I suppose there must have recently been another documentary about Moses and the exodus on TV again because a co-worker raised the swamp argument. Because of a technical issue with the Hebrew words that are translated into English, some argue that the Red Sea in the Book of Exodus might actually be the Sea of Reeds. The argument then suggests that the Israelites crossed a dried up portion of a swamp rather than over dry ground through the middle of the Red Sea. Some even suggest that the mud was at just such a state that a person walking could move across it but the Egyptian chariots and horses would sink.
For the sake of the argument, let's say that Moses and some estimated 30,000 Israelites did cross a reed swamp instead of the Red Sea.
If this reed theory is true, why did the waters have to be divided so they could walk on dry ground? Was there still a miracle of divided waters? If so does it make a difference if the miracle was in a swamp or a sea?
"Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground" (Exodus 15:16, ESV).How big was this swamp? Big enough to warrant the imagery of a wall of water on both sides? Clearly this doesn't make sense if there was no miracle and the 30,000 people walked across that mud that could hold them but not Egyptian horses.
"And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left" (Exodus 15:22, ESV).If this was a swamp with reeds growing up through it, how is it that when the waters came back not one Egyptian soldier was able to survive? Not one was able to wade or swim out of the swamp. If the first few soldiers of this huge and mighty army were sinking in, why did the entire rest of the army follow? Instead of sinking mud, it seems that they were out in the middle and the waters returned.
"So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained" (Exodus 15:27-28, ESV).The Israelites wrote a song about the event. One of the lines seems a little odd for a swamp because it suggest that there is some depth to this body of water.
“Pharaoh's chariots and his host he cast into the sea,Regardless if you believe or not that God parted a body of water to protect the fleeing Israelites, and even if you feel the Exodus account is fiction, what looks like the most obvious meaning: a swamp of reeds or the Red Sea? What is the author suggesting it was?
and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
they went down into the depths like a stone" (Exodus 16:4-5, ESV).
We can split hairs all day long, but if we try to take the miracles out of the Bible we'll have to neglect reading the larger narrative in order for it to make sense. In reality, sometimes it is easier to believe the author (which in the case of the Bible, is man and God). Sometimes it's actually easier to accept the miracle than to try to accept the long way around God's involvement with mankind.
*The photo is in the public domain.