What was the exodus?

The exodus is when the Israelites were freed from captivity Egypt, which including crossing the Red Sea, and their journey to Mt. Sinai. On the 14th Abib (early in April) the Hebrews were gathered at Rameses (Exodus 12:37 ; Numbers 33:5 ) where apparently the hostile Pharaoh was also living (Exodus 12:31 ). From Psalm 78:12 , Psalm 78:43 it appears that the wonders preceding the Exodus occurred in the "field of Zoan," where the starting-point may be placed.

This route, which was not taken lest the people should be discouraged by defeat at Gaza where the Egyptians always had troops, reached Egypt at Migdol, and ran thence to Daphnai - some 15 miles - and to Zoan by a second march of the same length. The route from Bubastis to Daphnai (some 50 miles) is less likely to have been described as "near." Although an Arab will march 30 miles in a day on foot, yet when moving camp with camels, who travel only about 2 miles an hour, with women and children and herds, he only covers about 12 or 15 miles a day. We cannot suppose the Hebrew cattle to have covered more than this distance without water on any single march.

Rameses to Succoth

We are not told how many days were occupied on the way from Rameses to Succoth, though the general impression is that the stages mentioned (Nu 33) represent a day's journey each. Measuring back from the first camp after crossing the Red Sea, we find that Succoth probably lay in the lower part of Wâdy Tumeilât , where there was plenty of water and herbage.

The direct route from Zoan leads to Phakousa (Tell Faḳûs ) by a march of 15 miles through well-watered lands. A second march, across the desert to Heroöpolis and down the valley to Succoth, would be of the same length. The Hebrews departed "in haste," and no doubt made as long marches as they could. If the whole of the people were not in Rameses, but scattered over Goshen, it is possible that some came down the valley from near Bubastis, and that the whole force concentrated at Succoth.

Succoth to Etham

The next march (Exodus 13:20 ; Numbers 33:6 ) led Israel to Etham, on the "edge of the wilderness" which lies West of the Bitter Lakes, not far from where the Nile water then entered them, and no doubt made them sweet. The intention of Moses probably was to reach the desert of Shur by rounding the head of this stretch of water; but we are told (Exodus 14:2 f) that he was commanded to "turn" - evidently to the South - and to encamp before "the mouth of the lakes", in order that Pharaoh might conclude that the Hebrews were "entangled in the land," and shut in between the lakes on their left and the desert mountains on their right.

This camp would seem to have been West of the lakes, and some 10 miles North of Suez. It was perhaps two days' journey from Etham, since the lakes are 30 miles long; or, if Etham was farther South than the head of the lakes, the distance may have been covered by one forced march of 20 to 25 miles, the beasts being watered from the lakes if they were then filled with fresh water, as they would be when having an outlet to a tideless sea.

Date of Exodus

The popular belief that many of the judges were contemporary does not agree with these facts, and is indeed in conflict with ten definite statements in Jgs. In Acts 13:19 , Acts 13:20 we read that after the Conquest there were judges about the space of 450 years, and this rough estimate (including the rule of Samuel) agrees pretty nearly with the 415, or 420, years of the various passages in the Old Testament. According to the Pentateuch and later accounts ( Amos 5:25 ; Acts 7:30 ), Israel abode in the desert 40 years.

We therefore find that Joshua's conquest is placed about 1480 bc, and the Exodus about 1520 bc. According to the revised chronology of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, which rests on the notices of contemporary Kassite kings in Babylon, it thus appears that the Pharaoh of the oppression was Thothmes III - a great enemy of the Asiatics - and the Pharaoh of the Exodus would be Amenophis II or Thothmes IV.

If Moses was 80 at the time of the Exodus, he must have been born when Thothmes III was an infant, and when his famous sister Hatasu (according to the more probable rendering of her name by French scholars) was regent, and bore the title Ma-ka-Ra. She therefore might be the "daughter of Pharaoh" (Exodus 2:5 ) who adopted Moses - no king being mentioned in this passage, but appearing (Exodus 2:15 ) only when Moses was "grown"; for her regency lasted more than 20 years, till Thothmes III came of age.


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).