The Route of the Exodus: Proposals for Yam Suph (Lake Timsah), Etham/Shur (Tumilat/Timsah/Abu Suwayr), Marah/LXX: Merrah The Bitter Lakes (Murrah), Elim (Ayun Musa's 12 springs) Wilderness of Sin (El Sanawi/Hosan abu Zenna/Abu Zenimeh), Dophka (Ras Umm Qatafa, Wadi el Foqa, Qattar Dafari), Alush (Bir El-Guweisa), Rephidim (Serabit el Khadim), Horeb/Choreb (Gebel Ghorabi/Gharabi), 
Mount Sinai (Gebel Saniya), 
Paran (Feiran Oasis).

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

Please click here for Why the Bible Cannot be the Word of God

                                         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)

                                                        Revisions through 15 April 2010

Before you even begin to read the below article which is an attempt to plot the route of the Exodus, do yourself a big favor and click here for my article explaining why all attempts to plot the Exodus route is just "chasing after the wind."

For maps which accompany this article please click on this url:  Maps of Etham to Sin and in addition an "overview map" is available showing the route from Goshen in Egypt to Mount Nebo in Transjordan please click on the following url: Route of the Exodus Map Sites.

For a selection of "Route of the Exodus Maps" by other scholars like Yohanan Aharoni, William H. Stiebing Jr., Magnus Magnusson, Ian Wilson, Menashe Har-el, etc. please click here.

Goshen (Faqus near Qantir and Tell ed-Daba/Avaris?)

Hoffmeier noted that "Goshen" and "the Land of Ramesses" appears to be  interchangeable terms for a single location. I note that most scholars understand Ramesses to be at Qantir and this is near Faqus. Could Faqus preserve an ancient Egyptian Pa-Qus/Pi-Qus/Per-Qus and  be Goshen?


"The use of Rameses in Genesis 47:11 instead of Goshen demonstrates that the two were understood interchangeably, and Rameses points to the 19th and 20th Dynasty as the period when these narratives were written or edited 

(James K. Hoffmeier. Israel In Egypt, The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. 1996. Oxford University Press. New York).

Succoth (Egyptian Tjeku?):

In earlier articles posted at this website I noted that scholars were in agreement that Egyptian Tjeku was Hebrew Succoth, and that it lie somewhere in Wadi Tumilat. The papyrus Anastasi VI (13th century B.C.) stated that bedouins with cattle were being allowed to pass the fortress of Merneptah to obtain water at birkhet pr-itm ("the pools of Pr-Tum"). Excavations in Wadi Tumilat by the Canadians in the late 1980s revealed that ONLY Tell er Retabeh possessed Ramesside pottery debris. Tell el Maskhutah (east of Retabeh) did NOT possess Ramesside pottery debris, it had Hyksos (16th century B.C.), an occupation gap, Saitic (ca. after 610 B.C.), Persian, Ptolemaic and Roman. I have accordingly identified Succoth as a region embracing the great overflow lake west of Retabeh and the latter site as being Merneptah's fortress, guarding the approach to this "birkhet" or freshwater lake. I also have proposed that the east end of Wadi Tumilat is Etham of the Exodus narratives, that is to say, that portion of the wadi east of Merneptah's fortress at Retabeh. Papyrus Anastasi VI stated that Merneptah's fortress and birkhet pr-itm were IN TJEKU, so I understand that the west end of the wadi is the region of Succoth.

Hoffmeier on Succoth/Tjeku:

"...Redford and Goedicke have suggested that 'the fortress (p3 htm) of Merneptah-hetep-hir-maat which is [in] Tjeku' was located at Tell el-Retabeh, fourteen kilometers west of Maskhuta." 

(p. 181. James K. Hoffmeier. Israel In Egypt, The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. 1996. Oxford University Press. New York))

"Hans Goedicke, who directed excavations at Tell el-Retabeh in the late 1970s, has concluded that it was an important defensive site during Ramesses II's reign for the protection of Egypt's borders. Because of Holladay's findings at Tell el-Maskhuta [no Ramesside pottery debris found at the latter site] and his work at Tell el-Retabeh, Goedicke is convinced that "There was only one major settlement in the eastern Wadi Tumilat during the New Kingdom, and that has to be equated with Tell el-Rataba." (p. 120. Hoffmeier)

Hoffmeier suggests that Papyrus Anastasi 6 indicates that Tjeku was a location possessing horses and possibly chariots, which might have been used in pursuit of Israel at Pi-ha-Hiroth:

"Here Tjeku is described as a place where horses and their grooms were stationed, and the city determinative is written with Tjeku, suggesting a particular location, not a general region, was intended. Kitchen suggests that the 'three waters of Pharaoh' may be one and the same as the 'pools (brkt) of Pithom of Merneptah which is [in] Tjeku' of Papyrus Anastasi 6 (54-61)...It is from such a fortress that we might expect the Egyptian chariotry, which would be stationed to defend Egypt, to have been dispatched in pursuit of the Israelites (Exod 14:6-8).

Further support for Tjeku being a militarized zone is found in military titles associated with officers assigned to defend that area. The earliest reference to Tjeku is found in the 18th Dynasty. This text from Sinai is dated the 7th year of Thutmose IV (ca. 1393 BC). It names one Amenemhet who was 'troop commander (hry pdt) of Tjeku." (p. 180. Hoffmeier)

Etham (Atuma? Pr-itm?)

Naville (1885) proposed that the nomads mentioned in Papyrus Anastai VI were of the "land of Atuma" NOT "the land of Edom" as favored in most translations, and that Atuma was the lands east of and adjacent to Lake Timsah. More recently, two Egyptologists, K. A. Kitchner (2003) and James K. Hoffmeier (1996) have also suggested Etham is somewhere near the east end of Wadi Tumilat and that the crossing of the Red Sea (Yam Suph, "Sea of Reeds") is perhaps Lake Timsah. 


"...Manfred Gorg has suggested that Etham is shortened writing for the Egyptian p(r) itm, that is, Pithom (Ex 1:11), but with the initial element pi omitted as in the case of (Pi) Raamses in the Pentateuch. He follows P. Weimer in believing that a late redactor is responsible for the topnymy in the Pentateuch. It will be recalled that Redford too thought that the absence of pi in the name of Raamses (Ex 1:11,12:37; Nu 33:3, 5) was indicative of the lateness of the tradition." 
(p. 182. Hoffmeier)


"Given the specificity of Etham's location "on the edge of the wilderness," it appears that Etham, whatever the feature was, was situated at the eastern end of the Wadi Tumilat, east of Tell el-Maskhutah, perhaps in the Lake Timsah region." 

(p. 182. James K. Hoffmeier. Israel in Egypt, the Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. 1996. Oxford University Press. New York)

Pi-ha-Hiroth (mouth of the canal? mouth of the gorges?):

Pi-ha-hiroth, if meaning "mouth of the canal," is for Kitchen and Hoffmeir, the canal between Lake Timsah and Lake Ballah, either lake being the location for Pihahiroth. If James Breasted, another Egyptologist (1912:188) is correct about a Red Sea canal since Dynasty 12 from the Nile via wadi Tumilat, Timsah and two Bitter Lakes, emptying near Clysma/Suez, then just perhaps Pihahiroth is the mouth of this canal as it exits Wadi Tumilat and joins Lake Timsah? The Akkadian term kharru means "an irrigation channel or canal," perhaps such an irrigation channel existed in Wadi Tumilat, utilizing Lake Timsah as an overflow catchment from the Nile when it floods?

The late French Egyptologist and archaeologist Pierre Montet noted several stelae in Wadi Tumilat erected by Ramesses II, which suggested for him a canal existed in the 19th Dynasty- could this be the biblical Pi-ha-Hiroth?

"...Pierre Montet believed that a series of Ramesses II stelae found along the Wadi Tumilat marked the line of a canal that existed in the 19th Dynasty. Traces of at least two defunct canals through the Wadi Tumilat have been identified, and one still flows through it (fig. 21). Dating these waterways is most problematic, but it is clear that the Wadi Tumilat has enjoyed a long history of canal activity..." 

(p. 165. Hoffmeier (on p. 72), citing: Geographie L'Egypte Ancienne. Vol. I. Paris: Imprimie Nationale. 1957. pp. 218-219)

Hoffmeier noted that several scholars of the Classical period understood a canal existed in Wadi Tumilat from Middle kingdom times and the reign of Sesostris (Senusret III, ca. 1878-1841 B.C.?). Did the canal come to be used later for irrigation purposes whence the Akkadian "kharru"?


"Another possible reason for connecting the canal with the 12th Dynasty is references in Aristotle, Strabo and Pliny to Sesostris digging a canal. In his Meterologica (1, 14.22-29), Aristotle offers the following tradition regarding the Red Sea Canal or Canal of the Pharaohs, as it has been called: "One of the kings tried to dig a canal to it...Sesostris is said to be the first of the ancient kings to have attempted the work...Strabo's report is similar" "The canal was first cut by Sesostris before the Trojan War -though some say the son of Psammitichus [i.e., Necho II], who only began the work and then died- and later by Darius the first, who succeeded to the next work done upon it" (Geography 17.1,24)." (p. 169. Hoffmeier)

Pi-ha-Hiroth (Ex 14:2, 9; Nu 33:7) also appears as Ha-Hiroth (Nu 33:8 ). Scholars understand pi to mean "mouth", ha to mean "of the" and Hiroth to mean "kharru." A kharru is an irrigation canal or channel. The name appears most often in Mesopotamian contexts, as this was a land of irrigation canals or channels. Scholars, adopting this understanding accordingly propose that Israel was encamped near the mouth of a canal or channel that emptied into Yam Suph.

There remain two "other proposals" that are not encountered very often today on the meaning and location of the word Pi-ha-Hiroth, one was made by the Egyptologist Edouard Naville back in 1885.

He excavated Tell el Maskhutah in the 1880's and found a great stone stela from the reign of the Greek Ptolemaic Pharaoh, Ptolemy II, which mentioned donations to Egyptian temples. Naville understood that Ptolemy II had made a donation to a temple-estate located in or near Maskhutah called Pikerehet, and that this might be Pi-ha-hiroth of the Exodus narratives. He located this site just east of Tell el Maskhutah and south of Lake Timsah near the Serapeum on his map.

