WAS THERE an Exodus under Moses through the Red Sea? Was Cod on Mt. Sinai that first Pentecost? Did Moses really bring forth water when he struck the rock in Horeb to quench the thirst of over two million people? Is the traditional Mt. Sinai the Mt. Sinai of the Bible — and is the Red Sea the Biblical Red Sea? Many critics of the Bible profess doubt, skepticism — even ridicule.
Challenging Holy Time
It is time we got back to the truth regarding this very significant series of events in the days of Moses. The validity and meaning of the Holy Days of God are involved. Is it any wonder that those moderns who reject the days God commanded His people to keep also reject the account of the Exodus and the giving of the Law? And is it significant that it is to the very people of God who KEEP the days He commanded that God has opened the doors to visit the route of the Exodus and to view Mt. Sinai itself, and to even climb it? Thanks to the courtesy of the Israel Military Governor of the Western Sinai (whose cousin is second in command at the Jerusalem dig), we are able to bring to cur readers a first-hand report. In this first installment we uncover the surprising background of the story of the Exodus.
Pulling Back the Curtain
Our account begins in Genesis 15:18: "In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." This promise is very important, politically, today. But what is the "river of Egypt"? Is it the Nile? Most modern critics tell us "no." They insist it is the Wady el Arish, a dry river bed, which flows only after a desert thundershower. It drains much of the Sinai Peninsula and empties into the Mediterranean. What these critics overlook is that, although Wady el Arish may on occasion have been on the border between the Philistines and Egypt, it is not the border between the promised land and Egypt. The Bible plainly declares it is the river of Egypt, not the river of the Sinai. Nor is it the river of the Philistines. It is the river of Egypt! There is only one river of Egypt — the Nile. God promised Abraham's descendants dominion to the river of Egypt, not some dry river bed in the middle of the Sinai desert. Did God cause the children of Israel to dwell in the territory east of the Nile? Was Egypt's delta land east of the Nile ever possessed by the children of Israel? We find in Genesis 45:10 this significant passage: "And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen," says Joseph to his father at Pharaoh's command, "and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast." Jacob and all of the family of Israel were given the land of Goshen to dwell in. But — where is the land of Goshen?
Modern scholars generally believe Goshen to be a small, semi-desolate area east of the Nile halfway between the Nile and the Suez. This is supposed to be the land with which God blessed Jacob in the land of Egypt. Because critics have assumed this is the land of Goshen, they cannot believe that there were 600,000 Israelite men over 20 years old, besides women and children, at the time the Exodus occurred (Ex. 12:37). Of course, in the area which the scholars tell us is the land of Goshen, there couldn't even have been 6,000 mature men, besides women and children, with all of their cattle. The fact is, scholars haven't understood where the land of Goshen is. Genesis 46:28 tells us more of the story. "And he [Jacob] sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen." Jacob was coming from Beersheba in Southern Canaan into Egypt to see Joseph. "And they came into the land of Goshen. And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up [northeastward from Memphis, the capital] to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him." Did you notice that Joseph was not in the land of Goshen? Joseph dwelt where Pharaoh was. And Pharaoh was at Memphis, the capital of Lower Egypt. "Joseph made ready his chariot, AND WENT UP TO MEET Israel his father." He was going NORTHEAST. Therefore, the land of Goshen was NORTHEAST of the capital of Egypt at this time. Now verses 33 and 34 of Genesis 46: "And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation?" — Joseph instructs his father to say this — "that ye shall say, Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians." Egyptians commonly hired foreigners to tend to their cattle. Chapter 47, verse 5 continues the story: "And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle." Remember, God told Abraham that his descendants were going to control land to the river of Egypt — the Nile. Pharaoh now said to the children of Israel, "The land of Egypt is before you, the best of the land, the land of Goshen." This is how God began to fulfill His promise to Abraham!
