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Stations of the Exodus

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Guillaume Postel, 1555 Hæc chorographia præpocapiti 33. libri numer
1641 Wanderings in the desert map
1585 Exodus map
Tilemann Stella's 1557 Itinera Israelitarum ex Aegypto

The Stations of the Exodus are the locations visited by the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt, according to the Hebrew Bible. In the itinerary given in Numbers 33, forty-two stations are listed,[1] although this list differs slightly from the narrative account of the journey found in Exodus and Deuteronomy.

Biblical commentators like St Jerome in his Epistle to Fabiola,[2] Bede (Letter to Acca: "De Mansionibus Filiorum Israhel") and St Peter Damian discussed the Stations according to the Hebrew meanings of their names.[3] Dante modeled the 42 chapters of his Vita Nuova on them.[4]


According to the documentary hypothesis, the list of the Stations was originally a distinct and separate source text.[5] Proponents of this hypothesis believe that the redactor, in combining the Torah's sources, used parts of the Stations list to fill out awkward joins between the main sources. However, a slightly variant version of the list appears in full at Numbers 33, and several parts of the journey described in the full list (most noticeably the journey from Sinai to Zin) do not appear in the fragmented version.

Both versions of the list contain several brief narrative fragments. For example, Exodus 15:27 reads: "[The Israelites] came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees".[6] It is a matter of some debate as to how much of the narrative is part of the original text of the list, and how much is extra detail added into it by the redactor. Some information may also have been drawn from other sources; Numbers 21 contains both an extract from the lost Book of the Wars of the Lord,[7] and the text of a song about the digging of a well at Beer.[8]

Locating the Stations[edit]

Attempting to locate many of the stations of the Israelite Exodus is a difficult task, if not infeasible. Though most scholars concede that the narrative of the Exodus may have a historical basis,[9][10][11] the event in question would have borne little resemblance to the mass-emigration and subsequent forty years of desert nomadism described in the biblical account.[10][12] If a smaller-scale exodus did take place, no trace of it has been found in the archaeological record,[13] so archaeology can give no clues as to the modern-day locations of the stations.

Another factor complicating the issue is that the narrative descriptions of many of the stations lack recognizable distinguishing features, or are very broadly defined. For example, Marah, the fifth station, is described only as a place where the Israelites found the drinking water to be exceptionally bitter. The locations of some stations are given in relative terms, such as the "Wilderness of Sin", which is simply described as the area between Elim and Mount Sinai, which, given the uncertain locations of the numerous stations, cannot be positively determined. Other locations central to the narrative, such as the Sea of Reeds, Mount Sinai, and Raamses, also lack positive identification, making it more difficult to plot a plausible map of the Israelites' journey. As such, proposed identifications of the stations of the Exodus are almost entirely conjectural.

List of the Stations of the Exodus[edit]

Station Biblical reference Description Possible location[a]
Raamses Ex. 12:37; Nu. 33:3 The Raamses district was of the highest quality land in Egypt (Ge. 47:11) Pi-Ramesses[14]
Sukkoth Ex. 12:37, 13:20; Nu. 33:5–6 The region of Wadi Tumilat,[15] or a city within the region, such as Tell el-Maskhuta[16]
Etham Ex. 13:20; Nu. 33:6–8 "On the edge of the wilderness" Unknown, but possibly close to modern Ismailia[17]
Pi-Hahiroth Ex. 14:2; Nu. 33:7–8 "Between Migdol and the sea, opposite Ba'al-Zephon" - -
Marah Ex. 15:23; Nu. 33:8–9 A place where the water was too bitter to drink Ain Hawarah, fifty miles south of Suez[18]
Elim Ex. 15:27, 16:1; Nu. 33:9–10 "Where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees" Wadi Gharandel[19]
By the Red Sea Nu. 33:10–11 - - - -
Sin Wilderness Ex. 16:1, 17:1; Nu. 33:11–12 Between Elim and Mount Sinai; here God supplies quail and manna - -
Dophkah Nu. 33:12–13 - - - -
Alush Nu. 33:13–14 - - - -
Rephidim Ex. 17:1, 19:2; Nu. 33:14–15 Moses brings forth water from the Rock of Horeb; the Israelites battle the Amalekites Wadi Refayid[20]
Sinai Wilderness Ex. 19:1–2; Nu. 10:12, 33:15–16 Near Mount Sinai
Kibroth-Hattaavah Nu. 11:35, 33:16–17 - -
Hazeroth Nu. 11:35, 12:16, 33:17–18 Miriam is afflicted with a skin disease - -
Rithmah Nu. 33:18–19 - - - -
Rimmon-Perez Nu. 33:19–20 - - - -
Libnah Nu. 33:20–21 - - - -
Rissah Nu. 33:21–22 - - - -
Kehelathah Nu. 33:22–23 - - - -
Mount Shapher Nu. 33:23–24 - - - -
Haradah Nu. 33:24–25 - - - -
Makheloth Nu. 33:25–26 - - - -
Tahath Nu. 33:26–27 - - - -
Terah Nu. 33:27–28 - - - -
Mithcah Nu. 33:28–29 - - - -
Hashmonah Nu. 33:29–30 - - - -
Moseroth Nu. 33:30–31; Dt. 10:6 Aaron's burial place according to Deuteronomy - -
Bene-Jaakan Nu. 33:31–32 - - - -
Hor Haggidgad Nu. 33:32–33 - - - -
Jotbathah Nu. 33:33–34 - - - -
Abronah Nu. 33:34–35 - - - -
Ezion-Geber Nu. 33:35–36 - - Tell el-Kheleifeh[21]
Kadesh Nu. 20:1,22, 33:36–37 Located in the Wilderness of Zin; Miriam's burial place Tell el-Qudeirat[22]
Mount Hor Nu. 20:22, 21:4, 33:37–41 On the border of Edom; Aaron's burial place according to Numbers - -
Zalmonah Nu. 33:41–42 - - - -
Punon Nu. 33:42–43 - - Khirbat Faynan[23]
Oboth Nu. 21:10–11, 33:43–44 - - - -
Iye Abarim Nu. 21:11, 33:44–45 On the border of Moab - -
Dibon Gad Nu. 33:45–46 - - Dhiban, Jordan[24]
Almon Diblathaim Nu. 33:46–47 - - - -
Abarim Mountains Nu. 33:47–48 The Israelites encamped near Mount Nebo - -
Plains of Moab Nu. 22:1, 33:48–50 The Israelites encamped along the Jordan River from Beth-jeshimoth to Abel-shittim Lower Jordan Valley, between Sweimeh and Tell el-Hammam, Jordan


