It's one of the more famous Bible stories. While fleeing from their Egyptian masters, the Israelites reach a dead end at the Red Sea and are almost assured death or a return to slavery. But, the story in Exodus goes, God parted the waters allowing the Israelites to cross, and collapsed the waters on the Egyptians when they tried to use the same passage.
Now, according to new computer analysis from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the miracle may not be as impossible as some detractors think. The study, published today in the online journal PLoS ONE, finds that strong, persistent winds could offer a physical explanation for the event.
"The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus," lead researcher Carl Drews told the London Telegraph.
Analysis of archaeological records, satellite measurements and maps allowed the researchers to estimate the water flow and depth at the site 3,000 years ago.
An ocean computer model was then used to simulate the impact of a strong overnight wind on the six-foot-deep waters.
The scientists found that an east wind of 63 mph blowing for 12 hours would have driven the shallow waters back, both into the lake and the river channel.
For a period of four hours, this would have created a land bridge about two miles long and three miles wide.
The waters really would have been parted, with barriers of water raised on both sides of the newly exposed mud flats.
Ken Ham, president and CEO of the Creation Museum, in Petersburg, KY told USA Today that he needs no scientific explanation in order to believe that the event occurred: "The parting of the Red Sea was a miracle," he wrote in an e-mail to the paper.
"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."