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. muslim

    All this is mentioned in the Quran. Yes the Quran. I advice everyone to read more about Islam and understand it. do not believe the media. If you really read about it and learn what it really is about you be amazed. Everything in the media about islam is completely the opposite. If you have a brain you will read and understand it more. Make your own decision, don't let the media make it up for you.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:28 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mel

    Let me get this straight. Scientists have spent time and money to determine whether a story in a book could be real. Did these people major in bible science because if they majored in any other science field; might it be possible there is more important work they could be doing? Who is funding this? It better not be tax dollars and if it is donated money; did someone actually want to know bible stories have any scientific truth? What a waste of time, money and effort. aren't there enough problems in the world needing resolution to occupy their time or was this a nights and weekend job just like scrap booking.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. ARomanCatholic

    I believe in the account of Exodus to be true. This is why:

    God said he would preserve the Jewiish people because from the root of David would come the Messiah (Jesus our Lord) to save humanity. The devil (who the bible calls the temporary god of this world) knows of this plan and tries to stop it at every pass, but history shows that God's plan will not be thwarted:

    1) The Jewish people were enslaved by the Egyptians (a world empire), today the Egyptian empire is gone, but the Jewish people are still with us 2) The Jewish people were enslaved by the Babylonians (a world empire), today the Babylonian empire is no more, but the Jewish people are still with us 3) The Assyrians – another world empire – too is gone like the wind 3) Alexander and all his might overtook the people of Israel, but his empire and its glory gone, but Israel is still with us 4) The mighty Roman Empire – after destroying and exiling the Jewish people from their land – gone, but the Jewish people are still with us 5) Even though the Jewish people were exiled in many countries, and suffered persecution and several attempts of genocide, the Jewish people are still with us. 5) Europes attempt of resurrecting the Roman Empire (ie: Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini) all gone you see. What irony, Hitler tries to destroy the Jewish race, and God responds by bringing them back to the land of Israel after 2000 years. Where is Hitler and his family now? Gone!

    And folks, its not over. If you do not believe the Exodus story, you will have no choice to believe it if you live to see the last of the following prophecies: (A) Ezekiel 20:34 – "I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered - with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath." (B) Isaiah 11:11-12 NIV – "In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth." (C) Isaiah 43:5-6,21 – "Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, `Give them up!' and to the south, `Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth...""... the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise." (D) Warning to the current enemies of Israel: Isaiah 34:2 (New International Version) 2 The LORD is angry with all nations; his wrath is upon all their armies. He will totally destroy [a] them, he will give them over to slaughter.

    Notice what God says will ultimately happen to those nations that attack Israel.

    1 The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
    2 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah [and] against Jerusalem.
    3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ama

    Everything within the Talmud or Bible is written in symbolic code i.e. hidden teachings. Stop reading these works, teachings as literal facts. The Tree of Life is a map that reveals the Truth that lies within each of us. Moses, Jesus asked each of us to meditate and go within as did Buddha. Have we not heard this simple truth yet.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. tt

    People who need a mortal man (or set of men) to give plausibility to God are in deep spiritual trouble. It's kind of like a group of two year olds getting together to try to prove or disprove that they should trust and obey their parents.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. tt

    Actually, fairy tales were created to teach important life lessons. Since I read lots of fairy tales as a child, I can attest to the wisdom of their creator.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. don wilkinson

    While we're taking about make-believe, do you think it really was Krypton from which the baby Superman was rocketed?

    September 22, 2010 at 6:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. don wilkinson

    While we are discussing make-believe, do you think it really was Krypton from which the baby Superman was rocketed?

    September 22, 2010 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tony

    With all the diseases and sickness in the world that can be researched they choose this? Come on people, it is fiction and to think that a research facility allowed their staff to research this is mind blowing.
    What's next, the three houses that the little piggy's live in?

    September 22, 2010 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. Otto

    Say what you will, believe what you will and you can also think of nothing what so ever. To each his own, belief kills or cures but I believe there is a God. I believe there is a supreme being who is all powerful; the maker of the heaven and Earth and all planets known and unknown.
    "If" mark my words "if" man can make weapons that is able to destroy humanity; why then God can't create the planets, mankind and all things therein?

    Parting the Red Sea was but a simple fact, based on faith; parting the Atlantic Ocean is just as simple. Oh ye of little faith.
    You all cry help me God when you are in need, yet you believe him not. I have not seen God, nor touch him but I don't need to. I have experienced his power, many times during my very short life of over 50 years. "If" your faith is but the size of a mustard seed; you can move mountains and yes; the literal mountains!

    September 22, 2010 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. Seun Sharomi

    You Idiots, if it is Science, then let him go there, use his hand to command the wind to open the sea. Whatis the stupid idiot going with it. That he can achieve it on his own. At least something was behind the wind that opened the ocean.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jim

    Now for the best part, I realize water is very destructive and little survives over time but, wouldn't it be something if through archeology we are able to "raise" a few swords, shields, chariot hitches, etc......

    September 22, 2010 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. andre

    It was just a story out of a storybook. No need to try to figure it out with science.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
  14. Michael

    What everyone seems to fail to remember is when the Hebrews went through the midst of the Red Sea, Pharoah and six hundred of his choice chariots did chase after them. (Exodus 14) What is most interesting is in the Gulf of Aqaba on the west shore in the plain where Domina Elaria Nuweiba Hotel and Resort is now located exists a perfect plain for the massive Hebrew people to gather before crossing the Red Sea. From that plain heading east the Red Sea is not terribly deep in comparison to other areas of the Red Sea. The distance to the opposite shore is around ten miles. There is a natural land bridge submerged in this exact location. This would have aided in the crossing of the Sea as well. In this narrow strip of the Gulf of Aqaba there have been found numerous chariots. These chariots are of the exact design of Egyptian chariots at the time of Moses. There are remains of soldiers, horses, and many chariots. These chariots have had their wheels removed from the axels exactly as described in Exodus. The wheels did not corrode off of the chariots, they fell off.

    Computer models and vain theories sound nice and sweet, but they are NO MATCH for Real Solid investigative research. Wouldn't it make most sense to go to the Read Sea and examine everything about the entirety of the Red Sea and look at the floor of the Red Sea to see if there is OBVIOUS archaeological and geological evidence to support a Historical Account? Why base some ridiculous theory on a computer drawing and apply enough "physics" to "prove" yourself, when all the proof that is needed already exists?

    Not only could we, the people, do better in our own basic research, but so-called scientists should know better than to hawk their false crap to the rest of us.

    September 22, 2010 at 7:11 am | Report abuse |
  15. Snu Snu

    Show me where in Ancient Egyptian records, there are accounts of the ancient Pharoes ever owning/controlling Isreali slaves!

    Part 1 –

    Part 2 –

    Take that Bible Thumpers!

    September 22, 2010 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Catie

      "show me" you see, I dont have to show you, you not believing is no skin off my nose

      September 22, 2010 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
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