Monday, April 22, 2013

countdown to Sinai

Goshen To Canaan

Goshen to Gaza is only 210 kilometers, and it is easy traveling. Abraham probably traveled this route when he went down to Egypt. Even though the Philistines lived in heavily fortified cities, and were great warriors, God could have delivered them into the hands of Israel, if that were His will. But He planned for them to go to Sinai, and receive the law, and be tested in their faith. And a trip that might have taken fifteen days turned into forty years. But Israel gave us a lot of stories along the way that can teach us about faith and loyalty.

Exo 13:17  When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, "Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt." 
13:18  But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. 
13:19  Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here." 
13:20  And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 
13:21  And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 
13:22  The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

Six hundred thousand men of fighting age, and a host of women and children, with animals, marched day and night leaving Egypt. Their first stop may have been on the sixth day after leaving Egypt, the commanded day of rest, the end of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Exo 12:15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 

12:16 On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 

12:17 And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. 

12:18 In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 

12:19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 

12:20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread."

Traveling six days, they came to this large Wadi, with thousands of palms and trees that would have provided for construction of booths, and for feeding the animals.

Succoth Camp

Moses gives a listing of the camps along the way in Numbers,  
Num 33:3  They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. On the day after the Passover, the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, 

33:4 while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had struck down among them. On their gods also the LORD executed judgments. 

33:5 So the people of Israel set out from Rameses and camped at Succoth.

Rameses To Succoth, Six Days

Palms For Shelter, Succoth
Lev 23:40  And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. 
23:41  You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 
23:42  You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 
23:43  that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." 

Num 33:6  And they set out from Succoth and camped at Etham, which is on the edge of the wilderness. 
33:7  And they set out from Etham and turned back to Pi-hahiroth, which is east of Baal-zephon, and they camped before Migdol. 

Wilderness Toward The Red Sea
The word translated wilderness means a relatively flat area where one would drive their animals. The wilderness toward the Red Sea is 15 kilometers wide, ample room for Israel to march out in a wide formation, driving their animals, and carrying their possessions on donkeys and ox carts. They marched out in battle formation, spread out, and they marched day and night. They stopped to rest when the pillar of fire and pillar of cloud stopped. The wilderness route ended at the Red Sea where the mountains came down to the sea, making it impossible to continue in that direction. This was where Israel seemed to be trapped, and waited for the following Egyptian army.

End Of Red Sea Wilderness

Israel Camped By The Sea

Israel Camped Between Migdol And Baal-zephon
Looking west from Mount Tiran

Symbols Formed By Stones 
Likely From Demolished Baal Altar

Red Sea Crossing

Num 33:8  And they set out from before Hahiroth and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and they went a three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham and camped at Marah. 

Exo 15:22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water.
15:23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah.
15:24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?"
15:25 And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them,
15:26 saying, "If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer."

Three Days to Marah
The Egyptian army had been destroyed, so perhaps the travel was less hurried now. The way was smooth and sandy, but water was a problem. 

Marah, Bitter Water
A fresh water aquifer runs from the mountains under the desert sands and forms a pool larger than a football field, six meters above sea level. 

Water for two million+ people, and their animals

The water was bitter, probably from the minerals in the soil through which the water had traveled. God made the water sweet after Moses threw a log into the waters.

Marah to Elim
Num 33:9  And they set out from Marah and came to Elim; at Elim there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there. 

Exo 15:27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.

Elim (Palm Trees)

Num 33:10 And they set out from Elim and camped by the Red Sea.

From Elim to the Red Sea Camp

As Israel traveled from Elim to the camp by the Red Sea, there were frequent Wadis entering the wilderness of Sur from the high mountains to the north. It was springtime, and water was likely still running in some of the stream beds.

Palm Trees are Evidence of Water

Num 33:11  And they set out from the Red Sea and camped in the wilderness of Sin. 

