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The body of water which the Israelites crossed following their exodus from Egypt in the Book of Exodus
In the Exodus narrative, Yam Suph (Hebrew: -?) is the body of water which the Israelites crossed following their exodus from Egypt. The same phrase appears in over 20 other places in the Hebrew Bible. While traditionally understood to refer to the Red Sea (the saltwater inlet located between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula), the appropriate translation of the phrase remains a matter of dispute; as does the exact location referred to. It is now often translated as Sea of Reeds - with several competing theories as to where this was.
Translation and location
Yam Suph has traditionally been understood to refer to the saltwater inlet located between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, known in English as the Red Sea. More recently, alternative western scholarly understandings of the term have been proposed for those passages where it refers to the Israelite Crossing of the Sea as told in Exodus 13-15. These proposals would mean that Yam Suph is better translated in these passages as Sea of Reeds or Sea of Seaweed. The word suph by itself means 'reed', e.g. in Exodus 2:3. This was pointed out as early as the 11th century, by Rashi. In Jewish sources, 1 Kings 9:26yam suph is translated as "Sea of Reeds" ("near Eloth" "in the land of Edom").
More conjecturally, it has also been suggested that suph may be related to the Hebrew suphah ("storm") or soph ("end"), referring to the events of the Reed/Red Sea escape itself:
The crossing of the sea signaled the end of the sojourn in Egypt and it certainly was the end of the Egyptian army that pursued the fleeing Hebrews (Ex 14:23-29; 15:4-5). After this event at Yam Suph, perhaps the verb Soph, meaning "destroy" and "come to an end," originated (cf. Amos 3:15; Jer 8:13; Isa 66:17; Psa 73:19). Another possible development of this root is the word suphah, meaning "storm-wind"...The meanings "end" and "storm-wind" would have constituted nice puns on the event that took place at the Yam Suph.
KJV: "And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee."
NJPS: "And I will set your borders from the Sea of Reeds to the Sea of Philistia, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hands; and you will drive them out before you."
SET: "I shall set your border from the Sea of Reeds to the Sea of the Philistines. "
The opening verse of the book of Deuteronomy has an occurrence of Suph on its own. Some translations, including the Septuagint, have taken this as an abbreviation for the full form, others not:
KJV: "These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab."
NJPS: "These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan. -- Through the wilderness, in the Arabah near Suph, between Paran, and Tophel, Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab,"
NJPS: "Thus, after you had remained at Kadesh all that long time, we marched back into the wilderness by the way of the Sea of Reeds, as the LORD had spoken to me: and skirted the hill country of Seir a long time. "
SET: "We turned and jouneyed to the Wilderness toward the Sea of Reeds, as HASHEM spoke to me, and we circled Mount Seir for many days. "
KJV: "And what he did unto the army of Egypt, unto their horses, and to their chariots; how he made the water of the Red sea to overflow them as they pursued after you, and how the LORD hath destroyed them unto this day;"
NJPS: "what He did to Egypt's army, its horses and chariots; how the LORD rolled back upon them the waters of the Sea of Reeds when they were pursuing you, thus destroying them once and for all;"
SET: "and what He did to the army of Egypt, to its horses and its chariots, over whom He swept the waters of the Sea of Reeds when they pursued you, and HASHEM caused them to perish until this day; "
Testimony of Rahab to Joshua's spies before the conquest of Jericho:
KJV: "For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed."
NJPS: "For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Sea of Reeds for you, when you left Egypt; and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings across the Jordan, whom you doomed."
SET: "for we have heard how HASHEM dried up the waters of the Sea of Reeds for you when you went forth from Egypt and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were across the Jordan - to Sihon and to Og - whom you utterly destroyed."
Joshua's speech to the troops shortly before the conquest of Jericho:
KJV: "For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over:"
Jeremiah bemoaned his own fate. Why had he been the one chosen to not only foretell the horrors of destruction but to witness them, and even to be at the mercy of the brethren he had tried to save? But there is no doubt that the exiled Jews in Babylon found strength in his prophecy that there would be redemption and glory seventy years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Jeremiah did not live to see his prophecy fulfilled, but many of those who had heard his prophecies were among the ones who returned with Ezra and Nehemiah to inaugurate the Second Temple.
KJV: "The earth is moved at the noise of their fall, at the cry the noise thereof was heard in the Red sea."
NJPS: "At the sound of their downfall The earth shall shake; The sound of screaming Shall be heard at the Sea of Reeds."
A translation of this text does not occur at this point in the Septuagint. An approximate correspondence is found at Jeremiah 29:21, referring to just "the sea".
SET: "(20) Therefore, hear the counsel of HASHEM that He has devised against Edom, and His thoughts that he has conceived against the dwellers of Teman: the youngest of the flock will indeed drag them off; he will indeed devastate their pasture. (21) From the sound of their fall the earth quakes; a cry, at the Sea of Reeds their voice is heard."
God's presence and lovingkindness are always near; one need but have open eyes and an open heart to see them:
KJV: "(7) Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea. (8) Nevertheless he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known. (9) He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness."
