Did the Red Sea Event Happen?

by Andrew Forrest

The miraculous parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 14 is one of the most dramatic events in all the pages of scripture. It is also, for many people, a stumbling block: they read about the walls of water on either side of the Israelites as they pass through on dry ground and think, “This is why I’m not religious–how could anyone believe this stuff?” So, did it actually happen? What are modern, thinking people supposed to think?

"Parting of the Red Sea," by Julia Kuo (http://oldandnewproject.com/portfolio/parting-of-the-red-sea/)

“Parting of the Red Sea,” by Julia Kuo (http://oldandnewproject.com/portfolio/parting-of-the-red-sea/)

I Can’t Prove the Red Sea Event Happened

I can’t prove to you that Moses stretched out his hand and that the Lord then drove the waters apart, turning the sea into dry land (14:21). But, even without “proof,” this miracle (and other Old Testament miracles) don’t worry me, and I’m able to accept them as spiritually formative and important indicators of the power and nature of God.

And Natural Explanations Don’t Work For Me

Any explanations that use the natural to explain the miraculous, along the lines of “maybe there was a strong wind that made the waters part in just that way?” don’t really work, because this is a miracle, and miracles are, by definition, supposed to be supernatural. Ancient people knew how the world worked, and they knew that large bodies of water don’t just part and allow people to walk between the walls of water. In fact, that’s the reason the Red Sea event is such a big deal: it was considered out of the ordinary course of events, a miracle. So, the Connecticut-Yankee-in-King-Arthur’s-Court sort of explanation just doesn’t work for me.

Instead, I Start with Jesus

I don’t start with Old Testament miracles. I start with Jesus. Jesus trusted the Old Testament (the only scriptures that existed in his lifetime) in his devotional and worship life. We know this because he quotes from the Old Testament extensively, even quoting from the Psalms when he’s on the cross: the Hebrew scriptures were central to his life. Jesus also references Moses several times. This means to me that Jesus received and accepted the Hebrew scriptures as formative and important. If he didn’t need to worry with historicity–i.e., did this actually?happen?–then neither do I.

And I Believe That the Resurrection?Is?Plausible

If Jesus is risen from the dead, then I can accept his word about everything. If he accepts the Old Testament as formative and important, than so can I.

But?If Jesus Stayed Dead, Then Who Cares?

If Easter morning didn’t happen, then who cares what Exodus says about the Red Sea? But if it did happen, then I can accept the Old Testament miracles as spiritually nourishing and important and not get caught up in some kind of modernist obsession with proving that they happened. Because, if Christ is risen, then there is nothing God can’t do.

What do you think?


You May Also Like

1 comment

Paul Ditto September 9, 2014 - 11:07 pm

If any one of the miracles was not hard to believe, it would not be miraculous. And once you start accepting that any one of them could not or did not really happen, then where do you stop. It would not rock my faith if I somehow learned that a couple of the miracles did not happen, but had some other explanation (maybe Lazarus wasn’t really dead or maybe the 4,000 or 5,000 somehow fed themselves by sharing food they brought along with them), but then maybe Jesus wasn’t really dead. So, faith leads me to accept all the miracles as being true miracles. I know Hebrews 11 tells us that Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, but I think faith is also believing things about God and Christ that we cannot explain or prove (or that are hard to believe)


Leave a Comment