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. momo

    Its all good that science has proved that it is possible, but what science cannot prove is how it happened at the exact moment Moses wanted it to happen.. Was it purely luck? or divine intervention.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • ratkartz

      or maybe.... myth

      September 21, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nigel Belt

    Where did waters part for Moses? er, in the Bible.
    Where was Jay Gatsby's mansion? uh, in The Great Gatsby

    September 21, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sheila

    You might as well ask where the vase was that the crow dropped the stones in to get water. IT'S FICTION, PEOPLE!!!

    September 21, 2010 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John Grabowski

    I am amazed in this day and age researchers are wasting computer time and power on a myth. What's next, using computers to track ghosts and UFOs?

    September 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Burt

    Won't all of the mockers here be surprised when a one world dictator ceases power and begins to behead large swathes of the population who do not bow down and worship him, just as the Bible has predicted for thousands of years.

    Then you will be calling for God.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • ratkartz

      Yup, "ceases power." Learn to read and write and perhaps to think and you can come back and bark at everyone again.

      September 21, 2010 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ked

    God doesn't believe in atheist! I love love love God. Most of these commets are heartbreaking. I don't like for people to talk about my ;esus and my God so bad. Everyone will see him. Coming in the clouds and every tongue will confess every knee will bow to the Lord jesus! What a day that will be!

    September 21, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • ratkartz

      medication... good !

      September 21, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. W

    If true, then where are the bronze remnants of the chariots and weapons of the Egyptians?

    September 21, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Glenn Weeks

    Has anybody checked out archeologist Ronald Wyatt's work of identifying Nuweba Beach on the Gulf of Aqaba as the crossing point of the Exodus? Wyatts work is impressive. It also makes more sense than what the article asserts.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. reck0ner

    Although the laws of motion and universal gravitation became Newton's best-known discoveries, he warned against using them to view the Universe as a mere machine, as if akin to a great clock. He said, "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done." He saw evidence of the design in the systems of the world: "Such a wonderful uniformity in the planetary system must be allowed the effect of choice". But Newton insisted that divine intervention would eventually be required to reform the system, due to the slow growth of instabilities.

    (KJV) Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now ...and not only they but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of The Spirit of GOD (a soul) even we ourselves groan (we christians) within ourselves...

    O' foolish agnostics, atheists and pagans ...we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness ...if i have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if i tell you of Heavenly things?

    Albert Einstein wrote: "Even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other" there are "strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies [...] science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind [...] a legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist." He argued that conflicts between science and religion "have all sprung from fatal errors". In an interview published by Time magazine, Einstein spoke of his feelings about Christianity. Einstein was then asked to what extent he was influenced by Christianity, to which Einstein replied as follows, "As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene." Einstein was then asked if he accepted the "historical existence of Jesus," to which he replied, "Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."

    I always dig up some facts (in fact) i love facts: GOD'S Word is The Law! ...i wonder how Newton & Einstein would have turned out growing up in a world without biblical Truth?

    September 21, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jason Borne

    Ok so god didn't do it... it just happened at the perfect time... and then ended at the perfect time. Just like when you read the book of genesis it strangely matches the way science says the word was created... with just one or two things switched. All you people make me laugh. If god isn't real, then we were lucky... very lucky... but science does not have a place for luck... And I mean, if you really think what is on this earth is all there is... one little speck inside of a speck in a massive universe. Than fine. But at some point in time this feeling that there is more came into mans mind... primitive mans mind... such a powerful thought... Such a complicated thought... maybe its all fake... but thousands of years of belife is a pretty powerful thing to say it is all made up.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jim

    Wisdom is making the fewest number of assumptions to explain something. God is not necessary to explain physical events or to be a basis of ethics.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Athena

    574 comments is a bit much to wade through... Surely it has been mentioned that this doesn't answer how so many people would be able to traverse the exposed soggy bottom of the parted sea... In 63 MPH winds, no less.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. liz

    A "Topograghical feature where such an event Might have been possible". And people wondering If it comes from historical facts! I wish everyone would just believe in the God of miracles. He makes a way out of no way. If He can raise the dead then He can part the sea. You just have to believe and thats that

    September 21, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • ratkartz

      oh I believe all right ... I believe this is complete rubbish

      September 21, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Larry

    Most myths have a kernel of truth to them. Was there a crossing, I believe there was. However are the numbers recorded in the bible accurate, I don't believe so. Heres why: according to the Quartermaster General in the Army, say on the basis of feeding 2 to 3 million soldiers, Moses would require:
     1500 tons of food daily
     4000 tons of wood to cook the food each day
     11,000,000 gallons of water each day for drinking & washing
    It would have required Moses to have two freight trains, each as mile long to transport in the food. Similarly, it was necessary to freight in the firewood for the daily requirement. For the water, another freight train with tank carts, 1800 miles long would be necessary. There were no freight trains in the Biblical days!
    What about accommodation & camping at the end of the day’s wandering? It’s estimated that a campground two-thirds the size of the State of Rhode Island was required, or a total of 750 square miles long!

    Lest we forget, getting across the Red Sea was a great miracle. Logistically, if they went on a narrow path, double file, the line would be 800 miles long and would require 35 days & nights to get through. So, there had to be space in the Red Sea, 3 miles wide so that they would walk 5000 abreast to get over in one night

    September 21, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • ffb

      i love it when people apply contemporaneous ammenities to ancient history as if it were factual.

      September 21, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amenhotepstein

      The sad truth is that many, otherwise rational people, DO believe it is factual!

      September 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Randy Beers

    So how did they get through the mud which would have surely been left in the water's place?

    September 21, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
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