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. lisnup

    Oh brother, this is getting boring. Why do journalists even compare science to dogma? No one is trying to prove or disprove the story that Zeus ate is children... and why do the Christians (and Muslims) think that quoting scripture somehow is the same as revealing facts. You cannot argue with indoctrinated people already...don't you get it? They are INDOCTRINATED. No matter how much proof you show them they just will not and cannot understand. It is trying to prove evolution to the unevolved. Just let them be with their tragic love affair. It's all they have.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mike Mendonca

    God's word is inspired and men penned it! Man may try to make disprove His word, but if it was reported that it parted, it did! Is anything impossible with God? So sad that men think that God answers to us!

    September 22, 2010 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  3. Richard Hubbell

    If you are having trouble believing in God, then just take a deep breath, lose your preconceived notions, and step back and look at the complexity of life. There is NO mathematically probable way life as we know it could have occurred at this level of complexity without intervention. It is simple statistical probability. I understand it is cool to be an atheist, but the facts simply do not support it. Are there philosophical problems with the belief in a God? Sure! Good people suffering....babies dying...Paris Hilton not spontaneously combusting...these I cannot explain. However, there has not been enough time in the universe's history for life to be as it is through simple trial and error.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • BR

      Just under 14 billion yaars...not enough time? Actually the math is much more in favor of natural selection given the number of stars in the known universe. But since you seem to think that natural selection equates to trial and error, you should probably read up a bit in any case.

      I'm with you on Paris Hilton, though...add Lindsey Lohan for good measure.

      September 22, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. diesel2u

    Amazing in this day in age people still believe in a higher power....sad

    September 22, 2010 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. frank

    @Mike Mendonca

    Oh you make me giggle. If nothing is impossible for God, can he make a suit of armour that can't be defeated? once he's succeeded, can he defeat this undefeatable suit of armour? Doesn't seem so possible anymore does it?

    September 22, 2010 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. borisjimbo

    I believe the modern term for this is a seyche. They have occurred in modern times too though not to the point of actually exposing the bottom of the waterway to my knowledge.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. John TRESSEL

    If God is God, He can do exactly as He pleases and isn't limited by people not accepting His omnipotence. No problem for Him. This article doesn't explain perhaps a greater miracle. All of Moses' herd went through on "dry land". That takes a lot of explaining or perhaps some old fashioned faith. You have the choice....

    September 22, 2010 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
  8. SeeOurTourCom

    Its funny how people dont want to listen to facts. You cannot believe the Bible all day long but the Bible is still true. That doesnt mean that the many false freinds of the Bible are right. They teach lies and say there in it, when there not.

    The Bibles fortold the future of world powers including the Nazis and Soviet Union also the very conditions mankind is in today. Why dont we have peace? Why hunger? Why false religion? The Bible answers every question.

    And yes there is more then enough proof.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. Rat

    reck0ner said
    "i wonder how Newton & Einstein would have turned out growing up in a world without biblical Truth"

    Considering Newton's take on gravity was flawed as was his belief in God, he probably would have achieved more in science than he did.

    Einstein as well had a belief that God did not play Dice and thus was a reasoning for his non belief in the concept of Black Holes. Take away any belief in God and he probably achieves more than he did as well.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  10. Watnen

    Come on people.... We now know where the sun goes at night.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  11. Godeater

    Religion is to Science what Astrology is to Astronomy, the foolish child of an intilligent parent.

    Tax, sterilize, jail, & execute Religious nuts (in that order)

    September 22, 2010 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  12. Syed Zaidi

    Islamic theory is little bit different. There were 12 paths in the river because 12 tribes insist for seperate paths and each path seperated by the water. They couldm't see each other so windows were created in the water wall when they requested moses. How you can explain it through Science.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      wow.. thanks for the laugh

      September 22, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kamara

    According to the goals of the U.N's Agenda 21, religion as we know it is not sustainable. Therefor funding has been granted towards finding plausible answers to attribute the powers thought to be godlike, to be instead attributed to that of the force of nature which is in harmony with the U.N's goals for obtaining a one world government, with a one world religion based on pagan-like nature worship to where their "green agenda" will secure all property and resources.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
  14. Omar_Saudi Arabia


    As a muslim who believes in the story of profit moses, i would consider this as a proof for atheists and for people who believe in a divine being whatever name you call him. For the atheists as they incredibly believe in chance, it can be explained "the story of moses in the red see"" as an event that took place in the history and had been recorded in another way in books or whatever it is, and the people at that time had no logical explaintion so the story was invented and related with moses etc.... . For folks who believe in the creator ""God"" , it shows them that God can cause things to happen in any way even if there is no scientific explanation for things, as most of them believe that we are limited. For the atheists if you want to be very logical and rational as you always ask this question if God does exist then who created God?, the answer can be answered with evolution, but still yet before the evolution before the big bang before any thing we know, before the space...etc. I strongly do not think that all things can be found out of sudden. I would admit that i do not know every things because you can not. I would go with a common sense rather than an ideology that existed lately. I would never think that the toshiba laptob that i am using now has evolved from a disktop. Best wishes for all humans and animals and anything on existence ^^.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. MARAL2323

    Where did waters part for Moses? Not where you think...BIBLE IS A BS STORY ITS SCAM, I WAS RAISED A CATHOLIC ...k religion...

    September 22, 2010 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
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