Biblical Mount Sinai

Biblical Mount Sinai

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The Biblical Mount Sinai (Hebrew: הר סיני, Har Sinai) is the mountain at which the Book of Exodus states that the Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

 were given to Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 by God
Tetragrammaton
The term Tetragrammaton refers to the name of the God of Israel YHWH used in the Hebrew Bible.-Hebrew Bible:...

. Even prior to this, the mountain was considered holy, as Moses had encountered the burning bush
Burning bush
The burning bush is an object described by the Book of Exodus as being located on Mount Sinai; according to the narrative, the bush was on fire, but was not consumed by the flames, hence the name...

 upon the same mountain (called "Horeb" in the first instance).

In certain biblical passages these events are described as having transpired at Mount Horeb
Mount Horeb
Mount Horeb, Hebrew: , Greek in the Septuagint: , Latin in the Vulgate: , is the mountain at which the book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible states that the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God. It is described in two places as the Mountain of God or perhaps Mountain of the gods...

. According to the researchers of the documentary hypothesis
Documentary hypothesis
The documentary hypothesis , holds that the Pentateuch was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors...

, the name "Sinai" is only used in the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 by the Jahwist
Jahwist
The Jahwist, also referred to as the Jehovist, Yahwist, or simply as J, is one of the sources of the Torah. It gets its name from the fact that it characteristically uses the term Yahweh for God in the book of Genesis...

 and Priestly Source
Priestly source
The Priestly Source is one of the sources of the Torah/Pentateuch in the bible. Primarily a product of the post-Exilic period when Judah was a province of the Persian empire , P was written to show that even when all seemed lost, God remained present with Israel...

, whereas Horeb is only used by the Elohist
Elohist
The Elohist is one of four sources of the Torah described by the Documentary Hypothesis. Its name comes from the term it uses for God: Elohim; it is characterised by, among other things, an abstract view of God, using "Horeb" instead of "Sinai" for the mountain where Moses received the laws of...

 and Deuteronomist
Deuteronomist
The Deuteronomist, or simply D, is one of the sources underlying the Hebrew bible . It is found in the book of Deuteronomy, in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings and also in the book of Jeremiah...

. Sinai
Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai , also known as Mount Horeb, Mount Musa, Gabal Musa , Jabal Musa meaning "Moses' Mountain", is a mountain near Saint Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. A mountain called Mount Sinai is mentioned many times in the Book of Exodus in the Torah and the Bible as well as the Quran...

 and Horeb are generally considered to refer to the same place, although there is a small body of opinion that the two names may refer to different locations.

Early Old Testament text describes Mount Sinai in terms which some scholars believe may describe the mountain as a volcano, although the word is omitted. This theory is not shared by all scholars.

After leaving Egypt
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

 and crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites arrived at the foot of the holy mountain and gathered there in anticipation of the words of God.

Etymology



According to some biblical scholars, Horeb is thought to mean "glowing/heat", which seems to be a reference to the sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

, while Sinai may have derived from the name of Sin
Sin (mythology)
Sin or Nanna was the god of the moon in Mesopotamian mythology. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. The two chief seats of Nanna's/Sin's worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north.- Name :The original meaning of...

, the Sumerian
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

 deity of the moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

, and thus Sinai and Horeb would be the mountains of the moon and sun, respectively. Alternatively, "glowing heat" could be a reference to a volcano.

According to the researchers of the Documentary hypothesis
Documentary hypothesis
The documentary hypothesis , holds that the Pentateuch was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors...

, the name "Sinai" is only used in the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 by the Jahwist
Jahwist
The Jahwist, also referred to as the Jehovist, Yahwist, or simply as J, is one of the sources of the Torah. It gets its name from the fact that it characteristically uses the term Yahweh for God in the book of Genesis...

 and Priestly Source
Priestly source
The Priestly Source is one of the sources of the Torah/Pentateuch in the bible. Primarily a product of the post-Exilic period when Judah was a province of the Persian empire , P was written to show that even when all seemed lost, God remained present with Israel...

