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Red Sea

Red Sea [N] [S]

The sea so called extends along the west coast of Arabia for about 1,400 miles, and separates Asia from Africa. It is connected with the Indian Ocean, of which it is an arm, by the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb. At a point (Ras Mohammed) about 200 miles from its nothern extremity it is divided into two arms, that on the east called the AElanitic Gulf, now the Bahr el-'Akabah, about 100 miles long by 15 broad, and that on the west the Gulf of Suez, about 150 miles long by about 20 broad. This branch is now connected with the Mediterranean by the Suez Canal. Between these two arms lies the Sinaitic Peninsula.

The Hebrew name generally given to this sea is Yam Suph . This word suph means a woolly kind of sea-weed, which the sea casts up in great abundance on its shores. In these passages, Exodus 10:19 ; 13:18 ; Exodus 15:4 Exodus 15:22 ; 23:31 ; Numbers 14:25 , etc., the Hebrew name is always translated "Red Sea," which was the name given to it by the Greeks. The origin of this name (Red Sea) is uncertain. Some think it is derived from the red colour of the mountains on the western shore; others from the red coral found in the sea, or the red appearance sometimes given to the water by certain zoophytes floating in it. In the New Testament ( Acts 7:36 ; Hebrews 11:29 ) this name is given to the Gulf of Suez.

This sea was also called by the Hebrews Yam-mitstraim, i.e., "the Egyptian sea" ( Isaiah 11:15 ), and simply Ha-yam, "the sea" ( Exodus 14:2 Exodus 14:9 Exodus 14:16 Exodus 14:21 Exodus 14:28 ; Joshua 24:6 Joshua 24:7 ; Isaiah 10:26 , etc.).

The great historical event connected with the Red Sea is the passage of the children of Israel, and the overthrow of the Egyptians, to which there is frequent reference in Scripture ( Exodus 1415 ,15; Numbers 33:8 ; Deuteronomy 11:4 ; Joshua 2:10 ; Judges 11:16 ; 2 Sam 22:16 ; Nehemiah 9:9-11 ; Psalms 66:6 ; Isaiah 10:26 ; Acts 7:36 , etc.).

These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Red Sea". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .

Red Sea [N] [E]

