September 21st, 2010
02:10 PM ET

Where did waters part for Moses? Not where you think

An illustration based on new research shows how wind could have moved and split waters from two ancient basins.

The parting of the waters described in the book of Exodus that enabled Moses and the Israelites to escape the pharaoh's army is possible, computer simulations run by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado at Boulder show.

To test the theory that the biblical account may have depicted actual events, the researchers studied maps of the region, archaeological records and satellite measurements to find a topographical feature where such an event might have been possible. They settled on an area south of the Mediterranean Sea where some oceanographers say a branch of the Nile River drained into what was called the Lake of Tanis, a coastal lagoon 3,000 years ago.

The computer model shows a 63 mph east wind blowing across the area and its 6-feet-deep waters for 12 hours. In the scenario, the wind pushed back the waters into both the lake and the channel of the river, exposing a mud flat 2 to 2.5 miles long and 3 miles wide for four hours. As the winds died down, the waters quickly flowed back in and in theory would have drowned anyone on the mud flat.

“The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus,” said Carl Drews of NCAR, the lead author of the study published in the online journal PLoS ONE. (Read the full study)

“The parting of the waters can be understood through fluid dynamics. The wind moves the water in a way that’s in accordance with physical laws, creating a safe passage with water on two sides and then abruptly allowing the water to rush back in.”

YouTube: Parting the waters, Part 1: The physics of a land bridge

Parting the waters, Part 2: Carl Drews on wind setdown research
The biblical account of Exodus has Moses and his followers trapped by the pharaoh forces against a body of water, which has been translated to both the Red Sea and the Sea of Reeds. In the account, a strong wind comes up after night falls and parts the waters behind the Israelites. Moses leads them into the breach but when the pharaoh army pursues them at daybreak, the gap disappears and the army is lost.

Previous research has focused on areas of the Red Sea near the modern-day Suez Canal where the biblical miracle may have been possible. The NCAR/CU team said their research shows those scenarios unlikely. They ran a series of 14 computer simulations to pinpoint the area where the parting of the waters was most likely.

“People have always been fascinated by this Exodus story, wondering if it comes from historical facts,” Drews says. “What this study shows is that the description of the waters parting indeed has a basis in physical laws."

Drews conducted the Exodus research as part of a larger project on how winds can affect water depths.

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  1. Meyer C Dhoates

    Why are there no Egyptian records of slaves having built pyramids? Why are there no records of the 10 plagues that befell Egypt? Why are there no records of the Hebrews being cast out of Egypt? Early Egyptians were meticulous record keepers, they carved them onto stone. A computer can be made to simulate anything, look at the movie 2012, mostly computer simulated images. The NCAR/CU team has too much time on their hands. Time for them to get back to science fact not fiction.

    September 21, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • grumpygus

      A numerical simulation of physical laws that runs on computers is not quite the same thing as CGI animation that also happens to run on computers.

      September 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Idolitor!

      September 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • IMHO

      Just because we haven't found them, some 5,000 years after the fact, doesn't mean they don't (or didn't) exist.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • bryan

      you have no proof this is fiction, of course. were you there at the time, so therefore, speculation without facts is not science. Science is about obtaining facts, which is what this article is about.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moli

      The voice of reason........ I'm trying to figure out why the Sky Fairy, his 'angels' nor his Sky Son haven't returned to Earth.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denizen Kate

      There are very few records of any kind from that long ago. The ancient Egyptians didn't carve EVERYTHING into stone, and most of the records they had on what passed for paper and books back then were burned in the Great Library of Alexandria (don't know what year, but it was B.C.). Look it up.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • redcat

      moses was suppost to be removed from the books when he was found out that he was hebrew

      September 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • ldsmom02

      Dear Moll,

      Hang on, you're about to get your wish.

      September 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • S Olson

      Meyer, the Hebrews did not build the pyramids – those were located further south in Egypt and were built in earlier times. The Israelites were located in the Nile Delta and probably built granaries and such, since this was where the "breadbasket of the ancient world" was located. There are Egyptian records of non-Egyptians in Egypt at various times, most notably the Hyksos. The Egyptians were meticulous recordkeepers but did not often record their "failures." It also might not have been noteworthy to record the deeds involving a relatively small people such as the Israelites probably were. Most likely the Israelite population that left Egypt was significantly smaller than Cecil B. DeMille's production in The Ten Commandments movie. Biblical scholars (and yes, there are intelligent people who study and believe the Bible) are not sure exactly where the exodus could have occurred. I view this study as being carried out by impartial but curious scientists just trying to figure out if it could have been possible. People have done that with the ten plagues as well. It is important to note that God works through nature, so coming up with natural solutions for biblical events does not preclude God from having caused them. That's why God sent the Christ in the form of a baby, whether you believe it or not, to suffer and die like all of us have to do. God cares about us. Peace to all of you!

