“Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea. They went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it is called Marah. The people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ He cried out to Yahweh. Yahweh showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.”
Now begins the desert journey as they are free from Egypt. They went out into the wilderness of Shur, which is on the eastern border of Egypt. Both Abraham and Hagar had visited here on their way to Egypt. Three days later they arrived at Marah, a place of bitter water. They could not drink the water so they began to complain to Moses. Yahweh told Moses to take a piece of wood and throw it into the water, and the water would become sweet. He did that and the problem was solved.
“There Yahweh made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of Yahweh your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians. I am Yahweh, who heals you.’ Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. They camped there by the water.”
God said to them they would have to listen or he might bring the diseases that he sent on the Egyptians. Then good news, they came to Elim, where there were 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees, so they camped there. Elim has been identified as Wadi Ghurundel in the southwest Suez area. Both of these places may have been pretty close to the Egyptian border.