Walls of Water

When the bible first mentions the splitting of the Red Sea, it states: the waters were a wall to them on their right and on their left (Exodus 14:22 & 29). The “walls of water” are confirmed in Psalm 78. However, in celebration of the witnessing the theophany of God at the Red Sea, Moses and the Israelites break into a song of (Exodus 15:1-19), never mentioning the “walls of water.” In the Book of Joshua, Rahab told the two spies that the Canaanites are fearful of the Jewish people for we have heard how God dried the waters of the Red Sea (2:10). Psalms 66, 104 and 106 along with the prophets Isaiah (43:16 & 50:2), Nachum (1:4) and Nehemiah (9:11) relate the episode of God drying up the waters without mentioning the accompanying miracle of the “walls of water.”

It is through the episode of the Red Sea that people of Israel saw the great strength of God, feared Him, believed in His word and the prophecy of Moses (Exodus 14:31). You would think that every aspect of this event would be detailed throughout the generations of Israel. Textually speaking it is just the opposite, critical parts of the miracle are nowhere to be found. Some commentators say that walls of water is used in a poetic manner; our gratitude to God for saving us from the impeding danger of the Egyptian cavalry.

As people of faith, the miraculous is necessary in our belief in God. He does answer our prayers, speaks to the prophets and intervenes in history. Textual inconsistencies or specific emphasizes on an episode in the Bible need to be worked out as part our relationship with God. In Judaism, we are not strict biblical literalist in our interpretation of the Torah. There are times when poetic license is used when the literal interpretation falls short in understanding the text.

Without shadow a doubt, the story of the splitting of the Red Sea occurred. Was it depicted as stated in Exodus 14? That is a possibility, but with little scriptural reference to back it up. The Torah is not a book we turn to for historical accuracy, but rather for truth. The story of the Exodus lives in us. Although we may never prove the exact details on how God saved our people during the Exodus, He redeemed us!

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