MemberFebruary 24, 2021 at 10:11 am
An overview of the biblical references to the Red Sea crossing (as posted above) can be separated into ‘prose’ and ‘poetry’. Generally, the prose accounts are moderate and observational in their accounts while the poetic accounts are hyperbolic and theological. This is probably as it should be for the different literary genres, but the problem comes when we combine them all to create an overly spectacular account of what actually happened.
The prose accounts use modest ‘scientific’ terms: “divide”, “dry up”, “pass through”, “cover”, “overflow”. Rahab, for example (clearly a sensible woman), simply says “we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you” (Josh 2:10). Joshua uses the same low-key description for both Jordan and Red Sea crossings. Even though the mechanisms were different (Red Sea, wind; Jordan, earthquake), the effect was apparently the same, that is, the water “dried up”:
Jos 4:23 JPS [Joshua] For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up from before us, until we were passed over...
Thus, Joshua (one of the very few who were actually there when both events happened) sees little difference between the crossings regarding the ‘spectacular’ factor. Even a psalm says “dried up” (106:9) and so does a prophecy in Isaiah (51:10).
The Exodus narrative even offers a mechanism for the division of the Red Sea:
The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. (Ex 14:21)
Such a wind would also account for the ‘drying’ effect so often referred to. Those who believe in a spectacular gravity-defying cleft through a deep-sea bed must explain why the prose passages do not use more ‘exciting’ verbs, and must also explain why the biblical author offers a mechanism (cause) that is clearly inadequate to the task (effect).
Really, if we are good biblical scholars, we will interpret appropriately according to the genre of the text in question, and we won’t do a mash-up of prose and poetry.