Red Sea, Passage of
Red Sea, Passage Of.
The departure of the Israelites out of Egypt was their independence-day and the date of the nation's birth. As such it is always referred to in Scripture in terms of lofty jubilee and devout acknowledgment of the power of Jehovah, which was so strikingly displayed at almost every step. Two hundred and sixteen years before this event, their patriarch, Jacob, had left the land of his childhood and old age, and emigrated with all his family to Egypt, then the most highly cultivated land on earth. Settled in the most fertile part of the country, they had grown to a population of some two millions of souls. Divine Providence had specially fostered them. But now, for about eighty years, the Egyptian government, under a new and jealous dynasty, had adopted a severe policy towards them, and they were gradually reduced to a condition of servitude. Nevertheless, Jehovah had not forsaken them. Moses had been in process of training all these later years as an instrument for their deliverance, and the time had at length arrived for their emancipation. We need not here review the mighty acts of divine interference by which the Egyptian court were finally compelled to grant the release of the Hebrews. We will come at once to the scenes of their exit from the country. The region where it occurred is not only memorable from the inspired narrative of that event, but is likewise remarkable for its natural features, and interesting on account of the modern associations of the vicinity.
Goshen, the territory occupied by the Israelites in Egypt, was an extension eastward of the "Delta," or triangular alluvial plain around the mouths of the Nile. It seems to have corresponded substantially to the present valley of Tuneilat, which is a fertile, tongue-shaped tract about eighteen miles long, and averaging about two and a half miles broad, extending along the present railway which branches off to Ismailia from the direct line between Alexandria and Cairo. Westward Goshen probably included, likewise, a considerable tract of the adjoining Delta. The ruins scattered along the continuation of the valley, still farther east, are thought to indicate a populous region there likewise, and hence the name of Goshen is usually extended considerably farther in that direction; but the neglect of irrigation has allowed the sands of the desert on either side to encroach upon this narrow tract, so that it is now almost uninhabitable. The portion named above, however, is still so rich that it was sold in 1863 for two million dollars, and is now worth much more. SEE GOSHEN.
The government works upon which the Israelites were compelled to serve were public edifices in the two cities Pithom and Raamses, or Rameses, doubtless situated in or near the land of Goshen. The first of these places is generally identified wiith the present Tell elKebit, a village in the centre of the valley of Tumeilat with remains of antiquity in its vicinity. The other is probably represented by Tell Ramsis, a quadrangular mound on an arm of the Nile opposite the modern village of Belbeis, located on the Damietta branch of the railway, about seventeen miles south-west of the former place. The canal which conveys the sweet water of the Nile from Cairo to Suez passes through both these villages, parallel with the railway, by way of Ismailia, pursuing very nearly the same line as the ancient one constructed for the same purpose, but choked up and obliterated for many centuries. By this route small craft, during the Roman period and the Middle Ages, used to furnish a communication with the market at Memphis for the citizens of Clysma, which was situated in the immediate vicinity of Suez, as traces of the name still attest. The Suez Canal, which was opened in 1869 for navigation between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, has made this neighborhood public to thousands of persons travelling across the isthmus to India and China, as large steamers sail directly through it from European ports to these distant lands. Those who wish to see more of Egypt can disembark at Alexandria, take the cars for Cairo, and thence back by way of Ismailia, intercepting their vessel again at Suez. Thus most of the spots rendered memorable by the exodus of the Israelites have been rapidly seen, at least from a distance, by multitudes of passengers on their way to andl from the more distant East. The abrupt contact of modern improvements with these ancient scenes is calculated, perhaps, to dissipate some of the romantic haze which the imagination of Bible-readers usually throws around them, but deepens rather than lessens their interest by the familiarity of approach.
After these preliminaries, we are prepared to follow the Hebrews in their exit from the land of their bondage. On the eve of the Passover, corresponding to our Easter, they had rendezvoused, by divine appointment, at Rameses. Memphis, the capital, was forty miles distant, and hence Moses's final interview with Pharaoh, when the Israelitish leader uttered the ominous words. "Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more," must have taken place at some nearer point. The sacred meal was eaten in haste, the destroying angel at midnight smote all the first-born, and by the morning light the Israelitish host were on their march. As it is expressly stated that "God led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines,... but by the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea" (not the desert between Cairo and Suez, as Palmer thinks [Sinai from the Monuments, p. 144], but the great desert of et-Tih itself), we are sure that they took the direct south-easterly route towards the head of the Gulf of Suez, doubtless corresponding substantially with the modern pilgrim road. This way would lead them out of the fertile valley of Goshen across a rolling gravelly plain between low hills of shifting sand the whole distance. There was no obstruction to their journey, and they would make rapid progress. They had but little household stuff, for Orientals, especially those of nomadic habits such as the Israelites inherited from their tent-dwelling forefathers, are not apt to encumber themselves much with furniture. Rain- water would be abundant in the pits and rocks along their path at that time of the year, and they carried with them provisions enough to last several days. Their first day was a long one, and they, no doubt, were anxious to fall as soon as possible into the main Haj road. Their first camp is called Succoth, or "booths" (Ex 12:37; Ex 13:20; Nu 33:56), probably a rough khan, like those established in all ages along this thoroughfare. The present Derb el-Ban, a northern branch of the great pilgrim route, leads direct from Belbeis. south-west down the valley by way of Rubeihy and Aweibet, and falls into the main Haj road at the castle of Ajrfid, sixty miles from Belbeis. Ajrfid has been thought by many to correspond to the next station of the Israelites, "Etham, in the edge of the wilderness" (Ex 13:20; Nu 33:6). It is a long-established Egyptian outpost on the frontier of the desert. The whole air of the sacred narrative gives us the impression that this was a great landmark for travellers, and that it formed the first or immediate point of destination for the Hebrews on their journey. If this be Etham, it will be necessary to allow thirty miles for each day's journey, which, under the pressing circumstances, is not extravagant, although an ordinary day's march in caravan is only about twenty miles. SEE ETHAM.