  1. Name. --The sea known to us as the Red Sea was by the Israelites called "the sea," ( Exodus 14:2 Exodus 14:9 Exodus 14:16 Exodus 14:21 Exodus 14:28 ; Exodus 15:1 Exodus 15:4 Exodus 15:8 Exodus 15:10 Exodus 15:19 ; Joshua 24:6 Joshua 24:7 ) and many other passages, and specially "the sea of Suph ." ( Exodus 10:19 ; 13:18 ; Exodus 15:4 Exodus 15:22 ; 23:31 ; Numbers 14:25 ) etc. This word signifies a sea-weed resembling wool , and such sea-weed is thrown up abundantly on the shores of the Red Sea; hence Brugsch calls it the sea of reeds or weeds . The color of the water is not red. Ebers says that it is of a lovely blue-green color, and named Red either from its red banks or from the Erythraeans, who were called the red people.
  2. Physical description . --In extreme length the Red Sea stretches from the straits of Bab el-Mendeb (or rather Ras Bab el-Mendeb), 18 miles wide. in lat. 12 degrees 40 N., to the modern head of the Gulf of Suez, lat. 30 degrees N., a distance of 1450 miles. Its greatest width may be stated at about 210 miles. At Ras Mohammed, on the north, the Red Sea is split by the granitic peninsula of Sinai into two gulfs; the westernmost, or Gulf of Suez, is now about 150 miles in length, with an average width of about 20, though it contracts to less than 10 miles; the easternmost or Gulf of el-Akabeh, is about 100 miles long, from the Straits of Tiran to the Akabeh, and 15 miles wide. The average depth of the Red Sea is from 2500 to 3500 feet, though in places it is 6000 feet deep. Journeying southward from Suez, on our left is the peninsula of Sinai; on the right is the desert coast of Egypt, of limestone formation like the greater part of the Nile valley in Egypt, the cliffs on the sea margin stretching landward in a great rocky plateau while more inland a chain of volcanic mountains, beginning about lat. 28 degrees 4 and running south, rear their lofty peaks at intervals above the limestone, generally about 15 miles distant.
  3. Ancient limits. --The most important change in the Red Sea has been the drying up of its northern extremity, "the tongue of the Egyptian Sea." about the head of the gulf has risen and that near the Mediterranean become depressed. The head of the gulf has consequently retired gradually since the Christian era. Thus the prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled, ( Isaiah 11:15 ; 10:5 ) the tongue of the Red Sea has dried up for a distance of at least 50 miles from its ancient head. An ancient canal conveyed the waters of the Nile to the Red Sea, flowing through the Wadi-t Tumeylat and irrigating with its system of water-channels a large extent of country. It was 62 Roman miles long, 54 feet wide and 7 feet deep. The drying up of the head of the gulf appears to have been one of the chief causes of the neglect and ruin of this canal. The country, for the distance above indicated, is now a desert of gravelly sand, with wide patches about the old sea-bottom, of rank marsh land, now called the "Bitter Lakes." At the northern extremity of this salt waste is a small lake, sometimes called the Lake of Heropolis; the lake is now Birket-et-Timsah "the lake of the crocodile," and is supposed to mark the ancient head of the gulf. The canal that connected this with the Nile was of Pharaonic origin. It was anciently known as the "Fossa Regum" and the "canal of Hero." The time at which the canal was extended, after the drying up of the head of the gulf, to the present head is uncertain, but it must have been late, and probably since the Mohammedan conquest. Traces of the ancient channel throughout its entire length to the vicinity of Bubastis exist at intervals in the present day. The land north of the ancient gulf is a plain of heavy sand, merging into marsh-land near the Mediterranean coast, and extending to Palestine. This region, including Wadi-t-Tumeylat , was probably the frontier land occupied in pact by the Israelites, and open to the incursions of the wild tribes of the Arabian desert.
  4. Navigation. --The sea, from its dangers and sterile shores, is entirely destitute of boats. The coral of the Red Sea is remarkably abundant, and beautifully colored and variegated; but it forms so many reefs and islands along the shores that navigation is very dangerous, and the shores are chiefly barren rock and sand, and therefore very sparsely inhabited so that there are but three cities along the whole 1450 miles of its west coast --Suez, at the head, a city of 14,000 inhabitants; Sanakin, belonging to Soudan, of 10,000; and Massau, in Albyssinia, of 5000. Only two ports, Elath and Ezion-geber, are mentioned in the Bible. The earliest navigation of the Red Sea (passing by the pre-historical Phoenicians) is mentioned by Herodotus: --"Seostris (Rameses II.) was the first who passing the Arabian Gulf in a fleet of long vessels, reduced under his authority the inhabitants of the coast bordering the Erythrean Sea." Three centuries later, Solomons navy was built "in Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea (Yam Suph), in the land of Edom." ( 1 Kings 9:20 ) The kingdom of Solomon extended as far as the Red Sea, upon which he possessed the harbors of Elath and Ezion-geber. [ELATH; EZION-GEBER] It is possible that the sea has retired here as at Suez, and that Ezion-geber is now dry land. Jehoshaphat also "made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold; but they went not; for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber." ( 1 Kings 22:48 ) The scene of this wreck has been supposed to be Edh-Dhahab. The fleets appear to have sailed about the autumnal equinox, and returned in December or the middle of January. The Red Sea, as it possessed for many centuries the most important sea-trade of the East contained ports of celebrity. The Heroopolite Gulf (Gulf of Suez) is of the chief interest; it was near to Goshen, it was the scene of the passage of the Red Sea, and it was the "tongue of the Egyptian Sea." It was also the seat of the Egyptian trade in this sea and to the Indian Ocean.
