The location of the Red Sea (Exodus 13)

The identity of the Red Sea itself is disputed. The Hebrew name for this body of water is yam suph. The word yam means “sea” and suph means “reed”. The Septuagint (early Greek translation of the OT), however, translates suph as “red”. Thus it is unclear whether the reference is to the Red Sea or the Reed Sea.

Still, there is no evidence that people ever called any body of water in the Suez region the Reed Sea. The only specific use of yam suph in the Old Testament is found in 1 Kings 9:26, where the reference is to the Gulf of Aqaba on the eastern side of these bodies of water (i.e., the Gul of Aqaba; the modern Red Sea; the Gulf of Suez; and the string of bodies of water extending northward from the Suez, including the Bitter Lakes and Lake Timsah). If so, a lake between theSuez and the Mediterranean Sea could have been considered part of the greater yam suph. This would appear, however, to be an unwarranted assumption because no evidence exists that the Israelites considered these diverse bodies of water together to constitute yam suph.

Today, many believe that the most likely candidate for the Red Sea would appear to have been Lake Tisah – although other lakes and the northern tip of the Gulf of Suez also are possibilities. There are, however, significant problems with this interpretation, and an alternative viewpoint places yam suph in the same place at which 1 Kings 9:26 puts it; at the Gulf od Aqaba.

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