Desert FABLE


Bible literalists claim that purported ancient encampments along the supposed Exodus route, now visible using technology such as Google Earth, prove the biblical story to be true. Firstly, if these were the biblical sites, they would need to be enormous. Regarding the massive encampments of the Israelites and their animals, the latter of which is estimated to be at least the same as the number of Israelites, over 2 million,252 Wheless remarks:

Every one of the forty-two times the camp was pitched [Num 33:3], there must be suitable space found for some 250,000 tents, laid out [Num 2:3] regularly four-square around the holy tabernacle, after that was constructed, and with the necessary streets and passages, and proper spaces between the tents. A man in a coffin occupies about twelve square feet, six feet by two. Living people would not be packed in their tents like corpses in sardines; they must have at least, say, three times that space, thirty-six square feet or four square yards each. A tent to house ten persons with minimum decency must occupy therefore an average of forty square yards.

If the 241,420 such tents were set one against another, with no intervening space or separating streets, they would occupy 9,656,800 square yards, or over 1995 acres of ground, a little more than    three square miles.



Secondly, where did all the tents come from?  Were they part of the booty hauled all the way out from Egypt, where the Israelites supposedly lived in wooden houses with lintels?

Wheless estimated the amount of tents needed for his proposed 2,414,200 refugees would be at least 241,420 tents.  Who would have owned so many tents, or, if new, how did the Hebrews construct them all in the desert wilderness?

Exodus states the Israelites fled in a hurry, without even their bread raised; yet, they are depicted as hauling a huge amount of Egyptian gold and other precious artifacts, along with a mass of carts and animals and … apparently, an enormous quantity of tents.

39 With the dough the Israelites had brought from Egypt, they baked loaves of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.       Exodus 12:39

It is difficult to believe that the Israelites could find 42 different locations with that kind of space in this small desert. In this same regard, Leviticus 8:3–5 tells us that Yahweh commanded his congregation—the whole of Israel —to gather at the tabernacle doors; but to have two to three million people gather in that manner would seem totally impossible.

Regarding this tale, Dever concludes,

“There is simply no way that the Sinai Desert, then or now, could have supported more than a very few thousand nomads.”

3 and gather the entire assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” 4 Moses did as the Lord commanded him, and the assembly gathered at the entrance to the tent of meeting    Leviticus 8:3–4

Moreover, each one of these encampments would need to be excavated to show whether or not there are any artifacts from the proper time period, to determine if they were encampments also in antiquity. Any such artifacts would need to be linked scientifically to the biblical tale, in order to provide evidence of the story’s alleged historicity.

Even if there were an archaeological stratum from the proper era, the existence of these sites might suggest that whoever wrote the Exodus tale had taken or knew of a similar route, an act that could have occurred hundreds of years after the purported event. We highly doubt, however, that this individual(s) had with him two or three million people.

It is more likely that the route was devised centuries later, when the tale was composed (Babylonian Exile), using known encampments.  Or, possibly, some of these encampments were created as tourist spots, like those springing up whenever a sacred story is believed by a certain percentage of people. The fact that one of the more prominent encampments of the Exodus, Rephidim (Exod 17:1), is translated as “Resting Places” serves as an indication that we are dealing with a mythical tale.





The motif of wandering in the desert is found in the stories of Dionysus, Gilgamesh, John the Baptist, Jesus, the Indian godman Buddha and others, representing a typical plot-line to show the heroes overcoming of hardships. Like Moses, Gilgamesh arrives at the mountain of the divine lawgiver after “wandering and roaming all over the  wilderness.”   Although it may have other permutations and connotations, the myth essentially represents the journey of the sun, said to be desolate at various times of the year, depending on the location and era.

The same claim was made of the Persian king Cyrus, at that time the beloved “Christ” of the Jews, who saved them from Babylon.  According to the Bible: “Tradition said that Cyrus had once penetrated into Gedrosia on an expedition against the Indians, and had lost his entire army in the waterless and trackless desert…”

The Greek word for “wilderness” in the LXX and New Testament is ἐρῆμος erēmos, connoting something or someone “desolate, lonely, solitary,” a form of which was used hundreds of times in antiquity, including by the Greek playwright Aeschylus (525–456 BCE) to describe the mythical titan Prometheus on the “desolate and dreary crag” (PB 273).  Constantine Grethenbach was of the view that “Israel in the Mad-Debar or ‘wilderness’ has for its basis the popular myth of the hero’s descent into Hades.”  Certainly, Hades was considered to be a place of desolation; it is also the underworld, traditionally the place where the sun goes at night.


Another biblical contradiction occurs in repeated encampment episodes, presumably in “tents” as at Exodus 16:16, using the Hebrew word also employed to describe the Lord’s tabernacle. Yet, at Leviticus 23:40–43 we read that the Israelites were housed in the “booths” ( סכה cukkah).  Later this term was used for a spiritual retreat, particularly during the time of the fall Feast of the Tabernacles. These “booths” are made of “fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook,” NONE of which grows in the desert.

As we have seen, the quantity of tents needed would have been enormous—if these were all booths instead, there could NOT have been enough foliage in the desert to create them all.


