Bible & the Exodus Route
The Book of Exodus is one of the most controversial biblical texts because is contains many layers of tribal lore mixed in with both Canaanite and Judean traditions which has caused scholars a variety of dates ranging from the Fourth Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu to the Nineteenth Dynasty of the Rameside pharaohs. Memory of the most ancient dynastic date can be ascribed to the Jewish tribes that inhabited Arabia in the 7th Century AD whose traditions are recorded in the Quran. These traditions specifically mention in Sura 28:38 Pharaoh’s master builder Haman, currently pronounced Hemiunu, who built the great pyramid at Ghiza for the Pharaoh Khufu.
“Hemiumu was the son of Nefermaat I and Atet and the grandson of Sneferu. His statue has a list of his titles inscribed on it: “Member of the elite, high official, vizier, king’s seal bearer, attendant of Nekhen, and spokesman of every resident of Pe, priest of Bastest, priest of Shesmetet, priest of the Ram Mendes, keeper of the Apis Bull, the White Bull, whom his lord loves, elder of the palace, high priest of Thoth, whom his lord loves, courtier, Overseer of Royal Scribes, priest of the Panther Goddess, Director of Music of the South and North, Overseer of All Construction Projects of the King, king’s [grand]son of his own body”.
The second title from last is perhaps the most important as it confirms that he was the overseer in charge of building the burial palace of the pharaoh (amongst other monuments). As a result, he is often credited as the architect responsible for the Great Pyramid of Khufu. He was buried in a mastaba close to the pyramid.
Haman’s tomb was discovered in 1912 and is located next to the great pyramid. Haman’s statue is in the Roemer und Pelizaeus Museum, in Germany and was displayed in the US in 1996 at the “Splendors of Ancient Egypt exhibition”.
The story of Moses and Haman as mentioned in the Quran point to an early occupation of the Egyptian Nile Delta by Asiatics from the Levant who were known as Canaanites and Amorites. These Western Asiatic were well established the Nile Delta prior to the 14th Dynasty (1725-1650 BCE) at which time they established and ruled a kingdom in the eastern Nile Delta. This kingdom was defeated by the Hyksos pharaohs circa 1650 BCE at the time of the historic Thera volcanic eruption on the Aegean island of Santorini. According to the Wikipedia article entitled “Fourteenth Dynasty of Egypt”:
The Fourteenth Dynasty of Egypt was a series of rulers reigning during the Second Intermediate Period over the Nile Delta region of Egypt. It lasted between 75 (c. 1725–1650 BC) and 155 years (c. 1805–1650 BC), depending on the scholar. The capital of the dynasty was probably Avaris. The 14th dynasty existed concurrently with the 13th dynasty based in Memphis. The rulers of the 14th dynasty are commonly identified by Egyptologists as being of Canaanite or West Semitic descent, owing to the distinct origins of the names of some of their kings and princes, like Ipqu (West Semitic for “grace”), Yakbim (“ia-ak-bi-im”, an Amorite name), Qareh (West Semitic for “the bald one”), or Yaqub-Har. Names in relation with Nubia are also recorded in two cases, king Nehesy (“The Nubian”) and queen Tati.
The 14th dynasty is sometimes combined with the 11th, 12th and 13th dynasties in the period Middle Kingdom of Egypt, though the 14th dynasty overlaps at least partially with either (or both of) the 13th dynasty and the 15th dynasty. More commonly, the 14th dynasty is grouped with the 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th in the Second Intermediate Period.
Such are the gaps in the knowledge of the 14th dynasty, that its absolute chronological position is debated and varies by as much as 75 years among authorities. Egyptologist Kim Ryholt proposes that the 14th dynasty emerged during the late 12th dynasty, c. 1805 BC, during or shortly after Sobekneferu’s rule. He contends that the local Canaanite population residing in the eastern Delta declared its independence and staved off possible attempts from the 13th dynasty Memphite kings to recover the Delta. According to Ryholt, the 14th dynasty thus lasted from 1805 BC until its demise under the Hyksos 15th dynasty, c. 1650 BC, i.e. lasting 155 years.
