the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Fausset's Bible Dictionary
(the departure of Israel from Egypt), 1652 B.C. (See CHRONOLOGY.) A grand epoch in the history of man's redemption. The patriarchal dispensation ends and the law begins here. God by His providential preparations having wonderfully led the Hebrew to sojourn in Egypt, and there to unlearn their nomadic habits and to learn agriculture and the arts of a settled life, now by equally wonderful interpositions leads them out of Egypt into the wilderness. Joseph's high position had secured their settlement in the best of the land, apart from the Egyptians, yet in a position favorable to their learning much of that people's advanced civilization, favorable also to their multiplication and to their preserving their nationality. Many causes concurred to prevent their imbibing Egypt's notorious idolatry and corruption. As shepherds they were "an abomination to the Egyptians" from the first; they sacrificed the very animal the Egyptians worshipped (compare Exodus 8:26); blood in sacrifices too was an offense to the Egyptians.
Jacob and Joseph on their deathbeds had charged that their bodies should be buried in Canaan (Genesis 1.), thereby impressing on their descendants that Egypt was only a place of sojourn, that they should look forward to Canaan as their inheritance and home. The new Pharaoh that knew not Moses was Aahmes I, 1706 B.C., about the same date as Levi's death, the last of Joseph's generation, mentioned in connection with the rise of the new king. The Exodus occurred early in the reign of Thothmes II (Cook, in Speaker's Commentary) (See EGYPT). The persecution that followed on their foretold multiplication, shortly before Moses' birth (no such difficulty attended Aaron's preservation just three years previously, Exodus 7:7), was divinely overruled toward weaning them from Egypt and binding them together as one people.
The ready supply of their bodily wants in Egypt (Numbers 11:5) and the rich valley of the Nile rendered this corrective discipline the more needful, in order to rouse them to realize their high destiny and to be willing to depart. Even Moses, who had been so marvelously trained to be their leader, failed at first to awaken them; both he and they needed a further severe discipline of 40 years. At its close he was hailed as their leader. But the Pharaoh of that day rejected with scorn Moses and Aaron's application for leave to depart; "Who is Jehovah, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, neither will I let Israel go" (Exodus 5:2). Then followed the ten plagues on the idols, as well as on the property and persons of Pharaoh and his people, culminating in the slaying of the firstborn and his own (Thothmes II) destruction at the Red Sea. Moses' first proposal to Pharaoh had been for a journey into the wilderness adjoining Goshen, not beyond the frontier, three days in all going and, returning, in order to sacrifice.
Pharaoh's refusal of this reasonable request (Exodus 3:18) ended in Moses' demand for their absolute manumission and departure (Exodus 11; Exodus 12:31-33). Israel set forth from (See RAMESES (Genesis 47:11; Aahmes I had a son, RAMSS, distinct from Ramessu two centuries later) at early morn of the 15th day of the first month (Numbers 33:3). They reached the Red Sea in three journeys. Here, while they passed safely through, Pharaoh perished in the waters (Psalms 136:15). Natural causes alone will not explain the facts of the case, especially if they are taken in connection with God's prophecy of them through Moses. The fact of the Exodus of an unwarlike people in the face of their warlike masters requires to be accounted for. No account can be given so satisfactory as that in the Pentateuch, that it was by God's miraculous interposition.
The growing severity of the plagues accords with God's judicial character in dealing with a sinner who more and more hardens himself, until he is destroyed without remedy (Psalms 7:11-13; Proverbs 29:1). Both Israel and the Egyptians were made experimentally to know Jehovah (Exodus 6:7; Exodus 7:5). The result was, the latter were so anxious for Israel's departure that these "asked" (not "borrowed," shaal ) and the Egyptians freely "complied with the request by giving" (not "lent," hishil ) raiment and jewels (Exodus 12:35-36). An earnest of the church's and Israel's final triumph over the persecuting world, "they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them" (Exodus 39:10; Zechariah 14:14). Israel's own national conviction of the truthfulness of the narrative, its geographical accuracy and local coloring, the plain evidences that it is the account of an eyewitness, and lastly the record being of what is anything but to the credit of Israel, all these circumstances are consistent only with fact, not fiction.
