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The Natural Nature of Miracles

On the crossing of the Red Sea and Jordan River

The Bible is full of references and depictions to what we today call miracles. In our culture, the word miracle can mean an amazing, extraordinary or unusual event by human or divine means. It can also mean something that violates the natural order of things. In the Bible however, miracles are strict instances of God either directly interfering with the natural flow of things on earth, as in Jesus’ healing miracles recorded in the gospels, or as God using natural processes but with perfect and seemingly impossible timing. It’s to this last use that we’re going to explore. Let’s take the miracles of the Red Sea Crossing (Exodus 14), and the crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 3).

Thanks to modern movies and popular depictions of the Exodus events, people often have preconceived ideas about how the miracle of the Red Sea crossing happened. It is commonly thought that Moses raised his staff to the sea and the waters immediately began to tremble and move near instantly creating a dry pathway for the Israelites. But what does the Bible actually say?

“In 1882, British general Alexander Tulloch witnessed firsthand a similar wind set-down event like what happened in the Exodus account.”

In Exodus 14:21, it says that the Lord caused a strong east wind to drive the sea back all night long, so that after some time the Israelites were able to cross on dry land, meaning exposed land. Once across, Moses again raised his staff and the waters returned.

Interestingly, this instance of water being driven away by strong wind is a well-documented natural phenomenon understood through wind set-down and tidal ebbs[1], but what is tremendously unusual about it is the timing. What are the chances that this would happen just as the Israelites needed an escape and just as Moses lifted his staff and prayed? Sometimes God’s miracles seem to be in the timing of events. So, too, with the crossing of the Jordan River.

Joshua 3:14-17 tells us that when the priest’s feet touched the edge of the Jordan River, the waters began to lower until they ran dry, allowing the Israelites to cross over. Verse 16 also indicates that there was some sort of blockage way up stream by the city of Adam.

This phenomenon is also known to periodically happen as a result of earthquakes and landslides in the area. Again, the miracle is in the perfect timing of this event. The Bible itself even associates earthquakes with these early miracles of God! Take for example Psalm 114:3-7: “the sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back, the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs….tremble, O Earth, at the presence of the LORD…”


Corie Bobechko | January 31, 2020 – 11:15 AM EST

[1] In 1882, British general Alexander Tulloch witnessed firsthand a similar wind set-down event like what happened in the Exodus account. His observation is now widely considered to be modern-day evidence for this phenomenon.
Tulloch, AB. Passage of the Red Sea by the Israelites. Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute (now Faith and Thought; 1896) 28: 267–280. See also Carl Drews. Dynamics of Wind Setdown at Suez and the Eastern Nile Delta. Published: August 30, 2010.

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