      September 21, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      Meyer C Dhoates – I love how you use a Hollywood movie to back up your comment...lol. Oh you have love how some people educate themselves.

      September 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Bryan this is not about facts. It’s about some body’s half baked computer simulatioin.

      September 21, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Meyer C Dhoates,

      Your ignorance is showing. "Why are there no Egyptian records of slaves having built pyramids?" – Because they didn't. The pyramids were built in the Early Kingdom, long before the Hebrews were in Egypt. They were built by Egyptian farmers during the time of the year when they couldn't farm (the inundation). The Hebrews were in the Nile Delta, far north of where the pyramids are. They were slaves making mud-brick. It's only the Hollywoodized version that shows them hauling stone for the pyramids.

      "Why are there no records of the 10 plagues that befell Egypt?" – There aren't records, per se, but if you look at each of them, they are all (except the death of the first born) explainable by natural events in Egypt.

      "Why are there no records of the Hebrews being cast out of Egypt?" – Egyptians did not keep records of their defeats. If you look at their records of various wars, they never lost one. They just kept winning battles closer and closer to home. There is a theory about who Moses was and when the Exodus happened. Look into it. It's facinating reading, even if you're not a believer.

      Seriously. You don't need to believe. Just look at the facts and compare them to the bible, myth, fairy tale, whatever. It's fascinating seeing how actual events can turn into what we know today as the bible, myths etc.

      September 22, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. mohammad abdelqader

    "And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his soldiers pursued them in tyranny and enmity until, when drowning overtook him, he said, "I believe that there is no deity except that in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of the Muslims.""So today We will save you in body that you may be to those who succeed you a sign. And indeed, many among the people, of Our signs, are heedless." Quran..chapter 10 verse 92-93

    September 21, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alison

      it's refreshing to see someone who can at least spell correctly and atriculate a thought! jodaa stop typing and take an English course!

      September 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alison

      sorry, not English – a typing course!

      September 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Love is the key to recognizing who is correct. While we were yet sinners, ungoldy, and enemies Christ died for us. If you cannot love your enemy, if you cannot bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, then your faith is vain. The actions of love display a greater miracle than that of Moses parting the Red Sea. You cannot scientifically understand love. You would do well to seek a God who loves you and tenderly cares for you.

      September 21, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jim

    Try Going to You Tube The sight of the crossing was Found By Ron Wyatt ,He even Found the Pillars errected By King Solomon There is a Great Video on the Exodus & Evidence for those that are seeking.

    September 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • sean

      Since apparently You Tube is now a site where fake videos can no longer be posted. Just because it is on You Tube in no way makes it fact my good sir. Try finding a more reliable source of the videos first

      September 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitch

      Amen Jim. Arkdiscovery site also has great pics and video proving the Biblical narrative correct in every detail!

      September 22, 2010 at 5:49 am | Report abuse |
  4. Science Teacher/ History Buff

    Whether you are religious or not, the account of the Exodus is a biblical fact. Either a supernatural God made the waters part and/or a scientific weather phenomenon did. This research is interesting and could provide useful today to both religious and nonreligious people alike.

    September 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • IMHO

      Whoa! You sound way to reasonable and level-headed to be in this forum. Did you get lost?

      September 21, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denizen Kate

      Useful in what way? Whose life is improved by this research?

      September 21, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • ßàţmåŋ

      "Biblical Fact" is a bit of an oxymoron.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alison

      "Useful" in that it raises a question for me. Living near the water as I do, during extreme low tides, it appears that you COULD walk across the (in my case) Bay. But I know from experience (swimming and trying to stand on the bottom wearing fins) that the first step you take on that bottom sludge would bog you down, at best only to your knees. I'd be interested in learning about the make-up of the bottom of that part of the Red Sea (or whatever part of the world this scientific phenomenon happened) that gave the people the capability to physically walk across that sea floor.

