Thursday, 30 September 2010

Moses and a strong wind: a new explanation of the Red Sea crossing

Moses by Jusepe de Ribero in 1638. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Climate scientist Carl Drews and colleagues recently published a paper in PLoS ONE, discussing how the Israelites under Moses could have crossed the Red Sea without getting their feet wet.

Exodus is an intriguing description of what God can do. Drews and colleagues tried to find a naturalistic explanation of how the Israelites, who had been enslaved by the Egyptians, were able to reach safety.

Exodus describes the method Jahweh used as follows:

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.”

Drews used computer simulations to find out how the waters could have parted. He concluded that if a powerful east wind blowing at slightly over 100 kilometres (over 60 miles) per hour blew for twelve hours, it could push the waters back so that Israel would be able to cross the sea.

Drews brings up the report of a British general who in 1882 witnessed a powerful easterly wind that pushed the waters apart. According to Drews, it could have opened a land bridge for a few hours.

Commenting on the study in USA Today, Ken Ham, the CEO of Answers in Genesis, says: ”The parting of the Red Sea was a miracle. It was an extraordinary act of God. Yet, God used a force of nature — wind — to bring about this miracle. But there is no need to come up with a naturalistic explanation of a supernatural event."

In any case, God rules over nature. He could freely choose how He would lead His people to freedom. The Book of Isaiah, for instance, states:

” 'I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King.' This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 'Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!' ” (Isaiah 43: 15-19).

It is good to remember that God not only did great deeds in the past but that He also works in our time.


Rice, Doyle. 2010. Study seeks to explain the parting of the Red Sea. USA Today (20 September).