Route of the Exodus

From BibleStrength

For a good map showing some of these locations, see[1][2] Known locations are bolded.The Israelites may have been known as the Thamud during the Exodus. They share similarities to the ancient Sabaeans (Yemen) as well.

Notice that the Israelites actually reached Canaan only 2 years after crossing the Red Sea, about 2 years and 2 months after leaving Egypt. (Numbers 12-13) They attempted to capture it, fighting the Amorites in Edom, and failed miserably - their rebellion led to God sending them to wander for 38 years in the wilderness. So they actually left the Canaanite region after arriving it, and then wandered in an unknown area for 38 years.

What locations are mentioned during the Exodus tend to be to the east, south, or northeast of the Dead Sea. The Exodus as such ranged through modern-day Jordan and possibly parts of Saudi Arabia and Syria as well. Given the desert wastelands through which they traveled the priority was clearly water, and they would have stopped at wadis, which are essentially oases. Possible locations include Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon), Wadi Hasa (Wadi Zered), Mada'in Saleh (Al-Hijr or Hegra, key city of the Thamud), Wadi Rabigh (Medina), Wadi Hanifa, Arabah, and Cherith.

Timeline after leaving Egypt

  • Rameses to Succoth (Exodus 12:37; 13:17-19; Numbers 33:3-5) Succoth was a city east of the Jordan River. (Joshua 13:27) However because this would be so far northeast, an alternate possibility, Sokho (Socoh) in the Elah Valley may be more likely. (Joshua 15:35)
  • Avoided land of Philistines, went through Wilderness of Red Sea (Exodus 13:17-18) The Philistines lived near modern-day Gaza where Palestine is today.
  • Succoth to E'tham on edge of wilderness (Exodus 13:20; Numbers 33:6)
  • Camped before Pi-ha-hiroth between Migdol and sea next to Ba'alze'phon, between wilderness and sea (Exodus 14:2-3,10; Numbers 33:7)
  • Crossed Red Sea, Pharaoh's army dies (Exodus 14:21-15:4; Numbers 33:8)
  • Wilderness of Shur/Etham to Marah (Exodus 15:22-23; Numbers 33:8)

2.5 months (Exodus 16:1), 40 year period of manna begins (Exodus 16:35)

  • Elim, an oasis with 12 wells of water and 70 palm trees (Exodus 15:26-27; Numbers 33:9)
  • Wilderness of Sin between Elim and Sinai by the Red Sea (Exodus 16:1; Numbers 33:10-11)
  • Dophkah to Alush (Numbers 33:12)
  • Rephidim, no water, Moses smote Rock of Horeb to bring forth water, was then named Massah and Meribah; Amalekites attacked Israel here, altar named Jehovah-Nissi (Exodus 17:1-16; Numbers 33:14; Deuteronomy 1:19; 9:22)
  • Met by Jethro priest of Midian, Moses' father in law (Exodus 18:1-27)

3 months (Exodus 19:1)

  • Rephidim to Desert of Sinai to Wilderness of Sinai (Exodus 19:1-2; Numbers 33:15)
  • Mount Sinai, Law given, instructions for Tabernacle and priesthood, Aaron leads idolatry, plague and death of Israelites (Exodus 19:3-40:38) In my opinion this seems most likely Jebel al-Madhbah, but there is considerable debate over this subject.

2 years, 1 month (Exodus 40:17)

  • Tabernacle created (Exodus 40:17-38)

2 years, 2 months (Numbers 1:1)

  • Israel numbered at Wilderness of Sinai, passover kept (Numbers 1:2-9:14)

2 years, 2 months, 20 days (Numbers 10:11)

