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The Exodus, Red Sea Crossing, & Mt. Sinai

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The Exodus, Red Sea Crossing, & Mt. Sinai

 

Location

 

1. For many years it was believed that the Israelites crossed the Suez finger of the Red Sea just southeast of what is now Cairo, Egypt. However, there are no deep bodies of water in these areas but just shallow marshes and lakes. For this reason, the biblical account of this astounding miracle has been attempted to be discredited or erased altogether by liberal scholars.

 

2. Many recent archeologists and scholars now believe the Israelites crossed the Red Sea at the Aqaba finger of the Red Sea and that Mount Sinai is in Midian, which is part of modern-day Saudi Arabia. 

 

Historical Background

 

1. God called Abraham and promised him He would make a great nation out of his offspring. Abraham obeyed and left everything to follow God.

 

2. Abraham birthed Isaac, who birthed Jacob, who birthed 12 sons. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel.

 

3. Jacob and his 12 sons moved to Egypt according to God’s sovereign plan (about 70–75 total people).

 

4. The Israelites spent 430 years in Egypt (30 years as free people under Joseph and 400 years as slaves). During this time, they grew into a nation of around 2.5 to 3 million people.

 

5. God performed a miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt by performing 10 amazing miracles. 

 

6. The last miracle, known as the Passover, happened when God killed the firstborn of all the Egyptians who did not put the blood of a lamb over the doorposts of their homes.

 

Places of Interest

 

1. Egypt

 

2. Goshen

 

3. Suez Finger of the Red Sea

 

4. Traditional Red Sea Crossing Place

 

5. Sinai Peninsula

 

6. Aqaba Finger of Red Sea

 

7. Nuweiba Beach

 

8. Saudi Arabia Beach

 

9. Red Sea Crossing

 

10. Marah

 

11. Elim

 

12. Magna Oasis

13. Wilderness of Sin

 

14. Caves of Jethro

 

15. Rephidim

 

16. Mount Sinai
 

The Exodus, Red Sea Crossing, and Mount Sinai in the Bible

 

1. How many Israelites left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea?
Exodus 12:37: Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children.

 

Using the number of 600,000 men only, we can estimate that there were probably 2.5 to 3 million Israelites.

 

2. How many Egyptian soldiers were chasing them?
Exodus 14:6–7: So he made his chariot ready and took his people with him; 7 and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them.

 

According to Josephus, a historian writer, there were 50,000 horsemen and 200,000 footmen, all armed. 

 

3. Did the Israelites cross the Red Sea by Egypt?
It has been generally believed for many years that the Israelites crossed the Suez finger of the Red Sea just east of Cairo, Egypt. However, the sea is not very deep there so many have discredited the biblical miracle by claiming the Israelites crossed in shallow marshes of water. 

 

It should be noted that over the years, no archaeological evidence has supported this Red Sea crossing location. It also would have been virtually impossible for such a large army to drown in the shallow lakes and marshes in this area.

 

4. Over the past several decades, substantial archeological investigation shows convincing evidence for a different location for the Red Sea crossing.

The new location places the crossing at Nuweiba Beach on the Aqaba finger of the Red Sea about 40 miles (64 km.) south of Eilat, Israel.

 

5. God said he brought the Israelites out of Egypt on the very same day they left. 
Exodus 12:51: And on that same day the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

 

The Red Sea crossing happened after they had left Egypt. The border of Egypt at that time was the Suez finger of the Red Sea. Any place the Israelites would have crossed the sea in this area they would still have been in Egypt and not outside of it.

 

6. The Suez finger of the Red Sea is about 72 miles (116 km.) south of Goshen (place where the Israelites lived and departed Egypt). However, the land directly east of Goshen is dry and easily crossable.

The Israelites had exited Egypt on the same day they left. The route directly east of Goshen would have allowed them to leave Egypt on dry ground. Afterward, they would have been in the wilderness of Sinai, which fits well with the biblical narrative, as we will see in the next point.

