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 (1,522 Responses)
  1. Joe Smith

    And in other news...Scientists have discovered that, given the right conditions, a fairy could generate enough lift and thrust to carry the average size tooth 114 yards.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. scmathisen

    There are at least two problems with this theory. The biblical account states that over 1 million Hebrews crossed over on dry land. This research found that a "mud flat' was created for four hours. There is no way that over 1 million Hebrews crossed over on dry land under those conditions. This is just another failed attempt to explain away a biblical miracle.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ted

    Labor 5 of Hercules To clean the Augean stables...

    The stables of King Augeus had not been cleaned for years and were piled high with dung. Heracles was told to clean them thoroughly in one day. not even Heracles could have done that by himself. He succeeded, though, by diverting the course of a nearby river so that it swept through the stables and washed all the muck away.

    It's my opinion this is a mythological account of flooding the basin and creating the Mediterranean Sea by making a canal where the Strait of Gibraltar is located. The story of the event occurs in several forms, the Labor of Hercules, Noah and the Flood, and Moses and parting the Sea, and the Lost City of Atlantis. All of these myths in my opinion are versions of the same event, of cutting through the mountain and flooding the basin. Most likely performed by the Europeans as a way to create a natural barrier for their land.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robear in Ojai

      Ted, your explanation is just as fanciful as all of those myths. The geological evidence is that the Mediterranean Sea filled with water WAY before the arrival of humans around the basin. A number of more recent volcanic eruptions in the Greek isles certainly caused massive Tsunamis, flooding and destruction in historic times. These cataclysmic events are more likely candidates as basis for the Atlantis, Noah and Exodus myths.

      Have you seen the Strait of Gibraltar? I mean, have you been there yourself? NO human endeavor could have ever created such an opening.

      September 22, 2010 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. natalie

    Would this story work to do a current event about it in History? We just was learning about Moses and such last chapter..

    September 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jesus Christ

    Hello Brothers and Sisters,

    Sorry, but I got to go with the Athiest on this one. Dad was telling me all the stories written in the Old Testement are fake, he said he encouraged the writers of the Old Testement to write these stories because it helped bronze age men understand what was going on in the world and to get them to believe in him, because ancient man was making up all sorts of crap to try and understand the world around him.
    By the way, most of the stuff in the New Testement is fake as well, I mean, sorry to blow the whistel on this, but Mom wasn't a virgin. Her and my Stepdad were fooling around and she got pregnant, but my Dad in the sky didn't think people would follow me if they knew the truth so we did the whole virgin birth thing. Also, I did marry, real hot chick from Bethesda, we had tons of kids, 12 or 13, I could never keep track.
    I didn't die on the cross, nor did I rise from the dead, actually I got killed by accident in the shop, those ealry bronze power tools were dangerous. Anyway, just be cool to each other. Peace

    September 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      people with reponses like "jesus chris"t are idots just because you are ignorant too the truth and have more faith in science and do not believe, does not mean it is not real. Will it be real enough for you when you are standing at the gates of hell or burning in the lake of fire?

      September 21, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Al metcalf

    Google Ron Wyatt and find out the real truth...

    September 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. AnalyticalThinker

    It's absurd to think that this biblical story is etiher authentic or original considering most of the old testament WAS plagerized from various text created by the Kemit and Cush people before Hebrews even existed. I saw with my own eyes in Kemet (Egypt) just 2 months ago the medu neter (hierogylphs) which depict many of these concepts such as the parting of the sea, the immaculate conception, etc... thousands of years before either a bible or a quaran even existed (circa 300 b.c.e). Any care to research, you can find extensive passages of the old testament that are plagurized directly from Eyptian texts. But of course no one REALLY wants to know the truth although it's not hard to find.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vanilla Gorilla

      nice to see that someone else understands that there are no new stories in the Bible
      the concept for monotheism also can be traced to Egypt – along with the concept of the Trinity and it goes on and on and on
      almost every major culture has flood myth and some date thousands of years before there was an Egypt
      there is now historical evidence that there were Hebrews in the Nile delta – but they weren't slaves as described in the OT
      look how long it took to fins any shred of evidence that David actually existed – and what has been found is minimal at best
      if you can't win them over with facts – baffle them with BS Bill Clinton

      September 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. David

    Just as the 7 days of creation is in reality the 7 Endictrine Glands which connect the spirit to the body, the waters are the people Moses divided to help escape into and through.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      adressing vanila gorilla's comment miracles dont have to have facts and evidence or else it would not be a miralce ill tell ya there are so many idiotic ignorant assilumnistic people that it is truly sad

      September 21, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. reACTIONary

    NEWS FLASH! There isn’t ANY archeological evidence for there EVER having been ANY Hebrew slaves in Egypt at ALL. EVER, NEVER!!! So why don’t we start with the first biblical miracle: How could anyone dream up a completely bogus story like this in the first place?