  1. ^ All proposed locations are speculative, and in many cases there are numerous competing theories. This table includes only those theories which have received wide support from modern scholars.


  1. ^ Numbers 33
  2. ^ University, Center for Teaching and Learning at Columbia. "A letter from Jerome (400)". Epistolae.
  3. ^ Gregory F. LaNave, et al., The Fathers of the Church: Mediaeval Continuation, The Letters of Peter Damian 151-180, Letter 160, pp. 110 ff., The Catholic University of America Press, Washington D.C. (2005)
  4. ^ Julia Bolton Holloway, Sweet New Style: Brunetto Latino, Dante Alighieri and Geoffrey Chaucer, Chapter III, (2003)
  5. ^ Nili S. Fox, in Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler (editors), The Jewish study Bible, Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation, Oxford University Press, Oxford (1999), p. 349: "The literary style of the itinerary, the repetition of campsite names, and the highlighting of events in those places closely resemble extant military records from the ancient Near East, especially from Assyria. Accordingly, the notation in this Priestly source that Moses recorded the starting points of their various marches (v. 2) fits the genre. Some scholars, however, consider ch 33 a composite text extracted from other portions of Numbers, Exodus, and Deuteronomy."
  6. ^ Exodus 15:27 (NSRV).
  7. ^ Numbers 21:14–15
  8. ^ Numbers 21:16b–18a
  9. ^ Redmount, Carol A. (2001) [1998]. "Bitter Lives: Israel In And Out of Egypt". In Coogan, Michael D. (ed.). The Oxford History of the Biblical World. OUP. p. 87. ISBN 9780199881482.
  10. ^ a b Avraham Faust (2015). Israel's Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience. Springer. p. 476. ISBN 978-3-319-04768-3.
  11. ^ Sparks, Kenton L. (2010). "Genre Criticism". In Dozeman, Thomas B. (ed.). Methods for Exodus. Cambridge University Press. p. 73. ISBN 9781139487382.
  12. ^ William G. Dever (2001). What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-8028-2126-3.
  13. ^ Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2001). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts. Free Press. pp. 62–3. ISBN 0-684-86912-8.
  14. ^ van Seters, John (2001). "The Geography of the Exodus". In Dearman, J. A.; Graham, M. P. (eds.). The Land that I Will Show You. Sheffield Academic Press. p. 264. ISBN 1-84127-257-4. Most scholars accept the equation of Rameses with Piramesse, the capital of the 19th Dynasty built by Ramesses II.
  15. ^ Bietak (28 March 2015). "On the Historicity of the Exodus". In Levy, T. E.; Schneider, T.; Propp, W. H. C. (eds.). Israel's Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective. Springer. p. 21. ISBN 9783319047683. Tjeku, the name of the region of Wadi Tumilat, is regarded by many as an Egyptian rendering of the biblical Sukkot.
  16. ^ Kitchen, K. A. (2003). On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans. pp. 257–8. ISBN 0-8028-4960-1.
  17. ^ Kitchen 2003, p. 259
  18. ^ Hyatt, J. Philip (1971). Commentary on Exodus. Oliphants. p. 172. ISBN 0-551-00630-7. Marah is often identified with 'Ain Hawarah, about fifty miles S. of the northern end of the Gulf of Suez.
  19. ^ Kitchen 2003, p. 269. "It is commonly suggested that the well-watered Wadi Gharandel was Elim."
  20. ^ Kotter, Wade R. (2019). "Rephidim". In Freedman, D. N. (ed.). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. William B. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-1-4674-6046-0. Tradition has long identified Wadi Feiran near Jebul Musa as the location of Rephidim, although more recent scholarship prefers the nearby Wadi Refayid because of the similarity in name.
  21. ^ Pratico, Gary D. (1993). Nelson Glueck's 1938–1940 Excavations at Tell el-Kheleifeh: A Reappraisal. American Schools of Oriental Research. p. 17. ISBN 9781555408831. Nelson Glueck's identification of Tell el-Kheleifeh with biblical Ezion-geber has been generally accepted by the archaeological community.
  22. ^ de Geus, C. H. J. (1977). "Kadesh Barnea: Some Geographical and Historical Remarks". In Brongers, H. A. (ed.). Instruction and Interpretation: Studies in Hebrew Language, Palestinian Archaeology and Biblical Exegesis. Brill Archive. p. 58. ISBN 90-04-05433-2. Anyone who is familiar with the Exodus-literature will know that Kadesh Barnea is practically always identified with ʿAin el Qudeirat.
  23. ^ MacDonald, Burton (2015). The Southern Transjordan Edomite Plateau and the Dead Sea Rift Valley. Oxbow Books. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-78297-832-9. Khirbat Faynan ... is almost certainly the location of Phaino/Punon/Pinon.
  24. ^ Kitchen 2003, p. 195. "Dibon ... is readily admitted to be located at modern Dhiban."