Cross Points 11.27.20

Discipleship Afoot:  Walking in Wadi Musa

Moses stands on the edge of the water, the Egyptian army is close behind – blinded by a cloud of dust God had created.  Moses says to the frightened Israelites, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord!”  God speaks to Moses, “Lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.”
Such a dramatic scene, as God finalizes the Israelites escape from slavery in Egypt at the Red Sea.  Later, this crossing will be referred to as the baptism of Moses (I Cor. 10:2), foreshadowing our baptism into Christ, saved from the slavery of sin.  As we consider this event we might ask: Where did this actually happen?

Most scholars have said the Red Sea crossing occurred on the east side of Egypt, but no evidence has been found to support this location, and there’s not much of a “sea” there.  They also think Mt. Sinai is at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, based on a theory of Constantine’s mother (Helena) in the 300’s AD.  But interestingly, modern Bedouin a little further east have a long tradition of believing Mt. Sinai (also called Mt. Horeb) is located east of the modern-day Gulf of Aqaba (also part of the Red Sea).  There is a mountain there that is called Horeb and fits the biblical description.  There is evidence of chariots and items found at the bottom of the Gulf of Aqaba that fit this event.  This area is also Midian, where Moses had lived before the Exodus, the Sinai Peninsula is not.  Keep in mind that the “Sinai Peninsula” name came later, after Constantine’s mother made her conclusions.

If true, much of the Israelites wanderings occurred in this region, and Bedouin say they spent much time in the area known today as Petra.  In fact, Petra is within Wadi Musa (an adjacent town has the same name), and Wadi Musa translates to The Valley of Moses.  My wife Rexanne and I were there in 2018 while on a mission trip.  We hiked down the mile-long narrow canyon (al-Siq) leading to a rock wall carving known as The Treasury.  Maybe you’ve seen it in the movie Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade.  We hiked up long rocky trails to a “high place” where false gods had been worshipped at one time.  We watched Bedouin shepherds lead their flocks of goats through the valley.  We attended a night gathering by candlelight, listening to the Bedouin play their instruments as the candle flames flickered off the canyon walls.  We enjoyed tea cooked over an open fire with Bedouin men who had led us on donkeys up to the farthest high point of the valley, called The Monastery.  We purchased a colorful rock from a young Bedouin boy, who was just trying to support his family.  After the visit I purchased a book by a lady who married a Petra Bedouin and lived in a nearby cave for many years.  I even communicated with her by email later.  Within the town you’ll find a rock that they believe is the one Moses struck, not following God’s instructions, losing his right to enter the Promised Land.  A spring still flows from this spot and runs down into the valley.  There is even a memorial close to Petra, thought to be the spot where Moses’s brother Aaron is buried.

An amazing place with history that surprised us.  Did Moses and the Israelites camp here, was the mobile tabernacle set up in the valley opening we walked?  I later learned there is even some thought this might be where the Apostle Paul came to learn from God (Galatians 1:11-20).  He was a tent maker you’ll recall, not a normal Pharisee occupation, but he could have learned the trade from Bedouin while in Arabia.

You’ll find support for these theories in the small book The Bible & The Bedouin by Doug Lentz.  It is fascinating stuff if you like biblical history.  Did we walk where Moses walked, where Joshua walked, where Paul maybe walked, in this remote place?  I don’t know for sure.  I do know that I want to walk with Jesus, and all such experiences help confirm the biblical accounts and draw me closer to him!
Cross Point: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and speak to the rock in their presence so that it will give forth its water’” (Numbers 20:7-8).
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