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. Kristy

    It doesn't matter since it's FICTION!!!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Shane

    To about 70% of the people who wrote comments on here I have a bridge for sale!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mr Science Dude

    Is a human being the end result of your theory of evolution? Are we as much complexity as evolution can derive? We can mold steel, plastics, we have genetically modified plants and animals, mapped the human genome, we can fly from one part of the world to another in a matter of hours. We have evolved into a pretty amazing species. We are on the verge of creating life itself in scientific experiments.

    What if there were in another realm, a being that evolved through mutation, selection and adaptation, into a being far more advanced than us and actually learned to create and control life. I mean what will humans be able to do in another million years of evolution? What if we are a science experiment in a realm that we understand not because we cannot comprehend it? What if our vision is so small to only believe that we are the only forms of life in the entire universe. See what bugs me about the atheist view is that there is nothing more complex than us? That there is no room in science for something that we may not be able to understand right now. How can you deny a God when perhaps it is just a being that is evolved a billion years beyond us? Frankly we all think we are all so smart, but we are just a couple grams of dust in cosmic. I am not sure what is out there, but science has given me a broader view of life, about the potential for someone more complex than myself to exist, not to limit my view. Frankly most of you out there who consider yourself atheist probably know very little about science but need some sort of backdrop for your hate of religion.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JOHN

    Then God came to Moses' rescue. He was told to gather his followers and take them through the midst of the seas, on a path that would be specially carved for them by ALLAH.. Pharaoh and his men, fully armed, attempted to pursue them along the same path. As soon as Pharaoh and his men set foot on the path, however, it vanished, and they were drowned in the raging seas

    September 21, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. eli

    One thing is for sure! there is no god for stupid peaple... check the dollar bills it says IN GOD WE TRUST It means the federal goverment does bealieve in GOD

    September 21, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • BR

      Yeah...because it's printed on some money, that makes it true. And before 1957 the federal government didn't believe. And there's a Nigerian prince who will share his fortune with you if you wire him 500 dollars. That's printed somewhere too.

      September 22, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    Hey Bob took that completely out of context as most non believers do to try to prove their point . The HE was a reference to Judah not God, you dimwitted trog.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Matt

    WOW... you mean there's a chance that God acted by using the things which God created to save those whom God cares about? CRAZY

    September 21, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Shane

    I can make a whirlpool in my sink its much more impresive then splitting water and I can do it at anytime maybe they should add that to the bible. The bible is simply a way to govern a lawless land filled with great events to build up mortals to be more than only just mortal. These are the same basis Osama Bin laden used to make it religiously acceptable for suicidal attacks which is clearly forbiden in the Koran.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. adamt

    Yeah, either that or it was just a story using analogy and metaphor to make sense out of essentially unexplainable other events and ideas...which is still more likely the case.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  10. Pat

    WHY does it have to be "scientifically proven"? That's the problem with scientists & so called geniuses, they always have to prove it to believe it. Why can't the just have FAITH? God is, & always will be, the greatest scientist ever. I don't need anyone to prove this, or anything else in the Bible, for I trust God's word, and have Faith in Him, for He's carried me through so much already, I've already seen miracles.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
    • valarie

      I agree with you pat, and as for GOD he don't need no one to prove anything about him. We all just wait and see it will be revealed in time. Hope that we all be on the right side. Keep living and every need will bow and every tongue will confess no matter who you are and what you be believe!

      September 22, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. Fred

    Whether it is physically possible to move water with wind is irrelevant.

    It is a fairy tale people!

    September 22, 2010 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. jeffrey Root

    How can science even begin to find science in a fairy tale? Sounds more like pseudo science. God doesn't exist just like Santa doesn't exist.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Tizzy

    Science supports God – plain and simple. We all choose what we want to believe – we al lhave free will. Whatever your belief, in the end, God will give you a choice: your will be done or his. Choose wisely.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. sam

    Folks ... here is my take..
    If someone is telling you that.. "hey there is a Tsunami coming in and you are enjoying on your beach" .. not without knowing the proof or authenticity would you ignore the news or take every precaution to safeguard yourself or atleast try to find the truth ????? don't waste your time dudes and don't trust anyone .. go read and research yourself .. when you have a chain of truth and prophesies all being fulfilled on after in all the major religions – try to find the commonality, accepted that not all the texts are unabridged but if this world is not a fake (which all of us belief) there is for sure a purpose of this creation and you as well.. this is the time for our scientists and researches to concentrate on all major religious scripts and prophecies and try to understand the truth. If there were to be no truth behind this life, then why do you get old and have to die – why not live for ever.. . compare the time a man has ever lived (70/80 years) to the span of this world.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. Garbled Transmission

    Moses simply ate alot of gassy foods before they went for a nature walk. Even the water kept it's distance.

    true story...

    September 22, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
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