  • Cloud leaves Temple, goes to wilderness of Paran. (Numbers 10:12)
  • Taberah/Kibroth-Hattaavah, Israelites killed by plague of quail for lusting. (Numbers 11:1-34; 33:16; Deuteronomy 9:22)
  • Hazeroth. (Numbers 11:35; 33:17)
  • Rithmah to Rimmonparez. (Numbers 33:19)
  • Libnah to Rissah. (Numbers 33:21)
  • Kehelalath to Mount Shapher. (Numbers 33:23)
  • Haradah to Makheloth. (Numbers 33:25)
  • Tahath to Tarah. (Numbers 33:27)
  • Mithcah to Hashmonah. (Numbers 33:29)
  • Moseroth to Benejaakan, mentioned as place where Aaron dies later, perhaps includes Mount Hor. (Numbers 33:31; Deuteronomy 10:6)
  • Horhagidgad/Gudgodah to Jotbathah/Jotbath the land of rivers of waters, Levites separated to bear the Ark of the Covenant, Moses goes up into Mount Sinai again. (Numbers 33:33; Deuteronomy 10:7-11) Jotbathah may be near Yotvata.
  • Ebronah to Eziongaber near Elath. (Numbers 33:35) Eziongaber is near Edom and Moab. (Deuteronomy 2:8) It appears to be Ezion-Geber, a seaport on the north of the Gulf of Aqaba near Eilat. Ebronah is likewise nearby in the region of Elat and Aqaba, Jordan.

38 year period begins (Deuteronomy 2:14)

  • Kadesh/Kadeshbarnea, the "great and terrible" Wilderness of Zin/Paran, spies sent into Canaan. (Numbers 12:16-13:17,26; 33:36-37; Deuteronomy 1:19) There is an ancient city of Kadesh or Qadesh mentioned in connection with the Canaanites which opposed King Thutmose III around 1500 B.C., it was part of the Mitanni/Hurri empire. The empire appears to have been considerably larger than typically assumed by scholars, with Kadesh probably to the northeast of the Dead Sea.
  • Spies examined Wilderness of Zin, Rehob, Hebron, Anak, brook/valley of Eshcol, mount of Amorites. (Numbers 13:21-25; Deuteronomy 1:20-25) Hebron is a well-known city in Palestine. Rehov or Rehob is a well-excavated ancient city on the northeast edge of the Dead Sea, in Israel's Jordan Valley.
  • Some tried fighting the Amorites in Edom, were chased to Horman/Hormah (Numbers 15:40-45; Deuteronomy 1:44) Edom is a region south of the Dead Sea.
  • Around 15,000 Israelites die in plague/earthquake/fire for rebelling against God (Numbers 16)
  • Desert of Zin in Kadesh, Miriam dies, Moses brings water from rock at Meribah (Numbers 20:1-13)
  • Israel journeys around Edom (Numbers 20:14-21)
  • Mount Hor, Mosera near coast of Edom, Aaron dies (Numbers 20:22-29; 33:37-39; Deuteronomy 10:6)
  • Hormah; Arad, a Canaanite king attacks Israel taking prisoners (Numbers 21:1-3, 33:40)
  • Journeyed by Mount Hor near Red Sea next to Edom, fiery serpent plague kills many Israelites (Numbers 21:4-9; Deuteronomy 2:1)
  • Zalmonah to Punon (Numbers 33:42)
  • Oboth to Ijeabarim/Iim in wilderness near Moab to the east (Numbers 21:10-11; 33:44)

38 year period ends (Deuteronomy 2:7,14)

  • Valley of Zared/Zered (Numbers 21:12; Deuteronomy 2:13-14) This very definitely appears to be Wadi Zered.
  • Arnon/Ar in wilderness of Amorite coasts near Moab and Ar. (Numbers 21:13-15; Deuteronomy 2:9-29) Arnon is both the name of a city on the lower east coast of the Dead Sea and a nearby river known as the Wadi Mujib.
  • Be'er, Israelites given water. (Numbers 21:16-17) Perhaps near Be'er Sheva?
  • Mattanah to Nahaliel (Numbers 21:19)
  • Bamoth Valley in Moab, top of Pisgah toward Jeshimon, appears to be where Moses dies later (Numbers 21:19-20) Appears to be Bamoth-Baal as mentioned in the Moabite Stone. The Pisgah region is east of the Jordan River and northeast of the Dead Sea.
  • Sihon King of Amorites refuses Israel passage, attacks them at Jahaz, Israel captures land from Jabbok to Arnon to Ammon's border, captured cities of Heshbon, Dibon, Aroer (on bank of river Arnon), Gilead, Nophah, near Medebah (Numbers 21:21-31; Deuteronomy 2:30-37) Probably includes Dibongad (Dibon?) and Almondiblathaim. (Numbers 33:46) Medeba is a major city in Jordan. Dibon appears to be Dhiban, Jordan. The Arnon River is a known locations in Jordan also called the Wadi Mujib.
  • Israel fights other Amorites at Edrei, captures 60 cities including Jaazer, Bashan, and the Argob region (Numbers 21:32-35; Deuteronomy 3:1-11) Edrei is the ancient city of Dara'a and was mentioned in the military annals of Pharaoh Thutmose III. It is northeast of the Dead Sea on the border between Jordan and Syria and somewhat close to the Israel border as well.
  • Mountains of Abarim (Numbers 33:47). This is a mountain range which crosses modern-day Jordan.

40th year, 11th month (Deuteronomy 1:1-4)

  • Bethjesimoth to Abelshittim in plains of Moab near Jericho, Balaam blesses Israel (Numbers 22:1-24:25; 33:49-56) Abelshittim appears to be Abila which Josephus identified as a town once full of palm trees, it is an ancient city northeast of the Dead Sea.
  • Shittim, Israelites commit whoredom with Moabites, 24,000 die in plague (Numbers 25:1-18)
  • Moses dies on Mount Nebo, top of Pisgah near Jericho in land of Moab near Bethpeor. (Deuteronomy 34:5-8) It is a mountain in Jordan that is part of the Mountains of Abarim.

Possible Pharaoh of the Exodus

Pharaoh appears to have been Thutmose II (1493-1479 B.C.) or Thutmose III who reigned 1479-1425 B.C., including as a coregent with his mother Hatshepsut for two decades.

Arguments for Thutmose II

  • His reign better fits the starting date for the Exodus.
  • The earliest inscription of the land of the Shasu of Yahweh dates to 1400 B.C., so the Israelites had finished their 40-year Exodus and arrived in Canaan by this time. This corresponds perfectly with Thutmose II as the Pharaoh of the Exodus.[3]
  • A lack of records during his reign and destruction of references to him by later Pharaohs suggests he suffered major disgrace.
  • Unusually he left no heir, resulting in his wife Hatshepsut ruling when he died, consistent with a Biblical plague killing his firstborn son.
  • Records of him fighting Shasu Bedouin in Sinai suggest he was fighting the Hebrews during the time of the Exodus.
  • His mummy is the only mummy for a Pharaoh from that time period covered with diseased cysts, supporting the Biblical account of plagues afflicting the Egyptians. Graves of wealthy children who died unusually young near the time of his reign support the Biblical plague on the firstborn sons of the Egyptians.[2]

Arguments for Thutmose III

  • Firstborn son died, consistent with the plagues mentioned in Exodus.
  • Greatest military campaigner of the Pharaohs, making it unlikely an earlier Pharaoh was the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Otherwise he would have lacked the troops to achieve his victories had the major loss of troops from the Red Sea crossing occurred earlier.
  • Later pharaohs did not do the extensive campaigns he had, suggesting a severe loss of troops during his lifetime, possibly the campaign against the Shasu/Hebrews.
  • Military style resembles that later used by the Hebrews in taking over Canaan. Thutmose III achieved his victories over Canaan by conquering city by city, taking the weakest first. This could have served as inspiration for later Hebrew technique in conquering Canaan, and aided in their success. They could have seen Thutmose use just such a style while they were enslaved, and having escaped knew the tactics of Egypt's greatest military tactician.
  • Unlike other Pharaohs his mummy was very poorly preserved and protected, and perhaps was not given as much care by later Pharaohs due to the shame of a defeat at the hands of the Hebrews.

