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Exodus to Red Sea - Part Two:

by Mary Nell Wyatt

"Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea."Exodus 14:2

When God gave Moses these instructions, it is evident that Moses knew where these places were -- he was familiar with the land. On the north end of the beach area, there are the remains of an ancient Egyptian fortress, which would have prevented their going north when they entered the area. This fortress was another evidence that Egyptian territory extended all the way through the Sinai peninsula.

(See color photo of this fortress on the northern end of the beach area.) We believe this was Pihahiroth.  As they were in between Migdol and the sea, Migdol could either be the mountains to the west, which make a perfect barrier, enclosing them on the beach -- or it may have been a watch-tower which was positioned on top of one of those mountains. We have not yet climbed all the mountains to searched for a watch-tower.  But the Egyptians did have watch-posts all through the Sinai Peninsula, and most likely would have had one here, to keep an eye on ships coming up the Gulf of Aqaba. It is historically documented that they flashed messages from watch-tower to watch-tower using reflected sunlight by day and fire by night.  In fact, that may well be how pharaoh knew exactly where Moses and the people had gone.  Moses would have most certainly been aware of these watch-towers.  On the opposite shore, in Saudi Arabia, exactly across from where they entered the sea, is another ancient structure.  All alone on the beach, it may have been a Midianite fortress, dedicated to Baal; we believe this was Baalzephon.  The phrase "over against" seems to mean "opposite of" in respect to being across a body of water -- in the next verse, the same phrase is used when speaking of being across the Jordan River from Jericho: "Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession" Deuteronomy 32:49.  The fact is that chariot parts have never been found in the Red Sea anywhere except at this site. The question has been asked: "Isn't this site for the crossing too far away? Wouldn't it have taken them a long time to get there?" Well, in 1967, Moshe Dyan marched his troops from Nuweiba (the crossing site) to Suez City (near ancient Tharu/Succoth) in six days. And they camped at night. The Israelites were told to use only unleavened bread for seven days - indicating that they would be travelling quite briskly without time to camp for seven days. "Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD. And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt" Exodus 13: 6,8.  The Israelites didn't stop and encamp every night, as Moshe Dyan's troops did -- they travelled both day and night: "And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night" Exodus 13:21.  With the Divine assistance of the Lord, this massive wave of people traveled in an orderly fashion both day and night, with great speed: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself" Exodus 19:4.  The eagle is used to denote speed: "Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions" 2 Samuel 1:23.

ONE LAST EVIDENCE   In 1978, when I first visited the beach area with my two sons, we found a Phoenician-style column lying on the southern end of the beach. Partially in the water, the inscriptions had been eroded away, or possibly they were purposefully chiseled away. We found this during the time that Israel was occupying the Sinai, and we pointed it out to the soldiers who were patrolling the beach. The next time we returned, we found they had moved it across the road and set it up in concrete.

We didn't fully understand the importance of this column until a few years later -- we did recognize that it was definitely not of Egyptian style. But in 1984, when we were imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, our captors, in an effort to verify our story that we believed Mt. Sinai was there and that "Musa" (Moses) led the people across the sea to their country, had me take them to the beach where they arrived after passing through the sea. I directed them to the spot in a helicopter. Landing here, I found another column -- identical to the one on the opposite shore -- except this one had the inscriptions intact. Noting carefully the Phoenician (Archaic Hebrew) letters, we were later able to have it translated. It contained the words: Mizraim (Egypt); Solomon; Edom; death; pharaoh; Moses; and Yahweh. From this, we knew that King Solomon had erected these columns in honor of Yahweh and dedicated them to the miracle of the crossing of the sea. And, that column possibly saved my sons' and my lives -- it proved what I had been telling my Saudi jailers! This year, we discovered that the Saudis have removed the column on their beach from its original location -- they have sunk a large marker in concrete where it was located -- and we are trying to locate it in their antiquities files. But we have documented the solitary marker, sunk into the ground in concrete, on the beach, just down from the remains of the ancient fortress we believe was Baalzephon. We will study the sites on the Mt. Sinai side of the gulf later this year.

THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE "RED SEA"   There has been much controversy through the years over which Red Sea is being referred to in the Exodus account. You will see here, that "Red Sea" is used to refer to all section of that sea -- the main body, the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba. If you will get a large map of Egypt, you will note that the Red Sea is quite large -- beginning at Ethiopia on the southwest and Yemen on the southeast. It separates northern Africa from Arabia. At its northern end, it splits into two arms - the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba. Let's go to the first reference to the Red Sea in the Bible -- the plague of the locusts had covered all the land of Egypt. If you go the map, you will see that Egypt extended far south of the Suez arm of the Red Sea.  Thebes, the ancient capital of Egypt, lay a good 150 miles south of the beginning of the Gulf of Suez (as the crow flies.) Now, these locusts were in all the coasts of Egypt, including Thebes and beyond. "And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt" Exodus 10:19.   A west wind, blowing the locusts into the Red Sea, would blow them into the main body of the sea and the Gulf of Suez. The second reference is: "But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt" Exodus 13:18.   This "wilderness" was the land between the two arms of the Red Sea. Now, we will go to a scripture concerning Solomon's navy: "And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red sea, in the land of Edom" 1 Kings 9:26.   This reference is definitively speaking of the Gulf of Aqaba, because we know where Eloth (Eilat) was. And this is the same Red Sea that Moses led the great multitude across. The Red Sea of Moses' day was the same Red Sea we know today -- the main body of the lower Red Sea, the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Again, we can only marvel at how the Lord has preserved these sites throughout history.  If the true location had been known all along, there would be no evidence left.  We live in a time when people simply don't believe the Red Sea crossing ever really happened, and God tells us that He knew that time would come: "Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt" Jeremiah 16:14.   But He does "live", and before it's all over with, He will vindicate His Word to the world.

THE EXODUS EVIDENCES In our last newsletter, we examined the route taken by Moses and the great multitude as they fled Egypt. We will now examine the evidences which tell us exactly who were the Egyptian royalties involved and the approximate date the Exodus occurred. This is a subject that gets quite involved and we will only be able to present a bare frame of reference in this publication. Bear with us, as we will attempt to present a large amount of information in a short space.

THE CHARIOT WHEELS We will begin with the chariot wheels that Ron and the boys found in the Gulf of Aqaba.  In 1978, on their first dive at the site, they found these chariot remains.  Like Noah's Ark, these were not in perfect condition and required careful examination to see exactly what they were.  They were covered in coral, which made it difficult to see them clearly, but it appears that the coral was the agent the Lord used to preserve them.  They found numerous wheels- some were still on their axles, and some were off. 

Here is a photo of a chariot wheel on an axle They found chariot cabs without the wheels, also: "...in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, And took off their chariot wheels, that they drove them heavily..." Exodus 14:24,25.  So far, this coincided with the biblical account. They found several 6-spoked wheels, as well as an 8-spoked wheel. And finally, in 1988, Ron found the 4-spoked gold chariot wheel, which looks almost perfect. The reason this one was so well preserved is that coral does not grow on gold.  The wood inside the gold "veneer" was deteriorated, which made it very fragile and for that reason, he has not attempted to retrieve it from the water.

Here is the gold chariot wheel.   The significance of these wheels is of extreme importance to the dating of the Exodus and determining which dynasty was involved. Back in the late 70's, Ron actually retrieved a hub of a wheel which had the remains of 8 spokes radiating outward from it. He took this to Cairo, to the office of Nassif Mohammed Hassan, the director of Antiquities whom Ron had been working with. Mr. Hassan examined it and immediately pronounced it to be of the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt. When Ron asked him how he knew this so readily, Mr. Hassan explained that the 8-spoked wheel was only used during the 18th Dynasty. This certainly narrowed the date. After finding the 4,6 and 8 spoked wheels, we began to thoroughly research the Egyptian chariot and soon discovered that the fact that these wheels date to the 18th Dynasty according to numerous sources, such as the following: "Egyptian literary references to chariots occur as early as the reigns of Kamose, the 17th Dynasty king who took the first steps in freeing Egypt from the Hyksos, and Ahmose, the founder of the 18th Dynasty. Pictorial representations, however, do not appear until slightly later in the 18th Dynasty...." (From "Observations on the Evolving Chariot Wheel in the 18th Dynasty" by James K. Hoffmeier, JARCE #13, 1976)

