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Mt. Sinai

20 Jun

The Location of Mt. Sinai

Introduction:

This is a pursuit that has troubled many a scholar and biblical enthusiast for centuries.  You have as many opinions and theories as you have people addressing the subject.  But for the believer the key is not the location of the mountain but God and what he did at that site.

We do not need to know where Sinai is exactly to believe that God led his people there and provided for them the words they had to live by. The other major thing that believers need to realize is that what God has hidden people will not find until God allows that discovery to take place.

Considering what has taken place at the traditional site of Mt. Sinai where a monastery has been built and that mountain has been visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists for decades and trivialized by the improper motives and behavior of many who come to the mountain, it seems wise of God to keep the exact location of Sinai to himself.

Sinai is a holy site and most people today are not holy enough to set foot on that mountain. I would also venture to say that many people would end up idolizing the mountain and place it on a pedestal next to God. That is the kind of attitude believers are to avoid.

Sinai is real and it does not have to be found to prove that Moses met God there or that the people of Israel received the ten commandments or built a golden calf there.  We have that reality recorded in the Bible which saves us a lot of money, resources and time because we do not have to go out and physically find each and every site mentioned in the Bible to make the Bible true.

We only need to use faith.

What follows are a few pieces of articles written by scholars and others who have discussed or searched for the mountain. Due to copyright laws I can only record a short blurb then give you the reference information and encourage you to look those articles up and see what the different authors have to say.

As for this website, we do not care if the mountain is found or not. We know that God did not destroy it or moved it to another location so it is still right where Moses and the Israelites left it. We feel we have better things to do for Christ than spend our time physically searching for a mountain that cannot be found.

Enjoy the following information and please make up your own minds on the subject.
 

#1.    Is Mount Sinai In Saudi Arabia? By Gordon Franz

 Two treasure hunters stood on the top of Jebel al-Lawz thinking it was the real Mt. Sinai, the “Mountain of God.” One was struck with fear because he thought he was trespassing on the “holiest place on earth.” As he gulped down Gatorade and munched on M & Ms, a sense of guilt overcame him because he had forged a letter from the king of Saudi Arabia in order to obtain a visa into the Kingdom (Cornuke and Halbrook 2000: 10, 11, 74, 77, 79; Blum 1998a: 206). Should he have felt guilty for this deceit? Yes, what he did was illegal, and offended the honor of the Saudi Arabian people. Should he have been afraid because he was on the holy mountain of God (Ex 19:12)? No, because he was standing on the wrong mountain. MT. SINAI IS NOT IN SAUDI ARABIA!

  This article will examine four aspects of the question regarding whether or not Mt. Sinai is located in Saudi Arabia. First, the credibility of the claims will be questioned. Second, the false assumptions by the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz will be disputed. Third, the Biblical evidence will be discussed. Fourth, the archaeological evidence will be examined.

  Mount Sinai was the destination of Moses and the children of Israel after the Lord miraculously delivered them from the bondage of Egypt (Ex 18:5). It was from this mountain that the Lord gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and the people of Israel (Ex 19:1–3, 11, 18; 20:1–17). Here, too, the prophet Elijah found himself after his escape from wicked Queen Jezebel (1 Kgs 19).

  Pilgrims, scholars and tourists have visited the traditional site, Jebel Musa (Arabic for the Mountain of Moses) for more than 1, 600 years. In the early fourth century AD Eusebius of Caesarea placed Mt. Sinai in the southern Sinai Peninsula. When Egeria made a pilgrimage to the East between AD 381 and 384, she visited Jebel Musa as Mt. Sinai (Wilkinson 1981: 1, 18, 91–100). This impressive mountain located in the southern Sinai Peninsula is situated behind the Byzantine monastery of St. Catherine built by Emperor Justinian in the middle of the sixth century AD (Tsafrir 1978: 219).

