The Parting of the Red Sea

Recently I received a somewhat concerned e-mail from a very long time friend, Doris. Doris is an exemplary Christian lady that I have known for over half a century, through some good times and bad times, and I have always admired her steady faith and consistent optimism. She has been very good to me.

Doris sent me an article from a UK on–line news source (http://tinyurl.com/285wyts) with the question, “What do you make of this? In my recent reading of the Old Testament it seemed obvious the Israelites were favored by God at the time. ” The headline of the article and the first few sentences read:

Moses’ parting of the Red Sea: New sim explains whole thing
Israelites not chosen people, merely extremely lucky. Computer-modelling scientists say that there may be a factual basis for the passage in the Bible where God parts the Red Sea in order to allow through Moses and the Israelites and then allows the waters back again to drown the pursuing forces of Pharaoh.

It is really quite funny when you think about it! What this article proudly announces is that history is actually a fact! Who would have ever imagined that there could be a factual basis for the parting of the Red Sea? Wow!

But then they have considerably over reached when they say, “New sim explains whole thing.” As with all simulations, this one undoubtedly raises more questions than it answers. One of the many being the effect of the exact surface topography. All they have done here is to make an estimate for what they think the ground elevations may have been; do the results change significantly if they modify the ground elevations a bit? There are countless more unanswered (and unanswerable) questions.

This simulation proposes a mechanism by which the waters could have been parted by the wind in a manner that can be explained by the science of fluid mechanics applied to the winds and the waters. It proposes that the location was not the body of water that we now know as the Red Sea, but rather a different water course no longer existing today, that had the form of a deep U-bend that would allow the proposed wind to perform the separation of the sea.

Does any of this mean that the fleeing Israelites were not under the direct protection of Almighty God? Does this mean that the Israelites just got really, really lucky with the weather? Does this mean that we cannot trust what the Bible tells us about such matters? NOT A BIT OF IT!

The key thing to be remembered is that the Lord God rules the world. This means that He controls every aspect of it, including particularly for this discussion, the winds. When the Lord directs the wind to blow, it blows, and when He directs it not to blow, the wind is still. As they began the exodus, we read that they were led by the Lord, Exodus 13:21   And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: The Lord God was leading them when they got to the point where their way was blocked by the water. The Lord provided a means through the water for His people, and at the same time blocked the pursuing Egyptians which is further evidence of his protection for His people.

As to the matter of location, we need to bear in mind that calling it the Red Sea is simply our modern effort to understand the location of an event that took place 1500 years before the coming of Christ, some 3500 years ago. There are very few markers left in place from that time. Water courses move about over this much time, so that it is not surprising that we do not find the description given in exact agreement with the current geography. None of the towns mentioned in the ancient description can be located with certainty, so we are truly guessing on this. It is possible that these researchers may have added something to our limited knowledge of the actual events by giving us a better understanding of the probable location.

But nothing they have done changes the primary understanding that this was indeed the hand of the Lord of hosts, active in preserving His Chosen People, Israel as they escaped from the hands of Pharaoh, King of Egypt. The Lord had at his disposal all of the forces of nature for that purpose, just as he continues to have them so today. We must never forget that He is the Lord of all Creation, the natural world, and humankind as well.

As I told Doris, the Bible is not a science book. It tells us the things that God has done, not the details as to how He did them.

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About Father D

I am a priest of the Continuing Anglican Church, the continuation of orthodox Anglicanism into the present 21st century. My theology is definitely that of a Reformed Catholic point of view, neither Roman nor Calvinist.
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