Naville on Pikeret:

"The living Horus, the victorious child, the Lord of Upper and Lower Egypt...Ptolemy, living like Ra eternally; Tum the great living god of Succoth...he loves the gods and goddesses of the Heroopolitan nome...under the reign of his divine majesty; when it was reported to him that the abode had been finished for his father Tum, the great god of Succoth; the third day of the month of Athyr, his majesty himself went 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. 1885. London. Egypt Exploration Fund)

"The account of all the taxes which his majesty has given as revenues to the two divisions of Egypt, on the income of each year...of gold. His majesty gave 150,000 argentei. The account of all the taxes which his majesty has given as revenues to Pikerehet, taxes due by the houses of the city and taxes due by the inhabitants, as income of each year 950 argentei...These revenues which have been given to his father Tum and to the gods of Egypt, have been inscribed on this tablet before his father Tum the great living god of Succoth, on the day of the coronation of the king, when he dedicated the temple which is there; this day has become the day of the festival of the city." (p.19. Naville)

Naville also found a Latin inscription at Maskhutah: "...Polis Ero Castra," the city-fortress/camp of Ero, which suggested for him that Maskhutah was the site of Hellenistic and Roman Heroopolis, the city of Hero.

Naville :

"Polis is quite distinct, as well as the following words ERO CASTRA, as to which there is no possible doubt. We have here therefore the ERO of the Itinerary of antoninus, the Greek `Hero or Heroonpolis which we know from the passage of Stephanus Byzantinus quoted before. The other inscription is more important, because it bears a date. It must be referred to 306 or 307 A.D. It reads thus:

"Dominis nostris victoribus, Maximiano et Severo imperatoribus, et Maximino et Constantino nobilissimis Caesaribus, ab Ero in Clusma, M.VIIII. (followed by the Greek sign _Theta_ meaning nine)"

Which Naville translates as:

"Under our victorious lords, the emperors Maximianus and Severus, and the most illustrious Caesars Maximinus and Constantine, from Ero to Clusma thare are nine miles.--nine."

Naville notes that Clysma (Clusma) is 68 Roman Miles from Ero according to an ancient itinerary, which concerns him as he understands from the inscription found at Maskhutah, that the distance is 9 miles from Ero to Clusma:

"Thus, if we consult this inscription, the reading of which is absolutely certain, there are only nine miles from Ero to Clusma. Turning to the Itinerary of Antonius we read that there are eighteen miles from Ero to Serapiu, and fifty from Serapiu to Clusma, which makes a sum of sixty-eight. We are therefore compelled to admit that one of the documents is wrong, either the Itinerary or the milestone..."

I believe BOTH the Itinerary and the inscription are CORRECT. 

Clysma is a Greek word meaning "flood or surging inundation" (cf. Brad Sparks' comment in his article titled Problems with Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia. <>).

Could it be that that the inscription is saying in effect that 9 Roman miles from Tell el Maskhutah/ERO is the "flood or surging inundation" of Lake Timsah?  While the Itinerary of Antonius is speaking of "flood or surging inundation" (Clysma) at the port of Suez, Roman Clysma (today's Qom Qulzoum in Arabic). In 1910 the Suez Port authority recorded tidal heights of up to 10 feet, which would certainly qualify for the descriptor clysma, meaning "surging inundation or flood." 

If one looks at a map, Tell el Maskutah is indeed "approximately" 9 miles west of Lake Timsah. What would cause Lake Timsah to periodically "flood or surge, inundating" nearby land? Perhaps the canal from the Nile to Lake Timsah, caused the Lake to "flood" in conjunction with the annual flooding of the Nile?

The Gulf of Suez was called by Greeks and Romans kolpos HeroonHeroopolites, or Sinus Heroopoliticus after the city of Hero and the nome, "Nomo Heroopolites" (cf. p. 317. Heroopolis or Hero." William Smith. A Classical Dictionary of Biography, Mythology, and Geography. 1875. London. John Murray)

I understand that Ptolemy II's Pikerehet may have eventually lost its Pi- and "k" and "t" and became Hero/Ero. The Ptolemies tended to make a show of respecting ancient Egyptian religious concepts. The word Pikerehet then might be an ancient Egyptian place-name, preserved in the temple erected by Ptolemy II. I note that biblical Rameses appears in Ramesside documents as Pi-Ramesses or Pr-Ramesses, "House or estate of Ramesses." Biblical Pithom is understood to be derived from Egyptian Pi-Tum, "estate/house of Tum." So perhaps Pi-ha-Hiroth was a Semtic rendering of Pikeheret, "the house/estate of Keheret"? Sixteenth century B.C. Hyksos era graves have been found in the vicinity of Tell el Maskhutah, which suggests there were sources of water here for flocks. Was there a settlement here called Pikerehet in the 16th century B.C.?

The stela suggests that the temple-estate of Pikerehet is  "in" or "near" Tell el Maskhutah, as it was found _IN_ that site by Naville.

Did the Hebrews err in rendering Egyptian Pi "estate of" into "mouth"? Or did the Egyptians adopt the Semitic Pi-ha-hiroth/kharru, transforming it into Pikerehet (It is known that Egypt did adopt several Asiatic loanwords into its vocabulary)? That is to say, that as Asiatics since Hyksos times had settled in this area with their flocks, they may have called this area Pi-ha-Hiroth (German: Pihachiroth), and when the Egyptians "moved" into this region in Ramesside (?) or later Saitic times they took the Semitic descriptor name and transformed it into Pikerehet?

Alternately, there exists another proposal, could Wadi Tumilat have been conceived of by Asiatics entering this great valley, "or GORGE," from Canaan, as like a great channel or canal (kharru) carved/bored out of the earth's surface by a god, and thus the eastern entrance to this Kharru-like valley came to be called the "Mouth of the Gorge" as sugessted by Strong's Exhaustive Concordance (cf. below)?  

Under this proposal the "hundred-thousands of Israel" were encamped "before" the eastern mouth of the Wadi Tumilat "GORGE," _in the broad plain_ between Wadi Tumilat and Yam Suph (Lake Timsah?). That is to say, that the Wadi Tumilat "Gorge" _IS_ Ha-Hiroth/Hah-Chiroth?

Stong suggested that Pi-ha-hiroth possibly meant "mouth of the Gorges":

Pihahiroth (Strong # 6367):

Pi ha-chiyrothpee-hah-khee-roth, from 6310 and the femine plural of a noun (from the same root as 2356) with the article interposed; mouth of the gorges; Pi-ha-Chiroth, a place in Egypt. Pi-hahiroth. [In Numbers 14:19 without the Pi-]" (p. 94. James Strong. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Complete and Unabridged. 1977. Word Books. Waco, Texas)

# 6310 peh, from 6284, the mouth...

# 2356 chowr, khore or chor, khore the same as # 2352; a cavity, socket, den, cave, hole.

# 2352 chuwr, khoor; chur, khoor, from an unused root probably meaning to bore; the crevice of a serpent; the cell of a prison, a hole.

I have been alerted by e-mail from an individual who recently visited the areas of Lake Timsah, Wadi Tumilat and the Eastern Delta, that the wadi does NOT qualify as being a "gorge," is of a shallow depression, and the elevations on either side are not more than 40 meters in height. Based on this inofrmation, I hereby _withdraw_ my earlier proposal that the wadi was a "gorge" and I NOW understand that Strong was _wrong_ in rendering Pi-ha-hiroth as a "gorge." It is more likely that K.A. Kitchen is CORRECT and the term Pi-ha-hiroth is referring to an "irrigation channel or canal," such an ancient channel does exist in Wadi Tumilat, extending from the Delta to Lake Timsah.

A helpful archaeological site map of Wadi Tumilat based on surface survey findings of sherds by the Canadians in the 1980's is available on the Internet, please click here.

Baal Zephon :

A cylinder seal found at Tell ed Daba (Avaris of the Hyksos?) shows the weather-god, Baal of Saphon standing over two mountains, below them a serpent suggesting the unruly sea or yam. In Ugaritic myths he was associated with the having power over the sea or Yam, having defeated his brother to be lord of the earth. 

If Lake Timsah is Yam Suph, and if Pi-ha-Hiroth is the mouth of the Wadi Tumilat Gorge, might Baal-Zephon be the two slight east-west "elevations" flanking the wadi's depression? 

The names associated with this area, Pi-ha-hiroth, Migdol, and Yam Suph suggest Asiatic or Semitic toponyms. Could these toponymns be traced back to the 16th century B.C. Asiatic Hyksos who left graves in this area near Tell el Maskhutah? They DID worship Baal of Saphon at Avaris, and if they saw Lake Timsah as being a part of the Bitter Lakes and Gulf of Suez as suggested by Kitchner, they could have associated the slight elevations flanking the Wadi Tumilat depression as Baal-Zephon?

The only Migdol to date, near Lake Timsah, is at Tell el Maskhutah, this fortress being founded by Pharaoh Necho II ca. 610 B.C. to defend the Red Sea Canal he was building. I have proposed elsewhere that the Exodus account was written ca. 562 B.C. in the Exile, and that archaeology has revealed that a number of sites appearing in the Exodus narratives, in Canaan, the Negev and Transjordan date no earlier than the 8th-7th centuries B.C. So, it is possible that Necho's "migdol" or fort is what is being alluded to here. If Necho's "fort" is Migdol then perhaps pi-ha-hiroth "mouth of the canal" (?) is the canal he used to carry in by barge large statutes of Rameses II to adorn his depot at Maskhutah?

Josephus on the Exodus:

"So the Hebrews went out of Egypt...Now they took their journey by Letopolis, a place at that time deserted, but where Babylon was built afterward, when Cambyses laid Egypt waste..." 

(Flavius Josephus [William Whiston, translator]. Book 2. Chapter 15. Antiquities of the Jews.)

Smith on Babylon in Egypt :

"A fortress in Lower Egypt, on the right bank of the Nile, exactly opposite the pyramids, and at the beginning of the canal which connected the Nile with the Red Sea. Its origin was ascribed by tradition to a body of Babylonian deserters. It first became an important place under the Romans. Augustus made it the station of one of the three Egyptian legions." 

(p. 114. "Babylon." William Smith. A Classical Dictionary of Biography, Mythology, and Geography. London. John Murray. 1875)

Today "Babylon" is in a suburb of Cairo. Apparently Josephus believed that the Exodus was from the Cairo area via what is today called the "Pilgrim's route to Mecca" (the Hajj) which passes by the modern port of Suez on the Red Sea. To the south of the port lies the towering Gebel Ataqa abutting the sea, north of this mount is a high pass formed by smaller mountains. Most probably this was the area Josephus envisioned as where Israel was trapped by high precipes and the sea. Of interest is that the Christian Pilgrimess, Egeria/Etheria (ca. 4th/5th century A.D.) stated that her guides identified this area, which she called Clysma, after the Roman fortress erected by the emperor Trajan, as where Israel crossed the Red Sea.