Here, we learn that it was only at the beginning of the 18th Dynasty that the chariot comes into use in the Egyptian army. The Bible mentions that in the time of Joseph, chariots were in use, but apparently they weren't developed sturdily enough for use in war until much later. The author goes on to explain how it was only during the 18th Dynasty that the 4, 6 and 8 spoked wheels are used - and that monuments can actually be dated by the number of spokes in the wheel: "Professor Yigael Yadin maintains that during the earlier part of the 18th Dynasty, the Egyptian chariot was `exactly like the Canaanite chariot:' both were constructed of light flexible wood, with leather straps wrapped around the wood to strengthen it, and both utilized wheels with four spokes. In Yadin's eyes, the four-spoked wheel is diagnostic for dating purposes; it is restricted to the early part of the 18th Dynasty. It remained in vogue, he says, until the reign of Thutmoses IV, when `the Egyptian chariot begins to shake off its Canaanite influence and undergo considerable change.' Yadin believes that the eight-spoked wheel, which is seen on the body of Thutmoses IV's chariot, was an experiment by the Egyptian wheelwrights, who, when it proved unsuccessful, settled thereafter for the six-spoked wheel. So widespread and meticulous is the delineation of the number of wheel spokes on chariots depicted on Egyptian monuments, that they can be used as a criterion for determining whether the monument is earlier or later than 1400 BC." (Quoted from the same article as above.) For more information on the chariots of the Egyptian army, let's go to the biblical account, when Pharaoh and his army go after the multitude: "And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them" Exodus 14:6,7.  This verse makes it quite clear that the Pharaoh took every chariot in Egypt- his own, his generals (or "Captains") and a group called his "chosen" chariots, which seem to be in addition to his regular army ("all the chariots of Egypt"). Who might these "600 chosen chariots" have been?  This group seems too small to have been a division of the army. We do not know the exact number in a squadron, but we do have information that a pharaoh, one of his names being Rameses II, had an army of 20,000 troops, which was divided into four divisions. This would imply that each division consisted of 5,000 troops. But the army took more than just soldiers, many times. To get a little insight, we need to understand a bit about the Egyptian government and economy. "The priests and military men held the highest position in the country after the family of the king, and from them were chosen his ministers and confidential advisers, `the wise counselors of Pharaoh,' and all the principal officers of state." (From "The Ancient Egyptians- Their Life and Customs" by Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson, 1854, vol.1, p.316.) The priesthood and the military were closely associated- the Egyptian government was a combination "church and state," so to speak. Their system of "gods" was quite elaborate and we can't possibly present an accurate description of their religious system in this limited article. But for our purposes, we need to understand that there were many, many gods in ancient Egypt- but the ultimate "god" was the one represented as the "sun."  This god was known throughout the various times as Amon, Aten and Re or Ra, among other names. And it was of this "ultimate god" that the pharaoh was considered the "earthly embodiment."  The divisions of the army were named after the gods, i.e. "the first army, that of Amon, the army of Re, the army of Ptah and the army of Sutech."  When the army set out to war, elaborate ceremonies were performed at the various temples, asking the various gods to give them victory over their foes. Then, booty that was gained as a result of victories was dedicated to the priesthoods and temples of the deities. All military victories were directly attributed to the favor of the gods. Sometimes, the priests would accompany the army to the battlefield in hopes that the "god(s)" would show special favor in their endeavors. And the evidence at hand shows that when Pharaoh and his army set out after Moses and the great multitude, he took with him the all priesthood of all the gods of Egypt. After all, he had seen the power of the true God, the great "I AM." If the Egyptian army ever needed supernatural intervention by the hands of their so-called "gods," it was at this time. We believe that every priest of every god was summoned to accompany the army as they went after Moses and the multitude, as well as all the ministers of state. All of this is leading up to a discussion of the gold-veneered, 4-spoked chariot wheel Ron found in 1988. Since he found it on the Egyptian side of the Gulf of Aqaba, that indicates that whoever was driving that particular chariot was at the rear of the army. It makes sense to us that a priest, who is not trained in battle, would be in this position at the rear of the army. Also, a gold chariot would not be practical for battle- these chariots were more "ceremonial" than those used by the chariotry. We also know that the priesthood were given gold chariots, which were booty of various foreign defeats. There is an inscription of Thutmoses III (18th Dynasty) which relates: "He went forth, none like him, slaying the barbarians, smiting Retenu, bringing their princes as living captives, their chariots wrought with gold, bound to their horses." In fact, we have many, many inscriptions of the kings of the 18th Dynasty receiving gold-plated foreign chariots, either as spoils of war or as tribute received from conquered peoples. There are, as well, inscriptions telling that these gilded chariots were many times dedicated to various temples and gods, which meant that the priests would receive these chariots. We do know from inscriptions that the king did go to war in a "glittering chariot of electrum" as stated in one of Thutmoses III's inscriptions- but, we doubt very seriously that he would have remained at the rear of the army. However, Dr. Bill Shea of the Biblical Research Institute, told us a few days ago, that he believed it was possible that the pharaoh may have been at the rear of the army. With all of this information, we feel we may conclude that the gold wheel most likely belonged to a member of the priestly caste who was accompanying the army, or possibly a high minister of state. If it had belonged to the pharaoh, it would have probably had his "cartouche" or name on it- and the one Ron found did not have this, at least not on the exposed side. Either way, we have evidence from ancient tombs that the Egyptians constructed wheels of this design, and also the Retenu (Syrian) chariot wheels were of this same design and size.

Here we see a drawing of Egyptians building a chariot. These drawings are from "The Ancient Egyptians" by Sir J. Gardiner Wilkinson, and are taken from 18th dynasty tombs and monuments. They show a depiction of a Retenu (Syrian) chariot and also Egyptians constructing chariots- both of these wheel designs are consistent with the 4-spoked, gold veneered wheel Ron found.

Here is a drawing of an Egyptian chariot.     (Continued)

Next page: The Eighteenth Dynasty

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