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. Arthur

    The bible is nothing but a collection of fables demonstraiting who the ruling party thinks you should live and is also used to explain the natural works because they didn't understand weather, ect!

    September 22, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. O_o

    You Wish is right! There is no way that some 60 mph winds would part a sea exactly when moses wanted! It was totaly GOD! GOD! GOD! GOD! the only reason some of you dont beleive it is because your to caught up in "science" to even think about anything else. I also agree with darkstar. why sare scientists studying this wen they could be studying anything... even lepricons at the end of the rainbow.
    ther's probably more peopl i want to add on to, but there are toooooooo many comments to read here. who knew so many people would comment.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kevin

    It is O.K to ask questions. At my church it's strongly encouraged to find out answers. For those questions which an answer can't be found, we have to trust that it isn't revealed for a reason. It's part of God's plan to ready humanity for Heaven. I love science, but can't put my full faith in it. Science has been wrong on more than one account. The world as I hear, use to be flat. The entire Universe use to revolve around Earth. Pluto was a planet and now its a moon. Anti-matter use to be a joke till recent. Let's not forget the 14 plus ways for carbon dating. There's no standard for carbon dating which is why we have time scales surpassing millions and billions of years. In Christ however, there's one unbreakable word of God and that's the standard.
    Through trial and error, science will eventually find about what Christian has known for a long time. I invite those that find it hard to believe to honestly seek answers. If you believe there is no God, why don't you confront someone versed in the subject. Meaning, speak to a Pastor. Shoot the shyt with him about what bugs you about Christianity. The answers are there, you just have to seek them. Here's a link to get started.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. O_o

    two things. first, what is pseudoscience??? Once i kno that i'll say the second thing.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dare

    I will probably get flamed however here it goes. What annoys me is that the story of moses is actually egyptian and was written much earileir than stated in the bible. And moses ruled in egypt he never left, however he was found by the nile in a basket by the queen and raised. So the question is how good are these "scientists" that they don't know this? Why not research the orgin of the story it if the entrie fable was in fact just a story. Anyone with any scientific background knows you check the background facts first.

    I woudl also like to make a point of the poor reporting in this story that this is not meantioned.

    All these christians..they have not even read the bible! If you go to church and the minster talks about heaven walk out. Heaven is not meantioned in the bible. Look it up. Another mythos surrounding christianity. It is all so annoying.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. benjamin

    It's important to remember that Moses did not part anything. It is a myth. A made up story. it simply did not happen.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Northern

    Oh please save us from the fairy tales of the World Religions because their imaginary beliefs are causing wars, deaths, hate, anger is dividing people all over the World because they all seem to think that their invisible friend in the sky is better than the rest.

    Religion will be the cause of the end of everything because people are too stupid to use their brains and think for themselves. Instead people tend to follow one another like sheep and dare not question their leaders.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Studio Patelli ab SJU

    Honestly the more i study my catholic faith, the more i discredit my catholic faith. but yeah the whole "hell" thing, that would kinda suck haha

    September 23, 2010 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Lig

    In the Quran, God goes one step ahead and says
    He will preserve the body of the pharoah as a sign for the people to come
    And for sure, the body of Ramses II was discovered mummified.

    September 23, 2010 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. carlos

    As for the models pretty amazing stuff.
    But It would be real hard to stand-up thru 63 mph winds, let alone walk an entire populace along a path thru such winds.

    September 23, 2010 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. josue

    to Kenny: "I think all things are explainable by science." Just food for thought but if all things are explainable by science, in other words everything can or must be verified by empirical methods to be considered true or valid, then can you empirically verify your own statement you made as being true? Your very own declaration that all things can be explained by science cannot itself be verified by science, therefore it is a self defeating argument. Not attacking, just calling to attention the logical fallacy of that statement and how that does not really correspond to reality, since it is very obvious that there are many things in this life that are not in fact verifiable by science. thank you.

    September 23, 2010 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  12. Certified Heathen

    I parted Moses' water for him. He likes with 1 part soda , 2 parts whiskey and a healthy dose of reality!!!!!!!!!! Any scientist who wastes time and public money on this should be exiled to Egypt and never shown the promised land.

    September 23, 2010 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Nostromo45

    Personally I prefer "The Lord of The Rings" – much better written, exhilarating adventures, wonderful miracles......
    Anyone who believes the Bible must be a nut and needs urgent visits to an enlightened shrink......
    # just saying #

    September 23, 2010 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
  14. Nostromo45

    Personally I prefer "The Lord of The Rings" – much better written, exhilarating adventures, wonderful miracles......
    Anyone who believes the Bible must be a nut and needs urgent visits to an enlightened shrink......
    # just saying #

    September 23, 2010 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jeff

    Frank wrote:

    I respectfully ask you to check your facts. The pressure at 6 feet is NOT 1.3 atmospheres, it's not even 1.1 atmospheres... ask a SCUBA diver..."

    Huxley is closer to correct. 0m is 1 atmosphere, 10m is about 2 atmospheres, and 6 feet (roughly 2m) is about 1.2 atmospheres. I'm a SCUBA diver, and Frank is wrong. Frank, are you perhaps thinking of partial pressure of oxygen when you're breathing nitrox and the safety limit of 1.4 atmospheres?

    September 23, 2010 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
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