The Sinai

Where is the Real Mount Sinai?

The Sinai photo
The Sinai photo

To this day not everyone agrees where Mount Sinai is. 

Below is a summary of the most popular theories. 

The Direct Northern Route

Some textual scholars think the Israelites travelled straight from the Red Sea to Kadesh Barnea without turning into South Sinai. They therefore looked for high points in the North and found Mount Sin Bishar, Mount Helal, Hashem el-Tarif, Petra and Mount Hermon. 

A Volcano

Some naturalist 20th-century scholars perceived the cloud, smoke, fire and thunder described in Exodus 19 to be a volcano. They then looked for possible volcanoes within the region and found Jebel Baggir / Jebal al-Noor (mountain of light) at the Northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba. 

Arabia

The current most popular view on YouTube is that Mount Sinai is Jebel al-Lawz, in Western Saudi Arabia. This view has been around since the 1980s. Ron Wyatt found ‘evidence’ such as drawings of bulls on the rocks around Jebel  al-Lawz and a large split rock he thought was the rock from which Moses brought water. 

Bob Cornuke, a former Los Angeles SWAT policeman and estate agent, then popularised the case that the Israelites crossed the Gulf of Aqaba from Neweiba to Median Saudi Arabia. He claims to have found the remains of coral-infested chariot wheels at this site. Cornuke also ‘discovered’ anchors from Paul’s shipwreck off Malta and the fossilised remains of Noah’s ark in Iran. His ‘discoveries’ were promoted through books, YouTube, Fox News, CNN, and Good Morning America.

The most interesting part of the thesis is that Moses’s father-in-law Jethro was from Midian in Western Saudi Arabia. Even today some of the Sinai Bedouin on the east coast have close relationships with the Bedouin tribes in Western Saudi Arabia. 

A major problem however is to reach the Gulf of Aqaba from Goshen takes a whole-day bus journey on paved roads. Transporting children, the elderly, livestock, and possessions on foot across such distances so quickly while being pursued by Egypt’s elite army and chariots is problematic. 

The argument mentions that shortly after Christ’s death, Paul refers to Mount Sinai in Arabia, and that Paul visited Arabia for three years. However, Arabia in the first century was not only the Arabian Peninsula but included the Sinai Peninsula and the Syro-Arabian desert within modern-day Syria and Jordan.

The Highest Peak in South Sinai

In his book ‘The Antiquities of the Jews’, the historian Flavius Josephus stated that Mount Sinai was ‘’the highest of all mountains thereabouts.’’ Mount Katerina (2,629m) is the highest peak in the collection of peaks known as Mount Sinai or the Holy Mountains, South Sinai. Jebal Mousa (2,285m), is within this vicinity.

Possible Routes of the Exodus Escape from Egypt to Mount Sinai

The Traditional Southern Route – Jebel Musa, South Sinai

Since the early Christian era, monasticism in South Sinai was an escape from Roman persecution. In the fourth century, monks established places of worship around Jebel Mousa. In 330 CE, Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine I, built a church there to protect monks from raiding nomads. 

From 527 to 563, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I established Saint Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Jebel Musa, where the burning bush was believed to be located. St. Catherine’s Monastery is the oldest continuously functioning monastery and library in the world. For centuries, it kept the Codex Sinaiticus, the fourth-century copy of Scriptures containing the entire New Testament, Torah and Psalms. 

The Monks claim that in 628 CE the Prophet Muhammed sealed a Covenant of Protection for the Monastery with his own hand. This document guarantees the freedom of movement and worship, and other privileges to the followers of Jesus the Nazarene at St. Catherine’s. 

Currently, the tour guides, the local Bedouin, Jews, Muslims and devout, particularly Orthodox, Christians consider Jebel Mousa to be Mount Sinai. 

End Note

Wherever Mount Sinai is located, it represents a time and place where heaven and earth met. The LORD encountered and spoke to Moses and to the children of Israel making a Covenant with them, causing them to become a unique nation shaped by His saving acts, promises, laws and presence with them.  

Reflection

Where do you go to meet with God?

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