New Evidence from Egypt on the Location of the Exodus Sea Crossing Part 2 -- By: Gary A. Byers

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 19:2 (Spring 2006)
Article: New Evidence from Egypt on the Location of the Exodus Sea Crossing Part 2
Author: Gary A. Byers


New Evidence from Egypt on the Location of the Exodus Sea Crossing
Part 2

Gary A. Byers

If the Reed Sea can be located somewhere along the marshy lake district of the Isthmus of Suez (Byers 2006), which separates the cultivated delta from the barren desert, then the place names in the Exodus account can be centralized to a specific area. Everything prior to the sea crossing would have taken place in the area from the easternmost branch of Nile delta (Goshen) to the marshy lakes. Everything after the crossing was in the desert immediately to the east.

While archaeological research in the delta is severely hampered by the region’s high water table, during the last two decades it has received significant attention. These results have helped clarify a number of place names in the Exodus itinerary.

Rameses

Rameses (Ex 12:37; Nm 33:3) was the starting point of the Exodus. There is no reason to doubt that Biblical Rameses is the same as Pi-Rameses in Egyptian texts (Kitchen 2003: 255; Wood 2004; Hoffmeier 2005: 53, 55). The city, whose full hieroglyphic name was “House of Ramesses, Beloved of Amun, Great of Victories,” was originally built on the eastern bank of the Pelusiac, the easternmost of the Nile’s five ancient branches. As the final waterway in the eastern delta before the border, there was no other significant body of water for the Israelites to cross before the sea. Because of the shifting of the delta streams over the centuries, the Pelusiac branch is dry today, but its former presence is clear from geologic probes at the site.

At this location, ancient cities were built and rebuilt over many centuries. Spread over eight square miles beneath the modern villages of Tell el-Dab‘a, Qantir and Ezbet Helmi today are the consecutive ancient Egyptian cities of Rowaty, Avaris, Peru-nefer and Rameses.

Following the Bible’s own chronology, the site was probably called Rowaty when Jacob moved there (Gn 47:11), and later Peru-nefer when they rebuilt it (Ex 1:11) and departed it in the Exodus (Ex 12:37). It was only named Rameses after Pharaoh Rameses II rebuilt it again some 200 years after the Israelites exited Egypt. This is the name that stuck (Wood 2004; Byers 2005: 4–7; Kitchen 2003: 255).

Succoth

Succoth (Ex 12:37; Nm 33:5–6) was the first stop (the second place mentioned in the Exodus itinerary). The Hebrew name (meaning “temporary...

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