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. Christiangirl

    It was God that performed this miracle....why can't we just accept the fact that this was, indeed, one of the MANY miracles of God???

    September 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. pz65

    let mythbusters do it, it may be plausible. hey no name calling eh, but this event seems to be a root of two or three major religions

    September 22, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. The Word

    The Bible says the Red Sea. Why would you doubt the Bible?

    September 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. al

    fairytales....all of it.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Word

      So you you feel the heat?

      September 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Truthful Thought

    After reading a great percent of the messages on this article, my thoughts have been provoked. One question – why try to disprove something that you do not believe exist this hard? For some this article proved that the truth of the Bible can be scientifically proven meaning that the other events can be proven. In mathematics this would be a theorem, proven statement (born from the word theory). Science has been consistently disproven (true) but math has always held true and these calculations are mathematically based (I give credit that they may have not properly calculated the wind but they showed the feasibility of it). The truth that I know is because you do not know the existence of something as far a scientifically proven does not mean it does not exist. Have you ever seen the wind or touched a sun ray yet you believe in its existence (based on someone’s scientific findings with impart uses mathematics). You have never held the air you breathe but yet you believe it exist. Someone told you that you have a heart, a brain, etc. but you have never seen it with your eyes or touched it but you believe. How fickle is our choices in what to believe in these days? Why read articles of this nature if you have no belief? Are you fighting to open other’s eyes to the impossibility that God exist or to explain why your eyes are closed? Really the anger/faithlessness/distrust that you address towards God is yours to have. God gives you free will. The best part is that your choice is not mine. So if I choose to believe let me be and stop trying to force your rational irrational decrees of truth on me. My goodness it is a weak mind that spends its time trying to change others instead of growing himself. Have a blessed day. And if God b-less in your life than good for you but I need God to B-More in my life…So God B-More (dedicated to frank)

    September 22, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • frank

      @Truthful Though,
      Burden of proof lies upon the person making the claim of fact. For example, If I say you have an invisible bomb on your head that will explode in 15 seconds, and you don't believe me, you can either try to get me to prove it, or wait the fifteen seconds and see if I am telling the truth or not.

      You say the bible is real and God is real, but the only proof you offer is the book itself and "33% of the world population" BELIEVE it to be true... but I'd have to wait my entire lifetime to find out if you're telling the truth.

      So, your attempt to discredit science by pointing out it's greatest STRENGTH (that it is able to be proven wrong, and CORRECTED) is completely laughable. "can you see the air? but you believe it's there" LMAO! Air has been quantified, measured, tested, decomposed, etc. etc. etc. all in the name of science... and guess what... they've NEVER detected your God's halitosis. And as far as my internal organs go... I'll go have a CAT scan and get back to you... oh yeah... another scientific development. Why bother reading this dribble? see my response to the user "ME"... it pretty much sums it up.

      God B-less

      September 23, 2010 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  6. omar

    Anyone who reads the scripture should already know that the sea was parted by God using a strong east wind. This so called scientific discovery about a wind is nothing new Read Exodus 14:21-22.
    21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. LK21:33

    ....appears to me God accomplished what he set out to do in EXODUS 14:4. ....and nearly 6000 yrs. later it's still the buzz. My God is such an OVER-ACHIEVER!!!

    September 22, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. GoodGrief

    Hey! Yesterday I randomly threw some carbon material that could be the root of paper along with the atoms necessary to construct ink into a box and let off a nuclear explosion beneath it. Low and behold a complete, unabridged dictionary was the result of the explosion. Stupid?? Absolutely, but far less complex of a nottion that to think that some big bang created all the complex life forms and intricated systems that we know today.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RNofreality

    You religious fanatics are crazy! The bible was written to guide people on how to lead a fulfilling and honorable life in a society where there were no laws, rules, etc. The bible was a good idea in theory. As were any other books of religion. The 10 commandments – do not kill, do not cheat, etc are all pretty reasonable I think. These stories were created to teach lessons... not to be taken literally. You can take a lesson out of each story and apply it to your life. Maybe some people in the bible really did exist or the ideas of these people existed... but the point of the bible is not to take it word for word like a blind brainless idiot! It is to take the message and the lesson and apply it to your life in hopes of obtaining peace and happiness. I think the idea of religion started a long time ago and in theory was a good idea to bring society together and have some organization and control...but PEOPLE have taken the bible too literally and out of context and now we have a bunch of ignorant brainwashed morons running around...

    Do you really think god took a rib from adam and made eve from a rib? NO! That story is an example of right and wrong and it sets the tone for the bible... EVERYONE SHOULD FEAR DISOBEYING GOD. Using fear would be an effective way to control/influence a society. People cling to the notion of god and jesus out of pure fear – it is brainwashing!

    September 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hector

    The bible is full of allegorical mythology.
    Moses is based on even older myths.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tom

    Moses didnt part anything. The bible is nothing more than a colection of embelished stories. Kind of like Palins book.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jared

    Wind could easily move that much water. It doesn't have to move it by the ton only by millions of tiny bits of water being blown and getting momentum. Further more, the most damaging part of hurricanes is the storm surge (I'm a Floridian living in New Orleans). The surge can be up to 14 feet or more with higher waves and that's with a hurricane spiral dragging it. I can't imagine a focused wind. So it is quite plausible.

    I'm always amazed by the fans of science who only like that parts that would attempt to discredit God, but anything that hints at the supernatural is immediately shunned. Bias anyone? Can't start an equation with 0 God and some how wind up with ... God. 0 x anything = 0. At least have I little faith. You didn't see evolution with your own eyes, yet you believe it. I believe in God based on similar evidences I have seen. But Faith is a essential to the simulation and speculation that results in our theories. You have faith in something, whether scientists, wealth, or God. So cut the religious folk some slack...

    September 22, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Medardus

    The only thing this model does is recreate the result. This is what they do on Mythbusters when the myth gets busted.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Anna

    Questions to all Athiests on this board:

    If you don't believe in God, then why are you all here? Or on any religious blog for that matter? Why should YOU care if I believe in the boogyman? If your answer is "because Christians constantly shove it down our throats", that goes back to my first question.

    Let these people have their faith/religion. You want people accept gays right? Well you got to accept other people don't agree with you. Also, we will NEVER be equal.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JayBMD

    religion is an evolutionary coping mechanism for weak minded fools who cannot handle the fact that there is no life after death... man kind is too weak and emotional to be able to maintain sanity knowing that all there is to our existence takes place on this earth, and ends once we die 😉

    September 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
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