Josephus (Emphasis mine) :

"Now when the Egyptians had overtaken the Hebrews, they prepared to fight them, and by their multitude THEY DROVE THEM INTO A NARROW PLACE...They also seized on the passages by which they imagined the Hebrews might fly, SHUTTING THEM UP BETWEEN INACCESIBLE PRECIPICES AND THE SEA; FOR THERE WAS A RIDGE OF MOUNTAINS THAT TERMINATED AT THE SEA, WHICH WERE IMPASSABLE BY REASON OF THEIR ROUGHNESS AND OBSTRUCTED THEIR FLIGHT; wherefore they there pressed upon the Hebrews with their army, where [the ridges of] the mountains were closed with the sea; which army they placed at the chops of the mountains, so that might deprive them of any passage into the plain."

(Flavius Josephus [William Whiston, Translator]. Antiquities of the Jews. Book 2. Chapter 15.)

Yam Suph (the sea of reeds?):

Both Hoffmeier and Kitchen have noted that old travel guides of Egypt from the turn of the 20th century make mention of the tall reeds found in Lake Timsah, which for them suggests this is Yam Suph, "the Sea of Reeds." _I will NOW have to agree with them_. But I would "add" an observation here, if the 12th Dynasty Red Sea canal was still open in the Exodus period, it would have provided freshwaters not only to Lake Timsah, but to both of the Bitter Lakes and the shallow bay at Clysma/Suez. This mix of freshwaters and salt waters would create an environment for reeds (Egyptian tsuf, Hebrew suph) to grow in. That is to say, from Lake Timsah to Clysma/Suez the WHOLE AREA was FULL OF REEDS (the reeds being transposed from the Nile's banks by the canal). Now Hoffmeier has proposed that Yam Suph also applies to the Bitter Lakes, and the Gulf of Suez, suggesting that in antiquity, the sea levels were higher. The problem behind his proposal is, that reeds must have some admixture of freshwater. With a Red Sea Canal delivering freshwater as far as the Gulf of Suez, we have the needed element for reeds/marsh grasses to thrive. I am thus proposing that when Israel left Egypt, the Red Sea canal was still delivering freshwaters to Suez and thus the whole tract, from Timsah to Suez was chockablock choked with reeds or marsh grasses, thus the reason they called this body of water the "reed sea." They may also have created a punning using suph "to terminate" (as in Pharaoh's host being "terminated" as another designation for this Reed-Sea).

I have in earlier articles posted at this website suggested that the crossing of the Red Sea was at Clysma where Christian traditions place the event as preserved in the pilgrimage account of Lady Egeria/Etheria, ca. 4th/5th century A.D. _I NOW RETRACT THIS IDENTIFICATION_ and AGREE with Kitchen and Hoffmeier that Yam Suph is Lake Timsah.

Why this retraction? My Clysma Red Sea crossing proposal suffered a "fatal flaw", I could NOT adequately account for the bible's statement that after leaving Succoth  or Egyptian Tjeku in Wadi Tumilat,  they encamped at Etham IN THE EDGE OF THE WILDERNESS. Naville (1885), Hoffmeier (1996) and Kitchen (2003) had their "wits about them" and realized CORRECTLY Etham had to be near the east end of Tumilat and near Timsah. I finally, after many years of resistance (and "denial"), came to "realize" (and face the facts) that the distance was just too great between Tjeku/Succoth in Tumilat and Suez/Clysma for Etham to be "at or near" Suez/Clysma.

Lake Timsah in Arabic is Buhayrat at-Timsah (meaning "lake of the crocodile" probably recalling crocodiles entering the lake from the Nile river via the wadi Tumilat canal?), is it possible that at-tim[sah] preserves Etham?

Thew ilderness of Shur (Hebrew shuwr) might be the eastern province of Egypt called ash-Sharqiyah which today extends across the isthmus of Suez to the vicinity of Suez Canal?

Hoffmeier (1996) and Kitchen (2003) have suggested that ALL the Lakes of the Isthmus of Suez, Ballah, Timsah and the two Bitter lakes, as well as the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba may have been ALL SUBSUMED under the apellative "Yam Suph" and that although this meant initially "Sea of Reeds," it may also have been punned into the Hebrew Suph, "to terminate," as in Pharaoh's termination. I NOW find myself in agreement with them.

"If the term suph is related to Egyptian twf(y)- and I think this is virtually certain...then yam suph may have been the Hebrew for the proper name p3 twfy, a marshy region of the eastern delta. Alternately, yam suph in the exodus narratives may be simply be a descriptive term that could have applied to any marshy lakes in the Isthmus of Suez.

The crossing of the sea signaled the end of the sojourn in Egypt and it certainly was the end of the Egyptian army that pursued the fleeing Hebrews (Ex 14:23-29; 15:4-5). After this event at yam suph, perhaps the verb soph, meaning "destroy" and "come to an end," originated (cf. Amos 3:15; Jer 8:13; Isa 66:17; Psa 73:19). Another possible development of this root is the word suphah, meaning "storm-wind"...The meanings "end" and "storm-wind" would have constituted nice puns on the event that took place at the yam suph." (p. 214. Hoffmeier)

I NOW find myself in AGREEMENT with Kitchner 's following observations about Yam Suph and Etham being near Ismailia, and that the "wilderness of Shur/Etham" is the Isthmus of Suez extending from Timsah to the Suez Gulf.

Kitchen on yam suph:

"The term yam suph is also applied to the Gulf of Suez and to the Gulf of Aqabah, which flank the Sinai Peninsula. For the Gulf of Suez, cf. Num. 33:10-11, south of Etham, Marah and Elim. For the Gulf of Aqaba, cf. Num 21:4; also Num 14:25, Deut 1:40, 2:1 and perhaps Jer 49:21. All other allusions are to the original yam suph of the Exodus at Pi-Hahiroth. In the case of the two gulfs, we have nothing more than extension of usage. Going from north to south, one passed a series of stretches of often salty water, and on arrival at the area of the later Suez, here was another long piece of water, stretching into the hazy distance...So it was simply taken as being yet another installment of the collective yam suph. Across the Sinai, an anologous judgement was made; here was another long body of water stretching out south into the haze or horizon like Menzaleh or that of Suez. Nothing more sophisticated than that need be assumed. Compare the extension of the Greek term "Red Sea" to cover at one time the Perso-Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and our present Red Sea...Thus after crossing the lakes section of yam suph (be it Ballah, Timsah, or Bitter), the Hebrews (if headed south) would go through the Shur/Etham desert past the Etham (Ismailia) zone, on past the latitude of Suez, the three days march (thirty-six to forty-five miles at twelve to fifteen miles per day) to Marah, Elim, then (again) to yam suph. This was simply a stop by the east (Sinai) shore of the Suez Gulf..." 

(pp. 262-263. K. A. Kitchen. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. 2003. William B. Eerdmans Publisher. Grand Rapids, Michigan)

The "wilderness of Shur/Etham":

The pilgrimess Egeria/Etheria mentioned that after stopping at Clysma that her party took _four days_ to reach the town of Arabia in the land of Gessen (Goshen [Could her Gessen be preserved today as the "locks of Kassassin" in Wadi Tumilat, cf. Naville's map of the Wadi). She explained that the highway from the Thebaid to Pelusium ran near Arabia and thus the soldiers who accompanied her in the wilderness took leave of her at the town of Arabia. I suspect that Arabia is today el Abbasa el Gharbiya, at the west end of wadi Tumilat and the edge of the Delta. After having calculated the length of wadi Tumilat, I came to realize that from Gharbiya to Timsah is approximately 20 + miles. That is to say, one day's journey on foot for a group of travelers. From Timsah to Suez/Clysma is approximately 60 miles, that is to say, three day's journey.


"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) 

This observation set off "alarm bells" in my mind. According to the biblical narratives, after crossing Yam Suph, Israel wandered for _three days_ in the wilderness of Etham/Shur, arriving at Marah, whose water was bitter, Moses cutting down a palmtree and tossing it in to sweeten the water.

Woolley and Lawrence noted back in 1914 (The Wilderness of Zin) that the Arabs had told them that the track from Wadi Tumilat and Lake Timsah via the Negev (Muweileh and Halatsa) and Beersheba was called in their language the Darb es Shur ("the way to Shur"). The bible states that Israel marched _three days_ in the wilderness of Shur/Etham. I note that just east of Retabeh, an elevation on the north side of Wadi Tumilat called Abu Suwayr/Suweir, I suspect this is Shur (Hebrew shuwr). That is to say, the Darb es-Shur takes one directly to Egypt via Wadi Tumilat past Suweir/Shur. Because Suweir lies east of Retabeh, which was the border fortress of Ramesside Egypt, the wilderness of Shur is the area east of Retabeh. I thus understand the wilderness of Etham/Shur to be the Isthmus of Suez from Wadi Tumilat to the Gulf of Suez (but named after the east end of Wadi Tumilat [Tum preserves Etham or Timsah preserves Etham?] and Abu Suweir).

Professor Burgsch suggested in 1881 that Marah was to be identified with the two Bitter Lakes south of Lake Timsah. As of today, 01 January 2009, I agree. Why? Today (01 January 2009) I came to realize that the Hebrew text does not say the _water_ of Marah it says the _waters_ of Marah, and that "they" _not_ "the" (waters) were bitter. That is to say the Hebrew text uses a plural form TWICE: (1) MAYIM, meaning "waters" and (2) "THEY" in speaking of their bitterness.

"Waters" in Hebrew is mayim (Strong 4325) -im being a Hebrew plural word ending. 

In Arabic the two Bitter Lakes are called al-Buhayrah al-Kubra (Great Bitter Lake) and al-Buhayrah al-Murrah as -Sughra (Little Bitter Lake) and Murrah in Arabic means "bitter." I thus understand that the term "waters" or "mayim of Marah" implies a location possessing more than one body of "water" and the two Bitter Lakes who both are called Murrah or "bitter" meet this biblical criteria. 

The 3rd century B.C. Greek Septruaginta Bible renders Marah as Merrah and in the double "rr" I see the Arabic Murrah applied to the two Bitter Lakes. Was the Greek Septuaginta spelling of Merrah applied to the the Bitter Lakes by Early Christians and or Egypt's Hellenistic 3rd century B.C. Jews and preserved later in Arabic as Murrah? The Septuaginta says three days elapsed from the crossing at Yam Suph to Merrah. Most remarkably the Septuaginta renders the water or Merrah not waters:

Septuaginta Exodus 15:22-25 (Brenton 1851 Translation):

"So Moses brought up the children of Israel from the Red Sea, and brought them into the wilderness of Sur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water to drink. And they came to Merrah and could not drink of Merrah, for it was bitter: therefore he named the name of that place Bitterness. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And Moses cried to the Lord, and the Lord shewed him a tree, and he cast it into the water, and the water was sweetened."

Exodus 15:23-25 (KJV):

"And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the watersthe waters were made sweet."

New American Standard Bible (©1995):

"When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah." 

American King James Version:

"And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah."

