The Flight Of The Holy Family From Bethlehem To Egypt

“And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” Matthew 2:1-15

We know from the Word of God that when Jesus’ life was threatened as a child, Joseph was instructed to take the Lord and His mother, the Virgin Mary to Egypt.

For any that may be interested, the following is the route they most likely took based on scriptural, historical, archeological and traditional Church records, all of which generally agree.

I have posted this not as a doctrinal statement as the exact details of the route have no specific bearing in relation to salvation, nor can they be 100% verified to everyone’s satisfaction.

However, if any here are ever blessed to visit Egypt, it might be of interest to know where Christ had been and a little of His journey or perhaps some might simply like to know, particularly when Egypt is the only country, other than Israel, where He ever went.

Upon leaving Bethlehem, the Holy Family, consisting of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, Joseph and Salome, the midwife who had helped deliver Jesus stayed for an unknown period in a grotto to the south-east of where Christ was born, known to the Arabs as “Magharet-El-Sayidah”.

From there, the Holy Family went to the ancient philistine city and seaport of Ashkelon on the Mediterranean Sea, where Samson killed thirty of their men.

“And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house.” Judges 14:19

From there, they proceeded in an almost easterly direction to Hebron. Then they went to Gaza about 40 kilometers to the western direction, where there is the site of the ancient canaanite stronghold of Gaza, By taking the route which runs parallel to the shore of the sea, they would have crossed, in two hours, the valley of Gaza.

After about a day’s journey from Gaza. The Holy Family arrived in the ancient township of Jenysos. Today, this village is known as “Khan Yunis”, which is a part of the Gaza Strip.

By walking continually on the route, they would have arrived at Raphia (Rafah), the frontier town between the Gaza Strip and the province of Egypt.

(Raphia, which had been the battleground of the contending forces of Ptolemy IV and Antiochus The Great in 217B.C, was conquered by Alexander Jannaeuqthe Maccabee and annexed to Judea. It was restored again, however, to Egypt by Gabinus.)

After continuing another 44 kilometers, along the caravan- route, about two days of traveling, the Holy Family crossed a stream, the valley of AI-Arish, which formed the natural boundary between Egypt and Palestine.

After crossing into Egypt, the Holy Family would have arrived at the city of Rhinocolura, the present “AI-Arish”. Then the town of Ostrakini, which although no longer standing is the location of a village called Straki.

They most likely visited the celebrated city of Pelusium (AI-Farama), a seaport and major center situated at the southwestern end of the caravan-route from Judea to Egypt.

Next, the Holy Family would have most probably crossed the narrow isthmus at Al-Quantara, to-day a small village along the Suez Canal. It was over this isthmus, which separates Lake Manzala from Lake Ballah that the ancient caravan-route from Judea to Egypt passed.

This was also the route used by Abraham and Jacob. Following in the biblical pattern, the Holy Family entered the province of Goshen, the present El-Sharkia Governorate.

The first town they visited, now being in the Nile Delta, was Bubastis (Tell Basta), 2 kilometers south of Zagazig. According to Church tradition, they were not well received in this town, therefore they went a day's journey further southwards, and reached the town of Bilbais, alongside the modern lsmailia Canal.

As a point of interest, even up to today, Christianity has not been well received in this area and there is only one Church that has survived the persecutions etc. being the “Church of St. George” in the northeastern part of the town, about one kilometer from the main road.

The Holy Family continued northwards until they reached the town of Sebennytos (Samannud), on the Westside of the Damietta branch of the Nile.

A local tradition in Samannud relates that the present church of Abba-Nub
was built on the ruins of an ancient church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which in turn, was built on the site where The Holy Family stayed.

Having crossed the Damietta branch of the Nile, the Holy Family traveled westwards till they reached to a place where the present town of Sakha is situated, about two kilometers south of Kafr-al-Shaikh.

While at this place, Church tradition states that Jesus put his foot upon a stone, and the mark of the sole of his foot remained upon the rock, and the place became known as “(B)ikha lsous” in Coptic (Egyptian), meaning, “The foot print of Jesus”. This stone was reportedly found in 1986 A.D. while workers were digging around the church, having no indication of any tool marks to have caused the footprint.

After Bikha Isous, The Holy Family traveled westwards and crossed the Rosetta branch of the Nile, where they would have been able to see from afar the Desert of Scetis (The Wadi-AI-Natrun). The town which is nearest to the desert of scetis is Terenouti (AI-Tarrana).

Continuing their journey southwards, the Holy Family crossed the river Nile until they reached the city of On, the Biblical Beth-Shams (Heliopolis), near Matariyah, the modern suburb of Cairo.

