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Scientists explain parting of the Red Sea

Parting of the Red Sea
Parting of the Red Sea
Illustration by Nicolle Rager Fuller

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado at Boulder have used computer modeling to show how the parting of the Red Sea described in the book of Exodus may have happened. The results are part of a larger research project looking into the impact of winds on water depth.

From the release:

“They found that a wind of 63 miles an hour, lasting for 12 hours, would have pushed back waters estimated to be six feet deep. This would have exposed mud flats for four hours, creating a dry passage about 2 to 2.5 miles long and 3 miles wide. The water would be pushed back into both the lake and the channel of the river, creating barriers of water on both sides of newly exposed mud flats. As soon as the winds stopped, the waters would come rushing back, much like a tidal bore. Anyone still on the mud flats would be at risk of drowning.”

Lead author, Carl Drews, said, “The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus. 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.”

Researchers were also quick to point out that it would be extremely difficult for anyone to cross the area in 63mph winds.

Here is the account as described in the book of Exodus:

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, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (Exodus 14: 21-22)

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. (Exodus 14:26-28)

"Parting the waters: Computer modeling applies physics to Red Sea escape route" (UCAR)


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