[b-hebrew] Route of the Exodus (Red Sea Crossing)

Walter R. Mattfeld mattfeld12 at charter.net
Sun Oct 10 08:05:51 EDT 2004

Dear Jonathan,

Since writing that article, I have "abandoned" the notion of a crossing of
the Red Sea (Gulf of Suez) at or near the modern port of Suez.

Why have I left "older" articles intact at my website although disavowing
them ? Is'nt this confusing for the reader ? Yes, to a degree, it might be
confusing, but I wanted to the reader to be aware of various earlier
proposals and the logic behind them and why later I found this logic flawed
and untenable. I apologize for the unintended confusion.

 What changed my mind ? I finally had to face the "facts" which I had been
_in denial of_  for so long (12 years). What are the facts ?  I have
accepted the proposal that Succoth is Egyptian Tjeku, a region in Wadi
Tumilat, as advocated by Egyptologists like Kenneth A. Kitchen and James K.
Hoffmeier. They located Yam Suph "the sea of reeds," at or near Lake Timsah
at the east end of Wadi Tumilat, noting that Etham according to the Bible,
"was at the edge of the wilderness." After crossing Yam Suph, Israel is
described as wandering for 3 days in the wilderness of Etham, alternately
the wilderness of Shur.

I could no longer embrace the early Christian notion of a Red Sea crossing
at or near the port of Suez because it was _too far away_ from Succoth/Tjeku
in Wadi Tumilat (some 60 miles). I now realize Professors Kitchen and
Hoffmeier are correct and that Christian traditions are wrong as preserved
by the pilgrimess called Egeria/Etheria (ca. the 4th or 5th century CE),
whose guides told her the crossing of the Red Sea was on the sandy shoals at
Clysma (modern Qom Qulzoum north of the port of Suez).

No, I have never walked on a coral reef. Some reefs are covered in sand and
some are not. If they are not in sand, I would imagine the sharp coral would
lacerate the feet of all that attempted to cross it at low tide (or if it
was suddenly exposed by a movement of water away from the area by strong
winds). Professor Colin Humpreys in his recent book on "The Miracles of the
Exodus" as natural phenomenon, places the crossing of Yam Suph at the head
of the Gulf of Aqaba, identifying Etham with Wadi Yithm north of the port of
Aqaba and proposes that the phenomena of "wind set-down" caused the sea bed
to be exposed. The problem ? The velocity of the wind to accomplish this
would have been so powerful, 50-80 miles per hour as to blow away suckling
lambs, kids, goats and sheep as well the aged and frail Israelite
grandfathers and grandmothers and their grandchildren in my opinion.

The distance between the Gulf of Aqaba and Egypt is too great. Beduin cover
with their small herds of sheep and goats no more than 6 to 20 miles a day.
For the Isralites in the Exodus to go any faster would cause exhaustion and
death of the herds, especially of the suckling Spring lambs (the Exodus
occuring in the Spring). The Bible acknowledges that Jacob had to travel
"very slowly" from Haran to Seir, due to the children and suckling animal
young accompanying him, to move at a fast or normal pace would _kill them_
(cf. Genesis 33:12-15). Moses and the Israelites, leaving Egypt in the
Spring would have children and suckling Spring lambs so they would NOT be
able to maintain a "rigorous night and day forced march" to the Gulf of
Aqaba as envisioned by some proposers of a Red Sea crossing at Aqaba,
because "the young would die" as noted by Jacob in his reply to Esau.

Those advocating a Red Sea crossing at Aqaba claim that the Sinai was a part
of Egypt, permitting them to locate Etham at Aqaba. Herodotus, a Greek
historian visited Egypt ca. 425 BCE and asked the priests what are the
borders of Egypt ? They told him EGYPT IS THE LANDS FLOODED BY THE NILE.
Lands not flooded by the Nile are outside Egypt's borders. I therefore
CANNOT accept Wyatt's or Humphrey's proposal that Egypt's border is at or
near Aqaba and Wadi Yitm (Etham).