American Standard Version:

"And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah." 

Douay-Rheims Bible:

"And they came into Mara, and they could not drink the waters of Mara, because they were bitter: whereupon he gave a name also agreeable to the place, calling it Mara, that is, bitterness." 

Darby Bible Translation:

"And they came to Marah, and could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore the name of it was called Marah." 

English Revised Version:

"And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah." 

Webster's Bible Translation:

"And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah; for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah." 

World English Bible:

"When they came to Marah, they couldn't drink from the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore its name was called Marah." 

Young's Literal Translation:

"and they come in to Marah, and have not been able to drink the waters of Marah, for they are bitter; therefore hath one called its name Marah."

Hebrew Lexicon:

"of the waters" (Hebrew mayim) of Marah"

Professor Brugsch (1881):

"The bitter waters, at the place called Marah, are recognized in the Bitter Lakes of the Isthmus of Suez."

(p. 398. Vol. 2. Heinrich Karl Brugsch. A History of Egypt Under the Pharaohs: Derived Entirely From the Monuments. to which is added a discourse on the Exodus of the Israelites. London. John Murray. 1881. Translated from the German text)

Strabo (64 B.C.-25 A.D.) on the Bitter Lakes which lost their bitterness with the freshwater from the Nile diverted through the Red Sea Canal (via Wadi Tumilat) which emptied into the Arabian Gulf (Gulf of Suez):

"There is another canal which empties into the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf near the city of Arsinoe, a city which some call Cleopatris. It flows also through the Bitter Lakes, as they are called, which were indeed bitter in earlier times, but when the above-mentioned canal was cut they underwent a change because of the mixing with the river, and now are well supplied with fish and full of aquatic birds. The canal was first cut by Sesostris before the Trojan War -though some say by the son of Psammitichus, who only began the work and then died- and later by Darius the First, who succeeded to the next work done upon it."

(Strabo. Geography. 17. 1. 25 [p. 77 of The Loeb Classical Library Edition. Vol. VIII.] Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1932. Reprint of 1996)

Special note: The Roman Emperor Trajan cleared this canal and refurbished it and he erected a Roman fort near the canal's mouth calling it Clysma (Arabic: Kolzum). The fort has been excavated and it was found to have been erected atop an Egyptian fortress dated to the reign of Pharaoh Rameses III. Was the Egyptian fort erected to guard the approach to the canal? Did the canal exist in Rameses III's days (1182-1151 B.C.)?

Elim (Exodus 15:27) in Hebrew means "trees," (Strong 362) the -im is a Hebrew plural word ending. The text states there are seventy "palm trees" at Elim and this many trees certainly would qualify for the plural form elim. Elim also had twelve fountains of water. Ayun Musa is probably Elim. It lies south of Marah/Merra (the two Bitter Lakes) it has _many_ palm trees, and, according to some scholars, it has twelve springs.

I note that the Egyptologist, Dr. Gregory D. Mumford (Toronto University) has on-line an account of his excavations in the southern Sinai. He mentioned in passing and provided a photo of Ayun Musa at his website. What RIVETED MY ATTENTION was his statement that Ayun Musa means "the wells of Moses" and that this oasis possesses TWELVE SPRINGS. I thought A-HAH! Elim's 12 springs is Ayun Musa..."Has anyone else made this observation?" Another hunt TODAY on the internet turned up an article by Gordon Franz on identifying Mount Sinai- he too stated that Ayun Musa had 12 springs as noted by some geologists back in 1921, and that Ayun Musa might be Elim. So, I find myself in agreement with Franz, having made the discovery independent and unknowingly of his identification in 2001.

Franz citing work by the Israeli scholar Har-El:

"The Numbers account says that they camped by the Red Sea after their time in Elim (Num. 33:10,11). Somewhere at the entrance to the Wadi Sudr would be a good candidate for this campsite." (Apparently after this incident, the Israelites turned south to Elim with its twelve springs and 70 palm trees (Ex. 15:27; Num. 33:9). A good candidate for this site is one of the most prominent springs in the Sinai Peninsula, 'Ayun Musa. Two geologists observed that "there are twelve springs, from two which good drinking water may be obtained" (Moon and Sadek 1921:2). In their geological report, they have pictures of this spring with palm trees in the area. When Robinson visited in 1838 he observed only seven springs (1977:90)." 

(Gordon Franz. Mt. Sinai is NOT at Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia. March 14, 2002. )

Franz suggested in the above article that the Red Sea encampment might be the coastal plain south of Ayun Musa (Elim). I am in agreement with him. Where we "part company" is his notion that Mount Sinai is Jebel Sin Bishar following arguments advanced by the Israeli scholar Professor Har-El.


"The Numbers account says that they camped by the Red Sea after their time in Elim (Num. 33:10,11). Somewhere at the entrance to the Wadi Sudr would be a good candidate for this campsite. After, they headed up Wadi Sudr to Jebel Sin Bishar, the Biblical (and real) Mt. Sinai (Har-El 1983; Faiman 2000:115-118).

Menashe Har-El makes a solid case for Jebel Sin Bishar being the real Mt. Sinai. He points out that Jebel Sin Bishar is the only mountain in the Sinai Peninsula that preserves the toponym "Sinai" in the word "Sin" (Har-El 1983:421). He states that "the meaning of Sin Bishar is the reporting of the Law, or Laws of man. This name hints at "the Giving of the Law" (ibid). Josephus says that Mt. Sinai is the highest mountain in that area (Antiquities 2:264, 3:75,76; LCL 4:279, 355). While "Jebel Sin Bishar is only 618 meters above sea level, it is the most prominent of its surrounding" (ibid). Remember, Moses at 80 years old, had to climb that mountain several times!"

Franz does not in his above article attempt to locate the intervening sites following the Red Sea encampment, such as the wilderness of Sin, Dophkah, Alush, Rephidim and its "rock in Horeb," followed by the wilderness of Sinai and Mount Sinai (Nu 33:10-16).

I have discovered, as of 25 Feb. 2004, that I am in error in attributing the identification of Elim with Ayun Musa to Franz, this proposal was earlier made by Professor Menashe Har-El of Tel Aviv University. Professor Har-El (1983) proposed that Marah was Bir el Murr and Elim was Ayun Musa, according to the map from his book (Sinai Journeys, The Route of the Exodus. San Diego, California. Ridgefield.1983 [earlier published in Hebrew at Tel Avi in 1968]) reproduced at the at the following url

Please click here for a highly detailed 1:100,000 map showing the 15 springs of Ayun Musa, published in 1828 at Paris, France based on a survey conducted between 1796-1798 by Napoleon Bonoparte's French Army Corps of Engineers and Cartographers.

After Elim, then, Israel camps by the Red Sea. Looking at maps, I note that from Ayun Musa (Elim?) to the high plain of El Sanawi, wedged between mountains is a great coastal plain in full view of the Red Sea. I suggest that Israel camped somewhere along this plain in full view the sea.

Afterwards Israel enters the Wilderness of Sin. I propose "three" possible sites for Sin: (1) the high plain of El Sanawi north of Wadi Gharandal or (2) it is another high plain, again wedged between two mountains called Hosan Abu Zenna, just east of Gebel Hammam Faraun ("the Hotsprings of Pharaoh"), or (3) it might be preserved at Abu Zenimeh a location on the west coast of the Sinai Peninsula south of Hosan Abu Zenna.

Septuaginta Exodus 16:01 & 17:1 (Brenton 1851 translation)

"And they departed from Aelim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Aelim and Sina...Israel departed from the wilderness of Sin...and they encamped in Raphidim..."

Strangely Hebrew Dophkah is rendered by the Septuaginta as Raphaca. As Hebrew d an r are somewhat similar in form they are commonly encountered misspelled in various manuscripts

Numbers 33:12 Septuaginta

"And they departed from the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Raphaca. And they departed from Raphaca and encamped in Aelus. And they departed from Aelus and encamped in Raphidim...they departed from Raphidim and encamped in the wilderness of Sina..."

Dophkah, Hebrew dopqa, is associated by some with the Egyptian word mfkt, meaning turqouise, and thus the site is located at the turquoise mines of Serabit el Khadim, operated by the Egyptians since Old Kingdom times (cf. pp. 222-223. Jeffrey R. Zorn. "Dophkah." David Noel Freedman, editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. 1992. Doubleday. New York).

The Israeli Egyptologist, Raphael Giveon, who has conducted excavations at Serabit el Khadim, has objected to this identification:

"Another station, Dophkah is marked in some Biblical atlases at the exact site of the Egyptian temple of Seabit el Khadim. The identification is based on the one letter "f" which both words have in common, Biblical dfq and Egyptian mfkt (see p. 57): the q and k are different sounds. Both words have feminine endings like so many names of localities. This identification, which we think is wrong, has given rise to two speculations concerning the whereabouts of Mount Sinai itself. Several scholars think that the Children of Israel would have been afraid to pass so near an Egyptian mining center. On the other hand, we know that at times Canaanites worked the mines (see p. 131) and in the opinion of some scholars, they would have helped the Children of Israel to find their way and would have shown them sources of water and perhaps shared their provisions with them. Niebuhr [1762], who was the first to see the temple of Serabit el Khadim with its stelae standing, thought that this was a cemetery. He also tried an identification with a Biblical site: the Book of Numbers, chapter 11 verse 34, which tells us of the many after eating quails, which they dried for preservation. The place where the victims were buried was called: "Graves of the Greedy." [Kibroth-ha-attavah]. Niebuhr thought in all seriousness that he discovered the very spot."

(p. 148. Raphael Giveon. The Stones of Sinai Speak. 1978. Tokyo. Gakuseisha)

Having identified the wilderness of Sin with either El Sanawi, Hosan Abu Zenna, or Abu Zenimeh, I would would suggest that Alush might be Bir El-Guweisa, south of Hosan Abu Zenna, and west of Ras Umm Qatafa (elevation: 1101 Meters, a high peak of the El -Tih mountainous ridge that forms a southern perimeter to the El-Arish drainage basin). 

Could Dophkah, Hebrew dopqa be Qatafa (the qa transposed and d becoming t?). I am using a 1:250,000 scale map which is NOT ideal for site identifications, a 1:50,000 would be preferred but I am unaware of said maps being in existence of this scale for the Sinai (cf. Qal`et El-Nakhl, Egypt . Sheet NH 36-11. 1972. 1:250,000. Washington, DC). 

Another possibility for Dophkah is Wadi el Foqa to the east of the Egyptian mining camp near Serabit El Khadim, draining from the western escarpment of the et-Tih plateau and Gebel Foqa?

