>Two scientists published an article titled “Dynamics of Wind Setdown at Suez and the Eastern Nile Delta” in which they say that wind setdown could be a possible hydrodynamic explanation for the people of Israel crossing the Red Sea. According to Exodus 14:21, as the people were preparing to cross the sea, “The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided.”
The authors, Carl Drews, from the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, and Weiqing Han, from the NCAR Earth System Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado define wind setdown:
Wind setdown is the drop in water level caused by wind stress acting on the surface of a body of water for an extended period of time. As the wind blows, water recedes from the upwind shore and exposes terrain that was formerly underwater. Previous researchers have suggested wind setdown as a possible hydrodynamic explanation for Moses crossing the Red Sea, as described in Exodus 14.
According to the article, a similar event happened at Lake Menzaleh in Egypt:
Next morning on going out I found that Lake Menzaleh, which is situated on the west side of the [Suez] Canal, had totally disappeared, the effect of the high wind on the shallow water having actually driven it away beyond the horizon, and the natives were walking about on the mud where the day before the fishing-boats, now aground, had been floating. When noticing this extraordinary dynamical effect of wind on shallow water, it suddenly flashed across my mind that I was witnessing a similar event to what had taken place between three and four thousand years ago, at the time of the passage of the so-called Red Sea by the Israelites.
Below is a video that shows a computer simulation of wind pushing the waters away:
Some people in the press and many bloggers are skeptical about the article and the conclusions presented by the scientists. There is no way any scientific study today can prove or disprove what happened more than three thousand years ago.
There are several references in the Bible to the people of Israel crossing the sea. The parting of the waters and the crossing of the sea is presented as a mighty act of God in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. If the work of God can be explained by a wind setdown theory or by any other hydrodynamic explanation, that can be helpful. But believers do not need a scientific explanation for the things God does.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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