The Passage of Red Sea - the account of the march of Moses and the Israelites through yam suph, commonly translated as the Red Sea, is given in Exodus 14:22-31.
There are three divisive readings of this event. Readers are divided as to whether this was an actual historical event or a miracle legend. Readers differ as to whether this was a supernatural event or explicable in terms of local topography. And readers differ on the proper translation of yam suph, the location that is given in Exodus.
The text below is written from the viewpoint of a believer in the literal truth of this event. Text later in the article is written from a different viewpoint.
Though yam in the phrase yam suph clearly means "waters," the reading of "suph" has given rise to great diversity of opinion as to the precise place where the Passage occurred. The difficulty of arriving at any definite conclusion on the matter is much increased by the consideration that the head of the Gulf of Suez, which was the branch of the sea that was crossed, must have extended at the time of the Exodus probably 80 km (50 miles) farther north than it does at present. Some have argued that the crossing took place opposite the Wady Tawarik, where the sea is at present some 11 km (7 miles) broad. But the opinion that seems to be best supported is that which points to the neighbourhood of Suez. This position perfectly satisfies all the conditions of the stupendous miracle as recorded in the sacred narrative.
Some consider the story of the parting of yam suph to be based on a mistranslation. The actual trip, it has argued, was through an area known as the sea of reeds which would have had to be a marshy freshwater swamp, in order to grow 'reeds." Other Old Testament uses of suph and yam suph are attested in the link below. One can compare the normal Hebrew word for the Red Sea red and the word for reed - (as Moses was sent into the Nile in a reed basket).
However, this hypothesis neglects the context of the story. Whatever "sea" the story refers to was clearly considered by the author of the Torah to be substantial enough to deluge Pharaoh's army. It is hard to imagine the author relating a story of how the entire Egyptian army was drowned in six inches of water.
Constantly there have been theories that the parting of the "Red Sea" was a result of a volcanic eruption in the nearby area, which caused sudden shifts in tides, of which there is great evidence to support. Many believers in the story consider this to diminish the miraculousness of the event were it to be true, however others claim that it would still be just as miraculous, for the timing for the event was perfect for the Israelites, and that they were thus either blessed or consistently lucky.
The same recent study, shown on BBC, found new evidence that greatly supports the Scriptural account of the Exodus of the Jews. A military stable, supporting an army of horses, was found along with hieroglyphics recounting how the Israelite slaves escaped after "the god of the water" let them pass and then poured wrath on the entire Egyptian army.
This entry incorporates text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897, with some modernisation.
- BASE Institute, "What and where was the "Red Sea" "Sea of reeds" or Yam Suph of the Exodus?": (http://www.baseinstitute.org/faqs/yamsuph.pdf) quotes readings and sources supporting a meaning of suph as "seaweed" and adduces other uses of yam suph in the Tanakh.