At Etham the Israelites received this divine command: "Turn and encamp before Pi-haliroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea" (Ex 14:2). This direction must be carefully examined, as it is the oinly precise description we have of the actual crossing-place of the Red Sea by the Israelites. It is substantially repeated in ver. 9, where the Egyptians are said to have overtaken the Hebrews '"encanping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, before Baal-zephon." Of the names of these localities no trace at present exists; their identitication, therefore, must depend upon a comparison of the circumstances of the narrative, with some slight corroboration from the etymology and historical application of the names. Three or four places have been selected by different writers as rivals for the honor of this remarkable crossing, and their claims have been somewhat hotly contested at times. We propose calmly and carefully to discuss their respective merits, and to be guided by the explicit terms of the Biblical account, irrespective of any theological considerations as to whether the miracle involved may thus be enhanced or lessened. We take them up in their geographical order.
1. On the Meiditerranean Shore. — M. Brugsch has recently discovered a new crossing-place for the Israelites on their passage out of Egypt, which, on account both of the fame of the author and his confident announcement, has attracted no little attention (L'Exode et les: Monuments Eqyptiens: Discours prononce a l'occasion du Congres International d'Orientalistes Londres, par Henri Brugsch-Bey, delegue de son Altesse Ismael Premier, le Khedive d'Egypte; accompagne d'une carte [Leipsic, J. C. Hinrichs, 1872, 8vo], p. 36). he conceives that they did not cross the Red Sea at all, but a noted morass — the Sirbonian Bog of antiquity, the modern Sabaket Bardawa — a shallow lake along the Mediterranean, on the confines of Egypt towards Palestine. He thinks he has found all the names of the Biblical account in the Egyptian papyri, and that he has succeeded in identifying them with modern localities. Thus On he sets down as equivalent to Anu, a city, according to him, in the Heroopolitic nome. Pi- beseth or Bubastis is, of course, Tell-Bast. Goshen he traces, through the hieroglyphical Phacoussa, to the modern Kils or Facus; and in the Sethroitic nome on the north of this he finds mention of Pithan and Sukkoth, with Pi-ramses, or Rameses, in the same neighborhood. Etham he conjectures to be Khetam, noticed as another of three ancient stations in this latter region of Tanis-Rameses; the remaining one adjoining being Migdsl, which, of course, must be the Magdolum of classical writers, and the present Tell es-Semut. Baal-Zephon becomes Mnounlt Casius, and Pi- hahiroth is the entrance upon the narrow sand-beach separating the Mediterranean from the Sirbonian Lake just east of Pelllsium. Many of these identifications, which M. Brugsch gives with great brevity, and without the detailed authority, the reader might reasonably question, both on the ground of strained etymological resemblance and inadequate historical data for position. But we prefer to call attention to a few palpable discrepancies with the scriptural narrative, which seem to put this locality utterly out of the question, notwithstanding the author's claim of their perfect accord. To be sure, the Hebrews, on this theory, simply threaded their way along a narrow beach till they came to a bar which allowed them an easy crossing-place over the marsh, and M. Brugsch candidly admits (p. 32), "The miracle, it is true, then ceases to be a miracle; but let us acknowledge, with all sincerity, that Divine Providence always maintains its place and authority." What childlike faith!
In the first place, it certainly was the Red Sea that the Israelites crossed on this occasion. True, the history in Exodus does not explicitly name the body of water, but the immediate context and other passages of Scripture do so most definitely and unequivocally (Ex 15:4-22; De 11:4; Jos 4:23; Jos 24:6: Ps 106:9; Ps 136:13,15, etc.). Josephus distinctly understands it so (Ant. ii, 15, 1), and the New- Test. writers are equally clear (Ac 12:25; Heb 11:29). Even M. Brugsch has felt himself obliged on his map to call the Sirbonian Sea Yam Suf; the Hebrew name exclusively applied to the Arabian Gulf, thus committing a twofold blunder.
In the next place, the route which this theory selects for the Israelites on setting out is exactly the one which they avoided. "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, although that was near,... but God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea" (Ex 13:17-18). Moreover, it makes no proper account of the abrupt turn, or rather retrogression, on their way in order to reach the sea (Ex 14:2).
