"And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided." (Exodus 14:21)
One of the most famous stories of the Bible is God's parting of the Red Sea to save the Israelites from the Egyptian army and the subsequent drowning of soldiers and horses in hot pursuit.
But is there evidence that such an event did in fact happen – and if so, precisely where did it take place?
The issue is surfacing some 3,500 years after the event is said to have taken place with reports of Egyptian chariot wheels found in the Red Sea, photographs to document it and new books by scientists that could lead to a whole remapping of the Exodus route and a fresh look at ancient biblical accounts.
Wheel of fortune
Is this a chariot wheel that chased Moses?
"I am 99.9 percent sure I picked up a chariot wheel," Peter Elmer tells WorldNetDaily after two diving trips to the Gulf of Aqaba branch of the sea. "It was covered in coral."
The 38-year-old forklift mechanic from Keynsham, England, traveled to the region with his brother, Mark, after being inspired by videos of explorers Ron Wyatt and Jonathan Gray, who have documented artifacts that in at least one case authorities have confirmed to be a chariot wheel dating to the time of the Exodus.
"I believe I actually sat in an ancient chariot cab," Elmer said, referring to his time exploring a submerged item in what he describes as an underwater scrapyard. "Without question, it is most definitely the remains of the Egyptian army."
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But despite all of Elmer's excitement, others who have been to the same location are not so sure what is being viewed underwater are the remnants of the great chase and urge extreme caution regarding the unsubstantiated claims.
"All kinds of people are finding coral and calling it chariot parts," says Richard Rives, president of Wyatt Archaeological Research in Tennessee. "It's most likely coral covered with coral. ... Opportunists are combining false things with the true things that are found. These people are making it up as they go to be TV stars."
Rives was a longtime partner of Ron Wyatt, an anesthetist and amateur archaeologist who died of cancer in 1999. Before passing away, Wyatt devoted years searching for and documenting physical evidence for events mentioned in the Bible. In addition to chariot wheels, Wyatt claimed to have found Noah's Ark on the mountain next to Ararat in Turkey, the "true" Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia and the Ark of the Covenant with the Ten Commandments near the site of Jesus Christ's crucifixion.
Submerged 'land bridge' (wyattmuseum.com)
Among those who accompanied Wyatt on many of his excursions is his wife, Mary Nell. She's concerned about over-exuberance regarding new claims, but the Spring Hill, Tenn., woman tells WorldNetDaily she's "convinced" there are chariot parts located on a subsurface "land bridge" connecting Egypt to Saudi Arabia through the Gulf of Aqaba.
She cites Ron's discovery of a wheel hub that he brought to the surface in the late 1970s as proof.
The hub had the remains of eight spokes radiating outward and was examined by Nassif Mohammed Hassan, director of Antiquities in Cairo. Hassan declared it to be from the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt, explaining the eight-spoked wheel was used only during that dynasty around 1400 B.C.
Curiously, no one can account for the precise whereabouts of that eight-spoked wheel today, though Hassan is on videotape stating his conclusion regarding authenticity.
When Mary Nell went diving with Ron, she says it was very easy to assume (wrongly) that every item on the flat bottom had historical significance.
"[At first] I thought everything was a chariot wheel!" Mrs. Wyatt exclaimed, noting how difficult it is for the untrained eye to distinguish an artifact from a piece of coral. "I'm just trying to be cautious about over-identifying too much. ... It is God's truth, and we can't hype it up. We can't add to it."
However, she notes a big problem for explorers and scientists is that the Egyptian government no longer allows items to be removed from the protected region. Thus, someone claiming to find an artifact will have a hard – if not impossible – time verifying its authenticity, a classic catch-22.
The watery grave
"And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them." (Exodus 14:28)
The Bible account makes it clear that once the Israelites had marched through the parted sea on dry ground, that the waters rushed back to completely engulf the doomed army of ancient Egypt.
With that in mind, many of the items being seen in the Gulf of Aqaba have been photographed by divers for comparison to the Exodus story.
Many other photographs show formations in a circular pattern with projections that could be spokes, but those items remain at the bottom and have not been authenticated.
Another issue is the route of the Exodus, and which body of water the Israelites crossed. Many travel maps and Bibles indicate a crossing point in the Gulf of Suez, the western branch of the Red Sea. But those may have to be updated if the Aqaba location is confirmed as the true location for the miraculous event.
