The Passage of the Red Sea is more than just a station of the Exodus. Egyptians recorded their trade across the Red Sea in all the goods needed by the mortuary rituals used in the Temple of Karnak at Thebes as far back as the Tale of the shipwrecked sailor

In the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt when the book of Exodus tells us the Sons of Israel made their crossing of the Red Sea from Elim to Elath as described in chapters 13:17 to 15:12, they were following a well known route.


Now to the left of Berenice, sailing for two or three days from Mussel Harbor [1] (Elim) eastward across the adjacent gulf, there is another harbor and fortified place, which is called White Village, [2] from which there is a road to Petra, which is subject to Malichas, King of the Nabataeans. It holds the position of a market-town for the small vessels sent there from Arabia; and so a centurion is stationed there as a collector of one-fourth of the merchandise imported, with an armed force, as a garrison.

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Exodus Map

This map illustrates 19th Century speculations on Exodus routes no longer accepted by Biblical scholars, Historians, or archaeologists. Other possible Exodus routes can be found on the Stations list


The narrative account of the crossing of the Red Sea related in the Book of Exodus has several textual artifacts. Following the stations list Moses leads them from Thebes down the Wadi Hammamaat not "by way of the land of the Philistines", but by the Red Sea wilderness.

Moses and the Israelites camp "in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon." Moses: "Raises his staff; and stretchs his hand over the sea. "a strong east wind all night," and next morning the Israelites enter the sea "on dry ground

"the water was like a wall to them on their right and on their left."

Moses stretchs out his rod again, Verses 1-18 of chapter 15 constitute the "Song of the sea",from the mouth of Miriam, sister of Aaron, but it is cut short at the second line.

Analysis and Hypothesis of the Narrative

References to the passage of the Red Sea [3] [4] go back to the Twelfth dynasty of Egypt Tale of the shipwrecked sailor and in the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt Hatshepsuts voyage to Punt. It was at Thebes Red Sea port of Elim [5] that Hatshepsut maintained her fleet. [6]

In Exodus there is a lot of discussion about who crossed, when they crossed and what places they visited en route. The references to places are known collectively as the Stations list [7] [8] of the Exodus which lists all the places the people went[9] . The phrase Red Sea refers to the Greek name Erythraean Sea or Red Sea, described in detail in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea [10] [11][12] likewise the toponym Baal-zephon. As a toponym Pi-hahiroth is Egyptian [13][14] and a textual artifact preserved in the story.

The documentary hypothesis,is a hypothesis that the first five books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament are composed from documents from different sources, and that the various narratives it contains were composed many centuries after the events they describe. According to the hypothesis, the verses from the story of the passage of the Red Sea originate as follows:

The narrative in Exodus is the briefest and the least miraculous, the Israelites leave Egypt, not by "the way of the land of the Philistines,[15] [16] " "which was near," but "by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea." and ends with Miriam, sister of Aaron, leading the women of Israel in the Song of the Sea.

Jbegins with the Israelites being led out of Egypt by a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night. The pillar of smoke is followed by a strong east wind, a wind to blow back the sea. In the morning the waters returned.

P has the most elaborate account, and the most active role for God. It is P that introduces the itinerary of Pi-hahiroth, Migdol and Baal-zephon, (Zephyrus is Greek for the god of the west wind) Moses stretchs out his rod and divides the waters, "a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left,"

The Song of the Sea, which according to the hypothesis is the version the others are based upon,(together with lost oral traditions), is a song of triumph over the defeated enemy: "With the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, The floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea." The Song concludes with rejoicing at the effect that God's destruction of the Egyptians will have on the Israelites' future enemies: "Sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Philistia,[17] the dukes of Edom [18] [19][20] shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them."