  5. Passage of the Red Sea . --The passage of the Red Sea was the crisis of the exodus. It is usual to suppose that the most northern place at which the Red Sea could have been crossed is the present head of the Gulf of Suez. This supposition depends upon the erroneous idea that in the time of Moses the gulf did not extend farther to the northward then at present. An examination of the country north of Suez has shown, however, that the sea has receded many miles. The old bed is indicated by the Birket-et Timsah , or "lake of the crocodile," and the more southern Bitter Lakes, the northernmost part of the former probably corresponding to the head of it the at the time of the exodus. It is necessary to endeavor to ascertain the route of the Israelites before we can attempt to discover where they crossed the sea. The point from which they started was Rameses, a place certain in the land of Goshen, which we identified with the Wadi-t-Tumeylat . They encamped at Succoth. At the end of the second days journey the camping place was at Etham, "in the edge of the wilderness." ( Exodus 13:20 ; Numbers 33:6 ) Here the Wadi-t-Tumeylat was probably left, as it is cultivable and terminates in the desert. At the end of the third days march for each camping place seems to mark the close of a days journey the Israelites encamped by the sea, place of this last encampment and that of the passage would be not very far from the Persepolitan monument at Pihahiroth. It appears that Migdol was behind Pi-hahiroth and on the other hand Baalzephon and the sea. From Pi-hahiroth the Israelites crossed the sea. This was not far from halfway between the Bitter Lakes and the Gulf of Suez, where now it is dry land. The Muslims suppose Memphis to have been the city at which the Pharaoh of the exodus resided before that event occurred. From opposite Memphis a broad valley leads to the Red Sea. It is in part called the Wadi-t-Teeh , or "Valley of the Wandering." From it the traveller reaches the sea beneath the lofty Gebel-et-Takah , which rises in the north and shuts off all escape in that direction excepting by a narrow way along the seashore, which Pharaoh might have occupied. The sea here is broad and deep, as the narrative is generally held to imply. All the local features seem suited for a great event. The only points bearing on geography in the account of this event are that the sea was divided by an east wind. Whence we may reasonably infer that it was crossed from west to east, and that the whole Egyptian army perished, which shows that it must have been some miles broad. On the whole we may reasonably suppose about twelve miles as the smallest breadth of the sea. The narrative distinctly states that a path was made through the sea, and that the waters were a wall on either hand. The term "wall" does not appear to oblige us to suppose, as many have done, that the sea stood up like a cliff on either side, but should rather be considered to mean a barrier, as the former idea implies a seemingly needless addition to the miracle, while the latter seems to be not discordant with the language of the narrative. It was during the night that the Israelites crossed, and the Egyptians followed. In the morning watch, the last third or fourth of the night, or the period before sunrise Pharaohs army was in full pursuit in the divided sea, and was there miraculously troubled, so that the Egyptians sought to flee. ( Exodus 14:23-25 ) Then was Moses commanded again to stretch out his hand and the sea returned to its strength, and overwhelmed the Egyptians, of whom not one remained alive, Ibid. 26-28. (But on the whole it is becoming more probable that the place where the Israelites crossed "was near the town of Suez, on extensive shoals which run toward the southeast, in the direction of Ayim Musa (the Wells of Moses). The distance is about three miles at high tide. This is the most probable thee Near here Napoleon, deceived by the tidal wave, attempted to cross in 1799, and nearly met the fate of Pharaoh. But an army of 600,000 could of course never have crossed it without a miracle."--Schaffs Through Bible Lands . Several routes and places of crossing advocated by learned Egyptologists can be clearly seen by the accompanying maps. The latest theory is that which Brugsch-bey has lately revived that the word translated Red Sea is "Sea of Reeds or Weeds," and refers to the Serbonian bog in the northeastern part of Egypt, and that the Israelites crossed here instead of the Red Sea. "A gulf profound, as that Serbonian bog . . . where armies whole have sunk." --Milton. And among these armies that of Artarerxes, king of Persia, B.C. 350. But it is very difficult to make this agree with the Bible narrative, and if is the least satisfactory of all the theories. --ED.)

