others disagree, arguing that the reason the bible is "unaware" of direct confrontations with Egypt by Israel (contra the Merneptah Stele of 1208 BCE, in which the Pharaoh claims to have defeated Israel in or near Canaan), is that the Egyptians concentrated themselves along the trade route from Egypt to Mesopotamia, via Gaza, Megiddo, and Damascus. The book of Judges does state that Megiddo and Beth-Shean were NOT conquered by Israel, and if this is correct, then perhaps the conquest began while Egypt was still in control of these two sites, suggesting a Conquest begun before 1133 BCE.

Zoan and Ramesses, anomalies  noted:

The biblical narratives suggest that Moses confronted Pharaoh and his court in the "fields of Zo`an," today associated with Tanis (a Greek rendering of Egyptian dn't). The problem though, is that Egyptologists and archaeologists have determined that Tanis was NOT a Pharaonic residence until Pharaoh Smendes established a new Dynasty, the 21st, there ca. 1069 BCE. So, Moses ca. 1540 BCE or 1446 BCE or 1250 BCE or 1174 BCE, would, most probably, NOT have encountered Pharaoh and his court "at or near" this place. Evidently Rameses was thought to be near by, and it is probably to be equated with Per-Ramesse, the Khatana-Qantir area, as noted by Wente :

"The biblical city of Rameses/Raamses should be equated with Egyptian Piramesse, the great delta residence of pharaohs of the 19th and 20th Dynasties. It is only recently that the location of Piramesses has been clearly established at Khatana-Qantir in the NE delta on the E bank of the Pelusaic arm of the Nile. Earlier attempts to locate Piramesse at Tanis or in the region of Bubastis must be rejected, despite apparent support from biblical evidence." (p. 617. Vol. 5. Edward F. Wente. "Rameses." Noel David Freedman. Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 1992)

Finkelstein, as noted earlier, above, stated that the exact date of the settlement of Canaan in Iron I cannot be determined, and could extend into the 11th century BCE. If he is correct, then an 11th century BCE settlement would align somewhat with Moses' confrontation with Pharaoh's court at Tanis/Zoan after 1069 BCE?

According to Numbers 13:22 Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. This is stated in the context of events taking place in the course of the Exodus, while sending up spies from Kadesh-barnea. We are informed by 1 Kings 6:1 that the Exodus occurred approximately 1446 BCE, providing a "historical marker" that the narrator understands that Zo`an and Hebron predate the Exodus of the 15th century BCE. The Genesis narratives give further information about Hebron being in existence in the 3rd millennium when Abraham dwelt in its vicinity (Ge. 13:18). Evidently the Pentateuch's narrator understands that Zo`an and Hebron were in existence in the 3rd millennium and certainly no later than the 2nd millennium when the Exodus is stated to have occurred.

Psalms 78:12 & 43 suggest to some commentators that God's miracles wrought on Egypt via Moses, who apparently personally confronted Pharaoh, occurred in "the fields of Zo`an" :

"In the sight of their fathers he wrought marvels in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zo`an...They did not keep in mind his power, or the day he redeemed them from the foe; when he wrought his signs in Egypt, and his miracles in the fields of Zo`an. He turned their rivers to blood..."

Scholars have determined that the earliest mention of Zoan in Egyptian records is of the 13th century BCE, and that it appears again as a minor provincial town in the 12th century. But with the establishment of the 21st Dynasty under Smendes, the town is transformed into Egypt's capital, and its "renown" is established in succeeding centuries as the country's capital, from ca. 1069 to 725 BCE, when Sais replaces it. The Canadian Egyptologist, Donald B. Redford, makes the following observations:

"Although the district 'field of the storm' (D`, whence D`nt) is known from the middle of the 13th century BC, Zo`an the town is first mentioned in the 23rd year of Ramesses XI of the 20th dynasty. It is the residence of Smendes, the officer assigned to the administration of Lower Egypt. When Ramesses died (childless ?) and Smendes succeeded him as founder of the 21st dynasty, Zo`an became the official residence, replacing the old Ramesside capital, Pi-Ramesses, 30 km. to the south...The first great builder to turn the small provincial town into a monumental city was Psusennes I , son and successor of Smendes. He laid out the enclosure and built the temple of Amun, which was enlarged by Siamun...The Hebrews became familiar with Zo`an during the period of the monarchy, when it was the Egyptian capital (Isa. 19:11,13; 30:4; Ezek. 30:14); one tradition localized the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh in the 'field of Zo`an' (Ps. 78:12,43)."  (p.1106. Vol. 6. Donald B. Redford. "Zoan," The Anchor Bible Dictionary.  New York. Doubleday. 1992)

Hoffmeier (another Egyptologist) made similar observations about Zoan:

"Psalm 78:12 an 13 locates the events of the Exodus 'in the fields of Zo`an (Tanis),' which reflects the time when Tanis was the dominant city of the northeastern Delta (ca. 1180 BC onwards), after Pi-Ramesses was abandoned." (p.210, James K. Hoffmeier. Israel in Egypt, the Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York, Oxford University Press, 1996)

From the above facts about Zoan I draw the following observations about the historicity of the Pentateuchal accounts:

If the Exodus really was ca. 1446 BCE as suggested by 1 Kings 6:1, it is difficult to understand Zo`an being portrayed as an "important city" like Hebron  in Numbers 13:22. Zo`an's rise to "fame and renown" occurred when it became the capital of Egypt from ca. 1069 to 725 BCE.

It is equally impossible to see "the fields of Zo`an" (Ps 78:12, 43) as the place where Moses confronted Pharaoh, in the 15th century BCE, as it was not a "residence of Pharoah" until after ca. 1069 BCE.

Evidently whoever wrote the account about Zoan being founded 7 years before Zoan, it wasn't Moses in the 15th century BCE (nor a narrator in the days of the Hyksos Exodus of 1540 BCE, or ca. 1250 BCE).

It appears obvious to me that whoever wrote the accounts about Zo`an, they certainly had no knowledge as to just WHEN Zoan's rise to "renown" had occurred as a capital of Egypt, warranting its favorable comparison to Hebron, a prominent town of the Judean Hill Country.

The mention of Zoan in the Pentateuch and Psalms is then an important historical marker dating these texts' composition to a period probably several hundred years after the 12th century BCE and the founding of Zoan as a capital, when the national memory had forgotten just when that city had rose to fame and world renown.

The Way of the Philistines:

We are informed that although the "way of the Philistines" was near, Israel did not use this route to return to Canaan by. Scholars have determined that this route is in fact, THE FASTEST way to get to Canaan from Egypt. Using this route, which parallels the shores of the Mediterranean sea, across the wilderness of the Northern Sinai, Pharaoh Thuthmose III (ca. 1504-1450 BCE) marched an Egyptian army from the Delta to Gaza in only 10 days, traveling 15 miles a day! The reason given in the Bible for Israel not taking this direct route home, was fear of engaging in battle the Philistines, mortal enemies of the Hebrews, who in the narrator's mind (who is writing this account ca. 562 BCE), would never let Israel cross their borders to settle in the Promised land. 

Scholars have noted that the Philistines are probably the Pelest, a tribe of Sea Peoples from the Aegean area who attempted to invade Egypt ca. 1174 BCE in the days of Pharaoh Ramesses III who records their defeat, and states that he then settled them in his fortresses, to serve Egyptian interests (perhaps alluding to their presence at Gaza, which had long been an Egyptian bastion for governing Canaan).  So, it would appear that the biblical rationale for Israel going south to the Red Sea or Yam Suph (which I identify with the Gulf of Suez) is "questionable" as NO Philistines were in Gaza ca. 1540 or 1446 or 1250 BCE, when the Exodus is believed to have occurred (depending upon which scholar one wants to follow). 

Some have proposed that the REAL reason Israel did not employ the "way of the Philistines" as the way to go home, was that the Egyptians had fortified this route since the days of Pharaoh Thuthmose III, providing stations to provision Egyptian armies which repeatedly used the road to quell Canaanite uprisings and therefore they avoided it. This reasoning is "problematic," because in the biblical narratives, Pharaoh is portrayed as ALLOWING Israel to depart, surely NO Egyptian military commander along the "way of Horus" (the Egyptian name for "the way of the Philistines") would have dared "countermand" Pharaoh's orders and attacked Israel! But, even more importantly, the biblical narrator appears to be oblivious to Egyptian garrisons being along the "Way of the Philistines," his fear is NOT Egypt, its the Philistines!

Ramesses, Pithom and Succoth, and on to the Red Sea :

Ramesses is today believed to be the area of Khatana-Qantir, in the Northeastern Delta on the east bank of the Pelusiac arm of the Nile. Wente noted that `Apiru appear in records as hauling stones for a pylon being constructed in the city. Eventually the Pelusiac branch silted up and the city was abandoned. Many of the monuments were taken to the new capital at Tanis.


"Of significance to biblical scholars is the statement in Papyrus Leiden 348 that `Apiru, a term some scholars equate with "Hebrew," were employed in "hauling stones to the great pylon" of one of Piramesse's temples...The demise of Piramesse at the end of the 20th Dynasty was probably associated with the silting up of the Pelusaic arm of the Nile, necessitating the transfer of the royal residence to Tanis in the 21st Dynasty..." (p.618. Vol. 5. Edward F. Wente. "Rameses." David Noel Freedman. Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 1992)

Egeria, a Pilgrimess who visited Egypt and the Sinai ca. the 4th or 5th century CE, understood from her guides that Ramesses was a site in Wadi Tumilat, and that it lay to the west of Pithom, which was identified with Heroopolis, based on statements made in the Septuagint's version of Joseph meeting his father Jacob in Egypt (see below for more details).

According to the biblical narratives Israel built not only Ramesses but Pithom. The latter site may be equated with Herodotus' Patumos of ca. 425 BCE (Egyptian Pi-Tum, "the abode of Tum," the god Tum or Atum), in wadi Tumilat (perhaps -tumos or -tum/thom is preserved in TUM-[ilat]?).

Professor Bietak has suggested that Pithom is probably Tell er-Retabeh, in the midst of Wadi Tumilat. This tell is sited to the east of what was once, in antiquity, a great overflow lake of one the Nile branches ( cf. p.15 for a map showing this great overflow lake. Geraldine Harris. Cultural Atlas for Young People, Ancient Egypt. New York. Facts on File. 1990). Perhaps the pools of Pi-Tum or Pr-Tum ("house of Tum"), associated with a Fortress of Pharaoh Merneptah of the Ramesside 19th Dynasty, mentioned in a papyrus, suggests the site is Tell er-Retabeh, which has Ramesside era pottery. Tell el Maskhuttah, further east of Retabeh, has NO Ramesside pottery. Bietak noted that "Late Traditions", i.e., the Septuagint ( a 3rd century BCE translation made at Alexandria, Egypt) associated Pithom and Ramesses with Heroopolis, a Ptolemaic site. Excavations by Naville at Tell el-Maskhuttah ca. 1880's uncovered some inscribed stones bearing the name Hero in Latin. The Pilgrimess, Egeria, stated that Pithom was Hero in her day, the 4th or 5th century CE. I suspect Bietak is correct, Tell er-Retabeh and its Ramesside remains or pottery debris, is Pithom, and perhaps Maskhutah might be Succoth. Retabeh, being situated east of the ancient overflow lake, would be in an excellent position to guard Egypt's eastern frontier, denying access to the Delta via the corridor through Wadi Tumilat. Retabeh is also excellently sited, to the east of this overflow lake, which at times might have evaporated into various shallow pools, denying access to the fresh waters which nomads from the Sinai would be desirous of for their flocks of sheep and goats.

Bietak on Pithom:

"Concerning the situation of the biblical Pithom, of course there had been several places with this name, but not many...The most prominent Pithom was situated in Wadi Tumilat. It is mentioned several times in connection with Tjeku (Gautier 1925-1931 II: 59-61). Especially well known is the quotation in papyrus Anastasi VI (4.16) where a group of Edomites gained temporary permission to pass the boundary and advance up to the "lakes of Pithom" in the name of Tjeku (i.e., Wadi Tumilat). This would fit well with the possible situation of the biblical Pithom which was obviously also within the reach of Beduins at the eastern edge of the Delta, after they had crossed the Sinai. The "lakes of Pithom" also fit well into the environment of the western half of the wadi, which was filled originally with an overflow lake (Bietak 1975: 88-90). The position of Pithom is also in accord with the situation of Patumos mentioned by Herodotus (II.158). It lay at the Red Sea channel which passd through the wadi. From all the sites in this region, only Tell el-Retabeh has an occupation of the Ramesside period (contemporary with Ramesses-Pi-Ramesse) and this site is also situated at the eastern end of a lake in a dominant position regarding the wadi. So we have a Pithom in the right place at the right time in a parallel situation to the Ramessess-town, each blocking one of the two important entrances of the eastern Delta. From this topographical and partly functional similarity we may understand the parallel quotation of Pithom and Ramesses in Exodus 1:11." (pp.168-169. Manfred Bietak. "Comments on the Exodus." Anson F. Rainey. Editor. Archaeological and Historical Relationships in the Biblical Period. Tel Aviv, Israel. Tel Aviv University. 1987)

Bietak was aware that in "Late Tradition," i.e., the Septuagint, that Pithom had become associated with Ptolemaic Heroopolis (Tell el Maskhutah). I have noted that the 4th or 5th century Pilgrimess, Egeria stated that Pithom was the town and fortress of Hero. Naville, who excavated the site in the 1880's found two incised inscriptions bearing the word Hero, identifying the site with Egeria's Hero/Pithom.


