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Crossing the Sea


by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Crossing the Sea The Junior High class had an excellent question the other day: Just where did the Israelites cross over from Egypt to the Sinai Peninsula? If you look at the maps in the back of most of our Bibles you will find multiple routes shown. None of the routes actually cross the Red Sea proper, but show paths that are North of the sea. One reference, which I included with this article for your amusement obviously implies God needed a map. How can people with even a grain of intelligence seriously consider such a route?

The exodus of the Israelites is described in Exodus 13:17 to 14:31. We don't have a drawn map of the route, but we have numerous details given.

1) They started in the land of Goshen which is the eastern part of the Nile river delta.

2) They did not go by the route of the Philistines (Exodus 13:17). This is the northern most highway into the land of Egypt. Someone should have pointed out this verse to the map makers.

3) They crossed the wilderness of the Red Sea. (Exodus 13:18).

4) They camped near Pi Hahiroth ("mouth of Chiroth" - believed to be the entrance to a valley running from Etham to the Red Sea), which is located between Migdol and the sea. The town of Baal Zephon was on the opposite shore. (Exodus 14:2) We still don't know the location of these towns, but notice the freedom the map makers use in the placement of these cities. Someone should have told the map makers that the sea in this verse was referring to the Red Sea, not the Mediterranean Sea.

5) Pharaoh thought the Israelite's route was crazy because they were trapped by the wilderness with no escape. (Exodus 14:3) If you look at most maps, the routes they show follow major caravan routes. Either Pharaoh didn't know a trap when he saw one, or the map makers are once again wrong.

6) Exodus 14:9 states the camp near Pi Hahiroth was on the edge of the Red Sea, yet the map makers obviously think Israel believed a lake or a swamp was the sea.

So why do the map makers show routes that obviously do not match the Scriptures? Many people do not believe the miracles recorded in the Bible really happened, so they attempt to find alternative explanations. They can't explain how 3 to 6 million people cross the Red Sea, so they assume Moses meant the Reed Sea - a swamp just north of the Red Sea. A drought must have dried up the swamp, allowing the Israelites to reach the Sinai Peninsula.

Of course these conjectures do not match the details in the Exodus account. How did Pharaoh, 600 hundred chariot drivers, and uncounted horsemen and foot soldiers drown in a dried up swamp? How did God make a wall of water on each side of the path the Israelites took through the sea? How could Pharaoh trap the Israelites on a plain?

Consider the amount of water it would take to drown an army. Unless they were knocked unconscious, it would take fairly deep water to drown men and horses. Also, the water must have been fairly wide to prevent the Egyptians from swimming to shore. If the chariots were traveling five across and they kept apart by 25 feet, it would mean the chariots alone stretched across a half-mile or more. It is easy to imagine the entire army length being 1 to 2 miles. Add a mile on either side to prevent someone swimming to shore and you need a place at least 4 to 5 miles wide of deep water to drown the army. Only the lake north of Etham and the Red Sea are large enough. The rivers and swamps of this region definitely do not match the description.

Is it so hard to believe that the Creator of the universe brought his people through the Red Sea, on dry land, and then drowned their pursuers in that very same sea?

See "Exodus Map: Crossing the Red Sea" for a more likely route.

See also:

How many people crossed the Red Sea?
Could Israel crossed the Red Sea on the eastern side of the Sinai peninsula?