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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Red Sea

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RED SEA . The body of water, over 1000 miles in length, which divides Africa from Arabia. The Biblical interest of the name centres at its northern end in its two projections, the Gulf of Suez, running north-west, and the Bay of Akabah almost due north. The former once extended much farther to the north, along the route of the present Suez Canal. Anciently it was known as the Gulf of Heroöepolis, running as far north as the Bitter Lakes. In this region it is probable that the passage of the sea described in Exodus 14:1-31 took place, though it has been located by some at the present Suez, and by others still farther south.

This primitive extension of the gulf to the north, the region of weeds, probably accounts for its name, Yam Suph , ‘ sea of weeds ’ ( Exodus 10:19 ; Exodus 15:4 ), which was later applied also to the eastern extension, the Bay of Akabah ( Numbers 21:4 ), to the entire body of water now known as the Red Sea, stretching from the Ras Mohammed southward to the straits, and perhaps even to the Persian Gulf ( Exodus 23:31 ). No satisfactory explanation of the term ‘red’ (Gr. Erythra , Lat. Rubrum ) has been found.

Biblical history is concerned with the western gulf (Suez, 130 m. long) only in connexion with the Exodus. Those who locate Mt. Sinai in the peninsula between the two gulfs, either at Mt. Serhal or at Jebel Musa, trace the route of the wanderings down the eastern shore of this water as far as Ras Abu Zenimeh , or (with Shaw, Pococke, etc.) as far as Tor , and then through the mountain wadys to Sinai. Those who locate the mountain of the Law farther north in the region north of Akahah, trace the wanderings directly eastward from the sea ( Judges 11:16 ).

The Bay of Akabah, 90 m. long, lies in the southern end of the long trench which extends from the Red Sea proper northward to the Lehanons, the upper portion of which is occupied by the Jordan and the Dead Sea. Between the latter and the Bay of Akabah lies the Arabah . At the northern end was an important maritime highway in the reign of Solomon. At the harbour of Ezion-geber (near to, or perhaps the same as, Elath), at its northern end, Solomon built his navy, with the help of Phœnician seamen ( 1 Kings 9:26 ), and sent out expeditions to India. Jehoshaphat was less successful ( 1 Kings 22:48 ).

H. L. Willett.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Red Sea'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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