The desert of their wanderings was better supplied with pasture and water then than now, and doubtless they spread themselves widen over it. At the Exodus both the Hebrew and Egyptians had a contemporary literature, which is inconsistent with the theory of the story being mythical. Instead of the direct way to Canaan by Philistia on the S., God led Israel through the wilderness of the Red Sea, lest encountering the warlike Philistines they should repent when they saw war (Exodus 13:17-18). They "went up marshaled in orderly array," "five in a rank" margin (but Gesenius "eager for battle," which hardly accords with their past state as serfs), for so the Hebrew for "harnessed" means; but not yet inured to hardship or trained sufficiently for war, as subsequently. As Moses' 40 years sojourn in the wilderness trained him for being their leader there, so their 40 years in it trained them for the conflicts in Canaan.
The first two days' march brought Israel from Rameses (the general name of the district, and the city built by Israel on the canal from the Nile to lake Timsah) by way of Succoth, to Etham or Pithom, the frontier city of Egypt (Heroopolis) near the S. end of lake Timsah, on the edge of the wilderness, and the route to Palestine. Thence by God's direction they turned S. on the W. side of the Bitter Lakes to Pihahiroth (Ajrud, a two or three days march) over against Baalzephon. The Red Sea at that time extended to the Bitter Lakes, which lay at its northern end. The agency whereby the passage was effected was natural, overruled by God to subserve His purpose of redeeming His people; in this lies its supernatura1 element; "the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided" (Psalms 114:3). To the N. the water covered the whole district; to the S. was the Red Sea.
The Israelites crossed the sea at Suez, four leagues distant from the elevation above Pihahiroth, and made their first station on the E. side of the sea at the oasis of Ayun Musa (eight or nine miles below Suez) where water was abundant. Passing by Marah, they encamped under the palmtrees of Elim (wady Gharandel) by the waters. Thence to Ras Selima or Zenimeh, a headland on the Red Sea (Numbers 33:10): Next the wilderness of Sin (Debbet er Ramleh) between Elim and Sinai. There they remained some days, suffering at first from want of food (not of water) but supplied with quails anti then manna. Thence they encamped first at Dophkah, then at Alush. Thence to Rephidim, where God gave them water from the rock of Horeb; there Amalek attacked them. Next the wilderness of Sinai. Fifteen days elapsed between the encampment in the wilderness of Sin and their arrival at Sinai mount (Exodus 16:1; compare Exodus 19:1).
The Debbet er Ramleh probably is the wilderness of Sin, bore and desolate; debbet and sin alike meaning "sand level, raised, and extended through the surface of the district." Wady Nasb, the first station on this route, affords water abundant, answering to the "wilderness of Sin" encampment, where they made no complaint of want of water; the water supply accounts for their halting some days here. The route passes Sarabit el Khadim, where are ruins and inscriptions proving its occupation by an Egyptian colony before Moses' time, so that the road would be sure to be kept in order and the watersprings kept open. A small colony would neither be disposed, nor able, to attack such a host as Israel. Dophkah was in wady Sih, both names meaning "flowing waters." Alush is probably wady el Esh; wady es Sheikh is a two hours journey from this.
The wady er Rahah is the "wilderness of Sinai," where the assembled people heard the law proclaimed from Ras Sufsafeh, a bold granite cliff 2,000 ft. high, the N. point of the Sinai range. The surveyors of the wilderness of Sinai, Captain Wilson and Captain Palmer, accompanied by F. W. Holland, regard the route S. of the above N.E. route the true one, namely, by El Markha along the shore from Ras Selima, and then E. by wady Feiran, meeting the N.E. route at wady es Sheikh. Their reasons are coincidence with Scripture notices of topography, superior facilities for travel, the unlikelihood that Moses would have brought Israel down to the coast and then taken them back to pursue a more difficult road than that lying open before him. But there are no springs by their route, and Israel's march was slow (Cook). They make the battle with Amalek at the ancient city of Feiran, but this would make" the mount of God" to be mount Serbal, which is rather one of the Sinai range; and the palmgroves of Feiran could hardly be called a "wilderness."