      September 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Alison, that is the part of the story where God has to be involved. Bible states that they walked across on dry land. And there were enough people, animals, goods, and other items that even if as the research states it was open for upwards of 12 hours, that it would have been near impossible for all of Israel to walk across without getting stuck in the mud. While science can try to explain the water parting, there is still some items that can't be explained without God's involvement. Especially since they weren't looking for any specific place to cross the sea and were cornered by Pharoah and the army until God intervened.

      September 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alison

      Doug. You have your faith; I have my faith in science (and Mythbusters!). I don't believe God hardened the crust of the sea floor just so those people could be saved anymore than I believe he parted the seas for them. Science has the answers I'm searching for but I don't have the education to go with the answers.

      September 21, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve harnack

      I love your circular logic, it's in the bible so it's true! It is a book of Hebrew history and myth and even the Jews don't take it literally. They laugh at you bozos who can't tell truth from fiction.

      September 21, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • gman

      Apparently most of you haven't been to the ocean in a long time. I can attest that during low tide you can still walk on the sand. Not only that, it is mostly dry. That is the great thing about sand. To that point I have only been to Egypt once and I think it was a pretty sandy place?

      September 22, 2010 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Camper

      You would think that the Egyptians, who were meticulous record keepers and avid historians, would have mentioned if some slave leader caused plagues to fall on Egypt including the death of every first born and led an exodus across a parted sea. Sounds like that would have been big news. Of course, it's not mentioned anywhere except the bible because it didn't really happen. There is no archeological evidence that the Israelites were ever in Egypt. Maybe you should actually read your history from a history book instead of the bible.

      September 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ewahn

    At the bottom of the article, they list the main problem with this. The translation to "Red Sea" is probably wrong, whereas it should read "Reed Sea," which is an entirely different concept (and probably the more accurate translation). In the case of the "Reed Sea," the episode becomes much more figurative - a metaphor or allegory - as much of the Bible is. So looking for a body of water which wind would part temporarily seems like mining for fool's gold to me.

    September 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liberty

      Could be but these legends or myths are very often developed based on things actually seen,

      September 21, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Razor

      Wrong again there bud, the Bible is to be taken literally, its not an alagoric book in any sense. Do some studying on it

      September 21, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • TG

      Correct ewahn. The translation is the key.

      To those claiming the Bible is to be taken literally, how do you explain that it has two different stories for creation? The Bible (especially the Old Testement) is not to be taken literally, they are stories inspired by God but not the literal truth.

      September 22, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  6. tommas

    I thought it was actually the "reed" sea not the red sea. So this could provide more evidence that it was not actually an ocean that was parted

    September 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Science Teacher/ History Buff

    What I should have added is that biblical facts are often historical facts, whether or not one wants to attribute the same reasons for their occurance or not will depend on one's perspective.

    September 21, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      As you go further back in time biblical facts become less and less associated with historical facts and the story of the Moses and the Red sea is from the very beginning of the bible.

      September 21, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Alexander

    No one parted the Red Sea, period. It is a myth, people, not an historic event. We might as well be trying to find the rabbit hole that lead Alice into Wonderland. We will never find the location for something that never happened.

    September 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thorrsman

      Unless you are far, far older than you sound, you don't know. Here is a scientific explanation of the "myth". Now, considering the outcome of the story–Pharaoh and his army drowned–IF this is the right place, there well may be evidence of the Egyptians who died there thousands of years ago. Might be worth a look, at any rate.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck G

      Archeologists have been looking for evidence of Moses, the Israelites, their slavery in Egypt, etc for decades. They've never found one spot of data, or other hard evidence, like pots, or artifacts, or stone inscriptions. All the evidence is in the form of stories passed down for many generations, and written down 1000's of years later; not reliable information. That many people living in a desert for that long, would have left lots of evidence. Absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Just another biblical fairy tale.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liberty

      Chuck G. everything you have claimed here is untrue. Like those who run off the end of the earth with their mythology, you state what you want to be so as if it were fact, but it is not so.

      Shame on you.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thorrsman

      Chuck G Absence of evidence is merely absence of evidence. You can not draw a conclusion from it unless you desire that conclusion.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Razor

      And yet you problably believe evolution...which has no scientific basis whatsoever no proof no evidence

      September 21, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'And yet you problably believe evolution...which has no scientific basis whatsoever no proof no evidence'
      Then you dont understand evolution.

      September 21, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darth Vader

      Sorry Razor, but you only put forward evidence of your own ignorance with that statement.