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Red Sea'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.

RED SEA

(yam-cuph (Exodus 10:19 and often), but in many passages it is simply hayam, "the sea"' Septuagint with 2 or 3 exceptions renders it by he eruthra thalassa, "the Red Sea"; Latin geographers Mare Rubrum):

1. Name

2. Peculiarities

3. Old Testament References

4. Passage through the Red Sea by the Israelites

Objections

(1) Steep Banks of the Channel

(2) Walls Formed by the Water

(3) The East Winds

(4) The Miraculous Set Aside

LITERATURE

1. Name:

The Hebrew name yam-cuph has given rise to much controversy. Yam is the general word for sea, and when standing alone may refer to the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, or the Sea of Galilee. In several places it designates the river Nile or Euphrates. Cuph means a rush or seaweed such as abounds in the lower portions of the Nile and the upper portions of the Red Sea. It was in the cuph on the brink of the river that the ark of Moses was hidden (Exodus 2:3,5). But as this word does not in itself mean red, and as that is not the color of the bulrush, authorities are much divided as to the reason for this designation. Some have supposed that it was called red from the appearance of the mountains on the western coast, others from the red color given to the water by the presence of zoophytes, or red coral, or some species of seaweed. Others still, with considerable probability, suppose that the name originated in the red or copper color of the inhabitants of the bordering Arabian peninsula. But the name yam-cuph, though applied to the whole sea, was especially used with reference to the northern part, which is alone mentioned in the Bible, and to the two gulfs (Suez and Aqabah) which border the Sinaitic Peninsula, especially the Gulf of Suez.

2. Pecularities:

The Red Sea has a length of 1,350 miles and an extreme breadth of 205 miles. It is remarkable that while it has no rivers flowing into it and the evaporation from its surface is enormous, it is not much salter than the ocean, from which it is inferred that there must be a constant influx of water from the Indian Ocean through the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, together with an outflow of the more saline water beneath the surface. The deepest portion measures 1,200 fathoms. Owing to the lower land levels which prevailed in recent geological times, the Gulf of Suez formerly extended across the lowland which separates it from the Bitter Lakes, a distance of 15 or 20 miles now traversed by the Suez Canal, which encountered no elevation more than 30 ft. above tide. In early historic times the Gulf ended at Ismailia at the head of Lake Timsah. North of this the land rises to a height of more than 50 ft. and for a long time furnished a road leading from Africa into Asia. At a somewhat earlier geological (middle and late Tertiary) period the depression of the land was such that this bridge was also submerged, so that the Red Sea and the Mediterranean were connected by a broad expanse of water which overflowed the whole surface of Lower Egypt.

The evidence of the more recent depression of the land surface in all Lower Egypt is unmistakable. Raised beaches containing shells and corals still living in the Red Sea are found at various levels up to more than 200 ft. above tide. One of the most interesting of these is to be seen near the summit of the "Crow's Nest," a half-mile South of the great pyramids, where, near the summit of the eminence, and approximately 200 ft. above tide, on a level with the base of the pyramids, there is a clearly defined recent sea beach composed of water-worn pebbles from 1 inches to 1 or 2 ft. in diameter, the interstices of which are filled with small shells loosely cemented together. These are identified as belonging to a variable form, Alectryonia cucullata Born, which lives at the present time in the Red Sea. On the opposite side of the river, on the Mokattam Hills South of Cairo, at an elevation of 220 ft. above tide, similar deposits are found containing numerous shells of recent date, while the rock face is penetrated by numerous borings of lithodomus mollusks (Pholades rugosa Broc.). Other evidences of the recent general depression of the land in this region come from various places on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. According to Lartet at Ramleh, near Jaffa, a recent beach occurs more than 200 ft. above sea-level containing many shells of Pectunculus violascens Lamk, which is at the present time the most abundant mollusk on the shore of the adjoining Mediterranean. A similar beach has been described by Dr. Post at Lattakia, about 30 miles North of Beirut; while others, according to Hull, occur upon the island of Cyprus. Further evidence of this depression is also seen in the fact that the isthmus between Suez and the Bitter Lakes is covered with recent deposits of Nile mud, holding modern Red Sea shells, showing that, at no very distant date, there was an overflow of the Nile through an eastern branch into this slightly depressed level. The line of this branch of the Nile overflow was in early times used for a canal, which has recently been opened to furnish fresh water to Suez, and the depression is followed by the railroad. According to Dawson, large surfaces of the desert North of Suez, which are now above sea-level, contain buried in the sand "recent marine shells in such a state of preservation that not many centuries may have elapsed since they were in the bottom of the sea" (Egypt and Syria, 67).

