Isn’t it great when science proves the bible correct in every conceivable way?
The story of Exodus from the bible is possibly my favourite. It illustrates in quite evocative vivid detail, how the slave race, the Ancient Hebrews/12 Tribes – those poor buggers who’d been driven from their land due to famine – got their butt into gear and escaped their slave-masters, the Egyptians, with the help of their murderous and blood-fetishist god, El.
Moses, who I can only assume, from pop-culture biblical movies, was a white, bearded, poncho enthusiast, tried several times to convince Pharaoh (his adopted uncle – read it) to “let my people go”, before God communicated that a bunch of plagues would ensue if they were not freed. See, Moses wanted to take his people back to Israel, the land of milk and honey (I just love that term), but Pharaoh had a race of slaves at his disposal and wasn’t going to let them go without a fight.
So El told his hairy-white-prophet, Moses to sacrifice a lamb and use the blood (told you he had a blood-fetish) to paint the doors of the Hebrews. This was because El sent a tribe of ninja assassins to Egypt that night, and was to kill the first born male of every non-Hebrew. El’s assassins would ‘pass-over’ the houses of the Hebrews.
Anyway, Pharaoh woke up to find his son beheaded by one of the ninjas and gave Moses, and his yet-uncircumcised rabble, go. So they hightailed it outta there, making haste until they reached the sea.
Now I want to interject on myself here to note that there is a possible misinterpretation/mistranslation here. The Old Testament claims that it was the ‘Red Sea’, but some scholars suggest it to have been the Sea of Reeds, a marshy area far north of the Red Sea.
Pharaoh later changes his mind and sends a legion of chariots after the Hebrews. All the while, Moses’ crowd of Hebrews are all pissy, because Moses has led them to a dead-ended body of ‘un-crossable’ water (Jews don’t float). So Moses stands atop a rock, holds his wooden staff up high and an east wind comes ‘out of nowhere’ and parts the ‘sea’.
The Hebrews set off on their merry way, crossing on a landmass which has spontaneously formed, allowing them to cross from Egypt, into denial (that’s a good joke, considering what happens later). When they arrive at the other side, Moses lets one rip from the West and cancels out the wind, so the crossing closes and all the chariots which were in chase are inundated with a deluge of water.
Their blood turned the sea, red… thus the Red Sea. I made that up. Or did I?
If you’re willing to take the phenomenon of the Red Sea parting on face value [as an adult], good on you – you’re a moron, but good on you. For everyone else, i.e. those who’ve not yet observed the circumvention of natural law by way of a powerful wizard with a magic staff, there are two options; either you write it off as impossible, or you look for possible explanations.
Several explanations have already been given, and they work especially well if we presume that the ‘Red Sea’ was actually the ‘Sea of Reeds’, which was a largish swampy lake which drained into the Red Sea. This no longer exists sue to the construction of the Suez Canal, but 4-5,000 years ago, it would have been going strong.
Logic dictates that if there were an underwater earthquake/collapse of the crust in the Mediterranean Sea (where the Sea of Reeds would have drained into), the sea would have rushed outwards, draining the Sea of Reeds for some time, before surging back inland with a tidal wave/surge.
Other experts have focused on a theoretical strong persistent wind known as ”wind set down” which can lower water levels in one area while piling up water downwind.
One study found that winds blowing from the north-west at a near-hurricane force of 74mph could in theory have exposed an underwater reef near the present-day Suez Canal, providing a walkable land passage.
A researcher, Carl Drews, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado ”The parting of the waters can be understood through fluid dynamics. The wind moves the water in a way that’s in accordance with physical laws, creating a safe passage with water on two sides and then abruptly allowing the water to rush back in. People have always been fascinated by this Exodus story, wondering if it comes from historical facts. What this study shows is that the description of the waters parting indeed has a basis in physical laws.”
That said, in the ‘wind based scenario’, the Hebrews would have had to endure hurricane force winds and a seriously soggy sea floor. Here we have several plausibility’s. Several actual possibilities for a truly enthralling ancient myth and religious story make the story all the more enjoyable.
And why shouldn’t it be?
This is what we used to do! Something truly spectacular would happen, and we’d explain it to the best of the abilities that our amazingly creative minds could muster. While it’s always been the prerogative of the religious to explain perfectly natural, but unexplainable, events with a supernatural connotation, it doesn’t detract from the awe of the story.
While there is no evidence in Egypt to suggest that the Hebrews were ever there, nor as slaves, should that detract from the story?
While there is no evidence in the Sinai region to suggest that a few hundred thousand Hebrews spent 40 years traversing what takes most people 10 days, it shouldn’t detract from the great story! Or should it?
While I am an atheist, can I not still enjoy the bible for what it is; an epic mythical story, covering millennia; an epic story to rival that of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey or Iliad, or Beowulf!