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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Susan Hanson

Thursday, September 9

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers.
—Exodus 14: 21-23

It’s hard to read the account of Moses crossing the Red Sea and not think about the tsunami that devastated countries along the Indian Ocean in December 2004. Though the exact numbers can never be known, it is estimated that more than 56,000 people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands were displaced as a result of that tragedy. 

Many of the initial deaths occurred when curious bathers and others along the shore went out to investigate the enormous tidal flat created when the sea retreated roughly 650 feet. This freakish low tide, we now know, was in reality the trough of the tsunami, a phenomenon that would inundate 25 square acres of land in Banda Aceh alone.

Could it have been a tsunami that allowed Moses and the Israelites to cross the Red Sea? Some people argue that this text should be taken strictly at face value—that is, that Moses simply raised his hand and the sea parted. Others, however, contend that the Red Sea is in reality the Reed Sea, a marshy lake in the Nile River delta that could be crossed when the water was low. Many of these individuals believe that the water's falling and rising again was caused by a volcano, a tsunami, or both.

According to geologist Floyd McCoy of the University of Hawaii, the catastrophic event that made the Exodus possible may well have been an explosion on the Greek island of Santorini, which in turn created an enormous tsunami. “We find evidence, believe it or not, on the deep ocean floor,” McCoy told the BBC in 2002. 

“The tsunamis actually scraped across the bottom of the ocean floor in the Mediterranean and disturbed the sediment. We can find that sediment. That gives us some indication of the directions they went. The computer model showed us waves radiating out all over the Mediterranean, reaching the Nile Delta.”

What if such a phenomenon did enable the Israelites to flee from Egypt? And what if it also can be tied to the series of plagues that preceded their escape? Is the Exodus any less remarkable as a result? Is God any less of a liberator? Regardless of how it happened, Moses rightly praised God for his miraculous deliverance from captivity. How could we not do the same?

O God, help me see the miracles in my life with new eyes, ready to thank you for the wondrous world through which you reveal yourself.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2005.