Crossing of Red Sea, Gulf of Aqaba

Starting Point of Exodus Near Canaan

The crossing appears to have been over the Gulf of Aqaba. Egypt at the time of Thutmose III ruled the Sinai Peninsula, so the Sinai Peninsula was likely their starting point when leaving Egypt.[4] In Exodus 13:17-18 it says that while escaping Egypt they avoided the land of the Philistines near Canaan, so it appears they actually started out very close to the Land of Canaan when leaving Egypt, likely somewhere in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

The Israelites when leaving Egypt actually began near their intended destination of Canaan. God led them in a circular route however so they would not have to immediately fight the entire nation of Canaan right away, which might have resulted in them having to fight the Egyptians at their backs as well. (Exodus 33:17-18) This is further supported by the fact that the second waypoint on their journey was Succoth, another Canaanite location. (Exodus 13:20; compare Joshua 13:27; Judges 8:5-16; 1 Kings 7:46)

As ironic as going in a nearly complete circle might seem, it had several advantages.

  1. It allowed God to destroy the Egyptians using the sea, rather than risk having Israel caught between two opposing forces, the Philistines and Egyptians.
  2. It threw off further Egyptian pursuit. The Egyptians would never have guessed the fleeing Israelites would intend to return to the very location they began so close to, Canaan, once escaping to the other side of the Red Sea.
  3. It allowed Israel to come at Canaan from an unexpected direction, straight through a seemingly impregnable wilderness, adding the element of surprise while attacking the Canaanites' weakness. Rather than coming via the well-known (and likely far better defended) Egyptian route, it allowed the Israelites to come at the Canaanites from behind.
  4. It provided time for the frightened Israelites, newly freed slaves likely unaccustomed to battle, to work up their courage and confidence in their God in readiness for the battles ahead.

Crossing Location

Exodus 14:21 states that it was a strong east wind responsible for causing the dry land which would seemingly disqualify a point close to the mouth of the Red Sea (Strait of Tiran), as water would otherwise keep flowing in. They had to have been far enough south along the gulf that Pharaoh thought them "hemmed in" by the sea (Exodus 14:3) but not far enough south for wind to be ineffective in changing tide levels. Pharaoh likely thought he had their escape cut off from the North to stop their fleeing into Arabia.

Although I have been skeptical of Ron Wyatt's claims in the past, I notice that he has identified Nuweiba as the likely crossing site, which mirrors my own train of thought.[5] Given sea elevation a crossing should have been between the Elat and Aragonese Deeps.[6] For a good analysis critical of both the Tinan and Nuweiba crossings, see Franz's article (whose conclusion of a Suez crossing I nonetheless consider far more unlikely given the Biblical description).[7]

The major question raised by Franz and others of a Nuweiba crossing seems to involve the decline near the Nuweiba crossing, but I would expect water to have eroded what once was a higher passage. Personally I believe Rameses and Succoth as locations were on the northern top of the Sinai Peninsula. Thus the Israelites before crossing the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba would have bypassed the Canaanite region of the Philistines, travelling south down the Red Sea while being pursued by Pharaoh from the North, before crossing over.

While a Strait of Tinan crossing would seem the second-most likely scenario, I question whether it would have been close enough to ancient Egyptian cities to fit the description of a journey from Egypt, close enough to the land of the Philistines to fit Exodus 13:17-18, and close enough to Pharaoh's main army for him to have been able to quickly pursue them. The evidence just doesn't seem to fit the travel time or locations mentioned.

For one thing, millions of Israelites would have had to have been fleeing from a location near the land of the Philistines, apparently near Canaan, and that would be a very long distance to travel - not to mention that much of it would be going the wrong way they wanted to go. Given the Israelite's fickle nature, they would likely have turned on Moses long before travelling southwest down the full length of the Gulf of Aqaba.

Numbers 33

Numbers 33 contains a summary of the journeys with some additional detail not seen in Exodus.