THE EXODUS FAIRY TALE
(Investigator 182, 2018 September)
"…the earlier chapters of the Old Testament, from Genesis through
to 1 Kings 11, which recount the lives of colorful characters ranging
from Adam to Solomon, make almost no reference to written evidence."
(Propp, 2006, p. 735)
One of the most important characters of the entire exodus saga was
Moses. First mentioned in Exodus 2:1-4, he was born at a time when the
Pharaoh had ordered the death of all newly-born Hebrew males, however,
he is saved by his mother Jochebed, (Exodus 6:20; Numbers 26:59, first
by being hidden for three months, (Exodus 2:2), then later, placed in a
waterproofed papyrus basket and left amidst the reeds of the Nile,
while his sister kept watch.
While it is probably true that some babies were set adrift on the Nile,
this particular example is probably entirely fictional. Stories of
heroes being born into danger are common in a number of ancient
cultures, while the theme of a male child being set adrift on a river,
rescued and growing up to become a great hero, is not completely
unknown. One example of this is the story of the birth of Sargon I,
(2340-2284 BCE): -
1. The result of an illicit union, his mother, an
enetu, (a high-priestess), had to keep his birth a secret for, if it
became known, the child would be in grave danger;
2. To save him his mother placed him in a basket made of reeds, covered with bitumen;
3. Set adrift on the river, he was found by Akki, a gardener, (water-drawer), who raised him as his own son;
4. Loved by the goddess Ishtar, he grew up to become a great leader and the deliverer of his people.
Currid (2013) observed that, "…in matters of plot, sequence and details
the stories generally match." (p. 78) However, others, like Hoffmeier
(1999), argue that the apparent similarities are purely coincidental,
since the Sargon text emerged only in the 8th century BCE, while the
Exodus text, by J and E authors, was recorded as early as the 10th
century BCE. (pp. 136-137).
Currid (2013) also suggests that the Moses birth story may have been
based on an Egyptian birth narrative concerning the god Horus. As a
child, he too faced mortal danger, but was rescued and adopted by a
childless fisherman. Another ancient story tells of the queen of Kanes,
(Kanesh), who, after giving birth to thirty sons in a single year, made
containers caulked with grease and set them adrift on a river; carried
out to sea they drifted to the land of Zalpa, where they were rescued
by the gods, (Foley, 2005, p. 262).
Regardless of the actual origins of the Moses birth-story, stories of
special children, born with a divine destiny, at great risk of death
during infancy, who survive due to divine protection and go on to
perform great deeds, were common in many ancient cultures.
THE EGYPTIAN PRINCESS
It is claimed that, "one of Pharaoh's daughters," (Exodus 2:5,
traditionally known as Bithiah, or Bityah, Maciá, 2014, p. 155),
found the baby Moses amongst the reeds. The text specifically says the
child's, "...helpless cries touched her heart." (2:6), a quaint way of
saying that she immediately formed an emotional attachment to the
child, even though she realized immediately that it was an Hebrew
child, (Exodus 2:6). While it is possible to accept that a barren
Egyptian peasant might adopt an abandoned Hebrew baby, the idea that an
Egyptian princess would do so is extremely unlikely. Egyptian royalty
considered themselves to be exceptional beings, the kings, (pharaohs),
were perceived as divine beings, "god-kings" believed to possess sacred
powers, to be able to mediate with the gods. As Dijk (2004) indicated,
"Akhenaten in particular put much emphasis on the fact that he was the
'mother who gives birth to everything' who had 'created his subjects
with his ka'. He was the creator-god upon earth who fashioned mankind
after his own image." (p. 272).
Although not quite as divine as the king, (pharaoh), nevertheless,
members of the royal family were perceived as exceptionally superior
individuals; the wives and mothers, of pharaohs, such as
Ahmose-Nefertari, could even be deified. (Bryan, 2004, p. 213) So, it
seems inconceivable that any royal daughter would pollute the
blood-line by adopting a Hebrew slave. Furthermore as a princess, if
Bityah was so desperate for a child, no doubt it would have been
relatively easy to find some high-ranking Egyptian woman willing to
give up a child.
There are other problems with the "Moses in the bulrushes" scenario: -
1. Egyptian royalty were usually surrounded by
"attendants," servants and armed guards, whose duty it was to keep
commoners away, so, the suggestion that a Hebrew slave Miriam, (Numbers
26:59), the sister of Moses, who, according to tradition was six-years
old, could have approached the princess, and offered to find a Hebrew
wet-nurse, (Exodus 2:7), is highly improbable;
2. Why would a princess, with a multitude of servants
and wet-nurses at her disposal, send a "prince of Egypt" to be suckled
by a Hebrew slave and then brought back to the princess when he had
been weaned? To do so would have "tainted" the child, making it
extremely difficult to hide the fact that it was not only, not her
child, but even worse, that it was a Hebrew child, and not Egyptian.
