In the year 1678 BC, Moses was born and spent 40 years in pharaoh's palace, 40 years in Midian, and went back to Egypt and led Israel out to the Red Sea in 1598 BC. Since there were over 603,000 men that were older than 19 years of age, we estimate Israel's full number to be a little over 2 million, plus a lot of cattle (Exodus 12:38).
Now we reach the part that I believe should be of great interest to those that wish to study biblical history. Before you read any farther, please first read Exodus 14:1-30, and look at the map in your Bible that shows the "Exodus from Egypt", if it has one. Most of the maps that I have seen show Israel crossing through Great Bitter Lake, which is about 20 miles north of the Gulf of Suez.
Well, I do not agree. Ever heard of the "Sea of Reeds'? There are those that say Israel crossed the "Reed's Sea" instead of the Red Sea. As I remember, the Sea of Reeds is adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, close to the "land of Goshen', being only about three feet deep. This is another example of more misunderstanding of the scriptures. Moses led Israel through the Red Sea (which the Gulf of Suez is part of) at a point that was wide enough so that the 2 million people and their livestock were walking in the middle of the sea on dry ground, and at least 600,000 Egyptian soldiers were also in the sea with them at the same time, but behind Israel in hot pursuit.
After the Egyptians were fully into the Red Sea, their wheels began to fall off of their chariots, and the walls (over 3,000 feet high on each side) of water caved back in upon all of the Egyptians (but one escaped). Meanwhile, the walls of water were still standing along each side of Israel because they were still in the middle of the sea and were yet crossing to get to the other shore while the Egyptians were drowning.
What's the big deal, you might ask? With over 2 million people walking 100 abreast, 5 yards (or meters) apart, taking all of their belongings and livestock, they would be a caravan that was 612 yards wide and 56 miles long! Don't forget that the Egyptians were also in the sea giving chase behind Israel. Although the Bible says "600 chosen chariots", don't be fooled into believing that the pharaoh sent only a couple of thousand men to recapture over 2 million people. The Bible also says "and all the chariots of Egypt" (Exodus 14:7). Ever wonder how the writer obtained all of that internal information concerning Egyptian military preparations?
Pharaoh had a good estimate of how many Hebrews there were. So now is a good time for us to get a more accurate count of Israel's number. What I have so far is that the first generation of Israel began when Jacob was about 85 years old, in the year 2073 BC, with the birth of Reuben. During the next five years, Jacob would have eleven sons.
In 2028 BC, the house of Jacob had left Canaan and went to live in Goshen. Jacob had at least 46 grandsons. His first two grandsons (Er and Onan) died in Canaan. Jacob also brought with him his daughter Dinah, his granddaughter Serah, and any husbands and children that the women may have had. What about Tamar? She was the wife of Er, and the mother of Pharez and Zarah. Starting with Jacob's four great-grandsons, if only 20 of Jacob's 46 grandsons had wives, and you add Jacob's daughter, granddaughter, his sons and their wives, plus all of Jacob's grandsons, you'll have a host of at least 103 Hebrews, comprising the first two generations and the beginning of the third generation. But the actual number leaving Canaan and entering into Egypt was less than forty.
The house of Jacob (Israel) lived 430 years in Goshen. If 30 years comprises a generation, the beginning of the third generation had come into Egypt during the reign of Joseph. The fourth generation began as Israel was enslaved when Joseph was ousted from power, which marked the beginning of the 400 years of slavery. Israel would spend more than thirteen more generations in Egypt (14 generations in all), with the infant seventeenth generation being the first to see freedom (and the oldest generation to enter the Promised Land).
There are three conclusions and one pendulous fact that must yet be considered. If we conclude that Israel spent fourteen complete generations in Egypt, we can easily confirm Exodus 38:26 and Numbers 1:45-47. If Jacob had 46 grandsons, and if every male fathered two sons for 14 generations, that would give the adult sixteenth generation 753,664 men, which would include the tribe of Levi. If each man had a wife and one child (the child belonging to the seventeenth generation), Israel could easily have 2,260,992 that left Egypt. But we are not finished yet. We still have to add in the mixed multitude and the cattle (Exodus 12:38). With that large of a body of people and herds, they could probably travel 2.6 miles per hour, which will be very important later.