, whereas Horeb is only used by the Elohist
Elohist
The Elohist is one of four sources of the Torah described by the Documentary Hypothesis. Its name comes from the term it uses for God: Elohim; it is characterised by, among other things, an abstract view of God, using "Horeb" instead of "Sinai" for the mountain where Moses received the laws of...

 and Deuteronomist
Deuteronomist
The Deuteronomist, or simply D, is one of the sources underlying the Hebrew bible . It is found in the book of Deuteronomy, in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings and also in the book of Jeremiah...

. According to Rabbinic
Rabbinic Judaism
Rabbinic Judaism or Rabbinism has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century CE, after the codification of the Talmud...

 tradition, the name Sinai derives from sin-ah , meaning hatred, in reference to the other nations hating the Jews
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 out of jealousy, due to the Jews being the ones to receive the divine
Divinity
Divinity and divine are broadly applied but loosely defined terms, used variously within different faiths and belief systems — and even by different individuals within a given faith — to refer to some transcendent or transcendental power or deity, or its attributes or manifestations in...

 laws.

Regarding the Sumerian Sin deity assumption, William F. Albright
William F. Albright
William Foxwell Albright was an American archaeologist, biblical scholar, philologist and expert on ceramics. From the early twentieth century until his death, he was the dean of biblical archaeologists and the universally acknowledged founder of the Biblical archaeology movement...

, an American biblical scholar, had stated:

Other names


Classical rabbinical literature mentions the mountain having other names:
  • Har ha-Elohim , meaning the mountain of God or the mountain of the gods
  • Har Bashan , meaning the mountain of Bashan
    Bashan
    Bashan or Basan is a biblical place first mentioned in , where it is said that Chedorlaomer and his confederates "smote the Rephaim in Ashteroth", where Og the king of Bashan had his residence. At the time of Israel's entrance into the Promised Land, Og came out against them, but was utterly routed...

    ; however, Bashan is interpreted in rabbinical literature as here being a corruption of beshen, meaning with the teeth, and argued to refer to the sustenance of mankind through the virtue of the mountain
  • Har Gebnunim , meaning the mountain as pure as cheese
    Cheese
    Cheese is a generic term for a diverse group of milk-based food products. Cheese is produced throughout the world in wide-ranging flavors, textures, and forms....



Islamic culture suggests an alternative name to Mount Sinai, that being Koh-e-Toor or al-Toor (Mountain of Toor).

Biblical description



According to the Biblical account of the law-giving, Sinai was enveloped in a cloud, it quaked and was filled with smoke, while lightning-flashes shot forth, and the roar of thunder mingled with the blasts of a trumpet; the account later adds that fire was seen burning at the summit of the mountain. Several scholars have indicated that it seems to suggest that Sinai was a volcano
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

, although there is no mention of ash although not all volcanos generate ash; other scholars have suggested that the description fits a storm, especially as the Song of Deborah seems to allude to rain having occurred at the time, although volcanic activity can cause storms.

In the Biblical account, the fire and clouds are a direct consequence of the arrival of God
Tetragrammaton
The term Tetragrammaton refers to the name of the God of Israel YHWH used in the Hebrew Bible.-Hebrew Bible:...

 upon the mountain. The biblical description of God
Tetragrammaton
The term Tetragrammaton refers to the name of the God of Israel YHWH used in the Hebrew Bible.-Hebrew Bible:...

's descent superficially seems to be in conflict with the statement shortly after that God spoke to the Israelites from heaven; while textual scholars argue that these passages simply have come from different sources, the Mekhilta
Mekhilta
This article refers to the Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael. There is a separate article on the Mekhilta de-Rabbi ShimonMekhilta or Mekilta is a halakic midrash to the Book of Exodus...

argues that God had lowered the heavens and spread them over Sinai, and the Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer
Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer
Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer is an aggadic-midrashic work on Genesis, part of Exodus, and a few sentences of Numbers, ascribed to R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus , a disciple of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai and teacher of Rabbi Akiva. It comprises fifty four chapters...

argues that a hole was torn in the heavens, and Sinai was torn away from the earth and the summit pushed through the hole. 'The heavens' could be a metaphor for clouds and the 'lake of fire' could be a metaphor for the lava-filled crater.

