I recently watched a tv show about Moses, and it was discussing the Red
Sea Crossing. They claimed that Moses never led the children of Israel
through the “Red Sea,” but through an unknown sea. They also said the
original Hebrew for Red Sea was Yam Suph which meant Sea of Reeds, and the
“Red Sea” name was mistranslated in the Greek. Is this argument true? Also
did Moses really cross the Red Sea or was it another sea? How reliable are
the facts to support the crossing of that sea?

You bring up a question which is the subject of much debate and even
current research. Most of what was reported in the show you refer to is
true. Yam Suph, or Sea of Reeds is indeed the correct word in Exodus for
the sea which Moses and Israel crossed when escaping the Egyptian army.
The fact is that no one knows absolutely for sure where this crossing
occurred. Many will confidently support their personal theory about what
the term Sea of Reeds is referring to, but there is no conclusive proof
that I have ever seen which can nail down the location of the miraculous
crossing of God’s people. If you look at a map carefully, you will see a
smaller body of water just to the northwest of the Red Sea which some have
proposed as the crossing site. This is a shallow, very muddy area which is
essentially a very large salt marsh rather than the single large body of
water which seems to be described in Exodus. The fact is, however, that
this salt marsh is full of reeds, and is a possible site for the crossing
referred to in Exodus. You should be aware that the maps in the back of
your Bible are only showing speculation as to the route taken by Israel
when they escaped from Egypt. Many Bibles will show the traditionally
accepted site, which is the Red Sea.

Another more recent theory is that the famed crossing occurred across the
Gulf of Aqaba near the tip of the Sinai peninsula. This theory puts the
biblical Mount Sinai in northwestern Saudi Arabia (rather than the
traditional Mt Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula) at the mountain known as
Jebel el Lawz. Claims have been made that chariot wheels were discovered
at the supposed crossing place at the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, but
these are unsubstantiated. Some very interesting finds have been made at
Jebel el Lawz. If you are interested, a recent book on the subject is
Mountain of God by Bob Cornuke (available at www.amazon.com). These claims
are certainly not conclusive, but they are interesting.

In the end, it is not possible for anyone to say with absolute certainty
where Moses and the people of God crossed the Yam Suph. We have on the
extremely good authority of the Bible itself that this crossing did indeed
take place. We also have archaeological evidence, such as with the Tel el
Amarna letters, substantiating the entrance of Israel into the Promised
Land. However, hard evidence for the exact location of the miraculous
events of Exodus 14 is lacking as of today. I am sorry to give you what
may be a somewhat unsatisfactory answer, but if we are not sure where the
crossing occurred, we may as well be honest about it. If you are
interested in the subject, I encourage you to get a copy of the book I
referred to above. You can also do an internet search concerning Jebel el
Lawz. You would be wise to be open minded but also to maintain a healthy
sense of skepticism concerning new and exciting theories.

John Oakes, PhD

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