Main page


- Pharaohs

- Moses


- Midian

- Wilderness

- Burning bush

- Mountain of Fire

— WHEN —

- Generations

- New chronology 1

- New chronology 2


- 10 plagues

- Tiny Exodus

- Big Exodus

- Travel days


- Unknown

- Reeds, papyrus

- Located

- Changes


- Succoth

- Etham/Shur

— ROUTES #1 —

Pharaoh → Red Sea

- Routes map

- Roads to Etham

- Wadis to Etham

- Etham → Tip Aqba

- Etham → Nuweiba


- Tip of the gulf

- Nuweiba Beach

- Delta Exodus

— ROUTE #2 —

Red Sea → Mt. Sinai

- Marah

- Dopkah

- Alush

- Sinai option 1

- Sinai option 2

— MISC —

- Moon Mountain

- In the land of

- Travel days

- List of stops

- Water from rock

- Jordan crossing

- Maps & Lists

This page was last updated on 24 June, 2017.

Etham to the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba

No matter if they arrived over the trading route, by the wadis, or otherwise, at Etham they had two choices. Following the road or wadi south to Nuweiba Beach. So several combinations of routes are possible.

This page discusses as you have guessed, the route to the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba.

1. Trading routes

Exod 12:37 And the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot who were men, besides children.


Exod 13:20 And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.

If the Israelites would have stayed on that road they couldn’t get trapped because that route extends far into modern Saudi-Arabia, which was not part of Greater Egypt.

The road went over land and didn’t include a Red Sea crossing, by foot, boat, bridge, or otherwise. So for some reason they left the trading route and got trapped with only one way to go; trough the Red Sea.

In theory Moses could have taken a million different routes; but his main aims were staying alive and escaping from Pharaoh. Only the 6 ancient trading routes offered those possibilities because they were the shorted routes over fairly well roads.

Only 2 of those 6 trading routes went trough Succoth, modern  Tell el-Makhuta.

One of those two routes goes to Hebron, deep in Israel, deep into the promised  land. The Hebron route isn’t even near any body of water the could cross. Just sand, sand and more sand. Ok, perhaps a puddle and a tiny lake but that would just walk around it and Pharaoh couldn’t have used it to trap them with his army.

That leaves one route. The road to Midian. Pharaoh couldn’t have trapped them on that road because it went around the Red Sea. But at least this road is near the Red Sea.

 “The quickest and most convenient way for them [Israel] to get away from the sphere of Egyptian authority was upon the transport route leading from Egypt to the northern extremity of the Gulf of Aqaba.”

The Nothern Hagaz - page 268 - click

That leads to the following questions:

- Why did Moses leave the trading route instead of quickly marching out of Greater Egypt?

- Why go south and be totally trapped while north is much more open terrain?

2. Water

Exod 12:33 And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, We are all dead men.

Exod 12:34 And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading-troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.

Exod 12:38 And a mixed multitude also went up with them, and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.

Why are we told they took dough with them, but not water? In a desert water is even more vital that food. Especially when having animals to eat. I think the answer is; because it’s so very obvious.

Some useful info to know when studying their journey through Sinai Peninsula:

But large water supplies may not have been needed during the Exodus

The Exodus took place in spring, which was great timing because that was the only period of time it rained.

The conditions for such a trip will never be ideal but Exodus was certainly in the best time of the year.

Page 268

If today a tribe numbering five thousand families migrates with its flocks, it forms a column at least twenty kilometers wide and five kilometers deep. The wider the line is, the more pasture the flocks will find, but the more will they lag behind and run the risk of being cut off on their flanks; the deeper it is, the less pasture will remain for the flocks in the rear, the more confusion and disorder there will be, but all the greater will be the facility of repelling a hostile attack.

If the Israelites migrated from Egypt in the month of March and if there had been an abundance of rain on the peninsula of Sinai that year they would have found rain pools of various sizes in all the cavities and in all the hollows of the various river beds, and they could comfortably have replenished their water bags and watered their flocks.

3. Turning back, into a military trap

Understanding this requires some knowledge of the terrain.

The route the Israelites took was on a high plane. The last 3 miles to the Gulf of Aqaba it drops 2500 feet.

That's very steep. It's doable on foot with flocks but not with anything on wheels like Pharaoh's chariots.

The following two verses are vague but they can be read as Pharaoh approaching from two directions. Many miles away, Pharaoh's army split up.

The foot soldiers marched (v10) exactly the same route as the Israelites, and approached them from the south.

The chariots took a detour over more flat land a approached (v9) them from the north, coming from the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba toward which the Israelites where heading.

Exod 14:9 And the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses [and] chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal-zephon.

Exod 14:10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they were very afraid. And the sons of Israel cried out to LORD,

The turning back happened before the Israelites knew Pharaoh was approach, so the reason for doing so was another one. The most simple reason obviously is that God told them so :-)

Besides that it’s logical they went north to round the northern tip of the Gulf.

Scripture also gives (rather vague) info on which direction they went.

Exod 14:2 Speak to the sons of Israel, that they turn back and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-zephon. Ye shall encamp opposite it by the sea.

To the ancients the above verse accurately pinpointed the location of the camp. And with that the endpoint of their route. Unfortunately non of those place markers are currently known. There are a few guesses at best.

Turn back from where? From what direction?

There are only two options. From the current walking direction or from the pillar of smoke/fire.

Exod 13:22 The pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night departed not from before the people.

Exod 14:2 Speak to the sons of Israel, that they turn back and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-zephon. Ye shall encamp opposite it by the sea.

Exod 14:19 And the agent of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them, and stood behind them.

Many people assume the pillar was an object that traveled with the people. The object moved and the people followed at a short distance. In that case it the above verses are of little help.

My view is that  the pillar was a static object, a volcano. The people walked in a straight line in the direction of the pillar of smoke/fire. That way it was always in front of them. When the people turned back the pillar was behind them. Not because the pillar moved but because the people turned.

Turn back should be read very loosely because strictly speaking turning back is the opposite direction. Back uphill to Egypt.

Their main traveling direction has been SEE, facing the pillar, for days. A strict turn back would be NWW.

When they where at the Gulf they could go NNE or SWW, both along the shoreline of the Gulf.

Because the pillar was a little south, traveling NNE means the pillar is behind them on their right hand. So not really a full turn but they would no longer see the the pillar.

When taking the SSE route the pillar would be in before them at their left hand side.

The trap looked like this:

*= The trading route goes to the shore of the Gulf trough an area without mountains. But when the Israelites traveled NNE (Exo 14:2) they had mountains on their left/west. So they couldn’t even escape by going back up the steep slope they came from. And even if they could the foot foot soldiers would have been waiting for them.

As a reminder of what the mountains look like, go back to the page titled ‘Etham/Shur’, and look at the pictures halfway down the page.