After the Hebrews leave the Delta area of Egypt where they lived for many generations, they travel to Succoth. Their next stop is Etham.
They traveled from Succoth, and they encamped in Etham, at the edge of the desert. (Exodus 13:20)
It is this leg of the journey where their travels are not merely quick but cross over into the miraculous.
And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to cause it to lead them on the way and at night in a pillar of fire to give them light, [they thus could] travel day and night. He did not move away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire at night [from] before the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)
Let’s ask the same questions we did about Succoth: where is it? how far is it? how long does it take to get there?
Like with nearly every other place name for the Exodus, we can only make educated guesses about where it is. We know that the Hebrews did not go The Way of the Philistines (one of the few known places), which is the historical trade route also known as the Way of the Sea, as it goes along the Mediterranean Sea from Egypt to Israel. It says so directly in Torah (see Succoth).
Another trade route across the “Wilderness of Egypt” (in modern times, the Sinai Peninsula), is the King’s Highway. Currently highway 50 and 55, this is a road that goes back to the Iron Age. It cross the peninsula from the northern tip of the Gulf of Suez to the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba (the two northern branches of the Red Sea).
It starts in Memphis (south of Cairo), crosses the peninsula, and continues northeast all the way to Resafa, in modern-day Syria.
They don’t go this route either. If they did, they’d never have a place to cross the Red Sea (unless you make them cross at some small lake or tip of the Red Sea where the Egyptian army could easily go around). It’s also pretty mountainous and my guess is it would be difficult for such a large group, with wagons and livestock.
If they cross the Red Sea at the Straits of Titan (which is where I’m putting the crossing), then Etham must be in the southeast portion of the peninsula. Not at the crossing, but not too far from it either. Because they later turn back to be at the crossing site, Etham would be north of the Straits of Titan.
Again, I turn to Steven Rudd, whose geographic data is excellent (despite my disagreement with much of the rest of his site). He places Etham where the wide flat coastal road suddenly turns inland (west at this point) into the mountains.
260 kilometers which is 162 miles. Realistically, a caravan like this over decent roads would go about 20 miles a day. But we have the urgency of escaping Pharaoh and we have a bit of magic (God’s help) in there too.
If they did the 127 miles of Rameses to Succoth in three days, then 162 miles should take 4 days. But they are now traveling night and day without stopping (we can assume individuals are stopping briefly to get food from their packs or make a pit stop on the side of the road, but they’d catch up quickly). Two days at a minimum.
Not sure yet. Stay tuned.
Turning Back: From Etham to Pi-Hahiroth – Out of EgyptMay 27, 2020 at 1:25 pm
[…] begins with a brisk walk to Succoth, followed by a supernaturally fast day-and-night journey to Etham. It’s there they realize the wide flat desert road they’d followed around the edges of […]