It is written that 600,000 men left with their families (4). This is obviously a gross exaggeration as it would have meant a mass departure of well over 2 million people; far more than the population of the whole of Egypt in those days. (Even over 3200 years later, in 1800 AD, the population was only four million.) It is now thought that the Exodus, comprising the descendants of Benjamin, Jacob and Joseph, could not have been more than 150,000 all told, and probably a lot less. Even a multitude of this size surely must have posed enormous problems of logistics. In accordance with his written wishes before his death in circa 1600 NC, at the extraordinary age of 100+ years, Joseph's remains were removed from his tomb at Avaris and taken away by the Jews for eventual reburial in Canaan (5). It is generally believed that Joseph's final resting place is at 'Joseph's Tomb' in Shechem (now known as Nablus and in the territory recently handed to the Palestinians) although this has never been positively confirmed.
Although the shortest route to Canaan lay eastwards along the Mediterranean coastline, it was well known that extensive military fortifications lay between the sea and the mountains to the north-west of the Sinai Peninsular.. They existed to repel the marauding Philistines (meaning 'Invaders from the sea') who occupied land extending north-eastward past what is now known as Gaza. In consequence, Moses had no choice but to head south-eastwards in order to follow the only alternative route which ran across the top and then down the eastern side of the Gulf of Suez. In those days, widespread reed marshes and salt pans lay between what is now Suez and the Bitter Lakes. The Hebrew word for 'Red Sea' is the same as the 'Sea of Reeds'. Incidentally, the reed subsequently became a unit of measurement. (See Appendix D)
The Jews had almost completed their crossing of the Sea of Reeds when Dudimose changed his mind as a consequence of political pressure for the return of the slaves. Thus he ordered units of his army, made up mainly of the newly evolved chariots, to re-arrest them. The story of the waters parting to allow the Jews passage is well known (6). The actual event, let alone its crossing place, nevertheless is so shrouded in tradition and legend that this cannot be confirmed. One needs to bear in mind that in those days it was Egyptian practice never to document failures of any kind; archivists and scribes were only prepared to record military victories and other notable achievements. However, if this particular account could be based on any substance, the actual crossing of this stretch of marshland might conceivably have been achieved during a period of neap tides at the head of the Gulf of Suez, coupled with strong northerly winds: whilst, on the other hand, it is equally possible that Pharaoh's pursuing forces might have suffered wholesale inundation from a combination of spring tides and severe southerly storms. (The range of Spring tides at Suez is 8.0 feet (2.4 m), and Neap tides is 2.9 feet (0.9 m))
With his need to ensure an adequate water supply, Moses was obliged to follow the established road past the existing copper and turquoise mines that lay along the eastern side of the Red Sea. Eventually, he and his followers ended up camping for quite a time on the plain at the foot of Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai).