Faith and Magic: Parting the Red Sea

Humphrey’s traces the route the Israelites took using hints from the Bible text and contemporary geography and linguistics—like those seven days to cross the desert. You’ve probably heard the controversy over where the Red Sea crossing took place—how the Hebrew words translated Red Sea actually mean Reedy Water (or muddy puddle as some would say), and how a sea really can’t run dry. Well, Humphreys has an explanation which makes perfect sense to me, as a mathematician, one that fits the timing, and the sea, and the whole of the rest of the story. He has the Israelites following the trade road, buying water at oases using the treasures the Egyptians showered them with when they left, spreading their flocks to either side to crop the plants which would be plentiful in spring. Almost seven days into their journey, the Pharaoh has realized they’re not marching back and sends out his troops to chase them. By now they’re almost to the Gulf of Aqaba—a stretch of water that is red with coral and red in the sunset (hence Red Sea), where fresh-water reeds grow in the thick clay by the salt sea (hence Reed Water—it’s the Jews who translated Reed Water to Red Sea when they translated their scriptures into Greek, long before Christ).

Now the Israelites head down a narrow pass to the water then turn north to the crossing. At this point , going north, they’re heading away from the mountain and the pillar has “moved” behind them.

Read Exodus 14:19

Pharaoh’s soldiers have followed down the pass while his chariots took a safer route round the mountain. At the bottom of the pass the Israelites are surrounded, mountains behind them, sea before them, chariots ahead on the road and Egyptian soldiers behind. And so they pray. What happens next?

Read Exodus 14:21. Interesting—it doesn’t just say God made a path; it says how he made a path.

The Bible says a strong east wind blew, which might mean anything from North-east to South-east. But the Gulf of Aqaba points North-East. A wind blowing straight down the gulf, all night long, with just the right force, could cause a set-down, like a river “bore,” where the water stands still and dry land is revealed--land dry enough for people to cross, but damp enough to trap chariot wheels, at which point the wind drops and the soldiers drown.

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