There is plenty of talk about what body of water God split in half so the Israelites could escape from the Egyptian army in Exodus 14. The King James Bible translated the name as “The Red Sea,” so that’s what we’ve called it ever since. And if you flip open a map of Sinai you will see the words “Red Sea” stamped across a gulf of saltwater that stretches north towards Egypt. Ta-da, there it is; mystery solved.
If only it were as easy as that, but it’s not. For starters, the Bible doesn’t actually call the body of water “The Red Sea.” In Hebrew it is called “the sea of reeds.” Reeds don’t grow in salt water, so it would a leap to call the Red Sea the Sea of Reeds. Besides that, in Exodus 10, when Pharoah finally gets sick of the locust plague, God sends a strong wind from the west which blows the locusts into the Sea of Reeds. So it appears that not only is the body of water fresh water, but it is directly east of Rameses, the place where Moses and Pharaoh had their little chats. But if you travel to the land east of Rameses, you end up in the desert! So where’s the Sea of Reeds?
If you were to go back in time 3500 years, you would find yourself swimming. Satellite images show that an ancient lake called Lake Ballah once existed in this spot. It still existed (albeit in a much smaller form) even up to the mid-1800′s when the Suez Canal was dug. Studies show that this lake was about 12 miles (20km) long and 9 miles (15km) wide, and that the north end of the lake reached depths of 15-18 feet (5-6m). Plenty big enough to both trap the Israelites and to drown the Eyptian army.
Is this the mysterious Red Sea? Nobody knows for sure, but it’s one more option to throw in the think tank.
Lots more great info like this in James K Hoffmeier’s The Archaeology of the Bible