KILLING THE EGYPTIAN
It is claimed that, "When Moses was forty years old" (Acts 7:23), he,
"... went out to visit his fellow Hebrews" (Exodus 2:11), and, at that
time, he killed an Egyptian who was attacking a Hebrew, (Exodus
2:11-12), and hid the body; so, how likely is such an event?
Firstly, how would Moses have known he had been born a Hebrew?
According to the text, after a time being "nursed" by his mother, she,
"… brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son." (Exodus
2:10) It was common practice in many societies, including ancient Egypt
for children of the nobility to be "wet-nursed" until weaning, which
was usually around twelve months of age. However, the normal practice
was that the child resided in the parent's home, and the wet-nurse
lived in, as a servant. But, even if Moses had been nursed in the home
of his birth-mother, and brought to Bityah when weaned, he would have
been too young to remember this period of time. As Bauer (2004) pointed
out, it is extremely rare for an infant to have any memories of events
before they are two-three years of age, so the earliest childhood
memories Moses would not have been of his time with his birth-mother
but of his time spent at the pharaoh's court, so: -
1. It is extremely unlikely Bithiah would ever have
told Moses he was the son of Hebrew slaves, and, so, with no idea of
his true origins, how would he know he was visiting his "fellow" Hebrew
2. Raised as an Egyptian prince, with no knowledge of
his true origins, it is most unlikely that he would have been troubled
by a Hebrew "slave" being attacked by an Egyptian; slaves had no
rights, and their masters and overseers had the right to kill them if
they so desired;
3. One must ask why would Moses would bother to kill
the overseer himself? Surely he would have had attendants and guards to
carry out his will;
4. Even if he had killed the man himself, as a prince
he would hardly have bothered to look around to make sure there were no
witnesses before killing the Egyptian, (Exodus 2:12); he would have had
the authority to kill any commoner with impunity. In ancient times
pharaohs, and the aristocracy, had almost unlimited authority to punish
servants and commoners. For example, during the reign of Khufu a
servant named Ra-Or accidentally knocked over the king's sceptre, the
punishment for this was death, however Khufu spared him. In addition,
according to Exodus 1:15-22, the Egyptian king could order the death of
thousands of children. Consequently, the scenario whereby the king,
"...ordered Moses arrested and executed" (Exodus 2:15), for the
"murder" of a single individual, seems highly improbable;
5. In ancient Egypt magistrates usually dealt with
most criminal offences, however, serious offences, such as murder, were
heard by the Vizier. As the king's direct representative it would have
been unlikely that he would find a prince guilty of murder. Even if he
had, it is much more likely that, as the aristocracy often did
throughout history, he would have escaped punishment by being ordered
to pay compensation to the family of the murdered man. Moreover, those
in authority, could manipulate and delay legal proceedings; in one
example cited by Oakes (2006, p. 111), a legal dispute against the
local police chief at Set Maat, (Deir el-Medina) lasted for eleven
THE PLAGUES OF EGYPT
The Lord appears to have been ever ready to inflict plagues upon both
Israelites and Egyptians, (e.g. Leviticus 26:25; Numbers 11:33; 14:12;
14:37; and 16:46 which killed 14.700 Israelites), and, because pharaoh
refused to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, it is claimed the Lord
brought ten destructive plagues upon Egypt.
In esoteric mysticism the number 10 is considered to be a perfect
number, signifying totality, the complete fulfilment of a particular
action. It appears often in Jewish writ, e.g. Ten Commandments, (Exodus
20); the Passover Lamb was to be sacrificed on the 10th day of the
first month, (Exodus 12:3); "…a tenth of all your produce in the third
year, the year of the tithe" (Deuteronomy 26:12); Ten Lost Tribes of
Israel, Ten elders, (Ruth 4:2); the Day of Atonement, ten days after
the Festival of Trumpets, (Numbers 29:7); the tabernacle made from,
"…ten sheets of fine linen" (Exodus 26:1); curtains, "supported by ten
posts set into ten bases." (Exodus 26:12, the descendants of
illegitimate children to be excluded from the assembly for "ten
generations" (Deuteronomy 23:2); and ten rabbis martyred by the Romans
after the destruction of the second temple — in this instance the
infliction of ten plagues is intended to demonstrate that Israelite's
god is greater than the mightiest temporal empire on earth, Egypt.
