Community Discussions

Find answers, ask questions, and connect with our
community around the world.

Home Forums Evidence for Biblical miracles The miraculous sea crossing Reply To: The miraculous sea crossing

  • Deborah Hurn

    April 21, 2021 at 9:58 pm

    I put the Red Sea crossing along the N shore of the Great Bitter Lake (GBL).

    My mechanism is similar to @colin-humphreys Colin Humphreys’ wind setdown effect, but in the Suez Isthmus rather than at the head of the Aqaba Gulf.

    Har-el reviews the regional wind directions and topographical details in:

    Har-El, Menashe. The Sinai Journeys: The Route of the Exodus. New (English) and Revised Edition. San Diego, CA: Ridgefield, 1983.

    This is how it works: The E wind is the hot dry Hamsin off the Arabian peninsula to the SE that blows long and hard as described in Exodus. It blows in transitional seasons (i.e. Spring, Fall) when it suddenly ‘switches’ with the prevailing NW wind from the Med Sea. Everything in the eastern hemisphere is E according to ancient reckoning (Har-El). So a SE wind is described as an E wind.

    The isthmus is all very low-lying except for three ridges of higher ground where the E-W routes ran (listed from S to N) – the Chalouf/Shalloof (between Suez and the Bitter Lakes) – the Serapeum (between the Great Bitter Lake and the Timsah Lake) – and el-Gisr (“the bridge”, between Lake Timsah and the Ballah Lakes). There is also a very small ridge in the N through el-Qantarah between the Ballah Lakes where the current road to Gaza runs. See Trumbull’s cross-section of the isthmus elevations at p. 341, very helpful.

    https ://

    (The y axis for elevation is greatly exaggerated. This area is all very low-lying. You can see from this diagram also how shallow it is in the N of the isthmus, very hard to drown, and for horses, impossible.)

    The Israelites turned SE at Succoth (Tel el Mashkuta) in Wadi Tumilat and journeyed to Etham on the Serapeum ridge. Instead of crossing the isthmus W-E at Etham and continuing along the route to the Red Sea and thence across the Sinai Peninsula to Arabia, they continued S in the isthmus to the NW ‘corner’ of the Great Bitter Lake (GBL) shore. The cluster of site names here indicate activity consistent with a port or sea industry. Migdol: tower; (Pi)hahiroth: (mouth of) the ‘diggings’; Baal-zephon: a shrine.

    The Bitter Lakes were full from a pharaonic canal (as indicated by the name Pihahiroth) or simply by natural overflow from the Nile through Wadi Tumilat to the GBL. Possibly also tidally from the Suez Gulf through a natural channel in the Shalloof but I am still waiting to establish that such a channel existed. (I have to find the original surveyor’s report for the construction of the Suez Canal because such a channel was obliterated in the excavation. It will be in French. I have unreferenced accounts of de Lesseps dynamiting this channel to make it deeper only 3 days before the opening of the canal in 1869. If anyone has access to these documents, that would help a lot to clarify if the Red Sea included an extension through the Bitter Lakes).

    The SE Hamsin blew the water in the lake NW all night, but the direction is somewhat constrained by the N-S depression of the isthmus so the water is overall displaced NNW. Thus, the water overtopped the GBL and was blown up the isthmus towards Serapeum (the next ridge to the N across the isthmus) and was held there by the wind. The hiphil of the verb הָלַךְ hâlak “to walk” indicates that the waters were ‘walked’ back (N) up the isthmus all night (v. 21). This is the wind setdown effect.

    At some point during the night, the tide in the Gulf turned so the water level in the GBL dropped and could no longer overtop the N shore, and no more water could be blown NNW up the isthmus. But the water that had already been blown up the isthmus was still held there by the wind. The north shore of the lake was then dried by the wind.

    The north shore of the GBL was exposed and the people crossed the isthmus W-E. The water to their left (N) was ‘trying’ to drain back into the GBL but was still being blown NNW by the wind. The water in the GBL to their right (S) was trying to drain back into the lake but was also being blown NNW by the wind. This caused a ‘rolling’ edge both at the shore of the lake and on the body of shallow water held NNW in the isthmus by the wind. These are the ‘walls’… the two rolling edges of water. Not very spectacular, but distinct and remarkable.

    When the people were across the isthmus and the army was halfway across, the Hamsin suddenly ceased. The water that had been blown uphill towards the Serapeum ridge started to flow back “return” שׁוּב shûb downhill to the GBL. This is not a crashing wall or walls. It is coming from one direction and gathering depth and momentum. This is the ‘bore wave’ of Humphrey’s model. The advance pressure of the returning water possibly also caused water to rise from under the sand, causing the chariot wheels to sink (Ex 14:25).

    The text indicates that the army could see the water coming and had time to try and run back to the W side of the isthmus. It also says they fled before the water, and many translations say they fled “towards”, “into”, or “to meet” the water (Ex 14:27). This fits a scenario where the water was pressed to the NNW side of the isthmus by a wind from the SE, and the army was forced to run towards the gathering wave as they ran back to the W side of the GBL shoreline. It is a bit like running towards a closing door, hoping to get through before it closes.

    The text also states that the soldiers were “tossed” into the deep, i.e. not suddenly submerged by two collapsing walls of water (Ex 14:27-28). This fits a scenario where the water swept them off the shore into the GBL and then a large amount of water kept coming so they could not regain the shore. The GBL is 30 ft (10 m) deep near the N shore; this is the only ‘deep’ depression in the entire Suez Isthmus. The sea eventually returned to its normal ‘depth’ or ‘strength’, an unusual word, NIV translates it “place” which fits the scenario of the displaced floodwaters returning to the lake basin.

    From an unused root (meaning to continue); permanence; hence (concretely) permanent; specifically a chieftain: - hard, mighty, rough, strength, strong.
    Total KJV occurrences: 13

    In the morning the tide returned (if there was a connection with the gulf) and washed the bodies to the shores all around the head of the Gulf. Hence the Israelites could now see the bodies. How does this proposal measure up? Still a miracle, but consistent with the natural conditions of the unusual phenomena that is the Suez Isthmus with its strange proximity and interaction between the Nile, the Med and Red seas, and the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas.