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. Bobbie

    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. This is a quote from Albert Einstein which should sum it all up for us.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      So he is saying that only purpose for science is to disprove religion. And that religion involves faith, wich is blind?

      September 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Science without religion is like a fish without a bicycle

      September 21, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kenny

    I think I will go over there and set up two fans on each side of the waters to see if I can part the waters as it is said he did. Anyone wanting to help can bring a few thousand extension cords and of all things, some drinking water.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Yeah Right

    So, there's not been sustained, 63+ mph wind blowing from the east over this area in the last 3000 years? Really.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tony

    Everyone on here calling the Bible a book full of storytales has probably never read a single verse of scripture. They just think they know everything becuase someone told them it wasn't true. Archeologist have also found human bones and bones from horses at the bottom of the Red Sea, along with their carriges and armor from the pharoh and his soldiers. Modern science used carbon dating to put these artifacts in perfect line with the Bible. Sorry to all you non believes, I hope God sheds his grace on you and gives you a sign..

    September 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Probability

      You assume very inaccurately. Most that call Christian mythology by it's name ARE versed in the it's stories.

      Some less credible scientists try to fabricate a theory to support supernatural religious events but they have yet to ever be supported by the scientific community in general.

      September 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Actually I didn’t really start doubting until I decided to read the whole bible from start to finish. I didn’t make it through genesis before becoming completely discussed by the behavior of the god and his chosen ones. Have you read all of geiesis?

      September 21, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Carlos

    Children, Moses did not part any major bodies of water. If he ever existed, he had no more ability to conduct miracles than anyone else. Grow-up. Religion is myth.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ubaid

    around 1400 years ago, earth's moon was split into 2 halves, go research and find the facts and come back to me and I will then tell you how I knew

    September 21, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • eegur beevur

      @ Ubaid:

      If you really believe that, then you are absolutely ignorant of orbital dynamics... i am a former muslim, and i completely aware of these idiotic claims... as idiotic as jesus walking on water, resurrecting the dead, and coming back from the dead. also Moses' (Musa's) staff ('asa) turning into a live snake 🙂 just how idiotic are you muslims, christians and jews???

      September 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ubaid

      Mr. former believer, my comment was not meant for you, per your belief, the comment you read is not written by me, just some flying black letters got together and made some sentences....just as you think this whole universe just came into existence without a creator and just as you thing that you the monkey evolved from a human

      September 21, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eddy

      ubaid your dumb. if your gonna try to to make evolution seem retarded try getting the facts straight.
      human and chimpanzees evolved from the same common ancestor long ago ok dumb a s s .
      also if the bibke is always right then our planet is only 10000 yrs old LMFAO. yeah carbon dating is only accurate to 10000yrs and then its wrong because nothing is older then that right. S T U P ID M O THER F U CKER

      September 22, 2010 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. eegur beevur

    we keep hearing these kinds of blanket statements with no evidence to back them up. Can you name a few archeologists who converted to Islam after reading the Quran???

    September 21, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Reality

    Hmmm, the Jewish god saved the followers of Abraham and Moses in the Exodus stories so what did these followers do to offend their god in the last 70 years as there was no parting of the Rhine or Danube and with the large number of followers marrying Gentiles these days, said religion/race might be extinct by the year 2500. Maybe the Exodus stories are myths? Hmmmm?

    Actually, according to 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis, the Book of Exodus is a book of fiction as are both Abraham and Moses.

    To wit (for new members only):

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. david

    @ Andrew and redcat you do not have any proof so your are lying show me proof or for all i know that you are lying :..!

    September 21, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Suzanne Smith

    As I understand it from an old article about this topic, there is a low-lying inland sea called the Reed Sea that is or was located along the coast of the Mediteranean Sea, East of the Nile River. Assuming that Moses traveled along the coast so as to obtain food from the Mediteranean Sea, and if conditions were right, the narrow strip of land seperating the Reed Sea from the Mediteranean Sea may have been temporarily flooded to allow Moses' band to cross. This would not take miricle winds but rather only the tidal effects of a storm at sea.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    Who gives a crap if people think its true or not. Belief is an individual decision and not subject to the idiotic opinions of others. Finally, though, I would like to say thanks to the scientific community for pointing out a greater miracle!!! the Ground dried in four hours and the Entire Egyptian army drowned in less than 6 feet of water.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Six

    It's fun proving this stuff out. It gets non believers' panties in a bunch, and lends physical creedence to what happened. I'll admit it's hard to go on faith all the time, and it helps to see physical proof.
    I still don't believe the Lord wants all women to wear jean skirts and a big bun on thier head – that part is what I call "The Uniform".

    September 21, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Erich

    What we are forgetting here is that it doesn't need to be described by science. God can do anything, He doesn't have to apply to the laws of science. So looking for an answer is meaningless, the Bible is the true account of what happened. There is no need to dispute or argue this.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob blob

      judges 1:19
      And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

      god lost. god got his holy butt handed to him. its in the bible. god failed.

      September 21, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. brad

    We always look for our miracles outside of the ordinary. The laws of physics predict that things will always act the same way. When they do, our minds get numbed into blindness. Want a greater miracle than the parting of the Red Sea? How about the existence of the sea itself? Or the fact that if it were to freeze, it would expand rather than contract. Or again, Jesus heals a man born blind. The greatest miracle is a man himself. But we no longer see such miracles, always looking for some trick.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Why did Jesus only heal a few blind people? If he had the power of god why didn’t he heal all blind people and abolish blindness for ever?

      September 21, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Debra

    "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."

    How nice of the University and the NCAR to acknowledge God can part waters if He chooses!

    September 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
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