Alternately, Dophkah might be the well of Qattar Dafari, east of Bir el Merkha and south of Ras Abu Zenimeh (Sin?), many scholars have associated the plain of el Merkha with the wilderness of Sin (cf. p. 269. Kenneth A. Kitchen. 
On the Reliability of the Old Testament. 2003. William B. Eerdmans, Publisher. Grand Rapids, Michigan). 

Burkhardt (1816) on the freshwater (catchment pools of rainwater) in the mountains of Wady Dhafary (modern-day Qattar Dafari). Note: emphasis and brackets [ ] are mine:

"On the plain we fell in with the great road from Tor to Suez, but soon quitted it to the right, and turned to the north in search of a natural reservoir of rain, in which the Bedouins knew that some water was still remaining. At the end of five hours and a half, we reached a narrow cleft in the mountain, where we halted, and my guides went a mile up in it to fill the skins. This is called Wady el Dhafary; it is sometimes frequented by the Arabs, because it furnishes THE ONLY SWEET WATER between Tor and Suez, though it is out of the direct road, and the well of Morkha [Bir el Merkha] is at no great distance. Some rain had fallen here in the winter, and water was therefore met with in several ponds among the rocks...Travelers will do well to enquire for the Dhafary, in their way to Feiran [from Suez] as the water of Morkha [Merkha] is of the VERY WORST KIND...We reached Morkha, which bears from Dhafary NW by N in half an hour, the road leading over level but very rocky ground. Morkha is a small pond in the sandstone rock, close to the mountains. Two date-trees grow near its margin. THE BAD TASTE OF THE WATER seems to be owing partly to the weeds, moss and dirt which the pond is filled, but chiefly, no doubt, to the saline nature of the soil around it. Next to Ayoun Mousa [the wells of Moses], in the vicinity of Suez, and Gharandel, it is the principal station on this road. After watering our camels, which was our only motive for coming to the Morkha, we returned to the seashore...Before us extended the large bay of Birket Faraoun, so called, from being according to Arab and Egyptian tradition, the place where the Israelites crossed the sea and where the returning waves overwhelmed Pharaoh and his host." 

(pp. 469-470. Johann Ludwig Burkhardt [John Lewis Burkhardt]. Travels in Syria and the Holy Land. 1822. Available in paperback as a reprint, but without accompanying maps, at

If Israel tuned at the pass below Ras Umm Qatafa she entered the huge plain which abuts the cliffs of the Et-Tih plateau called Hosh el Bagar and Ramlet Himeiyir, which would be quite adequate for the "hundred-thousands" of Israel, as against the much smaller plain of er-Raha below Ras Safsafa which is 1/10th the size of Bagar-Himeiyir and usually associated with Gebel Musa and Mt. Sinai in Christian traditions.

At Rephidim, the narrative becomes confusing. We are told the nation is thirsty and Moses strikes a rock "in" Horeb, then the Amalekites appear and and a pitched battle is fought. Then Moses' father-in-law Jethro appears and counsels Moses on appointing Judges for the people instead of doing it all by himself. We are informed that Jethro met Moses at Har El, the "mountain of God." Then, "the surprise," Israel leaves Rephidim, Horeb, and the mountain of God, and pitches in the wilderness of Sinai and before Mount Sinai (cf. Ex 17:1-24, 19:1-2).

Others have commented about the confusing narrative about a "mountain of God" being at Rephidim being apparently out of order:

May and Metzger:

"Exodus 18:5, The narrative is out of order, for Israel reached the mountain of God later (19.2)."
(p.90 Notes. Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger, editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha. Revised Standard Version. 1977. Oxford University Press. New York)

I propose that the source of the confusion is that several sites are very near each other, and the narrator is not aware of this, thus the garbled notions that a mountain of God exists at Rephidim along with a rock of Horeb.

I identify Horeb (Aramaic Choreb) with Gebel Ghorabi/Gharabi, just south east of the Egyptian mining temple of Serabit el Khadim, and nearby Mount Sinai with Gebel Saniya, which is adjacent to and just southeast of Gharbiya. Both mounts are east of Gebel Serabit el Khadim, and their eastern slopes abut at the great plain of Ramlet Himeiyir, which is where I envision Israel as encamped. I understand that Rephidim is Serabit el Khadim and vicinity. Perhaps Reph' has been transformed into [Se]rab[it], (p becoming b?) and -hidim is Khadim? (Abu Zenima. Southern Sinai. Sheet 5. Survey of Egypt. 1936. 1:100,000) Please note that the 1936 map spells the mount as Gebel Ghorabi whilst the 1972 map renders Gharabi (Qal`et El-Nakhl, Egypt. Sheet NH 36-11. Scale: 1:250,000. 1972 Washington, DC).  Another MORE LIKELY plain for the assembly of Israel before the sacred mount, is the HIGH PLAIN bounded on the north by the Hathor Shrine, on the west by Gebel Serabit el Khadim and on the east by Gebels Ghorabi and Saniya. Although this plain is much smaller than Ramlet Himeiyir, it places the Israelite encampments closer to the Hathor Shrine and the Egyptian mines and encampments with their shattered steli-form Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions. It also is ideally suited for Yahweh "to dawn upon" the nation "from the east," that is east of Ghorabi (Horeb?) and Saniya (Sinai?), as noted in scripture, he rising or dawning from Sinai, Seir and Paran (De 33:2), cf. the map by Siliotti of the Hathor Shrine and  Djebel Ghorabi to its SE (Alberto Siliotti. 1994. Sinai, Geschichte,. Kunst, Touristik. Karl Muller Verlag. Erlangen, Deutschland. pp. 31, 33 and 37 [Djebel Saniya appearing on p. 37]).

Viewers will probably be intriqued as to why I locate Rephidim and Sinai near Serabit el Khadim. My "presuppositions" are of a Secular-Humanist nature. I understand that ALL religions are the invention of the human imagination. I thus do NOT believe a God appeared at Mt. Sinai, wrote the Ten Commandments on two stone tables and that Moses threw them down and that a second set were made. So I seek a "rational" answer for these motifs in the archaeological evidence of the southern Sinai and I find it in the vicinity of the Egyptian Mining Temple at Serabit el Khadim. In this region are found Late Bronze Age (ca. 1560-1200 B.C.) and Iron Age I (ca. 1220-1130 B.C.) Ramesside pottery debris of the Exodus era  (the Exodus being dated either 1512 B.C. (some Catholic scholars), 1446 B.C. (some Protestant scholars) or 1260 B.C. (Liberal scholars) and mining camps. Also found are shattered Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions, which, having broken loose from the mountain's surface from near mines, and having fallen to the earth along with other scree and debris, lie at the base of these mounts; to an "untrained eye" perhaps these fallen inscriptions "resembled" shattered stone tabletsI believe that these "physical phenomenon" are what is behind the notion of Moses' shattered Ten Commandments written by the hand of God.
The singing, and dancing by Israel before the Golden Calf I associate with the Asaitic miners who honored Hathor the Cow Goddess with song and dance at the Egyptian Hathor shrine at Serabit el Khadim. In Egyptian Myths, Hathor was also a sky goddess who gave birth each morning to the Sun as a "Golden Calf." By sunset, this Calf had been transformed into a virile, mature Bull who "mounted his mother," Hathor the sky-cow, and impregnating her, assured his rebirth the next morning again as the Golden Calf. Please note that the Egyptian mines and encampments along with the shattered Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions are found in areas west and south of the the Temple. 

I am unaware of any archaeological surveys having been conducted near Gebels Ghorabi and Saniya, to establish whether or not  debris exists of the Late Bronze or Early Iron I eras. It is just possible Israel could have been envisioned as assembled within the plain bounded on the north by the Hathor Temple, Gebel Serabit el Khadim on the southwest, and Gebels Ghorabi/Gharabi and Saniya on the southeast (cf.  the maps of the Hathor Temple, Gebels Serabit el Khadim, Ghorabi, Saniya, and locations of inscriptions, mines and encampments on pp. 31-33, & 36-37. Alberto Siliotti. Sinai, Geschichte, Kunst, Touristik. 1994. Karl Muller Verlag. Erlangen, Deutschland [1994. White Star S.r.l. Via Candido Sassone, 24, Vercelli, Italien]).

Gardiner, Peet and Cerny describe this high plain, actually a large "mountianous plataeu":

"Rod el-Air ["valley of donkeys"] branches off Wady Umm Themaim...A narrow path leads up the valley over a cascade which is impossible for donkeys now but was evidently not so difficult in antiquity. The graffiti are about hal-way up Rod elAir just below the cascade on a rock wall on the right side of the path...The valley ends high up on th plateau near the place called by Petrie 'Camp of the Egyptians', and running in the direction east-west lies on the shortest line connecting Serabit el-Khadim with the coast."

(p.13. Alan H. Gardiner, T. Eric Peet & Jaroslav Cerny. The Inscriptions of Sinai. Part II, Translations and Commentary. Egypt Exploration Society. London. 1955)

"Serabit el-Khadim may be described as a plateau forming the upper surface of a great mountain promontory defined by a number of valleys, Wady Ba`lah (Petrie's Wady Bateh) on the west, Wady Suwwuk on the north, Wady Serabit el-Khadim on the north-east and east, and Wady Shellal, the mountain Tartir ed-Dhami and Wadi Sidrah on the south. Little is known of this rectangular or diamond-shaped region south of the twin peaks of Umm Riglein ('Mother of Two Feet') which form so conspicuous a landmark in the views looking southward from the temple of Hathor. Our concern is only with the more northerly parts specifically known as Serabit el-Khadim...The mountain mass rises with great abruptness from the surrounding valleys, and cannot be climbed with comfort from any of these directions." 

(p. 32. Gardiner, Peet & Cerny. 1955)

The biblical notion of thousands perishing for having honored the Golden Calf, suggests to my mind that "burial tumuli" or "cairns" ought to exist near Mount Sinai -wherever it might be- and I accordingly associate the Middle and New Kingdom burial cairns in the vicinity of Serabit el Khadim and the mining encampments as what lies behind the biblical events, but "grossly exaggerated in numbers of deaths." 

Sass remarks on the burial tumuli found at Serabit el Khadim:

"...there are three types of early tomb structures in Sinai  -the Nawamis, the large tumuli at Serabit el-Khadim (smaller than the Nawamis), and small tumuli, also at Serabit el-Khadim. The Nawamis have been dated by the objects discovered in them to the end of the 4th -beginning of the 3rd millennia B.C., the large tumuli at Serabit el-Khadim are dated on the basis of the Egyptian inscriptions to the Middle Kingdom, while the small, hitherto undatable tumuli, must be of the New Kingdom date following this "the smaller, the later" line of thought...It is to Albright's credit (1948, 11-12) that it was he who identified the small tumuli as tombs, an identification which had been disputed until then." 

