The Exodus Route:

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Wilderness of Etham

(doesn't exist, textual gloss)

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Exodus locations:

Click to ViewWilderness of Shur
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Marah
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Elim
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Red Sea Camp
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Wilderness of Sin
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Dophkah
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Alush
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Rephidim (Meribah)
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Wilderness of Sinai
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Mt. Sinai

A. The one text that says, wilderness of Etham: Numbers 33:6-8

  1. "They journeyed from Succoth and camped in Etham, which is on the edge of the wilderness. They journeyed from Etham and turned back to Pi-hahiroth, which faces Baal-zephon, and they camped before Migdol. They journeyed from before Hahiroth and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness; and they went three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham and camped at Marah." Numbers 33:6-8
  2. The wilderness of Etham is in fact the same as the Wilderness of Shur.

B. Wilderness of Etham is a copyist error and doesn't exist:

  1. It is only found once in the Bible at: Numbers 33:8
  2. Wilderness of Etham does not exist, but is a scribal gloss. It is not in the Septuagint (LXX), but in the Massoretic text.
  3. Notice that Etham is a stop they made before crossing the Red Sea. After crossing it says they went into the Wilderness of Shur, then the Wilderness of Etham. "Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water." Exodus 15:22
  4. The Hebrew has no vowels and "Etham" is almost identical to "them". A scribe added the vowels and made an error.
  5. Numbers 33:8 should therefore read: "They journeyed from before Hahiroth and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness; and they went three days' journey in the wilderness [of Shur] all of them together and camped at Marah." Numbers 33:8

   Exodus 15:22

Numbers 33:8
Massoretic text

Numbers 33:8
Septuagint (LXX)

"Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water."

"They journeyed from before Hahiroth and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness [of Shur]; and they went three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham and camped at Marah."

"They journeyed from before Hahiroth and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness; and they went three days' journey in the wilderness all of them together and camped at Marah."

C. Discussion about the location of Mt. Sinai:

  1. Some try to use the Wilderness of Etham as a reason why Mt. Sinai could not be Saudi Arabia. They try to butt the wilderness of Etham somewhere beside or near the town of Etham. These people are unaware that the phrase "of Etham" is a textual gloss and not in the original Hebrew. But even granting it is genuine text, it really makes no sense for anybody. Why would the town of Etham be on the west one side of the Port of Suez, and the Wilderness of Etham on the east other side? Same goes for the Bitter Lakes crossing. On the basis of their own argument, this doesn't really make any more sense, if they crossed at the Straits of Tiran.
  2. Of course, it has completely escaped their notice that the Wilderness of Shur was in Midian in modern Saudi Arabia.

By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.

 

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