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Yam Suph

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Yam Suph (Hebrew: יַם-סוּף) is a phrase which occurs about 23 times in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament) and has traditionally been understood to refer to the salt water inlet located between Africa and the Arabian peninsula, known in English as the Red Sea. More recently, alternate understandings of the term have been proposed for those passages where it refers to the Israelite Crossing of the Sea as told in Exodus 13-15. These proposals would mean that Yam Suph is better translated in these passages as Sea of Reeds or Sea of Seaweed. (See examples in the NJPS translation below). I Kings 9:26 identifies "yam suph" with the Red Sea (at Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba).

Occurrences

The occurrences of the term are as follows.[1] The translations given are the KJV, that is the Authorized King James Version and the NJPS, that is the New Jewish Publication Society of America Version. The Septuagint translation is ἐρυθρά θάλασσα, "red sea", except where indicated below.

Exodus 10:19

End of the eighth Plague of Egypt:

  • KJV: "And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt."
  • NJPS: "The LORD caused a shift to a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts, and hurled them into the Sea of Reeds; not a single locust remained in all the territory of Egypt."
  • other translations: Exodus 10:19

Exodus 13:18

Beginning of The Exodus:

  • KJV: "But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt."
  • NJPS: "So God led the people roundabout, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds. Now the Israelites went up armed out of the land of Egypt."
  • other translations: Exodus 13:18

Exodus 15:4

The Passage of the Red Sea.After the pursuing Egyptians have been drowned in "the waters" of "the sea":

  • KJV: "Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea."
  • NJPS: "Pharaoh's chariots and his army he has cast into the sea: and the pick of his officers are drowned in the Sea of Reeds."
  • other translations: Exodus 15:4

Exodus 15:22

The Exodus continuing:

  • KJV: "So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water."
  • NJPS: "Then Moses caused Israel to set out from the Sea of Reeds. They went on into the wilderness of Shur; they traveled three days in the wilderness and found no water."
  • other translations: Exodus 15:22

Exodus 23:31

During God’s further instruction to Moses after the Ten Commandments:

  • KJV: "And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee."
  • NJPS: "And I will set your borders from the Sea of Reeds to the Sea of Philistia, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hands; and you will drive them out before you."
  • other translations: Exodus 23:31

Numbers 14:25

In the wilderness, before the conquest of Canaan:

  • KJV: "(Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.) Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea."
  • NJPS: "Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites occupy the valleys. Start out, then, tomorrow, and march into the wilderness by way of the Sea of Reeds."
  • other translations: Numbers 14:25

Numbers 21:4

Just after the death of Aaron:

  • KJV: "And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way."
  • NJPS: "They set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Sea of Reeds, to skirt the land of Edom. But the people grew restive on the journey,"
  • other translations: Numbers 21:4

Numbers 33:10-11

Continuing the wanderings in the wilderness:

  • KJV: "(10) And they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red sea. (11) And they removed from the Red sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin."
  • NJPS: "(10) They set out from Elim, and encamped by the Sea of Reeds. (11) They set out from the Sea of Reeds, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin."
  • other translations: Numbers 33:10-11

Deuteronomy 1:1

The opening verse of the book of Deuteronomy has an occurrence of Suph on its own. Some translations, including the Septuagint, have taken this as an abbreviation for the full form, others not:

  • KJV: "These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab."
  • NJPS: "These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan. — Through the wilderness, in the Arabah near Suph, between Paran, and Tophel, Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab,"
  • other translations: Deuteronomy 1:1

Deuteronomy 1:40

Moses reviews the strategy after the initial failure to invade Canaan.

  • KJV: "But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea."
  • NJPS: "As for you, turn about, and march into the wilderness by the way of the Sea of Reeds."
  • other translations: Deuteronomy 1:40

Deuteronomy 2:1

As above:

  • KJV: "Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days."
  • NJPS: "Thus, after you had remained at Kadesh all that long time, we marched back into the wilderness by the way of the Sea of Reeds, as the LORD had spoken to me: and skirted the hill country of Seir a long time. "
  • other translations: Deuteronomy 2:1

Deuteronomy 11:4

Looking back on the events of the Exodus:

  • KJV: "And what he did unto the army of Egypt, unto their horses, and to their chariots; how he made the water of the Red sea to overflow them as they pursued after you, and how the LORD hath destroyed them unto this day;"
  • NJPS: "what He did to Egypt’s army, its horses and chariots; how the LORD rolled back upon them the waters of the Sea of Reeds when they were pursuing you, thus destroying them once and for all;"
  • other translations: Deuteronomy 11:4