Let us say that you are the pharaoh. Now how large of a force would you send to apprehend more than 2.5 million of the enemy? Let's set it at 800,000 soldiers in order to neutralize the possible fighting force of Israel. This would include 200,000 men on horses and 600,000 men riding four to a chariot, which in turn would give us 150,000 chariots in all. (If only two or three men were riding in the chariots, we'd have even more chariots to account for.) We will then add their length to the caravan of Israel. In an attempt to be conservative, we will ignore both the mixed multitude that accompanied Israel, and the assumption that the known chariots of Egypt carried only two soldiers.
We have no way of knowing how wide of a corridor was provided for Israel, so let's use the 612 yards as mentioned before, as the Egyptian pursuers would also have to be computed using the same width. Now keep in mind that God had not revealed Himself to the Hebrews since the days of Abraham, and had not sent an angelic message since Jacob wrestled with an angel before Benjamin was born. So you should suspect that God would want to continue to impress or show His power to Israel (and to the Egyptians) as He had with the plagues in Egypt. If the walls of water are too far apart (that is, the corridor being too wide), the event begins to lose it's effect..., and if the corridor is too narrow, it would take too long for all the people to pass through the sea in order to get to the other side.
I did not happened to have an ancient Egyptian chariot to measure, but if we are to put four men in it, lets round it to a width of five feet, from wheel to wheel, seven feet between chariots side by side, and twenty-one feet from the nose of the horse(s) pulling each chariot, to the nose of the horse(s) pulling the next chariot which is following behind (okay, so they're tailgating a little). If you like, measure this at home and find out what you think how large an area a host of chariots this size would occupy. Remember that you have to allow for enough space in between the chariots, front and back, and on the left and right, because they are traveling as fast as the horses can gallop; you don't want them colliding with each other.
We yet have the 200,000 horsemen to account for. Let us give 36 inches (1 yard) across for each horse (with it's rider), and the same between each horse side by side (we are riding in close ranks). Also, let's have the same 21 feet from the nose of each horse in front, to the nose of the horse following behind. Now we can compute all of this up. The chariots abreast would occupy four yards each (or 12 feet), giving us a maximum of 150 chariots across, allowing for six yards spacing away from each of the two "walls" of water (one on each side). With 1,000 rows of chariots times 21 feet, that comes to about 4 miles. Using the same width for the horsemen allows us to have 300 horsemen across for a length of over 2.5 miles. Okay. We have 56 miles for Israel, 6.5 miles for the Egyptians, and we'll add 1 mile to be between the groups. We now have a total of 63.5 miles minimum of water that is needed to satisfy the story of the Red Sea crossing. That considerably limits the number of places that Israel could have crossed a body of water. Right away, Great Bitter Lake is disqualified.
We now have a few problems. We have to determine how much time was involved in crossing such a large body of water, and try to pinpoint the location. To help us find the location, we must somehow find out how many days they traveled before they began to cross the sea. The pathway was made during the night (so it might seem at first), and the crossing began before the break of dawn the following morning.
Unfortunately, I do not know of any 3,400 years old maps laying around. We do not know where Pihahiroth and Migdol were. The names of places and towns can change several times over the centuries. However, we do have some clues that we can yet go by. One of them is that once Israel left Egyptian soil, they never returned to it. Another clue is that they encamped next to a large body of water which they would be forced into crossing upon being approached by the Egyptians. Another clue is that God did not lead them directly to the Sinai Peninsula (if that was where the "Mount of God" was).