According to the Biblical story, Moses departed to the mountain and stayed there for 40 days and nights in order to receive the Ten Commandments, and he did so twice because he broke the first set of the tablets of stone
Tablets of stone
The Tablets of Stone, Stone Tablets, Tablets of Law, or Tablets of Testimony in the Bible, were the two pieces of special stone inscribed with the Ten Commandments when Moses ascended Mount Sinai as recorded in the Book of Exodus...

 after returning from the mountain for the first time. He returned with a 'glowing' face.

Critical views


Some modern biblical scholars explain Mount Sinai as having been a sacred place dedicated to one of the Semitic deities, even before the Israelites encountered it. Others regard set of laws given on the mountain to have originated in different time periods from one another, with the later ones mainly being the result of natural evolution over the centuries of the earlier ones, rather than all originating from a single moment in time.

Suggested locations


Modern scholars differ as to the exact geographical position of Mount Sinai, and the same has long been true of scholars of Judaism. The location intended would obviously have been known at some point, and the Elijah narrative appears to suggest that when it was written, the location of Horeb was still known with some certainty, as Elijah is described as travelling to Horeb on one occasion, but there are no later biblical references to it that suggest the location remained known; Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 only specifies that it was within Arabia Petraea
Arabia Petraea
Arabia Petraea, also called Provincia Arabia or simply Arabia, was a frontier province of the Roman Empire beginning in the 2nd century; it consisted of the former Nabataean kingdom in modern Jordan, southern modern Syria, the Sinai Peninsula and northwestern Saudi Arabia. Its capital was Petra...

 (a Roman Province encompassing modern Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, southern modern Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, the Sinai Peninsula and northwestern Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 with its capital in Petra
Petra
Petra is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited...

), and the Pauline Epistles
Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen New Testament books which have the name Paul as the first word, hence claiming authorship by Paul the Apostle. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents...

 are even more vague, specifying only that it was in Arabia, which covers most of the south-western Middle east
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

.

The Sinai Peninsula


The Sinai peninsula
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

 has traditionally been considered Sinai's location by Christians, although it should also be noted that the peninsula gained its name from this tradition, and was not called that in Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

' time or earlier. (The Sinai was earlier inhabited by the Monitu and was called Mafkat or Country of Turquoise.) In early Christian times, a number of Anchorites settled on Mount Serbal
Mount Serbal
Mount Serbal is a mountain located in Wadi Feiran in southern Sinai, sometimes identified in texts as Gebel Serbal. At high, it is the fifth highest mountain in Egypt. It is part of the St. Catherine National Park...

, considering it to be the biblical mountain, and in the 4th century a monastery was constructed at its base. Nevertheless, Josephus had stated that Mount Sinai was the highest of all the mountains thereabout, which would imply that Mount Catherine
Mount Catherine
Mount Catherine also known as Gebel Katherîna is the highest mountain in Egypt, located in Saint Katherine city, in Southern provinces of Sinai Peninsula.-See also:*Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai*Saint Katherine city*Mount Sinai...

 was actually the mountain in question, if Sinai was to be sited on the Sinai peninsula at all; in the 6th century, Saint Catherine's Monastery was constructed at the base of this mountain, leading to the abandonment of the monastery at Serbal, and two monks, allegedly in 300 AD, claimed that one of the bushes in the monastic grounds was the biblical Burning Bush
Burning bush
The burning bush is an object described by the Book of Exodus as being located on Mount Sinai; according to the narrative, the bush was on fire, but was not consumed by the flames, hence the name...

, and according to monastic tradition this bush still survives (rather than another having grown in its place).

Unlike these Christian traditions, Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 tradition considered Jabal Musa, which lies adjacent to Mount Catherine, to be the biblical mountain, and it is this mountain that local tour groups and religious groups presently advertise as the biblical Mount Sinai; this claim goes back to the time of Helena of Constantinople
Helena of Constantinople
Saint Helena also known as Saint Helen, Helena Augusta or Helena of Constantinople was the consort of Emperor Constantius, and the mother of Emperor Constantine I...