Red Sea to Wilderness of  Sin

Thirty days from Goshen to the wilderness of Sin. Now the traveling gets tougher, from Sea Level up to the wilderness of Sin at 1050 meters elevation. When Israel reaches the Wilderness of Sin, they are in the region where Moses spent forty years. God is still leading the way forward, but Moses knows the way, and must feel somewhat at home. Thirty days after leaving Egypt, Moses is on home turf.  There are trees growing in the Wadi along this route, and likely springs that are still running from the winter rains.

Exo 16:1  They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.

There are only four camps between here and Mt. Sinai.  
Num 33:12  And they set out from the wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophkah. 
33:13  And they set out from Dophkah and camped at Alush.
33:14  And they set out from Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink. 
33:15  And they set out from Rephidim and camped in the wilderness of Sinai.

Wilderness of Sin to Rephidim

Exo 17:1  All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 
17:2  Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?" 
17:3  But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?" 
17:4  So Moses cried to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." 
17:5  And the LORD said to Moses, "Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 
17:6  Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink." And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 
17:7  And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?" 

God provided water for two million people when Moses struck the rock at Horeb. This rock represents Yeshua the Messiah, who gives life to all who come to Him.

1Co 10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,  10:2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 
10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 
10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

Water for Two Million at Horeb

Please notice the large area between Rephidim and Mt. Sinai, where the battle with Amalek likely occurred. This is the wilderness of Sinai, from where Moses approached the mountain on the western edge of the wilderness and saw the burning bush.

Exo 3:1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
Exo 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 
3:3 And Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned." 
3:4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am."

Exo 19:1  On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 
Exo 19:2  They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 
Battle With Amalek

Exo 17:8  Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 
17:9  So Moses said to Joshua, "Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." 
17:10  So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 
17:11  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 
17:12  But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 
17:13  And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. 
17:14  Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."

Mt. Sinai in Arabia
The bible is not just a collection of laws and facts about what we are to know and do, so much as it is a collection of stories about how God works out His will over time in ways that challenge our imaginations. When we see all the story lines coming together, we know that we are on the right track. Know the stories, and you will see the picture. It is what it is.

Goshen to Sinai

The concepts presented in Countdown To Sinai are my own, the result of my faith in the truth of the Bible, and my gift of observation and vision, with my openness to being led by the Spirit of God. I just followed the story while looking down from above, thanks to Google Earth. The view over Mt. Sinai and the wilderness of Sinai is low resolution, and it will be good to have a high resolution view of this area. Why is Saudi Arabia protective of this area?

The location of Mt. Sinai is not a salvation issue, as one can have faith in Jesus the Christ without knowing anything about Mt. Sinai. However, the record of how YHWH brought Israel out of Egypt, and established Israel in Canaan, builds our faith in the One who sees, and the One who provides.

My hope is that seeing the reality of how things on the ground are in agreement with the stories of the Bible will increase our faith.

Randolph Gonce
April 23, 2013


  1. I have a quite different interpretation of the Exodus, but you might find it interesting:

  2. symbols formed by stone. I can't seem to verify this on google maps do you have a coordinates?

    1. Use google earth date 2010 image, find the top of Mt. Tiran using the elevation finder. 27 55 42.01 N 34 33 06.01E

  3. Many thanks. I see it clearly now. I have a better view now than what's posted! to the far right (East) there appears to an image of a snake or thunderbolt on ground.

  4. Thor thunderbolt or military insignia

    North Carolina National Guard and other USA military have manned the military post on Mt. Tiran


  6. I find this to be a very plausible route. Do you have a time frame in days in mind from Succoth to the "camp by the sea" before they crossed. I've read somewhere that they Egyptian army was destroyed in the Red Sea on the 7th day after leaving Egypt. Travel was done by day and night so I expect there will be a rather shocking travel day value to those who don't know that YHWH carried the Israelite on the "wings of an eagle".

  7. Succoth was the seventh day, a day of rest, end of feast of unleavened bread. They reached wilderness of sin on 15th of second month. Likely they were at the camp at Migdol about two weeks after leaving Egypt. Exo 16:1 They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.

  8. Their crossing of the Red Sea is Bob Cornuke. The real crossing is at the Strait of Tiran. Egypt just gave control of the two islands to Saudi Arabia and they are planning a bridge across the strait where Israel crossed.