2. The Northern Shur Route
In terms of evaluating the Northern Shur Route, I find this one of the most confusing routes of all. According to David Livingstone and the Associates of Biblical Research (ABR) this route is a northern route which theoretically follows the The Way of Shur. The ABR classification as the Northern Shur route is misleading, particular when stacked against the work of its leading proponent. They have listed the crossing point as north of the Bitter Lakes but have Gebal Helal as the mountain chosen for Sinai. Yet the proponents if this theory are supposedly E Naville, M F Unger, K A Kitchen and J Hoffmeier. James Hoffmeier in his Atlas (see the map below) clearly posits the crossing point to be in the north of the Ballah Lakes but then has the site for Sinai as being the traditional site of Gebel Musa. I find that to be particular confusing which leads me to conclude I can’t place to much confidence in the ABR’s classification of the evidence. Which is a little disconcerting, as having K A Kitchen and J Hoffmeier listed as the proponents for the theory, one would expect the scholarship would align with the theory and suggested name put forward. Both of these authors are archaeologists and Egyptologists. Yet the classification by ABR doesn’t take into account that James Hoffmeier’s map clearly shows the route heading north only to turn around and follow the traditional route south down to Gebel Musa.
If the crossing point was at the northern most location one would expect the location for Sinai to be Gebel Helal. If not then why call this potential route the Northern Shur Route, which logically ought to follow the Way of Shur and one would expect the route to go north. That is not in fact the case when one looks at Hoffmeier’s own map for the route found in The Archeology of the Bible (James K Hoffmeier 2015, Page 55).
The map below shows the locations of the complex of the northern lakes more clearly. However it is still confusing as to the issues related to this theory suggesting this to be the Northern Shur Route. Any route which suggests a northern route (although this one is questionable) flounders when trying to match the gold standard locations which are just not found in the north Sinai. I will explain that when we assess other theories put forward.
I would draw your attention to the location of Tell El-Dabca in the centre of the map above which is the site of Avaris, the earlier name for Rameses shown in Hoffmeier’s map. The location of Tell ed-Daba that features prominently in the work of Manfred Bietak and David Rohl. The dotted black line on the map indicates the normal route taken if one were going through the coastal plain and Levant to get to the Way of Phillistines as well as Gebel Helal. I will return to this map in a later Nugget to explain the two parallel lines which run from Pelusium on the Mediterranean coast down to Pi-ha-hiroth (?) north of Lake Timsah. It is important but now is not the time to explain it.
As I have stated in earlier Nuggets it makes no sense to me that the Israelites would follow the main route north into the Levant either by The Way of the Phillistines or The Way of Shur. I will address the hidden issues concerning the northern routes and confusion of the reversal of direction which we see shown in the James Hoffmeier’s map. There is a reason for that if we are going to follow carefully the bibilical text.
The other criteria which counts against this theory, apart from the confusion involved, is that it does not match the timing given in the Bible for the journey. Not only should the theory fit the facts, and the gold standard locations but it should match the time taken for each leg and be feasible in terms of walking pace for a large group of people. Also the locations mentioned should match the order in which they are listed in Numbers 33.
“Ian, is there any route which is going to satisfy you? I would hate to follow all these theories and read your evaluation of them only to find none really fit the facts and all are just tentative theories suggested by people who have got it wrong.” That is one the queries I have as I undertake this exercise for myself. I find a number of the theorists spend more time discounting the theories of others than they do trying to resolve the difficulties and come up with something that is workable.