3. Old Testament References:

The Red Sea is connected with the children of Israel chiefly through the crossing of it recorded in Exodus (see 4, below); but there are a few references to it in later times. Solomon is said (1 Kings 9:26) to have built a navy at "Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom." This is at the head of the Gulf of Aqabah, the eastern branch of the Red Sea. Here his ships were manned by Hiram king of Tyre with "shipmen that had knowledge of the sea" (1 Kings 9:27). And (1 Kings 9:28) "they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold." But Eloth was evidently lost to Israel when Edom successfully revolted in the time of Joram (2 Kings 8:20). For a short time, however, it was restored to Judah by Amaziah (2 Kings 14:22); but finally, during the reign of Ahaz, the Syrians, or more probably, according to another reading, the Edomites, recovered the place and permanently drove the Jews away. But in 1 Kings 22:48 Jehoshaphat is said to have "made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold:

but they went not; for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber"; while in 2 Chronicles 20:36 Jehoshaphat is said to have joined with Ahaziah "to make ships to go to Tarshish; and they made the ships in Ezion-geber."

Unless there is some textual confusion here, "ships of Tarshish:" is simply the name of the style of the ship, like "East Indiaman," and Tarshish in Chronicles may refer to some place in the East Indies. This is the more likely, since Solomon's "navy" that went to Tarshish once every 3 years came "bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks," which could hardly have come from any other place than India.

See SHIPS AND BOATS, II, 1, (2).

4. Passage through the Red Sea by the Israelites:

Until in recent times it was discovered that the Gulf of Suez formerly extended 30 miles northward to the site of the present Ismailia and the ancient Pithom, the scene of the Biblical miracle was placed at Suez, the present head of the Gulf. But there is at Suez no extent of shoal water sufficient for the east wind mentioned in Scripture (Exodus 14:21) to have opened a passage-way sufficiently wide to have permitted the host to have crossed over in a single night. The bar leading from Suez across, which is now sometimes forded, is too insignificant to have furnished a passage-way as Robinson supposed (BR(3), I, 56-59). Besides, if the children of Israel were South of the Bitter Lakes when there was no extension of the Gulf North of its present limits, there would have been no need of a miracle to open the water, since there was abundant room for both them and Pharaoh's army to have gone around the northern end of the Gulf to reach the eastern shore, while South of Suez the water is too deep for the wind anywhere to have opened a passage-way. But with an extension of the waters of the Gulf to the Bitter Lakes and Lake Timsah, rendered probable by the facts cited in the previous paragraph, the narrative at once so perfectly accords with the physical conditions involved as to become not only easily credible, but self-evidencing.

The children of Israel were at Rameses (Exodus 12:37) in the land of Goshen, a place which has not been certainly identified, but could not have been far from the modern Zagazig at the head of the Fresh Water Canal leading from the Nile to the Bitter Lakes. One day's journey eastward along Wady Tumilat, watered by this canal brought them to Succoth, a station probably identical with Thuket, close upon the border line separating Egypt from Asia. Through the discoveries of Naville in 1883 this has been identified as Pithom, one of the store-cities built by Pharaoh during the period of Hebrew oppression (Exodus 1:11). Here Naville uncovered vast store pits for holding grain built during the reign of Rameses II and constructed according to the description given in Exodus 1:

the lower portions of brick made with straw, the middle with stubble, and the top of simple clay without even stubble to hold the brick together (see Naville, "The Store-City Pithom and the Route of the Exodus," Egyptian Exploration Fund, 1885; M. G. Kyle, "A Re-examination of Naville's Works," Records of the Past, VIII, 1901, 304-7). The next day's journey brought them to Etham on the "edge of the wilderness" (Exodus 13:20; Numbers 33:6), probably in the vicinity of the modern Ismailia at the head of Lake Timsah. From this point the natural road to Palestine would have been along the caravan route on the neck of land referred to above as now about 50 ft. above sea-level. Etham was about 30 miles Southeast of Zoan or Tanis, the headquarters at that time of Pharaoh, from which he was watching the movements of the host. If they should go on the direct road to Palestine, his army could easily execute a flank movement and intercept them in the desert of Etham. But by divine command (Exodus 14:2) Moses turned southward on the west side of the extension of the Red Sea and camped "before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-zephon" (Exodus 14:22). At this change of course Pharaoh was delighted, seeing that the children of Israel were "entangled in the land" and "the wilderness" had "shut them in." Instead of issuing a flank movement upon them, Pharaoh's army now followed them in the rear and "overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth," the location of which is essential to a proper understanding of the narrative which follows.

