Saturday, July 18, 2015

Meeting the Amaleks and Midianites on the Exodus

Nadene Goldfoot                                            
603,550 people were on the march, the Exodus,  moving away from Egypt and heading for Canaan, 394.6 miles away. By today's standards, it could be traveled on Route 40 by car in 7 hours 39 minutes.  Instead, it took this many people on foot or by camel or donkeys 40 years.

 This is as if the whole city of Portland, Oregon USA (609,456 in 2013)  were on the march from Portland, Oregon to the boarder of Idaho, Ontario, Oregon. That distance is 375 miles and on I-84E that can be traveled in 5 hours 50 minutes.

The difference between a family and moving a large city on foot is quite large with this happening all of  when Moses, the leader, was already 80 years old which was back in the year 1,311 BCE or 3,326 years ago.  Back then, Moses was using G-d as his Garmin and Ipad, getting directions  constantly.
Moses took this route from Rameses in Egypt to Canaan
Going through Midian by the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba and Moab  near the Dead Sea was a huge problem. The map above shows 17 stop-overs that were not as cozy as any motels.
 They had to make little 3 sided booth-like structures or Sukkahs that the Israelites built out of wood and boughs  for the protected they needed on their 40-year journey in the desert.  For a roof they used the leafy boughs or even straw if they found that.

Not long on the Exodus at Rephidim, Amalek came and battled Israel.  They've been Israel's eternal enemies.  Balaam had made a prophecy about them that though they were first among the nations they would be destroyed completely (Numbers).  They were a nomadic people and had killed off the weak and weary Israelites. Their presence was a standing threat to the peace of the country.  Joshua led the Israelites in defeating them later.     It was there at Rephidim that they had no water to drink and attacked Moses verbally about it.  The history here is explained that they needed to learn to trust in G-d by prayer when faced with deprivation.
 Israel had settled in the Shittim (plains)  of Moab and the men were confronted with harlots (prostitutes)  and many could not resist these women as they participated in sexual orgies with them. They could not resist such temptation!  These gals had invited the men to feasts they had for their many gods and they wined and dined the men and then got them to bow down to their idols.  The men became attached to the idol, Baal-Peor with their practice of orgies, and G-d was not happy at all with them.  Baal Peor was the local Canaanite deity, worshipped with sexual orgies on Mt. Peor in Moab.  This cult only attracted the Israelites temporarily as Moses put a final stop to this attraction.

Moses got the message.  It wasn't good.   He was told to order 1,000 men from each of the 12 tribes to form a legion of 12,000.  Phineas, son of Elazar the Kohen was to be the leader of them.  They went against the Midianites and killed every male and their kings, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba and Balaam, son of Beor.
Midian was a Beduin tribe related to Abraham.  They traveled with camel caravans of incense from Gilead to Egypt, and later to other countries.  They had been closely connected with the Israelites.  Moses himself had fled from the Pharaoh to Midian and married the daughter of Jethro.  During this Exodus period, the princes of Midian cooperated with Moab against Israel.  The Israelite commanders  took the women and their young children and all their cattle and flocks and wealth as spoils of war.  They burned their cities.

Moses was still angry  with his commanders because it was the females of Midian who followed Balaam's word to betray Israelites.  Balaam had finally experienced true prophecy from G-d in telling Balak, King of Moab,  what the future held.  He was one who at first tried to curse the Israelites.  Then he told Balak to entice Jewish men to debauchery because he knew that sexual morality was the foundation of Jewish holiness and that G-d did not tolerate immorality.   The officers had allowed their troops to spare the women and they had been known to have participated in the orgies.   Moses  ordered the women to be killed as well and teen-aged boys, and spare the young children to keep for themselves.  This was the retribution that had been promised against the Midianites because of their responsibility for the Israelites' immorality and idolatry that had been introduced to them by Balaam to Balak,  who asked for curses on the Israelites in the first place in order to bring them down.
Jacob and his 4 wives and 12 children with Leah on the left with her 6 sons; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Isssachar and Zebulun  and 1 daughter, Dinah; Rachel with Benjamin and Jacob being Joseph is already in Egypt as a young man, and then the former handmaidens-Zilpah (Leah's servant)  with Gad and Asher and Bilhah (Rachel's servant)  with Dan and Naphtali,  with 2 boys each.  
In the first census of the Israelite population on the march, there were 74,600 of the tribe of Judah, the largest tribe in both census.   By the 2nd census they had increased by 1,900 people to the total of 76,500.  In contrast, the tribe of  Simeon had started with 59,300 and lost 37,100 people, bringing them to the total of only 22,200, making them the smallest of the 12 tribes.  After they arrived in Canaan, they received territory within the lot of Judah in 2 distinct places in the Negev but was of minor importance.  When Hezekiah was king of Judah (720-692 BCE) , they took possession of the Arab areas of Seir. Some settled in the mountains of Ephraim.

Resource: Tanakh, Stone Edition, chart 11 in appendix B.


  1. Nadene, I would like to say that the text tells us that Moses lived in Midian with the family of Jethro, and Midian is in northern Arabia. When leaving Egypt, he would not have stayed in the Sinai, but rather led the tribes of Israel ACROSS the Yam Suf into Midyan, and then north. So this is not the exact route of their travels. They had to cross the Yam Suf, which is Gulf of Aqaba.

  2. Yonatan, Midian is on the map. It's a possible route. It makes sense. He was not taking the Israelites to Midian but to Canaan from Egypt. We are told in the Tanakh where he stopped and this is also shown on the map. The only water I remember them crossing was then Moses parted the sea-the Sea of Reeds. I didn't make this map, but someone else did who studied the route. It makes sense to me. According to the map, they crossed at the narrowest point of water, #3. The Gulf of Aqaba was wider than the Red Sea. Midian gave him enough problems when they went through there. From Jewish Encyclopedia: Red Sea early identified with Reed Sea or Yam suph, crossed by the Israelites during the Exodus from Egypt (Exod. 13:18 etc.) > It was certainly so called in the period of the Monarchy (I Kings 9:26). It now forms Israel's S outlet to the Indian Ocean by way of Elat. " So G-d turned the people toward the way of the Wilderness to the Sea of Reeds. They journeyed from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, at the edge of the Wilderness. G-d said to let them turn back and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-zephon; you shall encamp opposite it, by the sea.....