THE SEA OF EDOM THEORY
One theory that we feel is worth consideration proposes that early Bible translations’ use of the term “Red Sea” was meant to identify the “Edom Sea,” as “Edom” would mean “red” to Hebrew scribes. If true, this would mean that the Exodus account was referring specifically to the Gulf of Aqaba.
Edom, in addition to Midian, was one of the lands on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. If “Red Sea” meant “Edom Sea,” then this is the only body of water it could be referring to.
The original Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, uses the term Erythra Thalassa. This was then interpreted to mean “Red Sea.”
Dr. Miles Jones, an expert in the development of languages with a specialization in proto-Hebrew, suggests that the Hebraic meaning behind the Greek term Erythra Thalassa could be “Edom Sea.” He writes:
"The word edom meant red in ancient Semitic (Gen. 25:30). Therefore, the 'Sea of Edom' or 'Edom Sea' is clearly a contender for the origin of the name 'Red Sea.' It might explain why the Greeks translated it as Eurthra Thalassa, the Red Sea."
(Dr. Miles Jones, 2018: The Writing of God - New Chronology Edition, pg. 94)
Jones points out that this word for “red” is used repeatedly in the Bible to describe the land of Edom. Derivatives of the word are also used to describe Jacob’s brother, Esau, as he is said to have looked reddish and hairy upon birth. The book of Genesis states that Esau and his descendants founded the ancient kingdom of Edom, meaning the “Red Lands” (Genesis 36:1). As stated, these Red Lands bordered against the Gulf of Aqaba.
This theory is considered credible by Nehemia Gordon, a Jewish expert on Hebrew manuscripts who worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls. On his podcast, Hebrew Voices, Gordon interviewed Tim Mahoney, director of the Patterns of Evidence film series, about Mahoney’s new film on the Red Sea crossing site, The Red Sea Miracle. During their discussion, Gordon brought up the potential connection between the phrase Erythra Thalassa and the land of Edom.
“So I have a hypothesis here that I’m just throwing out and it requires further investigation. I read you that verse from 1 Kings 9:26 and it referred to the Yam Suph in the land of Edom. Edom means red - so it’s very possible that when they said ‘Red Sea,’ the translators of the Septuagint - who were these Jewish Rabbis in Alexandria - were saying, ‘Oh, the Edomean Sea.’ That is, the Sea of the Land of Red.”
(Nehemia Gordon, 2020: Hebrew Voices #112 - The Red Sea Miracle)
It is very possible that the Jewish scribes’ terminology would be misunderstood because of the deficiency in knowledge about the Gulf of Aqaba at the time.
As Dr. Glen Fritz and other experts have documented, maps often combined the Sinai and Arabian Peninsulas and left out the Gulf of Aqaba or minimized its size. The Gulf of Aqaba did not begin to be fully understood until the 19th century AD, when surveys brought to light its extent, showing that it was a full-fledged gulf.
Someone reading the term Erythra Thalassa would therefore have to interpret it to broadly mean the “Red Sea,” rather than the more specific “Edom Sea.”
For more conclusive evidence on the Gulf of Aqaba being the authentic Red Sea crossing site, please check out our other articles on the subject.