Science: Why Moses Went the Long Way

A find in Gaza sheds new light on the riddle of the Exodus

The biblical account of the Exodus does not answer a tantalizing question. Why did Moses turn right when he reached the Sinai, taking his flock on an arid, roundabout 40-year odyssey, instead of heading directly along the Mediterranean coast to the promised land?

The Old Testament hints that Moses headed inland to avoid a confrontation with the Philistines. Yet archaeological findings have long indicated that at the time of the Exodus—about the 13th century B.C.—the Philistines had not yet established themselves in the coastal region around Gaza. Now after nearly...

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