"Only in Late Tradition did Pithom become confused with Heroonpolis (cf. LXX Genesis 46: 28-29, u. Bohairic version)." (p.170. Note no. 6. Bietak. "Comments on the Exodus." 1987)

Professor Pritchard on a papyrus account of nomads from "Atuma" (rendered Edom in the below text) being allowed access to the pools of Pithom (pr-Tum):

"I have carried out every commission laid upon me...I have not been lax. Another communication to my [lord], to [wit: We] have finished letting the Bedouin tribes of Edom pass the Fortress [of] Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat- life, prosperity, health !-which is (in) Tjeku, to the pools of Per-Atum [of] Mer-[ne]-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat, which are (in) Tjeku, to keep them alive and to keep their cattle alive..." (p.183. "The Report of a Frontier Official." James B. Pritchard. Editor. The Ancient Near East, An Anthology of Texts and Pictures. Princeton University Press. 1958)

Egeria identifying Hero (Tell el Maskhutah) with Pithom, based on the Septuagint (note: LXX meaning "70" refers to the 70 scribes who allegedly translated the Bible from Hebrew into Greek in the 3rd century BCE at Alexandria, Egypt). Her "Gessen" is a Latin form derived from the Greek Septuagint "Gesem," Hebrew Goshen:

"When we arrived back at Clysma, we had to rest there once again...I was, of course, already acquainted with the land of Gessen [Hebrew: Goshen] from the time when I first went to Egypt. It was, however, my purpose to see all the places which the children of Israel had touched on their journey, from their going forth from Ramesses until they reached the Red Sea at a place which is now called Clysma, because of the fortress which stands there. It was, therefore, our wish to go from Clysma to the land of Gessen, specifically to the city which is called Arabia. This city is in the land of Gessen, and this territory takes its name from it, that is , the "land of Arabia" is the "land of Gessen." Though this land is a part of Egypt, it is nevertheless far better than the rest of Egypt. It is a four-day journey across the desert from Clysma, that is, from the Red Sea, to the city of Arabia. Though the journey is across the desert, each resting station has a military outpost with soldiers and officers who always guided us from fortress to fortress...We were also shown along the same route the city of Pithom, which the children of Israel had built. It is here that we crossed the frontiers of Egypt, leaving behind the lands of the Saracens. Today this same Pithom is a fortress. Heroopolis, which existed at the time Joseph went forth to meet his father Jacob, who was coming to Egypt, as it written in the book of Genesis is today a village, but a large one, one which we would call a little town. This little town has a church, shrine of martyrs, and many cells sheltering holy monks...This town, which is called Hero today, is located 16 miles from the land of Gessen and is within the frontiers of Egypt. This place is quite pleasant, for a branch of the Nile flows here. We then left Hero and came to the city called Arabia which is a city in the land of Gessen. For this reason it is written that Pharaoh said to Joseph: In the best land of Egypt, gather your father and brothers, in the land of Gessen, the land of Arabia.

Ramesses lies four miles from the city of Arabia. In order to reach the resting station of Arabia, we passed straight through Ramesses. Today this city of Ramesses is a barren plain with not a single dwelling place standing there. It is clear that it was extensive in circumference and had many buildings, for its enormous ruins are visible even today, just as they fell. There is nothing there today except a single enormous Theban stone on which are two very large carved figures, which are said to be of the Holy man Moses and Aaron. It is said that the children of Israel placed them there in honor of them...for on the day which we arrived at the resting station of Arabia...At this point we sent back the soldiers, who, through the authority of Rome, had escorted us as long as we were traveling through unsafe places; now, however, it was no longer necessary for us to trouble the soldiers, since there was a public highway through Egypt, passing by the city of Arabia and running from the Thebaid to Pelusium. We set out from there, and we traveled through the whole land of Gessen..." (pp.60-64. George E. Gingras.[Translator]. Egeria: A Pilgrimage. New York. Newman Press. 1970)

My note: Perhaps Egeria's city of Arabia is modern-day el Abbasa el Gharbia at the western end of Wadi Tumilat (cf. Ismaila. United Arab Republic. 1:250,000. 1970)?

Israel then encamps at Succoth, frequently identified with Tell el Maskhutah at the eastern end of wadi Tumilat, but the above papyrus suggests that Succoth or Tjeku is also associated with the pools of Pr-Tum and Retabeh. Recent excavations in the 1980's revealed that Maskhuttah was founded by Pharaoh Necho, ca. 610 BCE, suggesting  -if this is Succoth-  that the Exodus narratives had to have been composed AFTER Necho's time according to some scholars (cf. p.591. Vol. 4. John S. Holladay. "Maskhutah, Tell El-." David Noel Freedman, Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Doubleday. New York. 1992). Necho had evidently brought Ramesside statuary to Tell el-Maskhutah to adorn his future port, probably utilizing the canal he was building that would eventually link up with the Red Sea near Suez. Naville who had excavated this site in the 1880's noted the Ramesside statues and thought this was evidence that the site existed in Ramesside times. He proved to be wrong by the excavations carried out a hundred years later in the 1980's which revealed NO Ramesside pottery at the site, only debris from Necho's time was found, as well as the Ptolemaic era. Holladay, who excavated Tell el Maskhuta in the 1980's understands that the Exodus account can be no earlier than Necho's days _IF_ Pithom is Tell el Maskhuttah ( I suspect he is wrong, and that Bietak is correct in identifying Tell er Retabah with its Ramesside pottery debris as Merneptah's 19th Dynasty fortress guarding the pools of Pithom).


"We do not know the site's name during the Egyptian Second Intermediate period (below). Based upon inscriptions found at the site by Naville (1903:5-10;14-24 and Holladay (fc.) and upon Egyptian literary refernces interpreted in the light of the site's chronology (Redford LA 4:1056, especially note 4), it is now certain that the Egyptian name of the site established by Necho II, ca. 610 BC, was Per-Atum Twku (Pr-Itm Tkw: the "Estate of Atum in Tkw"), which came into biblical Hebrew as Pitom (English "Pithom; Ex 1:11)..." (p. 588. Vol. 4. John S. Holladay. "Maskhuta, Tell el-." David Noel Freedman. Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 1992)

"Exodus Traditions. The citation of Pithom and Ramesses as store cities built by the children of Israel has long been held to be an important piece of evidence both for dating the Exodus and for validating the antiquity of Israel's traditions about the Exodus (Ex 1:11). These conclusions now seem viable only if the presently secure site identification is taken to be erroneous. With the determination of the actual settlement patterns at Tell el-Maskhuta, the burden of the evidence now shifts drastically to favor the late dating of this passage, as long argued by D. B. Redford (Redford 1963: 415-18). This raises questions about the actual origin and purpose of the citation. Citing the evidence for a minor post-601/pre-568 BC Judaean presence, inferred from the presence of a characteristically Judaean lamp ( in this instance, handmade) and wine decanter, Holladay (1988) has suggested that the passage is an anachronistic gloss to the developing literature of the Passover Haggadah by Judaean refugees. These refugees sought sanctuary in the eastern delta following the murder of the Babylonian governor Gedaliah ben Ahikam in 582 BC (Jer 41:1-45:1). In this analysis, the factual basis for the attribution is posited to be an incorrect "archaeological inference" arising from the Judaean refugees' recent acquaintance with the evidence of earlier "Asiatic" remains at the site, particularly the rich and very un-Egyptian tombs, which would have been despoiled at every opportunity. If the Ramesside monuments were already in place (above), it is easy to see how the refugees' confusion could have been complete." (p.591. Vol. 4. John S. Holladay. "Maskhuta, Tell el-." David Noel Freedman. Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 1992)

From Succoth Israel heads for Etham, described as near the edge of the wilderness. She turns "back" (from Etham?) And encamps before the Sea, called Yam Suph in Hebrew, before some landmarks, Pi-ha-hiroth (Hebrew: pee-ha-chyiroth), Baal Zephon and Migdol.  Scholars are not in agreement where these places are located. Some suggest the eastern Delta near Lake Ballah, others, Lake Timsah (which has reeds) or the Bitter Lakes south of Lake Timsah, still others prefer Lake Bardawil, a lagoon abutting the Mediterranean Sea in the Northern Sinai.

Other scholars have noted that an Exodus route across the northern Sinai is suggested by the account of quail falling miraculously from the sky, by which God feeds his people (Nu 11:31,32). Peet favored an Exodus across the Northern Sinai, and notes with approval another scholar's observation about quail falling ONLY in the northern Sinai.


"Sir William Willcocks, in his From the Garden of Eden to the Crossing of the Jordan, p. 69, has rightly pointed out that the story of the quails shows that a northerly route was in the mind of the compiler of the narrative. These birds drop in thousands on the Mediterranean shore between Egypt and Palestine, exhausted with their long flight across the sea. Similar conditions are not found anywhere on the Gulf of Suez or the Red Sea proper." (p.137. Note 1. "The Exodus." T. Eric Peet. Egypt and the Old Testament. Boston: Small, Maynard & Company. England: The University Press of Liverpool, Ltd. 1923)

Kraeling noted the exhausted quail land near el Arish, in the northern Sinai, near the sea shore, but NOT in the Spring, the event occurs in the Fall.


"Definitely at home, however, in the region along this shore is the story that a divinely sent wind brought quails from the sea and let them fall by the camp (Nu 11:31). We have in these words an accurate description of what happens when the seasonal migration of quail occurs- unfortunately for verisimilitude, however, in Autumn, not in Spring. The sea meant can only be the Mediterranean. The neighborhood of El Masa`id is the best spot on the coast for quail. They arrive usually at dawn, flying low and dropping exhausted on the shore. They rest there and then fly southwards, not alighting again anywhere in the Sinai Peninsula. They are caught by the thousands in nets nowadays by the natives of el Arish and sold to European markets." (P. 107. "From the Sea Crossing to Sinai." Emil G. Kraeling. 
Rand McNally Bible Atlas. New York. Rand McNally & Co. 1966)

I would have to disagree with Peet (he has Israel's northern route being the whole length of the sandbar separating the Bardawil lagoon from the sea, cf. his map no. 2 at the back of his book) that the biblical narrator thought the Exodus was across the northern Sinai. The narrator stated that Israel did not leave Egypt via "the way of the Philistines," fearing war with that nation, but instead turned and went by the way of Yam Suph, translated "the Red Sea" in the Greek translation called the Septuaginta (ca. the 3rd century BCE). Peet, Kraeling and others because they understand quail alight in the Sinai ONLY in the Autumn along the Mediterranean shore from El Arish to Egypt, favor a "northern" Exodus route. However, I have determined that Quail do indeed alight in the southern Sinai during their Spring migration, which aligns with the Bible's depiction of the Exodus as occuring in the SpringI have identified 3 sites in the southern Sinai as having Spring migration quail: 1) Ayun Musa, 2) Wadi abu Gada (a headwater of Wadi al Gharandal, and 3) Ras Mohamed the southernmost tip of the Sinai peninsula. For all the details on these three locations please click on the following article: "The Poisonous Quail of Kibroth-hatta`avah."

The Israeli archaeologist, Oren reported that surveys of the northern Sinai conducted in the late 1960's and into the 1970's, "especially the sand bar" separating Lake Bardawail  from the Sea, turned up NO evidence of a presence there in Late Bronze or Early Iron I times. The Egyptians in this period stayed pretty close to "the Way of Horus", their name for the route paralleling the Mediterranean Sea to Gaza and to the SOUTH of the Lagoon, called in the Bible, "the Way of the Philistines." Most scholars have dropped the notion of Israel crossing Yam Suph at the Bardawil sandbar as a result of the negative archaeological evidence gleaned from this area. These excavations reveal that Peet (cf. Egypt and the Old Testament.1923), erred in suggesting that the biblical narrator "envisoned" the Exodus crossing this sandbar (cf. Peet's 1923 map showing Israel walking the whole length of the sandbar).

Oren (Emphasis mine):

"To the student of biblical history, North Sinai is of special significance because it was here, as argued by many scholars, that the Exodus from Egypt took place. Indeed, some of the more prominent landmarks in the Exodus itinerary have been almost universally located in North Sinai, i.e., Migdol (Tell el-Heir), Yam Suph (Lake Bardawil), Baal Zephon (Mount Cassius), etc...It should be noted in conclusion that all New Kingdom sites were recorded south of Lake Bardawil. Not a single site has so far been found on the coastal strip or on the sandbar separating the Bardawil lagoon from the Mediterranean Sea. Furthermore, very careful exploration on and around Ras Kasroun- the tradition location of classical Mount Kasios or Egyptian and biblical Baal Zephon- have produced no New Kingdom sites. In fact, the oldest settlements in this area belong to the Persian period in the 5th century or the 6th century BC at the earliest. This evidence is of the utmost importance for the controversy over the route of the Exodus in the 13th century BC. In light of the new data there seems to be no ground for placing the route of the Exodus along the Mediterranean coastal strip of northern Sinai- a theory to which many scholars subscribe. Nor is it possible to identify Baal Zephon with Ras Kasroun or biblical Yam Suph (Red or Reed Sea) with the Bardawil lagoon." (pp.182,190. Eliezer D. Oren."Land Bridge Between Asia and Africa." Beno Rothenberg et al. Sinai, Pharaohs, Miners, Pilgrims and Soldiers. Washington & New York. Joseph J. Binns, Publisher. 1979)

The Christian Pilgrimess, Egeria, who visited the Sinai ca. the 4th or 5th century CE, noted that her guides had informed her that Israel had crossed the Sea near Clysma, a Roman Fortress in Egeria's days. Archaeologists have excavated this fortress, today called in Arabic Qom Qulzoum. They were able to determine that the Romans had built Clysma over an earlier Egyptian fortress founded in the days of Pharaoh Ramesses III, ca. 1182-1151 BCE (my thanks to Professor Gregory D. Mumford for sharing information by private communication on this Ramesside fortress). The Romans, from time to time, had cleared the canal initiated by Necho and evidently completed by the Persian King Darius ca. 540 BCE and perhaps they wanted to guard its entrance, north of Clysma, with a fort (cf. the 1799 map of this area by Napoloeon's cartographers showing the entrance of the canal above Qolzoum).  

