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marches, from Rameses to Succoth and thence to Etham, bring the children of Israel to the edge of the wilderness. We may imagine them looking out upon the desert with sinking hearts, and then retiring into the more hospitable Egyptian territory. The latter movement is depicted (d) as a plan on the part of the Almighty to deceive Pharaoh, making him think that the Israelites cling so desperately to the soil of Egypt (« perplexed in the land") that they will never venture to face the desert ( the wilderness hath shut them in "). The direction of the retirement is indicated in reference to three new place names (Migdol, Baal-zephon and Pi-hahiroth), but a more important point is that the new element of the sea of reeds now comes into play for the first time. Henceforth there is presented with all possible clearness the conception of an Egypt separated from the wilderness by the a sea of reeds "; the Israelites succeed in surmounting this obstacle where the Egyptians fail, and, the sea once crossed, they find themselves at last face to face with the dreaded dangers of the desert (g, i).
It is strange that the one definite geographical clue has been persistently misrepresented by commentators : the mention of Rameses as the starting-point of the Exodus. Driver and others have clearly recognized that the recital of the plagues involves two separate and incompatible views of the whereabouts of Israel. According to the one account (ascribed by Driver to J)) the Israelites were isolated in the land of Goshen, where the plagues could not touch them; according to the other they were living in the very midst of the Egyptians, and indeed in the neighbourhood of Pharaoh. It is the latter standpoint which is presupposed by the narrative of the Exodus (see especially Num., XXXIII, 3-4), and the localization of Goshen is wholly irrelevant to the problem before us (2).
(1) But see Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (henceforth quoted as J.E.A.), V, 265, n. 1.
(2) For the various questions connected with Goshen, see my article J.E.A., V, 218-223.
The journey from Rameses to Succoth follows immediately upon the smiting of the first-born :
And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said (Ex., XII, 30-31).
After a few words describing the spoiling of the Egyptians (possible, of course, only if the children of Israel dwelt among them) follows the statement that the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth (a).
That Driver and others have not realized the motive for naming Rameses as the starting-point is truly strange. Naturally it is because Rameses was the northern capital of Pharaoh; naively enough, the Israelites are pictured as fleeing from the actual city where Pharaoh dwelt. Here then we have a direct appeal to archaeology; where was Rameses or Pi-Ra'messe, the Delta residence of the Pharaohs, situated? In the exhaustive investigation which I have devoted to this problem (1) the conclusion is reached that Pi-Ra'messe must have lain at or near the later Pelusium, possibly indeed on the very site of Avaris, whence the Hyksos were actually expelled by Amosis I. I pass over the latter suggestive point, and will only insist that the position of Rameses not far from the sea near the mouth of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile is as well established as the position of any town not located by ruins can hope to be. Our next step, therefore, is to ask ourselves to what extent the Biblical account of the Exodus accords with this preliminary identification. The answer is very ill indeed. The book of Exodus assumes that two days' march was required to bring Israel to the edge of the wilderness. But Pi-Ra'messe is described as the forefront of every foreign land, the end of Egypt» (Anast. III, 7-4) (2);
obviously it was itself on the very edge of the desert. Nor does the supposition of a sea of reeds severing Egypt from the wilderness receive any confirmation in actual facts if we imagine the Hebrew author to have located Rameses near Pelusium. The only possibility in that case would be to fall back upon Brugsch's old identification of the sea of reeds" with Serbonis, the Sabkhat Bardawîl. For all the scorn which has been poured upon it, this remains a conjecture worth weighing. But the Sabkhat Bardawîl must always have been imagined by those who knew of its existence at all as lying in the midst of the desert. For this reason I prefer to fall back upon a different hypo
It must not be forgotten that we are dealing with tradition, with legend, and that the Hebrew author who attempted to give to this a concrete geographical form may have been very ignorant of actual geographical facts. I have long had a suspicion that the author of the Exodus narrative wrongly identified Rameses with Tanis. Two days' journeying might then be supposed to take the Israelites to the well-known «bridge between the lakes at el-Kanțareh (ancient Sile-Thel). Here they would look out upon the wilderness itself and might well turn back dismayed at the dreary expanse which unfolded itself before their eyes. A north-westward retirement would find them separated from the desert by the marshy and watery region which now forms the southern extremity of Menzaleh. This watercovered district, which seems to be depicted as such in the Karnak reliefs of Sethos I(2), would constitute the Sea of reeds"; passing beyond it the Israelites would at once be launched upon their desertwanderings (3).
