[b-hebrew] Yam Suph "Reed" Sea - Seaweed

David Kimbrough (CLWA) dkimbrough at clwa.org
Mon Jan 26 11:31:29 EST 2004

I think it is worth noting that in Jonah (2:5), Suf is used for "sea-weed"
or "kelp":  "The waters compassed me about, [even] to the soul: the depth
closed me round about, the weeds (suf) were wrapped about my head."  Bing in
the "fish's belly", the only reasonable reading of Suf in this context is
"sea-weed" as there is no reason to expect fresh water reeds to be in the
stomach a giant fish in the sea.

It is also not too important that there actually be any seaweed or reeds in
or near the "Yam Suf".  The Yellow River is not yellow, the Red Sea is not
Red, the Black Sea, although darker than most due to anoxic conditions, is
not black, the Pacific Ocean, despite its name, is no more "peaceful" than
any other Ocean.  There are al kinds of geographical names that in no
reflective feature it identifies.  This is true of people  I know people
whose name is "Short" who are rather tall.  It is just a name.

dkimbrough at clwa.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Kirk [mailto:peterkirk at qaya.org]
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2004 8:12 AM
To: Jonathan D. Safren
Cc: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Yam Suph "Reed" Sea ?

On 26/01/2004 07:50, Jonathan D. Safren wrote:

>Peter Kirk wrote:
>>The Red Sea may not have reeds growing in it (contrary to Patterson's
>>TWOT article, they do not grow in sea water, but then Hebrew professors
>>should not be relied on as authorities on botany), but, as I have seen,
>>it does have mangroves growing in it - currently only a few, but they
>>may have been more common millennia ago. This would distinguish the Red
>>Sea and its branches from the mangrove-less Mediterranean. So if suph is
>>a more generic term for aquatic plants, this would be a good label to
>>distinguish the seas.
>As I wrote in my original posting, Israeli geographer Menashe Harel claims
>that reeds do not grow by bodies of salt water (I understand him to mean
>specific bodies of salt water adjoining Egypt and Syro-Palestine, though he
>may have intended something more general) ...

I think this is generally true, in fact that mangroves are the only 
flowering plants which can live in sea water.

>..., but they do grow by brackish
>water, such as were the Bitter Lakes before the Suez Canal.
>Harel is considered one of Israel's foremost geographical authorities, and
>imagine he wouldn't be wrong on this one.

I don't suggest that he is. I was referring to sea water, not to 
brackish water. Incidentally, the fact that this water is brackish 
rather than saturated with salt implies that there must have been some 
way for salt-bearing water to escape to the sea, which would very likely 
have been through sandy deposits blocking the original channel to the 
Red Sea.

>Therefore one must cnsider the possibility that "yam suph" can refer to two
>different bodies of water in the Bible, that of Ex. 14, and that of 1

Well, there cannot be such a neat distinction. BDB suggests that yam-suf 
refers to the Gulf of Aqaba not only in 1 Kings 9:26, but also in 
Numbers 21:4, 14:25, Deut 1:40, 2:1 (these are references to DEREK 
YAM-SUF), and perhaps Judges 11:16, Jer 49:21, and by emendation Deut 
1:1. It is possible that all these except the first are references to 
the Bitter Lakes, but unlikely given the geographical context.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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