. Evidently this view was eventually taken up by Christian groups as well, as in the 16th century a church was constructed at the peak of this mountain, which was replaced by a Greek Orthodox chapel in 1954.

According to textual scholars, in the JE
JE
JE is a hypothetical intermediate source text of the Torah postulated by the DH. It is a combination and redaction of the Jahwist and Elohist source texts. According to this hypothesis, J was composed c. 950 BC, E was composed c. 850 BC, and the two were combined into JE c. 750 BC. JE was...

 version of the Exodus narrative, the Israelites travel in a roughly straight line to Kadesh Barnea from the Yam Suph
Yam Suph
Yam Suph is a phrase which occurs about 23 times in the Tanakh and has traditionally been understood to refer to the salt water inlet located between Africa and the Arabian peninsula, known in English as the Red Sea...

(literally meaning "the Reed Sea", but considered traditionally to refer to the Red sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

), and the detour via the south of the Sinai peninsula is only present in the Priestly Source
Priestly source
The Priestly Source is one of the sources of the Torah/Pentateuch in the bible. Primarily a product of the post-Exilic period when Judah was a province of the Persian empire , P was written to show that even when all seemed lost, God remained present with Israel...

. A number of scholars and commentators have therefore looked towards the more central and northern parts of the Sinai peninsula for the mountain. Mount Sin Bishar
Mount Sin Bishar
Mount Sin Bishar is a mountain located in west-central Sinai, it was proposed to be the biblical Mount Sinai by Menashe Har-El, a biblical geographer at Tel Aviv University, in his book The Sinai Journeys: The Route of the Exodus....

, in the west-central part of the peninsula, was proposed to be the biblical Mount Sinai by Menashe Har-El, a biblical geographer
Geographer
A geographer is a scholar whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human society.Although geographers are historically known as people who make maps, map making is actually the field of study of cartography, a subset of geography...

 at Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University is a public university located in Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel. With nearly 30,000 students, TAU is Israel's largest university.-History:...

. Mount Helal
Mount Helal
Mount Helal is a mountain located in northern Sinai that is thought by some, including Claude Scudamore Jarvis, to be the Biblical Mount Sinai.-References:...

, in the north of the peninsula has also been proposed. On the north-east of the peninsula is a mountain named Hashem el-Tarif
Hashem el-Tarif
Hashem el-Tarif is a mountain located in northeast Egyptian, Sinai, close to the border of modern Israel. According to Google Earth, the name of the mountain is "Gebel Khashm el Tarif," its coordinates being near 29°40'9.18"N and 34°38'0.28"E....

, which The Exodus Decoded (a James Cameron
James Cameron
James Francis Cameron is a Canadian-American film director, film producer, screenwriter, editor, environmentalist and inventor...

-produced History Channel special) suggested was the correct location because in addition to its geographic site, it also has certain other features that make it suitable; there is a cleft that overlooks a natural amphitheatre
Amphitheatre
An amphitheatre is an open-air venue used for entertainment and performances.There are two similar, but distinct, types of structure for which the word "amphitheatre" is used: Ancient Roman amphitheatres were large central performance spaces surrounded by ascending seating, and were commonly used...

 at which the Israelites could have been addressed by Moses; there is a nearby plateau
Plateau
In geology and earth science, a plateau , also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. A highly eroded plateau is called a dissected plateau...

 on which the large numbers of Israelites could camp, with enough foliage for their flocks to graze; and there is evidence of an ancient spring
Spring (hydrosphere)
A spring—also known as a rising or resurgence—is a component of the hydrosphere. Specifically, it is any natural situation where water flows to the surface of the earth from underground...

 at the top of the mountain.

Edom/Nabatea


Since Moses is described by the Bible as encountering Jethro
Jethro
In the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible, Jethro |Shu-ayb]]) is Moses' father-in-law, a Kenite shepherd and priest of Midian. He is also revered as a prophet in his own right in the Druze religion, and considered an ancestor of the Druze.-In Exodus:...

, a Kenite who was a Midianite priest, shortly before encountering Sinai, this suggests that Sinai would be somewhere near their territory in Saudi Arabia; the Kenites and Midianites appear to have resided east of the Gulf of Aqaba
Gulf of Aqaba
The Gulf of Aqaba is a large gulf located at the northern tip of the Red Sea. In pre twentieth-century and modern sources it is often named the Gulf of Eilat, as Eilat is its predominant Israeli city ....

