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Carl Drews
Author and Software Engineer.
Author and Software Engineer.


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Examining Exodus 14 with the Geosciences

I have published another peer-reviewed article on the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt and Moses crossing the Red Sea. The citation is:

Drews, Carl, "Examining Exodus 14 with the Geosciences" (2015). Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin (NEASB) Volume 60, pages: 1-15.

Here is the Abstract:
There are similarities between the physical details described in the Exodus 14 narrative of the parting of the Red Sea, and a wind setdown event in the eastern Nile delta. This publication takes the ocean model results reported by Drews and Han in 2010 and places them in a biblical, archaeological, and historical context. Certain biblical and archaeological research also supports a crossing at the Kedua Gap or possibly at Tell Abu Sefeh. The proposed locations are within 10 km of a place identified as Migdol by several biblical scholars. Four possible crossing sites are evaluated with respect to the biblical text, and what they might imply for the route of a Hebrew exodus from Egypt during the New Kingdom period. The scientific plausibility of the ancient account suggests that Exodus 14 preserves the memory of an actual historical event.

A few important conclusions:

1. Exodus 14 holds up well under modern scientific examination.

2. The meteorological details given in the text are supported by ocean models and observations of similar events that have occurred in modern times.

3. Analysis of the current flow and grain size within the Kedua Gap reveals that Moses and the Israelites would have been walking across coarse sand instead of wallowing in deep mud.

4. The biblical narrative requires knowledge of Egyptian topography and meteorology that would be difficult to acquire without spending decades in that country.

5. The historical interplay between the narrative in Exodus 14 and the “Song of the Sea” in Exodus 15 may be resolved by distinguishing between the ancient content present in both chapters, and the archaic language of Exodus 15.

To obtain a copy of the paper, please contact the Near East Archaeological Society at

Further reading:
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I posted a new web article explaining the mathematics behind storm surge and wind setdown:
It's a simple derivation that any Calculus student should be able to follow. The result: Shallow water surges more. And that's why Moses and the Israelites did not cross the Gulf of Aqaba!
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Another scientific paper published: Directional Storm Surge in Enclosed Seas: The Red Sea, the Adriatic, and Venice. Readers of my book about crossing the Red Sea ( will remember that confusion over the wind direction started me on the research path toward Moses and Exodus 14. Between Migdol and the Sea (Carl Drews, 2014) does not examine the Aqaba crossings because this research in JMSE was not yet conducted then.

Now we can conclude: Wind setdown will NOT provide a dry crossing anywhere in the Gulf of Aqaba. The gulf is too deep to provide sufficient change in the water depth under any possible wind strength, even at Aqaba/Eilat itself. The Gulf of Suez is very shallow, and that's why a dry crossing forms at Suez. But the wind has to blow in the wrong direction at Suez, contrary to Exodus 14:21 which specifies a wind from the east.

The Adriatic part of the paper explores the range of wind directions that are most likely to cause storm surge (Acqua alta in Italian) at Venice. The result is surprising - to me, anyway: Wind-driven surge at Venice follows a sinusoidal curve with respect to wind direction. I thought the response curve would show a narrow spike when the wind is aligned with the long axis of the Adriatic Sea, but the model results show otherwise. Port authorities, take note.
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New scientific paper published with Tom Galarneau. We analyzed the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy 2012 using the COAWST/ROMS ocean model. Also examined Hurricane Katrina 2005 and storm surge at New Orleans. The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal - Lake Borgne Surge Barrier IS effective at reducing flooding to the city of New Orleans - for several hours. "The barrier keeps Florida Avenue dry for about 5.5 extra hours (simulation time 09:30–15:00), until the surge overtops the southern arm of the funnel and water enters the city through the Lower Ninth Ward."

Drews C, Galarneau TJ Jr (2015) Directional Analysis of the Storm Surge from Hurricane Sandy 2012, with Applications to Charleston, New Orleans, and the Philippines. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0122113. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0122113
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Did the Exodus Really Happen? Yes.

Director Ridley Scott deliberately set the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings in a specific time period: the reign of Pharaoh Rameses the Great (1279 - 1213 BC). Although #ExodusGodsAndKings is not a documentary, the film is clearly intended to fit into biblical and Middle Eastern history. #RidleyScott was mostly successful in keeping his epic film true to science and Egypt's New Kingdom period. For this achievement, he and the movie production team score a win in this final "game of the season."

My book Between Migdol and the Sea (Carl Drews 2014) explores the historical question of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt. Chapter 9 Confronting the Minimalists provides an extensive rebuttal to Finkelstein and Silberman's book The Bible Unearthed. My Chapter 10 Did the Exodus Really Happen? ( evaluates in detail a set of possibilities ranging from:
1. Exodus is a complete fabrication.
4. The sea crossing was a historical event as described.

It is not easy to make up a good lie. The "complete fabrication" scenario fails because there is too much accurate science and history in the Exodus account. It would be very difficult for a Priestly writer in Jerusalem to make up a realistic story of wind setdown in the eastern Nile delta. But that plausible narrative is what we find in the Bronze Age text of Exodus, complete with a realistic background of Egypt during the Ramesside period. No - somebody was in Egypt for decades and knew of these events and places (Between Migdol and the Sea, page 262).

It's worth noting that archaeologist Israel Finkelstein does not take the "complete fabrication" position. I found his exact position hard to determine, but in The Bible Unearthed he states that the saga of Exodus is "neither historical truth nor literary fiction." (page 70) Somebody did indeed leave Egypt and leave their memories in the biblical text (Migdol, page 220). Richard Friedman (of the Documentary Hypothesis) stated in 2013 that the Exodus is not fiction: Friedman favors a departure from Egypt by a group of Levites. Friedman is no biblical literalist either, "But real evidence exists that the Exodus is historical, with text and archaeology mutually supporting one another."

Professors Kenneth Kitchen, James Hoffmeier, and Colin Humphreys take position #4 "historical event". So do I, but I note that it's tricky to determine exactly what is described in Exodus 14-15. My reconstruction of the Red Sea crossing is described in Chapter 5 The Tanis Hypothesis. The story of the crossing makes scientific sense, and the matching site is truly between Migdol and the sea, as stated in Exodus 14:2. Yes, the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt really did happen.

Win-loss season record for Exodus: Gods and Kings: 12-5-2.

This post terminates my blog series evaluating the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings with respect to science and history. Thanks to all you readers who followed along! The final score is 12 wins, 5 losses, and 2 ties. Not bad!


I have decided to dedicate this blog series to Egyptian Sergeant Mahmud Nadeh. Sergeant Nadeh is an Egyptian soldier who appears in Abraham Rabinovich's book The Yom Kippur War (2004). I was inspired and touched by his personal story. Nadeh fought for his country and for a cause in which he believed. His wartime experience had ups and downs, just like every soldier goes through. To find out more about Mahmud Nadeh, you will have to read Rabinovich's book yourself.

#ExodusGodsAndKings #MigdolBook #RidleyScott

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Correct Historical Context for the Exodus

The movie Exodus: Gods and Kings depicts a societal background for the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt that matches what we know from ancient literature and archaeology. Chapter 10 of my book Between Migdol and the Sea (Carl Drews 2014) provides a summary of the indirect evidence for the Exodus on pages 252-254 (

Canaanite Presence in the Eastern Nile Delta

Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman are widely known as biblical minimalists, but in their book The Bible Unearthed they acknowledge that archaeological support for the basic situation described in Exodus is abundant. Semitic immigrants often traveled from Canaan to Egypt and settled temporarily in the eastern delta during times of famine. Egypt beckoned as a place of shelter, security, and food during hard times (Finkelstein & Silberman, p. 52-53). The biblical sojourn in Egypt is quite realistic.

In Egypt the Semitic foreigners were all known as Shasu, and the Egyptians did not much care who was who. By the Bible's own account, the Israelites had not yet developed their own distinctive Jewish identity at the time of the Exodus. They did not even know the name of their own God. Thus it is not surprising to find no historical record specifically attesting to Jews in Egypt during the New Kingdom Period. But the Shasu were there in abundance (, chapters 1 and 2).

All-powerful Pharaoh

Director #RidleyScott depicts Rameses II ordering the execution of Israelites who will not tell him where Moses is hiding. Rameses in the film is an absolute dictator; when not punishing rebellious slaves or attempting to defeat the Hittites to the northeast of his kingdom, he is devoting a large portion of Egypt's Gross National Product to build himself a splendid tomb. That's just what the ancient Pharaohs did. Among the Kings of Israel, only Solomon can come close to their absolute power and wealth. #ExodusGodsAndKings got this aspect of ancient Egypt correct. The word of Rameses II was law.

Public Construction Projects

In the movie #RamesesII speaks of how monuments project power. Rameses the Great was a prolific builder, just as #ExodusGodsAndKings shows. These monuments and temples were a dominant feature of the Ramesside New Kingdom. Somebody had to construct all those buildings, and the Bible says that the Israelites played a big part (, p. 253).

Some researchers have pointed out that slaves did not build the pyramids; the workers were well-housed and well-fed. Presumably working conditions were similar during the later Exodus period, when the cities of Pithom and Rameses were constructed. Is the Bible wrong to use the term "slave" in Exodus 1:13-14?

My brothers and I used to complain that we were slaves because we had to go to elementary school. Slavery is in the eye of the beholder. Although slavery was abolished in the United States by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, for a hundred years afterward certain black workers could justifiably call their working conditions "slavery". For the Semitic Shasu in Egypt, what they called "slavery" was probably compulsory labor. They had to work for a foreign king and his grand ambitions. It would be easy to remember that experience as "slavery".

Exodus:Gods and Kings scores a win here for their realistic milieu of New Kingdom Egypt. Congratulations to Coach #RidleyScott and the #ExodusMovie team!

Win-loss season record for Exodus: Gods and Kings: 11-5-2.

Next week: Did the Exodus Really Happen? Yes.

#ExodusGodsAndKings #MigdolBook #RidleyScott
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God Sent the Ten Plagues

In the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings, a young boy serves as God's messenger and declares to Moses that God will send plagues upon the Egyptians - to convince Pharaoh to relent, and let Moses depart for Canaan with the Israelites. The plagues start with crocodiles attacking fishermen in boats and churning up red sediment in river water, thereby making the Nile "turn to blood." Along the way an Egyptian scientist "explains" the sequence of plagues, much to Pharaoh's frustration, because the explanation does nothing to stop the plagues.

Last week I saw yet another blogger suggesting that these "natural explanations" remove God from the picture. This is bunk. The Bible knows it, I know it, and now you know it. The narrative of plagues in Exodus 7-12 emphasizes repeatedly that God is in charge of every plague, and He sends them because Pharaoh will not change his mind. God sends every one of the ten plagues upon Egypt. God uses the natural forces of Egypt to punish Pharaoh. The Divine Cause is clear from the text.

#RidleyScott got this part of the biblical narrative exactly right! You may not believe in God, you may feel that the ten plagues caused innocent people to suffer, you may think that the young boy in the movie is a brat, or you may think that God should have beamed the Israelites straight to Canaan and saved everybody a lot of trouble. No matter - the blog topic here is how close the Exodus movie adheres to science, history, and the biblical text. The Bible states that God sent the plagues, and this is exactly what #ExodusGodAndKings says as well. #RidleyScott and the #ExodusMovie team score a win here for conformance with the biblical account.

God-of-the-Gaps Fallacy and its Converse

I covered this issue at length in Chapter 12 of my book Between Migdol and the Sea (pages 293-297 The lack of a scientific explanation does not prove that God did it, nor does a scientific "explanation" remove God. This faulty line of reasoning is called the God-of-the-Gaps fallacy. The German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoefer gave a classic refutation of this theological error:

Weisäcker's book The World-View of Physics is still keeping me very busy. It has again brought home to me quite clearly how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know; God wants us to realize His presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved.

Dietrich Bonhoefer, Letters and Papers from Prison, written 29 May 1944.

In the quotation above I have put the forward God-of-the-Gaps statement in bold and the converse in italics. Page 293 of Between Migdol and the Sea (Carl Drews 2014) summarizes the fallacy this way:

1. If science cannot explain something, then God must have done it.
2. If science can explain something, then God must not have done it.

In my experience it is usually creationists who appeal to the forward statement in #1, while New Atheists put forward the converse statement in #2. They each think that their preferred formulation helps the cause of their side. But they are both fallacies! There might be some belief system out there that thinks this way, but it is not biblical Christianity. The biblical and theistic view is that God is the Ultimate Cause of everything, and the current state of scientific understanding is irrelevant to that view (

Win-loss season record for Exodus: Gods and Kings: 10-5-2.

Next week: I am running out of topics from science and history. It cannot be that I have covered everything in the movie! Please use the Comments section to suggest future aspects of the movie to analyze.

#ExodusGodsAndKings #MigdolBook #RidleyScott

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How old was Rameses' first-born son?

Chapter 11 of my book Between Migdol and the Sea (Drews 2014) presents a detailed chronology of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt, focusing on the most important Ramesside years from 1330 to 1010 BC. My primary purpose there is to rebut the claim made by Finkelstein and Silberman in The Bible Unearthed: that there is no suitable opening in time for the Hebrews to depart Egypt and infiltrate or conquer Canaan. My response: Yes, there is a window of opportunity for Moses to depart from Egypt with the Israelites, and that time period stretches from 1251 - 1245 BC (see Migdol at #MigdolBook uses 1250 BC as the standard year of the Exodus.

By my calculations, Rameses II was born in 1303 BC and was therefore 53 years old in the year of the Exodus. He was 11 years older than Moses.

Joel Edgerton, the actor who portrayed Rameses II in the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings, was born on 23 June 1974. Edgerton is now 40 years old. Although Coach #RidleyScott got the age of Moses correct (played by Christian Bale at 40 years old), Rameses II was more than a decade older than the actor who plays his part. Probably Scott wanted to emphasize the connection between siblings that would have added drama to the story of the Exodus, since both boys were raised in the palace of the Pharoah Seti I.

#ExodusGodsAndKings shows Rameses II with his first-born infant son; it would be very peculiar for an Egyptian Pharaoh to have his first son at the advanced age of 53! Such a long delay before Bronze Age fatherhood would be risking the dynasty.

The first-born son of Rameses II was named Amen-hir-wonmef at birth, and this name was changed to Amen-hir-khopshef upon Rameses' accession as Pharaoh in 1279 BC [Between Migdol and the Sea, page 279]. The name Amen-hir-khopshef means "Amun is with his strong arm" [Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant, page 102]. He was born no earlier than 5 years before his father ascended the Egyptian throne. Therefore Rameses II was about 20 years old when his first-born son (by Queen Nefertari) was born in 1283 BC.

Amen-hir-khopshef died by the year 20 of his father's reign according to Kenneth Kitchen (Pharaoh Triumphant 1982, page 102), or by the regnal year 40 according to Tour Egypt (Migdol 2014, page 279). Those two estimates produce an age at death for Amen-hir-khopshef at 24 and 44 years old, and Exodus dates of 1260 and 1240 BC. One has to get used to uncertainty when dealing with ancient Egyptian chronologies.

The miscalculation in the first-born son's age is a loss for Coach Ridley Scott and the production team of Exodus: Gods and Kings. Yes, it is more tragic to watch a cute little innocent baby die on-screen, but the reality is that the Tenth Plague struck down an adult crown prince of about 24-44 years old.

Win-loss season record for Exodus: Gods and Kings: 9-5-2.

Next week: I am running out of topics from science and history. Please use the Comments section to suggest future aspects of the movie to analyze.

