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.

Post by:
Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (1,525 Responses)
  1. geauxLSUtigers

    Science is a manmade reality that is created on the human level. If science 'proves' anything, then why can't certain pieces fit together? God created everything and only he knows the answers. It is not meant for us to understand and that is part of having faith in your creator. God and his standards are on such a higher level that we are not meant to understand everything, but pride and sin has made us believe that we know everything, which is where science came into play. Only those who have accepted Jesus into their hearts know exactly what I'm talking about – it is very hard for others to understand that there is a God when their heart deceives them and says it isn't true. If you accept Jesus into your heart and believe, he reveals himself to you and continues to grow you in his love. I know my Jesus and there is no doubt in my mind or heart that he's real. Hopefully one day, you will see that as well.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  2. Q.

    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...A.E.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    God could have used any way He wanted to save the Isrealites. The Bible tells us they walked across on dry ground, not mud. He was showing his power!

    September 22, 2010 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Gemma

    This is a smidge pathetic........

    September 22, 2010 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  5. hapless, helpless, hopeless

    nothing in the bible has been proven to be untrue? Perhaps you should read it again. Unless you find comfort in a childish, vengeful, murderous creator that desires more to be worshiped than to intervein and solve real world problems. I find no value in a collection of brutal stories contrived by hundreds of detached writers who spanned 400 years. Your fear is well noted and you will continue to carry this aimless torch.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  6. geauxLSUtigers

    Science is a manmade reality that is created on the human level. If science 'proves' anything, then why can't certain pieces fit together? God created everything and only he knows the answers. It is not meant for us to understand and that is part of having faith in your creator. God and his standards are on such a higher level that we are not meant to understand everything, but pride and sin has made us believe that we know everything, which is where science came into play. Only those who have accepted Jesus into their hearts know exactly what I'm talking about – it is very hard for others to understand that there is a God when their heart deceives them and says it isn't true. If you accept Jesus into your heart and believe, he reveals himself to you and continues to grow you in his love. I know my Jesus and there is no doubt in my mind or heart that he's real. Hopefully one day, you will see that as well.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. Seriously

    Seriously, the Bible is a great read. But, it's fiction. I loved Winnie the Pooh, I don't believe it happened!

    September 22, 2010 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. Nelda

    God parted the Red Sea. Moses didn't part the Nile River. Science will forever be trying to figure out what they cannot understand. That's what makes God just that – God.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • GuerillaGorilla

      So God was this hyper-active divinity who directly helped his "children" through their troubles and problems. Then he sends his "son" and takes his leave of the world never to directly interceed again. Seems odd that a God who would smite nations, burn cities to... salt (where is the ash and dust?)... with the fires of heaven, talk directly and intelligently to his followers, create a pillar of fire and smoke that extended from heaven to earth, send plagues and pestilences, and any number of visible tangible materials would suddenly... quit. Maybe he just got tired of taking care of the seflish and ignorant. Or maybe he doesn't exist, never did exist, and an uneducated people who didn't understand the basic principles of modern science created their own tales to explain that which THEY couldn't understand.

      In short, I think your defense is actually the reverse of the truth... Science isn't trying to explain God, but the people who originally created the definition of God were trying to explain Science.

      September 22, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • CELTICZ

      Dude are you serous about that? How do you know you are right ?

      September 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sdgman

    No, I'm afraid the Nile didn't part either.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  10. Matt

    I believe the most likely origin of the parting of the waters story is that they were passing through the "Reed Sea", which is essentially where the Hebrews were in Egypt at the time. This is the marshy area in the northeastern Nile delta. Something caused the water to recede. I tend to believe this was a volcanic eruption in the Mediterranean Sea which resulted in a tsunami. The waters receded long enough for the Hebrews to get through the Reed Sea. The wheels of the chariots of the pharoah got stuck in the mud trying to chase them. The water came back in a rush (the tsunami) resulting in the drowning of the pharoah's charioteers. I'm sure the tsunami wasn't of the scale of the Indian Ocean tsunmi of a few years ago but it wouldn't have to be that big to kill people in the area the water withdrew from.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  11. Joseph Smith

    Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb...

    September 22, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  12. geauxLSUtigers

    @ hapless, helpless, hopeless – your name says it all. All of us are that without God. There is plenty of proof that Jesus died, was buried and resurrected. It's just that there are just as many cynics who CHOOSE to not believe it. If you are correct in your beliefs, then I will just be buried in the ground when I'm dead, however, if I'm correct, you will be thrown into eternal life in hellfire and I will be at peace with my glorious Savior. I CHOOSE the latter and the peace in my heart and my changed life proves that he is real. My challenge to you is this: Open the Bible one day and study it. Don't just be a cynic that doesn't even give it a chance – read it and give it a chance before closing the door on it. You might be surprised that God may change your heart. And don't do it with a heart made of stone either – God knows if your heart isn't in it. Like I said, give it a chance before slamming the door on it.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  13. Melissa

    lol. The waters didn't part AT ALL because Moses, and the rest of the bible, are MYTH.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  14. chris m

    Freedom of beliefs and choice are what make this country what it is. No one should be forced to accept God. God is not forcing you to accept Him. However, one would have to be in denial to think that life as we know happened by accident. Where is the proof of other accidental life on our neighboring planets...not even the simplest bacteria can be found with the probes that have scanned other planets. Why are monkeys not yet able to talk as we do. Didn't we come from them. Aren't they evolving... Which brillant scientist on earth has the ability to extend human life past a mere 120 years. Keep dreaming!!! We are born to die. Humanity's hope is pretty grim. Science is unable to deal with the real problem in this world. The only hope for this world is God. He sent His Son Jesus not to condem this world but to offer hope to every person on this planet. He is not seeking the proud but the humble and those who realize a need for HIM.
    Call on Him and He will prove Himself in your life... Take care, be realistic....

    September 22, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • GuerillaGorilla

      @ Chris M – Your argument was invalidated within three sentences of your rant! We HAVE found microbial life on Mars, Europa and even on floating space debris! You really need to crawl out of the closet and join us in the modern world. You argument about single-line evolution is bupkuss as well. Nature shows time and time again that evolution is a branching process, and that related creatures may have nothing in common except an ancestor. As for aging and extending life past 120 years, well the human body is not yet capable of dealing with that (although there is that 114 year old guy in Montana). As for being realistic... Realistic is realizing that there are problems in this world and taking actions to resolve or even prevent them. Realistic is knowing that we are the architects of the vast majority of our problems. Realistic is becoming an active member of society and trying to fix what is wrong yourself, rather than relying on some dead guy who happens to "live" in the sky. You need to start being realistic and stop believing childrens tales written by people with a small understanding of the tiny world around them.

      September 22, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jason

    There are many things that have occurred in this world that science will never be able to explain. I see the intellectuals who mock faith and belief in God; but a time is coming where you will call his name and the reply will be I know you not. My point is, before you use your years of learning to call God a myth; spend some time seeking him with a true desire to prove him. He will not fail to show up. God is not a being to be explained in human terms, or to come when summoned by mere man. He is the God of the Universe to be shown respect and reverence, yet you mock him. For those who will seek him the window is still open, but the time draws to a close. Don't be so intelligent you loose your soul.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66