On Heroopolis and Pithom

A couple months ago, I concluded that, as it is universally agreed that there was no city called Pithom before the Late Period, Pithom as a city mentioned outside the Bible could only be identified with Tell el-Maskhuta, the ancient Heroopolis. Though it is possible that the Biblical Pithom may have been the name of the temple at Tell el-Retabeh applied to the city, outside the Bible, Pithom as a city-name (not as a temple-name) simply cannot be Tell el-Retabeh. Consequently, as “Tjeku” is known to be mentioned as a city-name during the New Kingdom, it is most likely that Tell el-Retabeh was known as the sgr of Tjeku during the New Kingdom. Thus, I find that the identifications of Hoffmeier and Kitchen need to be reversed: Retabeh was the ancient city of Tjeku/Succoth; Maskhuta was the ancient city of Patomos/Pithom. I presume that the name “Maskhuta” preserves the name “Succoth” due to “Tjeku” continuing to be the Egyptian name of the Wadi Tumilat into the Roman period.


1206 BC- Shasu of Edom pass the Fort of Merenptah which is in Succoth to reach the Pools of Pithom of Merenptah which is/are in Succoth, probably at Tell el-Retabeh, 30°32’53″N, 31°57’50″E.

Pre-Saite-The Israelites journey from Rameses and encamp in Succoth and after leaving Succoth they camp in Etham on the edge of the desert.

Saite-Necho builds Tell el-Maskhuta, 30°33’8″N, 32° 5’57″E. Retabeh is abandoned.

309-246 BC-Ptolemy II mentions Pithom and Succoth as cities in a stele found at Maskhuta. The Septuagint mentions Heroopolis as the city of the land of Ramesses Judah went before when he met Joseph.

15 AD-Strabo mentions Heroopolis as a city near the Gulf of Suez.

Early 2nd century-Ptolemy mentions Heroopolis as a city near the Gulf of Suez.

280s AD-The Itinerary of Antonius goes as thus: From Babylon to Heliopolis-58,000 feet/XII miles

From Heliopolis to Scenae Veteranorum-87,000 feet/XVIII miles or 67,700 feet/XIV miles

From Scenae Veteranorum to Vicus Judaeorum-58,000 feet/XII miles

From Vicus Judaeorum to Thou/Tohu-58,000 feet/XII miles

From Thou to Heroopolis-116,000 feet/XXIV miles

From Heroopolis to Serapeum-97,000 feet/XVII miles

From Serapeum to Clysma-242,000 feet/L miles

303-305 AD Milestone found at Maskhuta states: “From Ero to Clysma, 9 miles”, proving Ero is near Retabeh, or that there was a ‘Clysma’ where the Nile-Red Sea canal flowed into Lake Timsah. I suspect the latter possibility is more likely.

Early 5th century- Egeria says: “The city of Pithom, which the children of Israel built, was shown to us on the same journey at the place where, leaving the lands of the Saracens, we entered the territory of Egypt; the same Pithom is now a fort. The city of Hero, which existed at the time when Joseph met his father Jacob as he came, as it is written in the book of Genesis, is now a come,4 though a large one–a village as we say. This village has a church and martyr-memorials, and many cells of holy monks, so that we had to alight to see each of them, in accordance with the custom which we had. The village is now called Hero; it is situated at the sixteenth milestone from the land of Goshen, and it is within the boundaries of Egypt; moreover, it is a very pleasant spot, for an arm of the Nile flows there.”

4th Century-Coptic translation of the Septuagint translates “Heroopolis” as “Pithom”.

Why Exodus Is 1st Millennium BC

1. The Land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived (Exodus 9:26) was in the area of Pithom/Tell Retabeh and Ramesses/Qantir, east of the Pelusiac (Ex 1:11).

2. Pharaoh’s residence was hit by the plague of flies, while Goshen was not (Ex 8:21-24). Since the Israelites lived in Ramesses/Qantir, the capital during the time of writing of Exodus could not have been the Ramesside capital, Pi-Ramesse/Ramesses, and was certainly west of the Pelusiac.

3. According to Ex 7:15, the Exodus capital was on the bank of the Nile. According to Ex 12:31-41, one could leave Egypt from the capital in less than a night. There was an implied proximity between the capital and Goshen. Psalm 78:12, 43, confirms the identification of the Exodus capital with Zoan/Tanis.