  It may come as a surprise to most people, but scholars have identified 13 different sites as the “real” Mount Sinai (Har-El 1983: 2). I would agree with the proponents of the Jebel al-Lawz hypothesis that Jebel Musa, the traditional Mt. Sinai, or any other site in the southern Sinai Peninsula, cannot be the real Mt. Sinai. Professor Har-El (1983: 175–233) in his book, The Sinai Journey, has argued very convincingly against the southern Sinai theory.

  Recently, six American treasure hunters have added a 14th mountain to the already long list of candidates for the real Mt. Sinai: Jebel al-Lawz.

 Vol. 13: Bible and Spade (2000) Volume 13. 2000 (101). Ephrata, PA: Associates for Biblical Research.
 

#2. The Conclusion of the Matter

  Contrary to their claims and the dust jacket endorsements that call their evidence “overwhelming” and “scholarly” the case for Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia has not been made. The identification of Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia is not new. Other scholars and explorers have identified different mountains in Midian as Mt. Sinai and such identifications have long ago received proper scholarly assessment. For example, Dr. Menashe Har-El, one of Israel’s leading geographers and an expert on the Sinai Peninsula, and for many years professor of Historical and Biblical Geography at Tel Aviv University, researched these questions several decades ago in his doctoral dissertation at New York University. He reworked his dissertation and published it under the title The Sinai Journey. The Route of the Exodus. In his book, Har-El (1983: 242–75) spends a whole chapter refuting the idea that Mt. Sinai is in Midian (Saudi Arabia).8

  Professor Har-El also sets forth a very plausible alternative for the identification of Mt. Sinai. He proposed that Mt. Sinai should be located at Jebel Sin Bishr in western central Sinai. This proposal is followed in the Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible (Rasmussen 1989: 88–90). In the following article in this issue, Professor David Faiman of Ben Gurion University of the Negev discusses Har-El’s proposal.

  Simply stated, Mt. Sinai should be located in the Sinai Peninsula right where the Bible places it, not in Saudi Arabia.

. Vol. 13: Bible and Spade (2000) Volume 13. 2000 (112). Ephrata, PA: Associates for Biblical Research.
 

#3.  Wilderness Wandering

 Occupation in the Sinai. Aardsma points out that there is ample evidence for occupation in the Sinai Desert in the 3rd millennium, but none in the 2nd millennium, the time the Israelites were there according to the traditional chronology. Third millennium occupation fits the proposed scheme, he says (p. 48). But the Bible does not say that the Israelites built settlements in the Sinai desert during their 40 years of wandering. They were poor ex-slaves from Egypt living as pastoral nomads, wandering from place to place. We would not expect to find evidence of an Israelite presence in the Sinai, just as you cannot find evidence for the presence of modern Beduin nomads, unless you happen to stumble on a very recent camp site. The Israelites did not build settlements until the 12th century in the Iron I period.

  Mt. Sinai. The author accepts Anati’s location of Mt. Sinai at Har Karkom, between Kadesh-Barnea and Eilat, without question, undoubtedly because the findings there provide support for his hypothesis. Anati found evidence of religious activity at the mountain in the 3rd millennium, but not at the traditional time of the Exodus. But can we be certain that this is the Mt. Sinai of the Old Testament? Certainly not. There are, in fact, at least a dozen proposed sites for the location of Mt. Sinai, with Jebel Musa in the southern Sinai peninsula having the oldest tradition associated with it (Davies 1992:48).

. Vol. 6: Bible and Spade (1993) Volume 6. 1993 (107). Ephrata, PA: Associates for Biblical Research.
 

#4. Where Is Mount Sinai? By Ronald S. Hendel

The holy mountain is shrouded in mystery, its location seemingly unknowable. Perhaps that is what makes it holy.

The location of Mount Sinai has been receiving a lot of press lately. The Pope just made a visit to the famous mountain in the Sinai peninsula, prompting some journalists to ask if he was traveling to the right place. A few years ago a couple of adventurers visited a mountain in Saudi Arabia, claiming that it was the true Mt. Sinai.1 And in these pages, Allen Kerkeslager has shown that much early Jewish tradition preferred the Arabian location.2 Biblical scholars are divided on the question of the location of Mt. Sinai, some favoring the location in the Sinai peninsula and others, including Frank Moore Cross of Harvard University, favoring the location in Saudi Arabia.3 What’s going on? Mountains don’t move, do they?

The problem is that the Bible itself is confused on this question. Some sources, particularly the prose accounts in the Pentateuch, seem to favor the location in the Sinai peninsula. Other sources, notably some old poetic texts, seem to locate Mt. Sinai in the region of Edom, that is, in modern geographical terms, in southern Jordan and northwestern Saudi Arabia. The prose and the poetry are at odds, and it’s not clear what to make of this difference.

That’s not all. To add to the confusion, the prose sources differ on the name of Mt. Sinai. A number of texts refer to this mountain as Mt. Horeb. This is the preferred nomenclature of the sources known to scholars as E (the Elohist) and D (the Deuteronomist). The other two major Pentateuchal sources, J (the Yahwist) and P (the Priestly source), prefer the name Sinai.4 Why are there two names for this place? We don’t know. Horeb means “dry,” which doesn’t help much; the etymology of Sinai is obscure.

So where is Sinai/Horeb? The poems that associate Mt. Sinai with Arabia are among the oldest texts in the Bible (see poems, above). The Song of Deborah in Judges 5 seems to locate Sinai in the region of Seir and Edom, which lies to the south and east of Israel. The Blessing of Moses in Deuteronomy 33 agrees with this setting, listing Sinai in parallel with Seir and Mt. Paran. This is the land of Esau, the ancestor of the Edomites of the land of Seir. This may also be the place of our earliest attestation of the name Yahweh—the place-name “Yahweh” in the region of Seir is mentioned twice in Egyptian sources from the 14th and 13th centuries B.C.E.5

But the prose accounts disagree. The story of Moses at the burning bush seems to indicate that Sinai/Horeb is only a three-day journey from Egypt (“three days into the wilderness,” Exodus 3:18), which would place the mountain in the Sinai peninsula. The same location is indicated by the opening of Deuteronomy, which says that it is an 11-day journey from Mt. Horeb to the Israelites’ last major campsite in the wilderness, Kadesh-Barnea, “by the route to Mt. Seir” (Deuteronomy 1:2). (Note that here God’s mountain seems a long distance from Mt. Seir, in contrast to the old poetic sources.) And when Elijah visits Mt. Horeb in 1 Kings 19, he journeys 40 days from the region of Beersheba. This too may be a pilgrimage to a mountain in the Sinai peninsula.6

Later Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions followed the clues in the prose accounts and identified Mt. Sinai with Jebel Musa (“the Mountain of Moses”), one of the tallest mountains in the southern Sinai peninsula. The name of the peninsula followed from this identification of the holy mountain. The beautiful monastery of Saint Catherine was built at the foot of this mountain in 530 C.E. And if you visit there, the tour guide will point out to you the very tree that once was the burning bush.

But it’s not clear that this was the original Mt. Sinai. It seems that the Bible contradicts itself and stutters when it comes to the location of the holy mountain. The Bible is no Michelin Guide, and it seems designed to confuse us at certain points. Perhaps Mt. Sinai is not supposed to be a tourist site. The location of the holy mountain is shrouded in mystery, perhaps purposefully obscure, contradictory, plural and unknowable. Perhaps that is what makes it a holy mountain.

BR 16:03. 2004 (H. Shanks, Ed.). Biblical Archaeology Society.
 

#5. Mt. Sinai—in Arabia? By Allen Kerkeslager

We set off…to climb each of the mountains,” wrote the fourth-century C.E. Christian pilgrim Egeria of her visit to Mt. Sinai. “They are hard to climb. You do not go round and round them, spiraling up gently, but straight at each one as if you were going up a wall, and then straight down to the foot, till you reach the foot of the central mountain, Sinai itself. Here then, impelled by Christ our God and assisted by the prayers of the holy men who accompanied us, we made the great effort of the climb…I was not conscious of the effort—in fact I hardly noticed it because, by God’s will, I was seeing my hopes coming true.”

In the centuries since Egeria toured the Holy Land, many pilgrims have retraced her difficult walk: They travel to St. Catherine’s Monastery, which was built by the emperor Justinian as a fortress in the sixth century C.E. at the foot of Jebel Musa, a 7,500-foot peak in the southern Sinai peninsula, and trek before dawn up the jagged granite mountainside. Near the top, they must traverse thousands of steps before they reach the summit. But most find the exertion well worth the effort, for they believe they have reached one of the places on earth where the Lord revealed himself to humankind: where the Bible says Moses spent 40 days encountering God and receiving the Ten Commandments, where the Israelites, encamped below, demanded of Aaron the high priest that he fashion for them a golden calf, and where an enraged Moses shattered the first Tablets of the Law in response to the Israelites’ sin (Exodus 19–20, 32). Later, the prophet Elijah would return to this sacred landscape, hide in a cave and discover God not in the storm, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in the still, small voice (1 Kings 19).

But could Egeria and all the pious pilgrims after her have gone to the wrong place? The tradition identifying Jebel Musa as biblical Mt. Sinai goes back only to the middle of the fourth century C.E. That’s a fairly old tradition but still far removed from the eighth to sixth centuries B.C.E., the period in which many scholars believe the biblical texts describing the revelation at Sinai first coalesced.

The Jebel Musa location for Mt. Sinai is by no means universally accepted. In these very pages, Harvard University professor emeritus Frank Moore Cross, championing a strand of earlier scholarship, suggested that the real Mt. Sinai is not the mountain that overlooks St. Catherine’s.* According to Cross and others, it’s not even in the Sinai peninsula—they believe Mt. Sinai was in ancient Midian, modern northwestern Saudi Arabia and southern Jordan.

BR 16:02. 2004 (H. Shanks, Ed.). Biblical Archaeology Society.
 

#6 Digging Mount Sinai From the Bible  BY David Faiman

Too Many Theories—Why?

  There are many theories about where the Biblical Mt. Sinai was located. Among scholarly books on the subject I would draw attention to three which arrive at extremely different conclusions: Davies (1979), who concludes that it is in the south of the Sinai peninsula, at the traditional location of Jebel Musa; Har-El (1983), who locates it in the northwest of the peninsula at Jebel Sin Bishr, and Anati (1986), who identifies it with Har Karkom in the Negev, just beyond the eastern edge of the peninsula. There are also many other candidate peaks scattered throughout the Sinai peninsula, but these three represent the extremes of this triangular land mass. Furthermore, “extreme” as these conclusions might seem relative to one another, they are conservative compared to other scholars who have located the mountain of the theophany entirely outside of the Sinai peninsula—in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and even beyond.

  In order to understand how it is possible for large numbers of serious scholars to reach totally different conclusions about what appears to be such a basic element of our Biblical heritage, it is necessary to appreciate two facts.

  First, the Bible is not a geography book. Rather, it is a theological treatise, some of whose message happens to be set within a geographical framework and one, moreover, which was taken as being self-evident to the book’s ancient readers. To this end, the narrative concerning the Exodus of the ancient Israelites from Egypt, their arrival at Mt. Sinai and their subsequent peregrinations until their ultimate entry to the Promised Land—i.e. everything of a merely geographical interest—is told with scant detail, and with frequent interruptions for the more basic theological message. Furthermore, the geographical details are often repetitive and, in many cases, seemingly contradictory. (For example, Numbers 20:28 and 33:38 tell us that Moses’ brother, Aaron, died on Mt. Hor, whereas Deuteronomy 10:6 says it happened at Moserah.)