I suspect that the biblical narrator most likely envisioned the imaginary crossing of the Red Sea or Yam Suph near Clysma. It was probably the Ramesside ruined and abandoned (?) fortress which probably came to be called Migdol in the Pentateuchal account of ca. 562 BC. A Migdol is a tower-fortress, the term was borrowed by the Egyptians from the peoples of Syria-Palestine who built Migdols in their lands.  

The Aramaic scholar, Lamsa, in his English translation of the Aramaic version of the Bible known as The Peshitta, noted that according to his research and the traditions of his Aramaic speaking ancestors, that Pi-ha-hiroth which he renders from the Aramaic as THE INLET OF KHERITHA was an "inlet" of the sea, whose shoals were exposed at low tides. 

Lamsa (Exodus 14:2, 9) :

"Speak to the children of Israel that they turn back and encamp by the inlet of Kheritha, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; opposite it shall you encamp by the sea...And the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horse and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamping by the inlet of Kheritha, before Baal-Zephon." (p. 81, footnote 1, states that the inlet of Kheritha was "Dry at low tide." George M. Lamsa, [Translator]. The Holy Bible, From the Ancient Eastern Text, George M. Lamsa's Translation From the Aramaic of the Peshitta. San Francisco. Harper & Row. [1933, 1939], 1967, 1968).

Lamsa "understands" that Heritha/Kheriha is a Canal in another verse (Numbers 33:7-8)

"And they departed from Etham and encamped at the ENTRANCE OF HERITHA, THE CANAL, which is before Baal Sephon; and they encamped before Migdol. And they departed from the entrance of Heritha and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness..."

Numbers 33:8 RSV

"And they set out from before Hahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and they went a three days journey in the wilderness of Etham, and encamped at Marah.

I have noted that highly detailed 1:25,000 maps made by the British in the 1930's show a shallow bay to the northeast of the port of Suez, a bay adjacent to Clysma/Qolzoum, called in Arabic Birket el Kharira (Suez. 1:25,000. Survey of Egypt. 1934). Some scholars have suggested that Hebrew Pi-ha-Chyrioth may be derived from an Akkadian word,  Kharru, "a water channel." Thus pi means "mouth," ha means "of the," Kharru. I note that a Ship's "Channel" exists, hugging the shoreline Clysma sits upon. This channel extends northwards to the northeastern side of the shallow bay. I have not been able to determine if this channel is a feature of Nature and tidal actions, or man-made, and if the latter, when it was constructed. I suspect that Arabic Kharira is preserving the Akkadian Kharru, and the Pi-ha-Chyiroth is the water channel or ship's channel "before" or east of Migdol, the Ramesside fortress (the channel or Kharru having had its name transferred to the bay it lies in). 

Hoffmeier notes: 

"With the discovery of the canal remains in Sinai, Weissbrod and Sneh thought Pi-ha-hiroth is a Semitic term for "mouth of the canal." Just recently, Redford has come around to this position, stating: As transcribed the word resembles a Hebraized form of Akkadian origin, Pi-khiriti, "the mouth of the canal," which would be an appropriate toponym for the eastern edge of the heavily canalized eastern delta." (p.170, James K. Hoffmeier. Israel in Egypt, The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. 1996)

 Baal Zephon was explained as being a high plain according to Etheria's guides. I note a high plain north of Clysma called Gebal Saifa  just east of the "lower " Bitter Lake (cf. Ismaila. United Arab Republic. 1:250,000. 1970), could Gebal Saifa be Baal Zephon ? But in ancient Ugaritic texts Baal Saphon is a great mountain NEAR the seacoast, identified today with Gebel Aqra in Syria (mount Hazzi in Hittite traditions, Classical mons Cassius, cf. p. 89, "Yahweh and Baal." Mark S. Smith. The Early History of God, Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan. William B. Eedmans. 1990, 2002).

Some scholars have suggested that the towering Gebel Attaka, at the base of which lies Clysma, is Baal-Zephon and this is a plausible identification. A cylinder seal was found by Bietak at Tell ed Daba, believed to be the Hyksos capital called Avaris. It shows Baal standing over two mountains. Gebel Ataka is excellently situated near the sea to be Baal-Zephon. Neo-Assyrian texts invoked the god Baal of Saphon, to destroy ships at sea if their vassals broke their treaties with the Assyrians.
Maps made of the Suez area (1799-1850's) before the Suez canal was constructed, show not only the ships channel opposite Clysma, but extensive shoals or sandbars exposed at low tides. Perhaps Pharaoh's army was envisioned as being caught on these shoals in the returning morning tide ? Tides at Suez today can get as high as 5 or 6 feet, much higher than the 3-5 centimeter tides of the Mediterranean Sea, where some would place the crossing of the Red Sea near Lake Sirbonis (modern Lake Bardawil). 

Exodus suggests a morning high tide, "the sea returning to its strength" (Exodus 14:23-29 RSV)

"And in the MORNING WATCH the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the host of the Egyptians, and discomfitted the host of the Egyptians, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily...Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and upon their horsemen. So Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and THE SEA RETURNED TO ITS WONTED FLOW WHEN THE MORNING APPEARED..."

Smith has a map of the Red Sea crossing near the modern port of Suez accompany his Red Sea commentary :

"But on the whole it is becoming more probable that the place where the Israelites crossed "was near the town of Suez, on extensive shoals which run toward the southeast, in the direction of Ayun Musa (the Wells of Moses). The distance is about three miles at high tide. This is the most probable theory. Near here Napoleon, deceived by the tidal wave, attempted to cross in 1799, and nearly met the fate of Pharaoh." (cf. p. 558. "Red Sea." William Smith [Revised by F.N. and M.A. Peloubet]. A Dictionary of the Bible, Comprising its Antiquities, Biography, Natural History and Literature with the latest researches and references to the Revised Version of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan Publishing House. [1884, 1948], 1976).

I personally favor Smith's identification, noting this is the site preferred by early Christian traditions of the 4th/5th century CE (cf. the pilgrimess Egeria/Etheria's comments). I note that the tides near the port of Suez can reach in the Spring, when the Exodus is said to have occured, the height of 6 to 10 feet, while in other times of the year lower tidal ranges exist.

"...spring tides and severe southerly storms. (the range of Spring tides at Suez is 8.0 feet (2.4 meters), and Neap tides is 2.9 feet (0.9 meters)..." <>

Current tides at Suez from the Suez Transit Authority (Leth Suez Transit Ltd. 2003) :

"There is two anchorage areas..General Info : Weather: During March and April the Khamassine wind may close the port and the Suez Canal. Tides: Raise of the tide from 1.2 meters [approximately 3 feet] to 2.7 meters [approximately 6 feet] maximum." <>

Wright (1915) reported tidal height differences of 10 feet or more in his day (one could just imagine a 10 foot tidal surge hitting Pharaoh's pursuing chariots !) :

"According to the report of the Suez Canal Company, the difference between the highest and the lowest water at Suez is 10 ft. 7 inches..."(George Frederick Wright. "Red Sea." James Orr. Editor. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.1915)

The difference in reported tidal heights, 1915 vs. 2003, may have to do with the extensive "dredging of the basin" since the 1930's for modern tankers, whose heaviness requires a greater depth to prevent "bottoming-out," this dredging would affect tidal heights.

Note that March and April align somewhat with the "Spring" Exodus. One recalls here Cecil B. DeMille's movie "Exodus," starring Charlton Heston as Moses, and the great wind which God caused to appear to tear assunder the Red Sea and provide a passage for Israel from her Egyptian pursuers (did this wind also rain flesh from the skies in form of Spring migrating quail, from Africa to Europe, to feed Israel ?). A "Khamassine Wind" is a powerful desert sand-storm which can achieve wind gusts in excess of 55 miles per hour, these winds tend to be northerlies, sweeping over the shallow sgoals about Clysma-Suez they could have exposed dry land in places (cf. the 1856 Suez map for the bay's land forms, heights and depths). It appears to me that the Exodus narratives are preserving archaic memories of real physical phenomena in the Clysma/Suez vicinity.

Some scholars think that Yam Suph is Egyptian, for "sea of the reeds." But this notion has been challenged. Professor Batto suggests it's derived from an Akkadian word, meaning "End", thus he renders Yam Suph as "Sea at the end of the world," or "sea marking the end of the known world" (cf. pp.57-63. Bernard F. Batto. "Red Sea or Reed Sea ?" Biblical Archaeology Review. Vol. 10 (1984). I suspect he errs. My research into Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, suggests that it  means "Sea of the End (perishing) [of Pharaoh]."

Strong 5488
cuwph; soof, probably of Egyptian derivation; a reed, especially a papyrus, Red (Sea)

Strong 5486
cuwph, soof, a primitive root: to snatch away, i.e., to terminate:-consumehave an end, perish utterly

Strong 5487
cuwph (Chaldean word), soof, corresponding to 5486, to come to an endconsume, fulfil.

Strong 5490
cowph, sofe, from 5486, a termination- conclusion, end, hinder part

Strong 5491
cowph (Chaldean) sofe, corresponding to 5490, end

Strong 5492
cuwphah, soo-faw, from 5486, a hurricane- Red Sea storm, tempest, whirl wind, Red Sea

 As Pharaoh and his host are portrayed being destroyed by God in its waters, the Iron II  Israelites may have come to call this Sea (yam is sea in Hebrew), the "Sea of the Perishing [of Pharaoh]." The biblical narratives suggest it was a large sea. Israel is said to have marched 3 days into the wilderness of Shur, then camped on the shores of Yam Suph (Nu 33:10, 11), which suggests to me it is the Gulf of Suez being envisioned. Other biblical verses mention the seaports of Ezion-Geber and Elath on Yam Suph in the land of Edom (1 Kings 9:26), which suggests this sea --at least for the for the biblical narrator-- extended from the port of Suez and Clysma to the modern port of Aqaba. I also note that when the Jews of Alexandria, Egypt translated the Hebrew into the Greek Septuaginta they rendered Yam Suph as RED SEA. In Hellenistic times the RED SEA, Greek Erythrean Thalassos, was conceived of as extending from Egypt and the Gulf of Suez to the Persian Gulf.  According to some scholars, the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonians called the Persian Gulf Shupalitu. Perhaps the Neo-Assyrian/Babylonian form is being recalled in the Hebrew Suph (that is to say, perhaps via a "punning" the Hebrews transformed Shupalitu into Suph?)? For an excellent summation of scholarly research on the various theories about Yam Suph, I highly reccomend Sidebotham's article (Vol. 5, pp. 633-644. Steven E. Sidebotham. "Red Sea." David Noel Freedman Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 1992)

Wilson noted that a number of scholars were of the opinion that the Gulf of Suez or Red Sea in antiquity extended further north to the area of Lake Timsah and even Lake Ballah. Recent archaeological research has discounted this notion however. Egyptologists discovered a small New Kingdom port on the shores of the Sinai, near Ras Abu Zenimeh, created by the Egyptians, who ferried miners across the Gulf of Suez to work the turquoise and copper mines near Serabit el Khadim. This Late Bronze Age installation's closeness to the present level of the Red Sea revealed that in antiquity, that is, at the time of the Exodus ca. 1540 or 1446 BCE, that the sea levels were not appreciably higher from the present day. So, the sea did NOT extend to the Bitter Lakes, Lake Timsah or Lake Ballah. The only likely crossing of the Sea would be Clysma-Suez, and its extensive shoals exposed at low tide as revealed on maps made before the modern Suez Canal was created in the 19th century CE.

Wilson (1985):

"This brings us back to the still somewhat conjectural combination of ancient geography and Egyptian fortifications which had up to now prevented the Israelites from escaping: the 'Wall of the Ruler', the Sile fortress (see map, p. 84). Usually located by Egyptological geographers as in roughly the area of today's Lake Ballah, but rather more extensive, the 'Papyrus Swamp' sounds much like what is referred to in Exodus 13:8 as the Yam Suph or 'Sea of Reeds'. In the Authorized Version of the Bible, and still in the New English Bible, this has misleadingly been translated as 'Red Sea', but as most scholars are now generally agreed that the word yam, 'sea', includes inland bodies of water and suph denotes 'reed' or 'papyrus', the name signifies a sea or swamp of papyrus or reeds. Although in this particular context Yam Suph is unlikely to have meant the Red Sea (or Gulf of Suez) as understood today, which has no reeds along its banks, it is quite possible that in ancient times the whole region of the Bitter Lakes, Lake Timsah and Lake Ballah was virtually one continuous marshy northern extension to the present-day Red Sea. This would make sense of the fact that in 1 Kings 9:26 Yam Suph undeniably refers to the present-day Gulf of Suez." (p.131. Ian Wilson. 
The Exodus Enigma. London. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 1985)

Kraeling (1966) contra notions that the Red Sea extended to the Bitter Lakes :

"A time-honored assumption is the one...that the Red Sea in Moses' time extended all the way to the Bitter Lakes  -notably at high tide-  and that the crossing then took place between the gulf and the lakes. But this assumption is geologically untenable. The discovery of an Egyptian settlement on the coast of the Sinai Peninsula near Abu Zenimeh has shown that the water level has not risen more than three to six feet, if at all, in thirty-five hundred years, and the same thing was previously observed on the Gulf of Aqabah at Tell el Kheleifeh." (p. 104. "From Egypt to the Holy Mount." Emil G. Kraeling. The Rand McNally Bible Atlas. New York. Rand McNally & Company. [1956], 1966. 3rd Edition)

Professor Mumford in the course of excavating the ancient Egyptian seaport  alluded to by Kraeling near the shore of the Gulf of Suez (5 kilometers south of Ras Abu Zenimeh), dated to the 18th and 19th Dynasties, noted in passing that the Red Sea's present level was TWO METERS LOWER IN NEW KINGDOM TIMES (1560-1200 BCE). If he is correct, it is difficult to envision a crossing of the Red Sea at Lake Timsah or the Bitter Lakes, as proposed by two prominent Egyptologists, Professors Kenneth A. Kitchen and James K. Hoffmeier.

