In Part 1 of our discussion of Exodus 14 and the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt we focused on the yam suph (“sea of Reeds” / Red Sea) problem and issues related to the ambiguity of physical place names (toponyms). In this episode of the podcast our focus is cosmic geography—namely, how Egyptian conceptions of their gods and physical world can contribute to reading the exodus story as a theological polemic.
Exodus 14 is one of the major chapters detailing Israel’s departure from Egypt and the miraculous passing through the “Red Sea.” Other chapters include Exod 13:17-22, Exodus 15, and Numbers 33:5-8. The passages do not always agree in the way the event is described, a fact that has produced what scholars call the yam suph (“Red Sea”) problem. What is problematic in that phrase is not the supernatural nature of the way the crossing is presented, but where the crossing occurred and whether any part of what we think as the Red Sea was crossed. This episode unpacks and addresses the problem.
John P. Cooper, “Egypt’s Nile-Red Sea Canals: Chronology, Location, Seasonality and Function,” Pages 195-209 in Connected Hinterlands: Proceedings of the Red Sea Project IV Held at the University of Southampton, September 2008 (ed. Lucy Blue, et. al; BAR International Series 2052; Society for Arabian Studies Monographs No. 8 (2009)
Canal-Map (“Canal Map”) from: Amihai Sneh, Tuvia Weissbrod and Itamar Perath, “Evidence for an Ancient Egyptian Frontier Canal: The remnants of an artificial waterway discovered in the northeastern Nile Delta may have formed part of the barrier called “Shur of Egypt” in ancient texts,” American Scientist 63:5 (Sept-Oct 1975): 542-548
Exodus 13 takes us into the subject of the offering of the firstborn. Certain scholars argue that the passage is to be taken literally, that Yahweh demanded the Israelites to sacrifice their firstborn male child (i.e., human sacrifice). This episode surveys how this argument is made and evaluates it in terms of the data of the text and logical coherence.