 

7. Scripture strongly indicates that the Israelites traveled a long time through a wilderness before crossing the Red Sea. 
Exodus 13:18-22: Hence, God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.” 20 Then they set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

 

These verses clearly reveal that the Israelites walked a long way traveling both day and night through a wilderness before crossing the Red Sea. Because the miracle of the Red Sea crossing happened several days after the Exodus, it couldn’t have happened at the Suez finger of the Red Sea because Goshen is just 20 miles (32 km.) from the sea, a distance of just a few hours walk. Moreover, between Goshen and the believed traditional crossing place of the Red Sea is not a wilderness.

 

The Sinai Peninsula is a wilderness that would fit the biblical narrative of the Israelites traveling by day and by night before crossing the sea.

 

Research shows that a person could cross the Sinai Peninsula in 3 days traveling day and night at a normal walking pace of just 3 or so miles an hour.

 

Scripture also says that there were no feeble ones among them and that God carried them supernaturally on eagle’s wings during their exodus. These factors provide more evidence that the Israelites could have easily crossed the Sinai Peninsula and arrived at the Aqaba finger of the Red Sea at Nuweiba Beach.

Meaning of Yam Suph

Now the reason some believe that the Israelites crossed the Sea close-by to Egypt is because of how the Hebrew words Yam Suph, and specifically, Suph is translated.
The translation of the word Yam means sea, or large body of water, and Suph mainly means end, edge, shoreline, red, and a few times as reeds. Therefore, some believe the Israelites crossed just east of Egypt because there are many shallow waters with reeds there.

 

However, the words Yam Suph together are mentioned 24 times in the Old Testament, with 7 of them referring to specific locations which are around the Aqaba finger of the Red Sea and not by Egypt. For example, in Exodus 23:31, the word is used to describe the boundary of Israel going from the Aqaba northern tip of the Red Sea by Eilat to the Sea of the Philistines which would be the Mediterranean Sea.

 

In 1 Kings 9:26, Yam Suph refers again to the northern tip of the Aqaba Finger of the Red Sea and is where Solomon had a fleet of ships stationed at Eloth, which is modern-day Eilat.

 

Therefore, the term Yam Suph does not only mean reeds and refer to the area east of Egypt. The term is mainly used of the Aqaba finger of the Red Sea. 

 

Taking this into account, the Aqaba Finger of the Red Sea is referred to as Yam Suph as well in the Bible.

 

8. There has been found in the Aqaba finger of the Red Sea at Nuweiba Beach amazing evidence of coral growth on objects that look like old chariot wheels, axles, etc. These same objects have also been found on the shore across from Nuweiba Beach on the Saudi Arabian side of the Red Sea.

Coral doesn’t grow in sandy areas and must have some object to grow on. The Red Sea is very sandy from Nuweiba Beach to the Saudi Arabian shore, so there’s no reason coral would grow in this area unless there were foreign objects for it to grow on.

 

9. Nuweiba Beach is very large and could have easily accommodated the 3 million or so Israelites.

The beach at Nuweiba is large, flat, and sandy, a perfect place for the 2.5 to 3 million Israelites to camp.

 

10. The ocean floor of the Red Sea by Nuweiba Beach gradually goes down and then gradually goes up to the shore of Saudi Arabia. 

Just north or south of this area, there are deep impassible ravines on the ocean floor. The Nuweiba Beach location is the only place on the Aqaba finger of the Red Sea that would have allowed the Israelites to cross. It seems reasonable to suggest that God, in His sovereignty, divinely created this sandy, gradual crossing place for the Israelites to use for this magnanimous miracle.

 

The maximum depth of the ocean floor at this crossing place is about 2,500 ft. deep (762 m.). This fits the biblical narrative that God divided the “mighty waters” of the sea.

 

Exodus 14:29: But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

 

Exodus 15:10: You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; They sank like lead in the mighty waters.

 

Isaiah 51:10: Was it not You who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; who made the depths of the sea a pathway for the redeemed to cross over?

