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. DD214

    General Jackson, sir, you know I am not a believer.
    Well then general, I shall have to believe enough for the both of us.
    Atheists, cling to your dogma, ignore the proof, physcial, historical, scientific, and theoretical.
    His ways surpass all understanding, be still and know that I am God. Wellthink it is myth and fairy tale if it makes you moral relative way of living comfortable, though your eternity may be much less so.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. science lover

    It's obvious to me. We all need a book with all the answers because we are all a bunch of numskulls with very short attention spans and very little reasoning power. A book of answers is sure a lot easier than hurting my head with so many complex facts and differing opinions. Even a 3000 year old book will do.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Wonder

    When it comes to religion, it's B.S. follow by more B.S. Those so called "Miracle" events are good for bedtime stories. PERIOD! Religion prey on poor and uneducated people.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. texaslady2

    I seriously doubt the ability of wind to part the waters, much less hold them back while hundreds of thousands of people, animals, possessions, etc., trudged across. Even if that were possible, how could they get through all the mud that would have been at the bottom of the "sea"? This is as unbelievable as the idea of Noah being able to carry two of every kind of animal on one ship. Yeah, right! Holy fairy tale, Batman!

    September 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. James

    @reck0ner,

    Are you saying that all the wh0res and sloots are now in hell or will be there eventually? Can I go to hell now or do I have to wait until I die?

    September 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jn555

    It seems natural that as science and rationalism continue to advance, we will be able to explain so-called miracles scientifically. It is ridiculous in this age to blast scientific advancement, based on god rather than education. Theories should be argued, but use science as your basis for arguments, not faith.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Beliver

    al y'all r such moerons! U nonbelivers r al goin to hell! the BIBLE is tru cuz thats what GOD sayed. how did moeses cross the ocean??? CUZ GOD OPEND THE OCEAN! duh!! try readin the Bible. evrything in there is true and no science aint gonna prove it wrong. all nonbelivers r goin to hell and thats what GOD sayed.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Adams

    They have a saying that applies to computer simulations too: Garbage in garbage out. To begin with, you would have to have wind blowing constantly along a stretch of water miles long to have that kind of effect. Let alone fact that the wind would have to start blowing and then die down at the right time in order to have the desired effect. Then even Paul reminds everyone in one of his letters that the stories in the Bible are not real fact but parables with a meaning. The story about the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and the parting of the Read or Reed Sea is no exception.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Omar

    Hi All,
    If you want the complete Story of Musa Please read Holy quran
    in the Holy quran Allah(God) Asked Musa to hit the sea by the Musa's stick
    the law of God is "Be"

    September 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Shumobo

    I do not believe such an explanation. If wind blows all the water away, there is still mud around. Who can walk on the mud? That is suicidal.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. AkronSteve

    Oh, please. These are exactly the kinds of fairytale stories that makes those of us with brains realize just how much baloney is actually out there. I believe in a "God", just not all that ridiculous nionsense being shoveled here.

    We are here because an advanced civilization in a galaxy, far, far away, put us here to "seed" the planet. No one parted doodle!

    The sooner we find our "parents" the sooner so many questions will be answered.

    See, now wasn't that easy?

    P.S. Connery is right on the money, you go Sean!

    September 22, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dinesh D'Souza

    So let me get this straight: The big guy created these beautiful humans in is own image, who then decided to go at it by trying to kill each other. Then – by playing favoritism – he chose those who obey him against those who do not by throwing them a lifeline. Why didn't he create a bunch of yes, obedient, wimpy humans to begin with? Would that not have been more efficient on the almighty’s part?

    Oh, I know: we have “free will." Now I get it.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. kris

    lets not prove faith.
    at that wind speed, if water can make a path, on and average 150 pound person don;t they fly out.... lets believe in what they say only if you want you.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Real Earth

    Jesus Christ real name was Julio Cesar
    son of Julius Ceasar and Cleopatra 7th
    When Rome attacked and defeated Egypt
    Julio fled to India for many years.
    When he came back to reclaim his throne
    he came back as Jesus Christ (Means son of isis)
    His mother Cleopatra had proclaimed herself the virgin reincarnation of Isis.

    Before Ceasar was murdered, the Roman senate declared him God.
    So his son (julio) was the son of god.

    So the NEW Jesus, was not only the son of a virgin mother
    but the son of god.

    History has been modified, hidden, changed and abducted.
    The benefactors ?
    The vatican !

    The Roman Empire, turned into the Holy Roman Empire.
    They dont occupy by force anymore.
    They own everything.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Diesel

    For to long you have all been attributing these miracles to the FAKE CHRISTIAN GOD. All should cower in fear of the GREAT SPAGHETTI MONSTER through him all things are possible including fluid dynamics and santa claus.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
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