NJPS: "(7) Our forefathers in Egypt did not perceive Your wonders; they did not remember Your abundant love, but rebelled at the sea, at the Sea of Reeds. (8) Yet He saved them, as befits His name, to make known His might. (9) He sent is blast against the Sea of Reeds; it became dry; he led them through the deep, as through a wilderness."
SET: "(7) Our fathers in Egypt did not contemplate Your wonders, they were not mindful of Your abundant kindness, and they rebelled by the sea, at the Sea of Reeds. (8) But He saved them for His Name's sake, to make known His might. (9) He roared at the Sea of Reeds and it became dry, and He led them through the depths as through a desert. "
A song of God's creation and rulership of the world in general and Israel in particular:
KJV: "(13) To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever: (14) And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever: (15) But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever."
NJPS: "(13) Who split apart the Sea of Reeds, His steadfast love is eternal; (14) and made Israel pass through it, His steadfast love is eternal; (15) Who hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Sea of Reeds, His steadfast love is eternal;"
SET: "(13) To Him Who divided the Sea of Reeds into parts, for His kindness endures forever; (14) and caused Israel to pass through it, for His kindness endures forever; (15) and threw Pharaoh and his army into the Sea of Reeds, for His kindness endures forever."
After the Second Temple was rebuilt (349 BCE), Nehemiah was one of the 120 members of the Men of the Great Assembly, a council which functioned over several generations and rejuvenated the Jewish Nation. They prayed successfully against Idolatry, composed the standard Jewish prayers and brought about the dramatic flowering of the Oral law, the primary repository of divine wisdom (see: Tanakh).
KJV: "And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;"
^Annot.:"10:19-20. God changed the east wind, which brought the locusts, to a west wind that blew them away. Not a single locust remained, not even those that the Egyptians had preserved for food (Midrash)."
^Annot.:"13:18. Sea of Reeds. This may have been the Gulf of Suez, which branches northward from the Red Sea and separates Egypt from the Sinai Desert; but what is known today as Red Sea is south of the Sinai Peninsula and so far south of the populated area of Egypt that it is unlikely that the Exodus and the later Splitting of the Sea could have taken place there. It may be that the Sea of Reeds was the Great Bitter Lake, which is between the Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea; or the north of Egypt; or it may have been the southern Mediterranean."
^Annot.:"15:22-27. After the momentous miracles at the sea, how could they have doubted God's readiness to give them a necessity of life -- water? Rabbi Hirsch explains that the purpose of Israel's journey through the Wilderness was to show that God is involved in daily, "petty" human affairs, as well as in cosmic occurrences. It is easy to think, as many still do, that God creates worlds and splits seas, but is unconcerned with the water or food supply of communities and individuals. This is what frightened the Jews in the Wilderness. When there was no water, the nation feared that it was being left to its own devices. The people were not wronk in asking for water - thirsty people surely have that right - but in protesting so vociferously."
^Annot.:"The Sea of the Philistines is the Mediterranean, and the River is the Euphrates. ibn Ezra comments that this verse, which describes the great extent of the land, explains why it would have to be conquered gradually." and from the Wilderness until the River, for I shall deliver the inhabitants of the Land into your hands and you shall drive them away from before you.
^Annot.:"In this book, Moses was the speaker ... In Deuteronomy, Moses chose the words and conveyed the commandments as he understood them. 1:1. The combination of words with he spoke, instead of the more common he said, implies strong words of rebuke. Lest the people become overconfident that they would not succumb to the influences of Canaan, Moses reminded them of their many sins and rebellions since the Exodus; if the people could sin when they were surrounded by miracles, surely they would be in greater danger without constant reminders of God's Presence. But in order not to embarrass and offend his listeners, he alluded to the sins by using place names or other veiled references. Moreover, as the Midrash cites: Rabbi Yochanan said, "We have reviewed the entirety of Scripture, but we have not found any place with the name Tophel or Laban!" And, as Ramban explaines, it is unlikely that these are all descriptions of where Mosesspoke, for if so, the Torah would be giving "more signs and boundaries than one who sells a field." Thus, for example, Onkelos and Sifre interpret the term the Wilderness as an allusion to the Wilderness of Sin, where the people complained that they had been led into a desert to starve (Exodus 16:1-3); and Di-yahab, literally, "abundance of gold," recalls that when God blessed the people with an abundance of gold when they left Egypt, they used His gift to make the Golden Calf."
^Annot.:"2:1. This verse telescopes thirty-eight years, from the sin of the spies until the new generation was ready to enter the Land."
^Annot.:"11:1-7. Moses continued to exhort his people, telling them that they had a special responsibility to be loyal to God, because they had experienced His greatness and mercy firsthand."
^Annot.:"9:26. Also called Elath (Deut. 2:8) or Eilat."
^Annot.:"The enemy, who was earlier compared to a ferocious lion (v.. 19), is here likened to the youngest sheep, because Edom will be conquered by Israel, which is regarded lightly by all its enemies (Kara)."