Mumford (2003),  (Emphasis mine):

""The project examined an adjacent natural waterfall area (active during winter flooding), which had previously led to a perennial pool of water beside the site. The excavation of this waterfall revealed at least 50 cm of debris accumulation in the past 50-100 years, which would suggest a much lower level for the basin during the New Kingdom. Further in the past, this waterfall probably flowed into an estuary separating El-Markha Plain from both the northern shoreline and Site 346 (along the foot of the West Sinai hills). With today's sea level occurring about 5 metres below the current waterfall base, and a deposition rate possibly as high as 50 cm per century, one can estimate that the waterfall's base lay at sea-level by 1000 AD, and presumably well-below sea-level in the New Kingdom (1550-1069 B.C.). These are conservative estimates, even after incorporating THE KNOWN 2 METRE RISE IN SEA LEVEL in the Mediterranean Sea SINCE THE END OF THE NEW KINGDOM." (El Marka # 5. Survey and Excavations Projects In Egypt, South Sinai. Professor Gary D. Mumford. 2003) <>

Baldridge (1995), who excavated at the Ptolemaic seaport of Berenike founded in the 3rd century BCE (on the west side of the Gulf of Suez), stated that the port witnessed a rise in sea level of one meter since its founding, this seems to support Mumford's observation about sea levels being lower in antiquity, NOT higher. 

Baldridge (Emphasis mine):

"Geology. Berenike was built on top of a coral terrace which is surrounded on the north and west by Wadi Mandi and on the south and east by a supratidal flat (sabkha). The tectonic uplift that raised the coral terrace to its present elevation of about two meters above sea level must have occurred before Berenike was founded; otherwise, it would have been built near sea level, which is highly unlikely. THE SEA LEVEL HAS RISEN AT LEAST ONE METER SINCE THE TOWN'S BEGINNING, PLACING ITS LOWEST WALLS AT CURRENT SEA LEVEL. The harbor was very different in appearance and extent in Roman times, as indicated by the sabkha stratigraphy revealed by coring." (Jason Baldridge. Berenike Roman Trade on the Red Sea Coast of Egypt. 1995) <>

Hoffmeier (1996) understands that in antiquity the sea levels were higher, NOT lower, as maintained by Mumford and Baldridge.

Hoffmeier (Emphasis mine) :

"...the water level of the Red Sea from the beginning to the middle of the first millennium BC was higher than at the present time, making the connection between the Gulf and Bitter Lakes closer than today. THE LEVEL OF THE RED SEA IN THE SECOND MILLENNIUM SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN EVEN HIGHER, to judge from ocean levels and melting glaciers during this period. OCEAN LEVELS REACHED A HEIGHT OVER A METER ABOVE PRESENT LEVELS AROUND 2000 BC and gradually lowered to their present level at an estimated rate of ten millimeters per year between A.D.  0 and 1000." (p. 208.  James K. Hoffmeier. Israel in Egypt, The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York. Oxford University Press. 1996)

Professor Hoffmeier (1996) in agrement with K.A. Kitchen prefers the north side of Lake Timsah for Israel's crossing of Yam Suph :

"Lake Timsah is an obvious choice for yam sup. Because they had been moving in a southeasterly direction from Pi-Ramesses to Tjeku, when they "turned back" a more northeasterly direction could have placed the Hebrews on the north side of Lake Timsah." (p. 212. "The Problem of the Re(e)d Sea." James K. Hoffmeier. Israel in Egypt, The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York. Oxford University Press. 1996)

The "major" problem with Kitchen and Hoffmeier's proposal for Lake Timsah being the site of Israel's crossing of the Red Sea is the Bible's statement that the seaports of Ezion-geber and Eloth in Edom are on the Red Sea or Yam Suph.  The other problem is that if Mumford and Baldridge are correct about the sea levels being LOWER in antiquity than today's sea levels, the Gulf of Suez could NOT have extended to Lake Timash or the Bitter Lakes.

1 Kings 9:26 RSV

"King Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom."

We have "one additional proposal" to consider regarding Israel's crossing of Yam Suph, and that is the possibility that the "historical kernel" being preserved in the biblical narratives might be recollecting events in the Late Bronze-Early Iron I  Egyptian mining camps of Serabit el Khadim and Timna. Archaeologists in 1947 discovered an Egyptian port ca. the 15th-13th centuries BCE on the western shore of the Sinai, five miles south of Ras Abu Zenima, in the plain of el-Markha (some of the pottery debris being identified with Pharaohs Hatshepsut and Thuthmose III of the 18th Dynasty). Evidently the "normal practice" was for the Egyptian miners to arrive in the Sinai via ships, crossing from ports on the opposite shore. They would return to Egypt by the same way, via ships. Could the notion that Israel "crossed Yam Suph" to get to Mount Sinai be recalling Egyptian miners crossing the Gulf of Suez via ships to reach the Sinai mines ?

Pithom, Succoth, Etham and the Red Sea (Yam Suph)


Naville (1885) identified Succoth with Theku/Tjeku/Tjekw, as a region in Wadi Tumilat in which Tell el Maskhuta is located (the east end of Wadi Tumilat). He found several inscriptions at Tell el Maskhutah that he thought were from Ramesside times (Rameses II and later) mentioning  the great god Tum or Atum (Itim), and his temple, Pi-Tum "abode of Tum," _in_ Theku (Succoth). The Papyrus Anastasi VI also mentions a fortress of Merneptah _in_ Succoth/Tjeku guarding the pools or lakes of Pi-Tum. If this fortress is Tell er-Retabeh, then the overflow lake west of Retabeh is the pools of Pi-tum, that is to say, Succoth as "a region" could just as well apply to Retabeh as to Maskhutah.


According to the Bible it was located "at the edge of the wilderness" such a statment has suggested for some that it was evidently "near the Egyptian border" and beyond it lie the arid wilderness of the Ishthmus of Suez.

Naville (1885) thought that biblical Etham was Atuma or Atima, a location appearing in Papyrus Anastasi VI. He identified "Atuma/Etham" as the wilderness east of Lake Timsah and questioned its being rendered as "Edom."

Naville (1885):

"There has been much discussion about the site of the next station, Etham, which has always been considered as a city, and even as a fortress, and the name of which has been derived from the Egyptian Khetem which means a stronghold. The name of Succoth, of a region, shows that we are not to look for a city of Etham, but for a district, a region of that name. And here we must again refer to the papyrus of Saneha. He says that, leaving the Lake of Kemuer, he arrived with his companion at a place called Atima, which could not be very far distant. Let us now consult a document of the time of the Exodus, the papyrus Anatasi VI. We find there the passage which has already been alluded to several times, We follow M. Brugsch's translation : -

"We have allowed the tribes of the Shasu of the land of Atuma to pass the stronghold of king Merneptah of the land of Succoth, towards the lakes of Pithom of king Merneptah of the land of Succoth; in order to feed themselves and to feed their cattle in the great estate of Pharaoh..." 

That is what I consider as the region of Etham, the land which the papyri call Atima, Atma, Atuma. It was inhabited by Shasu nomads, and as it was insufficient to nourish their cattle, they were obliged to ask to share the good pastures which had been assigned to the Israelites. The [Egyptian] determinative indicates that it was a border land. Both the nature of the land and its name seem to agree very well with what is said of Etham, that it was "in the edge of the wilderness." 

Rouge, Chabas, and Brugsch have transcribed the name of Atuma as Edom...It is an anachronism to admit the existence of a land of Edom at the time when the papyrus of Saneha was written, under the 12th dynasty. It would have been much too far distant, especially in the case of the Shasu. On the contrary, it is quite natural to suppose that Atuma was a region near Lake Timsah...another reason which induces me to think that Etham is a region, and not a city, is that in the book of Numbers we read of the wilderness of Etham, in which the Israelites march three days after having crossed the sea...I believe, therefore, Etham to be the region of Atuma; the desert which began at Lake Timsah and extended west and south of it, near the Arabian Gulf." (pp.23-24. "The Route of the Exodus." Edouard Naville. The Store City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus. 2d edition. London. Egypt Exploration Fund. 1885)

Naville's identification of Succoth as being a region in Wadi Tumilat is still embraced today by most scholars. His identification of Pithom with Tell el Maskhutah has its critics and challengers. The Ramesside statues he excavated at Maskhutah suggested to him that the site was founded by Ramesses II. The problem ? The site was re-excavated in the 1980's and NO Ramesside pottery debris was found. Only Hyksos debris of the 16th century BCE and 7th-6th century BCE Saitic debris of the time of Pharaoh Necho II, who was building a canal from the Nile to the Red Sea circa 610-595 BCE (as well as later Persian, Ptolemaic and Roman era pottery debris). This caused the excavator, Professor Holladay, to suggest that Necho probably had the Ramesside statues brought in on barges via his Red Sea canal and set up at Maskhutah to adorn the site. He noted that when the Egyptian capital of Pi-Ramesses in the Delta was eventually evacuated due to the Nile branch silting up, the capital was moved to Tanis ca. 1070 BCE (today's San el Hagar) and at Tanis were found many Ramesside statutes, evidently transported and re-used from the abandoned Pi-Ramsses. The ONLY site in Wadi Tumilat possessing Ramesside pottery debris was Tell er-Retabeh. So, today some scholars argue for Pithom being Retabeh, others Maskhutah.

Professor K.A. Kitchen (2003), argues that Maskhutah is Succoth and that it is NOT Pithom as thought by Naville and Holladay. He also claims that it was founded by Ramesses II, based on the statues found there by Naville (in the 1880s). As regards Holladay's claims that NO Ramesside pottery debris was found in his excavations, Kitchen's response is that the excavations were "not through enough," and it is premature to claim the site is not Ramesside, arguing that "more extensive" excavations are needed.

Kitchen :

"With which fact, we have no evidence whatsoever that Pithom (Egyptian or biblical) was ever at Tell el-Maskhuta, whereas Tjeku (Succoth) clearly was...In light of the total evidence, we can firmly dismiss the erroneous claims by some writers that Tell el-Maskhuta was Pithom, and that it was only inhabited from the Saite period (7th century) onward. Hence the Exodus narrative would reflect only conditions of the late period, not New Kingdom times. The Ramesside, Saite/Ptolemaic and Roman data combine to scotch these palpably false claims completely." (pp.258-259. Kenneth Anderson Kitchen. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan. William B. Eerdmas Publishing Company. 2003)

"Much destruction of ancient remains occurred in wadi Tumilat from the building of the Suez Canal (1859-69) and since; e.g. despoilation of Tell el-Maskhuta in the 1930s...and most Ramesside monuments found at and in Tell el-Maskhutah were removed to Ismailia at various times. The Canadian expedition failed to find anything Ramesside there because most of it had already been destroyed or removed, they did not work extensively enough, and they have consistently refused to pay sufficiently serious attention to results of previous work done there." (p. 555. note 35 to pp. 255-60. K.A. Kitchen. 2003)

Professor Kitchen suggested that Etham was probably east of Succoth which he identified with Tell el Maskhutah near the east end of Wadi Tumilat. He thus located Etham near Lake Timsah, suggesting it may be derived from Egyptian Itim/Atum (the sun-god Atum) :

"Etham. This place "on the edge of the wilderness" (Ex 13:20) has so far defied historical geographers, whether Egyptological or biblical, to find its location. It has to be further east than Tell el-Maskhuta, but probably not beyond the clutch of places near yam suph, itself most likely the Ballah/Timsah/Bitter Lakes region...It cannot be a Khetem (Egyptian word meaning "fort"), because Hebrew soft `aleph cannot transcribe Egyptian kh. It must be very close to the Bitter Lakes to give its name to the desert opposite, across those waters. Thus it may have been in the vicinity of modern Ismailia. Philologically it may (in Egyptian) have been an "isle of (A)tum" `i(w)-(I)tm, or a mound of (A)tum," (i)3(t)-(I)tm, given the frequency of Atum-names in this area." (p. 259)

Kitchen's above proposal for Etham as being near Lake Timsah, echoes a similar identification made earlier by Naville (1885), that Etham is the lands east of and near Lake Timsah.

I note that the biblical text speaks of a "wilderness of Etham," at least 3 days journey in length, alternately calling the same location the "Wilderness of Shur" (Nu 33:8; Ex 15:22).

According to Palmer (The Wilderness of Zin. 1914) the "Darb es-Shur" (the biblical "Way to Shur," cf. Ge 16:7; Ex 15:22) was a track from Beersheba to modern-day Ismailia, Egypt (at the east end of Wadi Tumilat), via the Negev sites of Khalasa, Qusaimeh and Muweilah. I note an Abu Suwayr, a height or elevation along the north side of Wadi Tumilat, just west of Ismailia and Tell el Maskhutah. Could Abu Suwayr be Shur (Hebrew Shuwr)? I note that Bietak understands that Pithom is Tell er-Retabeh (it possesses Ramesside pottery debris whereas Maskhutah doesn't), which lies east of an ancient overflow lake at the end of a branch of the Nile which penetrates the west end of Wadi Tumilat. If Retabeh is "the fortress of Merneptah guarding the Pools of Pi-Atum/Itim" (the overflow lake) mentioned in the Anastasi VI papyrus, then Abu Suwayr, just east of Retabeh might be seen as the beginning of the parched wilderness. If Etham is the east end of Wadi Tumilat, beginning at Abu Suwayr, then the east end of Wadi Tumilat is Etham (The Egyptian god Atum/Itim, whose name may be preserved in Wadi Tumilat and Lake Timsah ) ? The east end of the wadi would be an appropriate place to end Egypt's border at and begin the parched wilderness wasteland of the Isthmus of Suez. At Tell el Maskhutah was found a silver bowl dedicated to the Arab gooddess Ilat (Hebrew Elat), from the Persian period. Could Wadi Tumilat be a combining of two names in Persian times, Tum + Ilat ? If so, then perhaps wadi Tum, Atum, Atuma, Itim was Etham ?  Was the "wilderness of Etham" or "wilderness of Shur/Shuwr" another way of describing the present day Isthmus of Suez, lands to the east of Abu Suwayr and Wadi Tumilat ?