In Exodus 14:2, Pi-hahiroth is said to be "between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-zephon." Now though Migdol originally meant "watch-tower," it is hardly supposable that this can be its meaning here, otherwise the children of Israel would have been moving directly toward a fortified place. Most probably, therefore, Migdol was the tower-like mountain peak marking the northeast corner of Jebel Geneffeh, which runs parallel with the Bitter Lakes, only a short distance from their western border. Baal-zephon may equally well be some of the mountain peaks on the border of the Wilderness of Paran opposite Cheloof, midway between the Bitter Lakes and Suez. In the clear atmosphere of the region this line of mountains is distinctly visible throughout the whole distance from Ismailia to Suez. There would seem to be no objection to this supposition, since all authorities are in disagreement concerning its location. From the significance of the name it would seem to be the seat of some form of Baal worship, naturally a mountain. Brugsch would identify it with Mr. Cassius on the northern shore of Egypt. Naville (see Murray's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, "Red Sea, Passage of") would connect it with the hill called Tussum East of Lake Timsah, where there is a shrine at the present day visited every year about July 14 by thousands of pilgrims to celebrate a religious festival; but, as this is a Mohammedan festival, there seems no reason to connect it with any sanctuary of the Canaanites. Dawson favors the general location which we have assigned to Pi-hahiroth, but would place it beside the narrow southern portion of the Bitter Lakes.

Somewhere in this vicinity would be a most natural place for the children of Israel to halt, and there is no difficulty, such as Naville supposes, to their passing between Jebel Geneffeh and the Bitter Lakes; for the mountain does not come abruptly to the lake, but leaves ample space for the passage of a caravan, while the mountain on one side and the lake on the other would protect them from a flank movement by Pharaoh and limit his army to harassing the rear of the Israelite host. Protected thus, the Israelites found a wide plain over which they could spread their camp, and if we suppose them to be as far South as Cheloof, every condition would be found to suit the narrative which follows. Moses was told by the Lord that if he would order the children of Israel to go forward, the sea would be divided and the children of Israel could cross over on dry ground. And when, in compliance with the divine command, Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, "Yahweh caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground:

and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen" (Exodus 14:21-30). But when the children of Israel were safely on the other side the waters returned and overwhelmed the entire host of Pharaoh. In the So of Moses which follows, describing the event, it is said that the waters were piled up by the "blast of thy (God's) nostrils" (Exodus 15:8), and again, verse 10, "Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them." Thus 3 times the wind is mentioned as the means employed by God in opening the water. The competency of the wind temporarily to remove the water from the passage connecting the Gulf of Suez with the Bitter Lakes, provided it was only a few feet deep, is amply proved by facts of recent observation. Major General Tullock of the British army (Proc. Victoria Inst., XXVIII, 267-80) reports having witnessed the driving off of the water from Lake Menzaleh by the wind to such an extent as to lower the level 6 ft., thus leaving small vessels over the shallow water stranded for a while in the muddy bottom. According to the report of the Suez Canal Company, the difference between the highest and the lowest water at Suez is 10 ft. 7 inches, all of which must be due to the effect of the wind, since the tides do not affect the Red Sea. The power of the wind to affect water levels is strikingly witnessed upon Lake Erie in the United States, where according to the report of the Deep Waterways Commission for 1896 (165, 168) it appears that strong wind from the Southwest sometimes lowers the water at Toledo, Ohio, on the western end of the lake to the extent of more than 7 ft., at the same time causing it to rise at Buffalo at the eastern end a similar amount; while a change in the wind during the passage of a single storm reverses the effect, thus sometimes producing a change of level at either end of the lake of 14 ft. in the course of a single day. It would require far less than a tornado to lower the water at Cheloof sufficiently to lay bare the shallow channel which we have supposed at that time to separate Egypt from the Sinaitic Peninsula.

