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. W.G.

    I believe it happened the Bible is very accurate whenit comes to places and peoples . The people that find fault
    in it NEVER READ IT . Also you have to remember the times that these things were supposed to have happened
    are years off from where they really happened . The Jews at that time were called the Hyskas The pharoe at the time
    was named "Am Moshe " Meaning one thing in Egyption but also in the language of that time meant "Brother of Moses"
    you the plauges were brought about by Volcanis activity the volcanic activity played in perfect with what God
    wanted truly He is "The Great Designer"

    September 22, 2010 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. Godson

    WOW!!! This does my heart good to see you guys standing up for what u believe in. whether its god or science or otherwise..but i have to point out that all of you are so alike yet u think you are so different. The common denominator in this forum is faith. The Religious have faith i god... the science based have faith in science( unless any of you have actually split an atom in your kitchen) and the atheist have faith in man. The point is we all believe in something but rather than waste your time bickering over who is right and who is wrong and trying to force your beliefs on other people, you should wrap your mind around this concept because it is the only true fact in life. YOU ALL WILL DIE!! cast your tiddlywinks then..

    September 22, 2010 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. hapless, helpless, hopeless

    Dear Irrational,
    There seem to be an enormous amount of fragile people on here that need to hold onto the promise of an afterlife. Is life really that bad? To throw away all the concrete proof that science has produced for this imaginary covenant called faith seems awful foolish. It's interesting that this idea of faith has a protective component that you can never question it. Questioning things just happens to be the backbone of science. It is no wonder there is such a huge divide between us. That of course is all by design. You cant sustain a religous farce without the other key component which is divisiveness. congratulations on your production of nothing for humanity. If its validation that you seek, it can only be found amongst your equally unoriginal, uninteresting, and widely unintelligent peers. You can waste your lives away wishing for that golden ticket, but please stop wasting everyone elses time and efforts with these childish stories and hateful oppression.
    Sincerely, Reason

    September 22, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. kd

    It was the Mississippi, not the Nile. Might as well have been, as it's a made-up fairy tale.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ryder

    We don't see lakes and streams becoming dry we a category 5 hurricane hit Florida. We are talking about 150 mhp +. Hello people!!! And besides, who sent the appointment to Moses's blackberry to be there at the right time? Science is another form of religion. Science should be used to reveal us the wonders of the GREAT I AM. Truly the work of God to save at least one group of true followers.

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

    We don't see lakes and streams becoming dry we a category 5 hurricane hit Florida. We are talking about 150 mhp +. Hello people!!! And besides, who sent the appointment to Moses's blackberry to be there at the right time? Science is another form of religion. Science should be used to reveal us the wonders of the GREAT I AM. Truly the work of God to save at least one group of true followers

    September 22, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tim

    Well, Science tries to answer questions that are questions at all, again. The Bible is accurate. A couple of problems with the scientists theory: 6 feet of water flowing back into a lagoon wouldn't happen so quickly that people couldn't swim, float, or get out of the way. Also, the land that Moses and the Israelites crossed (The bottom of the Red (Reed) Sea was dry when they crossed. A mud flat that was recently exposed from wind blowing the water away would be wet, muddy, and sticky. People wouldn't be able to cross it.
    People need to start believing in the Truth of the Bible. Nothing in the Book has ever been proven to be false. NOTHING.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. Tracy

    You know...I've seen a whole bay emptied of water! It's true! Tropical Storm Danny sat over the Mobile bay and emptied it! You still couldn't walk from one side to the other due to the MUD! But TS Danny did take all the water away!

    September 22, 2010 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. Alec Dubro

    I speak to God all the time, and God assured me that not only didn't he do it, but that he was rooting for the Egyptians. He's very disappointed and wishes people would just forget the whole thing.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. hmmmwat?

    63 mph winds splitting 6 feet of water in the nile.... I would have to see it to believe it. (wink wink)

    September 22, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  11. Lily

    So . . . who has enough time to even THINK of the question – much less concoct some mystical scientific theory. Good grief, people, do something constructive that might actually help somebody in the present. Where was the water that Moses parted . . . geez. . . give us a break. Typical case of "their education exceeding their intelligence". I know what! Let's study Adam and Eve and see if we can figure out what kind of apple she bit?

    September 22, 2010 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. Eleazar

    Didnt Moses split the red sea?

    September 22, 2010 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  13. science lover

    This is a great experiment to shed new light on a location for a biblical event. There's nothing like a little science to get everyone screaming about theology! Of course, the article sayes nothing about whether God caused the wind to blow. Or say whether Moses was just lucky. It does speak as though the event was real. Well, read into the article what you will....that is what man has done with the written and spoken work from the beginning of time. No matter who is the author.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  14. ezra

    Ok, people. let's get real here. There was no Moses, no Exodus in real life – it is all a fable. Are we really trying to fit a scientific explaination to a fictional event and people? No wonder this country is so screwed up.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. cavemanstyle

    It dawned on me yesterday, after getting my finger cut, that our reality has boundaries. I call it, the "The Law of Limitations". It states, that "There is no accountability for variability". If you cut your finger, the wound heals. Now, if the physical material that makes up your body had an inexplicable variable of smallness, meaning, not structured, the wound would grow back radically, and not conformative to your body. However, it does not. It grows back nice and uniformly. That means, number one, that there is no infinitely small variability that would cause chaotic growth back. It means, the molecules in your body are structured, and blueprinted, and your body is reading from that blueprint to reconstruct the wound, and if there is a blueprint, then there is a physical boundary of structure in the universe when looking to the infinitely small. We do not know what lies beyond the boundary, and, we also do not know who created it. These are the facts. Faith is not fact. It is, .. the maybe, of yes and no. ~

    September 22, 2010 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
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