Finally, this view is wholly unsupported by any local tradition, and requires a displacement of the well-settled positions of Marah, Elim, etc. This latter M. Brugsch locates at "the place which the Egyptian monuments designate by the name of Aalim or Tentlim; that is to say, 'the city of fishes,' situated near the Gulf of Suez, in a northerly direction." Moses, however, speaks of no "city" there, much less so large a one as Heroopolis, which M. Brugsch sets down there on his map; but only of some wells and palms.
This view of the Red-Sea crossing M. Brugsch reiterates in his latest work (Gesch. Aegyptens, Leips. 1877), but "he has not won a single Egyptologist of note to a theory which demands so many conjectures in geography and such fanciful analogies in philology" (Dr. J. P. Thompson, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, July, 1877, p. 544).
2. At the "Bitter Lakes." — These are a series of shallow ponds of brackish water, some of them of very considerable extent, stretching at intervals from the head of the Gulf of Suez to the Mediterranean. They are supposed to have formerly constituted a continuous water connection between those two great seas, which has since been broken by a change of level, leaving these isolated basins partly salt from the remnant of seawater. A few geological evidences in support of this theory have been adduced, the most palpable of which is the fact that sea-shells, of the same character with those now thrown up by the Red Sea, may be seen along the shore of these lakes (see Dr. Harman, Egypt and the Holy Land, p. 106). This would seem to indicate a continuity of these bodies of water in earlier times. (See further in Laborde, Commentaire Geographique sur l'Exode [Paris, 1841, fol.], p. 79 a.)
The great bed of the Bitter Lakes extends in a northerly and southerly direction, and is separated from the Red Sea by a sand-bank 4000 to 5000 meters long, which is seldom more than one meter higher than the sea. It is forty to fifty lower than the water-level of the sea basin, and from plain indications was once covered with the sea (Du Bois Aimee, in the Descr. de I'Egypt. Mod. i, 188 sq., 1st ed.). Before it had a connection with the Nile by means of the well-known canal, and thus received fresh water, its waters were bitter (Strabo, 17:804). It is a favorite theory that it was originally embraced in the Heroopolitan Gulf (Stickel, in the Stud. u. Kritiken, 1850, p. 328 sq.). Yet this is no proof that the ancient Heroopolis was situated in the inner corner of the Arabian Sea (Strabo, 16:767; 17:836; Pliny, 6:33), and that vessels sailed thence (Strabo, 16:768); but more probably this city was located far north of Clysma, the modern Kolsum, near the present Suez (Ptolemy, 4:5, 14, and 54; Itinerar Anton. p. 107, e(l. Wess.), namely, somnewhere about tlhe modern Abu-Keished, or Mukfar (Knobel, Commentar zu Exodus, p. 140 sq.). Its ruins are still visible there (Champollion, Eyypte, ii, 88). Its importance gave name to the entire adjacent nome and to the contiguous gulf. Both were likewise more properly designated from Arsinoi, which was situated near the present head of the bay (see Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Geography, s.v. "Arsinoi"). This latter seems to have been the official designation of the place which was popularly termed Clysma (namely, the beach, τὸ κλύσμα [Reland, Palaestina, p. 472, 556]).
A rise of the intermediate land has been inferred from the stoppage of the ancient canal along this line; but this can readily be accounted for by the drifting-in of sand and the neglect of the banks. On the other hand, that no material change of level has taken place in this region in modern times seems to be proved by the fact that the fresh-water canal now actually conveys wmater from the Nile to Suez, just as it formerly did, without any considerable cuttinig for that purpose. The brackishness of these lakes merely argues a connection at some period with the Mediterranean, and not necessarily with the Red Sea likewise, and the shells and other marine indications are probably traces of this connection only. In fact, the immense lagoon of Lake Menzaleh still reaches almost to Lake Timsah, the principal or deepest of the Bitter Lakes, and there is nothing but flats and marshes in this direction; whereas southerly the Suez Canal required extensive excavations for its continuance to the Gulf of Suez, cutting in some places, not thlrough sand and silted debris merely, but through firm strata of clay and crystalline alabaster.
This theory rests upon so problematical a foundation that it has not been much resorted to in this discussion except for the purpose of strengthening the location of the Israelites crossing at Suez, by way of showing that the water at the latter point was deeper anciently than now, and so preserving the greater appearance of a miracle in the case. It is thus incidentally alluded to by Calmet and Robinson, and by several later writers. But for this purpose, if it proves anything, it proves too much; for if at the time of the Exodus the Red Sea extended thus far north, there is no occasion to seek foir any other place of crossing, so far as a sufficiency of water is concerned.