Joshua 2:10

Testimony of Rahab to Joshua’s spies before the conquest of Jericho:

  • KJV: "For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed."
  • NJPS: "For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Sea of Reeds for you, when you left Egypt; and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings across the Jordan, whom you doomed."
  • other translations: Joshua 2:10

Joshua 4:23

Joshua’s speech to the troops shortly before the conquest of Jericho:

  • KJV: "For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over:"
  • NJPS: "For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you, until you crossed, just as the LORD your God did to the Sea of Reeds, which He dried up before us, until we crossed."
  • other translations: Joshua 4:23

Joshua 24:6

in Joshua’s final speech to the Israelites:

  • KJV: "And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea."
  • NJPS: "— I freed your fathers — from Egypt, and you came to the Sea. But the Egyptians pursued your fathers to the Sea of Reeds with chariots and horsemen."
  • other translations: Joshua 24:6

1 Kings 9:26

Solomon’s navy:

  • KJV: "And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red sea, in the land of Edom."
  • NJPS: "King Solomon also built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Sea of Reeds in the land of Edom."
  • The Septuagint here has ἐπὶ τοῦ χείλους τῆς ἐσχάτης θαλάσσης, meaning "on the shore of the extremity of the sea"[2]
  • other translations: 1 Kings 9:26

Nehemiah 9:9

This and all the remaining uses of the term are references back to earlier events as described above.

  • KJV: "And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;"
  • NJPS: "You took note of our fathers’ affliction in Egypt, and heard their cry at the Sea of Reeds;"
  • other translations: Nehemiah 9:9

Psalms 106:7-9

  • KJV: "(7) Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea. (8) Nevertheless he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known. (9) He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness."
  • NJPS: "(7) Our forefathers in Egypt did not perceive Your wonders; they did not remember Your abundant love, but rebelled at the sea, at the Sea of Reeds. (8) Yet He saved them, as befits His name, to make known His might. (9) He sent is blast against the Sea of Reeds; it became dry; he led them through the deep, as through a wilderness."
  • other translations: Psalms 106:7-9

Psalms 106:22

  • KJV: "Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea."
  • NJPS: "wondrous deeds in the land of Ham, awesome deeds at the Sea of Reeds."
  • other translations: Psalms 106:22

Psalms 136:13-15

  • KJV: "(13) To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever: (14) And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever: (15) But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever."
  • NJPS: "(13) Who split apart the Sea of Reeds, His steadfast love is eternal; (14) and made Israel pass through it, His steadfast love is eternal; (15) Who hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Sea of Reeds, His steadfast love is eternal;"
  • other translations: Psalms 136:13-15

Jeremiah 49:21

  • KJV: "The earth is moved at the noise of their fall, at the cry the noise thereof was heard in the Red sea."
  • NJPS: "At the sound of their downfall The earth shall shake; The sound of screaming Shall be heard at the Sea of Reeds."
  • A translation of this text does not occur at this point in the Septuagint. An approximate correspondence is found at Jeremiah 29:21, referring to just the "the sea".
  • other translations: Jeremiah 49:21

Discussion

The appropriate translation of the phrase remains a matter of dispute, as does the exact location referred to. One possible translation of Yam Suph is "Sea of Reeds", (suph by itself means 'reed', e.g. in Exodus 2:3). This was pointed out as early as the 11th century, by Rashi[1].

More conjecturally, it has also been suggested that suph may be related to the Hebrew suphah ("storm") or soph ("end"), referring to the events of the Reed/Red Sea escape itself:

The crossing of the sea signaled the end of the sojourn in Egypt and it certainly was the end of the Egyptian army that pursued the fleeing Hebrews (Ex 14:23-29; 15:4-5). After this event at yam suph, perhaps the verb soph, meaning "destroy" and "come to an end," originated (cf. Amos 3:15; Jer 8:13; Isa 66:17; Psa 73:19). Another possible development of this root is the word suphah, meaning "storm-wind"...The meanings "end" and "storm-wind" would have constituted nice puns on the event that took place at the yam suph.[3]

Further theories about its whereabouts and what happened during the Exodus are given in the article Passage of the Red Sea.

References

  1. Wigram, George V. (1996) [1874]. The Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers. ISBN 1-56563-208-7. 
  2. Brenton, Sir Lancelot C. L. (1986). The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. Hendrickson Publishers. ISBN 0-913573-44-2. 
  3. Hoffmeier, James K. (2005). Ancient Israel in Sinai, The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press. p. p. 214. ISBN 0-515546-7. 

See also

Reed Searu:Чермное море

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