The Land of Rameses
Now to verse 10: "And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh. And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded." The best of the land, in verse 6, is called "the land of Goshen," while in verse 11, it is called "the land of Rameses." Obviously, then, the land of Goshen and the land of Rameses are the same! It is the best of the land of Egypt — the eastern half of the Nile Delta. Ancient Egypt was a feudalistic world. In feudalism the king claims theoretically to own everything. He leases the land out to his princelings and lords (who leased parts of their land to others of still lower rank). But the king reserves a certain portion for himself. Pharaoh naturally reserved the best land for himself — the land of Goshen. It belonged personally to Pharaoh. It was undeveloped pasture land which he himself had not leased to his lords. Pharaoh granted this territory to Joseph, who was next highest in the kingdom, for his very special services. The fee for receiving the land of Goshen or Rameses is stated in verse 6: "And if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over MY cattle." Where were Pharaoh's cattle? In the land of Goshen, the land of Rameses. Pharaoh knew that if Joseph could bless all Egypt as he had done, his family would also bless his own stock. But in so doing, Egypt granted the right of the children of Israel to dwell in this territory, And by command of their ruler all the land of Goshen, the land of Rameses, was given to the children of Israel — as partial fulfillment of God's promise that Abraham's seed should extend to the river of Egypt, the Nile.
Goshen During the Plagues
Now we continue the story with Exodus 8:22. Another dynasty has risen up. It is nearly 239 years later. Moses is dealing with a new Pharaoh. One of the plagues is about to occur: "I will sever in that day," God says, "the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou [Pharaoh) mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth. And I will put a division between my people and thy people: tomorrow shall this sign be." This sign did occur: "... the Lord did so" (verse 24). These flies contaminated and plagued all the land of Egypt where the Egyptians were, but the flies did not plague the land where the children of Israel dwelt. The land of Goshen is a particular territory where the children of Israel were dwelling. This was the land that had once belonged to the royal house. God makes a separation between that land and the rest of the land of Egypt. Verse 26 of Exodus 9 tells us almost the same thing: "Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail." Now to Exodus 12:29. It is the night of the Passover, 1486 B.C. "And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt" — this was midnight on the 14th of Abib or Nisan, the first month of spring — "from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and 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. And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said [if they were to stay there any longer], We be all dead men." In verses 34 and 35 the story continues. "The children of Israel... borrowed [demanded and took their rightful wages] of the Egyptians" who had been appointed taskmasters over them in Goshen. The next night — the 15th of Abib — having "spoiled the Egyptians" and taken their cattle with them, the Israelites came to the place called Rameses to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Stop for the moment and consider these facts. God told Moses, "Go not out of your houses until the morning." Moses and Aaron naturally would have remained in their house this night — all of the night of the 14th. But Pharaoh, who was not a firstborn son, did come out of his house by night to find Moses and urge him and all Israel to leave. Modern critics name as Pharaoh of the Exodus one who lived in the city of Thebes in Upper Egypt during the XIXth dynasty. But they could hardly be further wrong! Pharaoh's headquarters was at the city of Memphis. Here the government administration originated. It was from Memphis that Pharaoh Merenre II of Dynasty VI rose up that night and went to Moses, and said, "Get not of the land and all your people." Pharaoh could not have been far from where Moses was. Since Moses and the children of Israel were in Goshen, the first Passover must have been observed near the city of Memphis!
