Red Sea or Reed Sea?

So God led the people around by the desert road towards the Red Sea (Exodus 13:18).  This will be our starting point.

There’s no problem reading the verse in English, which has  yam suph translated as Red Sea. The Hebrew yam refers to a sea, lake, or river, and raises no translationary issue. But suph translates as reeds, rushes, marshes. Thus, yam suph is quite rightly translated as Sea of Reeds, not Red Sea.

Leading biblical scholars, such as the three Hs, James Hoffmeier, Cornelius Houtman, and James Philip Hyath, maintain that the Israelites waded through  a marshy Sea of Reeds. Most modern biblical scholars have followed suit.

On the other hand, we have the Septuagint, the 3rd-century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, which rendered yam suph as eruthra thalassa, Greek for Red Sea. It should be noted that the translators, 72 Alexandrian Jewish scholars, did not use the Greek words for Sea of Reeds.

They understood only too well that yam suph literally meant Sea of Reeds, but they also knew that yam suph actually was the Red Sea. The tradition from Moses to the time of the Septuagint held that yam suph  was indeed the Red Sea, not the Sea of Reeds.

In 1 Kings 9:26, we read,  And King Solomon [c. 1000 BCE] made a navy of ships in Ezion Geber, which is besides Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea [yam suph], in the land of Edom (KJV). Solomon was building fighting ships to sail on a body of water and not through marshland!

A thousand years later, we have New Testament references to the Red Sea    in Acts 7:36 ([Moses] brought them out, after he had shown wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea) and Hebrews 11:29 (By faith they passed through the Red Sea)  that use eruthra thalassa, the Greek for Red Sea, and not the Greek words for Sea of Reeds. The authors of these two books were Jews who, after all, were fully cognizant of their tradition.