The Papyrus Anastasi VI cited above by Naville seems to suggest that the fortress of Merneptah and the pools (birkhet) of Pi-Tum are ­_IN Tjeku/Succoth_. If Tell er Retabeh is Merneptah's fortress (it being the only site possessing Rameside pottery debris) and the overflow lake west of Retabeh are the pools of Pi-Tum, then the WEST END of Wadi Tumilat is "the land of Tjeku/Succoth," and that portion of Wadi Tumilat EAST OF Retabeh is Etham (preserved as Tumilat) ? The "wilderness of Etham" then is the Isthmus of Suez, probably extending to the Sinai and the Red Sea or Gulf of Suez (rather like Mt. Sinai gives its name to a much greater geographical area the Sinai Peninsula, and the port of Suez to the Gulf of Suez).

Pi-ha-hiroth (Strong #6367  pronounces it as  pee-hah-khee-roth; Lamsa renders " inlet of Kheritha")

Kitchen understands Pi-ha-Hiroth means "mouth of the Canal" and notes traces of an ancient canal between Lakes Timsah and Ballah, locating the site to the north of Timsah :

"From Etham the Hebrews turned back, i.e., back to the northwest, as if to Rameses, whence they had come (to go southwest would have been meaningless). Then in Exodus 14:1-2 (in most translations of the Hebrew), the Hebrews were told to camp before/in front of (l-pny) Pi-Hahiroth, between Migdol and the yam (sea), to camp opposite Baal-Zephon, by the yam (sea). The nearest sea to the east end of Wadi Tumilat is of course, the former long line of lakes running from north to south from Menzaleh adjoining the Mediterranean down through the lakes El-Ballah, Timsah, and those called "Bitter," to within about sixteen miles (twenty kilometers) of the northern shore of the Red Sea (Gulf of Suez) at Suez (Clysma). There is some reason to suppose that in the second millennium the waters of the of the Suez Gulf did link up with the Bitter Lakes, intermittently or otherwise.

Kitchen suggests that the "mouth of the canal" (Pi-ha-hiroth) was where it entered either of the lakes.

"Pi-hahiroth has been well interpreted by various scholars as "Mouth of the Hahiroth," a word or name for a canal- its mouth would be where it ran into a lake or a Nile branch, in our context where such a channel ran into or out of one of the lakes." (p. 260)

He suggests the "mouth of the canal/channel" is either the south end of the ancient canal between Lake Ballah and Timsah, emptying into Timsah, or the north end of the canal where it empties into Ballah (cf. p. 20-261 for the details).

Kitchen suggests that Yam Suph means "sea of reeds," and that Ward (a fellow Egyptologist) has correctly noted that Hebrew would render Egyptian Tjuf or "reed" into Zuph NOT Suph, but that Egyptian could take Hebrew Suph and render Tjuf. He claims that Batto's suggestion that Suph means "end", or "Sea of the end" (the sea lying at the end of he world) is a questionable etymology (cf. p. 262). Kitchen suggests that Yam Suph embraces not only Lakes Timsah and/or Ballah, but by extension was applied also to the Bitter Lakes, and the Gulfs of Suez and Aqabah.

Naville notes a location called Pikeret appearing in an Egyptian stela erected in the 3rd century BCE by Ptolemy II and found at Tell el Maskhuta  (which he associates with Pi-Tum or Pithom and the area of Succoth), and suggests that Osiris' temple of Pikerhet is Pi-ha-Hiroth and it is to be identified with the Serapeum south of Lake Timsah.

"...under the reign of his Divine majesty; when it was reported to him that the abode had been fisnished for his father Tum, the great god of Succoth; the third day of the month of Athyr, His Majesty went himself to Heroopolis, in the presence of his father Tum. Lower Egypt was in rejoicing...the festival of his birth. When His Majesty proceeded to the temple of Pikerehet, he dedicated this temple to his father Tum the great living god of Succoth, in the festival of the god." (p. 17.  Edouard Naville. The Store-City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus. London. Egypt Exploration Fund. 1885)

Kitchen evidently understands Succoth to be Maskhutah based on the above stela's statement, it being found at Maskhutah. It may be possible that Succoth as a regional name "migrated" over the passage of time. In the United States, documents through the early 1820's speak of "the West" and refer to "lands east of" the Mississippi river, specifically,  "the Ohio country," but by the 1850's "the West" tends to refer to lands "west of" the Mississippi, NOT east of the river. So, the papyrus Anastasi VI of Ramesside times may have understood Succoth to be the west end of Wadi Tumilat, but by Ptolemaic times it was now the east end of the wadi at Maskhutah. Etham, Naville's Atuma, is apparently bordering Egypt, but it does NOT have access to a stable water supply, something only the Nile can provide. East of Retabeh there is the lake of Timsah and the Bitter Lakes, but these were probably in Ramesside times Sabkhats or "salt-marshes," unsuitable for herding. ONLY the presence of a freshwater canal from the Nile to the Red Sea could turn these lakes into sources of freshwater to sustain herding activity.

I suspect Naville is in error. It would be strange for the temple of Pikereth to be described as "the mouth of" in Hebrew (pe-ha-), and the nation of Israel encamped adjacent to it. I prefer Kitchen's and others suggestion, that Pi-ha-Hiroth is the mouth of a canal. But which canal? A canal betwen Lakes Timsah and Ballah or on the Red Sea between the Nile and Red Sea, via Wadi Tumilat, emptying into the Gulf of Suez near Roman Clysma?

Pharaoh Necho is generally given credit by Herodotus ( a 4th century BCE Greek historian) with beginning the Red Sea Canal, and stopping its building when warned by an oracle it could be used by Egypt's enemies to her harm. Herodotus notes that it was completed by the Persian Monarch Darius I. Darius erected five red granite stelae along the canal's length claiming he built it to link Persia with Egypt via the sea.

The problem? If Pihahiroth is the Red Sea Canal (which I suspect it is), when was its mouth created, debouching into the Gulf of Suez? Under Necho (ca. 610-595 BCE) or Darius I (ca. 521-486 BCE)?
Herodotus noted that Necho had a Red Sea port and ships, so he could have begun the canal at two locations, from Suez and _simultaneously_  from Wadi Tumilat. The Primary History, Genesis-2 Kings, ends in the reign of the Babylonian king Evil Merodach, who reigned ca. 562-560 BCE (2 Kings 25:27). As no other monarch is know by the biblical narrator, I have suggested the text was written at this time. This means that the Red Sea Canal's mouth north of the port of Suez and Roman Clysma, which is clearly rendered on Napoleon Bonoparte's cartographc map of Egypt (ca. 1798-99), had to have been constructed BEFORE 562 BCE. Necho is building this canal circa 610-595 BCE, subtract 562-560 BCE and we have a space of some 48-33 years for a canal mouth at the Red Sea for the 562-560 BCE Exilic narrator to envision Israel assembled at. 

But things get even "murkier," Breasted, a prominent Egyptologist in his day (1912) suggested that the Red Sea  Canal may have been "first built" under Pharaoh Sesostris ( Senusret III ca. 1878-1841 BCE) of the 12th Dynasty. If he's right, then all Necho and Darius did was simply "clear the canal" of its debris (windblown sand?). In this scenario, Israel, in either an Exodus of ca. 1446 BCE (cf. 1 Kings 6:1, favored by Conservative bible scholars) or a Ramesside Exodus of circa 1260 BCE (preferred by Liberal scholars), could have assembled at the mouth of the 12th Dynasty Red Sea Canal where it debouches into the shallow tidal basin above the port of Suez.


"While a fortress existed at the Delta frontier to keep out marauding Beduin, there can be no doubt that it was no more a hindrance to legitimate trade and intercourse than was the blockade against negroes maintained by Sesostris III at the second cataract.   This Suez region and likewise the Gulf of Suez were already connected with the eastern arm of the Nile by canal, the earliest known connection between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea." (p. 188. "The Twelfth Dynasty." James Henry Breasted. A History of Egypt From Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest. New York. Charles Scribner's Sons. 1912)

Breasted, speaks again of this canal being used by the woman pharaoh, Hatshepsut (ca. 1498-1483 BCE), who sent ships through it to the land of Punt which most scholars understand to lie to the south of Egypt and near the Red Sea :

"The organization and dispatch of the expedition were naturally entrusted by the queen to the chief treasurer, Neshi, in whose coffers the wealth brought back by the expedition were to be stored. With propitiatory offerings to the divinities of the air to ensure a fair wind, the five vessels of the fleet set sail early in the 9th year of the queen's reign. The route was down the Nile and through a canal leading from the eastern Delta through the wadi Tumilat, and connecting the Nile with the Red Sea. This canal, as the reader will recall (p. 188), was already in regular use in the Middle Kingdom." (p. 276. "Feud of the Thutmosids: Hatshepsut." James Henry Breasted. A History of Egypt From Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest. New York. Charles Scribner's Sons. 1912)

Breasted noted that the ships laden with goods, returned from Punt and docked at Thebes on the Nile. The account makes no mention of the ships docking at a Red Sea port, transferring their cargoes to land animals, trekking acros the desert east of the Nile and arriving at Thebes. For Breasted, this meant that the ships used a canal to get from Punt to Thebes.

"After a fair voyage, without mishap, and with no transfer of cargo as far as our sources inform us, the fleet finally moored again at the docks of Thebes." (p. 277. James Henry Breasted. A History of Egypt From Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest. New York. Charles Scribner's Sons. 1912)

If Breasted is wrong about the existence of a Middle Kingdom Red Sea canal, and Necho did not begin to build the canal's mouth near Clysma/Suez, and, if Pi-ha-hiroth is the mouth of the Red Sea Canal, the site was perhaps "slipped in" via a later redaction by Ezra ca. 445 BCE in the Persian era, AFTER Darius had constructed it?

My choice for Etham, Pi-ha-hiroth and Yam Suph? Etham is the east end of Wadi Tumilat, east of Tell er-Retabeh which I understand to be Pithom and the fortress of Merneptah. Succoth is the west end of Tumilat, including the overflow lake of the Nile and Tell er-Retabeh. Pi-ha-hiroth "the mouth of the Canal" is the mouth of the Red Sea Canal above Clysma/Suez. The date of the event? If Breasted is right about a Middle Kingdom Rd Sea Canal, probably Rameside, if Necho built the Canal's mouth, ca. 610-562 BCE. 

Although Ezra is credited by many as a redactor/editor of the "final edition" of the Primary History, ca. 445 BCE, I personnaly see _NO_ Post-Exilic "updates" by him. If he was "slipping in a Persian built canal" into the story why stop there? Why not record Babylonian kings that came after Evil Merodach (2 Kings 25:27) and slip in a "return to the land" as prophezied by Moses (Deutr 30:1-3) via God's "messiah" Cyrus, for a happy ending, praising God for his faithfulness to Moses and Israel? I just can't "envision" a Post-Exilic redactor-editor leaving the story "hanging" in Evil Merodach's reign, and Moses' prophecy being "unrealized," that God would bring the nation back from Exile.

De 30:1-3 RSV

"And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you this day, with all your heart and with all your soul; then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes, and have compassion on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you...and the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, that you may possess it; and he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers." (Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger, editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible With Apocrypha. Revised Standard Edition. New York. Oxford University Press. 1977)

Why do I favor the canal's mouth at Clysma/Suez rather than Kitchen's Lakes Ballah-Timsah? I understand that the biblical narrator envisions a great sea being torn open and then, in the morning, it returns to its strength and destroys the Egyptians whose chariots are clogged, hampering their escape. I can in no way conceive of  tidal actions of the Gulf of Suez reaching a remote location like the Bitter Lakes, Timsah or Ballah. In 1915 tidal height differences of over 10 feet were recorded by the Suez Port Authority. Today the Suez Port Authority speaks of tidal heights being about 5-6 feet, probably due to the extensive dredging of the area in modern times to allow modern heavy vessels to utilize the port facilities (19th century maps of the area before the Suez Canal was built in the late 1860s, show extensive exposed shoals at low tide where todays dredged out port facility now stands). 

