At the end of the previous Nugget I left you encamped at Pi-hahiroth with your backs to the sea:
Then they left Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 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 33:6-8
Pi-hahiroth would make the best place to cross the Red Sea geographically. The first criteria the place of encampment has to satisfy is providing space large enough for two million people and all of their livestock. Furthermore, it must satisfy the description of the Israelites being hemmed in and pinned down against the Red Sea. There is an interesting comment found in Ex 14:3 which says:
And Pharaoh will say as to the sons of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness has shut them in . . . (Literal Version)Exodus 14:3
For Pharaoh will think, ‘Those Israelites are trapped now, between the desert and the sea!’ (The Living Bible)Exodus 14:3
The Nuweiba Peninsula is a perfect location to satisfy the above criteria. The coastal area of the western side of the Gulf of Aqaba is comprised of a high range of coastal mountains which rise to 2000 metres and then descends steeply to the shore of the Red Sea. The Nuweiba Peninsula is a large coastal plain of approximately 19 sq kms on the western shore of the Gulf of Suez. This area is large enough to contain both the fleeing Hebrews and the Egyptian army pursuing them. But furthermore, it fits well the above description from Exodus 14:3. There has to be enough space on the coast by the sea to contain the Hebrews but they must also appear to be trapped there. The access to the plain has to be from the interior to satisfy the description in the story. The Plain of Nuweiba (Pi-Hahiroth) is the only place on the western side of the Red Sea which satisfies these requirements.
The access to the coastal plain is through Wadi Watir (the Watir Valley). It also accords with the verses in Numbers 33 which describe them turning this way and that in order to eventually get to the Nuweiba Peninsula. That is exactly what happens if you approach the peninsula from the interior. You have to negotiate a system of valleys leading down to Nuweiba, forcing you to change direction and turn away from the direction of the camp at Etham. Modern day Nuweiba is where the ferry across the Red Sea departs for Aqaba in Jordan.
Josephus, the Jewish historian, records (Antiquities 2/15:3) that the encampment was surrounded on two sides by mountains which extended right out to the sea and could not be passed. The third side was the Red Sea, and the fourth side the valley through which the people of Israel had arrived at the encampment. The only access route for the Hebrews at the time of the Exodus was via Wadi Watir out of the mountains and down to the coast.
Where are Migdol, Pi-Hahiroth and Baalzephon? Is it possible to locate these places on today’s map?
Migdol (Hebrew: Tower) lay some distance from the shore of the Red Sea in the hills on the inland side of the camp at Pi-Hahiroth. It is most likely to have been a watch tower or a look-out point in the hills looking down through the Watir Valley to the coast. Or it could have been a fort or vantage point down in foothills closer to the sea. In Egyptian sources Migdol is described as being a fortress located on Egypt’s north-eastern border. Nuweiba or Pi-Hahiroth was situated in the north-eastern corner of Egypt
Pi-Hahiroth (Hebrew: cave’s mouth / Egyptian: grassy place) would indeed be suitable for both vistas of the Nuweiban peninsula, the first looking back westward to the hills, the second looking towards the Red Sea from the hills. Water is available to plants at the appropriate season of the year when the ground water table is higher or when rains come. The lower valleys in the hills down toward the sea are moist enough for grasses to grow. We do know that Pi-Hahiroth was close to the point from which the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea.
Baalzephon (Hebrew: Lord of the North) is most likely to be a place opposite Pi-Hahiroth on the eastern side of the side of the Gulf of Suez. We can safely assume that it was on the other side of the water directly opposite their starting point. Baalzephon was clearly linked to a Midianite site of worship to the god Baal of Zephon. In present day Saudi Arabia, directly across the Gulf of Suez, is a place a few kilometres inland called Saraf al-Bal. There is a linguistic similarity between these names which follow the known phonological rules for word changes between the languages concerned.
All the evidence appears to be coming together. We will investigate the archeological evidence in the next Nugget, which adds credibility to the theorizing we have done to date.
Source: The Exodus Case by Lennart Möller