The Red Sea in the NT -- By: Scott Lanser

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 21:1 (Winter 2008)
Article: The Red Sea in the NT
Author: Scott Lanser

The Red Sea in the NT

Scott Lanser

Erich D. Schwartz

Israel Crossed the Reed Sea (Yam Suph)

The voice of the Tanach, the Hebrew OT, is simple and clear—the Israelites crossed the yam suph. Yam is “sea,” suph1 is “reeds”; together, they mean “Sea of Reeds.” In the OT, the yam suph was a definite location, and a large one. There God deposited the locusts that devoured Egypt (Ex 10:13–19). After crossing the miraculously parted yam suph, the Israelites traveled some distance over an unspecified period lasting several days, then encountered the yam suph again (Nm 33:10–11). The yam suph had a shoreline in the land of Edom, where were situated the cities of Ezion-Geber and Eloth. And the yam suph was to be a border of Israel (Ex 23:21).

The yam suph is mentioned throughout the Hebrew Scriptures—a dozen times in the Law,2 and as many in the Prophets and Holy Writings. The majority of instances are found in passages that chronicle God’s miraculous deliverance of the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt.

Can Yam Suph be Expressed in Greek?

Certainly, any Mediterranean writer could express “Sea of Reeds,” and the term’s rendering into a language other than Hebrew would have been a simple matter of translation. The Greeks, for instance, had seas and reeds, and wrote of them. Their kálamos reed was used in jubilant celebration of the gods, as a reed-pipe (Pindar 1937 and 1990: Nemean poem 5, lines 38–39; Olympian poem 10, line 83). The kálamos was used in the construction of Indian fishing boats, of Egyptian boat apparatus, of houses in Sardis, and of the brick walls of Babylon (Herodotus 1890 and 1920: bk. 1, chap. 179; bk. 2, chap. 97; bk. 3, chap. 98; bk. 5, chap. 101). Many soldiers under Xerxes had bows and arrows of kálamos (Herodotus 1890 and 1920: bk. 7, chaps. 61, 64, 65, 67, 69, 92). Xenophon, under Persia’s Cyrus the Younger, despaired of finding anything but fragrant shrubbery and kálamos as they marched among the nomad Arabs just east of the Euphrates at the end of the fifth century BC (1894: bk. 1, chap. 5, par. 1).

According to the writers of the Septuagint (LXX), kálamos was used in an anointing oil (Ex 30:23), was part of behemoth’s habitat (Jb 40:21), and part of the garden representing the bride (Sg 4:14). Along with papyr...

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