(p.138. Benjamin Sass. The Genesis of the Alphabet and Its Development in the Second Millennium B.C. Wiesbaden. Otto Harrassowitz. 1988 [Aegypten und Altes Testament, Band 13])

Of interest is an observation made by the Israeli Egyptologist Raphael Giveon, who has personally conducted exacavations at the Hathor Shrine. He noted that the intrepid explorer Carsten Niebuhr had visited the shrine in 1762 and had thought it was a huge "graveyard," identifying the standing and shattered stelae erected by the Egyptians to Hathor's honor with tombstones (the stelae do resemble European tombstones). He thought it was Kibroth-hatta`avah of scripture, "the graves of the Lusting," a place where Yahweh struck down Israel after feeding the ingrates quail.

Giveon on Niebuhr's notion the Hathor shrine was a graveyard:

"...the 21st of September, 1762...this day can be regarded as the day of the scientific discovery of Serabit el Khadim." 

(p. 42. Raphael Giveon. 1978. The Stones of Sinai Speak. Tokyo. Gakuseisha)

Giveon quoting Niebuhr:

"We were not a little surprised when we found in the middle of the desert on such a high mountain (on this side very steep -i.e. after an ascent of one and a half hours), a magnificent Egyptian cemetery; because that is what every European will call it...There are a great many stones, partly standing upright, partly fallen down or broken. They are five to seven feet long, one and a half to two feet broad and covered with Egyptian hieroglyphs. They can hardly be anything else but tombstones. Of a building which I have illustrated on Plate XLIV, nothing remains save the walls...All the tombstones and statues are of fine and hard sandstone...If other travelers think it worthwhile to visit these antiquities in the desert, I think it desirable that they initiate digging here, in order to find out if remains of dead bodies are to be found...Perhaps this is where one should place the "Graves of Greed," [Kibroth-hatta`avah] Numbers 11:34 or Mount Hor, Numbers 33:38? This cemetery may have originated with the Israelites or with the older inhabitants of this country." 

(pp. 42-43. Giveon. 1978)

According to Gardiner, Peet and Cerny, SOME OF THE STELAE erected at the Hathor shrine ARE INDEED A TYPE OF TOMBSTONE [funeral stelae], so Niebuhr's "confusion" is understandable, and perhaps 9th/8th century BCE Judaeans visiting this area from nearby Paran (the Feiran Oasis having Judaean 9th-8th century BCE sherds) also saw these stelae as "evidence" of a large number of people from Egypt, that is, "Israel," being slain and buried here?

Gardiner, Peet, and Cerny (Cerny editing and updating the research of Gardiner and Peet):

"The inscriptions on free-standing stelae: These fall naturally into two classes, (a) the great stelae found in the stone enclosures of the main approach to the temple and in the old approach to the sacred cave...The finest are those of the Middle Kingdom...The small stelae of the class (b) differ in no way from the ordinary funerary stelae found in Egyptian cemetries. On them we see an Egyptian making an offering before some god with the usual htp-di-nsw prayer inscribed beneath. Occasionally some reference to the expedition is also made. We need not for a moment assume that the persons in whose name these small stelae were inscribed were dead at the time of their setting up, even though they are sometimes described as m3`hrw. The same formula occasionally occurs on the great commemorative stelae of the Middle Kingdom and we may suppose that in later times, when there was less space to spare on the royal monument for the use of members of the expedition, they adopted the system of dedicating for themselves a funerary tablet of the ordinary pattern, in hope that Hathor of the distant Serabit would not be forgetful of them after their death." 

(p. 40. Alan H. Gardiner, T. Eric Peet & Jaroslav Cerny. 1955. The Inscriptions of Sinai. London. Egypt Exploration Society)

Please note that in Egyptian myth, Hathor the cow-goddess admitted all the dead to the Underworld, and prayers were offered up to her beseeching her favor, for she had the power to aid the Righteous Dead in the afterlife, providing them nourishment in the form of food and drink.

Today, pilgrims and tourists to Gebel Musa, and the Saint Catherine Monastery, can, at night, climb the slopes of Gebel Musa in the early morning darkness to behold a truly awe-inspiring sight, the sunrise, the black sky taking on magnificent hues of red, salmon, lavender and gold and then the light strikes the red granite peaks all about them. What these tourists and pilgrims are unaware of, is that  an ancient Egyptian (or an Asiatic brought up for 400 years in a Egyptian world), understood that he was beholding the birth of the Golden Calf.

From Mount Sinai Israel next encamped in the wilderness of Paran, perhaps the Oasis of Feiran and Wadi Feiran and its headwaters to the east of the oasis, (all of which lie further to the south of Gebels Serabit el Khadim, Ghorabi/Gharbiya and Saniya)? Israeli archaeologists have documented the presence at the Feiran Oasis, of 9th-8th century B.C. sherds from Judah. Could Jews or Israelites penetrating this area be the source of some of the identifications of sites in the Exodus narratives? Did they understand that the Early Bronze Age graves or tumuli and habitations near the Oasis to be "evidence" of one of Israel's encampments? Alternately, there is a prominent group of Stone Age Nawami tombs on Wadi Feiran enroute between the Feiran Oasis and Gebel Musa- these too might have been envisioned as Israel's graves and encampments and herd pens? These 9th-8th century B.C. Judeans or Israelites did not possess Sir Flinders Petrie's Pottery Chronologies, so they would have NO way of identifying the age of the huts, corrals, and burial tumuli they encountered in Wadi Feiran and its headwaters, they could have seen ALL of these ruins, Stone Age to Iron Age of the southern Sinai as being Israel's. 

Of interest here is an observation made by the prominent Egyptologist, T. Eric Peet (1923), to the effect that he understood that the Exodus traditions in their written form were no earlier than the 9th century B.C., the same century that Judaean sherds appear at Feiran (Paran?):

Peet is citing the JEDP theory (Jahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, Priestly redactors) which postulates the earliest author wrote in the 9th century B.C.:

"The chief documents from which the first five books of the Old Testament were compiled were three in number. The two oldest of these are known as J and E respectively, J having been composed in Judah during the ninth century B.C. and E in the Northern Kingdom during the eighth century B.C....Document P was written at some period during the Babylonian Exile..." 

(pp. 31-32. T. Eric Peet. Egypt and the Old Testament. 1923. Boston. Small, Maynard & Company)


"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 serds 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 B.C., 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)

Professor Aharoni suggested that the Feiran Oasis might be the source name for the wilderness of Paran and that the Iron II Judaean sherds found here suggest this is the Paran of the Exodus narratives:

"Surprisingly enough this tell, now known as Feiran, at an earlier stage in its history bore the name of Paran, identical with the biblical name. In the Byzantine period it was an important city, frequently mentioned in the sources, with its own cathedral and bishop. The Roman geographer Ptolemaeus, who lived in the first half of the second century A.D., mentions Paran in his Geography as being situated here. Hence it is clear that the name preceeded the advent of Christianity and could not have been introduced by Christian monks. Archaeological investigation, as we have already said, has now shown that the settlement of Feiran existed without any significant gap in continuity from the time of the Judaean kings to that of is clear that Paran is an ancient Semitic-biblical name belonging to the wilderness of the South...I venture to suggest...based on the ancient sources and supported by the Bible: Paran, not Sinai, was the original name by which the whole of the Sinai peninsula was known in biblical times. The wilderness of Paran was not confined to the desert of Et Tih or its northern part, but was the ancient name for the whole of the vast triangle we now call the wilderness of Sinai or the Sinai peninsula." 

(pp. 167-168. Yohanan Aharoni. "Kadesh-Barnea and Mount Sinai." Beno Rothenberg & Yohanan Aharoni. God's Wilderness, Discoveries in Sinai. 1961, 1962. Thomas Nelson & Sons. New York & Toronto)

End Notes :

Naville (1885:30) suggested from his study of documents from the Roman era that Pithom might also be preserved as Roman Thou, Thohu, Tohu, Thoum. I suspect he may have something here. He noted that this site was at the junction of the east end of Wadi Tumilat near the road to Pelusium and Clysma. Perhaps Thou is today preserved at ezbet el `Atwa, "the farm of `Atwa" (w being the Arabic equivalent of Latin u?), just west of Lake Timsah and south of Ismailia? (cf. map titled Ismailia, United Arab Republic. Sheet NH 36-6. 1970. Scale: 1:250,000). He cites an observation made by Herodotus that the Red Sea canal left the Nile a little above Bubastis near Patumos the Arabian city. If we might apply Naville's research on Patumos and Roman Thou, perhaps Herodotus' Patumos is in the vicinity of present day El Qattawiya (Roman Thou?) at the edge of the Delta, east of Zagazig and the north side of the mouth of Wadi Tumilat? I note in this geneneral vicinity an ezbet el Tawahin, near the southside of the mouth to Wadi Tumilat, and east of El Abassa El Gharbiya, and an ezbet Arab el Tahawiye east of Bilbeis (are Qattawiya, Tawahin and Tahawiye various Arabic forms of Roman Thou, Thohu, Thoum?). If El Abassa El Gharbiya preserves Herodotus' and Egeria's "Arabia," ( Patumos of Arabia, and city of Arabia ), perhaps ezbet el Tawahin just east of Gharbia is Patumos/Thoum/Thou or is it El Qattawiya to the north of Gharbiya? Could Naville have "erred" in locating Roman Thou at the east end of Wadi Tumilat, and that it is, in reality, at the west end of the wadi, on the road from the Thebaid to Pelusium, as noted by Egeria regarding the "city of Arabia"? This is to say that neither Tell el Maskhutah or Tell er Retabeh are Pithom/Thou, the site is in the Delta near Gharbia (the city of Arabia?), perhaps in the vicinity of El Qattawiya or el Tawahin, -waiting to be found- just as Rameses was eventually "found" at Qantir? Pithom may "need to be found" using ground-penetrating magnometers as are now being employed at Qantir-Ramesses?

Naville :

"Let us now examine the texts of the Itinerary and the 'Notitia Dignitatum,' which mention a city of Thou, Thohu, Thou, Thoum. Two manuscripts only of the Itinerary read Thoum, all the others read Thou, and all the manuscripts of the 'Notitia,' Thou. Judging from this Itinerary this city must have been at the opening of the Wadi Tumilat, at the junction of the roads to Pelusium and Clusma. I see no reason why Thou should be Pithom, the abode of Tum...the city was called in Egyptian Pi Tum, or Ha Tum; and in the Itinerary we see that the last syllables of Egyptian names are cutt off, but not the beginnings...but whatever may be the sense of this name, we must keep the reading Thou or Thohu, and not Thoum." (Naville. 1885:30)

Pi-ha-Hiroth (Hebrew pronounced pee-hah-kheeyroth)

Usually understood to be from Akkadian/Babylonian "Kharru," a water channel or canal for purposes of irrigation. This would admirably fit the Red Sea canal from the Nile via Wadi Tumilat to Lake Timash. The freshwaters of the Nile would be accessed along the length of the wadi by various small farmsteads. However, Naville (1885) has noted the mention of a Temple called Pikerhet on a Stela dedicated by Ptolemy II found at Tell el Maskhutah, which he suggests is Pi-ha-Hiroth of the bible.