#ExodusGodsAndKings #MigdolBook #RidleyScott
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Building the Pyramids

Man fears time, but time fears the pyramids. - Arab proverb.

The Egyptian pyramids are old. Like really, really, really OLD. The great pyramids at Giza were built during the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt, from about 2600 - 2500 BC ( The Pharaohs probably quit building pyramids for their tombs when they realized that the gigantic structures actually functioned like huge billboard advertisements: "Here is all my golden treasure! Hey, you grave robbers - come and steal it!"

Some lesser pyramids were also built of mud brick during the Middle Kingdom, as late as 1800 BC. The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for 3,800 years until Lincoln Cathedral was built in 1311 AD. Wow!

The great pyramids were old when Abraham was young. Kenneth Kitchen dates Abraham the Patriarch to 1900 BC (Reliability of the Old Testament, pages 358-359). True "Israelites" did not arrive until the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel, three generations later. So the Pyramid of Khufu was over 700 years old when Judah was born. The Hebrew Exodus from Egypt occurred in 1250 BC, as detailed in Chapter 11 of my book Between Migdol and the Sea (Drews 2014): The Israelites / Jews most certainly did not build the pyramids!

Unfortunately, the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings says that they did. In the opening sequence there is text strongly implying that Hebrew slaves built some of the pyramids shown under construction. The movie city of #Pithom includes a pyramid going up and is THE Hebrew city. Ooops. Coach #RidleyScott and the #ExodusMovie team score a loss here for the anachronism.

And it was a costly mistake, too, because these "historical inaccuracies" caused #ExodusGodsAndKings to be banned in Egypt ( Probably the censorship had more to do with who did or did not build the pyramids rather than when. The BBC reports that "The head of the [Egyptian] censorship board said these [inaccuracies] included the film's depiction of Jews as having built the Pyramids, and that an earthquake, not a miracle by Moses, caused the Red Sea to part." (

That "earthquake" reason puzzles me, because the film portrays a meteorite and tsunami as the immediate cause of the parting of the Red Sea. In the film, the ultimate cause of the Red Sea miracle is God Almighty. I would call that process theistic astronomy; God sent the meteorite at the right time to deliver Moses and the Israelites from destruction. But in the Bible God sends an east wind - see Between Migdol and the Sea Chapter 5 The Tanis Hypothesis for how the science works.

Win-loss season record for Exodus: Gods and Kings: 9-4-2.

Next week: How old was Rameses?

#ExodusGodsAndKings #MigdolBook #RidleyScott

Great pyramid of Giza, by user Berthold Werner at Wikimedia Commons.
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About those chariots

The chariots used by Rameses II at the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BC were light chariots pulled by two small horses. A warrior and a driver rode in the chariot compartment, equipped with bow and arrows, and a spear. The Egyptian chariots of this period served as a mobile archery platform, able to shower the enemy infantry with missiles and then speed away before their adversaries could close the distance and grapple in hand-to-hand combat. New Kingdom chariots were not the four-wheeled Hittite heavy chariots of Kadesh, nor the Persian scythed chariots that Alexander the Great dispatched with such ease at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC ( A chariot division was about 500 vehicles, as explained on page 196 of my book Between Migdol and the Sea (Carl Drews 2014):

The chariots in the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings look authentic to me. #RidleyScott and the #ExodusMovie team score another win here for historical accuracy. I don't believe these chariots could have jumped over a line of defending Hittite warriors as depicted in the movie, but at least the appearance and construction of the Egyptian chariots is authentic. At one point #ChristianBale as Moses tosses a spear and totally upends one speeding Hittite chariot. These vehicles would have been unstable at high speed over rough ground.

I would have much preferred cavalry, mounted warriors on horseback. Unfortunately for my Bronze Age ambitions and Exodus: Gods and Kings, military cavalry were not developed in 1250 BC. I covered that anachronism in an earlier post.

Win-loss season record for Exodus: Gods and Kings: 9-3-2.

Next week: Building the pyramids

#ExodusGodsAndKings #MigdolBook #RidleyScott

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