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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Red Sea

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References to the Red Sea under that name are not found earlier than the Apocrypha (Judith 5:12 Wisdom of Solomon 10:18 , 19:7 I Macc. 4:9). The name refers to the body of water, termed "Yam Suf" in all other passages, crossed by the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:18 15:4,22 Numbers 33:10 et seq. Deuteronomy 11:4 Joshua 2:10 et al. ). It denotes, therefore, the present Gulf of Suez, which at that time extended considerably farther north, reaching, according to Greek and Latin authors, as far as the city of Hero (= Pithom), in the Wadi Tumilat. The meaning of the word "suf" in the name is uncertain, although it appears from Exodus 2:3,5 and Isaiah 19:6 that it meant "reed." According to Ermann and others it is an Egyptian word borrowed by the Hebrews, although the Egyptians never applied that name to the gulf. While it is true that no reeds now grow on the salty coast of the gulf, different conditions may have prevailed along the northern end in ancient times, where fresh-water streams discharged into it. Other authorities translate "suf" as "sea-grass" or "seaweed," which is supposed to have been reddish and to have given that body of water the name "Red Sea." Seaweed of that color, however, is seldom found there. In other passages the same name, "Yam Suf," is applied also to the Æ lanitic Gulf of the Red Sea, which extends northward on the eastern side of the Sinaitic Peninsula, with Ezion-geber and Eloth at its northern end (IKings 9:26 Exodus 23:31 Deuteronomy 1:40 Judges 11:26 Jeremiah 49:21 et al. ). It is difficult to say how the Red Sea received its name red mountains on the coast, or the riparian Erythreans, may have given rise to it.

E. G. H. I. Be.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Red Sea'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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