Naville on Greek Arabia being Egyptian 'ro ab' meaning "the eastern door" (emphasis mine) :

"The Greeks speak of a nome of Arabia...The Arabian nome derived its name from its vicinity to Arabia. I believe that the name of the Egyptian region, called Arabia, exists in the hieroglyphics, and that it has been transcribed in Egyptian by two words which have a certain likeness in sound to the Semitic word. Arabia would be the eastern door, 'ro ab'. Osiris, who on the tablet of Philadelphos immediately follows the god Tum, is called the lord of Arabia, or rather of THE ARABIAN CITY. In two texts at Denderah he is addressed in these words: Thou art in Pithom of Arabia..." (Naville.1885:8)

The west end of Wadi Tumilat might have been seen as the "eastern door" to Egypt? I have noted that the biblical "way to Shur" is the "Darb es Shur" from the Negev via Halatza and Muweileh to Imailia and Wadi Tumilat, identifying Shur (Hebrew Shuwr) with Abu Suwayr/Suweir in Wadi Tumilat. That is to say the "way to Shur" is via the "eastern door" of Egypt, the other "door to Egypt" the "way of the Philistines" was closed to israel by that warlike nation, so to get to Egypt to drink the waters of Shihor, Israel/Judah would use the "way to Shur."

Naville mentions the temple of Pikerehet in Succoth, which was found in Tell el Maskhutah (a stela of Ptolemy II):

"under the reign of His Divine Majesty; when it was reported to him that the abode had been fisinshed 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 Pikerhet, he dedicated this temple to his father Tum the great living god of Succoth, in the festival of the god." (Naville.1885:17)

Naville thought that the Serapeum southeast of Lake Timsah might be the temple of Pikerhet (Naville.1885:26), and in his summary or conclusion that biblical Pithom was Tell el Maskhutah and Heroopolis of the Greek Septuaginta bible and Roman Ero Castra (Naville.1885:31).

The problem? Egeria's guides lead her to believe that Pithom/Hero and Rameses were sites in Wadi Tumilat. Today scholars understand that Rameses is at Qantir in the eastern Delta, near Zoan (San el Hagar). Now if Rameses _is_ Qantir, then just perhaps Pithom is ALSO in the Delta and NOT in Wadi Tumilat? I would suggest that Naville's observations about Herodotus' Patumos being Roman Thou are on target, and that the site has not yet been found, but it should be somewhere in the eastern delta near the west end of Wadi Tumilat, in the vicinity of Egeria's "city of Arabia" (El Abassa El Gharbiya?) and El Qattawiyah or Ezbet el Tawahin. Another possible, but less likely site, is El Ha`atwa El-Saghira in Wadi Tumilat, west of Tell er-Retabeh? (cf. map titled Ismailia, United Arab Republic. Sheet NH 36-6. 1970. Scale: 1:250,000). 

All this is to say, that although scholars like Naville and others (Holladay and Giveon) have done an admirable job in locating some of the biblical sites' locations according to the Septuaginta and Vulgate Bibles, these locations may be wrong. Rameses IS NOT in Wadi Tumilat (its Qantir), the crossing of the Red Sea IS NOT at Clysma as noted by Egeria/Etheria (its Lake Timsah). Pithom IS NOT Tell el Maskhutah and Hero/Heroopolis (its somewhere at the west end of wadi Tumilat and in the Delta near Gharbiya and Qattawiyah).

The pilgrimess Egeria/Etheria called Etham Oton (from the Latin Vulgate bible) derived from the Greek Septuagint bible, Othom or Boethan (cf. note 100 p. 182. Gingras). Might Othom/Oton be Arabic `Atwa (ezbet abu `Atwa, "the farm of `Atwa" on the west shore of Timsah?). Etham might also be preserved at ezbet el Hatayma, to the west of Ismailia and east of Abu Suwayr?

Egeria understood Rameses was four miles east of the city of Arabia, which I have identifiied with modern el Abbasa el Gharbiya at the west end of Wadi Tumilat and at the edge of the Delta plain.  Suggestions for Egeria's Ramesses are Saft el-Henneh at the west end of Wadi Tumilat, Tell el-Kebir, and Tell er-Retabeh in the west end of the wadi (cf. note 113, p. 185 Gingras, for the various proposals).

As regards MY Exodus site proposals, there are some _CAVEATS_ that need to be noted here. 1) The site proposals I made have NOT been archaeologically excavated to see if they match the time period of the Exodus (either ca. 1446 B.C. preferred by Conservatives, or ca. 1260 B.C. and Ramesside preferred by Liberals). 2) To date, NOT a single site has ever been identified in the Sinai to everyone's approval, as Israelite. That is to say, that although there are sites from both the Late Bronze And Iron Ages (Ramesside era) in the Sinai, who's to say these are "Israel's"? They could be sites made by passing nomads or Egyptian miners? Short of finding some sherds
inscribed "Moses, Phineas, Aaron and Miriam were here" in Hebrew or the shattered Ten Commandments inscribed in Hebrew, I doubt there ever will be a "consensus" as to what is, or is not, an "Israelite site" in the Sinai. The Catholic Conservatives will deny the site if it isn't circa 1512 B.C., the Protestant Conservatives will deny the site if it isn't ca. 1446 B.C. (18th Dynasty) and the Liberals will deny the site if it isn't ca. 1260 B.C. (19th Dynasty Ramesside)- so, NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET!

16 Jan 2006 Update:

Another "serious problem" in identifying Israel's encampments is that there is _no agreement_ among authorities as to the distance Israel traveled each day between camps.

Professor Hoffmeier noted that several ancient itineraries suggested that caravans consisting of either camels or donkeys could attain a daily rate of 15 to 20 miles, and he suggests that this is Israel's rate of travel in his Exodus campsite proposals. The problem? Other scholars dispute this. They argue that Bedouin nomads who make their living herding goats or sheep usually do not exceed anywhere from 6 to 10 miles a day so as to not exhaust their flocks. They argue that as Israel is portrayed leaving Egypt with flocks of goats and sheep and herds of cattle, it is impossible for her to achieve the daily rate of a camel or donkey caravan. The problem? If Israel's daily rate of travel is determined by her flocks, then she could not have gone more than 6 to 10 miles each day between encampments. This is a "very serious" problem! Why? Because NO PROPOSAL from any authority (biblical scholar) can get Israel from one proposed campsite to another in one day at a rate of 6 to 10 miles a day!  As proposed by Hoffmeier, the currently favored campsites are attainable if 15 to 20 miles a day is achieved. To illustrate what I mean: Gebel Musa or Ras Safsafeh near Saint Catherine's monastery is favored by some to be Mount Sinai and either Ain Qadeis or nearby Ain Qudeirat is thought to be Kadesh Barnea in the Negev. We are informed it is 11 days journey by the way to Mount Seir from Mount Horeb (Mt. Sinai) to Kadesh (De 1:2). The actual distance as the crow flies is about 160 miles. This is possible if Israel covers 15 miles a day or 165 miles in 11 days. If her flocks of goats, sheep and herds of cattle allow only 6 to 10 miles a day it is not possible. At 6 miles a day 26 days would be needed. At 10 miles a day 16 days would be needed.

Hoffmeier, refering to Beitzel's investigations:

"This figure precisely lies between the twentyfour and thirty-two kilometers (fifteen and twenty miles) per day that was reckoned based on comparitive travel distances from ancient texts."

(p. 144. James K. Hoffmeier. Ancient Israel in Sinai, The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition. Oxford & New York. Oxford University Press. 2005)

Beitzel (emphasis mine in capitals):

"Itinerary texts from the Mosaic period stipulate that caravans were able to cover no more than about 20-23 miles per day. With the Exodus, however, the size and the background of the group, when combined with the factors of accompanying women and children and flocks and herds (Ex 12:38; 34:3; cf. 17:2; Nu 20:19), eliminate any possibility...The average daily distance maintained by modern bedouin moving from camp to camp is about _SIX MILES_." 

(p. 91. Barry J. Beitzel. The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands. Chicago. Moody Press. 1985, 1988)

Bryant G. Wood, a trained archaeologist observes : "A large group of pastoralists moving with their possessions and animals can cover no more than _SIX MILES_ in a day, and usually less (Conder 1883: 79; cf. Beitzel 1985: 91). The limiting factor is the animals. When the Israelites left Egypt, they had "large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds" (Ex 13:38). "

Professor Har-El prefers a daily rate of travel for Israel of about 6 miles, based on his once having been a shepherd himself. He is critiquing Shafei's 1946 proposal for the Exodus route from Rameses to Yam Suph (emphasis mine in capitals):

"Shafei's map indicates that the Israelites covered 18 km. on the first day of the journey,  26 km. on the second, and 24 km. on the third. This view is entirely untenable for the following reasons: a) Old people, women and children could hardly progress at such a rate...b) Herds with their young cannot cover such long distances without collapsing on the way (I know this from my own experience as a shepherd); c) Such a large mass of people, weighed down by large quantities of baggage and heavily laden with posessions, could not possibly have made such rapid progress. Conder's observation that the Bedouin who move camp travel at _A MAXIMUM OF SIX MILES A DAY_ also provides support to this point of criticism. His estimate refers to small groups of Bedouin who are properly prepared for their move, in contrast to the large numbers of the Israelites who left Egypt in a hurry, without having made preparations for their journey."

(p. 167. Menashe Har-El. " Criticism of Shafei's View." The Sinai Journeys, The Route of the Exodus. San Diego, Calfornia. Ridgefield Publishing Company. 1983. ISBN 0-86628-016-2 [first published in Hebrew 1968, by Am-Oved Publishing Ltd. Tel Aviv])

One individual noted (in an e-mail to me 09 Oct 2005): "Another Archaeologist, Clark Hopkins (of Yale) while directing a dig at Dura-Europas in the Syrian desert, noted that herders were moving 8-10 miles a day in areas where there was not enough pasture to satisfy the small livestock." 

All this is to say, that if it is "impossible" for Israel to attain the daily rate of travel of a camel or donkey caravan because of the sheep, goats and cattle accompanying her, then ALL SCHOLARLY PROPOSALS (including my own) ARE DOOMED TO FAILURE, as NONE present an Exodus route based on a daily rate of travel of not more than 6 to 10 miles a day between _all_ the encampments!