  Second, presumably because of the seeming contradictions in the geographic narrative, many scholars permit themselves the freedom to be selective as to which Biblical verses they consider to be the “important” ones. Unfortunately, since there is no universal agreement about which verses are the most relevant, different choices will lead to different conclusions, and this could be the reason why there are so many theories about the location of Mt. Sinai.

 Vol. 13: Bible and Spade (2000) Volume 13. 2000 (115). Ephrata, PA: Associates for Biblical Research.
 

#7. The I.S.B.E.

5. Patristic Evidence: A constant tradition fixing the site is traceable back to the 4th century AD. Eusebius and Jerome (Onomasticon, under the word “Choreb”) place Horeb near Paran, which in their time was placed (Onomasticon, under the word “Raphidim”) in Wâdy Feirân. Anchorites lived at Paran, and at Sinai at least as early as 365 AD, and are noticed in 373 AD, and often later (Robinson, Biblical Res., 1838, I, 122-28); the monastery was first built for them by Justinian in 527 AD and his chapel still exists. Cosmas (Topogr. Christ.), in the same reign, says that Rephidim was then called Pharan, and (distinguishing Horeb from Sinai, as Eusebius also does) he places it “about 6 miles from Pharan,” and “near Sinai.” These various considerations may suffice to show that the tradition as to Horeb is at least as old as the time of Josephus, and that it agrees with all the indications given in the Old Testament.

6. Lepsius’ Theory: Lepsius, it is true (Letters from Egypt, 1842-44), denying the existence of any unbroken tradition, and relying on his understanding of Cosmas, supposed Sinai to be the Jebel Serbâl above mentioned, which lies immediately South of Wâdy Feirân. His main argument was that, visiting Sinai in March, he considered that the vicinity did not present sufficient water for Israel (Appendix B, 303-18). But, on this point, it is sufficient to give the opinion of the late F. W. Holland, based on the experience of four visits, in 1861, 1865, 1867-68. He says (Recovery of Jerusalem, 524): “With regard to water-supply there is no other spot in the whole Peninsula which is nearly so well supplied as the neighborhood of Jebel Mûsa. Four streams of running water are found there: one in Wâdy Leja; a second in Wâdy et Ṭlʼah which waters a succession of gardens extending more than 3 miles in length, and forms pools in which I have often had a swim; a third stream rises to the North of the watershed of the plain of er Raḥah and runs West into Wâdy et Ṭlʼah; and a fourth, is formed by the drainage from the mountains of Umm ʽAlawy, to the East of Wâdy Sebaiyeh and finds its way into that valley by a narrow ravine opposite Jebel ed Deir. In addition to these streams there are numerous wells and springs, affording excellent water throughout the whole of the granitie district. I have seldom found it necessary to carry water when making a mountain excursion, and the intermediate neighborhood of Jebel Mûsa would, I think, bear comparison with many mountain districts in Scotland with regard to its supply of water. There is also no other district in the Peninsula which affords such excellent pasturage.” This is important, as Israel encamped near Sinai from the end of May till April of the next year. There is also a well on the lower slope of Jebel Musa itself, where the ascent begins.

