Baal Zephon

BAAL ZEPHON (bā'ăl zē'fŏn, Heb. ba‘al tsephôn, lord of the north). A place near which the Israelites encamped just before they crossed the Red Sea (Exod.14.2, Exod.14.9; Num.33.7). The site is unknown.


BAAL-ZEPHON bāl ze’ fŏn (בַּ֣עַל צְפֹ֔ן, Baal of the North). A place by the Red Sea near which the people of Israel encamped before crossing the sea (Exod 14:2). They appeared trapped in a place described as “before Baal-zephon,” between Migdol and the sea, “before Pihahiroth.” This place was so shut off that Pharaoh would believe that the Israelites would be entangled in the land, shut in by the wilderness (14:3). One can assume that they were on a peninsula. (Compare Exod 14:9 and Num 33:7.) It was from this place that the people viewed the approaching army of Pharaoh. Some cried out against Moses for leading them into a trap. Moses stood firm before the people and challenged them to trust God at this time. From here they crossed the sea on dry land and at this point the armies of Egypt entered in pursuit, only to be swallowed up by the sea.

The name means “Baal of the North.” There is a well-known god of the same name known from Ugaritic lit. This god is clearly associated with the Egyp. port of Tahpanhes. Jeremiah was later taken by force to this port by the retreating Jews of Jerusalem who refused to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar.

The exact location of Baal-zephon is not known. It was prob. either on the Mediterranean Sea at Tahpanhes, twenty-two m. SE of Rameses or to the SE of that spot. Tahpanhes is the Tell Defneh located at the N end of the Isthmus.

Bibliography

H. Rowley, The Old Testament and Modern Study (1951), 46; W. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (1957), 14, 242; D. Thomas, Documents from Old Testament Times (1958), 132, 213; J. Simons, The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament (1959), 239, 242, 249; W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (1961), 200-203, 224ff; C. Pfeiffer, Patriarchal Age (1961), 64; J. Thompson, The Bible and Archaeology (1962), 64; C. Pfeiffer, Egypt and the Exodus (1964), 52, 53.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ba`al tsephon; Beelsepphon; (Ex 14:2,9; Nu 33:7): The name means "Lord of the North," and the place was opposite the Hebrew camp, which was between Migdol and the sea. It may have been the shrine of a Semitic deity, but the position is unknown (see Exodus). Goodwin (see Brugsch, Hist. Egt., II, 363) found the name Baali-Zapuna as that of a god mentioned in an Egyptian papyrus in the British Museum.