SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ROUTE OF THE EXODUS (uncertain)
A.The uncertainty of the location of
1. the Egyptian cities
2. bodies of water
3. early Hebrew camp sites
B. The term "Red Sea" is literally Yam Suph, which
1. means, "sea of weeds" or "sea of reeds." It can refer to salt water, Jonah 2:5; 1 Kgs. 9:26 or fresh water, Exod. 2:3; Isa. 19:26. The LXX first translated it as "Red Sea," followed by the Vulgate and then the King James Version.
2. referred to the "sea to the south" or "sea at the end (of the earth)." It could have referred to the modern Red Sea, Indian Ocean, or Persian Gulf.
3. had several usages in the OT (cf. Num. 33:8,10).
C. There are three possible routes involving three different bodies of water.
1. A northern route – this was along the Mediterranean coast, following the commercial highway known as "the way of the Philistines." This would have been the shortest way to the Promised Land. The body of water that they would have encountered would have been one of the shallow, marshy areas called: Lake Sirbonis or Lake Menzalch. However, one must take into account Exod. 13:17, which seems to negate this option. Also the presence of Egyptian fortresses along this route militates against this option.
2. A middle route – this would involve the central lakes called
a. "The Bitter Lakes"
b. "Lake Balah"
c. "Lake Timsah"
This would also have been following a caravan route through the wilderness of Shur.
3. A southern route – this would involve the large body of salt water we call the Red Sea today. There was also a caravan route from this area that linked up with the "King's Highway" (the transJordan road to Damascus) at Ezion-Geber.
a. militating against this is the absence of reeds in this body of water
b. pointing toward this is that 1 Kgs. 9:26 says Ezion-Geber is on the Yam-Suph. This would be the Gulf of Aqaba (cf. 1 Kgs. 9:26) or part of the Red Sea (cf. Num. 21:4; Deut. 27; Jdgs. 11:16; Jer. 49:12).
4. Numbers 33 clearly shows the problem. In Num. 33:8a they "pass through the sea," then in 8:10 they camped by the "Red Sea," a different body of water.
5. Whichever body of water was crossed, it was a miracle of God. Israel was provided weaponry from the dead Egyptian soldiers who floated to their side of the body of water, another miracle, Exod. 14:30; 15:4-5.
6. It is possible from other literature that "the yam suph" was the uncharted, mysterious body of water to the south. In some literature (i.e., Heroditus 1.180) the Indian Ocean or the bay of Bengeli is called "yam suph." "Suph" could be from the Hebrew root "end" and may refer to the end of the known ocean. See Bernard F. Batts, "Red Sea or Reed Sea? What Does Yum Suph Mean?"; Approaches to the Bible, vol. 1, pp. 291-304.
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