The Books of Moses

Fact or Fiction?

 

 

Session 8

 

 

The Exodus from Egypt

 

 

 

Bruce Armstrong

 

 

The Exodus from Egypt

Table of Contents

Introduction

Joseph in Egypt

Slide into Slavery

Moses and the Plagues

The Passover

The Exodus Begins

Where are They?

And Where Are They Going?

Other Exodus Routes and Crossing Places

Sea of Reeds, Balla Lake, Bitter Lake

Crossing at the Gulf of Suez

Crossing at the Straits of Tiran

The Journey to Nuweiba Beach

Crossing the Soph Sea

Israel in Midian

Some Issues to Consider

Archeological Evidence to Support This Crossing Place

Israelite Population Growth

How Could Pharaoh’s Military Catch up to the Israelites?

Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Exodus

Could They Have Crossed the Soph Sea Using Boats?

Conclusion

 

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and Jehovah caused the sea to depart by a mighty spirit from the east that night.  He made the sea into dry land, and the waters were split.  So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.    Exodus 14:21 & 22

 

Introduction

In our last session we looked at Nimrod, Babel and the Confusion of Languages, which resulted in the dispersion of various descendants of Noah to their lands throughout the world.

 

This session, we will quickly review how the Israelites became slaves in Egypt, and focus on how that led to their Exodus via a series of miracles.

 

Joseph in Egypt

There are traditions that Harran, the likely site of Babel, was named after Abraham’s brother, Haran, and Abraham was born in the Harran plain area.  Eventually, one of Abraham’s descendants, Joseph, was sold as a slave and wound up in Egypt in about 2218 After Creation, or 1787 BCE.  This is about 212 years after the Babel event we looked at last session.  Joseph was eventually put into prison, but from there he was taken to Pharaoh to interpret his dream.  God had given Joseph the meaning of Pharaoh’s dream of seven fat cows that were swallowed up by seven starving cows, which remained starving.  There was to be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of drought, and Jehovah also gave Joseph wisdom in how to use the situation to save many people from death during the drought and also to use it to the Pharaoh’s advantage (Genesis chapters 37 to 41).  It is very likely that the Pharaoh in question was Djoser and Joseph’s Egyptian name was Imhotep.1  Djoser was grateful to Joseph and gave Goshen2 to his family as a thank you when they moved to Egypt during the years of drought.  Goshen was the best land in the Nile river delta (see Genesis 45:1 to 21).  It is likely that all the Israelites moved to Egypt about 2237 AC (1768 BCE).

 

The thank you was well-deserved. Joseph, as Vizier to the Pharaoh, had made Egypt into a Superpower and Pharaoh the owner of virtually all of Egypt.  For some time the Israelites were respected because of what Joseph had done for the Pharaohs, but over time there was a change of dynasty and a change of heart in the Egyptian rulership.

 

Slide into Slavery

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.    Exodus 1:8

 

As the Egyptians’ memory of Joseph waned, things began to go wrong for the Israelites.  By about 2375 After Creation, or 1630 BCE the Israelites have, within 133 years, become slaves in Egypt.  And despite desperate attempts by this Pharaoh to kill off all the male Israelite children, their numbers continued to grow rapidly even while the Egyptian oppression and cruelty grew:

 

And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are abundant and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happens, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.”

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens.  And they built supply cities for Pharaoh, Pithom and Raamses.  But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.  And they were in dread of the children of Israel.

So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with brutality.  And they made their lives bitter with severe bondage; in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of work in the field.  All their work in which they made them serve was with brutality.

Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah;  and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”  But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive.

So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?”

And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives come to them.”  Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty.  And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them.

So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the waterways, and every daughter you shall save alive.”    Exodus 1:9 to 22

 

This command led to the infant Moses being placed in a waterproof basket and put into the Pharaoh’s daughter’s bathing pool on the side of the Nile.  Moses then grows up in the palace, but when he is 40 he strikes and kills an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite.  He has to flee for his life.  He spends the next 40 years living in Midian as a shepherd, on the east side of the Soph Sea (Gulf of Aqaba).

 

So another eighty years have elapsed, and it is now about 2451 After Creation, or 1554 BCE.

 

Moses and the Plagues

It is in Midian that Moses sees the burning bush which is not consumed and Jehovah commands him to return to Egypt to lead the Israelites out:

 

And Jehovah said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.  So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey....

“Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

So He said, “I will certainly be with you.  And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”  Exodus 3:7 to 12

 

Moses and his brother Aaron return to Egypt and God brings ten plagues of increasing severity on the Egyptians, until Pharaoh finally allows them to leave.