WARNING -26 October 2004- I have "changed my mind" on the location of Pihahiroth and NOW agree with Kitchen that it is near Lake Timsah, Timsah being "Etham" perhaps from the Egyptian `itm, today anglicized as Tum or Atum. The crossing of the Red Sea or Yam Suph, the "Sea of Reeds," is Lake Timsah which has reeds along its shoreline. Why this turnabout on the Red Sea crossing NOT being at Clysma, the modern port of Suez? I have accepted Tjeku in Wadi Tumilat to be Succoth. The bible suggests the next site, the "wilderness of Etham" is at the edge of cultivable land. I note that a freshwater canal links the Nile to Lake Timsah, providing the lake with reed seedlings, especailly during the annual inundation. The "wilderness of Etham" is probably the Isthmus of Suez, from Timsah to the modern port of Suez, Roman Clysma. I note also that the bible calls the "wilderness of Etham" alternately the "wilderness of Shur." Palmer was told by the Arabs that the Darb es-Shur "the way to Shur," was a track from Beersheba via Halatsa, Muweilah and Bir el Hasana, ending at Ismailia on the shores of Lake Timsah. I thus identify biblical Shur, Hebrew Shuwr with a height on the north side of Wadi Tumilat called Abu Suweir, halfway between Tell er-Reabeh to its west and Tell el-Maskhuttah to its east. Thus the Isthmus of Suez, south east of Lake Timsah is both the wilderness of Shur and Etham (Ancient Egyptian `itm?). This distance, from Timsah to Suez is approximately 60 miles, or three days journey, allowing a large group on foot a rate of travel of 20 miles a day, agreeing with the bible's three day march into the wilderness of Shur/Etham. Marah, the Septuagint's Merra would be Bir el Murr on Wadi el Murr due east of the modern port of Suez. Maps show its water to be "brackish and bitter." The next site, the 12 springs of Elim (Elim meaning trees in Hebrew) would be the palm oasis of Ayun Musa and its documented 12 springs. If Elim is the oasis of Wady Gharandal, could the fact that ancient Egyptian did not have a letter "L" thus they rendered Elim into Rim, the M becoming N? I note that to the south Wadi Gharandal is a Wadi El-Hammam, could this be the "elusive" Elim? The problem with Ayun Musa's 12 springs is that all but one are BITTER, BRACKISH water. ONLY the Oasis of Gharandal has sweet drinkable water (end of 26 October 2004 Update)

Kitchen, citing Hoffmeier (a fellow Egyptologist) notes that the Red Sea in antiquity reached the Bitter Lakes and Timsah. This concept has been around since the 19th century and was proposed by Naville back in 1885. But, as noted by Professor Kraeling (1965) the finding of an Egyptian Sinatic port at el-Merkha, some 5 kilometers south of Ras Abu Zenimeh, on the east side the Gulf of Suez, very near the water's edge, revealed that the sea had NOT changed appreciably in its depths or height since the 18th Dynasty. If Hoffmeier and Kitchen are correct about the Red Sea being higher in antiquity and reaching to the Bitter Lakes and Timsah, then this Egyptian port would have been UNDER WATER, but there is no such evidence for its being underwater. This means for me, that the ONLY site that "fits" the biblical description of a "sea returning to its strength in the morning" has to be at Clysma/Suez and its 10 foot tides. Ergo, the mouth of the Red Sea Canal above Clysma, clearly delineated on Napoleon's cartographic map of the area, is Pi-ha-hiroth.

In the Bible, the head of the Gulf of Aqaba is called Yam Suph (2 Ch 8:17). Josephus, a Jewish historian of the 1st century CE, noted that this area was called in his day "the bay of Egypt" (Egypt in Hebrew being Misraim). I note an island called Jezirat Fara`un, "island of Pharaoh" and a nearby headland called Ras Masri (Masri preserving "Egypt" Misr ?), might these place names recollect an Egyptian anchorage of the Late Bronze-Early Iron I period that carried the copper ores from the mines of Timna in the Arabah to Egypt (Rothenberg noted Midianite pottery being found on the island of the same era Timna was in operation) ?  In other words, vague memories of Israel "crossing Yam Suph" to later wander in the wilderness wastes of the Sinai and Arabah, and engaged in metallurgical activities, casting objects for the Tabernacle, may recall the Egyptian miners, accompanied perhaps with Asiatic slaves (being recast as Israel), arriving in the area by "first crossing," in ships,Yam Suph (the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba) ?

Schulman, on an observation made by Rothenberg, that Ramesses III boasted of sending mining expeditions with ships to reopen the copper mines of Atika, and has suggested this may refer to Har Timna:

"It now seems probable that Ramesses' claim further on in the same text, that he dispatched an expedition by land and by sea to the great copper mines of Atika ...refers to the actual re-establishment of the Egyptian presence at Timna, including the rebuilding of the shrine." (p.145. Alan R. Schulman. "Egyptian Catalogue Conclusion." Beno Rothenberg. The Egyptian Mining Temple at Timna. Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies Institute of Archaeology, University College, London.1988)

Could the "land of Atika" be the Sinai and Arabah ? That is to say could the Egyptian Migdol, or tower fortress at Clysma built by Ramesses III, who mentions sending a flet of ships to Atika in the Harris papyrus, have been to protect an anchorage for copper laden ships from the Arabah and Sinai ? Could the fact that this Ramesside fortress lies just to the northeast of the towering Gebel Ataqah, have caused Ramesses to call the land of copper Atika ? That is to say, the copper laden ships debouching their cargoes at the fortress near Gebel Atika, came to give this mount's name to ALL of the Sinai and Arabah?

We have the phenomenon of Mount Sinai giving its name to ALL of the Sinai peninsula, why not Gebel Ataqah giving its name to ALL of same area (the copper mines of the Sinai near Serabit el Khadim, and Wadi Reqeita east of St. Catherine's monastery, and Har Timna and Wadi Amran in the southern Arabah)?

The late Israeli bible scholar and archaeologist, Yohanan Aharoni suggested that the biblical Wilderness of Paran was ALL of the Sinai, and named after Paran, Roman Pharan, the modern palm-tree oasis of Feiran, the most luxurious oasis in the whole of the Sinai. That is to say, one small site came to give its name to the whole peninsula of the Sinai.


"I venture to suggest another possibility, based on the ancient sources and supported by the bible: Paran, not Sinai, was the original name by which the whole Sinai peninsula was known in biblical times...The identification of Feiran with biblical Paran affords decisive support of course, for the contention that the mountain of God, Mount Sinai-Horeb-Paran, must be sought in one of the majestic peaks of this region...Flanking these oases were the ancient copper and turquoise mines at the entrances to which the Egyptians had left their boastful inscriptions more than a thousand years before the Exodus. In these mines worked Semitic slaves, perhaps related to the Kenites, who inscribed here the first alphabetical writings. Here they worshipped the mighty goddess called Baalath in the Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions.

We know today that the Israelites did not intend to make their way here when they left Egypt, but that Kadesh-barnea remained their chief centre through all the years of their wandering. But if the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for a whole generation, which no one doubts, is it conceivable that they always formed one compact group in their peregrinations and in their encampments ? Even if their number did not exceed a few thousand, equivalent to the present Beduin population of the Sinai desert, there was not a single spot which could have supported them more than a fewdays, not even Ain el Qudeirat, the richest of the oases in northern Sinai." (pp. 167, 169. Yohanan Aharoni. "Kadesh-Barnea and Mount Sinai." Beno Rothenberg, et al. God's Wilderness, Discoveries in Sinai. New York. Thomas Nelson & Son. 1961)

To repeat, if the Sinai peninsula can derive its name from one small site, Mount Sinai, and the "Wilderness of Paran," an alternate designation of the same peninsula according to Aharoni, from Pharan or the Feiran Oasis, why couldn't Gebel Ataqah have given its name to the same general region, the Sinai and Arabah as "the land of Atika" mentioned by pharaoh Ramesses III ?

The "new twist" is that although the Egyptians are portrayed as attempting a crossing of Yam Suph, God drowns them in its waters. Could it be that when Egypt withdrew from Timna in the days of Pharaoh Ramesses V, that the Asiatic work crew, after loading aboard Egyptian ships anchored at Jezirat el Fara`un, "the island of Pharoah," the processed copper,  watched as Yam Suph rose and "devoured" the departing Egyptians ? That is to say, as the ships sailed away, an "optical illusion" from the shore, made the sea "appear to swallow-up" the departing Egyptians as they sailed over the horizon ? Perhaps the Asiatic miners joked amongst themselves on the shore, wishing that the "optical illusion" were real and that their oppressors were being consumed by the sea ? This phenomenon became in Iron II Yam Suph "swallowing up the Egyptian oppressor, God having delivered Israel from the "Iron Furnace" ?

Shur and Etham:

If Pithom is Tell er-Retabeh, and Succoth is Tell el-Maskhutah, then perhaps Shur is Abu Shuwayr in Wadi Tumilat ? It has been observed that the caravan track called the "Darb es Shur" leaves Beersheba, and via Khalasa and Muweileh, ends at modern Ismaila near Wadi Tumilat in Egypt, so Abu Shuwayr in Wadi Tumilat would be an ideal location for Shur (Hebrew Shuwr). Could there be "multiple" Shurs, the way to Shur from Beersheba and on to Wady Tumilat and a Wilderness of Shur in the southern Sinai ?

Another possibility for the Wilderness of Shur (Hebrew: Shuwr) is Bir Abu Suweira, at the western end of the Wadi Wardan flood plain (in the Sinai), which ALL tracks heading for the Southern Sinai from Suez must cross. 

Etham (Atuma?):

Etham is said to be on the "edge of the wilderness" and after the encampment at Succoth, usually equated with Egyptian Tjeku in Wadi Tumilat. Naville (1885) , following Brugsch, understood that nomads from the "land of Atuma" asked permission to enter Egypt to water their flocks at the pools of Pr-Tum according to the Anatasi Papyrus VI. Later translators render Atuma as "Edom." If Naville's translation is correct, then perhaps the land of Atuma is preserved in Wadi Tumilat? That is to say the east end of the wadi gave its name to the "land of Atuma" ? Naville's map shows Atuma to be a portion of the Isthmus of Suez east of Lake Timsah and Wadi Tumilat.  Did Tum [ilat] or Atuma come to give its name to "all" of the Isthmus, down to the modern port of Suez and beyond, to the borders of the Sinai peninsula?

"There has been much discussion about the site of the next station, Etham, which has always been considered as a city, and even as a fortress, and the name which has been derived from the Egyptian khetem, which means a stronghold. The name Succoth [Tjeku], of a region, shows that we are not to look for a city of Etham, but for a district, a region of that name. And here we must again refer to the text of the papyrus of Saneha. He says, that leaving the Lake of Kemuera, he arrived with his companion at a place called Atima, which could not be very far distant. Let us now consult a document of the time of the Exodus, the papyrus Anatasi VI. We find there the passage which has already been alluded to several times. We follow M. Brugsch's translation : "We allowed the tribes of the Shasu of the land of Atuma to pass the stronghold of king Merneptah of the land of Succoth, towards the lakes of Pithom of king Merneptah of the land of Succoth; in order to feed themselves and to feed their cattle in the great estate of Pharaoh..." (pp. 23-24. Edouard Naville. The Store City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus. London. 1885. The Egypt Exploration Fund. 2d edition)

Israel is said to have marched 3 days into the wilderness of Etham (Nu 33:6, 8) or the Wilderness of Shur (Ex 15:22), Hebrew Shuwr (Strong # 7793). Perhaps this area was known by two interchangeable names? 

Is it possible that Abu Suwayr/Suweir _in_  Wadi Tumilat is Shuwr/Shur and that Tumilat is Etham or Atuma, and that these two sites, encountered  _before_  reaching  the "edge" of Egypt's wetlands, the overflow lake (whose depression is today called El Ha`atwa el-Saghira; is Saghira the biblical "waters of Shihor" [1 Chr 13:5], Hebrew Shiychowr/shee-khore Strong #7883) west of Tell er-Retabe, lent their names to the Isthmus of Suez, from Tumilat to the Gulf of Suez ? That is to say, Shuwr is Abu Shuwayr IN wadi Tumilat, thus Shur is IN Etham/Atuma, so both names are "interchangeable" ? Scholars have suggested that the biblical "way to Shur" from Canaan (1 Sam 27:8) is the Darb es-Shur, (today called the Jerusalem Road) which leaves Beersheba and via Halatza, and Muweileh in the Negev, crosses the Sinai to _END AT Wadi Tumilat_  and the modern city of Ismaila, near Lake Timsah, could Timsah preserve Etham ? (cf. Ismailia. United Arab Republic. 1:250,000. Sheet NH 36-6. U.S. Department of Defense. Washington, D.C. 1970).

Alternately, Etham might be preserved at the well or spring of Thamilet el Rahaiya, which lies at the eastern end of the Wadi Wardan flood plain ? At the west end of the Wardan flood plain is the spring of Suweira. Thus two different watering holes, Suweira and Thamilet,  gave their name to the same region (Thamilet el Rahaiya on the east end of Wadi Wardan on the headwater feeding into it called Wadi el-Siq. Suez. United Arab Republic. 1:250,000. 1970) ? Another possibility for the wilderness of Shur is Gebel Khoshera to the east of the track on the south side of Wadi Wardan. Khoshera is just north of Gebel el Mreir (Suez. United Arab Republic. 1:250,000. 1970). I must note here, that I suspect that either Lake Timsah or Wadi Tumilat _best favors_ the locations of Succoth, Etham and Shur, as they are located near Egypt's "eastern-most wetland," the lake west of Tell er-Retabeh, and they lie at "the end" of the Darb es-Shur/ Way of Shur to Egypt, from the Judaean Negev. Also of note here is a farm called Ezbet Hatayma west of Lake Timsah and near the eastern mouth of Wadi Tumilat whose names resembles Etham (cf. the Ismailia map. 1:250,000. 1970 NH 36-6).

Israel then arrives at Marah (Nu 33:8, 9), a watering hole that has palms near it. The bitter waters, marah means "bitter," are sweetened when a palm tree is cut down and cast into the water. The Septuagint renders Marah as Merrah. Perhaps we should seek this site in its Greek form rather than Hebrew ? I note a number of locations bearing names similar to Merrah, possessing a double "rr" such as Gebel el Mreir, Wadi Mreir, and the well of Abu Mireir, which on the map is described as being salty due to its closeness to the shoreline (Suez. United Arab Republic. 1:250,000. 1970). Perhaps the watering hole called Marah  is the well of Bir Abu Mireir which lies near Wadi Amara, perhaps Amara preserving Marah? Many scholars identify Marah with Ain Hawara, perhaps this well, if it is Marah, took its name from being near Gebel el Mreir which towers over it and the track, Mreir lying on the east side of the track (cf. Suez. United Arab Republic. 1:250,000. 1970)

Elim (Nu 33:9, 10)
Portrayed as having 70 palm trees and 12 Springs. This palm oasis can be none other than that found in Wadi Gharandel, as agreed upon by most scholars. Elim as a topographical name might be be preserved in the nearby Wadi El-Hammam to the south of the Gharandel Oasis, draining from Gebel Hammam Fara`un. Hammam Fara`un means "hot-springs of Pharaoh."(Egypt, Southern Sinai 1:100,000 Hammam Faraun. Sheet 1. 1938 Department of Survey and Mines). 

