Ancient Geography & Travels of Moses Part 3

About the ancient travels of biblical figure Moses who led the Jews out of Egypt along Mt. Sinai, history and geography of the trip then and today.



Along Moses' way southward to the Sinai shore of the Gulf of Suez, the Giddi Pass truce monitoring station-manned by 200 American technicians-can be seen on the eastern horizon. Further down the coast, near where the manna from heaven fed the Israelites centuries ago, the Egyptian and Mobil Oil Company's Ras Sudr and Abu Rudeis oil fields are pumping a new manna from the ground. Where the Israelites trekked inland, there are now Egyptian and Israeli fortifications with U.N. peace-keeping forces in between.

Past these obstacles, the way to Mt. Sinai is as primitive as in the days of Moses. Mt. Sinai is traditionally associated with the 7,497-ft. pink and purple granite peak called Gebel (or Jabal) Musa. At the base of the mountain is the Monastery of St. Catherine, which is the home of a community of Greek Orthodox Christian monks. According to Christian legends, the 1,500-year old monastery stands on the spot where Moses was confronted by the burning bush. Except for a dirt road, the monastery, and the effects of wind erosion, Mt. Sinai has changed little since Moses climbed to its summit.

From Mt. Sinai, Moses' footsteps head northwest along the Gulf of Aqaba, past the Israeli port of Elath and its bathing beaches, where Israelis now spend their vacations. In the northwestern Sinai, 50 mi. south of the Israeli city of Beersheba, is the oasis of Ayn al Qudayrat, which has been identified as Kadesh-barnea--the place where Moses spent 38 years. Except for the occasional rumble of an Israeli military convoy on the nearby newly constructed highway, the oasis remains basically the same as it has always been. Bedouins use the oasis with its abundance of olive trees and water as a base for grazing their flocks in the surrounding desert, just as the ancient Israelites did.

Leaving the oasis, Moses' trail cuts across the Israeli border and the Beersheba-Elath highway and then crosses the heavily guarded border into Jordan. Winding northward through the mountains, Moses' path comes to the Jordanian town of Hisban--the biblical Heshbon where the Israelites battled the Amorites.

Only a few miles away is Mt. Nebo, where Moses glimpsed the Promised Land. The ascent to the peak today passes Palestinian refugee camps, deserted since the 1967 war. Today from Mt. Nebo Moses would see the ancient city of Jericho as a mound amid the mud, brick, and steel buildings of modern Jericho. Toward the Dead Sea, he would see Israeli cement factories, and below in the Jordan River valley, his eyes would notice the Allenby Bridge spanning the river near where the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Of course, he would view the Israeli and Jordanian soldiers stationed along the river border. He would note that the Israelis were already in and defending their Promised Land.

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