The Yam Suph
A story from the fictional character of Rabbi Yakob Coon.
Venn I vas a young little cub going to synagogue, I had a pretty liberal teacher. O' course, I didn't know it at da time. I just took what he said fah granted. He told us cubs dat Exodus says da Israelites crossed the "Yam Suph", or "Sea of reeds", and dat dere vas only two inches of vatah on da ground. I remember somebody standin' up and sayin' "Hallelujah! It's a miracle! God drowned da entire Egyptian army is two inches of vatah!
Later, vhen ve vas studyin' foist Kings, I saw the woids "Yam Suph" again, and I jumped up and shouted "Hallelujah! It's anuddah miracle! King Solomon anchored his entire navy in two inches of vatah!"
As many of you know, this is a joke that I love to tell and have done so repeatedly. But the funny thing is, many people actually believe it. When I looked up the route of the exodus in my Ryrie study bible, I was surprised to find that it showed the Hebrews crossing the red sea at the northernmost tip of the western gulf. It then has them wandering down toward Mt. Sinai, which has been placed at the tip of the Sinai peninsula. This, sad to say, is wrong. it is the commonly accepted theory, but it is wrong.
How do we know it's wrong? I'm glad you asked.
Point number one: The Negev is part of Egypt, and was part of Egypt at the time of the exodus. Had the Hebrews wandered about in the negev, they would not have left Egypt.
Point number two: We know that Moses reunited with his father-in-law Jethro. Jethro lived in Midian. Therefore, Mt. Sinai has to be in midian.
Point three: There is no evidence of Hebrews ever having camped at what is thought to be Mt. Sinai in the Negev. There iS evidence that they camped in Midian, which is consistant with the historical narrative.
Point four: Pharoh declared that the Hebrews were "hemmed in" by the wilderness. Had they still been in Goshen and not crossed into the Negev, they wouldn't be in the wilderness, nor would they be closed in. In fact, reconstructions of the route taken show us that the Hebrews traveled south and then east through a dry river bed with steep walls on either side. They camped at what used to be the outlet of the river. They were bordered in front by the sea, on either side by cliffs and to the rear by the route through which Pharoh's army would come.
Point five: The physical evidence of the red sea crossing exists at the mouth of that dry river bed. This is the only place with a gentle enough slope that people could cross the sea bed on foot, assuming the water was removed.
Point six: When Israel moved in to take Caanan, they came from the east. Why would they come from the east if they were to the southwest of Caanan?
And finally, point seven: "Yam Suph" is the Hebrew name for what we call the Red Sea.
So why have our biblical history books been wrong for so long? I could give you a number of reasons. I think the biggest reason, however, is the one that the unbelievers give. "That sort of thing just dosn't happen!" Well, of course it doesn't happen. If you were God and wanted to demonstrate your power to the entire world for all time, would you do something that's likely to happen on its own? Yet this has been a stumbling block to so many, even those bearing the name "Christian", who lack the capacity for such basic faith.
I'd like to present an object lesson at this point. (comes around the pulpit and places an offering bag on the communion table.) Of course, this isn't a real-world environment, but if we pretend for a moment that it is, this bag will not move. The laws of physics dictate that this bag will not move unless acted upon by an outside force. Can I have a volunteer come and pick up this bag? (waits for volunteer to pick up bag.) Now as you can see, the bag has not moved. Yes, I know that someone has picked it up and is holding it, but we have already established that the bag can never move, therefore it has not moved! I'm telling you, it hasn't moved! IT HASN'T MOVED! (throws a hissy fit.) Pretty stupid, isn't it? Yet this is the logic that's being applied. The bag did move because our volunteer acted as an outside force and moved it. The only possible reason I might have for refusing to believe the evidence of my own senses is because I don't want to admit to the existance of the volunteer.
The world as a whole simply cannot accept evidence that proves what it doesn't want to believe- that God is real, that He is the master of the elements, and that He takes care of those on whom His favor rests.
This event proves not only God's existence, but His authority as well. Another country defeating the Egyptians might have told them that they could no longer have a standing army and then ignored them. God eliminated the army in literally a single fell stroke.
In terms of our "River of History", this is exactly what it looks like- a division. There was now a very real nation of Israel. They did not yet have a land, but they were nonetheless witnesses of God in the Earth. God had performed miraculous signs in the presence of the Israelites, and from this point on, people would learn from Israel who God was. And not just those who wanted to, either. God's enemies would soon learn exactly who He was and what He could do. But that's another story.
I don't think a challenge is necessary for this sermon. I'll just reiterate my motto: Question everything. Just be prepared to accept the truth of what you learn. If you're an unbeliever, you might be surprised to prove to yourself that God is real. If you're a Christian, you'll gain the useful skill of separating fact from tradition.
Today's reading: Exodus 14:21-30
21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
25 And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
26 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
27 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
29 But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.