This page was last updated on 26 March, 2017.
The Re(e)d Sea
We al know there are many websites and books with the claim that they found the one and only Exodus route. While some vary in details, like a few mile difference many vary literally hundreds of miles. Mount Sinai is found in at least 5 place in ‘Sinai Peninsula’ and at least 3 places in modern Saudi-
In the map above you see “Gulf of Suez”, “Gulf of Aqba” and “Red Sea”.
Some people group all three into “Red Sea”, some don’t.
I’ll keep all 3 separate because that makes things more clear.
1. Location unknown
Exod 13:18 But God led the people about, by the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea; and the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt.
1Kgs 9:26 And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red sea, in the land of Edom.
If we look at old maps and quotes the shape, location and even existence of the Gulf of Aqba was lost in history. One of the first thing anyone researching the location of the Red Sea crossing is looking for water to cross. Spots without water obviously get ruled out.
Spots that have no known water are ruled out too! →Very obvious but even more important!
Because the ‘Gulf of Aqba’ was, unknown every scholar was forced to find another location for the crossing. Because no other location really fits the Bible they were forced to weird conclusions. Above all Aqba didn’t get a fair change for 2 millennia.
Some points to get the research started:
Even in 1830 the very existence of the Gulf of Aqba was disputed.
In 1838 its existance was acknowledged but virtually nothing was known about it.
2. Red, reed or papyrus?
On the page titled ‘Red Sea -
Those quotes must be understood as: The translation was accepted by many, but nobody had a clue why it was translated that way because it has no linguistic basis at all. The article the last quote is from is great collection of information on this topic.
the word for red is adam (pronounced a-
In the earliest known translation of the Bible—from Hebrew to Greek—yam sûp is consistently translated as Erythra Thalassa, which means “Red Sea.” This Greek Bible, known as the Septuagint, was translated in about 300 B.C. In St. Jerome’s Latin translation, known as the Vulgate (from about 400 A.D.), yam sûp is translated Mare Rubrum—Red Sea. Because of the Vulgate translation, “Red Sea” became firmly entrenched in western tradition, appearing for example, in the King James Version.
Yet something seems to be wrong with this translation. It doesn’t seem to fit the geography of the Israelites’ trek out of Egypt.. there is absolutely no philological reason to think that sûp means “red” or anything like it.
Short recap: The Hebrew Yam Sup 100% can’t be translated as Red Sea. In Hebrew that would have been Yam Adam.
Thus was born the translation “Reed Sea.”
According to this argument, these texts establish that yam sûp literally means “Sea of Papyrus” or “Sea of Reeds.” Etymologically, we are told, Hebrew sûp is a loan-
The solution was to claim that Sup isn’t really a Hebrew word but a Egyptian word. That solved a long standing translation problem. But the geographical problem remains or even gets worse. Pharaoh’s army drowned in the Papyrus Sea near or in Egypt. That would be possible when ignoring the duration of the Exodus route to the Papyrus Sea. The real arises. when Yam Sup is used for things that have no relation with Exodus at all. In locations that 100% are far from Egypt. See the page titled ‘Solomon’s shipyard’.
Perhaps papyrus grows in many locations; so also at Solomon’s shipyard at the head of the Gulf of Aqba? If that was the case the the crossing can be placed in that sea too. After all the Bible states they crossed a Papyrus Sea and not which one. And and geography makes Aqba a far more obvious candidate.
But does papyrus grow in the Gulf of Aqba. No. Do reeds grow there? Please read “Red Sea -
Another problem is that the Bible uses Yam Sup as location everyone knows. That would be odd if there are several Yam Sups.
The hieroglyphic signs in question are written in Latin letters as p´-
Moreover, the term p´-
To summarize the all the above.
3. Erythra Thalassa
While most English translations have “Red Sea” they weren’t the first to translate it that way. About 250BC the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek. This translation is know as the Septuagint or LXX. It were those scholars that introduced ‘Erythra Thalassa’, Greek for Red Sea.
While ‘Red Sea’ is a perfect translation of the Greek ‘Erythra Thalassa’, ‘Erythra Thalassa’ isn’t a translation of the Hebrew ‘Yam Suph’. Not a bad translation, but no translation at all.
Originally all of the Jewish faith understood Hebrew. But as time passed more and more moved out of Israel and had Greek as their primary, or only, language. So for those people the OT was translated. Just as the Bible is translated in many languages today. Translations need to be very accurate but also understandable.
That’s sometimes a tricky balance. When the name of a city has changed, what’s best? Use the original but long forgotten name, or use the new name everybody knows? And that way make the translation more understandable.
What’s best is for you to decide but the point is that the LXX translators chose to make it understandable.
The correct map, as we know it today is known above. The Red Sea with two fingers with their own name. For us that’s all very obvious with satellite images, and advanced mapping methods. But not so in the past. Maps were low quality. Huge area’s were unexplored. Area’s that had no commercial value of any kind weren’t explored, just to make a map. That’s not to say nobody ever traveled there. It just wasn’t mapped. And those who traveled there of the few trading routes never mapped anything.
A civilizations rose and fall knowledge disappeared too.
As the quotes above show it stayed that way until late 19th century.
The point I’m trying to make that the maps of the Red Sea didn’t have those two fingers. The Red Sea was just one body of water. And even that was not more than a rough sketch.
To make my point allow me to assume that ‘Yam Suph’ without a doubt is somewhere in the Gulf of Aqba.
If the LXX translators had the above map, I’m sure they would have made sure their translation would clearly point to Aqba to avoid confusion with Suez.
But if the map lacks those details and the Aqba finger isn’t on it. Or not even the Suez finger, but just the (extended) Red Sea part, like the above map of 1683AD, why bother making it complicated? There is just one body of water, so confusion is impossible. And because that one body of water was known as ‘Erythra Thalassa’ in 250BC that was how they translated it.
Assume I would publish a road atlas of America. Which names would you prefer? Which names would cause least confusion?
My guess is if you would be 5 miles from Orlando and you ask directions to Jernigan, the original name of Orlando, you just get a blank stare.
For the same reason Yam Suph was translated as Red Sea.