Now, those last two clues also help us to eliminate Great Bitter Lake; it was too small anyway. One of the remaining clues is that Israel went "through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea" (Exodus 13:18). Now we have to look for a desert that is west of the Gulf of Suez and the main body of the Red Sea. The Eastern Desert of present day Egypt qualifies. (I am aware that certain regions can become deserts over periods of time, and vice versa.) Read Numbers 33:1-8, in order to get an additional account of Israel's journey. The only constant is that they made camp three times after leaving a place named "Rameses', which is the easiest of the six places mentioned to locate. But since they were led by a cloud by day and a fireball by night, we don't know how far they traveled each day, nor how many days they traveled (just yet), and we don't know exactly in what direction they went each day.
It would help us if we could find the location that Israel emerged once they came from the sea. You might think at first that it would be the Sinai Peninsula, but why not Saudi Arabia and up along the side of the Gulf of Aqaba? Where was the wilderness of Shur? In any case, I think that something should be discussed before we talk about the last two clues. We should not assume the Israel crossed the Red Sea in a straight line. It could have been curved a bit or maybe on a diagonal.
These following two clues should shed some more light. Israel did not travel on the seventh day (Saturday), and the wind that dried the undersea ground came from an eastern direction, which could include anywhere from the northeast, east, to the southeast. By rereading Exodus chapter 14, I conclude that the third day of rest that was taken was beside the Red Sea, which they would be crossing from the place of their encampment, and that the crossing of the sea took more than just one day. Moses was yet in the sea when he "motioned' for the walls of water that were beside the Egyptians to collapse upon them.
After crossing the sea, I also conclude that all of Israel emerged from the sea just as their 2nd Sabbath after leaving Egypt was beginning, so that it could be set aside for rest and celebration in recognition of God saving them from the Egyptians, once and for all. After crossing the sea, Israel journeyed three days and pitched in Marah (Numbers 33:8), so it is doubtful that the Sabbath occurred during that segment of their journey. It appears that Israel first started out traveling east, then southward, and on occasion back southwestward, so that the pharaoh felt that Israel was "turned around' or lost within the perimeter of Egypt.
We still have some problems that must be resolved. The widest part of the Suez gulf is about 31 miles across...presently. What was it 3,000 years ago? That location is at 29 degrees latitude, and that is about 150 miles south of Goshen. Unless Israel was led in a "zigzag' manner, the Gulf of Suez can not satisfy the Red Sea crossing. We first should try to find out how many days after leaving Goshen did Israel cross the sea, and then multiplying the number of days of actual travel times their rate of travel, we should be able to calculate where they were when they began crossing the sea.
So, here we go. Israel left Rameses in the early morning of the 15th of the first month (Numbers 33:3), and arrived at the base of the mountain (Horeb or Sinai?) on the 15th of the third month. Did the first month have 31 days, 30 days, or 28 days? This is a problem when a person is trying to calculate biblical years in the distant past. I have often wondered if the duration of an Earth year (or at least each lunar month) has been altered since the incident at Babel (in 2509). For now, I will assume 30 days for the first month (Abib) and 29 for the second month. By reading Numbers 33:3-15, Israel made camp 11 times in 59 days, so that means that they did not "pitch camp' every evening, but rather at certain intervals or planned occasions. Since I will add an unmentioned encampment immediately upon emerging from the Red Sea, that makes 12 pitches in 59 days.
I propose that the travel pattern of Israel was four hours of travel, two hours of rest, another four hours of travel and two hours of rest. This would continue over and over for three days, then they would encamp for rest on the fourth day; the first rest day being taken on Wednesday, the 18th day of the first month. They would then travel for two more days and the seventh day would be for encampment and the Sabbath.
A minimum of eight days of travel on land and three days of rest can satisfy the conditions before Israel started upon the Red Sea crossing. This allows for more than 300 miles of travel (2.6 mph for 120 hours) down the coast of the Gulf of Suez, to near the 27th degree of latitude. It also allows for seven days of mourning by the Egyptians (because of the death of their firstborn) before embarking on a four day march to catch Israel (since Israel was still apparently "lost' within the boundaries of Egypt) on the eleventh day which was Israel's third encampment at Baalzephon. We must also factor in the crossing of the actual Red Sea for two days, covering more than 85 miles and emerging onto the shore of Arabia just before the Sabbath day, two weeks after the first "Passover' in Egypt. It took more than six more weeks and eight more encampments for Israel to reach the mount of Sinai.
