Q&A

Red Sea Or Reed Sea?

Q.  My question is in relation to the Exodus. There is talk that the Bible translators mistranslated Red Sea and it should read the Reed Sea. Is this true, and if so why was that? Why didn’t the translators say Reed Sea? I know of course that the translation (or mistranslation) does not change the fact that God’s hand was at work and that through that miracle his glory was shown to all.

A. I’ll try to make this simple. The translation Sea of Reeds is given as an alternate to Red Sea in many Study Bible foot notes for the Hebrew Yam Suph. Since reeds only grow in fresh water, scholars have looked for centuries for a fresh water lake the Israelites could have crossed and of course none exists.

But a more accurate translation of the Hebrew word would be seaweed and of course this grows in salt water. So the Hebrew phrase Yam Suph really doesn’t mean Red Sea or Reed Sea.  It means Sea of Seaweed. The name Red Sea probably stems from its proximity to Edom, the land occupied by the descendants of Esau, whose name in Hebrew means Red.

In 1 Kings 9:26 we have a location that can be identified today to make it simple for us to tell where the Red Sea is located. It was a port where King Solomon built and maintained a fleet of merchant ships. It was called Ezion Geber and you can still see its remains today near the resort city of Elat at the Northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red sea.

Some have also suggested that since there are no vowels in Hebrew, Yam Suph should be rendered Yam Soph, or sea of Land’s End. There’s persuasive evidence that the Israelites crossed from Egypt into Midian by traversing Jackson’s Reef, an underwater land bridge at the southern entrance to the Red Sea near a place which today is called Land’s End.

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