The plagues are:

1:  Nile river turns to blood for seven days.  Exodus 7:14-25

2:  Frogs by the millions come out of the Nile.  Exo 8:1-15

3:  Lice from the dust.  Exo 8:16-20

4:  Flies everywhere, but not on the Israelites, nor any of the following plagues.  Exo 8:21-32

5:  Livestock: all die from diseases.  Exo 9:1-7

6:  Boils cover the Egyptians and their new animals.  Exo 9:8-12

7:  Severe hail kills all people and animals outside, and destroys their barley and flax.  Exo 9:13-35

8:  Locusts eat all the plants that remain.  Exo 10:1-20

9:  Blackness, total lack of light for three days and nights.  Exodus 10:21-29

10:  Passover, all the first-born of people and animals die.  Exo 11:1 to 12:51

 

Every one of these plagues is a direct attack on one or more of the Egyptian gods, and against Pharaoh, who claims to be a god.  These supposed gods are named in Figure 1.

 

 

Figure 1: Jehovah’s Judgements on the Egyptian ‘Gods’: a Barnes Bible Chart.

 

In every case, Jehovah shows that He is the true God and the Egyptian ‘gods’ are powerless frauds.  In the final plague, all the Egyptians, including Pharaoh and many of whom were murdering the sons of the Israelites, have their own first-born killed.

 

The Passover

As the last plague is the trigger that begins the Exodus, we will look at it in more detail:

 

It is Jehovah’s Passover:

‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from man and beast; and I will execute judgement on all the gods of Egypt: I am Jehovah.

‘Now the blood shall be for a sign for you on the houses which you are in.  And I will see the blood and I will pass over3 you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike in the land of Egypt.4

‘So this day shall be a memorial for you; and you shall celebrate it as a feast to Jehovah throughout your generations.  You shall celebrate it as an everlasting statute.  Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  Indeed, on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses.  For anyone who eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.    Exo 12:12 to 15

And it came to pass at midnight that Jehovah struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock.

So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.  Then he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, “Rise and go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel.  And go, serve Jehovah as you have said.    Exodus 12:29 to 31

 

The Exodus Begins

So while the Egyptians were burying their dead, God began leading them out of Egypt:

 

So it came to pass, on that very same day, that Jehovah led the host of the children of Israel away from the land of Egypt.    Exodus 12:51

 

That ‘very same day’ was the First Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  But how could God lead out slaves who were scattered throughout Egypt?  Before the last plague fell on Egypt, God had them recover the value of their work while slaves from the Egyptians and then gathered them all into Goshen to observe the Passover (See Exodus 11:1 to 12:14)  God also commanded them to always remember what He had done, and made it into the Mark of God:

 

“It shall be a sign to you on your hand and a reminder between your eyes,5 that Jehovah’s Instructions may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand Jehovah brought you out of Egypt.  You shall therefore keep this statute in its season from year to year.    Exodus 13:9 & 10

 

First the Israelites assembled at Rameses and then began their march out of Egypt:

 

Then the children of Israel departed from Rameses towards Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, plus their families.  A mixed crowd went up with them also, and flocks and herds; a great deal of livestock.    Exodus 12:37 & 38

 

So we have two landmarks: Rameses, where they assembled and prepared to depart, and Succoth, their first stop on their Exodus.

 

Where are They?

Rameses is the Egyptian name for the land of Goshen, the land which Djoser gave to them (Gen 45:10 and 47:11).  So they assembled on their own land.  They did not assemble at Raamses, which was one of the pharaoh’s guarded supply cities.

 

It is very likely that the Pharaoh in power during the Exodus was Amenemhat IV and he, or his predecessor, built Raamses to control the Israelites.  Amenemhat IV was the last powerful pharaoh before the near total collapse of Egypt near the end of the 12th dynasty.  Both he and his son appear to have disappeared without a trace.  Soberkneferu, his successor and a woman, ignored his existence and linked her claim to power to his father, Amenemhat III.  This would be consistent with her father dying in disgrace and her brother dying young, as the Exodus account indicates.  See Habermehl, Revising the Egyptian Chronology, for more details.

 

Goshen was the area around the modern city of Qantir, Markaz Fakous, Egypt today.  Extensive excavation at the nearby Tell el-Daba by the Austrians, led by Manfred Bietak, have revealed the remains of a large city built in a distinctive Israelite style, and which appears to have been suddenly abandoned (Location 30.7864N 31.8231E, Elev 9m).  The Egyptians later called the city Avaris, and it seems that the Hyksos, who invaded the almost defenseless Egypt after the Exodus, then made the abandoned city their capital and built over it.6  Nearby Qantir was the site of Raamses.