. Additionally, the Song of Deborah, which some textual scholars consider one of the oldest parts of the Bible, portrays God as having dwelt at Mount Seir
Mount Seir
Mount Seir formed the south-east border of Edom and Judah, it may also echo the older historical border of Egypt and Canaan.-Tanakh:Mount Seir is specifically noted as the place that Esau made his home . It was named for Seir, the Horite, whose sons inhabited the land...

, and seems to suggest that this equates with Mount Sinai; Mount Seir designates the mountain range in the centre of Edom
Edom
Edom or Idumea was a historical region of the Southern Levant located south of Judea and the Dead Sea. It is mentioned in biblical records as a 1st millennium BC Iron Age kingdom of Edom, and in classical antiquity the cognate name Idumea was used to refer to a smaller area in the same region...

.

Based on a number of local names and features, in 1927 Ditlef Nielsen identified the Jebel al-Madhbah (meaning mountain of the Altar) at Petra
Petra
Petra is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited...

 as being identical to the biblical Mount Sinai; since then, as well as a number of scholars, a number of amateur investigators such as Graham Phillips
Graham Phillips (author)
Graham Phillips is a British author and historical mysteries researcher. Phillips has a background working as a reporter for BBC radio and a magazine editor...

, Andrew Collins, and Chris Ogilvie-Herald have also made the identification. The biblical description of a loud trumpet at Sinai fits the natural phenomenon of the sound of a volcano erupting or the loud trumpeting sound caused by wind being funnelled down the Siq
Siq
al-Siq is the main entrance to the ancient city of Petra in southern Jordan. The dim, narrow gorge winds its way approximately one mile and ends at Petra's most elaborate ruin, Al Khazneh .The Siq is a natural geological fault produced by tectonic forces and worn smooth by water erosion...

; the local Bedouins refer to the sound as the trumpet of God. The dramatic biblical descriptions of devouring fire on the summit, would fit with the fact that there have been many reports and sightings of plasma
Plasma (physics)
In physics and chemistry, plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. Heating a gas may ionize its molecules or atoms , thus turning it into a plasma, which contains charged particles: positive ions and negative electrons or ions...

 phenomena at al-Madhbah over the centuries; the pre-requisite that storm conditions exist before plasma phenomena usually occur would fit with the storm-like biblical description of thunder, lightning, and a thick cloud.

The valley in which Petra resides is known as the Wadi Musa
Wadi Musa
Wadi Musa, , is the name of a town located in the Ma'an Governorate in southern Jordan east of Petra at latitude 30.317N and longitude 35.483E....

, meaning valley of Moses, and at the entrance to the Siq
Siq
al-Siq is the main entrance to the ancient city of Petra in southern Jordan. The dim, narrow gorge winds its way approximately one mile and ends at Petra's most elaborate ruin, Al Khazneh .The Siq is a natural geological fault produced by tectonic forces and worn smooth by water erosion...

 is the Ain Musa, meaning spring of Moses; the 13th century Arab chronicle
Chronicle
Generally a chronicle is a historical account of facts and events ranged in chronological order, as in a time line. Typically, equal weight is given for historically important events and local events, the purpose being the recording of events that occurred, seen from the perspective of the...

r Numari
Numari
-See also:*List of towns and villages in Tibet...

 stated was Ain Musa was the location where Moses had brought water from the ground, by striking it with his rod
Meribah
Meribah is one of the locations which the Torah identifies as having been travelled through by the Israelites, during the Exodus, although the continuous list of visited stations in the Book of Numbers doesn't mention it...

