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. Ashley

    How can you say its fiction.How does anybody REALLY know? its amazing that we as human beings exist. take life for what it is..anything is possible.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. QED

    Meyer C Dhoates wrote:

    "Why are there no Egyptian records of slaves having built pyramids?

    Why don't you tell us who did build them.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Aron

    300 years ago, believing that radio waves exists was also hard. Now its not such a miracle. We are in a generation where science proves the existance of G-d and the Torah.
    http://www.evidencefortorah.comxa.com

    September 21, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sean Colvin

    Is there anything God could do to make you believe? Probably not. You have an excuse for everything!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bowman0210

    O ye of little faith.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Monty

    don't be angry john doe its ok that science proving the bible even more true scares you because that just shows more proof that the bible is real.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mare

    God doesn't need us to prove or disprove him. He just is. We Christians need to be better examples of God's love. We have failed so many times, but that doesn't change who God is.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. KP

    People seem to miss the main point that there WAS no "Exodus." There is no external historical or archeological evidence to support an exodus of Hebrews from Egypt c. 1200 BCE. Instead, ll of the archeological evidence points to a group of Semites always having lived in Canaan who developed "Judaism," and that the Torah was first written during the Babylonian exile (probably borrowing myths like the Flood from the Gilgamesh Epics. Biblical scholars– and even well-read devout Jews– understand this history, while most Jews, Christians, and Muslims are oblivious to the historical roots of their religion. It shouldn't take away from faith to read and understand history.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tom Paine

    So, let's say that this is exactly what happened. It was the wind. Does no one find it odd that the wind just happened to start blowing, for 24 hours, just when the Hebrews needed it and just happened to stop just when they needed it? Sure, I accept this as what happened but I don't accept the wind just randomly started blowing just at the right times. For the atheist, an article like this does nothing. They probably don't even believe Moses existed moreless in God. But for people of faith, I like stories like this because it links in how God may have acted in our world (and maybe still does).

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

    It was the Catholic Church that threatened Galileo because his findings pointed the other direction to many of what they say. They wanted to keep people in the dark, and much of the Church if not most still do. The Catholic Church is a joke plainly just to get money, and it worked.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TheGeneration

    Scientists should stop wasting their resources exploring the most ridiculous scam/fairy tale ever created- religion.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Left Hook

    "god did it – Science had nothing to do with it"

    Spoken like a good chrizz-jun conservative that was home schooled by jeezuz freaks.

    What next from you bible bangin' delusional reality deniers, that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that carbon dating is an evil majic trick of the devil that he gave to scientists to prove there is no god?

    September 21, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Y Miri

    I'm not a very religious person. But I don't understand how you can not believe in God? I find it hard not to based on science alone. What would be the probability that due to gravitational pull the Sun, Moon, and Earth would be at the exact distance they are to support life?
    What is the probability that we have plants that produce oxygen, animals that consume it and produce CO2, and the plants take the carbon dioxide for photosynthesis to turn it back to oxygen?
    I can probably write a laundry list of things that if they were different, life would not exist on Earth, and the probability of them being the way they are is unbelievably low.
    Ask yourself this, if there is no "God", then everything must be due to random events, then take a box of sticks, shake it, and toss it to the ground. Once that jumbled mess of sticks randomly stacks up and builds a small house, tell yourself there is no God. Whatever God is, I don't know. But I just don't see how there can be no creator.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Y Miri

    I'm not a very religious person. But I don't understand how you can not believe in God? I find it hard not to based on science alone. What would be the probability that due to gravitational pull the Sun, Moon, and Earth would be at the exact distance they are to support life?
    What is the probability that we have plants that produce oxygen, animals that consume it and produce CO2, and the plants take the carbon dioxide for photosynthesis to turn it back to oxygen?
    I can probably write a laundry list of things that if they were different, life would not exist on Earth, and the probability of them being the way they are is unbelievably low.
    Ask yourself this, if there is no "God", then everything must be due to random events, then take a box of sticks, shake it, and toss it to the ground. Once that jumbled mess of sticks randomly stacks up and builds a small house, tell yourself there is no God. Whatever God is, I don't know. But I just don't see how there can be no creator.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. BobLeddy

    As I understand it, if you go seven miles southwest of Dullards, NC, near this little creek just outside of the sleepy hamlet of Readabook, due west of the the quaint village of Glennbeck, their is a certain spot where if the wind blows at 63 miles per hour in one direction for 12 hours, the creek will part and the EASTER BUNNY will appear and beat the crap out of SANTA !!!!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
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