I have taken this week off from blogging. I have traveled to attend my grandson’s gymnastic tournament and worked on pulling everything together for my taxes.
But I want to return to something from the series of posts I did on Igor Lipovsky’s Early Israelites. He mentioned the mountain of God or mountain of the gods in connection with the place Moses asked to take his people “three days journey into the wilderness.” He proposed that this mountain was a sacred (pagan) site for the Western Semites in Egypt. They had made this pilgrimage regularly until the harsh labor regime imposed on them under Ramses II. Moses was asking for a restoration of the practice.
I had a problem with this because of geography and travel times. I do not see a mountain within a reasonable three-day journey’s distance from Ismalia (the edge of the desert from Wadi Tumilat assuming that this was the Land of Goshen). I looked at the passages in Exodus where Moses made this request of Pharaoh and saw that none of them said the destination was a mountain. So I suggested that the destination might have been the first well on the “way of Shur”, which led through the desert toward Beer Sheba.
But now I see where Lipovsky probably got his idea that it was a “mountain of God”. Exodus 4:27 says:
The Lord said to Aaron, “Go to the wilderness to meet Moses. So he went and met him at the mountain of God and greeted him with a kiss (NET Bible).
Lipovsky assumed that this was the same place where the Western Semites were accustomed to go for a religious festival.
This involves several assumptions. The one that many modern exegetes would reject is that this is even a historical occurrence.
But let us say, with Lipovsky, that it was. Let us also acknowledge that a mountain three days into the wilderness is geographically difficult.
In that case, one assumption to question would be that this mountain is the same place involved in the requests to Pharaoh.
Another assumption to question would be Aaron’s starting point. That verse gives us little information. Lipovsky assumes that Aaron started from Lower Egypt, the Nile Delta. But Egypt had mining outposts in the Sinai and in the Arabah Valley and administrative and religious centers in the Gaza region.
So, if the verse remembers an event, it might be that Aaron was one of those Egyptian officials serving outside of what we think of as Egypt.
If he came to Moses from Timna, a mining outpost just north of the Gulf of Aqaba, that would fit with the theory that Sinai was in Arabia.
If he came from Serabit al-Khadim in south-central Sinai, that would fit with the traditional location of Sinai.
If he came from Gaza or the Negev (Anson Rainey says that Tell-el-Mahehah, which he identified with biblical Ziklag 18 miles southeast of Gaza, was an Egyptian religious center in the late Bronze Age), that would fit with the theory of those who identify the Sinai stories with the mountains near Kadesh-barnea.
Or, since the three-day journey does not apply, Aaron could have made the trek toward Midian all the way from the Nile Delta.