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What Splitting the Real Sea of Reeds Teaches Us About Miracles

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What body of water was split for the Isrealites to cross? Why include very specific locations and maneuvers when describing what is presumably a very simple set of events?

The unfortunate consequence of misinterpreting narratives is the loss of their depth and true value. Biblical narratives are not exempt. One such example is the colloquial misunderstanding of the miraculous nature of the splitting of the sea. The delicately contrived circumstances that enabled the event to occur are underappreciated in their nuance in favor of a simplified supernatural tale. In reality, the textual depiction of the splitting of the sea presents a tantalizingly plausible mechanism. Similar to how almost all of the plagues are coincidentally convenient natural phenomena for the region, the splitting of the sea is illustrated to the reader with enough detail to construct a phenomenologically natural etiology. However, it is the complexity of those intertwining elements combined with the logistics of the narrative that ultimately create a far more impressive expression of divine power.

The overly simplified common understanding of the closing scenes to the exodus begin with Israel trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. Moshe reassured the people of their impending salvation (Shmot 14:13-14). He stretched out his hands and a wind blew all night over the sea (14:21). The implication from the text is that this wind was the force through which the sea was split, however imagining a body of water dozens or hundreds of feet deep splitting using only wind is anything but plausible. This is the fundamental colloquial misconception; this is the miracle of ‘splitting the sea.’

The sea is referred in the text as yam suf (13:18), which is incorrectly translated as the Red Sea, the large body of water between Egypt and the Sinai peninsula. The yam suf is correctly translated as the ‘sea of reeds,’ similar to the suf, reeds, within which Moshe was placed as an infant on the bank of the Nile (refer........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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