While the exodus plagues were likely completely fictional, it is
possible that some may have been based upon memories of actual unusual
weather events or plagues of insects in the past. Insect infestations,
such as those of locusts, frogs, gnats, (KJV "lice"), are often due to
the vagaries of weather, or part of a natural breeding or swarming
process. Many insects depend on the presence of water to reproduce, and
some, such as the swarms of millions of tiny flies that appear over
Lake Tanganyika, Lake Malawi and Lake Victoria, form such a dense cloud
that they often appear as, "…huge 'smoke' plumes rolling over the
water." (Van Huis, Van Gurp and Dicke, 2014, p. 31)
Bible literalists have proposed a number of often quite fantastic
theories to support their belief that the plagues occurred exactly as
described in Exodus. One fantastic theory is that the plagues, and the
inundation of pharaoh's army, was caused by events following the
eruption of the volcanic Mediterranean island of Thera. Shanks (1981),
indicated that Goedicke was one of the first to make this connection;
according to his scenario, in 1477 BCE, a tsunami caused by the
eruption of Thera, swept across the Nile Delta, inundating Lake
Menzaleh, (a.k.a. Manzala), and the plains to the south of the lake,
drowning the Egyptians who were in pursuit of the fleeing Israelites.
Ritner and Moeller (2014) claim this cataclysm event was recorded on
the Ahmose Tempest Stela. Found in pieces amongst rubble at the base of
the third pylon at Karnak, this calcite block, inscribed on both sides,
"…once stood over 1.80m tall." (p. 2). The video presentation,
Treasures Decoded: Plagues of Egypt (2017), which relied heavily on the
claims that this event were recorded on the stela, by deviously
manipulating the facts, managed to attribute all of the Exodus plagues
to the Thera eruption.
Certainly volcanic eruptions can influence weather patterns; Stommel
and Stommel (1979) described how the dust from the major eruption of
the Indonesian volcano Tambora in 1815 produced unusual weather
patterns in the following year. In America, 1816 was described as a
year without a summer, and unusually heavy rain falls were recorded
from England to the Baltic.
Oman et al. (2006) outlined how the 1783-1784 eruption of the
Lakagígar volcano in Iceland resulted in a lower than normal
flow of water into the Nile, and, as a result,
"The inundation of 1783 was not sufficient, great part of the lands
therefore could not be sown for want of being watered, and another part
was in the same predicament for want of seed. In 1784, the Nile again
did not rise to the favorable height, and the dearth immediately became
excessive. Soon after the end of November, the famine carried off, at
Cairo, nearly as many as the plague … By January 1785, 1/6 of the
population of Egypt had either died or left the country in the previous
Despite such events, there is certainly no evidence to suggest volcanic
activity could produce the plagues specifically mentioned in Exodus.
Furthermore, as Friedrich et al. (2006), indicated, radiocarbon dating
of a tree branch buried in the volcanic ash from the Thera eruption,
indicated that the eruption occurred circa 1621-1605 BCE, a date which
precludes it from the normally "accepted" time-frame of the Exodus.
Despite the various theories attempting to "explain" the plagues, they
are most likely simply fictional, Probably originating in the vivid
imagination of the Exodus author/s, based perhaps upon memories of
actual unusual weather-related events and infestations in the past,
they were greatly exaggerated and woven into a decuplet of fictional
confrontations between Moses and the pharaoh, to demonstrate the power
of the Lord.
Possibly of most interest to students of the arcane is the final
"plague" — the "deaths of the firstborn". The Israelites were commanded
to sacrifice, "… either a sheep or a goat, with no physical defects."