This hypothesis is not shared by some Egyptologists such as Manfred Bietak, Daphna Ben Tor and James and Susan Allen, who argue that the 14th dynasty cannot have emerged before the mid 13th dynasty, c. 1720 BC, after the reign of Sobekhotep IV. In particular, they argue that the evidence from the strata levels in which 14th dynasty seals were discovered conclusively establishes that the 14th dynasty was only contemporary with the 13th dynasty in the last half century of the latter’s existence, i.e. after c. 1700 BC. Additionally, Manfred Bietak has dated the inscriptions and monuments of Nehesy, possibly the second ruler of the dynasty, to around 1700 BC as well.
Following the very short reign of Nehesy, most scholars–among them, Manfred Bietak and Kim Ryholt–agree that the Delta region was struck by a prolonged famine and perhaps a plague lasting until the end of the 14th dynasty. The same famine may have affected the 13th dynasty, which also exhibits instability and numerous ephemeral kings in its last 50 years of existence, from c. 1700 BC until 1650 BC. The weakened state of both kingdoms may explain, in part, why they fell rapidly to the emerging Hyksos power c. 1650 BC.”
It seems as though the Biblical exodus recounts the defeat and expulsion of the Canaanites and other Western Semites from the eastern nile Delta by the Hyksos pharaohs. The downfall of the Canaanite kingdom was preceded by plagues and famine. This event was confused with the Egyptian retreat from the Timna copper mines located in Edom in 1200 BCE. This Egyptian retreat may have been instigated by a revolting Midianite/Qynite priest and his brother who re-established the worship of the Midianite god, Yhw, in the region after the Egyptians left. This priestly revolt may explain why the biblical characters Moses and Aaron are depicted as forgers of molten images. Aaron is accused of crafting a calf from golden ornaments and Moses is said to have fashioned a copper image of a viper (the nehushtan) which cured the fleeing Hebrews of snake bites. These Midianites along with the Edomites intermingled with the Canaanites and became the Judeans who absorbed this Canaanite event into their tribal lore and the two events, the Canaanite expulsion from the Nile Delta and the Midianite revolt, became rolled into a vast Hebrew exit from Egypt. The Canaanite expulsion from the Nile Delta coincides with the Thera eruption; an event which would have been reported by the Aegean islanders who were trading with the Canaanite kingdom in the Nile Delta as well as the Hyksos, to whom many scholars have also attributed the original exodus as described in biblical texts.
The Hyksos were an ancient Asiatic people who migrated into Egypt from the Levant. They settled primarily in the Egyptian Delta or the area known to the Biblical authors as Yam Suf which the Hebrews translated into Hebrew as Red Sea. Yam Suf is an Egyptian phrase which means sluggish sea or Yam (M17-M17-N35A-N36-N21-Z1) = sea and swf (S29 – G43 – I9 – G39 – D54) = sluggish. The Yam Suf was a slow flowing distributary of the Nile river which drained into the Nile delta where brackish lakes and swamps formed the topography of this region. The Hyksos migrated from this region to control Egypt from 1720 to 1550 BCE until they were expelled by the pharaoh Ahmosis I. Their capital was Avaris. Many scholars have proposed that the story of the exodus actually described the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt.
According to the Bible, Moses led the fleeing Hebrews thru a dry path in the Yam Swf or brackish swamp. The Asiatics lived in the delta and they knew how to traverse the brackish swamps, so they knew where the land was less marshy and solid enough to allow passage on foot. The authors of the Exodus tale knew nothing about the Egyptian language and did not know that yam swf meant sluggish sea or brackish swamp and they did not know the topography of the area. They assumed that the word ‘swf’ meant red as that is what the word meant in Hebrew. So, they invented a story of a crossing of a major body of sea water and a miracle of the parting of that sea which allowed the Hebrews to cross on dry land. The truth is that these Asiatics escaped through the swampy areas of the delta and not through the Red Sea and into the Sinai. They most likely travelled thru the delta swamp and then continued along the Mediterranean coast until they reached Canaan. This route was a very famous ancient trade route known as the Via Maris. It was used extensively by the Egyptians and the Semites. And there would have been plenty of food available on the route. In contrast to this trade route, it appears the authors of the exodus tale thought that the fleeing Hebrews used the Kings Highway trade route which crosses the Sinai and runs into Edom. This last choice would not have been wise as Egypt controlled the area and the Hebrews would have been exposed in a desert area. However, along the Via Maris, there would have been plenty of game, fish and fowl.
