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. The Real Fred

    It's funny how the same people who are on here trashing religion are the same ones who will be begging for answers when their own sad little lives play out. Remember, "there are no atheists in foxholes" is truer than you think.
    I have no idea where the idea that atheists are the good and noble people of the world came from. The 20th century is too full of horror stories of the atrocities perpetrated by the godless.
    As for science, if you don't like what the scientists say just wait a while. They'll change their opinion of what "truth" is. These are the same people who can't even agree on whether or not Pluto is a planet!

    September 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SomeTruth

    CNN: This thread is a mess. Replies don't attach and stuff is scattered all over the place. What had the potential for discussion has turned into a bunch of disjointed one-liners.

    Please fix it or shut it down.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Have you read what is being written? This thread would be a mess even if everything was where it was supposed to be.

      September 22, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ViperDude

    If there is no God, then why do any of you live by some sort of Moral Code? Survival of the fittest requires no moral code, in fact, it contradicts all Moral Code. Why hasn't the entire world lied and cheated their way through life if there is no one to answer to? The human authorities can't catch you if you play it safe and yet cheat in everything. Who gave you a conscience? Why do you listen to it? It is so much easier to listen to your heart than it is to do the right thing. Even the beasts of the field have a moral code. Why don't they eat their young instead of wasting time feeding them if the goal is to survive?

    Someone gave you a gift, and He is now standing back, allowing us to do whatever we want, until his appointed time comes like a thief in the night. Miracles are not necessary anymore, and they were not enough even for God's own people. The Jews of the time saw all the miracles performed by God's son and they re-payed him by killing him. People perceive that belief in God is folly because they only want to believe in him THEIR own why, not God's.

    Take for example the simple statement that God created the earth in six days. Blinded men believe want to believe in THEIR own way. Some blinded men believe that God created the earth in six literal 24-hour days. Other blinded men want to believe the earth was never created at all and that all life in the universe evolved on the earth. Then take the Truth, that other scriptures state clearly that a day for God is as a thousand years! In other words, the Bible is it's own witness. It itself answered the very same question that both blind sides have been disputing, that the Earth was created in six CREATION days, and that each day is an undefined passing of time. The earth could have been created in 1000 years, 1 million years, or 1 billion years, but to limit one day to God as being 24 hours is in itself foolish, especially when the 24 period had never been established before the earth itself was created!

    September 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Whats wrong with you?

    Question: Are computer models supposed to be able to replicate divine moments? Answer: No!
    this is where science fails

    September 22, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Howie

    I want to know who is funding this so called research. There is ZERO basis of fact in any religious mumbo jumbo, so why would serious scientists waste time and money even asking these questions? Moses? Jesus? God? Give me a break, and get a clue!

    September 22, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    Do they no longer teach critical thinking skills in school? Even if the wind had someone removed the water for any amount of time, the bottom would have been almost impossible to walk across and certainly no animals pulling carts could have made it. This is just ignorant that people actually believe the fables in the bible to be reality.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. anonymous

    I've heard this theory proposed before so this is nothing new to me.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Well thanks for the comment then. We're all very interested in just how well informed you are on these things.

      September 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tim

    To: hapless, helpless, hopeless
    If you are questioning the events and ideals in the Bible, it is because you don't understand them and haven't taken the time to understand them. If you don't understand them, it's because Satan is powerful and intends for many to "keep him company" in hell. The way to Heaven is very narrow and few will make it. The way to hell is very wide and many will make it there. Faith is what enables us to believe the Bible and knowledge helps us understand it. (along with prayer). Simple point is that everything in the Bible is true. It doesn't mean that certain things that israelites did in the Old Testament are done today. It means that events that happened have never been disproven. There are some that haven't been proven, but that doesn't mean they have been disproven.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |

    Atheists need not take note of this false propaganda. So-called "studies" like this is carried out and dramatized on a regular basis by the media in the form of a sensational article to keep the religious people from straying from their religion and becoming too curious. It works. All the time. Just look at the slaves pumping their fists and sticking up for their imagined cosmic dictator in zealous rage!

    September 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jim

    BTW, the Biblical flood actually shows up in the geological record. If you can find an earth science book or reference that hasn't been cleansed by the politically correct left, it will tell you which sedimentary layer to look in. Other articles on the topic include this 2007 article in Science Daily (, the usual liberal POV still trying to make their point on the '6000 year argument' (, and a little intellectualism on Nova (

    Me? I still think it takes MORE faith to believe in 'creation by accident' than it does to believe in 'creation by design'. But that is just me ... living in a country where I am still free to believe what I like ... AND so are you. Respect.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tommas

    Why don't we waste more time trying to explain every mythological event that may or may not have even occurred.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. it'shiddenfromyou

    Roman 1:22 Professing themselves tobe wise, they became fools.
    Corinthians 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things to confound the mighty.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Literate in America

    Jason Borne – LEARN TO SPELL.........

    September 22, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joe

    If God is so smart, then why do we fart?

    September 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. georgea

    How great it is to have FAITH and believe the WORD OF GOD! Thank you Lord I am not blind!
    Some people go out of their ways to try to prove the perfection of this world, animals, plants, seas, etc are all coincidence or evolution matter.
    Why deny the existence of a GOD who is Omnipotent!

    September 22, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
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