(Exodus 12:5), that was one-year old, then to smear its blood on the
top and sides of the doorframes of their homes. (Exodus 12:7). This
ritual reflects a common belief in many primitive societies that blood
was a "life force" which contained a magical form of "positive energy",
as such, it could provide protection to individuals and objects by
repulsing any malign "negative" forces. It was once common practice to
bury a sacrificial animal in the foundations of buildings to "protect"
the building and its occupants from harm; in a similar fashion, the
belief here appears to have been that, by painting this positive "life
force" on the doorframes, it would prevent the deadly miasma that was
spreading throughout the land, from entering the homes of the
GOLD, SILVER AND JEWELLERY
In Exodus 11:2-3, Yahweh instructs the Israelites, "…to ask their
neighbors [the Egyptians] for articles of silver and gold." and, then,
incredibly It is claimed,
"The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and
Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh's officials and
by the people." (Exodus 11:3); and,
"The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people,
and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the
Egyptians." (Exodus 12:36)
Exodus 2:15 tells us that Moses had originally fled from Egypt to avoid
arrest and execution, yet now, despite the claim that, "...all those
who wanted to kill you are dead.'' (Exodus 4:19), it seems most
unlikely that Moses would now have been, "...revered by Pharaoh's
officials and the Egyptian people alike." (Exodus 11:3). Even more
extraordinary, we are expected to believe that, after experiencing
devastating pestilence, disease, the death of their cattle, and even
the death of their firstborn children, the Egyptians would not only
forgive Moses and the Israelites, but become so accommodating that they
would willingly surrender so much gold, silver jewellery, and clothing,
that, "...the Egyptians were practically stripped of everything they
owned!" (Exodus 12:36).
Given the incredible nature of these claims it seems much more likely
that their primary purpose of these particular texts was: -
a) To confirm the prophecies, "…they will come out
with great possessions…" (Genesis 15:13-14) and, "…I will see to it
that the Egyptians load you down with gifts when you leave, so that you
will by no means go out empty-handed!"; (Exodus 3:21);
b) To provide an explanation for the apparently
unlimited supply of precious metals, gems, and exotic materials in the
wilderness, which were used to construct, and furnish, the tabernacle
and manufacture priestly clothing.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty with the entire exodus saga is the vast
number of individuals, Israelites, (and others), claimed to have left
Egypt, the text definitely implies there was a great number of them, "…the countless thousands of Israel" (Numbers 10:36), so many that, "…they cover the face of the land…" (Numbers 22:5), "… today you are as numerous as the stars in the sky."
(Deuteronomy 1:10). Although the exact number of Israelite individuals
is never specifically mentioned, there are certain clues which enable
one to calculate their approximate number.
To begin with, when conducting a census of their population, the Israelites only counted males over the age of twenty, thus,
a census of the whole community of Israel by their clans and families.
List the names of all the men twenty years old or older who are able to
go to war." (Numbers 1:2-3) and;
a census of all the men of Israel who are twenty years old or older, to
find out how many of each family are of military age." (Numbers 26:2)
It is claimed that, as they travelled from Rameses to Sukkoth, using this method of calculation, "There were about 600,000 men, plus all the women and children." (Exodus 12:37). This figure is repeated later when, at Taberah, "…Moses said, "Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot…""
(Numbers 11:21) However, at another time, before taking a census to
determine the allocation of gold and silver to be collected to furnish
the tabernacle, "… those counted, twenty years old or more, a total of 603,550 men." (Exodus 38:26, also at Numbers 1:46)
This number did not include the Levites, (Numbers 1:47). Their census was different, "Count the Levites by their families and clans. Count every male a month old or more."
(Numbers 3:14); they were numbered as follows, the Gershonites - 7,500
(Numbers 3:22), the Kohathites - 8,600 (Numbers 3:28, some sources say
8,300), the Merarites - 6,200 (Numbers 3:34). Numbers 3:39 gives the
total as 22,000 although the actual figures above total 22,300.
A second census recorded 601,730 men [Numbers 26:51, and 23,000 Levites, (Numbers 26:62).
Despite the discrepancy between Numbers 11:21 and Exodus 38:26, we will
use the basic figure of 600,000 males of "military age" to make an
approximate calculation of the overall population.
Given that males generally comprise approximately 50% of a population,
so, with a similar number of females, this suggests approximately
1,200,000 adult Israelites. Furthermore, since families were an
important aspect of ancient Israelite society, it seems likely the
males of "military age" would be married, so that would mean some
600,000 married couples, with children. In ancient times couples tended
to have large families, and, we are told, the Israelites
exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and
became so numerous that the land was filled with them." (Exodus 1:7),
"The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore…" (1 Kings 4:20).
So, how many children would each family have had? We can obtain some clues from Genesis 46 which provides a list of, "…the names of the sons of Israel, Jacob and his sons, who came to Egypt:"
by averaging the number of children of these various families, we
obtain a figure of 4.9 children per family. It should be noted however,
that since only the sons are named, not the daughters, the average
number of children in each family would actually have been greater.