See EXODUS, THE.

Objections:

Several objections to this theory, however, have been urged which should not pass without notice.

(1) Steep Banks of the Channel:

Some have said that the children of Israel would have found an insuperable obstacle to their advance in the steep banks on either side of the supposed channel. But there were no steep banks to be encountered. A gentle sag leads down on one side to the center of the depression and a correspondingly gentle rise leads up on the other.

(2) Walls Formed by the Water:

Much has also been made of the statement (Exodus 14:22) that "the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left"; but when we consider the rhetorical use of this word "wall" it presents no difficulty. In Proverbs 18:11 we are told that "The rich man's wealth is his strong city, And as a high wall in his own imagination." In Isaiah 26:1 we are told that God will appoint salvation "for walls and bulwarks." Again Nahum (3:8) says of Egypt that her "rampart was the sea (margin "the Nile"), and her wall was of the sea." The water upon either side of the opening served the purpose of a wall for protection. There was no chance for Pharaoh to intercept them by a flank movement. Nor is there need of paying further attention to the poetical expressions in the So of Moses, where among other things it is said "that the deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea," and that the "earth (instead of the water) swallowed them."

(3) The East Winds:

Again it is objected that an east wind does not come from the right direction to produce the desired result. On the other hand it is an east wind only which could have freed the channel from water. A north wind would have blown the water from the Bitter Lakes southward, and owing to the quantity of water impounded would have increased the depth of the water in the narrow passage from the southern end of Suez. An east wind, however, would have pressed the water out from the channel both ways, and from the contour of the shore lines would be the only wind that could have done so.

(4) The Miraculous Set Aside:

Again, it is objected that this explanation destroys the miraculous character of the event. But it should be noted that little is said in the narrative about the miraculous. On the other hand, it is a straightforward statement of events, leaving their miraculous character to be inferred from their nature. On the explanation we have given the transaction it is what Robinson felicitously calls a mediate miracle, that is, a miracle in which the hand of God is seen in the use of natural forces which it would be impossible for man to command. If anyone should say that this was a mere coincidence, that the east wind blew at the precise time that Moses reached the place of crossing, the answer is that such a coincidence could have been brought about only by supernatural agency. There was at that time no weather bureau to foretell the approach of a storm. There are no tides on the Red Sea with regular ebb and flow. It was by a miracle of prophecy that Moses was emboldened to get his host into position to avail themselves of the temporary opportunity at exactly the right time. As to the relation of the divine agency to the event, speculation is useless. The opening of the sea may have been a foreordained event in the course of Nature which God only foreknew, in which case the direct divine agency was limited to those influences upon the human actors that led them to place themselves where they could take advantage of the natural opportunity. Or, there is no a priori difficulty in supposing that the east wind was directly aroused for this occasion; for man himself produces disturbances among the forces of Nature that are as far-reaching in their extent as would be a storm produced by direct divine agency. But in this case the disturbance is at once seen to be beyond the powers of human agency to produce.

It remains to add an important word concerning the evidential value of this perfect adjustment of the narrative to the physical conditions involved. So perfect is this conformity of the narrative to the obscure physical conditions involved, which only recent investigations have made clear, that the account becomes self-evidencing. It is not within the power of man to invent a story so perfectly in accordance with the vast and complicated conditions involved. The argument is as strong as that for human design when a key is found to fit a Yale lock. This is not a general account which would fit into a variety of circumstances. There is only one place in all the world, and one set of conditions in all history, which would meet the requirements; and here they are all met. This is scientific demonstration. No higher proof can be found in the inductive sciences. The story is true. It has not been remodeled by the imagination, either of the original writers or of the transcribers. It is not the product of mythological fancy or of legendary accretion.

LITERATURE.

Dawson, Egypt and Syria; Hull, Mt. Seir, Sinai and Western Palestine; Naville, "The Store-City Pithom and the Route of the Exodus," Egyptian Exploration Fund, 1885; Kyle, "Bricks without Straw at Pithom:

A Re-examination of Naville's Works," Records of the Past, VIII, 1901, 304-7; Wright, Scientific Confirmations of Old Testament History, 83-117.

George Frederick Wright


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'RED SEA'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.