. The Jebel al-Madhbah was evidently considered particularly sacred, as the well known ritual building known as The Treasury
Al Khazneh
Al Khazneh is one of the most elaborate buildings in the ancient Jordanian city of Petra. As with most of the other buildings in this ancient town, including the Monastery , this structure was also carved out of a sandstone rock face...

is carved into its base, the mountain top is covered with a number of different altars, and over 8 metres of the original peak were carved away to leave a flat surface with two 8 metre tall obelisk
Obelisk
An obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top, and is said to resemble a petrified ray of the sun-disk. A pair of obelisks usually stood in front of a pylon...

s sticking out of it; these obelisks, which frame the end of the path leading up to them, and are now only 6 metres tall, have led to the mountain being colloquially known as Zibb 'Atuf, meaning penis of love in Arabic. Archaeological artifacts discovered at the top of the mountain indicate that it was once covered by polished shiny blue slate
Slate
Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low-grade regional metamorphism. The result is a foliated rock in which the foliation may not correspond to the original sedimentary layering...

, fitting with the biblical description of paved work of sapphire stone; biblical references to sapphire are considered by scholars to be unlikely to refer to the stone called sapphire
Sapphire
Sapphire is a gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminium oxide , when it is a color other than red or dark pink; in which case the gem would instead be called a ruby, considered to be a different gemstone. Trace amounts of other elements such as iron, titanium, or chromium can give...

in modern times, as sapphire had a different meaning, and wasn't even mined, before the Roman era. Unfortunately, the removal of the original peak has destroyed most other archaeological remains from the late Bronze Age (the standard dating of the Exodus) that might previously have been present.

Saudi Arabia



Instead of plasma effects, another possible naturalistic explanation of the biblical devouring fire is that Sinai could have been an erupting volcano
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

; this has been suggested by Charles Beke, Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

, and Immanuel Velikovsky
Immanuel Velikovsky
Immanuel Velikovsky was a Russian-born American independent scholar of Jewish origins, best known as the author of a number of controversial books reinterpreting the events of ancient history, in particular the US bestseller Worlds in Collision, published in 1950...

, among others. This possibility would exclude all the peaks on the Sinai peninsula and Seir, but would make a number of locations in north western Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 reasonable candidates. In 1873, Charles Beke proposed that Sinai was the Jabal al-Nour
Jabal al-Nour
Jabal an-Nour , , meaning "The Mountain of Light", is a mountain near the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia...

(meaning mountain of light), a volcanic mountain at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba, and which has great significance in Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 for other reasons; Beke died during the following year, but his writings (published posthumously) retracted this identification four years later in favour of Jebel Baggir, with Horeb being argued to be a different mountain - the nearby Jebel Ertowa. Beke's suggestions have not found as much scholarly support as the candidature of Hala-'l Badr
Hala-'l Badr
Hala-'l Badr is a volcano in north western Saudi Arabia situated at 27.25° N, 37.235° E.A number of scholars, including Charles Beke, Sigmund Freud, and Immanuel Velikovsky, have proposed that the biblical description of devouring fire on Mount Sinai refers to an erupting volcano; this possibility...

; the equation of Sinai with Hala-'l Badr has been advocated by Alois Musil
Alois Musil
Alois Musil was an Austro-Hungarian and Czech theologist, orientalist, explorer and writer.Musil was the oldest son born into the family of a poor farmer...

 in the early 20th century, Jean Koenig in 1971, and Colin Humphreys
Colin Humphreys
Professor Sir Colin John Humphreys, CBE is a British physicist. He is the former Goldsmiths’ Professor of Materials Science and current Director of Research at Cambridge University, Professor of Experimental Physics at the Royal Institution in London and a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge...

 in 2003, among others.

A theory has been put forth that Jabal al-Lawz
Jabal al-Lawz
Jabal al-Lawz is a mountain located in northwest Saudi Arabia, near the Jordan border, above the Gulf of Aqaba at 2580 metres above sea level. The name means mountain of almonds....

in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 is Mount Sinai. Advocates for this theory include Lennart Moller (a Swedish professor in environmental medicine) and also Ron Wyatt
Ron Wyatt
Ronald Eldon Wyatt was an adventurer and former nurse anaesthetist noted for advocating the Durupınar site as the site of Noah's Ark, among other Bible-related pseudoarchaeology...

 and Bob Cornuke
Bob Cornuke
Bob Cornuke is an American writer and amateur archaeologist. Cornuke is president of the Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration Institute , which is operated from his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado...