From there, the Holy Family went to a locality, where the church of the Blessed Virgin in the Harat Zuwaila of Cairo, now stands, in the modern suburb of Zeitoun in northeastern Cairo. This is also the location where from 1968 many sightings of an apparition of St. Mary were seen by many thousands of witnesses, of all Christian denominations, Muslims, foreigners. reporters, reportedly everyone who looked.

(If any would like more information on this, a Google search on the word “Zeitoun” will find plenty, including photos etc. I have also posted a brief account here on this site)

Continuing southwards, The Holy Family passed the fortress of Babylon (not the original biblical city of “Babylon”), which commanded the route of Upper Egypt, where they halted on their return to Palestine.

Twelve kilometers south of Cairo, at Maadi, on the bank of the Nile, the Holy Family took a sailing boat further southwards along the river.

After this, they most likely passed the village of lshnin AI-Nasarah, about twelve kilometers south-west of Maghagha on their way to Baysus (Dair AI-Ganus), about seven kilometers west of Ishnin.

Then they probably went to the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus, the present town of AI-Bahnasa, about ten kilometers in a southerly direction, on the edge of the desert,

Near the ancient Cynopolis, the present village of AIKais, the Holy Family took a boat to travel southwards for about thirty kilometers where they passed Gabal AITair, which is almost opposite Samalut and Bayahu.

From Gabal AI-Tair, The Holy Family continued southwards, passing on their way the port of Khoufou, the present Minya, then the rock temple of the goddess Pekhet, called by the Greeks “Speos Artemidos”, on the site of which is the present village of Bani Hassan Ash-Shuruq.

Finally, they passed the Temple of Ramses II, on the ruins of which the Roman Emperor Hadrian built the town of Antinoupolis, in 130A.D.This site is occupied by the present village of the Shaikh Abadah.

Opposite the ruins of Antinoupolis there is the town of Ar-Roda, which is built on the site where the Holy Family disembarked, in order to proceed to the famous city of Khmunu, the Hermopolis Magna of the Greeks, at present the village of AI-Ashmunain.

The Holy Family then stayed for few days in Manlau, the present town of Mallawi, about ten kilometers southwards,

Two days further traveling in a southerly direction would have brought the Holy Family to the town of Kenis, (Nikyas, Funkus) the present Dairut AI-Sharif. According to tradition, the inhabitants of this town were very charitable, and the Holy Family remained there for several days.

From there, the Holy Family traveled via Pepleu, the present Beblaw, to the town of Sanabo. Thereupon, the Holy Family entered the city of Cusae or Qusquam, nowadays the town of AI-Qusia, where according to tradition, a number of pagan priests threatened them, so the Holy Family left that place and traveled about six kilometers to the west and rested in the locality of the present town of Meir.

After this, the Holy Family stayed about six months near a well located about eight kilometers south of Meir and this place is known as the Dair AI-Muharraq.

According to the local tradition, the southem-most place visited by the Holy Family was ten kilometers southwest of the ancient Lycopolis (Asyut), at Establ Antar, a mountain range rising west of Asyut. The Holy Family stayed there in the large rock-tombs of the IXth to the XIIth Dynasty.

Today there is a Church at Dair al-Adra, east of the cave in which the Holy Family rested. From Asyut, the Holy Family then returned to the site of the present Dair al-Muharraq.

On their return, the Holy Family lodged in a cave, which is to-day situated beneath the church of St.Sergius, in old Cairo. This cave of the
Holy Family was a site, which was included in many of the itineraries
of mediaeval pilgrims to the Holy Land.

From here, the Holy Family continued their way northwards, stopping again at On, near the site of the present al-Matariyah.

According to tradition, while at this place the Holy Family is supposed to have found shelter under the shade of a sycamore tree. Reportedly, it is this same tree that stands in a small garden enclosed by a wall, just before the Church of Matariyah.

The next place the Holy Family visited on their return to Palestine, was al-Mahammah , or “the place of bathing”, the present Musturud, about 3 kilometers west of Matariyah,

From al-Mahammah, the next halting place of the Holy Family was Leontopolis, known to-day as the ruins of Tall al-Yahudiyah, near Shebin El-Kanater.

From there, the Holy Family returned to Palestine along the same route
they had used to come to Egypt, passing through Bilbais and crossing the isthmus at al-Qantara, and then traveling on the caravan-route from Egypt to Palestine, along the Mediterranean coast.

According to a local tradition, the Holy Family rested for several days near Gaza, in a garden between the Gabal Muntar and Gaza, before entering Palestine.

“But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 2:22-23

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