4. Description of Jebel Musu: Jebel Mûsa has two main tops, that to the Southeast being crowned by a chapel. The other, divided by gorges into three precipitous crags, has the Convent to its North, and is called Râs-es-Ṣafṣâfeh, or “the willow top.” North of the Convent is the lower top of Jebel ed Deir (“mountain of the monastery”). These heights were accurately determined by Royal Engineer surveyors in 1868 (Sir C. Wilson, Ordnance Survey of Sinai); and, though it is impossible to say which of the peaks Moses ascended, yet they are all much higher than any mountains in the Sinaitic desert, or in Midian. The highest tops in the Tı̂h desert to the North are not much over 4,000 ft. Those in Midian, East of Elath, rise only to 4,200 ft. Even Jebel Serbâl, 20 miles West of Sinai—a ridge with many crags, running 3 miles in length—is at its highest only 6, 730 ft. above the sea. Horeb is not recorded to have been visited by any of the Hebrews after Moses, except by Elijah (1 Ki 19:8) in a time of storm. In favor of the traditional site it may also be observed that clouds suddenly formed, or lasting for days (Ex 24:15 f), are apt to cap very lofty mountains. The Hebrews reached Sinai about the end of May (Ex 19:1) and, on the 3rd day, “there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount” (Ex 19:16). Such storms occur as a rule in the Sinaitic desert only in December and January, but thunderstorms are not unknown in Palestine even in May.

3. Identification with Jebel Musa: These distances will not, however, allow of our placing Sinai farther East than Jebel Mûsa. Lofty mountains, in all parts of the world, have always been sacred and regarded as the mysterious abode of God; and Josephus says that Sinai is “the highest of all the mountains thereabout,” and again is “the highest of all the mountains that are in that country, and is not only very difficult to be ascended by men, on account of its vast. altitude but because of the sharpness of its precipices: nay, indeed, it cannot be looked at without pain of the eyes, and besides this it was terrible and inaccessible, on account of the rumor that passed about, that God dwelt there” (Ant., II, xii, 1; III, v, 1). Evidently in his time Sinai was supposed to be one of the peaks of the great granitic block called et Ṭûr—a term applying to any lofty mountain. This block has its highest peak in Jebel Kâtarı̂n (so named from a legend of Catherine of Egypt), rising 8, 550 ft. above the sea. Northeast of this is Jebel Mûsa (7, 370 ft.), which, though less high, is more conspicuous because of the open plain called er Râḥah (“the wide”) to its Northwest. This plain is about 4 miles long and has a width of over a mile, so that it forms, as Dr. E. Robinson (Biblical Researches, 1838, I, 89) seems to have been the first to note, a natural camp at the foot of the mountain, large enough for the probable numbers (see EXODUS, 3.) of Israel.

2. Traditional Site: The indications of position, in various passages of the Pentateuch, favor the identification with the traditional site, which has become generally accepted by all those explorers who have carefully considered the subject, though two other theories may need notice. Moses fled to the land of Midian (or “empty land”), which lay East of the Sinaitic peninsula (Nu 22:4, 7; 25; 31), and when he wandered with his flocks to Horeb (Ex 3:1) he is said to have reached the west side of the desert. In another note (Dt 1:2) we read that the distance was “eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea” or Petra (see WANDERINGS OF ISRAEL), the distance being about 145 miles, or 14 miles of daily march, though Israel—with its flocks, women and children—made 16 marches between these points. Sinai again is described as being distant from Egypt “three days’ journey into the wilderness” (Ex 5:3), the actual route being 117 miles, which Israel accomplished in 10 journeys. But, for Arabs not encumbered with families and herds, this distance could still be covered by an average march of 39 miles daily, on riding camels, or even, if necessary, on foot.
 

#8.  Bible Verses:

HOREB, a range of mountains of which Sinai is chief, Ex. 3:1; 17:6; 33:6; Deut. 1:2, 6, 19; 4:10, 15; 5:2; 9:8; 29:1; 1 Kin. 8:9; 19:8; 2 Chr. 5:10; Psa. 106:19; Mal. 4:4. See SINAI.

Swanson, J., & Nave, O. (1994). New Nave’s Topical Bible. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

SINAI. 1. A mountain in the peninsula E. of Red Sea. Called also SINA-HORA. Children of Israel arrive at, in their wanderings in the wilderness, Ex. 16:1; 19:2; Deut. 1:2. The law delivered to Moses upon, Ex. 19:3–25; 20; 24:12–18; 32:15, 16; 34:2–4; Lev. 7:38; 25:1; 26:46; 27:34; Num. 3:1; Deut. 4:15; 5:26; 29:1; 33:2; Neh. 9:13; Psa. 68:8, 17; Mal. 4:4; Acts 7:30, 38.