      September 21, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Wolfen

    Uhhh, this is a description of a miracle of God. Pretending that science can explain it is unnecessary. Anything is possible with God.

    September 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luke

      Lol

      September 21, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moli

      ROTFLMAO@Wolfen

      September 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alison

      Wolfen, your faith is your own. Not everyone shares your beliefs – so those who don't either belittle out of ignorance or look to science for answers. Sometimes we find answers there; sometimes not.

      September 21, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • jail

      Wolfen, you are right, everything is possible with GOD period. I wonder if some of these people knows that other side of this earth can fly their canoe up in the air........just imagine that.

      September 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob blob

      read judges 1:19
      And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

      The 'lord' got his holy butt kicked. I have an iron chariot (a 2010 chrysler), guess I can kick the lords butt too!

      so, there you have it, everything is not possible with gawd amitey

      September 21, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • ffb

      @bobblob: the bible does not say that. get your facts straight. even if you read the bible as a fairy tale it is far too complex for the common folk. stick with harry potter and vampire diaries

      September 21, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Luke

    I guess the easy answer to where the sea was parted was, nowhere. Same place where that one guy walked on water.

    September 21, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • IMHO

      Gosh. What a pleasant human being you are. I feel I am so truly blessed not to know you personally.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roger Waters

      How do you know that you don't know him or her personally?

      September 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luke

      Gee Roger Waters, I don't know. That is a really good point....in the mind of a five year old. Keep trying, I'll be riding my unicorn with the easter bunny down by the Shire.

      September 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roger Waters

      Gee Luke . . . I was not responding to you, stupid.

      It must really suck to be so bad at life. I pity you, stupid.

      September 24, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jasm m.

    More and more non-believers every year! It was God, not science. . .you morons!

    September 21, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thorrsman

      Are "God's" methods beyond the ability of man to understand? If you believe that this Christian myth is based on real events, in what manner did your "God" part the waters for Moses and his people? Your view of your God is too narrow, I think.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • ldsmom02

      Dear Thorssman,

      When you meet God you can ask him then. But, then, I wonder what answer you will have for his inevitable question about why you didn't believe in him?

      September 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thorrsman

      ldsmom02, Unless your God is allowed to visit Valhalla–My Gods party better, so He might want in–I doubt I'll be seeing anything of Him.

      September 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • frank

      @Thorrsman

      LMAO!!! Awesome response. Party in VALHALLA!!!!

      September 22, 2010 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      But didn't God create the "Science"? calling people Morons is very unChristian-like...You are supposed to pray for them, not insult them. WWJD..Now! On your knees and Pray!!!

      September 22, 2010 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
  12. al

    science doesent disprove god just shows his methods

    September 21, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • facks

      @al

      but only if he actually exists. Science cannot prove that an absence of something somehow proves its existence. Duh.

      September 22, 2010 at 3:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. chris

    I have seen the awesome power of G-d in my very life. As I read through most of these comments I realized that most of the people here are blind. Ghandi said,"that all he cared about Jesus was his teaching, that he never cared if they proved he never existed". Really Ghandi, We seen what happens when the world has a teacher, what man kind needed and finally received was a savior
    .

    September 21, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dlea

    Credit needs to be given to the Man upstairs. Miracles happen every day 🙂

    September 21, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luke

      Totally, like all that fun stuff that happens in Myanmar and Iraq.

      September 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • ldsmom02

      I agree entirely. But, LUKE, You can't blame God for the acts of men everyday that may or may not be evil or that may or may not make you mad. God put us here to see what we would do and gave us instructions in order to live peacefully. If people don 't live that way, it isn't God's fault. He's still there. And he isn't there to make sure nobody ever gets hurt. You have a wrong understanding of God, like he is some kind of "fairy" as others have called him whose only desire is to fulfill the wishes of everyone. That's is ludicrous.

      September 21, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luke

      Idsmom, thanks for your insight, I will pray on it. Wait, j/k hahaha. Living in fairy tales rules!

      September 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'God put us here to see what we would do '
      For what possible reason why? What on earth was the reason to create man? Was he bored? Conducting an experiment? What?

      September 21, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • facks

      There is no man upstairs. No second floor, no stairs, no one on the roof, therefore no man upstairs.

      But if there is some guy living above you, why extend him credit? Make him come down and fill out an application like everybody else. Then you can take his picture and sell it.

      September 22, 2010 at 3:59 am | Report abuse |
  15. George

    Classy lady.

    September 21, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
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