Rephidim is probably at the pass el Watiyeh, shut in by perpendicular rocks, to Amalek a capital point for attack on Israel, commanding the entrance to the wadies surrounding the central Sinai. But the Ordnance Survey of Sinai by Captain Palmer and Captain Wilson identifies Rephidim with the part of wady Feiran N. of Serbal; then the battle would be at wady Aleyat. On the N. is a large plain without water, where Israel encamped. A bore cliff N. of the pass commanding the battle. field was such a rock as Moses may have struck with his rod. On the S. is a plain with water supply near, where Amalek might encamp. The absence of any level plain immediately below, or S.E. in the wady Sebayeh within sight of the summit of jebel Musa (the loftiest and grandest summit of all), the S. point of the Sinai range, excludes it from being the summit from which the law was proclaimed.
But on the N. end of the Sinai range Ras Sufsafeh has the wady ed Deir to the N.E., meeting the wady es Sheikh (close by Rephidim), and in front the wider plain er Rahah, 400 acres, abundantly large enough for the Israelite host. Every part of these two wadies commands the full view of the granite rocks of Ras Sufsafeh. "No spot in the world combines in a greater degree commanding height and a plain from whence the two million of Israel could see and hear all that is narrated. The awful and lengthened approach as to some natural sanctuary, the plain not shut in but presenting a long retiring sweep against which the people could remove and stand afar off; the cliff rising suddenly and steeply so that it could easily be marked off by 'bounds' like a huge altar in front of the whole congregation, and visible against the sky in lonely grandeur from end to end of the whole plain, the very image of the 'mount that might be touched,' and from which the 'voice of God' might be heard far and wide over the stillness of the plain below, widened at that point to the utmost extent by the confluence of all the contiguous valleys; the adytum (shrine) withdrawn as if in the end of the world from all the stir and confusion of earthly things" (Stanley, in Cook's essay, vol. I, Speaker's Commentary).
The physical formation favors the acoustic properties of this vast theater, which are intensified by the stillness and the clearness of the air. Ras Sufsafeh fulfills the conditions of Scripture, a mount easy of approach, with large open space before it for all to hear the law, prominent and rising abruptly so that the people "stood under the mountain which could be touched" (Exodus 19:12-17; Deuteronomy 4:2); and water and pasturage in abundance were near. A small height at the entrance of the convent valley is named as the spot from whence Aaron witnessed the feast of the golden calf. Joshua in descending with Moses, hears the shout of the feasters without seeing the cause. The sight breaks on Moses suddenly only when near the camp, and he breaks the tables "beneath the mount."
This would be exactly the case with one descending the mountain path by which Ras Sufsafeh is approached through oblique gullies (three quarters of an hour to a mountaineer). He would hear the sounds rising in the still air from the plain, but not see the plain until he emerged from the wady right under the steep rock of Sufsafeh. The brook is probably that flowing through the Seil Leja. The Israelites passed a whole year encamped "before the mount," and the pasturage and water supply at Ras Sufsafeh are much greater than those at Serbal, or in any other part of the peninsula. Within a radius of six miles there is an area of 1,200 acres in plains and wadies commanding the view of Ras Sufsafeh, and formerly the rain supply and fertility were greater when there were more trees; the wadies had dams put across to restrain the waters; the mountains were terraced with gardens.
On the N.W. of Ras Sufsafeh is a rampart of cliffs 3,000 ft. high, 14 miles long, pierced by only two defiles. This peculiar feature afforded Israel the needful security during their long stay at Sinai. At Erweis el Ebeirig, not far from the wady el Hudherah (Hazeroth), remains are found which are probably Israelite, and mark the site of the camp Kibroth Hattaavah. About 300 yds. from the base of Ras Sufsafeh there runs across the plain a low semicircular mound, forming a natural theater; further off, on either side of the plain, the slopes of the enclosing mountains would seat great hosts. Not far off, a recess one mile and a half long, three quarters broad, would form an additional camping ground.
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Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Exodus, the'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​fbd/​e/exodus-the.html. 1949.