The Night of the Exodus
From all over Goshen and neighboring Egypt the Israelites journeyed on the daylight part of Wednesday, the 14th of Abib, to the city of Rameses, and met there the next evening, the night of the 15th! "The children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle" (Ex. 12:37-38). Numbers 33:3 makes it even plainer. The children of Israel "departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians." Where was this city? Let us read what Flavius Josephus plainly tells us (Antiquities of the Jews, book II, chapter XV): "So the Hebrews went out of Egypt, while the Egyptians wept, and repented that they had treated them so hardly.... Now they took their journey by Letopolis, a place at that time deserted, but where Babylon was built afterwards, when Cambyses laid Egypt waste." So Rameses was the city of Letopolis, which later under Persian rule was called the city of Babylon. Few know there was also a Babylon — a city of Confusion — in Egypt as well as in Mesopotamia. What city is this today? Josephus, writing in Greek, calls the city of Rameses by the Greek name Letopolis. Polis means "city" in Greek. A metropolis is a "mother city." Letopolis was the city of Letona — one of the names of the Queen of Heaven. So the city of Rameses was by the Greeks dedicated to the Queen of Heaven. No wonder it was also called Babylon! The Imperial Bible Dictionary, article "Rameses," says that it is an ancient Jewish tradition that the city of Rameses is Babylon in Egypt. In later times it was called Fostat or OLD CAIRO, a fortress in lower Egypt on the right bank of the Nile exactly opposite to the pyramids of Giza. It was situated at the beginning of the canal which anciently connected the Nile with the Red Sea. The city of Rameses, built by the children of Israel in honor of the Pharaoh, and later known as Letopolis, is the very city which today Mohammedans call Old Cairo! Old Cairo is a suburb of modern Cairo today. Moses must have kept the Passover on the east side of the Nile river, a little to the south of Old Cairo — near Memphis, Pharaoh's capital. Memphis is on the west side of the Nile. Old Cairo is a little north of Memphis and on the east side of the Nile. So-called "Bible maps" cannot be relied upon for location of the site of Rameses. They disagree with each other and with the Bible. The producers of these maps do not use the Bible as evidence, but their human theories instead!
Israel Built Pyramids
Interestingly enough, as we go through the account of Josephus we find the following surprising facts. Josephus tells us in his Antiquities of the Jews (book II, chapter IX) that the children of Israel "were forced to channel [make channels for the river], to build walls for the Egyptians and make cities and ramparts... they set them also to build pyramids and by all this wore them out...." The majority of the pyramids occur from Old Cairo and extend south, not north. The children of Israel labored in the area centered at the region of Old Cairo and on southward throughout the heartland of Egypt. Notice a plain statement in the Imperial Bible Dictionary volume 5, subject, "Rameses": "Immediately south of this region of Old Cairo there is an area where there were ancient quarries in a rocky mountain, from which much of the material for the pyramids was procured, and in which the poor Jews are said by Manetho [an Egyptian historian] to have worked." This confirms what Josephus tells us in his work entitled, Against Apion, book I, part 26. Near these quarries on the east of the Nile opposite Memphis is an area called "Mera-vad-Musa, or the 'Habitation (or dwelling) of Moses.' " Moses communicated back and forth with Pharaoh. It is logical that opposite Memphis (where many of the lesser pyramids were built) Moses should have his headquarters — to this day bearing the name, "the Habitation of Moses."
Route of the Exodus
Now continuing with the Imperial Bible Dictionary: "From thence [that is, Mera-vad-Musa or the "Habitation of Moses"] they moved northward, passing as Josephus says, by ancient Babylon or Old Cairo, and then by or over the site of modern Cairo, proceeding along the direct route to the land of Canaan, as far as Succoth, or Berket el Hadj, the 'Pool of the Pilgrims'...." "Succoth" merely means booths — or an encampment. The children of Israel encamped here on the weekly Sabbath during the first Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is where Moslem pilgrims, en route from Egypt to Mecca, the holy city of Islam, often camped. It is on the way that led out of Egypt to the wilderness. Turn to Numbers 33:3-8. "And they departed from Rameses [Old Cairo] in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month... and went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians. For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the Lord had smitten among them: upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments. And the children of Israel removed from Rameses, and pitched in Succoth. "And they departed from Succoth, and pitched in Etham, which is in the edge of the wilderness. And they removed from Etham, and turned again [literally turned back] unto Pihahiroth, which is before Baalzephon: and they pitched before Migdol. And they departed from before Pihahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and went three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham, and pitched in Marah."
What Road Did Israel Take?