Nevertheless, by conservatively, allowing for four children for each of
the 600,000 married couples, we obtain a figure of some 2,400,000
children. Ignoring the, "Many people who were not Israelites went with them…"
(Exodus 12:38), by adding together the figures of 1,200.000 adults and
2,400,000 children we obtain a total of some 3,600,000 individuals who
left Egypt in the exodus." Although only a rough estimate, this figure
corresponds closely to others such as Propp (2006), who cited a figure
of, "…two to three million persons" (p. 736), and Payne (1963) who proposed a figure of "…almost 3,000,000 souls". (p. 388)
Butzer (1999), estimated that at the time of the so-called exodus the
population of Egypt, was around three, to three-and-a-half million
people, (p. 297), so, if our estimations of the Israelite population
are correct, then Egypt would have lost almost its entire population.
Obviously this is an impossibility, nevertheless, since, according to
Exodus, the Israelites represented a major part of Egypt's labour
resources, their departure would have completely devastated the
Egyptian economy. Yet, although as Ritner and Moeller (2014) mentioned,
there are numerous texts, (e.g. the Speos Artemidos text of Hatshepsut, 109 the Tutankhamun Restoration Stela,110 the encomium on the accession of Ramses IV,111 the Harris Papyrus112 and the Elephantine stela of Sethnakht.113), all of which outline Egyptian "…social and political chaos,"
(p. 13), nowhere is there any mention of a sudden loss of a major
portion of their workforce, or of any subsequent economic downturn.
Furthermore, if the exodus actually occurred, and it involved 3,600,000
individuals, we would expect to find a sudden vast increase in the
population of Canaan, yet again, there is no evidence of such an event
There would have also been a number of serious logistical problems
involved with the movement of such a huge number of individuals.
According to the Modern English Version, "…the children of Israel went up prepared for war out of the land of Egypt."
(Exodus 13:18), This suggests they were organized like a marching army,
in a single column. If we assume these 3,600,000 individuals marched
ten abreast, (ignoring their, "…many flocks and herds."
Exodus 12:38), and allowing for one metre between each line, they would
have formed a column some 360 km. (223 miles) long, and, moving at
normal walking pace, 5 kph, (3.1 mph), for 12 hours a day, it would
have taken this column approximately six days to pass a single point.
Communication would have been rather difficult. If Moses had sent a
messenger on horseback to convey his instructions throughout the
column, given that a horse can only safely travel 48-64 km. (30-40
miles) per day, it would have taken the messenger some 5½ days
to reach the end of the column. While the earliest evidence of camels
existing outside the Arabian Peninsula is circa
930 BCE, (Hasoan, 2014; Sapir-Hen and Erez, 2014), Genesis 12:16 and
Exodus 9:3, mention Egyptian camels, while Abraham's camels are
mentioned in Genesis 24:10-11; and also in verses 14, 19-22, 30-32, 35,
so, allowing for the possibility the Israelites used camels during the
exodus, since camels can only travel 30-35 km. per day, it would have
taken around ten days for a camel-riding messenger to travel the length
of the column.
It is a fact that so many people, restricted to what is a relatively
small area of wilderness for forty years, should have left considerable
evidence of their passage. Especially at their campsites one would
expect to find large amounts of detritus, broken pots, animal bones,
food scraps and lost or discarded tools or other items, yet, as
Finkelstein and Silberman, (2002) commented,
not a single campsite or sign of occupation from the time of Rameses II
and his immediate predecessors and successors has ever been identified
in Sinai. And it has not been for the lack of trying." (p. 62)
CROSSING THE "RED SEA"
Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD
drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land.
The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry
ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left." (Exodus 14:21-22).
In ancient times the Way of Horus, (also known as the Way of the
Philistines), was a 350 km. long road which ran roughly parallel to the
Mediterranean coast, provided the most direct route connecting the
eastern region of the Nile Delta with Canaan, (Moshier and El-Kalani
2008, p. 450). Yet, "…God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near;"
(Exodus 13:17, this refers to the "Way of the Philistines"); there
would have been good reason not to take this route as the Egyptian army
maintained at least four permanent forts along this road. The first was
Tjaru, (Moshier and El-Kalani 2008, p. 452), believed to be located
some 3 km. north-east of present-day El Qantara, (160 km. north-east of
Cairo, formerly Kantara, or Kantareh).
