>Wind Setdown and the Crossing of the Red Sea

>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.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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4 Responses to >Wind Setdown and the Crossing of the Red Sea

  1. Anonymous says:

    >As an engineer with a civil engineering background, I can validate the wind as a factor for the possible exodus scenario the authors envision – though I do not agree that their theory is necessarily what happend, as I have alternate theories of my own.Hurricans storm surge can move from 18 to 24 feet of extra water depth onshore with devastating results. Even further, when a hurricane passed over south Florida the shallow lake Okeechobie was so severely displaced from its basin that an entire town was destroyed, save one baby set to float like moses in a wooden orange crate. Wind can move water. While the town was destroyed, the upwind shore of the lake was exposed land. Two theories use wind to put forth a possible explanation of exodus – the other theory has a wind from the northwest moving the water from the suez gulf for a time.In my view neither theory is correct, but they are at least plausible. Scripture mentions the pillar of fire in the sky, the wall of fire, and that wind was from the east, whereas the children of Israel crossed from west to east. A wind blowing onshore would bring a storm surge onto the waiting slaves, not remove the water. Traditions mention the chariots being broken by the shaken, steaming ground, horses hooves coming off from the heat, and soldiers chariots horses and all being thrown into the air like lentils in a pan – popcorn – Horse and rider He has launched skyward from the dry sea bed!- Song of Moses – that's seismic attivity – connected with something visible in the sky – and that is astrodynamics.To argue against that is unscriptural, since it removes these elements scripture has faithfully reported to us. Even Jesus insists that we look to all the evidence – Thomas would testify to that…

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  2. >Dear Anonymous,Even though the view of the authors is a plausible theory, the fact is, no one will ever be able to fully explain what happened.To attribute the events of the Exodus to astrodynamic theories is going beyond what the Bible says. If by astrodynamics you mean a planetary interference that helped the Israelite escape from Egypt, such a theory finds no Biblical affirmation.Claude Mariottini

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  3. >Dear Anonymous,You mention "that wind was from the east" however Exodus 14:21 states, "the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind" which is similar but different. Does an east wind blow east or blow from the east and most importantly, which of those match the Exodus story author's perspective?

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  4. >Steven,This is what the Bible says: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14:21). This means that the wind came from the desert. This wind is called the “Sirocco,” the hot wind that blows from the desert.Claude Mariottini

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