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. Brains

    This article is funny because true history shows that the Israelites were never in Egypt during the time of the Exodus. History also shows that the Egyptians didn't have slaves at the time of the Exodus as well. People will believe anything.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. steve

    Even hapless, helpless, hopeless can't deny that at least one supernatural event has occurred in the history of the universe. That would be the supposed Big Bang. Scientists can speculate about the how and why of that event all they want but they will never be able to prove it (or perhaps they will think they have and in their arrogance try to create a second universe). Anyone who will accept by "faith" that the mind boggling BIg Bang occurred because of science and that no other supernatural events such as the parting of the Red Sea have been possible since is really close minded and self delusional as to the superiority of his/her intellect.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Trilobiteme

    The parting of thesea can be easying explain as a memory of an acient tsumani that hit the region possible from the santorrni eruption. Pure and simple . How many waves hit Sumatra in 2005? 30,000 people dies when karatoa eruptes by a tsumnai. An island disappears in the medteraiain and what no tsunmi? Easy explaination. The hebrews were the hysokos people that lived at arvis

    September 22, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Edmund

    I thought the actual translation was "Sea of Reeds", not the "Red Sea"

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

    I'm sadden by the fact that people still believe that the Jews built the pyramids, Jews were NOT in Egypt during the time in history that the pyramids were built. Egyptian citizens built slaves...... PAID citizens. The first Jew to enter Egypt wasn't even recorded until 650BC! Its a horrible horrible shame the Jews have taken this wonderful HISTORIC story of Egypt and turned it into the backdrop of their religious story. I mean not to say that Egyptians were wonderful slave owners but sheesh defame their name of your own good(oops that is human history huh)is horrible. Long story Jews in Egypt= no parting of the 'Red/Reed Sea' no plagues no murdered first born sons. Please people read your history

    September 22, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jay

    Hi Frank, that whole suit of armor theory would be true except for the fact that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD! TO UNDERSTAND GOD YOU HAVE TO ASK HIM FOR WISDOM, TO GET THAT YOU HAVE TO BE SAVED.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dizzu

    ummmmm..... I think when the bible speaks of Moses parting the sea they were refering to him using a boat to part the sea. Just a thought.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |

    This message is to all you atheist and nonbelievers out there. In all our uderstanding of science even the most educated are amazed at the complexities in which all things exist and the order of their existence. Even the prophetical evidence that the things prophesied in the bible happened years later exactly the way they were prophesied to happen. Even all the archealogical evidence that cites were and are still being uncovered exactly where the bible says there are. All this aside. I have been a Christian now for 23 years and happily married to the wife of my youth. During these times I have had nothing but a blest life. Me and my wife and 2 kids have had nothing but reverence for God and each other. We have christian friends that I believe would lay down their lives for us.And would provide for us if we were not able.We've had nothing in our lives to be ashamed of. Also when this life is over we have the hope of eternal slavation. But as for the most of you, you have lived wretched miserable lives , You have a higher divorce rate than the national average. Many of you have few reasons to be proud of in this life with your diregards for God and disrespect for his ways and all the troubles that brings to you. Lets say your right and there is no God. I have had nothing but happiness in this life and in the end will know nothing and will not suffer or know nothing either. But as for you lets just say there is a God. You have no hope of eternal salvation for you have forsaken Him and not heeded his commands. You stand to gain eternal damnation. I stand to gain eternal salvation.So you think you have some kind of advantage over me? May God have mercy on your soul on the day of judgement.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Grown Up Christian

    I am a Christian. I know that I know the truth and the Bible is real. What bugs me isn't that Athiest or others don't believe or try to prove it wrong. It's that baby, weak, ignorant Christians are arguing and fighting to defend their beliefs when the Bible didn't ask us to do so. If you want to show non-believers that what you believe is true, than SHUT UP and LIVE the word without being so stuck up thinking your better, smarter, and going to Heaven cause you have a Bible shoved up your butt! If we can't relate to the world, why the heck would they want to listen, learn, or believe what we have to say. To all my non-believers out there, I love you. You may not believe what I believe but I still love y'all. To my Christian believers, grow up some more please before you open your mouth and place your Bible in it!

    September 22, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mnman123

    how can anyone believe in a god in the first is an absurd idea.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jobin

    So were there dinosaurs on the ark or...
    some things just don't add up do they?

    September 22, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anita

      no jobin, there are a lot of things that don't add up the way we see them; but with the word of God we know that with God all things are possible. God is Truth. Now explain this when the waters were parted (even if their theory was right and it was only 6ft deep) it was dry land not mud that Moses and his people traveled over... only God can do that. On the other hand if there was only 6 feet of water, how can you explain it drowned all the eneimes that were chasing Mose?

      January 15, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. shirley

    If parting of the red sea was a fiction than explain yours self how Joshua won the battle of Jericho,did the wind blow or the command of god for Joshua to walk seven times and shout the victory.Don't waste time accept Christ while there is time on earth and don't perish in hell. God is love john 3:16.I would like to read your answer on this.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. billy

    What a bunch of hooey. I'm sure the froth and twitch JAIZUS!! crowd full of obese mid-westerners will really eat this one up. NEWSFLASH – never was a Moses, never was an Egyptian exodus, Israelites and Canaanites = same thing. there is 0 archeological evidence of an ancient Israeli army destroying the cities of Cannan. It never happened. It's a fable written into the old testament to serve as an inspiration to the Jews living under the Babylonian captivity (which DID happen) same reason they said Abraham was from the Babylonian city of Ur

    September 22, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Demonhunter

      Your claim that there is "zero" evidence for the Canaanite battles is false. Furthermore, similar claims were once made about the Davidic kingdom and Solomon's constructions in Jerusalem. Those and many more events in the Bible have been affirmed by subsequent archeological finds. No archeological find to date has proven the Bible wrong. That should worry you.

      November 5, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Stan Strickland

    Great! Send in the Archeologists!

    September 22, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dave

    I guess CNN actually means, Christian News Network.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
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