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Baal-zephon (בעל צפון Hebrew) is a Hebrew name which means 'lord of the north', and refers both to a god the Hellenes knew as Zeus Kasios, the god of Mount Aqraa on the Syrian shore who was associated with thunderbolts, the sea and a protector of maritime trade, and to a place named in the Book of Exodus as being near Migdol and Pi-hahiroth where the Hebrews (Israelites) were said to have made their Passage of the Red Sea following their exodus from Egypt.[1][2]

Hebrew Bible[edit]

The Book of Exodus records that the Israelites were instructed by Yahweh to encamp at the face of Baal-zephon, on the shore, so that they would appear to Pharaoh to be trapped, and thereby entice him to pursue them.

"Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to camp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, 'The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.' And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD. So the Israelites did this" (Exodus 14:2-4, Bible, NIV)


The identification of biblical Zaphon with Ugaritic/Assyrian Ṣapuna, and hence with Mount Zephon or Kasios, used to be widely accepted,[3] but this standard opinion has come under scrutiny beginning with Mario Liverani[4] based on doubt cast on the reading Ṣapuna itself (due to William F. Albright 1943)[5] in relevant passages in the Amarna letters.[6]

Russell Gmirkin suggests Arsinoe in the Gulf of Suez.[7] Gmirkin also notes that a Ptolemaic-era geographical text in the Cairo Museum mentions the sites Baal Zephon and Migdol, listing four border guard stations and fortresses, the third being called 'Migdol and Baal Zephon' thought to be located on a route to the Red Sea Coast and perhaps on the canal linking Pithom with the Red Sea, at or near Arsinoe.[7]

The location of the Bronze Age city of Ṣapuna (alternatively Ṣa-BU-ma, i.e. Ṣabuma/Ṣapuma) has been placed at the mouth of Jabbok by Albright (1943). Ross (1967) suggests "the Shephelah region, not far from the kingdom of Gezer." Vita (2005) rejects identification of Ṣa-BU-ma with Biblical Zaphon, opening the possibility of identity of the former with biblical Zeb`oim.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Freedman, David Noel; Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000 ISBN 978-0-8028-2400-4 p137 [1]
  2. ^ Bromiley, Geoffrey W. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing, 1996 ISBN 978-0-8028-3781-3 p381 [2]
  3. ^ Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer (New York:Knopf) 2009, ch. 15: "A Travelling Mountain" pp 243-58, assembles a well-referenced cultural history of the mountain.
  4. ^ Mario Liverani. Le lettere di el-Amarna 1. Le lettere dei "Piccoli Re", Brescia 1998
  5. ^ William F. Albright. "Two Little Understood Amarna Letters from the Middle Jordan Valley", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research #89
  6. ^ Juan-Pablo Vita, Der biblische Ortsname Zaphon und die Amarnabriefe EA 273-274, Ugarit-Forschungen 37 (2005), pp. 673-677.[3]
  7. ^ a b Gmirkin, Russell E. (2006). Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus. T.& T. Clark Ltd. p. 233. ISBN 978-0-567-02592-0. 

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