Holman Bible Dictionary
Red Sea (Reed Sea)
We do not know who first suggested the translation “Reed Sea.” In the eleventh century the French Jewish scholar Rashi spoke of yam suph in terms of a marsh overgrown with weeds. In the twelfth century Ibn Ezra, a Spanish Jew, commented that yam suph in Exodus 13:18 may be so named because reeds grow around it. Martin Luther translated yam suph as Schilfmeer : “Reed Sea.” Although the name “Reed Sea” has been widely accepted by many scholars, there have been many recent attempts to prove the term “Sea of Reeds” is not a legitimate reading for yam suph .
The Old Testament uses the term yam suph to refer to more than one location. In Exodus 10:19 it refers to the Gulf of Suez as the place where the locusts were driven and destroyed. In 1 Kings 9:26 it refers to the Gulf of Aqaba where the ships of Solomon's navy were stationed. The same location may be indicated in Jeremiah 49:21 where the cries of Edom could be heard. The “Way of the ( yam suph ) Red Sea” is part of the name of a highway out of Egypt (Exodus 13:18; Numbers 14:45; Numbers 21:4; Deuteronomy 1:40; Deuteronomy 2:1; Judges 11:16 ). The “Red Sea” was the name of a camp along the way from Egypt (Numbers 33:10-11 ). Yam suph marked the ideal southern border of Israel ( Exodus 23:31 ), but the most significant reference of “Red Sea” in the Old Testament was to the place where God delivered Israel from Pharaoh's army (Exodus 15:4 ,Exodus 15:4,15:22; Numbers 21:14; Duet. Numbers 11:4; Joshua 2:10; Joshua 4:23; Joshua 24:6; Nehemiah 9:9; Psalm 106:7 ,Psalms 106:7,106:9-11 ,Psalms 106:9-11,106:22; Psalm 136:13-15 ).
No one knows the exact location of the place where Israel crossed the “Red Sea” on their way out of Egypt. Four primary theories have been suggested as to the place of the actual crossing of the isthmus of Suez: (1) the northern edge of the Gulf of Suez; (2) a site in the center of the isthmus near Lake Timsah; (3) a site at the northern edge of the isthmus and the southern edge of Lake Menzaleh; and (4) across a narrow stretch of sandy land which separates Lake Sirbonis from the Mediterranean Sea. Although no one knows the exact site of the crossing, the weight of the biblical evidence is on the side of suggested site number two. See Exodus Event.
Ralph L. Smith
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Red Sea (Reed Sea)'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/r/red-sea-reed-sea.html. 1991.