Sin, Wilderness of (Nu 33:11,12)
Perhaps preserved in the high plain of Hosan Abu Zenna, near, and just south of Wadi Gharandel, Hosan preserving Sin ? (Hammam Fara`un sheet 1. Egypt, Southern Sinai. 1938. 1:100,000 Department of Survey and Mines). Alternately, the Wilderness of Zin might be the plain of El Merkhah below Ras Abu ZenimaZenima preserving Sin  (cf. 1:100,000 Survey of Egypt. Abu Zenima. 1936) ?


"The ancient and modern pilgrims took the plain of el Merkhah which is about twelve miles long and five miles wide to be the Wilderness of Sin...For the encampment by the sea...mentioned in Numbers 33:10, the vicinity of Ras abu Zeneimeh on the Gulf of Suez...naturally suggested itself. About five miles south of that point a small Egyptian settlement of c. 1500 BC was discovered in 1947...the place could have been the site of the Hebrew encampment." (p.111. Emil G. Kraeling. Rand McNally Bible Atlas. New York. Rand McNally & Co. 1966 and  1:100,000 Survey of Egypt. Abu Zenima. 1936.)

Dophkah (Nu 33: 12)
Perhaps the well of Qattar Dafari, SE of Ras Abu Zenima  (cf. Tor, Egypt. 1:250,000 Washington, D.C. 1972) ?

Alush (Nu 33:13)
Wadi el-Sahu or nearby Sheikh Hashash East of Serabit el Khadim (cf.  Abu Zenima. Survey of Egypt. 1:100,000. 1936)?

Reph'idim (Nu 33:14)
Could Reph'idim be two words fused together ? Thus "reph" and "idim" become modern [Se]rabit el Khadim ??? p=b in Arabic ? The rock of  Horeb at Reph`idim (Ex 17:6) alludes to nearby Gebel Ghorabi/Gharabi ? Or is reph` preserved in El `Urfa, east of Gebel Ghorabi whilst hidim is preserved at Gebel Serabit el Khadim to the west of Gebel Ghorabi ? The great plain of Ramlet Himeiyir would be where Israel encamps below the eastern slopes of Gebel Ghorabi ? The plain before Ghorabi is described as "sandy with many bushes," is this where Moses encountered the burning bush at Horeb ? (cf. 1:100,000 Survey of Egypt. Abu Zenima. 1936. Also cf. Qal`et El-Nakhl, Egypt. 1:250,000 Sheet NH 36-11, Washington D.C. 1972)

Alternately (?) Reph'idim is Wadi Refayid, between the oasis of Feiran [Paran?] and Gebel Musa, appearing in 1937 as Wadi Rufaiyil? (1937 Survey of Egypt. Southern Sinai. Feiran 1:100,000) draining from Gebel Haweiti, debouching into Wadi Gharba, west of the entrance into the valley leading to the Plain of El Raha.

Sinai, (Strong #5514, Ciynay, see-nah'ee, of uncertain derivation
cf. also Strong #5512, Ciyn, seen, of uncertain derivation, Sin a desert)


Mainstream scholarship maintains that is absolutely imperative that Late Bronze or Early Iron I pottery debris be present for whatever Mount is being proposed. I have noted that ONLY the regions of Serabit el Khadim and Wadi Reqeita in the Southern Sinai as well as Har Timna (formerly Gebel Mene`iyeh in Arabic) and Wady Amran on the eastern border of the Sinai, in the Arabah, POSSESS this pottery debris, and that it is my understanding that events at these places may have been fused together.

Finkelstein and Silberman have argued, convincingly for me, that the Exodus narrative was "first composed" in the late 7th or early 6th century BCE. IT FOLLOWS, IF THEY ARE RIGHT, THAT THERE "MIGHT BE" SOME EVIDENCE OF A PRESENCE OF SOME SORT FROM LATE IRON II (640-562 BCE) IN THE VICINITY OF MOUNT SINAI, WHEREVER IT MAY BE.

Aharoni noted that at the Feiran oasis (which might preserve the biblical name Paran), Iron II sherds were found from ancient Judah. These sherds could be, then, "a marker" that the biblical account of 562 BCE is based upon reports coming from 9th/8th century BCE Judaeans, who had occasion to travel in the Southern Sinai, and who made the association of Mount Sinai with one of the peaks in the Southern Sinai, Feiran/Paran (Roman/Byzantine Pharan) lying just to the southeast of mining region of Serabit el Khadim. 

A possible clue "might" be preserved in the 562 BCE biblical account of the Exodus, to locate Mount Sinai by, it is the mention of Paran. According to Numbers 10:11-12, after a year at Mount Sinai, Israel broke camp and headed for the "Wilderness of Paran." Now, if Roman Pharan of Egeria's days (the modern oasis of Feiran) is the Paran of the bible (the "Wilderness of Paran" being not only the Oasis of Feiran but Wadi Feiran and its drainage basin), and if, I understand correctly that the Wilderness of Paran lie enroute between Mount Sinai and Kadesh-Barnea in the Negev, then just perhaps, Mount Sinai was understood to lie "to the west of" Paran/Feiran ? 

I note that east of and near Gebel Serabit el Khadim lie Gebels Ghorabi and Saniya. Perhaps Saniya preserves Mount Sinai, whilst Ghorabi/Gharabi preserves "the rock of Horeb" or Mount Horeb (in Aramaic Targums Horeb is rendered Choreb) ? Egyptian mines in the Serabit el Khadim vicinity possess the necessary Late Bronze- Early Iron debris demanded by Critical Scholars ! However, I must acknowledge that I am unaware of any archaeological debris surveys in the "immediate vicinity" of Gebels Ghorabi and Saniya that would associate these mounts with Mount Horeb/Sinai. These two mounts lie adjacent to each other just east of Gebel Serabit el Khadim. The Egyptian Hathor Temple lies to the north of these three mountains (Egypt 1:100,000. Southern Sinai. Abu Zenima. Survey of Egypt. 1936. Sheet No. 5).

Aharoni on Judaean 9th-8th century BCE sherds at the Feiran Oasis (Emphasis mine):
"However, an extremely important archaeological discovery made during the last survey of Sinai now compels us to re-examine all our previous assumptions. An expedition headed by Professor Mazar examined the tell of the desert oasis of Feiran. This is the principal oasis, stretching for a few miles , of southern Sinai. It lies at the foot of the lofty Mount Serbal and is fed by the melting snow that covers the summits of the high granite mountains in winter. A purling stream provides water for graceful date-palms, orchards and flourishing vegetable-gardens. Rising prominently in the middle of the oasis is a tell on top of which many interesting remains of a large monastery of the Byzantine period have been preserved, and scattered all about the tell, over an area of about ten acres, the remains of buildings and walls are discernable. A careful examination by the Mazar expedition of the sherds they collected revealed that, apart from numerous Roman-Byzantine and early Arab sherds, the site abounded in Nabatean sherds. In addition, the site produced sherds of the Hellenistic period, Persian sherds and some wheel-burnished sherds typical of the kingdom of Judah, belonging to Iron Age II, i.e., the period of the kings of Judah during the time of the First Temple. This, then, is the only tell discovered so far in Sinai -perhaps the only tell there at all- displaying a fairly prolonged continuity of settlement; at the very least, from the Iron Age, ca. 9th-8th centuries BC, through the Persian-Hellenistic and Roman-Byzantine periods up to the early Arab period." (p.166, Yohanan Aharoni, "Kadesh-Barnea and Mount Sinai." Beno Rothenberg. God's Wilderness, Discoveries in Sinai. New York. Thomas Nelson & Sons.1961, 1962).

Beit-Arieh's map shows six Early Bronze Age II sites in the vicinity of the Feiran Oasis as well as Early Bronze Nawamis, or burial cairns between the Oasis and Gebel Musa (cf. Vol.4. p. 1397. Itzhaq Beit-Arieh. "Southern Sinai: Map of the EB II Sites." Ephraim Stern. Editor. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. New York. Simon & Schuster. 1993). Did the 9th-8th century BCE Judaeans identify these Early Bronze sites at Feiran/Paran with Israel's encampments in the "wilderness of Paran" (remembering that they did not possess Sir Flinders Petrie's sophisticated pottery chronology to distinguish Early Bronze from Late Bronze or Early Iron sites by) ?

If Gebels Saniya and Ghorabi, west of Pharan/Feiran, were the location that the biblical narrator had in mind ca. 562 BCE, then perhaps in later ages, that is, by 4th century CE Christian times, the biblical statement suggesting Paran lie to the east of  Mount Sinai had been simply "un-noticed" or "overlooked," and thus Gebel Musa came to be the Mount of God, even though Musa lay to the east of   -and NOT west of-  Paran/Pharan/Feiran?

Aviram Perevolotsky and Israel Finkelstein have suggested that Gebel Musa and vicinity may have been chosen because of the grandeur of the mountains in this area- I would agree, also noting it is "centrally located" and in the area of some of the highest mountains of the Sinai peninsula. No doubt, the Stone Age and Early Bronze II encampments in the area were misunderstood by the Christians to be Israel's encampments (cf. Aviram Perevolotsky & Israel Finkelstein, "The Southern Sinai Exodus Route in Ecological Perspective." Biblical Archaeology Review. July-August 1985, Vol. XI, No.4)

The Pilgrimess, Egeria stated it was 35 Roman miles from Mt. Sinai to Pharan/Paran, which is the "approximate" distance between Gebel Musa and the Oasis of Feiran (biblical Paran?). She evidently understood that Mount Sinai was near Mount Horeb, that is, that they were two different mounts located near each other. Is Gebel Musa Egeria's Mt. Sinai, or is it Gebel Suna to the north of Ras Safsafa? Is Egeria's Horeb, Gebel `Arribeh? `Arribeh lies east of and adjacent to St. Catherine's Monastery (Egypt, 1:100,000. Southern Sinai. Gebel Katherina. Survey of Egypt. Sheet 9. 1934-1937).

I understand that another site, Har Timna in the southern Arabah, is ALSO Mount Horeb/Sinai. When Moses is portrayed grazing his Midianite father-in-law's sheep westward toward the wilderness, he encounters the burning bush. ONLY Har Timna has evidence of Midianite sherds, none exist at Serabit el Khadim and vicinity. So, as Jethro the Midianite is portrayed as visiting Moses at the Mountain of God ( Hebrew Har-El), Har Timna is apparently fused with Gebels Saniya, Ghorabi and Serabit el Khadim. I thus propose that events ate two different locations, the vicinity of Serabit el Khadim and Har Timna, came to fused together and are behind the Mount Horeb/Sinai scenarios.

Kib`roth-hatta'avah (Nu 33:16, 17)

At this site, God causes quail to rain down from the sky, providing flesh for his hungry people to eat. But, while the flesh is still in their teeth, they die of plague for having angered God.

From Egeria's description, Kib`roth-hatta`avah lies evidently near the mouth (north end) of a great valley, Wadi er Raha, leading to the Plain of er Raha, and it is to be identified with present day  Early Bronze II settlement near Sheikh Awad just north of  Naqb el Hawa. Awad and Hawa lie below the eastern slopes of Gebel Haweiti. Might Hatta`[avah] be Haweiti and `avah be Awad/Hawa? She noted that this valley, Wadi er-Raha, is 16 Roman miles in length, opening up to four Roman miles in width, and that it is between Pharan (the Feiran Oasis) and Gebel Musa.(Survey of Egypt. Southern Sinai. 1:100,000. cf. maps titled Feiran and Gebel Katherina. 1937). 

If I am correct in identifying Gebels Saniya and Ghoreb with Mount Sinai and the rock of Horeb, and biblical Paran to the east of them is Egeria's Pharan, then it follows that Kibroth-hattaavah might be the Early Bronze Age II ruins near Sheikh Awad, north of  Naqb Hawa, it lying "east of" Paran/Pharan/Feiran?

According to Professor Rothenberg, evidence exists of an intrusion into the southern Sinai by Early Iron individuals from Canaan, after Egypt evacuated the Sinai in the days of Ramesses VI (ca. 1141-1133 BCE). He noted their presence at Wadi Riqeita, a copper mining region east-north-east of Gebel Musa, and also in the Turquoise mining region associated with Serabit el Khadim to the west-north-west of the Feiran Oasis (Feiran being appartently associated with Pharan in Egeria's days, the 4th/5th century CE). Perhaps it is with these Early Iron I arrivals that some of the motifs of the Exodus story derives some of its elements?

Rothenberg (Emphasis mine): 

"When, about the middle of the 12th century BC the Egyptians withdrew to the Egyptian heartland and also evacuated Sinai, numerous early Iron Age newcomers appeared in the region and made their temporary homes along that route in earlier settlements that had been abandoned. Again, it was a settlement vacuum -the withdrawal of the Egyptians- that attracted new immigrants. Traces of these Early Iron Age arrivals have also been found in the copper ore region of the wadi Riqeita and in the turquoise region of the west- but we have no direct evidence so far that these people practiced mining or smelted copper. The historical, and above all the ethnic, background to the emergence of Early Iron Age pottery in Sinai has so far remained unsolved- though biblical traditions here encourage bold speculation." (pp.169-170, Beno Rothenberg, "Turquoise, Copper and Pilgrims, Archaeology of Southern Sinai." Beno Rothenberg. Sinai, Pharaohs, Miners, Pilgrims and Soldiers. Washington & New York. Joseph J. Binns, Publisher. 1979) 

Hazeroth (Nu 11:35; 12:16)

Identified by some scholars with Ain Hudera  near Wadi Sawra (Survey of Egypt. 1934. Egypt. 1:100,000. Southern Sinai. Nuweiba`. Sheet no. 7 )? Or perhaps Bir el Sawra on Wadi Watir, on the way to Kuntilla from the Sinai (Survey of Egypt. 1934. Egypt. 1:100,000. Southern Sinai. Wadi Watir. Sheet 4)? Some 42 Nawamis have been found at Hudera. They are believed to be stone houses or tombs of the Early Bronze Age. However, the local Beduin will tell visitors that Israel built them at Moses orders. One must recall my earlier observation that ancient man did NOT possess the sophisticated pottery chronologies of Sir Finders Petrie and his successors, to be able to distinguish Late Bronze or Early Iron sites from Stone Age or Middle Bronze. So, apparently the 9-8th centry BCE Judaeans at Feiran, as well as 4th-5th century CE Christians of Egeria's time "incorrectly" identified Stone Age, and Early Bronze Age encampments and edifices as built by Israel, and the Beduins are merely PRESERVING these "mistaken" notions going back in time to the 9th/8th century BCE!