To make sure that you understand, let's review the Exodus from the time Israel left Egypt till they crossed the Red Sea. It was quite different from what you may have seen in the movie "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Heston. On Sunday morning, the 15th of the month of Abib, about 5 AM, the children of Israel left Rameses. Walking at about 2.6 miles per hour, with all their belongings and livestock, they traveled for 4 hours, rested for 2 hours, traveled for 4 hours, rested for 2 hours, traveled for 4 hours, rested for 2 hours, traveled for 4 hours and rested for 2 hours. This completed their first day out of Egypt.
For the first 6 hours, the tail end of Israel had not yet left Rameses. On Monday, the 16th of Abib, the day began with four hours of travel as the previous day ended with 2 hours of rest. The same cycle was repeated for Tuesday, the 17th of Abib, except that instead of the final 2 hours of rest, that time was used for "pitching' or making camp at Succoth. The whole day of Wednesday, the 18th, was a day of rest with the final two hours used to "break camp'.
On the 19th, being Thursday, was the first of two more days of travel. The end of the travel day of the 20th (which was a Friday) was used to make camp to observe the second Sabbath of Israel (one week after the Passover), the first since leaving Rameses. This was Saturday the 21st, at the place called Etham. Meanwhile, during the last seven days, the Egyptians were yet mourning and embalming their dead (death of the first born). Egyptian informants had gotten word to pharaoh on the whereabouts of Israel. At the end of a week, Israel still had not left Egyptian soil.
On Sunday, after the Sabbath, being on the 22nd, Israel broke camp and traveled toward Migdol. With the different directions that Israel seemed to be taking, the pharaoh felt that they "had become lost' in the land. He now felt the urge to avenge the death of the first born and recapture Israel. Pharaoh began to assemble his army and soon marched his troops in an all out effort to overtake Israel. Meanwhile, Israel traveled the 23rd and 24th of the month, making camp on Wednesday (actually Tuesday night), on the 25th, between Migdol and the Red Sea. Through inspiration, I believe that Migdol was about 15 miles from the main body of the Red Sea, at the northern edge of the wilderness (the Eastern Desert).
We have not spoken on the formation that Israel used while on their way from Rameses. I believe that they covered about a 78 square mile area as they traveled. They marched by armies (tribes), with three tribes (groups) across in front, three tribes (one behind the other) on the right side and on the left side, and three tribes in the rear. It was almost like a square with a length of close to 9 miles on each side, yet it was also like a circle with a radius of about 4.4 miles.
The tribe of Levi was in the middle, a bit forward of center, with the mixed multitude a bit aft of center. There was no tribe of Joseph, for it was divided into two separate tribes; Manasseh, the older son of Joseph, and Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph. Since Jacob loved Joseph the most, and Jacob gave Ephraim the "favored' blessing before Jacob died, the tribe of Judah and Ephraim were often in contention. It apparently was carried on for hundreds of years.
Israel was now encamped between Migdol and the sea, with the sea being about 7 miles from the center of Israel's formation (or about 3 or 4 miles from the closest tribe). As Israel was bedding for the night ( the 25th ) before breaking camp for travel on Thursday morning, the 26th of Abib, the pharaoh's army was approaching, and was within sight of the rear guard (tribes) of Israel. Israel was scared, but God had told Moses two days ago that this would happen.
Moses began leading the people towards the sea. It would take less than two hours for the leading tribes to reach the sea. However about a half mile away from the sea, Moses stretched his rod overhead towards the sea and the waters began to part, forming a corridor a little over 600 yards wide.