We are told that, before they crossed the "sea," the Israelites camped, "…between Migdol and the sea…" (Exodus 14:2) Although Tenney (1963) located Migdol, "…just W of the former shallow bay at the N end of the Gulf of Suez" (p. 532), according to Gardiner (1920), sculptures in the temple at Karnak, erected by Sethos I, (circa
1300 BCE), suggest Migdol was not only located on the Way of Horus (p.
109), but that there were a number of locations named "Migdol". As
Gardiner (1920), pointed out, "… the demotic papyrus Cairo 31169 … mentions no less than four Migdols in the Eastern Delta." (p. 108); there was "Migdol of Sety Meneptah-(is)-beloved-like-Seth." (p. 109); "Migdol-of-Ramesses-Prince-of-Heliopolis", (p. 110), and "Migdol-of Menma"(p. 107); which, Gardiner (1920) believed, "…corresponds to the Migdol of the Old Testament."
(p. 107). Given that the term "Migdol" means "tower" in Semitic, its
general usage may suggest that it referred to the fact that these were
forts with watchtowers.
The garrisons of these forts were there to maintain control and defend
the region, as well as to pursue run-away slaves, (Gardiner, 1920, pp.
109-110), and keep track of the movement of traders and nomadic herding
groups moving through the area. (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2002, p.
59) Gardiner (1920) mentioned that the inhospitable region of the
northern Sinai, between El Qantara and Gaza, was, "… inhabited only by a small population of Bedawin nomads."
(p. 114). The last fort on the road, located at Gaza, also had a
customs house. (Gardiner, 1920, p. 104) Given the level of security in
the area it seems most unlikely that several million people could have
moved out of Egypt without the commanders of these garrisons being
aware, yet, as Finkelstein and Silberman (2002), noted, "...in the abundant Egyptian sources ... there is no reference to the Israelites ..." (p. 59).
Nevertheless, the principal question is which "sea" was it that the
Israelites are actually supposed to have crossed? Was it the Red Sea,
the Sea of Reeds, or some other more distant location?
Propp (2006), pointed out that the Hebrew term used in Exodus is yam sûp, (Suph Sea), which has, "…traditionally been translated "Red Sea" but more recently "Reed Sea," since that is what the phrase literally means"
(p. 752). Traditionally, it is believed the Israelites crossed
somewhere on the Gulf of Suez, (the most northerly part of the Red
Sea), although others believe the crossing was actually at the Gulf of
The Gulf of Suez forms the northernmost part of the Red Sea, and is
located adjacent to the western side of the Sinai Peninsula; the Gulf
of Aqaba is located on its eastern side of the Sinai Peninsula more
than 200 kilometres to the east. Although a crossing at such a distant
location makes no sense, as Propp (2006, p. 752) pointed out,
"… there is little
doubt that in Exod 23:31; Numbers 14:25; 21:4; Deuteronomy 1:40; 2:1;
Judges 11:16 [?]; 1 Kings 9:26; Jeremiah 49:21, the Suph Sea is the
Gulf of Aqaba. In Exod 10:19; 13:18; Numbers 33:10-11, however, the
Suph Sea appears to be the Gulf of Suez." (p. 752).
Further complicating the issue is that the water in both of these gulfs is saline, yet, "…reeds do not grow in or near…salt waters." (Propp. 2006, p. 752), it is therefore difficult to reconcile these locations with the term "Reed Sea."
According to Exodus 14:2, before they crossed the "sea" the Israelites camped "…near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea…by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon."
Although the actual locations of these places remain uncertain
Jastrow, Buhl, Jastrow and Ginzberg (1906) suggested Baal-Zephon might
be located, "…in the neighborhood of the Red Sea." (p. 387), Numbers 33:8 states that after leaving Pi Hahiroth, "…they passed through the midst of the sea…"
which would suggest that Pi Hahiroth was located west of the Red Sea.
Long (1870) identified it as being located in, or near Arsinoe, (now
Ardscherud), a city-port,
the northern extremity of the Heroopolite gulf, [Gulf of Suez] in the
Red Sea. It was the capitol of the Heroopolite nome, and one of the
principal harbours belonging to Egypt. … It is also conjectured to have
stood on the site of the ancient Pihachiroth" (Exod. Xiv. 2, 9; Numb.
Xxxiii. 7: (Long, 1870, p. 225).
Unlike the easy crossing depicted in De Mille's The Ten Commandments,
if the vast number of individuals we have suggested is correct, then
their passage would have presented many logistical difficulties. If, as
mentioned earlier, they formed a column some 360 km. (223 miles) long,
it would have taken then at least six days to cross the "sea," even if
the crossing was only a short distance. However, that time-frame does
not allow for the problems of moving older people, and slow moving
herds, through mud and sediment, so one can reasonably add several more
days for the crossing, even if they did not stop to rest or sleep.