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Numbers 33 - the Route List of the Exodus

The route list

Numbers 33 contains a précis of the Israelites' route from the Egyptian Delta to the Plains of Moab across from Jericho. The purpose of this page is to review this in the light of Egyptian parallels. Other pages investigate specific locations with a view to identifying them in terms of known locations.

Comparison with Egyptian records

Such route lists were a typical feature of New Kingdom Egyptian records. Their main purpose was to act as a guide to travellers - whether in small groups or as an army - moving through terrain that was unfamiliar. As such they (just like the Numbers 33 list) contain a mixture of local names and topographical information such as rivers or mountains.

Some specific examples show remarkable similarity to the later stages of the above list, in particular:

Thutmose III (conventionally 1504-1450)
The "Palestine List" from a temple wall at Karnak, describing a route from south to north, has "Iyyin, Dibon, Abel, Jordan".
Rameses II (conventionally 1279-1212)
The west side of the entrance hall to the Temple of Amun at Karnak has a 49-name topographical list including the following four names: "Heres, Qarho, Iktanu, Abel". Qarho is known (eg in the Moabite Stone) as an alternative name for Dibon.
These should be compared with entries 38-42 in the Numbers 33 list below. The Thutmose III list is closer in terms of direct matching.

Hebron and topographical lists

Joshua 15 describes the apportionment of towns in the area allotted to the tribe of Judah. In particular, 15:48-60 describes the hill country towns divided into 5 blocks. The second block reads "Arab, Dumah, Eshan, Janim, Beth Tappuah, Aphekah, Humtah, Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), and Zior" [that is ’arab, rumâh, ’esh'‘an, yânîym, bêyth tappûah, ’aphêqâh, chum'tâh, qîryath ’arba‘ (that is, chebhrôn), and tsîy‘ôr]. A Rameses III copy of a Rameses II topographical list has "Hebron, Janum, Drbn, Apheqah". Thus these three names are linked geographically both in Joshua and in New Kingdom Egyptian records.

The list

The highlights of the list are:
  1. Rameses [ra‘meçêç]
  2. Succoth [çukôth]
  3. Etham [’êthâm] (on the edge of the desert), after which they turned back to
  4. Pi Hahiroth [pîy hachîyrôth], to the east of Baal Zephon [ba‘al tsephôn], camping near Migdol [mîgdôl]
  5. Marah [mârâh] (having passed through the Desert of Etham)
  6. Elim [’êylîm]
  7. Beside Yam Suph [yam çûph]
  8. The Desert of Sin [mîdhbar-çîyn]
  9. Dophkah [dophqâh]
  10. Alush [’âlûsh]
  11. Rephidim [rephîydîm]
  12. The Desert of Sinai [mîdhbar çîynây]
  13. Kibroth Hattaavah [qîbhrôth hatta’avâh]
  14. Hazeroth [chatsêrôth]
  15. Rithmah [rîthmâh]
  16. Rimmon Perez [rîmmôn pârets]
  17. Libnah [lîbhnâh]
  18. Rissah [rîççâh]
  19. Kehelathah [qehêlâthâh]
  20. Mount Shepher [har-shâpher]
  21. Haradah [charâdâh]
  22. Makheloth [maqhêlôth]
  23. Tahath [tâchath]
  24. Terah [târah]
  25. Mithcah [mîthqâh]
  26. Hashmonah [chashmônâh]
  27. Moseroth [môçêrôwth]
  28. Bene Jaakan [benêy ya‘aqân]
  29. Hor Haggidgad [chôr haggîdeggâdh]
  30. Jotbathah [yotbâthâh]
  31. Abronah [‘abhrônâh]
  32. Ezion Geber [‘etsyôn gâbher]
  33. Kadesh [qâdêsh] in the Desert of Zin [mîdhbar-tsîn]
  34. Mount Hor [hôr hâr] on the border of Edom [’edhôm]
  35. Zalmonah [tsalmônâh]
  36. Punon [pûnôn]
  37. Oboth [’ôbhôth]
  38. Iye Abarim [‘îyîy hâ‘abhârîym] (also called Iyim [‘îyîym]) on the border of Moab [mô’âb]
  39. Dibon Gad [dîybôn gâd]
  40. Almon Diblathaim [‘almôn dîblâthâymâh]
  41. The mountains of Abarim [‘abhârîym], near Nebo [nebhô]
  42. by the Jordan [yardên], on the plains of Moab [môw’âb] between Beth Jeshimoth [bêyth hayeshîmôth] and Abel Shittim [’âbêl hashshîttîym]

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