Aside from these geological and theological speculations, there is in favor of this crossing-place only the shorter distance from Belbeis, rendering it an easy three days' journey of only fifteen miles per day to any point that might be selected in the vicinity of Ismailia. The attempt of Furst (Hebrew Lexicon, p. 766) to identify Baal-zephon with Hero-Spolis is mere conjecture; and his remark that Migdol is the Magdolum of Herodotus (ii, 159) is founded on a mistake (repeated in Smith's Dict. of Greek and Roman Geography, ii, 246), for Hegiddo in Palestine is doubtless there intended. (See Rawlinson, Herod. ii, 207.) The Hagdolum of Egypt was twelve miles west of Pelusium (Antonime Itinerary, p. 14), entirely too remote for the precise indication of locality in the Mosaic narrative.
Against the location of the miracle at the Bitter Lakes are the following facts in the Biblical text:
(1.) In order to go round the head of the sea (if thus far north) the Israelites would be obliged to start, not by "the way of the wilderness," as the text states, but precisely by that direct "way of the land of the Philistines" which the text expressly says they did not take (Ex 13:17-18).
(2.) There would be no change of their course requisite or possible in order to reach this point, as the word "turn" (14:2) demands; they were already going on the direct and only route they could well have taken. Indeed, if the region of Lake Timsah were then so low as to be filled from the Red Sea, it is difficult to see how the water from the Mediterranean on the other side could have been kept out, and then there would be a continuous lake from sea to sea, and a miracle would have been necessary, at all hazards, in order to effect the passage anywhere. The Hebrews had no occasion to "turn" at all, for that matter.
(3.) In that case Pharaoh's observation (ver. 3, 4), "The children of Israel are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in," would have been very inapt; at least, its force is not at all clear; for, go which way they might, the material obstacle would be the same, viz. the water merely.
(4.) There is no local or historical tradition confirmatory of this spot; in short, circumstances on this theory are all so uncertain and ill-defined that we may safely dismiss it as altogether hypothetical. If we are to determine anything definite concerning the place of the transaction. it must be based upon the known relations of the localities as they now exist.
Kalisch thinks (Comment. on Exod. ad loc.) that the Israelites turned northwards; but in that case likewise, as Shaw long since observed (Travels, p. 311), they could not in any proper sense have become "entangled in the land" nor "shut in by the wilderness," for all would have been free before them to escape; in fact, they would have been only pursuing a more direct route to Canaan.
3. At Suez. — This location of the event in question has a far greater array of names in its support, among the most notable of whom is Dr. E. Robinson (in the Biblical Repository, 1832, p. 753 sq., repeated in his Bibl. Res. i, 80), who followed in the wake of Niebuihr (Travels in Arabia, translated by Heron [Edinb. 1792], i, 198, 451), and whose views have been substantially reproduced by the latest writers. Other important authorities on the same side are Laborde (Commentairi Geographique, p. 77), who cites, as having adopted it with some modification,, the earlier writers, Le Clerc, G. Baer, Du Bois Aimde. Salvator, etc., to whom we add the author of a Murray's Hand-book on Egypt (cd. 1873), p. 279; Keil, Comment. on the Pentateuch (Clarke's translation, Edinb. 1866, '3 vols. 8vo), ii, 46 sq. The obvious purport of the arguments adduced in favor of this as the place of the Israelites' passage is, notwithstanding the disclaimer of most of its advocates, to reduce the miracle to its minimnum terms, and to find a spot where it is practicable by merely natural forces. This has created a prejudice against it in the minds of most readers, and induced a controversy not always temperate or logical. Let us look at the arguments on both sides from scriptural sources purely.
In favor of this view we may say that —
(1.) The distance from Belbeis (assuming that to correspond substantially with the site of Rameses) sufficiently agrees with the requirements of a three days' march, being about fifty miles in a straight line.
(2.) The general direction is about the required one for the Israelites at the outset.
(3.) The adjoining localities are thought to Correspond with those of the Scripture account; thus it is generally agreed that Higdul (the tower) answers to some fortress on Jebel-Atikah.
(4.) There are shoals reaching nearly or quite across the channcel at this point, so that all east wind might readily lay it bare; and it is, moreover, so narrow that the Israelites could easily cross in the few hours presumed to have been occupied in the passage.
Other features of this locality do not well tally with the requirements of the case, and some appear absolutely to contradict the Biblical statements. Even the above coincidences — especially the last — when more closely examined, do not prove satisfactory.
(1.) The direction to "turn" from the regular course hitherto pursued by the fugitives does not admit of an adequate explanation on this view. The word is an emphatic one, not the ordinary סוּר, or נָטָה, to turn aside or away, but שׁוּב, to return, turn back, viz. actually retrograde. (Ewald, who treats the record in his usually arbitrary and irreverent manner, is yet too good a scholar not to feel the force of this expression, which he construes by saying that Moses "led the host half-way back" [Hist. of Israel (translated by Martineau, London, 1869, 5 vols. 8vo), ii, 69]). At least a marked digression or detour is required to meet the significance of this term. But Suez is directly on the beaten track of all ages, and precisely in the line which the Israelites had already been pursuing. It is true the immemorial Haj route does not actually come down to the village of Suez itself, as, of course, it does not cross the head of the gulf there; it passes a mile or two above, so as to avoid the water. But this small divergence would be quite inconsiderable in the direction of a whole day's march; for the order to "turn," be it observed, was given at Etham before setting out the third day, not near its close, or in the vicinity of the sea, where the difference in direction might have been more perceptible. This last consideration is, therefore, altogether too insignificant to justify the Hebrew term.
