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. ConradBezo

    THIS IS A FAIRY TALE PEOLE. GET A CLUE. Just because something is written in a book does not make it true.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • totallytrue

      You know there are people who say the Holocaust never happened – that it is all made up. Of course, we should all know that it did because we have physical evidence to support it did. Look at how many actually survived and spoke of the truths that took place – there are countless writings on those experiences. Now let me ask you this, in several hundred years how much of the physical evidence will be left? Man-made materials deteriorate over time – another truth. Will it mean that since there is no physical evidence left that it didn't occur? Will it be just a bunch of made up stories by then?

      September 22, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. I Used to Believe

    @ ldsmom02: If anyone would know about fiction and myths, it would be you. Your religion (Mormonism) was founded by a swindler and con artist who translated his own book of fiction after having a "divine revelation." You should read about the Kirtland Bank failure too, when your prophet Joseph Smith left in the middle of the night with his followers' money after telling all of them that God promised him the bank would not fail.

    Yes, your church is based on fiction, myths, and lies. I hope you enjoy sharing your husband with all of his other wives in the celestial kingdom

    September 22, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. kevin

    it's scared to see such nonsense pretending to be science.. CNN should be ashamed of this type of content

    September 22, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. have you really ever studied the Bible?

    To those of you who are critics and skeptics that 1) God exists and 2) that the Red Sea was parted supernaturally: Have you ever really sat down and studied the evidence, the historical and factual evidence surrounding the nature of the existence of the historical Jesus (there are other historical references to the very same Jesus mentioned in the Bible)? If you truly set out to be open and sincere to follow the evidence, you'll find that there are no "loop holes" in Christianity and that it's real and true. So, if Jesus is real and God is real, then what does that mean for you if you choose not to follow God?

    September 22, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • GuerillaGorilla

      Yes I have studied the Bible. Have you actually studied the bible yourself, or just those parts that your priest or pastor told you to, then told you exactly how to interpret so that it fit into your religions dogma? You see, the bible is self contradictory, unfinished, and frankly a waste of paper when weighted based upon its own precepts! I don't quite remember the exact books and verses but supposedly the bible is the "word of God," a definition that has been taken to mean that God passed the bible down through his followers to be written as the divine truth. However if that was so, then why do the greatest bible patriarchs contradict each other on the basic tennants of faith, and and some even contradict themselves in their own statements! While the Bible, at first glance, seems whole and hale, it is reality an amalgomation of information from several different sources that can't even agree with each other.

      September 22, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • CELTICZ

      Comeon GuerillaGorilla how would you finish a book that you think is a crap in the first place..You did not study the bible, you've just read and you find it boring.

      September 22, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cavemanstyle

    What bothers me, is coming to the conclusion that a boundary exists in our physical universe, both large and small, which means that nobody knows what's on the other side of that boundary. Another universe perhaps? If not, then that means all of the energy and matter in this universe, never leaves. It only transforms from one form to another. The singularity in all of us, that makes us who we are, MUST exist again if this is true. Because we are now, means we will be again. Mark Twain had a similar theory.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. paleotn

    Just more Pseudo science nonsense. I didn't think believers needed any physical evidence to support their irrational beliefs. Looks like their "faith" might be weaker than they'd like to believe. Per Acts 17:11, isn't "faith" the belief in things unseen? Why then do they need junk "science" to support their delusions? Maybe somewhere in the back of their brains, they recognize this "faith" hooey for the ridiculous crap it is.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kevin

    63 mile an hour winds happen frequently enough, but I don't see all the little ponds and shallow rivers being emptied or even moved for it.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. dje2671

    The only thing this fictional Moses dude parted was his hair!

    September 22, 2010 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jango Davis

    What's next? Are the scientists going to show where Gandolf fought Sauron on the plains of Middle Earth? Or maybe the park where Lucy actually held the football for Charlie Brown?

    September 22, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. DON MORAN WW II DIS VET

    MAY HAVE HAPPENED IN AN AREA WHERE'S ITS POSSIBLE??? ARE YOU KIDDING? ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE , WHEN OUR BLESSED LORD WANTS IT TO HAPPENED! DIDN'T YOU HEAR WHAT HE TOLD THOMAS? "AND BLESSED IS HE WHO WILL NEVER SEE ME, YET BELIEVES IN ME!" WHAT DO YOU NEED?, A WACK ON THE KEPPIE? ( A JEWISH KID FROM THE BRONX, SHARED A FOXHOLE WITH ME!) WOW! JUST READ TONS OF ABOVE COMMENTS: MANY ARE CALLED, BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN

    September 22, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. geauxLSUtigers

    See? All I'm doing is having a conversation with you and you are a closed door, with absolutely no budge in actually making an attempt. I don't know who you are... I don't know anything about you except that you have a lot of pride and you really think that you know what you are talking about. I'm not blaming you or saying that your beliefs are wrong, all that I'm doing is making the point that you are too prideful about your ways to even give God a chance. You do whatever you want to do! This is just a message board where we can openly relay our thoughts... but I will say this: I will pray for you and that one day your heart will stop leading you astray. Believe whatever you want to – God is the one who changes hearts, not you. And I will and just did pray that he will move in your heart to show you and maybe one day you will remember that the person on the message board at CNN said a prayer for your heart!

    September 22, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. geauxLSUtigers

    See? All I'm doing is having a conversation with you and you are a closed door, with absolutely no budge in actually making an attempt. I don't know who you are... I don't know anything about you except that you have a lot of pride and you really think that you know what you are talking about. I'm not blaming you or saying that your beliefs are wrong, all that I'm doing is making the point that you are too prideful about your ways to even give God a chance. You do whatever you want to do! This is just a message board where we can openly relay our thoughts... but I will say this: I will pray for you and that one day your heart will stop leading you astray. Believe whatever you want to – God is the one who changes hearts, not you. And I will and just did pray that he will move in your heart to show you and maybe one day you will remember that the person on the message board at CNN said a prayer for your heart!

    September 22, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Rob

    This is not some new fact. Napoleon led his army through the same spot and almost got lost when the waters returned. The fact that there is scientific proof doesn't mean it was done by God. That he didn't have anything to do with it either. The plages that effected Eygpt were the result of a volcanic eruption near Greese. God uses his creation all the time.

    As for the people that say its all false. There is plenty of Archaeology supporting the Exodus and allot of the bibilical stories. Weather you believe in God, or Jesus, or not. The stories in the bible are real accounts.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. Watnen

    hapless, helpless, hopeless,
    Your comments are perfect! Thank you for some logic in this rediculous discusion. For a fiction novel, the bible sure stir up a lot of emotion.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mike

    To Happyless above (because that's what that sounds like). What do people think morality is? Is it some set of rules a group of people come up with whenever we need a new one? Or is it something that is built into all of us? Try to live the knowladge that you already have in you? Anyone that denies God is hapless, helpless, and hopeless until that person opens their heart, once they are accountable and can choose. We all have different gifts, and talents. There is no life without Love.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
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