 

The shallow lakebeds and marshes by Egypt were certainly not waters of the great deep.

 

11. Solomon referred to the Aqaba finger of the Red Sea, and archaeological discoveries have found two pillars he erected on each side of the Red Sea crossing.
1 Kings 9:26: King Solomon also built a fleet of ships in Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth [modern-day Eilat] on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom.

 

At Nuweiba Beach, and on the beach of Saudi Arabia across from Nuweiba Beach, are pillars Solomon erected marking the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites. 

 

12. When the Israelites arrived at the location of Nuweiba Beach, they were certainly hemmed in as Scripture says.
Exodus 14:1–3: Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’” 

 

The landscape at Nuweiba Beach is unique and mountainous and would fit the biblical narrative.

 

13. As a result of being hemmed in and threatened by the Egyptian army, the Israelites cried out to Moses in anger and desperation.
Exodus 14:13-14: But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”

 

14. Then the hand of God performed one of the greatest miracles ever recorded in Scripture.
Exodus 14:15-31: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. 16 As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. 17 As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen.”

 

19 The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus, the one did not come near the other all night.

 

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. 22 The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea. 24 At the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion. 25 He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from Israel, for the Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians.”

 

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained. 29 But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

 

30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.

The entire Egyptian army drowned in the sea, and if the army was around 250,000, this couldn’t have happened in the shallow marshes east of Egypt. So it had to occur in a wide and deep body of water.

 

15. After crossing the Red Sea, the Bible says the Israelites then traveled to Mount Sinai. Does the location of Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia, which was biblical Midian, fit the biblical narrative?

When Moses fled to Egypt, to save his life, Scripture says he went to Midian. 

 

Exodus 2:15: When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well. 

 

Midian is in Saudi Arabia, not in the Sinai Peninsula.

 

Galatians 4:25: Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.

 

When God appeared to Moses in a burning bush at Mount Sinai, God said that Moses would bring the people out of Egypt and worship at the same Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Horeb).  Moses was in Midian when this event occurred, so it seems very convincing that Mount Sinai is in Midian.

 

Exodus 3:1–2: Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. 

 

Exodus 3:12: And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”

 

17. Evidence from the places the Israelites camped on their way from the Red Sea crossing to Mount Sinai supports Mount Sinai's location in Midian.

 

Location of Elim
Exodus 15:27: Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.

 

The location of Elim has been identified in Saudi Arabia, about 26 miles (42 km.) south of the Red Sea crossing.

Magna Oasis
We then find in Numbers 33:10 that the Israelites then journeyed from Elim and camped by the Red Sea. Now we have strong and convincing evidence of where Elim is so taking into consideration the geography of the land, the most obvious place would have been south of Elim a bit at the modern-day location of Magna Oasis by the Red Sea. You can see that this is a large area with plenty of water that would fit the biblical requirements for this place. There is also a well here called by the Saudis as the well of Moses.

Wilderness of Sin
From the Israelites’ encampment by the Red Sea, which we believe is modern-day Magna Oasis, Numbers 33:11-14 tells us they traveled to the Wilderness of Sin. Now the name Wilderness of Sin does not refer to something sinful but is just a name. It says: And they journeyed from the Red Sea and camped in the wilderness of Sin. It appears they backtracked to Elim and then went to the Wilderness of Sin from there. Exodus 16:1-3 provides the details: Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. 2 But the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The sons of Israel said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread until we were full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this entire assembly with hunger!”

 

At the encampment at the Wilderness of Sin, several major events would take place. Because the Israelites grumbled against God, He supernaturally gave the Israelites Manna; of which they would eat until the day they entered the Promised Land some 40 plus years later. He provided quail, of which they became sick on, and then He instituted the Sabbath Day. 

 

Caves of Jethro
There are caves named after Jethro the Midianite (Moses’ father-in-law) that have been found by the route the Israelites took from the Red Sea crossing to Mount Sinai. This shows that Jethro lived in this area and that it was the land of Midian at that time.