 

And Where Are They Going?

So we have the starting point for their Exodus.  However, the Israelites did not take the northern road towards the Promised Land of Canaan:

 

Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.  So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Soph Sea.  And the children of Israel marched7 out of the land of Egypt. Exodus 13:17 & 18

 

So we know that their first stop was at Succoth, and that they are being taken towards the Soph Sea.  And of course there are many ideas about where Succoth was, and even about what is the Soph Sea.

 

To get some idea of where to look for Succoth, first we need to sort out where the Soph Sea is.  Much of the confusion comes from mistranslations of Soph Sea.  The Hebrew is יָמָּה סּוּף Yam Soph, and everyone agrees that Yam means Sea.  The scholars who translated the Hebrew into the Septuagent about 200 BCE rendered it as the Red Sea, indicating what they thought it referred to.  But some modern scholars think that Soph is derived from an Egyptian word which means Reeds, so they render the phrase as the Sea of Reeds.  This encourages them look for a very shallow sea or lake full of reeds.8  Others think the word is derived from a Hebrew root meaning “red”, so they translate it as the Red Sea.  But the usual Hebrew meaning for Soph is “Ending”, so we have the Sea of Ending.  Various Bible verses confirm this is the sea called the Gulf of Aqaba today.  One is Exodus 10:19, when a strong westerly wind blows the locusts of the plague from Egypt into the Soph Sea and drowns them.  This means the Soph Sea is east of Egypt and fairly large to drown all of those locusts.  The most important one is 1 Kings 9:26, which talks of King Solomon’s shipyard on the Soph Sea.  The remains of Solomon’s shipyard have been located at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba, which the Israelis call the Gulf of Elat(h) today.  And in Exodus 23:31, we are told that the Land of Israel will extend down to this area of the Soph Sea.  And Solomon’s shipyard is indeed where the sea ends.  Soph Sea probably also includes all of the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.  See The Exodus Case, by Dr. Lennart Moller and The Lost Sea of Exodus by Glen Fritz for much more detail.

 

And why would Jehovah take them in this direction, which actually takes them farther from the Promised Land?  They are going there to worship Jehovah at the mountain where Moses saw the burning bush, as we were told earlier in Exodus 3:12.  And where is this mountain? –In Midian, which is on the east side of the Soph Sea (Gulf of Aqaba).  Jehovah plans to give them their laws and organise them into a nation there, as we will explore in the next session.  Then they are to move north to Canaan and take over the Promised Land.

 

But for completeness, we will briefly look at the other proposed routes and crossing places.

 

Other Exodus Routes and Crossing Places

Sea of Reeds, Balla Lake, Bitter Lake

Rohl essentially follows the Sea of Reeds scenario, in which he claims that Moses made numerous errors in leading the Israelites out of Egypt, and after several days was eventually trapped only a day’s walk north-east from where they began, on the west shore of the small and shallow Balla Lakes.  This is on the Philistine route that the Bible says they DID NOT take (Exodus 13:17 above).  There are also no hills or mountains in this area to trap the Israelites, so crossing these lakes would not have been their only option for escape.

 

Rohl then suggests that a strong wind blew back the water, like a natural event that happened in 1882 which exposed about a seven mile long section of a lake bottom which was five feet (1.5 m) deep.  Rohl claims the actual Balla(h) Lake crossing they used was only half a mile (800m) across and up to ten feet (3m) deep.  My Figure 2 shows his location, which today has a more generous 4.4 km (2.7 mi) crossing point.  This small shallow lake, entirely in Egypt, is clearly not the Soph Sea, as explained above.  There could be no walls of water, and it is difficult to see how the slow return of the water as the wind died down across his wide and short crossing would drown anyone, let alone the elite of the Egyptian army.  And once out of the lake bed, the cavalry could quickly ride the short distance around the lake, recapture their slaves and slaughter their leaders.  And all this would happen within Egypt.  There would have been no Exodus.  Rohl proposes this pathetic scenario so he can offer “a rational, non-miraculous explanation” of the Exodus crossing.9  His crossing is indeed non-miraculous, but it is not rational nor scriptural.  One wonders why he bothered to write a book about these miracles when he clearly does not really believe in the accuracy of the Bible, in Jehovah God or in God’s ability to perform miracles.