Pi Hahiroth Migdal, Baal Zephon

Exodus 14:2, encamp before Pi-Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-zephon; you shall encamp opposite it, by the sea." Baal is semitic, Zephon or Zephyrus is Greek and Pi-hahiroth is Egyptian. The meaning of Pi-hahiroth is to go forth abroad as a fugitive,"Migdol" means high place and "Baal-zephon" means lord of the west wind." Their location has been determined as on the Red Sea coast about 16 miles north of Elim. Going to the Egyptian we have language preserved as a textual artifact as the Exodus reaches Baal zephon the people encamp at:Pi-hahiroth and Migdol at the Gulf of Aqaba
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Egyptian translation

The story of Exodus refers to a people whose ancestors have lived in Egypt for half a millennium in a time frame thats centuries before Hebrew exists as a language. As Egyptians the sons of Israel would refer to place names in Egypt in Egyptian. Looking at Egyptian Grammar's [21], Faulkner's Middle Egyptian or Loprieno's Ancient Egyptian we find the following phrases and words written in Egyptian.

Pr to go forth [22]
Hr face [23]
Wth flight [24][25]
Pi-hiharoth" to go forth abroad, to face flight
in Egyptian Pi-hahiroth is transliterated Pr Hr wth
To go forth, to face flight, fleeing abroad

The Passage of the Red Sea from Thebes Red Sea Port at Elim

The "Periplus of the Erythrian Sea" should be viewed as describing the geo-political context

of international trade between Elim and Elat which had changed little from the time of the Exodus, or that of the Tale of the shipwrecked sailor.

