(Baʹal-zeʹphon) [lord of the north, or, lord of the watchtower].
A geographical point used to define or give the situation of the camping site of the Israelites at Pihahiroth prior to their crossing the Red Sea. (Ex. 14:2; Num. 33:1-7) Having left Rameses, they first camped at Succoth, then at Etham “at the edge of the wilderness.” (Ex. 13:20) At this point Jehovah told them to “turn back and encamp before Pihahiroth between Migdol and the sea in view of Baal-zephon.” It was here that Pharaoh’s charioteers, cavalry, and military forces began to overtake them.—Ex. 14:2, 9.
The location of Baal-zephon is uncertain. It was evidently a familiar place at that time, thus serving to identify clearly the position of the Israelites at that point of the historic event. Some have tried to identify the place by connecting the name with that of a Canaanite god Baal-zephon and places in Egypt where his worship was practiced. However, the evidence shows his worship to have been practiced in numerous parts of Egypt as far south as Memphis, so that this gives little basis for identifying the site.
The major factor is, of course, the Israelite’s crossing of the Red Sea, the account of which shows that they went through a body of water of considerable depth. Such situation is found only when reaching as far S as the northern end of the Gulf of Suez. On this basis some scholars associate Baal-zephon with the mountains in that region. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Brown, Driver and Briggs (p. 128) says: “near Red Sea in Egypt, prob[ably] Mt. ʽAtaka, . . . ” This mountain lies near the head of the Gulf of Suez, a short distance to the SW of the present city of Suez. Others suggest Jebel el Galala, some twenty-five miles (40 kilometers) or so farther S. Those favoring this site believe that Migdol, mentioned along with Baal-zephon in the accounts, was a watchtower located strategically on Jebel (Mount) Ataka.—See EXODUS; PIHAHIROTH.