Deuteronomy asserts that the clothing the Hebrews had on and fled with miraculously remained the same quality during the entire 40 years in the desert, also continuing to fit the children as they grew up during this time:

I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out upon you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet.       Deut 29:5

Thus, the Israelites had supernatural clothes and shoes that never wore out while walking in the desert sand.  And the clothes of the children grew with the children born during the four decades.  I guess the clothes comprised of the garments of those who died, which then magically shrank to fit the younger generation.


41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I     Lev 23:41-43

The writers of this fantastical fable wanted the sheeple people to believe the “living in the desert for 40 years” story is true, so they have God demanding of the people that they observe this chapter as a holiday to celebrate the miracles in their fairytale fiction as if they were true.  Sheeple love superhero stories.

The “God said” writers made the “Festival of Booths” one of the three major Jewish religious holidays. Didn’t it say in Exodus that the Isrealites dwelt in tents in the desert???  And the writers wanted to make the festival a big remembrance holiday so they made the holiday last seven days.

16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.      Deuteronomy 16:16

And of course  the sheeple shall not appear before God at the festival without some some money in their hand to give.  But note, this God order just applies to the men.

Moses arms held up


8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.  9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”     Exodus 17:8-9

12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.    13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.      Exodus 17:12-13

The Israelites are depicted as battling a “giant” people called the Amalekites—identified by later Arab chroniclers as Amorites and Canaanites—at a site where the children of Israel settled, again, conveniently called Rephidim or “Resting Places.”  During a decisive battle the Amalekites are portrayed as defeating the Israelites whenever Moses lowered his magical “God” rod.  When he raised his magical stick, the Isrealites would win!


The real heroes of the story is the rock chair and the two men holding up Moses’s hands, Aaron and Hur.  Without the heroic actions by the rock and those two men … the Isrealites would have been defeated!!!


If we discount the magic wand tricks and take the story at face value, is it possible that, the Amalekites, even if 15 feet tall, could have held off the 600,000 Israelite men of military age?  How many people would they have needed to do so? How were all these heathens Amalekites able to stay alive in the desert without manna and miraculously provided water, as was provided to Moses and the Israelites?

With 20 archers of military age on each Amalekite it doesn’t seems like the Isrealites would have a close battle at all.  That would be 600,000 Isrealites divided by 20 equals 30,000 dead Amalekites.  How many tall Amalekites were there in that small area anyway???  And that would be just the first wave of the Isrealite attack.

And why could not the all-powerful Yahweh make the Amalekites magically disappear, rather than putting Moses to all the trouble, costing Israelite lives?  After all, it’s a fairy tale anyway.


Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”      Exodus 18:16

Another mix up of time periods by the writers of this fiction occurs at the above Exodus verse, when Moses is to judge the people according to “the statutes of Elohim and his Torah.”  Yet, according to the Bible this event occurred before Moses had received the commandments on Mt. Sinai (Exod 20).  Earlier at Exodus 15:26, Yahweh had spoken of his commandments and statutes, but he had not given them all to Moses yet, such that the Moses could act as a judge using the Torah.

26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”      Exodus 15:26

Because Moses is worn out,  his Midianite father-in-law, Jethro, suggests that he appoint judges to do this work for him (Exod 18:17-25), again even though they did not have the Torah to judge by.  Moses takes Jethro’s advice but later lays claim to the idea himself (Deut 1:9–19).

17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.      Exod 18:17-18



22 Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.”     Exodus 19:22

24 The Lord replied, “Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them.     Exodus 19:24

Exodus 19:22 and 24 anachronistically speak of “priests” before any such individuals ever had been ordained. The first ordination of Aaron and his two sons—the only priests during the Exodus—occurs at Exodus 28:1.

1 “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests.      Exodus 28:1

At this point, Wheless remarks:

As further proof of there being no priests yet, we find Moses, after delivering the first batch of “law” [Exod 24:4–5], himself building an altar under the hill, and twelve phallic mazzeboth, and sending “young men of the children of Israel” to do the priestly job of making burnt offerings and sacrificing peace-offerings unto Yahveh; for all the Chosen were at that time a “kingdom of priests”
[Exod 19:6]—every man his own priest. And Brother Aaron, as a priest, during Moses’ next forty-day sojourn up on the mountain, made gods of the golden calves, and sacrificed to them, thus again proving that there was no “law” as to “priests of Yahveh,” and that “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” was not yet law.

The word  מצבה matstsebah is rendered generally as “pillar,” here taken to be a phallic symbol, which indeed were common in antiquity, including in the Levant.

you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”       Exodus 19:6

1 “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests.      Exodus 28:1

Despite the declaration of the above verse in Exodus that the Israelites as a whole were a “nation of priests,” at Exodus 28:1 we are told that only Aaron and his sons can be priests. There follows in Exodus 28 and elsewhere a long description of the fancy, gold-laced vestments with jewels that the starving Israelites must put together, all in the desert and only for Aaron and his sons.

… They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests.      Exodus 28:4

The whole Exodus chapter 28 is “God” detailing out how he wants the garment getup to look.  God has specific tastes in priestly regalia.  Who is to question God’s tastes?

One wonders, of course, where the resources for these costly priestly accoutrements came from, perhaps part of the Egyptian booty, the latter a clearly fictional detail possibly included in order to explain where this finery came from in the desert.




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