(2.) None of the places given in the Biblical account as fixing the spot determine it at Suez. Even Jebel Atakah, if Migdal, is too far away to be naturally selected for such a minute specification of the immediate scene. Any point from Ras Atakah to the south end of the Bitter Lakes would be "east" of (or "before") that mountain in this general sense. As for Pi- hahiroth (whether Hebrew for mouth of the ravines, or, as is more likely, Coptic for the sedge-plat), it finds no special adaptation to any place in that neighborhood. The attempt to identify it with Ajrud fails utterly, for the Hebrew and Arabic names have but one radical letter in common. Equally unsatisfactory is every effort to discover Baal-zephon in any prominent landmark north of Jebel Atakah. (Some writers refer Migdol to Muktala, but this seems to be an error for the pass Mantulah, and therefore fails of verbal correspondence.) There is in that direction nothing but a flat, monotonous tract of sand, with no striking name or object to fix upon.
(3.) At Suez the Israelites, so far from being hemmed in by barriers on either side and an impassable sea in front, as the Biblical situation evidently was, had nothing to do if they wished to escape but to act just as every caravan at Suez now does, simply keep on across the open plain around the head of the bay — an easy, free, and direct passage of some three or four miles at farthest. At Suez it was impossible for them to be either "entangled in the land" or "shut in by the wilderness." The way was clear, so far as natural obstacles or intricacy was concerned, and no troop of six hundred cavalry even could effectually cut them off from it; certainly no enemy in the rear could hinder them.
(4.) "A strong east wind blowing all night" across the head of the gulf (Ex 14:21) would leave by morning no "wall of waters" either "on the right hand or on the left" of passengers at Suez. As will be seen by inspecting the soundings on the accompanying slketch from the British sailing-chart, the channel opposite Suez is (except, of course, the artificial bed of the Suez Canal) nowhere over four feet deep at low water, and not more than one twelfth of a mile wide. It could be waded across without any miracle or extra wind at all; in fact, this has actually been done. One traveller hired a man to walk through the water at ebbtide at Suez, which he effected, holding his hands over his head (Madden, Travels, 2, 143, 150). So all the way down to the bar at the mouth of the creek which puts up into Suez the water is at the most only five or six feet deep (in one or two spots), and generally three or four at ordinary low tide, with a tolerably uniform width of about one tenth of a mile. But a powerful and prolonged east wind, acting upon the mass of water in the outer or broad part of the bay itself, would so greatly lower the tide on the eastern shore, where the channel of Suez lies, as to drain the latter almost, if not absolutely, dry throughout its whole extent. It is true there would be water enough left in the bay itself to prevent an enemy from surrounding the passing host on that side, but on the north there would be no such protection. Thus, even on the supposition that the term "wall" is used in ver. 22 in the sense of defence, the explanation clearly fails to meet the language of the text: "The waters were a wall unto them on the right hand and on the left." We desire to insist on this fact, and to us it appears decisive of the whole issue. But the phraseology seems to us to be stronger even than this interpretation. The term "wall" (חֹמָה) is rarely, if ever, used in this metaphorical sense of protection, but invariably (1Sa 25:16 is, we believe, the only doubtful instance) signifies some physical barrier, whether of stone or other material, placed more or less vertically for the purpose of protection. Its meaning is by no means fulfilled in the supposition of a vague water-line, shelving away at a distance on one side. Surely nothing but a desire to minify the preternatural element in the discussion could lead to the adoption of so inadequate an interpretation; for the language, it must be remembered, occurs not in a poetical or figurative connection, but in a plain, prosaic history. The poetical version of the transaction (Ex 15:8) uses much stronger language: "The floods stood upright as a heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea." The phraseology here, although figurative, no doubt correctly represents the facts as seen by an eye-witness. Ps 78:13. "He made the waters to stand as a heap," silows the same traditional interpretation, and 1Co 10:2 confirms it, "Baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" — that is, wet with the spray.
For these reasons, even if we could find no better crossing-place for the Israelites, we should be disposed to reject the one at Suez as not fairly meeting the scriptural requirements in the case.
4. At Ras Atakah. — This place has been preferred as that of the crossing by the great majority of writers and travellers, including Pococke, Joly, Monconys, Shaw, Ovington, Sicard, Bruce, Arundale, Raumer, Kitto, Olin, Wilson, Durbin, Bartlett, Porter, Bonar, Murphy, etc. It seems to us to meet the demands of the Biblical account more perfectly than any other. This cape is situated about six miles, in a direct line, south of Suez, opposite the southern end of Jebel Athkah. It is a tongue running out more than a mile into the water beyond the average shore-line, and continued nearly a mile farther by a shoal, over which the water at ordinary low tide is not more than fourteen feet deep. Beyond this again stretches, for nearly a mile and a half in the same direction, a lower shoal, covered nowvhere by more than twenty-nine feet of water at low tide. Opposite this point there reaches out, for about two miles from the eastern shore, a similar shoal, only thirty feet under water at its deepest place. The entire width of the sea at this point is about five miles, while the space where it is not over fifteen feet deep is but three and a half miles, and the channel, itself not over fifty feet deep, is less than three quarters of a mile wide. The sea immediately above and below this spot, in the channel, is about seventy feet deep. Here, then, is a place where a strong and continued east wvind, of the preternatural character implied in the sacred narrative, might open a passage suitable for the occasion, and leave a mass of water fitly comparable to a "wall on either hand." Moreover, the Israelites would, in that case, emerge on the shore near Ayun Musa (Wells of Moses), the very name of which, in addition to other local traditions, represents the scene of the event.
A close examination of the text itself confirms this view of the transaction. It says (Ex 14:21), "Jehovah caused the sea to go (וִיּוֹלֶך, cmad/e it wallk) by a strong east wind all night,... and tie waters were divided (וִיּבָּקעוּ, were split)." Similar is the language in ver. 16: "Divide it (the sea), and the children of Israel shall go... through the midst of the sea." The statement that the wind blew "all night" gives no just countenance to the inference that the Israelites did not begin the passage till near morning, and therefore could have gone but a very short distance in all, or, at least, when the wind lulled and the miracle ceased. For aught that appears, they may have already walked many miles, or even have continued their march some time the next forenoon if necessary in order to cross. True, the text says (ver. 27), "The sea returned at the turning of the morning (לַפנוֹת בֹּקֵר, at daybreak; comp. Jg 19:25-26) to its usual bed (לאֵיתָנוֹ, to its perennial flow)," but it does not necessarily foilow from this that the Israelitish host had at that time all reached the opposite shore. Indeed, rather the contrary is intimated by the statement, givenn subsequently to this, that "the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea" (Ex 14:29), as if they continued their march some time after the overthrow of the Egyptians in their rear. Nor is it certain from ver. 20 that both camps remained quiet all the night, although such might be the inference at first sight. The true state of the case appears to have been about this: the Egyptians overtook the Israelites about nightfall, just as they were about to encamp (חֹנַים, in the act of pitchling their tents, or preparing to do so) near the shore of the sea (ver. 9), and marched down directly upon them (ver. 10). In their dismay at the prospect of instant destruction, Moses ordered them to press forward immediately (ver. 15, ויסָּעוּ, and they shall pull up stakes, that is, break up their preparations for camp). While they were doing this the wind sprang up, which did not lull till daylight. As they were marching to the beach the guardian pillar took its position in their rear (ver. 19), and so followed them all night as a light to their steps (ver. 20). When they had reached the middle of the sea (ver. 21), and the Egyptians were not far behind them (ver. 22), the morning began to dawn (ver. 24), and to prevent the enemy from overtaking the fugitives the march of the Egyptians was miraculously retarded, so that they, in their panic, were about to retreat (ver. 25). This they would hardly have thought of doing had they been nearly across, or had it been but a little way to the opposite shore: indeed, every reference to their destruction shows that they were yet in the middle of the sea. So, too, was Moses apparently at this juncture, when, at his extended rod, the water behind the host — who had gained somewhat by the delay of the enemy — began to fall, and the Egyptians actually turned to flee, but were overtaken in the heart of the sea (ver. 27), while the Israelites continued their march through the channel, still open in front of them (ver. 29), till they reached the shore, which the following waves soon strewed with the corpses of the foe (ver. 30). From this recital of incidents in the exact order of the text, it appears that the march really lasted some part of the night, and we consequently require a considerable width of water for its occurrence.
