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. SPalin

    and in other news Santa Claus was picked up on radar tonight. He will soon be dropping down your chimney kiddies.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santa Clause

      Sorry but I only Come once a Year

      HO HO HO!

      April 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bob

    On the other hand, during the 19th Century, before the Suez Canal was built, an Englishman discovered that there were parts of the Red Sea where you can ride across on horseback at low tide. So it could have been something like that, as well. And did the study account for changes to the hydrology of the Red Sea area caused by the construction of the Suez Canal?

    September 22, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ken

    Archaeologists are certain that the Hebrews were NOT slaves, did not build the Pyramids, and were not opressed but rather, were the Hyksos who dwelled across the Nile in cities of their own. Pharoah feared their growing power and demanded they return from whence they came. They left through the swamp of Reeds across the Red Sea at a low tide. Had Pharoah followed to be certain they fled his soldiers could have been trapped by the rising tide.

    Sometimes reality is the best explanation for an event magnified by word of mouth across the centuries. The Hebrew Scriptures weren't even codified until the age of the Rabbi's LONG after the death of King Y'Shua.

    September 22, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jesus Christ

    Ok people believe what you want to believe but really if you think a man or a so called "GOD" could split a river,ocean or even a puddle all because of god's will. Well that make's me all warm inside with Crap!:) All these bible storie's are all fantasy. Religion get's nation's to go to war with each other...War get's People killed...Dead People well they just end up in the ground as new soil. Hate It or Like It Religion= Waste of time:)

    September 22, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Satan Lord of the starbucks in the underworld

    Religion= Bunch of dumb people wasting their sunday's at church.

    September 22, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. chris

    God does exist and is pretty amazing to know that.! God bless all of you,

    September 22, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. reck0ner

    @rat, ...your name says it all WAKE UP ! ! ! ...Einstein & Newton have passed away ...i bet they now hate the idea that the mediocre bits of Truth they did quantify into one sighted science now helps a bunch of atheists, agnostics and pagans commit fornication an feel no shame; all the while planning to lie, murder, cheat and steal their horrible way through life unrepentant... insane in the membrane without their cloned salmon stuffed with prozac!

    September 22, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Aurora

    reck0ner said
    "..a person who is murdering is a murderer not a christian... a person who is committing a crime is a criminal not a law abiding citizen....a person who is sinning is a sinner not a christian who is being an behaving like a christian; even though that sinner thinks they are a good person and convinces their little ethnic monoculture of the same thing... "

    I think its pretty funny that if you murder, cheat and steal, you can't call yourself a Christian, but if you give to charity, volunteer and basically act like a good human being... and you don't believe in god, you're still just an athiest.

    September 22, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. shawn

    Computer models don't mean squat, trash trash out, if they attempt this on a real scale modle it will FAIL

    September 22, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Momminator

    For all you google earth folks, the Jews crossed the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, NOT THE SUEZ! READ YOUR BIBLES! They LEFT Egypt. The Sinai Penninsula was STILL EGYPT. They went to MOAB, on the west coast of Saudi Arabia. Moses's wife was a Moabitess. The springs of bitter water are there, and the 12 Springs of Meriba (now Elim) are there. The caves where they buried their dead were recently destroyed by muslims. Here's the GPS coordinates: for the Springs of Elim 28°23'42.56"N, 34°45'05.92"E; The Mountain of the Law (Jabal Al Lawz as the Bedouins call it) where Moses was given the law, the top of which is blacked from the presence of God is at: 28°35'07.14"N, 35°21'17.16" E You can even see Moses' altar half way up the east face of the mountain (looks like an "L", and the altar to the golden calf is at the bottom surrounded by chain link fence topped with barbed wire. The muslims don't want Israel legitimized, nor the rock solid accuracy of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Even the rock that Moses struck that split and that water flooded out of is there, north of the mountain, though again, muslims have deleted the photos of it that were posted by American hikers, and replaced them with photos of flat plains.

    September 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. William

    The Oxford Annotated Bible agrees that the wind pushed the water aside but goes on to say it was the "Sea Of Reeds", not the Red Sea. It goes on to say that the name "Red Sea" is a mistranslation and should be Sea of Reeds, a shallow marshy body of water where the wind does push the water aside.

    September 22, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      You mentioned that 'Red Sea' is an incorrect translation. I was wondering which original text you are referring to. The Septuagint or the original Hebrew text? There may not be a difference between the two texts, but some claim that there is. I just thought it wouldn't hurt to look up the original text.

      March 16, 2011 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. mario

    Thats man for you...again trying to play GOD and the events that happend in the bible...idiots.

    September 22, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jamie

    thats actually pretty cool, because science helps us to understand all...

    September 22, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mario

    Keep trying to play god!

    September 22, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. SCdad

    How is this news? religion is false. There was never even any proof that a guy named Moses even existed. Moses, roughly translated meant council of elders. It has never been a person's name. More right-wing cultists trying to "prove" religion to be true with science so they can fool ignorant people into obeying them.

    September 22, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
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