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. Bob

    🙂 🙁

    September 21, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Natsarim

    So many comments. So much human pride and wisdom. Human wisdom is foolishness to Yahua Elohim. The problem with these scientists theory is the scripture account records that Elohim's people walked on DRY ground, not a mud flat. As to the one who calls himself Satan... Humble yourself before your Creator lest your end be worse than that of Cain. Evidence of your folly is within your very own words... read what you wrote very carefully again. For all of you who don't believe and mock Elohim... please I beg you stop and repent. For in that last and Great Day when Yahushua returns... then you will know... but then it will be too late. Choose life! that you may live. While there is but a breath in the lungs, there remains hope! To you who believe, do not be shocked at those who do not, for their fate has been foretold. Rather continue to seek mercy and Elohim, and you will be found of Him. I am least among you all, and chief among sinners. I am well educated in Science, physics and all manner of human wisdom... it is all foolishness compared to the glory that was and is Yahua Elohim. To you unbelievers... you are loved immeasurably... really... seek it.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • vinman

      i searched for a post that was worthy or a reply... finally found one

      My reply: AMEN!

      November 5, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    And what about the thick, deep, viscous mud that would be exposed? They walked through that? With flocks, baggage, kids, etc.?

    September 21, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • ratkartz

      And don't forget the suitcases and carry-on.

      September 21, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      Yes, there is a GOD and he's all powerful... a little thing like mud isn't a problem for the GOD that created the world. It wasn't an accident with hot gas and some big bang that made intelligent life.

      November 3, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tony

    This AWESOME debate response ! What a way for GOD to get peoples attention. That, Mi Amigos, is why it's called FAITH !

    September 21, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • ratkartz

      That would be "mis amigos" idiota maleducado.

      September 21, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jim ;)


    September 21, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Spectating Outsider

    I am confused, yet again, at the ways of many modern day christians while reading these comments. When did being a christian mean taking the methods of the Salem witch trials of March 1, 1692 by hunting down all of who seemed different? You all are on this site pointing fingers and tying others up to burn with your words. If some believe that science shows the meaning to all, let them be and respect their views. If you are all right then they will all have to speak for their beliefs when that time comes.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • MizzB

      Persons who claimed to be Christian and put people to death were NOT Christians. Your opinion of the Reformation and thereafter is understandable. The greatest command is to love God, the second is to love neighbor. The bible speaks of those that will have a form of godly devotion but prove false to its power...and from these turn away. (2 Timothy 3: 1-5)

      (Matthew 7:21-23) 21 “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will 22 Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ 23 And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew YOU! Get away from me, YOU workers of lawlessness.

      All Christians cannot be judged by the terrible wrongs done in the name of God.
      (Malachi 3:18) 18 And YOU people will again certainly see [the distinction] between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him.”


      September 22, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rebel

      You have selective vision. Welcome to the human condition.

      September 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ratkartz

    Has anyone ever observed this sort of "parting of seas" ? Of course not . The whole report is baloney and CNN should be ashamed of itself.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Larry

    : >)

    September 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. hardguy

    listen brett favre fan have fun in H E L L

    September 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. someoneelse

    I saw a study that showed 500 hundred scientists proved that the Earth was approx. 6000 years old. It was published in a 'peer reviewed' journal too. Science is a tool, and can be used for evil (i.e. religion).

    September 21, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Allison

    Could we study something that God might approve of- like say world peace, or curing cancer, or helping the homeless?
    All of this study of biblical "fairy tales" just is trying to add credibility to whomever... real credibility comes from important work, not trying to prove that you are right or wrong- stopping wrong is more important!

    September 21, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MeIAm

    Lol @ almost all of you for forgetting the simple fact that science itself is a philosophy and the true nature the universe is ultimately unknowable. As if our meager 5 senses were all the we luckily needed to "see" and "know" all in the external world.

    BTW, myths and fairy-tales are not to be taken literally, but they are still statements of psychological fact. Yes, I know this is way over your snotty heads... but that's the problem with your sort, not me.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Shelly

    That was in regards to Isaac's "Every form os life that exists does so because God created it" post. Funny stuff

    September 21, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Barry

    Seeing as how the the original text actually translates to REED SEA and not RED SEA and the fact that we know where the Reed Sea is what was this study about?

    September 21, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Paul Gell

    Maybe moses did a big FART to part the waters. Someone should spend 10 million bucks to make a computer
    simulation of my theory.
    I just have to chime in with the posters voicing reason:
    The bible is FICTION..a bunch of stories, myths, strewn together. It's purpose is to try to pass on moral
    teachings, so people can all be nicey-nice to each other. Somewhere along the line the storytellers probably
    realized their real-life stories were B-O-R-I-N-G, so they had to Jazz em up.. "hey kid, listen to this! We want to tell
    you about our distant ancestor...he..umm... he ahh PARTED THE WATERS, yeah, that's it! 2,000 years later,
    millions upon millions of people are still buying that bunk...

    September 21, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
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