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. David

    Articles like this are pointless. The fact is science and religion will never be able to comprehensivly explain one another. A qoute I often use to cool off my peers in the scientific community (I'm a scientist) and my religous friends (I also practice faith in God) is "the bible shows us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go". Yes, in the past religion was used for all sorts of crazy things that now fall into the realm of science; but most people did not know any better. Today it is a fairly obvious choice:the bible is a resource for moral and spiritual guidance. On the other hand if you want to know about nuclear fission I would hit up Einstein. The point is no one can prove or disprove whether the red sea was parted or not and why should we want to? Let those who find solace in it have it and round up some of these scientists for more pressing matters.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mike H.

    I've never been one to waste time debating scripture with closed minds that accept Columbus sailed into the West Indes based on the historical accounts of a few natives and those who rode with him but won't accept that Jesus was raised from the dead despite the presence of 500 witnesses. Interesting. We can each choose to believe what we will. I've always been amused, and even saddened, by nonbelievers who stoop to mockery.

    If we are to believe a mountain of historical accounts that pre-date Moses then why not the historical accounts of Moses himself? The incessant picking and choosing by nonbelievers makes no sense.

    Nevertheless, the study is interesting if nothing else.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. Tim

    You guys just wait till Jesus comes back and try to explain your way out of that one. Repent, turn from your sin, and follow Jesus' commands and be saved. The Kingdom is near! Right at the door!

    September 22, 2010 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
    • hahaha

      Yes, but where is my flying car?! I DEMAND my flying car! They PROMISED it!

      September 22, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. hassan

    sceincetist so stupid...they think they know everything from thousands of years ago...ALLAH(GOD) parted the water...stupid people...ugghh

    September 22, 2010 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
  5. XO

    Man trying to fit scientific explanation to something the Bible clearly depicts as divine miracle. Logic is not without limitation. God is logical, but He is also above logic. Faith through pure logic is no faith at all. The creation and life, from nothing, is a miracle and beyond the limits of human understanding. These are people without faith attempting to make God small in order to understand what cannot be understood. His ways are untraceable, His thoughts higher than our thoughts. What Bible are they reading from...

    September 22, 2010 at 3:40 am | Report abuse |
  6. Collin

    Well that's where faith comes into play. Their trying to find a purely scientific explanation of the parting of water which may lead them to the Nile, however it was a miracle performed by God at the Red Sea, not the Nile. Moses didn't just get lucky and have a chance wind part a huge body of water. The bible is God's word and the ultimate authority, man's wisdom will never be able to discover how HE performed such miracles.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. moke

    "For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
    "Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away."

    September 22, 2010 at 3:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. moke

    29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
    30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. Dust

    Say what you will. Do what you will. Create your own understanding. Rejoice in your accomplishments. Mock God. Live. Die. Be dead. Those of you who desire to be the center of your very own universe, did you make it? Some people did some research to see how splitting the water could be possible based on computer modeling, and you're here venting about religion? You claim the account of the parting sea in Exodus is a lie. Do you react this way to all lies? By arguing that such religious stories are ridiculous you show your hypocracy. Those who don't care...don't care. But you do care. You want to argue about such things. You can't help yourself. You have to share your opinion, because you think about religion. You think about God. And your only recourse to avoid conviction is to belittle the subject matter. Please respond to me. Pick what I've written apart, and show by your actions that you are the hypocrite I claim you are. And, please, please quote the Bible to me and tell me that I'm a bad Christian for judging your behavior. I love it when people who hate God read the Bible because they don't care so much. Oh, and just so you know, I won't be back...because, you see, I know God, and what you say cannot change this. Therefore, aside from it's implication concerning your own fate, I really don't care about your theories. (This means I really, truly think you atheists are the biggest bunch of arguing, petty, ridiculous bloggers on God's earth- and, unlike you, I won't subject myself to your personal theories which truly disinterest me). See ya (when you're dead and realize you screwed up bigtime). No, really.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. PARROT


    September 22, 2010 at 4:19 am | Report abuse |
  11. Germaine child of GOD

    Faith is the belief in god,gods word through jesus and the practice of religion based on one "feeling" and "knowing"....having FAITH: without doubt that GOD does exists. God was here for Moses and the Israelites as much as god is here today and each of you.It is most interesting to note that GOD (as he knows all), knew what each of you would blog and that each of you would have the view /opinion with regards to this article. As a young Christian woman, a child of GOD and a human being having free will.......I choose GOD and gods Divinity...not everything must be "proven" or have a "reason" not judge,cast judgement or test/question must keep an open heart and an open mind....I learned something simple and heart warming in sunday school: "It all goes back to Jesus".....

    September 22, 2010 at 4:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. Leryeh

    Wonderful discovery! but how true? If 63mph wind could part water in your sceince laboratory, have you ever thought of the wind blowing away Moses and the 3-million Isrealite or is there another scientific shield that restrict the power and path of the wind? Next is, is the wind powerful enough to sustain itself throughout the night, because we are told it blew all night and how does it dry the muddy floor of the sea for 3-million people to pass through without giving way under that weight.
    I also want you to prove why the wind decides to return upon the Egyptian when all the Isrealite were just out? Think it should have blown away the Isrealites as well because we are told they saw the Egyptian dead on the sea shore by the morning light.
    I think when you hear and see miracle, you should acknowledge God. Rom 1:28 says 'EVEN AS THEY DID NOT LIKE TO RETAIN GOD IN THEIR KNOWLEDGE, HE GAVE THEM OVER TO REPROBATE MIND....'
    One last thing is when is the prediction for the next 63mph wind at the red sea?

    September 22, 2010 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. donnie

    Think about it, if no one ever told you that the easter bunny and santa clause was fake then you would probably still believe in it. So then why would people believe that a man parted the seas, a man walked over water and a virgin woman gave birth. Someone needs to tell these religious people that all this non sense was made up too. Just because some people out wondering around in a desert dehydrated and high on something that they smoked out of a pipe; wrote this crap, doesn't make any of these stories reliable. To base your whole life around this fiction is just plain garbage. Btw when you die you don't go to heaven. Its basically what happens before you where born..nothing. So get over it people

    September 22, 2010 at 4:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. adam

    I find it interesting when people say the Bible has or is full of contradictions when in actuality there isnt one contradiction in it. I also find that if it was any other relgion or belief then no one would say anything about it. Why fight something so hard that you dont believe is true unless you do somewhere inside do believe but dont want to be held accountable. People only want to read parts of the Bible and not all of it and then they want to try to disprove something they cant explain.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. Gary

    It's obvious you've never delved into BIblical history.
    If you had, you'd have learned that Adam was the father of many children and thata after many years of exile, Cain married his sister.
    Now, before you use modern day thinking.....At that time, the bloodlines hadn't become marred by years of sin so a brother marrying his sister wasn't wrong.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:27 am | Report abuse |
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