In terms of that context discussed in the Dating of the Exodus (a time of dynastic change when war threatens); the ongoing conflicts between the landfolk themselves are paralleled by those of what come to be known as the sea people acting as their allies. It may be a great secret that the Egyptians considered the Red Sea a second Nile but they began trying to cut canals over to it in the Pyramid age. Indeed the control of the water is closely tied to the control of the land even in predynastic times. One reason for this is that the Mycenean Greeks, Philistines, Minoans and Libyans controlled the Mediterranean and its coasts having established a number of so called "punic" sites setting the stage for the establishment of emporia.
The international trade connections between landfolk and sea people that occur at the emporia tend to be influential in diffusing technologies and languages, advances in science, mathematics, navigation and shipbuilding.
Because in the time of the Exodus the Greeks are loosely organized in Gene, oinkos and phratre and their sustenence comes as much from raiding and piracy as from trade monopolies, its tempting to think of them as crews in the organized crime sense. [26]
As it happens the period from Abraham to Moses covers two major technological advancements which have a lot to do with communication and control. First comes the domestication of the horse, its use by the Hittites and a group of bowman called ibrw who at the battle of Kadesh ride bareback with unbound hair accompanying the chariots of the Hittites and Egyptians into battle.
The second is the development of ocean going ships and the gradual emergence of sea people who make their living from the sea just as the land folk make their living from the land. Its worth noting that as earlier as the pallets of Narmer and the scorpion king we see illustrations of how control of the water equates to control of the land.
Nelson Gluck's book "Rivers in the Desert" is one of the best sources for the role of the Nabateans in this and the connection between the Kings highway, Kadesh Barnea, Petra and Elath. It took about a millenia prior to the Exodus to prospect and explore this and another millenia after the Exodus to establish it as a monopoly belonging to Israel rather than Egypt or Phoenicia. In many ways the trade rivalry and dispute over control of Elat is still ongoing, although today its not so much about the bitumen and naptha as it is about the light sweet crude.
In the ANE its the role of the sea people (including the Mycenean Greeks, Minoans, Libyans in the Mediterranean and the fisheaters of Dilmun, Makkan and Meluhha that dock on the quays of Agade) to provide the bulk of the bulk cargos shipped by sea. That includes a kind of monopoly on routes and materials shipped.
By the time the Bible, Ramesses III and Merneptah first speak of the the conspiracy of sea peoples gathering in their nations, they have become fixed in the emporia of (Greece, Anatolia, the Black Sea, Cyprus, Crete, Egypt, Palestine and the Levant and the Erythrean Sea to include the Red Sea, the [[Indian Ocean] and the Persian Gulf).
A half millenia later we begin to have in the Parthian stations and the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea the beginnings of the Phoenicia described by Solon, when in the time of Necco he happens to be at the emporia of Sais in Egypt when the Atlanteans return from having circumnavigated Libya and returned through the Pillars of Hercules from the Atlantic having establishing an ocean empire larger than Libya, Asia and Europe combined because it includes the oceans which surround them.
By the time Alexander has passed on to Ptolomy the routes compiled by Marinus of Tyre the sea people's better organized descendants have emporia spread out along every coast line in the ANE about a day's sail apart. Their monopolies include purple dye, glass, spices, fragrances, salt, silk, frankincense, myrrh, the petrolium industry, the arms trade, trade in metals, trade in Egyptian furniture, the construction industry, international banking, and especially the control of the seas.
One of the better known standard references on the ANE fleshs out some of connections to Egyptian Campaigns, the Hyksos, the Peleset, Phillistines, Phoenicians, Pel or Pella of the Amarna letters, the Habiru, 'apiru or rebels, the Hittites and their allies and their routes of march to Elath and Thebes in the course of an ongoing conflict that lasts from the Twelfth dynasty of Egypt through the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt with a major focus on the geo-political context of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt and the Nineteenth dynasty of Egypt.
Nelson Glueck's book "Rivers in the Desert" is a study of the Negev and the Nabateans which involves visiting most of the stations of the Exodus in and around the Negev. It gets into Edom, Moab, the Rephidim, Midian, Timnah, Elath, Kadesh Barnea, the Brook of Egypt, The Kings Highway, the Arabah, the Dead Sea, the cleft in the rock at Petra, Dhiban, Jehrico, the plains of Medeba, on the tribal level of Lawrence of Arabia, traveling by camel from one bedouin tribe's well to another.
It was written in the forties before all the stations were replaced with military installations. It establishes the connection between Elim and Elath was a trade route which furnished the mortuary temples of Karnak at the capital of Egypt at Thebes with all the necessities of burial by mummification. There are several books in the attached syllabus that touch on the role of emporia in International trade, the antiquity of Egyptian seafaring in ocean going ships, the role of the Red Sea as Egypts other river, the trade with Punt,... and of course the conquest of Nubia which provides the nub that pays for all this trade, that required the Wadi Hamamaat be improved with wells and habitations and roads to facilitate the passage of the armies that secured it and in the process covered with graffiti of ships that illustrate the trade.
The role of the passage of the Red Sea in Exodus depends on the geo-political, historical, linguistic, archaeological and cultural context which surrounds it.
The trade goods, include amulets carved out of carnelian, and lapis lazuli, from Meluhha through Makkan, Dilmun and Mari to Aleppo, and Quatna, Malachite and other semi precious stones, carved into cylinder seals, linen and papyrus coming south from Byblos, Purple dye from Tyre, benjamin or Juniper oil and cedar wood from the Valley of cedar in Lebanon and bitumen, naphtha from Naphtali, antimomy for kohl or eyeshadow, natron and other metalic salts from the Dead Sea, and Copper from the Arabah, meeting up with Frankincense and Myrrh coming north along the Red Sea both by ship and overland through the mountains, through Khamis Mushat or the city of towers high in the mountains, and Abha where the agriculture is all terraced up the sides of the mountains and Taif overlooking Mecca and up through Midian to the middle of the trade routes marked by Horeb at Elath.
That is reinforced with the archaeological studies collected by [28] which discusses among all the many pages of arabian archaeology from the first lithics of the first men to thirteen sites near Timnah with Egyptian artifacts ranging from Egyptian faience and pottery to a Hathor temple near the emporia at Elath. In this book and [29] there are articles by [30] discussing how the savanah of Arabia still remains in places where you can still see the kites and cairns of the gazelle hunters who traded with Egypt across the Red Sea in the pre dynastic neolithic.
As one moves along from site to site across the desert and through the mountains from tower to tower the length of the red Sea observing fossilized trees in the desert, ubaid pottery, the coprolites of the cattle and sheep that traveled with the caravans through the mountains, and bits of Frankincense resin it becomes clear that the monolithic architecture of the neolithic is mixed with the crenalated towers of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabian traders that followed in each others footsteps and the antiquity of the Red Sea trade roots undisputable.