Let us pick up the story with Exodus 13:17: "And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines." Here is named the first of several highways. In ancient Egypt there were three major roads which went out 'of Egypt to foreign lands lying to the northeast. One was "the way of Etham," or the way of "the wilderness of Shur," which went from Egypt through Beersheba to Canaan. It was the road by which Jacob came down into Egypt. It joined, in Egypt, the main northeast route called "the way of the land of the Philistines." This route went from Memphis to the Mediterranean coast and through Gaza. A third route led to the Arabian Peninsula across central Sinai. Israel was proceeding north through Old Cairo. They could have easily taken the "way of the Philistines" — the Philistine highway. But instead of taking that, near as it was, God said, "Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and return to Egypt." God led the people through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea that crosses into Sinai above the Gulf of Suez. Instead of taking the northern route, which would have taken them through the land of the Philistines, or continuing on the middle route in an easterly direction through Beersheba, they took the road leading southeast toward Sinai and Arabia. "And the children of Israel went up harnessed [or, in ranks of five] out of the land of Egypt. And Moses took the bones of Joseph [perhaps from the Great Pyramid just west of Old Cairo?] with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you, And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness [of Shur]" (Ex. 13:18-20). This road leads to Mecca in Arabia and has been used from the very beginning of history. At this point, Israel could have gone straight out of Egypt into northern Sinai. Then God speaks. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn [not continue, but turn sharply to the right and move southward] and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdo1 and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea" (Ex. 14:1-2). They camped by the seashore, off the main route. Six of the seven days of Unleavened Bread had now passed. Israel could not go farther in its line of march. They stopped for the last holy day — Tuesday night, the eve of Wednesday in that year. Suddenly Pharaoh and his army appeared on the horizon. He had them bottled up in front of the Pihahiroth range of mountains! Did God make a mistake in leading them by the hand of Moses? Israel was trapped in the area at the upper portion of the Red Sea by the Gulf of Suez, where the mountain range comes down to the sea. When they journeyed into this area, it was like entering a box canyon. They could not go any farther by land. The only place they could go was out into the water, because the mountain range comes right down to the seashore. Now look at the map of this region in an atlas. The Imperial Bible Dictionary says of this area: "Pihahiroth, therefore, must have been the name of some natural locality, such as a mountain, or a range of mountains, a cliff, precipice, cape or promontory. It is said of the children of Israel, when overtaken by Pharaoh at the Red Sea, that they were entangled in the land, being shut in by the 'wilderness' or mountains (Ex. 14:3)." The Red Sea is nearly 8 miles across here!
Crossing the Red Sea
Continue with Exodus 14:3: "For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, they are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in." God hardened Pharaoh's heart. "And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and the captains over every one of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel." Pharaoh overtook them camping by the Suez Gulf of the Red Sea on the eve of the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Darkness fell. The Israelites were frightened. They said in verse 12, "Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians. For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward." But where? Into the water. Impossible? Notice! "But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea." Now verse 21: "Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back." THAT WAS A MIRACLE! A strong wind blew "all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians. Arid the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared, and the Egyptians fled against it." Here was an area through the Red Sea wide enough for 600 chosen chariots of the Egyptians to race through, besides a great many troops. On the other bank were over two million escaping slaves. In verse 28 we read that the waters "returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea.... Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore... and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses." Josephus adds some vivid details to the same story! "The number that pursued after them was six hundred chariots, with fifty thousand horsemen, and two hundred thousand footmen, all armed. They also seized on the passages by which they imagined the Hebrews might fly, shutting them up between inaccessible 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 were pressed upon the Hebrews with their army" (Antiquities of the Jews, book 2, chapter 15).
Egypt Left Desolate
Pharaoh was dead. His army was slain. There was not even a solitary messenger to tell the Egyptians what happened (Ps. 106:11). Read Exodus 15:4: "Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. Thy right hand, 0 Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy." God won the battle for the children of Israel. They were delivered out of the land of Egypt that Wednesday, Nisan 21, 1486 B.C. They rested on the peaceful shores of Sinai, where even today such names as "Ayn Musa" and "Ras Musa" [Musa — Moses] testify to the Exodus. A few verses in Psalm 77 are worth reading at this point. "I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings" (verses 11-12). What were God's doings? We find them in verse 16: "The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled. The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron." Thunder and rain and great lightning shook the land that night. Early Wednesday morning the walls of sea water thundered upon Pharaoh as his chariot became stuck in the mud. But what route did the children of Israel take from there?