Alice C. Linsley
The Horus Way was the southern section of the Way of the Sea (derek hayyam) mentioned in Isaiah 9:1. It was a military road that ran through Tharu (Tjaru/Sile) in the Sinai and Rafah in Gaza, joining the Nile Valley to the Levant. There were numerous Egyptian fortifications along the Horus Way. The Egyptians exercised control over much of the land of Canaan for a long time.
Exodus 14:2 says the Israelites crossed near Migdol. Migdol is an archaic word for a fortification. This is likely the Migdol of Men-maat-re (Seti I), the third named fort along the ancient Horus Way. The Horite Hebrew would have known of this route. The place of crossing is a shallow marshy lake which recedes when the wind blows at 40-50 mph for more than 5 hours. As with all the miraculous signs described in Exodus, the miracle is in the timing.
The Egyptians had fortified settlements at many locations. During the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2200–1500 BC) as much as 70% of the populations of Canaan lived in these fortified towns. Tell el-‘Ajjul is one example. Another is the fortified city of Gezer with its gate, tower, and protected water system. These would have been built under the direction of the ruler of the area, probably a vassal of the Pharaoh. The Judean high places were under the control of Egypt from about 2000 to 1178 BC. The tenth century BC Gezer Calendar appears to reflect Nilotic farming practices.
The Egyptians built shrines and temples wherever they went. The first New Kingdom temple ever found in northern Sinai has been located at Tharu. There was a shrine dedicated to Horus with the image of a lion.
On Seti I's relief at the Karnak complex, a map of the Horus Way shows 11 forts and a north-south reed lined waterway called “ta denit” (the dividing waters). Likely, there were Horus shrines at all of these forts and these would have been attended by a caste of Horus priests called Horites or Horim. They are also sometimes called Ha-biru (Hebrew).
A part of Seti I's relief shows him herding captives before his chariot. He approaches a north-south canal or waterway with reeds and crocodiles and Egyptian buildings. Some believe that Tharu was on the east side of this waterway. Max Muller said that "no town of the eastern delta frontier has a greater importance than Tharu [i.e. Tjaru], which was not only its largest town, but also the principal point for the defense of the entrance to Egypt, therefore also for the military and mercantile roads to the East." (James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, 1997: 184.)
The Egyptians also built Horus temples in their administrative centers such as Beit She’an on the Jordan. A large Canaanite temple excavated by the University of Pennsylvania Museum may date from about the period as Thutmose III’s conquest, but excavations done by The Hebrew University indicate that this temple was built upon an older one. The excavation included three monumental basalt stelae with inscriptions from the reign of Seti I and Ramsess II, a life-size statue of Ramsess III, and numerous other Egyptian stelae and inscriptions, which constitute the most significant assemblage of Egyptian monuments ever found in Israel. Of special interest is the discovery near the temple of a basalt relief depicting two combat scenes between a lion and a dog.
Beit She'an was called Scythopolis by the Greeks. Beit She'an was also called Beth-abarah (House of the Ford) because it was opposite the ford in the Jordan. The Arabic word for ford is abarah. Sir George Grove in Dictionary of the Bible identifies Bethabarah as Beth Nimrah, a few miles above Jericho. Jesus was probably baptized here by John.