Swanson, J., & Nave, O. (1994). New Nave’s Topical Bible. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.
 

#9. PROBLEMS WITH MT. SINAI IN SAUDI ARABIA  Compiled by Brad C. Sparks

PROBLEM NO. 1:

The Bible Puts Mt. Sinai in the Sinai

Adventurers Larry Williams and Bob Cornuke in their recently reprinted book claim that the Bible over and over states “clearly…that Mount Sinai is in Arabia” 1 — an admittedly crucial point “upon which the thrust of our argument will fall” if disproved Biblically.2 Howard Blum has retold their story in a new book, The Gold of Exodus, published by Simon & Schuster (1998), and Cornuke has now come out with his own separate book (2000). There is a certain amount of irony if not implausibility in their argument which in essence tries to take Mt. Sinai out of the Sinai.

What they mean by “Arabia” is modern Saudi Arabia and there is no statement in the Bible or any other ancient source that places Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia by whatever ancient name (in this case Midian). In fact, it is quite the reverse, Mt. Sinai is clearly placed outside of Saudi Arabia and right on the Sinai Peninsula as we would expect.

Exodus 18:27 states that, while the Israelites were camped near Mt. Sinai,3 Moses sent his Midianite (Saudi Arabian) father-in-law Jethro back to”his own country” of Midian (NIV, emphasis added). Clearly, Mt. Sinai and northwestern Saudi Arabia (Midian) were in two different locations. The making of the statement signals the importance of the action, it was not a trivial event or insignificant journey for Jethro to go back to Midian from Mt. Sinai.

This incident was repeated about a year hence on a later visit to Mt. Sinai by Moses’ Midianite father-in-law or nephew Hobab (Numbers 10:29-31). Moses asked him to stay and guide the Israelites to the Promised Land, but he declined, saying he would return to “my own land” (Midian) and “my own people” (Midianites) from Mt. Sinai. (NIV, emphasis added) He did not want to go on a long journey to Moses’ land with Moses’ people. Hobab’s land (in what is modern Saudi Arabia) was clearly not the same land where they were at (Mt. Sinai) and not the same land where they were going (Canaan), which were national or geopolitical entities spread across a great distance and requiring an expert guide to navigate.

The only response to these difficult arguments from the Bible has been to suggest that everything was really happening at Mt. Sinai in Midianite Saudi Arabia and that Hobab merely meant that he was going back to his own tent nearby, which trivializes the watershed decision and is frankly absurd. If this conversation at Mt. Sinai was really taking place already in Hobab’s homeland of Midian among his people the Midianites then Hobab would have said to Moses “You go on your journey but I am staying here in my land with my people.” Hobab obviously did not say that. It was a parting of ways with the two going their separate routes.

Another variation of this back-to-his-tent counterargument tries to split the difference and elevates Hobab’s tent to a city. But that makes no sense either, the verses are not talking about Moses going to his own city (the Promised “City” instead of Promised Land?) and Hobab going back to his own city.

This devastating Biblical disproof of Sinai-in-Arabia was first made in a book that Williams and Cornuke quote and use as an important reference, yet they never mention the disproof to their readers. It was in Prof. Menashe Har-El’s 1983 book The Sinai Journeys: The Route of the Exodus. It was again repeated to Cornuke and Williams in Dec. 1996 when the draft of this article was presented to them in advance of publication on this website in Jan. 1997 and again there was no response, though one was promised in writing. Four years later an unofficial rebuttal has been presented privately but hasn’t been made public as of this date.