As regards Etham being at or near Lake Timsah, I note that two ancient
canals exist in the Wadi extending from a now defunct overflow lake of the
Nile west of Tell er-Retabeh ( a Ramesside fortress) which connects to Lake
Timsah. I thus understand that Nile waters may have "terminated at" Lake
Timsah (Bahr Timsah in Arabic meaning "Lake of the Crocodile) which would
"rise and fall" based on the seasonal flow of the Nile and its annual
flooding or innundation. I suspect the name Etham is either preserved in
Timsah or Wadi Tumilat. At Tell el Maskhutah (founded ca. 610 BCE by Pharaoh
Necho) near Lake Timsah was found a Persian era shrine to an Arab goddess
called Ilat, perhaps Wadi Tumilat is a combing of two names, the Egyptian
sun-god anglicized as Tum or Atum from Egyptian _itm_ and ilat from the
Arabic goddess ? If so, then the Wadi may have been originally (in
pre-Persian times) called Tum or Egyptian _itm_ ? Shur (Hebrew Shuwr), for
me is preserved at Abu Suwayr, a low ridge east of Tell er-Retabeh, and west
of Lake Timsah. According to Palmer (1914) the Arabs told him that the Darb
es Shur "Way to Shur" began at Beersheba went south to Qusaimah and thence
across the Sinai ending at Wadi Tumilat near Isamailia on Lake Timsah. I
note Abu Suwayr (Shur/Shuwr ?) is in Wadi Tumilat, and it is _east of_ the
Ramesside fortress at Tell er-Retabeh which would protect Egypt from Asiatic
invasions (the BIble tells us Shur is "before" Egypt and Abu Suawyr is
"before" Tell er-Retabeh). The "wilderness of Etham/Shur is then, for me the
Isthmus of Suez extending south of Lake Timsah and Wadi Tumilat to the
shores of the Gulf of Aqaba. At a travel rate of not more than 20 miles a
day, it would take three days to reach the water of Marah (LXX: Merra),
which I identify (in agreement with Professor Menashe Har-El of Tel Aviv
University) with the Ayn Murr east of the port of Suez. The 12 springs of
Elim become the 12 springs of Ayun Musa south of Ayn Murr (which has
brackish water), the wilderness of Sin becomes for me is either Hosan abu
Zenna or El Sanawi, two plains near Wadi Gharandal. Dophkah, which eludes
ALL scholars, I identify with the well of Qattar Dafari, on Wadi Dafari,
south of Ras Abu Zenimeh and Bir el Markha, near the coastal plain of the
Gulf of Aqaba. I have accepted Kenneth A. Kitchen's argument that Yam Suph
is an all-encompassing term for Lake Timsah, the Bitter Lakes and Gulfs of
Suez and Aqaba (noting that Ezion Geber and Elath are on Yam Suph in the
land of Edom).

As regards the location of Mount Sinai, although over a dozen proposals have
been advanced, Wyatt favoring Gebel el Lawz in Midian (Modern Madyan in
Saudi Arabia), none have been accepted by the scholarly community with
"universal acclaim." Why ? These scholars expect that if the Exodus occurred
ca. 1446 BCE or 1260 BCE there "ought to be" some pottery debris evidence
for the YEARLONG stay at Sinai. To date NO-ONE has offerred this
pottery-debris evidence dated to either of these periods. As far as I know
***I AM THE ONLY SCHOLAR to offer such evidence***, proposing that the
Egyptian mining camps at two locations, Serabit el Khadim in the southern
Sinai and Har Timna in the southern Arabah POSSESS the "missing" pottery
evidence. Khadim has evidence of 1446 BCE and the Ramessides 1260 BCE, while
Timna has pottery evidence of 1260 BCE. Timna also has evidence of
Amalekites from the Negev and Midianites in the Ramesside era. I thus
understand that events at these two locations have been fused together and
lie behind the events at Mount Horeb/Sinai.  Archaeologists have studied the
occupational debris at Gebel el Lawz and have found it to be Nabatean, of
the 2d Century BCE (BC) through 2d century CE (AD), thus DISQUALIFYING it as
being Mount Sinai of ca. 1446 or 1260 BCE.

If any of this "interests you" please see my articles at the following urls.



Regards, Walter
Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.
mattfeld12 at charter.net

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