See especially J.E.A., VI, 104-105.
(2) Ibid., and p. 106, top.
(3) Passage f states that the going back of the waters was caused by a strong east wind. How exactly the writer imagined the situation is not clear. In point of fact, on the hypothesis I am advocating, Menzaleh would stretch not only to the east but also northward and north-westward of the Israelites. Did the writer have before his mind a picture of the east wind
Now it may seem a venturesome theory to assume that the Hebrew writer confused Tanis and Pelusium, identifying Rameses with the former instead of the latter, as he should have done. But there are several considerations which lend to this hypothesis a plausibility which otherwise it might lack. In the first place Tanis was the northern residence of the Pharaohs in the Twenty-second Dynasty, and one has only to read the story of Unamun to realize the importance which that city may have assumed in the eyes of any Palestinian from the eleventh century onwards. Further, there is the much neglected tradition of Psalm LXXVIII, with its reiterated reference to the marvellous things" (i. e. the plagues) which God wrought in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan”. The term & Field of Zoan", Greek wediov Tavéws, is, as I have shown, a translation of the Egyptian
and appears to have been a rather wide expression signifying the region of Lake Menzaleh. In the Egyptian texts & Field of Tanis" is associated with the XIVth. nome, in which Pi-Ra'messe (Pelusium) must have lain; on the other hand it contains the actual name of Tanis, and any Hebrew author who had heard the tradition that the plagues were inflicted upon « Field of Tanis would naturally combine this with his knowledge that Rameses was the residence-city of the Pharaoh, and would conclude that Rameses was Tanis.
The notion that the Sea of reeds was a sheet of water lying between Rameses and the desert is certainly suggested by Ex. x, 19, where it is recounted that the Lord sent an exceeding strong west wind that drove the locusts into the Sea of reeds". This statement would be strange if the Sea of reeds were the Red Sea, as the favourite theory supposes; it is quite comprehensible if Rameses is equated with Tanis and the Sea of reeds " with the south-eastern portion of Menzaleh.
sweeping the waters north-westward past the left flank of the Israelites and so leaving to them a dry passage?
J.E.A., V, 246-248.
No Egyptologist can read the Hebrew name of the «Sea of reeds", 100 yam suph, without recalling the geographical term X I t¦ cthe papyrusregion" (Coptic has xooyч papyrus") which, in the description of Pi-Ra'messe contained in the papyrus Anastasi III (2, 11-12), is actually parallel to XJ the water of Horus, the Hebrew Shihōr, this last undoubtedly designating the lower reaches of the Pelusiac Nile-arm. The other passages where P-twfy is named (2) throw no distinct light upon its localization, but it is clear that it lay in the north of the Delta. This again points to yam suph as the Hebrew name for part of Menzaleh; P-twfy can have nothing to do with the Sabkhat Bardawîl, and still less with the Red Sea. To the identification of yam suph with the Red Sea there is the unanswerable objection that no reeds could grow in the salt water (3).
On the hypothesis here advanced Migdol, which there is really no serious reason for disassociating with the similarly named place mentioned by the prophets, must have been transferred by the fancy of the Hebrew writer, together with Pi-Ra'messe, to the west of Menzaleh. Its actual position seems to have been near Tell el-Ḥèr (4), about midway between Sile (el-Kantarch) and Pelusium (Pi-Ra'messe). Of the other places mentioned in the same context (d) the situation of Baal-zephon is unknown; a god of the same name is known at Tyre, and a female (?) counterpart is mentioned in a list of the deities of Memphis (5). If the name really means Baal of the North, this certainly inclines one to seek the correspond
(1) J.E.A., V, 251-252.
(2) J.E.A., V. 186, n. 1.
yam suph is appar
(3) In I Kings, 9, 26 and some other passages the ently the Gulf of 'Akabah, and hence it has been concluded that the name designated the Red Sea as a whole, including both its northern prolongations. How the different meanings desiderated in the Old Testament are to be reconciled is to me just as difficult a problem as the reconciliation of the Egyptian Goshen with that named in the book of Joshua.
J.E.A., VI, 108-109.
(5) See DRIVER, op. cit., p. 123.