. . . don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.Hebrews 3:8
Allow me to remind you again as to what I intend to do with this series of Nuggets. As I told you in Gem 2063, I wanted to follow up on the writer’s switch in the letter to the Hebrews, turning “Meribah and Massah” into “in the wilderness” in keeping with the Hebrew name for the book of Numbers. Then I want to look in detail at the seven places of Rebellion I listed for you in the Gem 2065 and discuss the locations for each place. Along the way we have to solve a number of problems. I have called this Nugget series Tracking The Tangled Trail To Taberah. I only chose Taberah as the signature place in the series of places because it started with ‘T’ and fitted the alliteration the best. Locating Taberah is a difficult task; but mapping the entire route is just as difficult. As you have been made aware already. There are multiple alternatives suggested for the route the mass exodus took. I addressed the challenge of the route in a general way in Gem 2062 – In the Fields of Conjecture. When you examine the number of atlases I have, you find there are multiple locations for each place named. Some are clustered around the same area while others are widely dispersed and contrastive. Many of the places present us with a tangled trail. It is that which I want to unravel. So Taberah is only a marker or the signature place to locate along with the others. Getting them all in logical order is the biggest challenge.
A look at the map I gave you in Gem 2062 shows you we are dealing with a journey of around 300 kilometres in order to get sufficiently far down the Sinai Peninsula to be in the region of the traditional site of Mt Sinai. In Gem 2063, I gave you a map of the alternative locations of Mt Sinai and there are many of them. The closest location is the one marked in Tim Dowley’s atlas close to the site of Jebal Helal on the northern route following the Way to Shur. That is only about 100 km from Goshen, the place from where the Israelites departed.
Now let’s stop and think through just how fast a LARGE group of people can walk in a day. The average speed for a human is around 3 to 4 miles per hour (or 4.8 to 6.4 kilometres per hour). But walking speed varies with age and fitness. The very young could be carried but carrying them slows the pace for the adult doing the carrying. The elderly (60+) who are fit can manage perhaps 3 mph at a good pace, but not all can do that. If they walked for eight hours a day, the pace would slow considerably. Let’s for the sake of argument allow them 6 kph for 8 hours; that’s around 48 kilometres after a full day’s walk. I estimate realistically a large group would need at least four days to cover 100 km.
But in Gem 2063 I drew our attention to the significance of the words ‘three days after leaving the mountain of the LORD’. These four marked locations on the route – Rameses, Succoth, Etham and Pi-Hahiroth mark the initial route out of Egypt. The text of Number 10:33 and Numbers 33:5-7 makes it clear these names were the places they passed through “after leaving the mountain of God“; NOT EGYPT. We are still left with the challenge of locating them but we don’t have to consider they had to reach Pi-Hahiroth within three days. Of course it all depends where Pi-Hahiroth is located. Why is the location of that place so important? Because Pi-Hahiroth is the place of the crossing of the Red Sea or the Reed Sea that was between them and freedom.
“Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon.Exodus 14:2
The Egyptians chased after them with all the forces in Pharaoh’s army—all his horses and chariots, his charioteers, and his troops. The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon.Exodus 14:9
They left Etham and turned back toward Pi-hahiroth, opposite Baal-zephon, and camped near Migdol. They left Pi-hahiroth and crossed the Red Sea into the wilderness beyond. Then they traveled for three days into the Etham wilderness and camped at Marah.Numbers 33:7-8
The location of these two opposing places is the most problematic. For the moment I will leave you with the following composite map I have put together.
I know this will stir something in you. I challenge you over the next week to get your head around the alternatives for locating Pi-Hahiroth and Baal Zephon. But don’t let it drive you crazy; it is confusing but it is not worth you becoming confused. Just take it in at the big picture level. I will address the issues in the following Nuggets as we follow the Trail.
It would help you to look at the following past Nuggets: