One difference between James K. Hoffmeier in Ancient Israel in Sinai and scholars with a minimalist tendency concerns the names of places in the Pentateuch. Minimalists explain the place names in Numbers 33 and elsewhere as reflecting the 6th century rather than the 12th or 13th. They claim this shows that the Pentateuch and its sources arose centuries after the events they purport to describe.
Hoffmeier refutes this with strong evidence.
A good deal of this debate has to do with the mention of cities of Ramses and Pithom in Exodus 1:11 and Numbers 33:5. The late-date people say that dropping the Pi prefix (house of) for Ramses points to a late date. But a writer who did actually write a poem about it centuries later used the name, Zoan (Psalm 78:12). And the sixth century prophet Ezekiel included the Pi when he mentioned Bubastis (Ezekiel 30:17) So the idea that a later writer would have called the city Ramses while a writer close to the time would have called it Pi-Ramses is a weak assumption.
Hoffmeier has a long and learned discussion about the existence of ancient canals and the location of Pithom, Succoth, Etham, Migdol and the Reed Sea (he locates the sea somewhere in the Bellah Lakes system).
Hoffmeier has been involved in archeological projects in the Sinai for many years. He has been associated with the archeological work that has located a string of New Kingdom fortifications along the road toward Canaan. In addition to work on the ground, we now have access to satellite imaging that has shown traces of canals that used to exist.
He says that the recent discoveries decisively disprove the theory that the exodus story was made up based on sixth century geography. The places mentioned in Exodus 14:2 and Numbers 33:7 all existed in relation to the system of forts at the Egyptian end of the road toward Gaza during the New Kingdom. They were between the north part of the Bellah lakes and the old eastern lagoon.
We shouldn’t dismiss these findings lightly. Although, I would rather think the sea crossing happened at the north end of the Gulf of Suez, the distances and how far you can travel with livestock in a day (based on my own ranch experience) cause me to think it must have happened, as Hoffmeier says, in the northeast corner of the Nile Delta.
The environment and geography of this area changed over the next several centuries. Hoffmeier includes maps reconstructing the ancient lakes, canals, and coastline. The Pelusiac branch of the Nile gradually moved at least fifteen kilometers to the north. The area where Hoffmeier has located the Reed Sea crossing began to dry up. So he is quite sure that the story does not reflect sixth century geography.
These kind of results move us away from the most skeptical theories. However, I want to point out that this does not mean we have a precise historical record in the Bible. I believe Moses existed and had something to do with a sea (lake) crossing and a period of hardship in the wilderness. However, I also detect a good deal of evidence that the stories have been theologized and exaggerated.
I would compare this to the records about Sargon the Great. This Akkadian king really existed and was born about -2330. However, many of the stories about him are of the genre “naru literature”. See here. Such stories did not have accurate history as their main concern. For instance, there is a story about Sargon’s birth in which he gets set afloat on the Euphrates in a basket.
So even though Hoffmeier has an important point about the real geographical setting for the exodus story, we can’t jump from that to the idea that everything happened just like the Bible says.