Mount Seir of Deutr. 1:2 is Gebel Esh-Sha`ira? 

"It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea." (RSV) 

Kraeling found this verse didn't make any sense if Mount Seir on the east side of the Arabah valley was intended:

"The direct trip from the traditional Sinai to the neighborhood of Kadesh suits that specification very well, for Seetzen's journey took about the same time. Some difficulty, however, is caused by the qualification that the journey is "by way of Mount Seir." If Mount Seir in this verse had its usual meaning of the high Edomite country northeast of the Gulf of Aqabah, then a journey from Jebel Musa to Kadesh by that route would involve useless and arduous ascents, and could not be accomplished in the stated time. Nor would the latter suffice if the words "by way of Mount Seir" merely meant going up the Arabah, at the foot of the Edomite mountains. One explanation of this difficulty is to suppose "Mount Seir" is used here in an imprecise manner. After the Edomites were driven from their homeland, the term "Mount Seir" and "Edom" seem to have been occasionally applied to the Negeb region west of the el`Arabah (cf. Deut. 1:44; Josh 11:17; 12:7; I Chron 4:42-43)." (pp.115-116 "The Wilderness Sojourn," Emil G. Kraeling. Rand McNally Bible Atlas. New York. Rand McNally & Co., 1966) 

I suspect Mount Seir, which is encountered enroute between Mount Horeb (Mt. Sinai) and Kadesh-barnea is modern-day Gebel esh-Sha`ira, which lies to west of the track ascending northward from Mt. Sinai, past the head of the Gulf of Aqabah, eventually taking one to the vicinty of Ain Qadeis (Kadesh ?) and Ain Quseima (biblical Azmon, called Kesam in the Targum). Esh-Sha`ira lies approximately 30 miles due west of the modern port of Elat and it is a prominent landmark, being the last mountain encountered before entering and crossing the great drainage system of the Nahal Paran, which is bounded on the north by the mountainous ridge forming ancient Israel's southern border, descending from the Dead Sea (cf. grid 42C, for Gebel esh-Sha`ira, "Israel Touring Map," 1:250,000 Southern Sheet, Survey of Israel, Jerusalem, 1977) 

Ze`ev Meshel notes that the Darb es-Sha`ira, passing the western lower slopes of Gebel esh-Sha`ira has been identified as Dueteronomy 1:2's Mount Seir. I was not aware of this information when I composed the above article. I am of course, in agreement with these scholars. In my earlier proposal I have the track to the east of Gebel esh-Sha`ira, whereas Meshel has it to the west of Sha`ira. 


"Thus Z. Ilan, too, makes the original proposal to identify "the way of Mount Seir" with the Darb esh-Sha`ira which passes the foot of Gebel esh-Sha`ira (South of Thamad) and links the area of Wadi Watir and southern Sinai with Thamad. This proposal was accepted by Aharoni (Aharoni, Avi-Yonah 1977; map 10)." (p.103, "The History of Darb Ghaza- The Ancient Road to Eilat and Southern Sinai," Ze`ev Meshel. Sinai, Excavations and Studies. Oxford. Achaeopress. 2000) 
Its just possble that Mount Seir is a "late" Exilic rendering for the Hebron Hill Country. I understand that the Primary History (Genesis-2 Kings) was written by one author ca. 562/561 BCE in the Exile. If I am correct, then the Hebron Hill Country had been in Edomite hands for approximately 26 years when this account was written and the narrator was presenting the history of the nation in terms his current audience of 562 BCE would understand, that is, that Seir in 562 BCE is the former Judaean Hill Country. He waffles at times and remembers that Seir was originally to the east of the Arabah valley, south of the Dead Sea. This would explain why he has a fearful Jacob returning home from Mesopotamia to the old "homeland of his father (Beersheba, Hebron, etc.), but encountering Esau who comes from "Seir" to greet his brother. It makes no sense for Jacob to be heading from Haran to Seir and encountering Esau on the east side of the Arabah, when his destination is the Hill Country south of Jerusalem. 

This would explain the strange statement that Israel was beaten down "IN" Seir by the Amorites when she attempted to invade the Hebron Hill country from Kadesh Barnea. 

Ge 33:14,16 De 1:2, 44 Josh 11:17 
"...until I come to my lord in Seir. (Ge 33:14) 

"So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir." (Ge 33:16) 

"It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea." (De 1:2) 

"Then the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah." (De 1:44) 

"So Joshua took all that land, the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland of the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland from Mount Halak that rises toward Seir, as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon." (Josh 11:16-17) 

If Mount Halak is Gebel Umm Haleqim near modern Sede Boqer, I note that this mount is part of chain of mountains that extends SW from the Dead Sea, forming a natural border for Judah. The statement that Mount Halak rises toward Seir, might suggest that this chain of mountains, from Haleqim, is "rising" toward the Seir Hill Country of 587-562 BCE, which formerly was the Hill Country of Hebron before the Exile. In otherwords, the narrator is describing the mounatinous ridge from the Dead Sea to Gebel Haleqim as Judah's south border, and that these mounatins end at Seir, the former Hebron Hill Country west of the Dead Sea.

Alternately, there could be "multiple" Seirs. The Mount Seir of De 1:2 might be Gebel es-Sha'ira while Seir could be another name for Edom/Idumaea, extending from Kadesh-barnea (Tel Masos) to Hebron ? Thus Kadesh-barnea is said to lie "in" Edom's border, and Edom is alternately called Seir. 

"Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory." (Nu 20:14-16)

Zin/Zina,(LXX: Sena/Senna)Wilderness of   (Nu 33:36, 37)
Khasm Zanna, an elevation of "height" south of Tel Masos?

Kadesh Barnea
Kadesh is usually identified with Ain el Qudeirat, or to a lesser degree, Ain el Qadeis in the Central Negev. The Problem ? Neither site has ANY Iron IA debris; despite this archaeological anomaly, most scholars prefer to identify Kadesh with either of these sites. Click on the following url in which I argue that Kadesh Barnea is Tell Masos
"Tel Masos is Kadesh Barnea" ? Tel Masos is the "largest" and "oldest" Iron IA site in the Negev. 

The confusion in establishing Kadesh being "in" Edom's border was determined to be the Exilic Pentateuchal narrator's "waffling at times and forgetting himself;" in some passages he rightly recalls Edom lying to the east of the Arabah, but he also confusingly describes Edom's border as in the Negev, to the west of the Arabah for his 562 BCE audience, this being Edom's location for some 25 years (587-562 BCE). cf. my article titled "Kadesh Barnea is Tel Masos?" for all the details.

Mount Hor, in border of Edom (Nu 33:37)

The biblical text suggests Mt. Hor is in the border of Edom (Nu 20:2-23) and near Arad (Nu 21:1), and on "the way of the Atharim (Nu 21:1)." Perhaps the Exilic narrator of ca. 562 BCE is envisioning here Edom's southern border as being the Hill Country near Arad (the Classical era Hasmonean "Idumaea")? The attack from "Seir" in the Hill Country (De 1:44) would also be referring to the Hill Country as Edomite ca. 587-562 BCE (Nu14:39-45). After defeating Arad the region was called Hormah, meaning "destruction" (Nu 21:3). Mt. Hor, also called Moserah, is perhaps Rugm ez-Zuwera (Israeli Mizpe Zohar) ? Is Hor preserved in [ez-Z]uwer[a] ? If I am correct in identifying Kadesh with Tel Masos, which lies on Wady Beersheba, then this wady's headwaters beginning at ez-Zuwera make it "in" Edom's border, the border being Wady Beersheba from ez-Zuwera to Masos and Beersheba.

Paran, wilderness of  (Nu 12:16; 13:26)

Evidently at Kadesh-Barnea, as spies are sent from the camp to spy-out Canaan.
Wilderness of Zin at Kadesh-Barnea (Nu 13:21). Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh (Nu 13:26) Is Paran, Sahel Farah E of Tel Masos and Milh ? Kadesh is Tel Masos? That, is to say there may be "multiple" Parans, the oasis of Feiran in the southern Sinai and a Paran at Kadesh?

Valley of Eshcol in Hill Country of Canaan (Nu 13:24) is near Beit Iskahel west of Hebron (Kraeling p. 78. 
Rand McNally Bible Atlas)

Hormah near the Hill Country, near the rout of Israel by Canaanites (Nu 14:45)
Dhahret el Aramieh, a hillock east of Arad (PEF map Sheet XXV)? Or the region embracing Arad, Milh and Masos?

Arad, king of, attacks Israel at Mount Hor (Nu 20:23) as Israel comes by the way of Atharim (Nu 21:1). Atharim is modern Israeli Hathrurim, a region S of the track descending from Mizpe Zohar, and Mezad Hathrurim to the N of the track (cf. Map 17. Avraham Levi. Bazak Guide to Israel, 1979-1980. Harper & Row, Publishers. 1980)?

Israel is apparently envisioned as turning from Arad and Aramieh, and descending via the track to Hathrurim, southwards into the Arabah, and then skirting Edom's western foothills in the Pre-Exilic era, before Edom seized the Hill Country in 587 BCE ? Perhaps the Exilic narrator is "waffling at times" between Edom's post-Exilic border in the Negev and Hill Country and the Edomite border of the pre-Exilic era, before 587 BCE? Note, Arad did not exist in the Late Bronze Age, it was occupied in Early Bronze, and resettled in the Iron Age.

Zalmonah (Nu 33:41, 42)
Wadi Salamanyeh and Ain es-Salamanyeh, southeast the Ghor, that is southeast of the Dead Sea in the Arabah, near the western foothills of Edom, as noted by Aharoni (cf. Map 52. p. 48. "The Penetration into Transjordan." Yohanan Aharoni & Michael Avi-Yonah. The Macmillan Bible Atlas. New York. 1993. 3rd revised edition). Musil renders it as Wadi es-Salamani and Ajn es-Salamani (Alois Musil. 1907. Karte von Arabia Petraea. 1:300,000).

Serpent of bronze made (Nu 21:8, 9)
Apparently the serpent was made somewhere in the Arabah. Of note is a bronze serpent found in the southern Arabah at Har Timnah (Arabic: Wadi Mene`iyeh) dating from the Late Bronze-Early Iron I Ramesside era.

Punon (Nu 33:42, 43)
Fenian, on the eastside of the Arabah, near the western foothills of Edom, below Wadi Salamanyeh (cf. Aharoni), Musil's Fenan (1907). A copper mining area, possibly occupied in Iron I, and II and perhaps contemporary with Timna in the Arabah in Ramesside times.

Oboth (Nu 33:43, 44)
Khirbet el Webde? S of Punon (Feinan) and NW of Petra (Palastina Map. Hohne. 1981. Sud Blatt). 

Numbers 33: 44-45 The Septuaginta (Brenton's Translation of 1851; Emphasis mine) :

"And they departed from Oboth, and encamped in Gai, on the other side Jordan on the borders of Moab. And they departed Gai, and encamped in Daebon Gad."

Numbers 20:10-12 The Septuaginta (Brenton's Translation of 1851; Emphasis mine) :

""And the children of Israel departed, and encamped in Oboth. And having departed from Oboth, they encamped at Achalgai, on the farther side in the wilderness, which is opposite Moab, toward the east. And thence they departed and encamped in the valley of Zared." (Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton. The Septuagint With Apocrypha: Greek and English. Peaody,Massachusetts. Hendrickson Publishers. [1851 London] reprint 1986. ISBN 0-913573-44-2)

Iye-abarim near Moab's border; Iyim; LXX: AieGaiGaiaAchelgaiAchalgai (Nu 33: 44, 45) (cf. p. 106. "Aie." G.S.P. Freeman-Grenville [Translator] et. al. The Ononmasticon by Eusebius of Caesarea. Jerusalem. Carta. 2003). Perhaps Achelgai/Gaia is the plain of Arab el-Hagayahnorth of the eastern headwaters of Wadi el-Hesa (cf. the Palastina Map. Hohne. Sud Blatt. Gottingen. 1981. 1:300,000)? Some sites may be preserved in Arabic from either a Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin rendering ? el-Hagayah seems to "best" preserve the Greek [Ach-]"elgai/Gaia."
Iyim might be Qasr Muhay (reversed consonants: y-a-u-m ?)? Alternately, Iyim-Abarim might be preserved in Tell Umm-Baramil (982 meters) ? Does Umm preserve Iyim and Baram-[il] preserve abarim? Or is it Hagaya + Baramil? cf. Ernst Hohne & Hermann Wahle. Palastina, Historisch-Archaologische Karte, Karte SUD [ zwei vierzehnfarbige Blatter, 1:300,000, mit Einfuhrung und Register]. Gottingen, Deutschland. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 1981. ISBN 3-525-50157-9). Zyl cites Abel as identifying the Iron Age fortress of Mahaiy with Ijje-Abarim (p.62. A.H. Van Zyl. The Moabites. Leiden. Brill. 1960). 
Oriental Research. 2000)

Click on the following url for Part 2 of "The Route of the Exodus"