Biblical geographer Har-El of Tel Aviv University was evidently the first to develop this disproof of Sinai-in-Arabia notion in his critique of Charles Beke’s theory, which goes back to the 19th century. Williams and Cornuke got their theory from still another adventurer Ron Wyatt,4 but they make no mention of the theory’s origin in modern scholarly theories (which in turn may originate in medieval Muslim polemics against Christians). In 1834, Beke proposed that the land called Mizraim where Israel was held in bondage was not Egypt but Arabia, that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea over the Gulf of Aqaba instead of Suez and so Mt. Sinai was to be sought in Arabia. By 1871 Beke suggested that Mt. Sinai was a volcano in what is now Saudi Arabia. (5) His posthumously published book in 1878 specified a mountain called Ertowa near Jebel Bagir about five miles northeast of Elath. (6)

Har-El comments that the passage in Numbers shows that “while the Israelites were still at Mount Sinai,” Moses’ father-in-law “was outside his own country, Midian, to which he wished to return, and it also proves that Mount Sinai was not in Midian [Saudi Arabia]….” (7)

 

#10. Is Mount SINAI in the SINAI? By The BASE Institute

For centuries, Bible scholars and religious pilgrims have been seeking the location of Mt. Sinai. Today, most people are unaware that not one piece of hard evidence has been produced to verify that what is traditionally designated at “Mount Sinai” in the south central Sinai Peninsula is indeed the famed mountain of Moses and the Exodus. In fact, the only verifiable reason that the traditional site is designated “Mount Sinai” at all is because a Roman mystic designated it and Helena, mother of Constantine I, anointed it as the true Mount Sinai early in the 4th century AD. (Helena also claimed she discovered the true “holy sepulcher” in Jerusalem and the true cross of Christ.)

Several other proposed sites for the true Mount Sinai have been suggested by biblical scholars, but, thus far, they have produced no archaeological evidence in support. If we are ever to discern a correct location for the historical events recorded in the biblical Book of Exodus, it’s important to use the Scriptures as a guide, just as we would use any ancient documents that have previously been proven reliable.

In the New Testament, Paul wrote in Galatians 4:25, “Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia . . .”Although some argue that here the Roman designation of Arabia includes the Sinai Peninsula, Arabia in Paul’s day encompassed a larger region that primarily designated the populated regions of ancient Midian, or modern-day Saudi Arabia. As a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” Paul’s understanding of Arabia would have been one that was consistent with Old Testament passages like 1 Kings 10:15, 2 Chronicles 9:14, Isaiah 21:13, Jeremiah 25:24, and Ezekiel 27:21, in which Arabia is clearly identified with the region east of the Gulf of Aqaba, where “kings” ruled and the “Dedanites” co-dwelt with other nomadic peoples.

Even more telling, Exodus 3:1 plainly identifies Mount Horeb (Sinai) as being in Midian: “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.” Here, there are two important issues. First, the region of “Midian” referred to here is undeniably the same as present-day Saudi Arabia. Second, at the traditional site of Mt. Sinai on the Sinai Peninsula, there is nothing that would cause it to be geographically identified with the “back” of a desert, in distinction from its surroundings. By contrast, the site proposed by BASE Institute is, indeed, on the far side or margin of a vast desert in ancient Midian.

However, can ancient Midian be identified with the Sinai Peninsula, which in the time of Moses, was considered a part of Egypt (although designated as the “wilderness” of Egypt)? It is apparent from Exodus 2:15 that the two were separate entities. After killing an Egyptian, Moses fled Egypt for safer ground: “When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian.” Egypt and its holdings would not have been safe for Moses under any circumstances. He would not have fled to the Sinai Peninsula, where archaeology shows that Pharaoh had multiple mining interests and military outposts. The Bible is clear that Moses went out of Egypt, to the land of Midian east of the gulf of Aqaba.

 
 
Addition Notes:
 
You can read more over at the ABR website: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2013/12/19/Where-is-Mount-Sinai-in-Arabia-%28Galatians-425%29.aspx
 
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