Bible scholars such as Burkhardt and Robinson who explored the Sinai's Exodus Route in the 19th century AD did so by camels with Arab guides. These camels' pace was about 2 miles an hour and a day's trek was usually about 10 hours, or roughly 20 miles a day. It is this phenomenon that lies behind their proposals for various sites of the Exodus, assuming a daily rate for Israel of 20 miles. Their proposals based on this phenomenon lie behind the identity of Marah with Ain Hawara, Elim with Wadi Gharandal, Sin with the coastal plain south of Ras Abu Zenimeh, and Gebel Musa being 11 days travel _by camel_ to Ain Qadeis and Ain Qudeirat.

Because of the above "anomalies" I have the following proposals to make:

1) The encampments presented in the Exodus account are perhaps a "late fabrication" of the Iron II period (9th-6th century B.C.) and are based on a "genuine itinerary" as _achieved by camel or donkey caravans_ which perhaps traversed the southern Sinai from the Negev to Egypt. Their daily rate of travel being 15 to 23 miles a day. I note that archaeolgists found at the Feiran Oasis pottery in the southern Sinai pottery sherds from Iron II Judah of the 9th-8th century B.C. Perhaps a caravan from Judah left these shards enroute to Egypt? If so, then the Exodus route and its encampments may be based on data from such caravans.

2) If  1) is "correct" then it follows that the route of a real Exodus is _not_ recoverable, as sheep, goats and cattle could not achieve the rate of travel of a camel/donkey caravan. Professor Hoffmeier's proposal of sites for the Route of the Exodus is pretty much that of earlier scholars since the 19th century A.D. explorations by camel of various Bible scholars (Burkhardt, Robinson, etc.). To me it makes sense, a camel caravan's encampments are being preserved in the Exodus account.

3) NO SCHOLARLY PROPOSAL (myself included) for the "Route of the Exodus" -to date- is based upon a _realistic_ travel rate of goats, sheep and cattle of not more than 6 to 10 miles a day for _all_ the encampments.

4) If employing a daily rate of travel for Israel of not more than 6-10 miles a day, the "most likely route" of the Exodus _it appears to me_ would be the Arabic Darb es-Shur, identified by some with the Biblical 'Way to Shur', a track from Beersheba to Muweileh, and Bir el Hasanna, which then crosses the N Sinai terminating at Lake Timsah and the east end of Wadi Tumilat. The problem? Not even this "much shorter route" can be reconciled with the list of encampments from Rameses to Kadesh Barnea, using a daily travel rate of 6 to 10 miles a day. One of the "problems" with this route is that after crossing Yam Suph, Israel wanders 3 days in the wilderness of Shur, then stops at Marah, then Elim, then the shore of Yam Suph AGAIN. If Yam Suph is the region embracing the Ballah Lakes, Lake Timsah, the Bitter Lakes and Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba as proposed by Professor K. A. Kitchen, then where is the SECOND Yam Suph on the Darb es-Shur?

Please click here  (and scroll down to the 15 Jan 2006 update) for Yam Suph's location _if_ Israel's daily rate of travel _was no more than 6 miles a day_ due to flocks of sheep accompanying her as advocated by Conder, Beitzel, Wood and Har-El. Many scholars associate Rameses, where the Exodus began, with Qantir (Pi-Rameses). Day One of the Exodus: Rameses/Qantir to Succoth, 6 miles. Day Two of the Exodus: Succoth to Etham, 6 miles. Day Three of the Exodus: "Turn back" from Etham and encamp before Yam Suph (the Red/Reed Sea). If Israel is "turning back" on herself from Etham to Yam Suph is this sea between 6 to 12 miles from Rameses/Qantir? I have located TWO areas within 12 miles of Qantir which possess bodies of water for Yam Suph. The maps show these bodies of water to be "intermittent lakes", at times dry and other times filled with water. That is to say, ALL the "earlier" scholarly proposals for Yam Suph do not fall within the parameters of between 6 to 12 miles from Rameses/Qantir, such as Lake Bardawil in the northern Sinai, Lake Ballah, Lake Timsah, the Bitter Lakes, the Suez Gulf. The widely held notion that Succoth is a Ramesside Egyptian region called Tjeku in Wadi Tumilat and Etham is near Lake Timsah ALSO FALL OUTSIDE the parameters of sites lying no more than 12 miles from Rameses/Qantir. Of course if Israel "could exceed 6 miles a day" with flocks of sheep and goats and herds of cattle then the parameters can be expanded. To Get to Tjeku/Succoth from Qantir/Rameses in TWO DAYS, the rate of travel would have to be about 20 miles a day. Can sheep, goats and cattle _really_ be driven 20 miles a day?



<> Gregory D. Mumford, PhD, Egyptologist (University of Toronto) S.E.P.E. 
(Survey and Excavation Projects in Egypt. 2002 Season) Scroll down for his photo of the Ayun Musa Oasis.

<>  Gordon Franz. Mt. Sinai is NOT at Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia. A15 Nov. 2001 paper, updated 14 March 2002.

Map of the Route of the Exodus by Prof. Menashe Har-El. Sinai Journeys, The Route of the Exodus. San Diego, California. Ridgefield.1983) reproduced at the at the following url


Yohanan Aharoni, "Kadesh-Barnea and Mount Sinai." pp. 115-126. Beno Rothenberg & Yohanan Aharoni. God's Wilderness, Discoveries in Sinai. New York. Thomas Nelson & Sons.1961, 1962.

James Henry Breasted. A History of Egypt. 1912. Charles Scribner's Sons. New York.

Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton. The Septuagint With Apocrypha : Greek and English.1986 reprint. Peabody, Massachusetts. Hendrickson Publishers. [reprint of 1851. London. published by Samuel Bagster & Sons. Ltd.].

Alan H. Gardiner, T. Eric Peet & Jaroslav Cerny. The Inscriptions of Sinai. (Part Two, Text [Part One is Illustrations or Plates]).1955. London. Egypt Exploration Society. Oxford University Press.

George E. Gingras (Translator). Egeria: Diary of A Pilgrimage. [Translated and Annotated]. 1970. Newman Press. New York, N.Y. & Paramus, N.J.

Menashe Har-El. Sinai Journeys, The Route of the Exodus. San Diego, California. Ridgefield.1983
(Earlier published in Hebrew at Tel Aviv in 1968).

James K. Hoffmeier. Israel in Egypt, The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. 1996. New York. Oxford University Press.

K.A. Kitchen. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. 2003. William B. Eerdmans. Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Edouard Naville. The Store-City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus. 1885. London. Egypt Exploration Fund.

T. Eric Peet. Egypt and the Old Testament. 1923. Boston. Small, Maynard & Company.

Benjamin Sass. The Genesis of the Alphabet and Its Development in the Second Millennium BC. Wiesbaden. Otto Harrassowitz. 1988 [Aegypten und Altes Testament, Band 13].

C. Leonard Woolley & T.E. Lawrence. The Wilderness of Zin. 1914. London. Palestine Exploration Fund.

Maps with site proposals:

Abu Suwayr/Suweir (biblical: Shur, Hebrew: Shuwr).  Ismailia, United Arab Republic. 1970. Sheet NH 36-6. Scale: 1:250,000.

Jerusalem Road (biblical: "way to Shur" Arabic: Darb es-Shur)  Ismailia, United Arab Republic. 1970. Sheet NH 36-6. Scale: 1:250,000.

Wadi Tumilat, east of Tell er-Retabeh, or Lake Timsah area (biblical: "Etham in the edge of the wilderness").  Ismailia, United Arab Republic. 1970. Sheet NH 36-6. Scale: 1:250,000.

Isthmus of Suez, from Wadi Tumilat /Lake Timash to Gulf of Suez (biblical: "3-day Wilderness of Etham/Shur").  Ismailia, United Arab Republic. 1970. Sheet NH 36-6. Scale: 1:250,000.

Bir el Murr, wadi Murr, Qaret el Murr, east of the port of Suez (biblical: Marah LXX: Merrah). Suez, United Arab Republic. 1970. Sheet NH 36-10. Scale: 1:250,000.

Ayun Musa (biblical: Elim, meaning in Hebrew "trees").  Suez, United Arab Republic. 1970. Sheet NH 36-10. Scale: 1:250,000.

Coastal plain view of Red Sea (biblical: Red Sea encampment). Suez, United Arab Republic. 1970. Sheet NH 36-10. Scale: 1:250,000.

The high plain of El Sanawi north of wadi Gharandal or the high plain of Hosan Abu Zenna south of the wadi (biblical: "Wilderness of Zin/ LXX: Sina").  Suez, United Arab Republic. 1970. Sheet NH 36-10. Scale: 1:250,000.

Ras Umm Qatafa (biblical: Dophkah) Qal`et El-Nakhl, Egypt . Sheet NH 36-11. 1972. 1:250,000. Washington, DC.

Qattar Dafari (biblical Dophkah) Tor, Egypt. Sheet NH 36-15. 1972. 1:250,000. Washington, D.C. _and_    Abu Zenima. Southern Sinai. Sheet 5. Survey of Egypt. 1936. 1:100,000.

Bir El-Guweisha (biblical: Alush) Qal`et El-Nakhl, Egypt . Sheet NH 36-11. 1972. 1:250,000. Washington, DC.

Serabit el Khadim (biblical: Rephidim) Abu Zenima. Southern Sinai. Sheet 5. Survey of Egypt. 1936. 1:100,000.

Jebel Ghorabi (biblical: Horeb, rock in) Abu Zenima. Southern Sinai. Sheet 5. Survey of Egypt. 1936. 1:100,000.

Jebel Gharabi (biblical Horeb/Choreb, rock in) Qal`et El-Nakhl, Egypt. Sheet NH 36-11. Scale: 1:250,000. 1972 Washington, DC.

Gebel Saniya (biblical: Mount Sinai) Abu Zenima. Southern Sinai. Sheet 5. Survey of Egypt. 1936. 1:100,000.

Feiran, Oasis and Wadi (biblical: wilderness of Paran) Tor, Egypt. 1972. 1:250,000. Washington, DC.

Map of Hathor Shrine and Gebels Serabit el Khadim, Ghorabi, Saniya, and locations of inscriptions, mines and encampments. pp. 31,33, 36-37. Alberto Siliotti. Sinai, Geschichte, Kunst, Touristik. 1994. Karl Muller Verlag. Erlangen, Deutschland [1994. White Star S.r.l. Via Candido Sassone, 24, Vercelli, Italien] ISBN 3-86070-503-2.

08 Oct 2005 Update:

For alternate proposals for Dophkah (Wadi Foqa), Alush (Wadi el-Esh) and Rephidim (Wadi Rufaiyil), Mt. Sinai being Ras Safsafeh, please click here.

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