Ras Athkah, too, seems to correspond to the geographical features of the case. The point where the Israelites struck the western coast-line of the Red Sea is (as we have seen above) explicitly defined in three passages of the sacred itinerary, which we translate literally: "Speak to the sons of Israel, and they shall return (ויָשֻׁבוּ) and encamp before (לַפנֵי) Pi-ha- Chirothl between Migdol and the sea; before (לַפנֵי) Ba'al-Tsephon, opposite it (נַבחו) shall ye encamp upon (על) the sea" (Ex 14:2). "And they [the Egyptians] overtook (וִיִּשַּׂיגוּ) them [the Israelites] encamping upon the sea; upon (על) Pi-ha-Chirbth, which is before Ba'al- Tsephon" (ver. 9). "And they [the Israelites] removed from Etham, and he [Israel] returned (וִיָּשָׁב) upon (על) Pi-ha-Chirsth, which is before B'allsephon; and they encamped before Migdol" (Nu 33:7). The meaning of Pi-hahiroth, if it be Hebrew, canl only be mouth of the goges
(root חוּר, to bore); or, if Egyptian (as Gesenius and Furst prefer), it is doubtless sedgy spot ( Coptic, pi-achi-roth, "the place of meadows," according to Jablonski). In either etymology it would most probably designate a grassy shore, as at the opening of a valley with a brook into the sea. Such a spot is found in the reedy plain (sometimes called Baderh) at the mouth of a wide valley just south of Jebel Atikah. The writer's Egyptian dragoman, who was thoroughly familiar with these localities, called it Wady Ghubbeh ("cane-valley"); Robinson calls it Wady Tawazdriik, others Wady Mfusa, and still other names are assigned to it. Baal-zephon is doubtless a Hebrew rendering of the name of a place "sacred to Typhon," the Greek form of the Egyptian malignant deity, of whose haunt in this vicinity there are traces in ancient writers (see the Hebrew lexicographers). In that case it was probably a mountain, or at least an eminence, in accordance with the heathen preference for hills as sites of shrines. Migdol is the common Hebrew word for a tower, and was, therefore, most likely also a commanding position. It occurs, however, as the name of a town in this quarter of Egypt (Jer 44:1; Jer 46:14), and may be nothing more than a Hebraized form of the Coptic megtol, "many hills" (see the authorities in Gesenius). In Eze 29:10; Eze 30:6, it recurs in the phrase מַגדֹּל סונֵה, which may most naturally be rendered from Megdol of Seveneh; in the English Bible, "from the tower of Syene," after the Vulg. (a turre Syene; but the rendering of the Sept., ἀπὸ Μαγδώλον ἕως [once καὶ] Συήνης, suggests that the latter name should be pointed סוֵנָה, to Seven, thus marking out the natural limits of Egypt, from Migdol on the north to Assuan on the south, precisely as today; and this conclusion is generally adopted by modern scholars. Furst, in his Hebrewn Lexicon, gives a curious interpretation of this whole geographical question: "From Aligdol a road led to Baal-zephon, the later Heropolis on the Red Sea, and therefore the Red Sea is mentioned with it, Ex 14:2; Nu 33:7." Most readers, however, will prefer to see in these texts, so carefully worded in almost exact agreement with each other, a precise indication of the very spot where the Israelites crossed; and if the above reasons be correct, we ought to find on each side of the crossing-place a conspicuous landmark, probably a mountain. This we exactly have at the valley in question, with Jebel Atakah — ("hill of liberty") on the north, and Jebel AbiiDaraj ("hill of the father of steps," that is, long march) on the south, and a fine well-watered plain between suitable for an encampment. In this position the Israelites would be effectually hemmed in by the sea in front, the mountains on eithlr hand, and the Egyptians in their rear. The enemy, of course, came directly down from Memphis along Wady et-Till ("the valley of wandering"), which terminates in the wady in question, thus intercepting the Israelites, who could not escape along the narrow, rocky margin of the shore around the point called Ras Atakah. The writer tried to travel that rough coast and found it impracticable enough. Small companies, as was the case with Dr. Durbin, may, indeed, pass slowly along it, but not so great and encumbered a multitude as the Israelites. Besides, it is about a day's march by this route from Ras Atakah to Suez, and the Egyptians might readily have intercepted the fugitives by sending a detachment around the other side of the mountain.
The particular path by which the Israelites reached Ras Ataikah from Ajrud has not been agreed upon by the advocates of this point of crossing. Sicard thought they came down Wady et-Tih from Memphis; but this, as we have seen, is not at all likely. Mlost others suppose that they came first to Suez, and then along the shore. But if they came that way, wmhy might they not escape by the same? As we have just seen, they could do neither. There remains, therefore, the supposition that they passed around partly behind and across Jebel Atakah. Tlis exactly tallies with the command to "turn" back from Etham. From Ajrud the route would thus be not merely a deflection, but in part an actual retrogression, as the accompanying map shows. A path is laid down on several of the maps of this region between the highest and westernmost summits of Jebel Atklah, which the fugitives would most natuirally take. By this route the distance for the third day's march from Ajruid to the spring on the shore at the mouth of Wady Tawirik would be a little less than thirty miles, the average allowed above for each of the previous days' travel. Thence to the extremity of Ras Atilkah is not quite ten miles, and thence to Ayfin Musa is scarcely seven miles more. The journey does not seem to ns to be an impracticable one under the urgency of the circumstances. It might be materially shortened for each of the succeeding days, especially the last, by locating Etham on the Haj route, somewhat to the wiest of Ajruod — a supposition not at all forbidden by any known fact.
Kurtz (History of the Old Covenant [Clarke's transl. Edinb. 1859, 4 vols. 8vo], i, 357 sq.) has an extended observation on the time that elapsed upon the route from Rameses to the Red Sea, which he argues must have been more than the three days that appear in the narrative (by implication only, however, for there is no express statement to that effect). We condense his statements into the following points:
(1.) Jewish tradition assigns seven days, and this seems to have been the origin of the Passover week.
(2.) The term מִסִּע, "journey," denotes only an encampment, while the successive days of travel are expressed by יָמַים, or "day's journey."
(3.) In Nu 10:33, we find stations three days apart, with no locality named between (the same, we may add, is the case in 33:8, 16).
(4.) It would have been impossible for the Israelites all to rendezvous at one place and start together, especially as they all kept the Passover in their own homes the preceding night, and were n bot allowed to leave till morning (Ex 12:22).
