You were sitting in Sunday school class the other day when your teacher mentioned how God had miraculously parted the waters in the Bible on a couple of different occasions. You found yourself wondering just how many times God parted water in Scripture. Was it really just a couple of times or were there more instances that you weren’t aware of?
As Christians, we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Every detail in Scripture has significance and reflects God’s divine plan and purpose. When certain events, like the parting of waters, are repeated multiple times throughout the Bible, it highlights their thematic and symbolic importance. Examining each occasion where God parted bodies of water will enrich our understanding of who God is and how He chooses to operate.
In this post, we will walk through every instance in the Bible where God supernaturally divided bodies of water for His people. We will explore the context around these miracles, their similarities and differences, and key lessons we can glean from these accounts of God making a way forward where there seemed to be no way. You may be surprised at just how many times the waters were parted in the Scriptures!
- There are at least 7 distinct times when God parted bodies of water in the Bible.
- God parted both seas and rivers to make a way of deliverance for His people.
- The partings often foreshadowed later, greater deliverances God would accomplish.
- God used partings of water to execute judgement against the wicked as well as save the righteous.
- Jesus’ authority over creation was evident when He calmed the stormy sea.
The 7 Partings of Water in Scripture
Let’s examine each of the 7 major occasions where God parted bodies of water in the Bible.
1. The Red Sea Parting (Exodus 14)
The most famous example of God parting waters is when He divided the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape from Egypt. After enduring 400 years of slavery, God raised up Moses to confront Pharaoh and demand he let God’s people go. After a series of devastating plagues, Pharaoh finally agreed to release them.
As the Israelites hastily left, Pharaoh’s heart hardened yet again and he sent his army to pursue them. With the Red Sea before them and Pharaoh’s army behind them, the frightened Israelites saw no way of escape. But God had a plan.
Then 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 into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. (Exodus 14:21-22 NKJV)
God miraculously parted the Red Sea, allowing the Israelites to walk through on dry land! When Pharaoh’s army tried to chase them in, God caused the waters to rush back in and drown all of them. This incredible miracle allowed for the deliverance of God’s people and demonstrated His mighty power over creation.
2. The Jordan River Parting (Joshua 3)
As the Israelites approached the Promised Land ~40 years later, they faced another major obstacle – the flooding Jordan River. Under Joshua’s leadership, God told His people He would perform another miracle. After the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the Jordan River, the waters parted all the way upstream, allowing the Israelites to cross over on dry ground once again.
And as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. (Joshua 3:15-16 NKJV)
This awe-inspiring event mirrored the Red Sea miracle, ushering God’s people into the fulfillment of His promises to give them the Land of Canaan. The parting foreshadowed another greater work God would do through Jesus to open up the way of salvation.
3. Elijah and Elisha at the Jordan (2 Kings 2)
In 2 Kings 2, the prophets Elijah and Elisha approached the Jordan River as Elijah was going to be taken up to heaven. Elijah took his mantle and struck the water, which divided so they could walk over on dry land. After Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha struck the water with Elijah’s mantle and it parted for him to return across.
Then Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. (2 Kings 2:8 NKJV)
And he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. (2 Kings 2:14 NKJV)
This double parting of the Jordan demonstrated how Elisha inherited a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and authority as God’s prophet. It also foreshadowed how Jesus would pass through the Jordan during His earthly ministry after John the Baptist, a prophet like Elijah, baptized Him there.
4. God Parts the Euphrates (Jeremiah 51)
In Jeremiah 51, when God pronounces impending judgment on Babylon, He describes how He will supernaturally dry up the waters of the Euphrates River to prepare a way for the Medo-Persian army to conquer the city. This came to pass in 539 B.C. under King Cyrus the Great.
The sea has come up over Babylon; She is covered with the multitude of its waves…For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will plead your case and take vengeance for you. I will dry up her sea and make her springs dry. Babylon shall become a heap, A dwelling place for jackals, An astonishment and a hissing, Without an inhabitant.” (Jeremiah 51:42, 36-37 NKJV)
While not technically a parting, God’s drying up of the Euphrates still served as a miraculous provision and intervention on behalf of His people, allowing them to be freed from Babylonian captivity. It also foreshadowed how Jesus, the true Messiah, would come to provide true freedom from spiritual bondage.
5. Elijah and Elisha Part the Jordan Again (2 Kings 2)
After witnessing Elijah taken up to heaven, Elisha performed many miracles, including parting the Jordan River again in 2 Kings 2. When a borrowed axe head fell into the water, Elisha threw a stick in the river and made the iron float!
But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. (2 Kings 6:5-6 NKJV)
While this passage focuses more on the floating axe head miracle, Elisha had to have parted the waters again in order to retrieve the lost object since the text says the axe fell in and the water was deep enough to swim in (v. 4).
6. God Parts the Jordan for Elijah (2 Kings 2)
2 Kings 2 records yet another parting of the Jordan associated with Elijah. Before being taken up to heaven, Elijah parted the river waters so he could cross back over with Elisha. This account is similar to their first Jordan crossing.
And Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they went down to Bethel. (2 Kings 2:2 NKJV)
Since Bethel was on the west side of the Jordan and they had to “go down” to cross and reach it, God must have parted the waters to allow Elijah and Elisha to travel there together just before his prophetic departure.
7. Jesus Calms the Storm (Matthew 8)
One final example of supernatural water parting involves Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee:
Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” (Matthew 8:26-27 NKJV)
Rather than dividing a body of water, Jesus directly halted the storm winds that were tossing waves into the disciples’ boat on the Sea of Galilee. Nonetheless, this awe-inspiring demonstration of Christ’s authority over creation caused the waters to become perfectly calm in an instant. It’s the closest New Testament parallel to the Old Testament partings.
Reflecting on God’s Powerful Works
As we just walked through, there are at least 7 major occasions recorded in Scripture when God parted bodies of water to make a way for His people and reveal His glory:
- The Red Sea for Moses
- The Jordan River for Joshua
- The Jordan River for Elijah and Elisha
- The Euphrates River before Babylon’s conquest
- The Jordan River for Elisha
- The Jordan River for Elijah
- Jesus calming the stormy sea
From the Exodus Red Sea miracle to Christ silencing the winds on Galilee, God has proven His mighty power over the waters time and again. He manipulates aspects of His creation to save the righteous and judge the wicked.
These incredible miracles all point to the greatest miracle of Christ coming to deliver us from sin and death through His sacrifice on the cross. Just as God made a way through the waters, Jesus has made a way for us to be reconciled to God, our greatest Promised Land.
May we stand in awe of our God who parts seas and rivers, restraining them with just a word. And may we put our full trust and hope in His Son Jesus who has ultimately made a way for us to walk through the waters of judgement into eternal life!