"The truth is, no one really knows where the crossing of the Red Sea took place," says Carl Rasmussen, a biblical geographer and professor of Old Testament at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minn.
Rasmussen compiled the "Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible" and personally thinks the crossing took place somewhere along what is now the Suez Canal.
Yellow highlights possible spot of Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia. Gulf of Aqaba branch of Red Sea is at center, with main Red Sea at bottom-right of photo (wyattmuseum.com)
Some scientists from Europe say the current maps are wrong, and the Wyatts are right – that the crossing began at the Nuweiba beachhead, went through the Gulf of Aqaba, and then into what is now Saudi Arabia where they claim the "true" Mount Sinai is located.
For years, scholars have speculated as to the location of the actual Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. At least 13 sites have actually been claimed on the Sinai peninsula as being the correct spot.
But Ron Wyatt believed it was in Arabia, even referenced as "mount Sinai in Arabia" by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:25.
So he and his sons made their way to "Jebel al Lawz," the mountain of the Law, which is known by the locals as "Jebel Musa" – Moses' mountain.
Unfortunately for the Wyatts, they were arrested and held in prison. His wife says someone had phoned embassy authorities for the Muslim country, claiming that Ron was spying for Israel. They were released after spending 78 days behind bars.
Rasmussen doesn't agree with the Arabian Mount Sinai theory.
"I believe the strongest candidate is Jebel Sin Bisher," he told WorldNetDaily. "The sites in Saudi Arabia have very, very weak scriptural backing, in spite of the hype."
Now, a new book by Cambridge University physicist Colin Humphreys titled "The Miracles of Exodus" supports not only the claim for an Aqaba crossing, but also the location of Mount Sinai in Arabia.
"If my book is correct, and I believe the evidence is very strong," says Humphreys, "then world maps will need to be redrawn to relocate Mount Sinai. History books, travel guides and biblical commentaries will need to be rewritten."
Throughout his work, Humphreys provides scientific explanations to corroborate the accounts of the Old Testament.
"'The waters piled up, the surging waters stood firm like a wall,' is a remarkable description of what the mathematics reveals to be the case for water pushed back by a very strong wind," he writes.
"What I have found is that the events of the Exodus are even more dramatic than is generally believed," Humphreys said. "The Exodus of the ancient Israelites from Egypt really is one of the greatest true stories ever told."
A Swedish scientist who believes the Red Sea was split says while Humphreys is correct about the Aqaba crossing, there are no natural, scientific explanations for the parting miracle described in Scripture.
Walls of water as depicted in 'The Ten Commandments' (Paramount Pictures)
"The wind did not separate the water," says Lennart Moller of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. "No person could be in that wind and survive. ... If God has created all the Earth, it's no problem for Him to separate the water for a while."
Speaking to WorldNetDaily from the isle of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, Moller, the author of "The Exodus Case," says the key in finding the correct route of the Israelites is to understand that the Hebrew reference to "yam suph" does not mean "sea of reeds" as many scholars have claimed.
Moller says it refers specifically to the Gulf of Aqaba, and while he's not formally affiliated with the Wyatts, he agrees with them that a host of other evidence can be found on the Arabian side of the water, including remains of the golden calf, pillars, altars and the even the rock the Bible says Moses split to bring forth water for the Israelites.
Regarding the items found beneath the waters, Moller believes there are remnants not only of chariots and wheels, but also human and animal skeletons.
"There was a disaster [there] a long time ago," he said. "Whatever that is, it's open to interpretation."
He also notes that the downward and upward slope of the Aqaba crossing path actually falls within current U.S. standards for handicapped ramps.
And while Mary Nell Wyatt warns overstating the claims by divers and authors could do more harm than good, she does believe there's a reason why her husband was led to discover what Ron called "God's attention-getters."
"God preserved all these evidences," she said, "[otherwise] there would have been nothing left. ... God has been lost today. Even Christians still can't believe this all happened. ... We need to pray for the Lord to help us get people to see it."
Back in England, Peter Elmer says people have mockingly asked "Why should a forklift mechanic from Keynsham be able to go to the same place Moses was?"
He takes the criticism in stride, pointing out "Jesus used fishermen, tax collectors and publicans. Why not a forklift mechanic?"
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