The Crossing of the Red Sea (Hebrew: קריעת ים סוף Kriat Yam Suph – Crossing of the Red Sea or Sea of Reeds) remains one of the most vivid story of the Bible.
The people of Israel led by Moses moved out of Egypt, where they had multiplied and prospered since the time of James – the boy sold into slavery by his wicked brothers – after the Pharaoh put him in charge of the Inland Revenues office, like a prehistoric Nathan Rothschild…
The story of the crossing is to be found in the Book of Exodus (13:17-14:29) and it appears also in the Quran (Surah 26: Al-Shu’ara’ in verses 60-67).
The Pharaoh had first agreed to let them go, while they moved from Ramesses to Succoth and then to Etham on the edge of the desert, led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Then God told Moses to turn back and camp by the sea at Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and Baal-zephon. In the meantime the Pharaoh changed his mind and did pursue the Israelites with war chariots, overtaking them at Pi-hahiroth. We don’t know where Pi-hahiroth was, but possibly it was close to Suez, right there was a fording passage to get to the other side.
Moses raised his staff and the Sea was parted by God. The Israelites walked on the exposed ground and crossed to the other side, while the Egyptian army pursuing them ended badly, because the sea closed again, drowning them. The wheels of their chariots were stuck in the wet sands.
Several theories had been put forward to explain the parting of the sea, the most common one is connected with the strong easterly wind mentioned in the Bible. A possible parting of waters had been demonstrated possible scientifically but not at the north end of the Red Sea/Gulf of Suez, rather on the Mediterranean coast, at the Lake of Tanis. The Lake of Tanis is a coastal lagoon fed by the Pelusiac branch of the Nile. Scientific modelling had demonstrated that, under a wind set down of 28ms-1, could open up a 3-4-kilometer-long land bridge which would remain open for around four hours. Perhaps Moses knew about it and camped there waiting for the right atmospheric conditions to cross. Then when the winds ceased in about 4 minutes the waters did rise by a couple of meters.
The Hebrew call the place of the crossing “Yam Suph”. Although this has traditionally been thought to refer to the Red Sea, this may be a mistranslation from the Greek Septuagint Bible, in Hebrew Suph never meant “red” but rather “reeds”.
Only recently another explanation had been taken into consideration: a tsunami.
The Red Sea region is highly seismically active and scientific researches indicates that such an event might have been triggered by an earthquake in the Gulf of Aqaba, causing the water to withdraw first, for about an hour, in a place where the Israelite were already preparing to ford, at low tide, the few hundred meters necessary to get on the other side and then a mighty wave could have wiped out the Egyptians and their cumbersome war chariots.
It is generally believed that this may have happened during the XIX dynasty, lasting from 1292 BC to 1189 BC. founded by Seti I, whose well-preserved mummy it’s still visible at the Cairo’s Museum.
If such an event happened at the behest of the Lord, as the Bible maintains, or whether the Israelites were simply lucky remains a matter of Faith.