The exodus route used by the Hyksos is described in the Wikipedia article entitled ‘Hyksos’.
According to Wikipedia:
“After the fall of Avaris, the fleeing Hyksos were pursued by the Egyptian army across northern Sinai Peninsula and into the southern Levant. Here, in the Negev desert between Rafah and Gaza, the fortified town of Sharuhen was reduced after, according to the soldier from El-Kab, a long three-year siege operation. How soon after the sack of Avaris this Asiatic campaign took place is uncertain. One can reasonably conclude that the thrust into southern Canaan probably followed the Hyksos’ eviction from Avaris fairly closely, but, given a period of protracted struggle before Avaris fell and possibly more than one season of campaigning before the Hyksos were shut up in Sharuhen, the chronological sequence must remain uncertain.”
In other words, the Hyksos fled thru the delta to the Via Maris trade route. It was the quickest way into the Levant. By the way, the expulsion of the Hyksos began in the 17th Dynasty under Seqenenre Tao (c 1560) and ended under Ahmose I (reigned until 1524). The expulsion took place during a 40 year period or the time the authors of the Exodus claimed was the length of the Hebrew sojourn in the Sinai. During the approximately 40 year Egyptian campaign against the Hyksos, the Hyksos were gradually pushed north and finally ended up fleeing through the delta into the northern Sinai (most likely along the coast using the Via Maris trade route) and into the Levant where they continued to be pursued by the Egyptians. This is the same route the Hebrews would have taken. The authors of the Exodus had the Hebrews traipsing around the desert dedicated to the moon god Sin and stopping at mountains dedicated to this moon god. The Hebrew god El was directly associated with the god Sin as they shared the same holy mountains. Archaeologists have unearthed a giant 5000 year old monument to the moon god Sin in Israel near Galilea.
The stations of the Exodus can be compared to the stations of the cross along the route Jesus was supposed to have taken. The exodus describes a religious pilgrimage to meaningful places like Kadesh or holy place. Kadesh was located on the King’s Highway. Moses sent envoys to the King of Edom from Kadesh (Numbers 20:14), asking for permission to let the Israelites use the King’s Highway passing through his territory, which the Edomite king denied. It was not unusual to have holy places along a trade route. However, the fleeing Hebrews would not be stopping for extended periods of time in Egyptian territory as the authors of Exodus would have us believe. They would have taken the shortest route out of Egypt to Canaan and that was north thru the delta to the Via Maris and not south to the Kings Highway and thru a desert where there was a lack of adequate food and water.
Here is an interesting note on the name Sinai. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the name derives from the word ‘senah’ meaning thorny, which means that the name was not derived from Hebrew. The other conjecture is that the name Sinai derives from the moon god, Sin. According to this article about the god, Suen/Sin
“The moon god was the tutelary deity of the city of Ur. His reach and importance, however, was far greater than just a city god, the moon god is clearly one of the most important deities in the wider pantheon of Mesopotamia. In the Early Dynastic god lists, such as Fara SF 1, the moon god appears immediately after the four leading gods An, Enlil, Inana and Enki (Klein 2001: 290, and this important, albeit slightly junior position, is confirmed in the text Nanna-Suen’s Journey to Nippur (ETCSL 1.5.1: 18), when Nanna brings the “first fruit offerings” to Enlil, the head of the early Mesopotamian pantheon (Black et al. 2004: 147).
The primary symbol of the moon god was a bull, the result of the horizontal crescent of the waxing moon appearing similar to the horns of that animal. This symbolism led to a consideration of the moon god as a cowherd, which is celebrated most clearly in the composition The Herds of Nanna (ETCSL 4.13.06), the longest section of which enumerates the cattle in Nanna’s herd.”
