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Title: Red Sea
Original Title: Mer Rouge
Volume and Page: Vol. 10 (1765), pp. 367–368
Author: Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt (biography)
Translator: Landon Griffith [University of Michigan]
Subject terms:
Geography
Original Version (ARTFL): Link
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. To use this work in a way not covered by the license, please see http://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/did/terms.html .

URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0002.880
Citation (MLA): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Red Sea." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Landon Griffith. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2013. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0002.880>. Trans. of "Mer Rouge," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 10. Paris, 1765.
Citation (Chicago): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Red Sea." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Landon Griffith. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2013. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0002.880 (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Mer Rouge," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 10:367–368 (Paris, 1765).

Red Sea, Oceanus ruber in Horace, Gulf of the South Ocean, which separates Africa and Asia, situated between the coast of Abeck, Egypt and Arabia, from the Mandab Strait up to the Isthmus of Suez. Historically the Red Sea was called Sinus Arabicus (Arabian Gulf), because Arabs occupied both sides of it. Holy Scripture refers to it as the Reed Sea , or the Sea of Rushes, because of the large quantity of rushes, or of sea foam, found in its depths and on its coasts. The Turks called it the Sea of Suez , or more commonly the Sea of Mecca , because that venerated city is located near the sea’s shore.

It is hard to know where the name Red Sea comes from initially. There are claims that it was named the Red Sea , or in Greek: Erythrea , by the ancient king Erythros who reigned over Arabia. Modern scholars in their turn have presented many etymologies of the name, the most learned of which are apparently the least true. With this sea, as with the White Sea , the Blue Sea , the Black Sea , the Gulf of California, and the Green Sea , chance, imagination or some particular event produced the strange names, which then provided material for the erudition of critics.

It is important to note that some have, at times, extended the name Red Sea for the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean . For want of noticing this, interpreters have made poor use of many passages from ancient authors, which they did not understand.

The French astronomer Joseph-Nicolas de Lisle placed the location of the Red Sea at 51 degrees from the meridian of Paris. Abulfeda gave the most detailed and exact description of the sea, which he calls the Kolsum Sea , because the town of Kolsum is located at the end of the sea’s northern coast, at 23.45°.

Everyone knows of the famous miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea , when the Lord opened and dried up part of the sea, leaving a dry pass for the Israelites, who numbered 600,000 men, not including the elderly, women and children, to cross.

Various critics well versed in knowledge of oriental languages thought they could make a simple interpretation of Holy Scripture, as specific as it is. They said that Moses, who had long been on the Red Sea in the land of Midian, had observed that the sea had its ebb and flow like the ocean, had wisely used that knowledge to take advantage of the natural ebb to get the Israelites across, while the Egyptians, ignorant of this sea’s nature, recklessly attempted crossing during the flow, becoming enveloped by the water, all of them dying, as the sacred historian says. That, at least, is how the priests of Memphis told the story, according to Artapanus of Alexandria.

Flavius Josephus, in the last chapter of his book, Antiquitates Judaicae or Antiquities of the Jews , after reporting the history of the Red Sea crossing as Moses told, writes that we should not look at this as impossible, because God may have opened the passage for the Israelites to cross the Sea’s waters, just as he opened one, long after, to the Macedonians led by Alexander as soon as they crossed the Sea of Pamphylia. Yet the historians who have spoken of this passage of the Macedonians say they went into the sea and skirted the edges, walking all day in water up to their waists. The Roman historian, Arrian of Nicomedia notes in the first book of his work Anabasis Alexandri , or The Anabasis of Alexander , that one could not cross while the noon wind is blowing, but that wind, having suddenly changed, gave the soldiers a way to pass without risk. It may be the ideas and writings of Flavius Josephus that led some ancient authors, and various modern scholars, such as S. Thomas, for example, or Tostat, Grotius, Paul of Burgos, Genebrad, Batable and more than one rabbi, to believe that the Israelites did not cross the Red Sea from one side to the other, but only along the side, and went up during the flow, so they were in a higher place, like a semi-circle in the sea.

There is no shortage of scholars who have refuted this opinion. See the main commentators of the writings of Exodus. In particular, see the essay by Mr. LeClerc, and that of Calmet, on the crossing of the Red Sea.