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. Jason

    I ask you this question...Is it even possible for people to walk easily for 2 to 3 miles in 65 mph winds? As far as I know that would be labeled under Violent storm, just a step before Hurricane. Sounds pretty hard to believe in that theory.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. Allen

    This scientific pondering proves absolutely nothing about what happened in history. It considers some scenarios that's it. The Bible says God did it. The Bible says God is the Creator of the Universe and all the laws that govern it. The Bible is the most reliable history book and revelation from our Creator.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
    • GuerillaGorilla

      Well if that is the case then the Creator isn't very reliable is it? As the bible contrdicts itself and is full of flaws then thus must be the creator if it is his direct voice in the world.

      September 22, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jimbob

    so we can now raise high the flag of science, which has proved that everything in the bible is....wait a second.....gotta get rid of that Darwin fellow. Ok, some parts of science are ok but others are not....wait, I'm getting really confused.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. Realist 2

    .....all religion is a gross insult to the human intellect. Try believing in Permaculture ( or just practise it ) then not only will you save yourself and find inner piece but you may actually do some good in this world before eventually becoming compost yourself. Go on be brave google "permaculture" and grow something nice, real , tasty and life sustaining.....

    September 22, 2010 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jason

    Especially in less than 4 hours, impossible.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. reck0ner

    @Frank your like a dog chasing his own tail... in the end you'll be as dead as a door nail... WAKE UP! ! ! ...or else when the time comes your gonna wanna attach robot parts to your rag tag soul like general grievous in Star WARS the religious are gonna end up putting a light saber in you a$$ 😉

    September 22, 2010 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jez

    Based upon this logic, there should be no water in anyone's pools. Winds in plenty of States blow way harder then that. Lol. Anyway, mans heart beating for no apparent reason and the sun continuing to burn with no physical powersource is enuff to know there is a God.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • GuerillaGorilla

      Are you intentionally ignorant? Any 5th grader can tell you that the suns energy is due to it's mass compressing hydrogen (via gravity) into a superheated "ball" which then gives off energy as light and heat radiation. As for why our hearts beat, it is a small electric charge stimulated by the brain that causes our hearts to beat. Go back to elementary school and learn a little before you start spouting of ignorant things like that.

      September 22, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Allen

    Godeater said "Tax, sterilize, jail, & execute Religious nuts (in that order)". Thank you for demonstrating so clearly what people are like when they make such a tremendous effort to shut our Creator out of their lives. I am sad for you and pray you will humble yourself and seek the truth of the living God – not religion based of heartless rules – but a true relationship with Jesus, our Creator. Check out

    September 22, 2010 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. eric

    if the winds parted the waters in theory,
    why isn't there an actual withnessed proof
    like the cameramen chasing tornadoes?

    September 22, 2010 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  10. morgan painter

    People tickle me. They keep looking for natural explanations to supernatural events.

    The bible mentions people swallowing camels and choking on small bugs. It is an exaggeration for the sake of making a point. Sometimes people are too willing to accept one thing that is a major issue and choke on another that is minor.

    IF there is a God, and IF he could create an entire planet just by speaking it into existence then parting the waters for a short period of time would be child's play for him. Right?

    Sheesh I don't remember anyone trying to explain how a God could create a planet from nothing and here they are trying to figure out how to divide a little bit of water.

    Get real people.

    IF he created a whole planet , he could wave his hand and do it.

    IF he had a hand.

    IF Moses existed in the first place.

    Lots of IF's there...............

    September 22, 2010 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Moses existence is proven with factual data.
      The Bible's perspective of Moses is what is at question.
      Did he speak to God at the burning bush?
      How did he cross the red sea? -Many believe the water level was so low, they were able to walk across.
      (source: Book of Western Civilization 1)

      September 22, 2010 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
    • BR

      Moses? Proven? Not likely. What is your extra-biblical reference ? There is no evidence for the exodus, muchless the bearded guy and his magic stick. Just stories.

      September 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • morgan painter

      God could have forced the land to rise above the water. That would not be hard for a God who can create a whole world and all the animals in it. Why is that hard for believers to accept? Why keep speculating typhoon winds and microbursts? You either believe God just did it or you don't.

      God created the laws of physics so hey, how hard to modify them to his needs? The bible says Jesus walked through walls. That defies the laws of physics. "No two objects of matter may occupy the same space at the same moment in time." I learned that in eighth grade science.

      I can understand atheists poo-pooing this but believers?

      Get real.

      September 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • BR

      morgan-The only way to get "real" is to acknowledge that it's all just stories...nothing more. You're trying to quibble with believers on which nonsense to believe out of an even bigger nonsense.

      September 23, 2010 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. Allen

    Bill T said, "If you're taking the bible as mostly true, the world is 6600 years old." Yes, the universe is between 6,000 and 10,000 years old. If you doubt that but are open to seeking truth take a look at the vast PhD level evidence at

    September 22, 2010 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
    • GuerillaGorilla

      I have been to that site and ,needless to say, many of the Ph.D. level "evidence" takes large leaps of logic, and a total ignorance of physics, in order to believe. Many of the posts there ignore the "rules of the universe" and when questioned about that ignorance make long rambling sentences that boil down to "Because God says so." Much ot the "evidence" looks great until you start applying true science and known fact (such basics as the speed of light). If the Universe was only 10,000 years old then much of the light visible to the sensitive equipment capable of detecting it would have not be able to reach it at this time. We wouldn't even be able to see some of the full nebulas with a diameter of >10,000 light years, the far side of the galaxy, let alone the closer galaxies over 1 million light years from Earth! That is of course unless God over-ruled the laws of nature and the universe and made it so. So please, by all means, explain why the basic rules and laws of the universe are ignored in the statement "The universe is only 10,000 years old" with logical scientific facts and without reference to God's powers.

      September 22, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill T

      Allen, the city of Jericho has been continuously inhabited for 11,000 years.

      September 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jake

    Well, Moses was real based on factual data and he did cross the red sea but it is believed by many that there were spots in the sea at the time where the water level was so low they could walk across.
    (source: The book of Western Civilization 1)

    September 22, 2010 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  13. guitarharry

    "Sounds like hooey"? Oh, so magic is a better explanation?!

    September 22, 2010 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
  14. VegasRage

    Because they attempt to explain the hooey you believe in? The only reason people follow any religion is the result of men who claimed to have written the inspired word of God committing it to parchment or paper. Then a number of people believed these men and perpetuated their new found belief and passed their written text to each succeeding generation which has spread to this day.

    Too few stop to ask why. For most faiths, physical proof was lost two thousand years ago. The vast majority never had first hand knowledge of key events, never had any verifiable evidence which emphatically proves what their religious text states. Yet people continue to go back the text in doubt and present it to others as proof and so it continues.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. frank

    Oh NO!!! An appeal to the preservation of my "immortal soul"!!!! What ever shall I do????!!!!! And to bring in "hip and current" analogies too...

    Almost convincing... but no...

    I find it humorous that you liken me to a dog chasing his tail... brings the image of a circle to mind... circular reasoning: God is real 'cause the Bible says so, The Bible is the word of God...

    OOOOps, sorry, must have just woken up from my fairy tale induced sleep...

    September 22, 2010 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
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