As the front three tribes began to reach the corridor (probably about 7:20 AM on the 26th), one tribe lead the way and the other two moved one behind the other so that one tribe entered at a time. The right three tribes would go next, then the Levites and mixed multitude, then the left three tribes, followed by the last three tribes. Meanwhile, the cloud that had been leading Israel had earlier gone to the rear and formed a barrier between Egypt and Israel, since it would be approaching late afternoon or early evening (about ten hours) before the rear tribes would be able to enter into the sea. While it was day, the cloud was a barrier of darkness to the Egyptians. As it became night, the cloud was a barrier of fire.
It was not that Israel waited at the shore while the East wind was blowing the sea ground dry all night. God did not part all of the sea at once. As Israel was walking, the sea was parted, and the ground blown dry "just ahead of them' all of that day (Thursday), all that night, and all the next day. Meanwhile, the army of Egypt was still being held at bay, most of Wednesday night, all day Thursday, and Thursday night. Sometime well past midnight (maybe 3:00 AM), the pillar of fire left from holding back the Egyptians. This is before dawn on Friday, the 27th of the month. The pathway behind Israel is still an open corridor. The Egyptians later decide to ignore the "miracle' that has happened and continue to pursue after Israel into the sea (what idiots!).
The tail end of Israel was about 23 miles ahead of the Egyptians, since they had about an eight hour head start. After dawn, perhaps close to 6:00 AM (06:00), all of pharaoh's army is now in the sea, about 4 miles behind Israel and 25 miles away from the shore behind them. God causes the wheels of their chariots to fall off, and stirs up confusion among the Egyptians. God then instructs Moses to stretch his rod towards the waters behind him so that the walls of water will return upon the Egyptians, killing all but one (so that they could return and be a witness). Could the sudden loss of 800,000 soldiers start the decline of world dominance for Egypt? All day Friday, Israel marched through the sea, with the walls of water closing behind them, yet at a safe distance. The first tribes reached the other shore by mid-morning Friday, and the remaining tribes by late afternoon (18:00?). They all celebrated the Sabbath, on Saturday the 28th, two weeks after leaving Rameses, with singing and dancing.
Try to keep in mind that outside of the plagues in Egypt, Israel had not seen God at work. For over 400 years, they had lived with "pagan gentiles' that worshipped idol gods. All Israel had was faith in the remembered words of Joseph; "and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land" (Genesis 50:24), and "ye shall carry up my bones from hence" (Genesis 50:25). Please note that Joseph expresses an implied desire to leave Egypt, but apparently would need divine assistance in doing so. Also note that Joseph was not carried out of Egypt and buried right away like Jacob had been. This is additional evidence that Joseph was in bondage with the rest of Israel before he died.
Joseph had told them that the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob' would deliver them, and all that Israel later had to believe in (at least until Moses and the plagues) was just the belief that a great "god' existed (by "word of mouth'), and would someday deliver them from slavery. I believe that God had a mild interest in impressing the Egyptians, but even more so Israel so that they would have visible "proof' that their "god" was real and to be feared, being the one and only true deity.
Getting back to Israel's journey, I would not expect Israel to take many rest periods while trying to pass through the sea, if they took any rest at all. Seeing those huge walls of sea water on each side, and trying to escape from the Egyptians, would probably inspire them to travel to the opposite side with haste. This is one of the reasons that I used 612 yards for the width for the corridor. Can you imagine the fear and amazement that Israel must have had at that spectacle?
When Israel was walking through the sea, they could not see the shore at the other end. By faith, and fear of death and/or recapture by the Egyptians, the children of Israel crossed the sea during two days and a night. God could have given them endurance, because their odyssey through the sea could have been 112 miles, but no shorter than 86 miles. So, for this reason I inserted an encampment after coming ashore and designated it as the fourteenth day after leaving the place called Rameses, the 28th day of the month of Abib (actually early Friday evening), two weeks after the Passover, the second Sabbath day, for rest and celebration, before embarking on a three days' journey (starting Sunday morning) through the wilderness of Etam and "pitching' in Marah.
May this article help people to better understand this major event in the bible, and accept it as factual history.