 

Split Rock at Rephidim

Exodus 17:1: Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink.

 

Exodus 17:6: Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”

 

This rock at Rephidim is believed to have been found. It is a large rock that is split from top to bottom and shows water grooves where massive amounts of water ran down from it.

 

18. Evidence for the location of Mount Sinai in Midian.

1. Large area to camp at the base of the mountain.

Exodus 19:2: When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.

2. Burnt top of the mountain and surrounding mountains.

Exodus 19:18: Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.

3. Plateau partway up the mountain where the seventy elders could have worshiped while Moses continued up the mountain.

Exodus 24:1: Then He said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance. 

4. Altar of Moses at the base of the mountain.

Exodus 24:4: And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he got up early in the morning, and built an altar [b]at the foot of the mountain with twelve memorial stones for the twelve tribes of Israel.

5. Speaking platform partway up the mountain.

Exodus 24:3: Then Moses came and reported to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!”

6. Golden Calf Altar.

Exodus 32:1: Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we do not know what happened to him.”  

7. Streams of water and dry lakebed at the base of the mountain.

Exodus 32:19-20: And it came about, as soon as Moses approached the camp, that he saw the calf and the people dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 Then he took the calf which they had made and completely burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it.

8. Wells at the base of the mountain.

9. Massive graveyard close by to the mountain.

Exodus 32:27-28: And he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Every man of you put his sword on his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.

10. Cave of Elijah at the mountain.

1 Kings 19:8-9: So he arose and ate and drank, and he journeyed in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 Then he came there to a cave and spent the night there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 

11. Artifacts found in the area.

Items like a menorah drawing, writings, and footprint drawings all give further evidence that the Israelites were in this area.

12. This area is a designated archaeological site by the Saudi government.

Today, sections of the area, along with the mountain, are fenced off by the Saudi Arabian government and designated as archeological sites. However, there are no excavations permitted on them at this time.

 

Other Evidence from ancient historians.
Several Jewish documents dating 600 years before Christ locate Mount Sinai in Midian, and Philo and Josephus (Jewish historians) also locate Mount Sinai in Midian of Arabia.

 

Faith Lesson from the Exodus, Red Sea Crossing, and Mount Sinai

 

1. The miracles of the Exodus, Red Sea Crossing, God’s supernatural leading of the Israelites, and all that happened at Mt. Sinai, are massive miracles that reveal God’s glory and greatness. 

 

2. They teach us deep theological truths that God wants us to believe and embrace. Truths like God’s greatness, ability to help and rescue us out of our sin and problems, how God is able to provide for us, protect us, and lead us are foundational concepts these miracles communicate.

 

3. God wants us to believe them instead of doubting and trying to explain them away, or believe they happened by natural means, as many liberal scholars attempt to do.

 

4. God calls unbelief a sin in His Word, the Bible. Hebrews 3:12 says: Take care, brothers and sisters, that there will not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.

 

5. While the miracles of the Exodus, Red Sea Crossing, and the events that happened at Mt. Sinai are massive in size, they are tiny in comparison to God’s greater miracles of creating everything that exists, giving life to everything that exists, and sustaining everything that exists. Acts 17:27 says: He [God] is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist. It is God who gives life to our bodies and spirits and is allows us to live, move, and exist.

 

6. When I listen to liberal theologians explaining away the miracles of the Exodus, Red Sea crossing, events at Mt. Sinai, and so forth, I can’t help but think that if God was to remove His sustaining power from their lives they would cease to exist in the very moment they are speaking and denying God’s power.

 

7. God was deeply grieved with the Israelites who doubted His power and ability on many occasions. He can also be deeply grieved with us today when we do the same.

 

8. Unlike Moses, who tried to fulfill God’s promise in his own strength and wound up killing an Egyptian, we should wait on God’s timing and not force things when they don’t happen as we think they should. We should never have to do evil or manipulate things in fulfilling God’s will for us. 

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