    September 21, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      I'll agree with you one part who would dream up the bible so there for if no one could dream it up it must be real have you ever consider that there may not be any evidence as you atheus call it because of eathquakes floods and other natural desatures and the likes of greedy elite artifact collecters but we still have the ten comandments dont we okay then no one sat around and dreampt up the bible the ten commandments are sitting in the Ark in Isreal everyone seems to forget that

      September 21, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hmm

    I'm pretty sure the God who created the universe can tell the difference between the Nile and the Red Sea...

    September 21, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Garland

    CNN: Seriously, grow up. This is goofy.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Anna

    Shame that people will blame God for all the bad and none of the good. I believe in God. I rather than believe in some, as others put it, "Sky Fairy" who will grant me eternal life in a paradise if I open my heart to him and accepted him than to believe that there's nothing for me in the afterlife. If there's nothing in the afterlife, oh wise ones (scientists and athiests), then why are we here? You must know.

    I see it as this:

    If I believe God is real and I do what I can to please him, I win. If I believe that he is real and he really isn't, I lose nothing. God: Win/Win.

    If I don't believe in God and he's not real, I win. If I don't believe and he's real, I lose.
    No God: Win/Lose

    Besides you can't deny that life as we know it today is dangerously close to what is written in the Bible. Even if the Bible was nothing but fairytales. Also, the reason why "Sky Fairy" hasn't returned yet, is because it's not time yet. And we will NEVER know the exact date/time of his return. We will see signs of it though.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • SomeTruth


      You can look up, "Debunk/Rebut Pascal's Wager", if you are interested. It is an old and tired fallacious argument.

      September 21, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rick McDaniel

    Still those who believe in fairy tales.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      stil those who chose to believe in lies and put your faith in the society and government

      September 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Vanilla Gorilla

    OK, maybe there was a parting of some water way – I'll take the bait.
    So we are to believe that the wind moved that mass of water and held it back for hours – and that there were constant and sustained winds necessary to do that for 12+ hours – statistically not going to happen
    then there is the issue of the condition of the ground – I doubt very much that those following Mo out of Egypt would have found firm footing and easy going – and there were thousands of them – plus animals
    there would be a muddy mess for them to get through
    The Egyptian's had a series of forts between the Red Sea and the Promised Land – if they had really wanted to stop the Hebrews and their flight they could have easily done so
    as archeology improves more is being found out on what really was going on in Egypt regarding the Hebrews
    a lot of it tends to support some of the stories in the OT – but not to the degree where they are historical fact
    the OT is the work of those who need to support their thinking and agenda – nothing new here
    all in all the OT has far more credence then the NT which should be questioned by anyone who truly believes in Jesus Christ JC is the benefactor of a better PR job then Obama I think he would be appalled at what is in the NT – but he would give them an A for creative writing and their vivid imaginations
    and to think that the Koran is based primarily on the Bible – have any doubts just read it and see how many of the characters from the OT/NT are in it it's all a big joke anyway – organized religion that is

    September 21, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      ignorant athiest will necer understand the difference between organized religion and beliefs and if you have ever tried to walk through mud it may be hard but not impossible the mud could have dried if the so called wind repeled water for 4+ hours enough time to dry

      September 21, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Villy

    To all the atheists & unbelievers posting these comments.
    If there is nothing to these Bible facts, why are you so worked up about it??? Eat drink & be merry, but remember as soon as you die, you'll become a believer because there are no unbelievers in hell. At that time it will be too late.
    Just think, what if us Bible believers are right, what then????

    September 21, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      So, you do it just in case? Like it's an insurance policy?

      September 21, 2010 at 6:07 pm | 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