Archaeological References

  • 1. Renfrew, Colin and Bahn, Paul Archaeology. 2004. ISBN 0500 284415.  Page 515 discusses conflicts between archaeology and Judaism

Near Eastern References

  • 2. Nelson Glueck Rivers in the Desert. 1959. ISBN. Discusses The evidence for the Exodus in the Negev pp,15,41,63,95,102,106,118,119,122,123,138,143,150-151,162,167,170,171,172,186,187,194,243,246,250,258,276
  • 3. William H McNeil and Jean W Sedlar, The Ancient Near East. 1962. ISBN.  Discusses the evidence for Habiru and hapitu in Canaan
  • 4. Andrew George, The Epic of Gillgamesh. 2000. ISBN No14-044721-0.  Includes toponyms for Canaan
  • 5. James B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East. 1968. ISBN.  Jerusalim, siege and fall
  • 6. Shaika Haya Ali Al Khalifa and Michael Rice, Bahrain through the Ages. 1986. ISBN 071030112-x. 
  • 7. Dr. Muhammed Abdul Nayeem, Prehistory and Protohistory of the Arabian Peninsula. 1990. ISBN. 
  • 8. Michael Roaf Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East. 1990. ISBN 0-8160-2218-6. 
  • 9. Nicholas Awde and Putros Samano The Arabic Alphabet. 1986. ISBN 0863560350. 
  • 10. Gerard Herm The Phoenicians. 1975. ISBN 0-688-02908-6. Jerusalim pp 33,84-106 passim, 123,125,126,145,149,150,154

Marine Archaeology Rederences

  • 11. Lionel Casson The Ancient Mariners. 1991. ISBN 06910147879. 
  • 12. George Bass A History of Seafaring. 2004. ISBN 08027-0-3909. 

Egyptological References

Linguistic References

Classical References

  • 23. Vitruvius The Ten Books on Architecture. 1960. 
  • 24. Claudias Ptolemy The Geography. 1991. ISBN 048626896. 
  • 25. Herodotus The History. 1952.  War with Judah, Sennacherib, siege of 701 BC

Historical References

  • 26. Michael Grant The Rise of the Greeks. 1987. 

Mathematical References

  • 27. Lucas N. H. Bunt, Phillip S.Jones, Jack D. Bedient The Historical Roots of Elementary Mathematics. 1976. ISBN 0486255638.  Includes references to a Days Journey and a Days Sail

Mensurational References

  • 28. H Arthur Klein The World of Measurements. 1976. Includes references to a Days Journey and a Days Sail
  • 29 Francis H. Moffitt Surveying. 1987. ISBN 0060445548. 

Architectural References

  • 30. R. A. Cordingley Norman's Parallel of the Orders of Architecture. 1951. 

Medieval References

  • 31. H Johnathan Riley Smith The Atlas of the Crusades place names in Canaan during the crusades. 1990. ISBN 0723003610. 
  • 32. H.W. Koch Medieval Warfare. 1978. ISBN 0135736005. 


  • 2. Nelson Glueck Rivers in the Desert. 1959. ISBN. Discusses The evidence for the Exodus in the Negev
  • 3. William H McNeil and Jean W Sedlar, The Ancient Near East. 1962. ISBN.  Discusses the evidence for Habiru and hapitu in Canaan
  • 4. Andrew George, The Epic of Gillgamesh. 2000. ISBN No14-044721-0.  Includes toponyms for Canaan
  • 5. James B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East. 1968. ISBN.  discuses reports of habiru from the Amarna letters which agree and are colaborated by Egyptian campaign reports and thos places on the stations list which are also on the Kings Highway
  • 6. Shaika Haya Ali Al Khalifa and Michael Rice, Bahrain through the Ages. 1986. ISBN 071030112-x.  Discussion of rock art near Timna
  • 7. Dr. Muhammed Abdul Nayeem, Prehistory and Protohistory of the Arabian Peninsula. 1990. ISBN.  Discussion of the sites in and around Timna
  • 8. Michael Roaf Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East. 1990. ISBN 0-8160-2218-6.  Discusses reports of Hittites and Mitanni settlements in Cannan and interactions with the habiru
  • 9. Nicholas Awde and Putros Samano The Arabic Alphabet. 1986. ISBN 0863560350. 
  • 10. Gerard Herm The Phoenicians. William Morrow^ Co. Inc.. 1975. ISBN 0-688-02908-6. Trade with Ezion Geber

Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Passage of the Red Sea. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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