The description of Sin as a bull parallels very nicely with the description of El as Bull El, so these two gods are one and the same. Nanna is the name of the moon in Sumerian but the word for moon in Akkadian is ‘sin’ while the light of the moon is called nannaru after the Sumerian word for moon. So the word ‘sin’ is Akkadian and the wilderness of Sin or Sinai desert would be the Akkadian designation for this earthly moonscape. According to the above article:
“The Akkadian literature evokes some of the other functions of the moon god. A prayer to Su’en details his role in divination (Foster 2005: 758-9). No doubt this divinatory role was also connected to the moon god’s ability to illuminate darkness (Foster 2005: 760-1). Both the moon god and the sun god are praised together in a further text in which they are associated with issuing laws and verdicts, the determination of destinies, and the announcements of omens (Foster 2005: 762). This judicial role was already obvious in the text of the Early Dynastic ‘Stele of the Vultures’, where oaths are taken in the presence of Su’en, and in his epithet “diviner of fates”, which is used across the Near East (Krebernik 1993-98b: 367).”
The word ‘sn’, pronounced sann, means prescription, introduction, enactment, issuance of laws in Arabic. And Moses was issued laws by Yhwh while atop Mount Sinai (aka Horeb) or moon mountain. After he was issued the laws, he descended the mountain with his face shinning. His shinning face caused such consternation that he was forced to veil it. In other words, Moses became the living, breathing Lutpan or veil face; a Canaanite eponym for the waxing moon whose surface was lit by earthshine. So, Mount Sinai was a mount holy to the moon god Sin.
Sin was worshiped in Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. His chief centers of worship were Ur and Harran; Terah hailed from Harran. Cognates of the names Abram, David, Esau, Ishmael, Israel, Micaiah, Michael, and Saul have been found at Ebla. The Amorites, who ruled the kingdom of Ebla after the second destruction of this kingdom, also worshiped the moon god Sin. The Amorites were defeated by the Hittites forcing them to flee into Mesopotamia and the Levant bringing their moon god Sin with them. The cult of Sin also spread to Hadhramaut. According to Wiki: (During the Iron Age) numerous ancient states, including Edom, Moab, Ammon, and various Aramaean polities depended largely on the King’s Highway for trade.
According to this site:
“The King’s Highway has always been an important road for pilgrims, traders, and conquerors. The Bible records it as the route that Moses and the “children of Israel” might well have taken after they fled from ancient Egypt. Most likely it was the path that Abraham used to pursue the desert kings who had taken his nephew Lot as hostage.
Throughout later history the King’s Highway was a crucial resource for kings and generals. On this highway David and Solomon secured trade and leverage over their eastern neighbors, Moab and Edom. When the Aramaeans arose under Ben-Hadad I and Hazael, they expanded southward by controlling this highway.
The people of Assyria took Damascus and the Transjordan by means of it, and centuries later the Nabataeans used the King’s Highway to ship their spices and luxury goods from their hideaway refuge in Petra to the markets of Damascus and beyond.”
So, there you have it. The Exodus route described in the Bible included the holy sites, as Kadesh and Mount Sinai located along the King’s Highway. This trade route was very likely a route of pilgrimage to those devoted to the moon god Sin who became the moon god El in Canaan. Sin means moon in Akkadian and ilu means god in Akkadian. The Canaanites used the Semitic term ‘ilu’ or god to designate the god Sin in Canaan. This god was also the source of law which explains Moses receiving the law on Mount Sinai or Sin’s mountain. The name Sin also came to mean ‘issuance of law’ in Arabic.
The Exodus described in the Bible is more of a pilgrimage than an exodus. The Semites fleeing the Egyptians actually used the Via Maris and not the King’s Highway. In any case, the biblical exodus can be attributed to several traditions, the Jewish tradition described in the Quran which attributes the exodus to the 4th Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu, the exodus of the Canaanites from the eastern Nile Delta attributed to the 15th Dynasty Hyksos pharaohs and the exodus of the Shasw of Yhw from the copper mines at Timna attributed to the withdrawal of the 19th Dynasty Rameside pharaohs. All these events attributed to the exodus are described in biblical texts as part of the exodus narrative.