(5.) The distance, under any calculation, was too great for a three days' continuous march.
(6.) The message to Pharaoh of their movements at Etham (Ex 14:5) requires at least four days from that point to the Red Sea-two for him to get the information, and two more for his army to be got ready and overtake tihe Israelites. To these arguments we may add the fact that a whole month was consumed (Nu 23:3; Ex 16:1) in making the first eight stations (Nu 33:5-11), containing-so far as the narrative directly states-but ten days of marching. As the remainder of the time could hardly have been all spent in camp-of which, moreover, there is no mention in the account — there arises a suspicion that the most prominent stations only are named, or those where more than one night's halt was made, or some notelworthy incident occurred. Of course the fiugitives would travel faster, longer, and more continuously. till they were escaped from Egypt, and more leisurely after the event at the Red Sea had relieved them from danger. Be all this as it may, it is in any case clear that they could as easily journey from Ajrud to the mouth of Wady Tawarik in one day as they could from Tell Ramsis to Ajrud in two.
5. Capt. Moresby (in Aiton's Land of the Messiah, p. 118 sq.) is of the opinion that the Israelites crossed at Ras Tarafineh, south of Mount Abu- Deraj, some sixty miles below Suez. where the sea is twenty miles wide and two hundred and fifty feet deep. This accords with certain traditions of the Arabs of the Desert, who name the warm springs in the rocks opposite after Pharaoh. The inducement, however, to this view seems chiefly to be a desire to exaggerate the miracle.
6. The last and most preposterous theory broached is that of Dr. Beke (Sinai in Arabia [Lond. 1878]), who contends that the eastern arm of the Red Sea, i.e. tle Gulf of 'Akabah, and not the Gulf of Suez, is that which the Israelites crossed. He is driven to this conclusion by his chimerical idea that Mount Sinai is not the traditional mountain in the peninsula, but Jebel Baghir, east of 'Akabah. SEE SINAI.
Among the localities named, the choice really lies between Suez and Ras Athkah, and of these we decidedly prefer the latter.
Besides the works cited above, and the commentaries on Exodus, the question has been discussed by the following among the more modern writers: Kitto, Pictorial History of the Jews (Lond. 1843, 2 vols. small 4to), i, 187 sq.; Latrobe, Scripture Illustrattions (ibid. 1838, 8vo ), p. 29 sq.; Raumer, Beitrage zur biblischen Geographie (Leips. 1843, 8vo), p. 1 sq.; Sharpe, in Bartlett's Forty Days in the Desert (Lond. 2d ed. large 8vo), p. 23 sq.; Wilson, The Lands of the Bible (Edinb. 1847, 2 vols. 8vo), i, 149 sq.; Olin, Travels in Egypt, etc. (N.Y. 1843, 2 vols. 12mo), i, 342 sq.; Durbin, Observations in the East (ibid. 1845, 2 vols. 12mo), i, 120 sq.; Porter, in Murray's Hand-book of Syria (Lond. ed. 1868, 12mo), i, 9 sq.; Palmer, Desert of the Exodus (N.Y. reprint, 1872, 8vo), p. 42 sq.; Bonar, The Desert of Sinai (ibid. reprint, 1857, 12mo), p. 82 sq.: Morris, Tour through Turkey, etc. (Phila. 1842, 2 vols. 12mo), ii, 219 sq.; Strauss, Sinai und Golgotha (Berl. 1850, 12mo), p. 147 sq. One of the most recent monographs on the subject — that of Unruh, Der Zug der Israeliten aus Aegypte nach Canaan — (Langensalza, 1860, 8vo) after extending the Gulf of Suez so far north as nearly to join a deep bay of the Mediterranean, locates Succoth at the narrow isthmus, Pi-hahiroth at Suez, and the other scriptural localities (Etham, Migdol. and Baal-zephon) east of the gulf, which on this view was not actually crossed at all. This is the rationalistic theory fully carried out. The lively writer (Kinglake ) of Eothen (Lond. 1844; N. Y. 1845, 12mo), p. 188, thus briefly puts the main points of the controversy: "There are two opinions as to the point at which the Israelites passed the Red Sea. One is that they traversed only the very small creek at the northern extremity of the inlet, and that they entered the bed of the water at the spot on which Suez now stands; the other that they crossed the sea from a point many miles down the coast. The Oxford theologians, who, with Milman, their professor, believe that Jehovah conducted his chosen people without disturbing the order of nature, adopt the first view, and suppose that the Israelites passed during the ebb-tide, aided by a violent wind. One among many objections to this supposition is that the time of a single ebb would not have been sufficient for the passage of that vast multitude of men and beasts, or even for a small fraction of it. Moreover, the creek to the north of this point can be compassed in an hour, and in two hours you can make the circuit of the salt marsh over which the sea may have extended in former times. If, therefore, the Israelites crossed so high up as Suez, the Egyptians, unless infatuated by divine interference, might easily have recovered their stolen goods from the encumbered fugitives by making a slight detour." SEE EXODE.