. Allen Kerkselager, associate professor of Theology at St. Joseph's University has stated that "Jabal al Lawz may also be the most convincing option for identifying the Mt. Sinai of biblical tradition" and should be researched. A number of researchers support this hypothesis while others dispute it. Ken Durham, Assistant Dean of Professional and Biblical Studies of Colorado Christian University, who has conducted on-site research throughout the Middle East, says: "I feel Bob Cornuke's work concerning the locale of Mount Sinai is right on the money."

These have been rejected by scholars such as James Karl Hoffmeier (Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology) who details what he calls Cornuke's "monumental blunders" and others. Gordon Franz, a professional researcher, has studied this topic in depth and has published a refutation of this hypothesis.

The Negev


While equating Sinai with Petra
Petra
Petra is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited...

 would indicate that the Israelites journeyed in roughly a straight line from Egypt via Kadesh Barnea, and locating Sinai in Saudi Arabia would suggest Kadesh Barnea was skirted to the south, some scholars have wondered whether Sinai was much closer to the vicinity of Kadesh Barnea itself. Half way between Kadesh Barnea and Petra is Har Karkom
Har Karkom
Har Karkom is a mountain in the southwest Negev desert in Israel, half way between Petra and Kadesh Barnea. On the basis that the Israelites travelled across the Sinai peninsula towards Petra in a fairly straight line, a number of scholars have contemplated the possibility of Jabal Ideid being the...

, which Emmanuel Anati
Emmanuel Anati
Emmanuel Anati is an Italian archaeologist.-Biography:Anati Emmanuel was born in Florence in 1930 to Ugo and Elsa Castelnuovo, a family of Jewish origin....

 excavated
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, and discovered to have been a major Paleolithic
Paleolithic
The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

 cult centre, with the surrounding plateau covered with shrines, altars, stone circles, stone pillars, and over 40,000 rock engravings; although the peak of religious activity at the site dates to 2350-2000 BC, the exodus is dated 15 Nisan 2448 (Hebrew calendar
Hebrew calendar
The Hebrew calendar , or Jewish calendar, is a lunisolar calendar used today predominantly for Jewish religious observances. It determines the dates for Jewish holidays and the appropriate public reading of Torah portions, yahrzeits , and daily Psalm reading, among many ceremonial uses...

; 1313 BC), and the mountain appears to have been abandoned between 1950-1000 BC, Anati proposed that Jabal Idead was equatable with biblical Sinai. Other scholars have criticised this identification, as, in addition to being almost 1000 years too early, it also appears to require the wholesale relocation of the Midianites, Amalekites, and other ancient peoples, from the locations where the majority of scholars currently place them.

Mount Sinai in culture


In Classical rabbinical literature, Mount Sinai became synonymous with holiness; as it was said that when the Messiah
Jewish Messiah
Messiah, ; mashiah, moshiah, mashiach, or moshiach, is a term used in the Hebrew Bible to describe priests and kings, who were traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil as described in Exodus 30:22-25...

 arrives, God will bring Sinai together with Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel ; , Kármēlos; , Kurmul or جبل مار إلياس Jabal Mar Elyas 'Mount Saint Elias') is a coastal mountain range in northern Israel stretching from the Mediterranean Sea towards the southeast. Archaeologists have discovered ancient wine and oil presses at various locations on Mt. Carmel...

 and Mount Tabor
Mount Tabor
-Places:*Mount Tabor, a hill in Israel near Nazareth believed by many to be the site of the Transfiguration of ChristIn the United States:*Mount Tabor, Indiana, an unincorporated community...

, rebuild the Temple
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

 upon the combined mountain, and the peaks would sing a chorus of praise to God.

See also


  • The Exodus Decoded
  • Judaism
    Judaism
    Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

  • Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai
    Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai
    Saint Catherine's Monastery lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai in the city of Saint Catherine in Egypt's South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is Orthodox and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site...

  • Mount Gerizim
    Mount Gerizim
    Mount Gerizim is one of the two mountains in the immediate vicinity of the West Bank city of Nablus , and forms the southern side of the valley in which Nablus is situated,...

  • Jebel Musa, Morocco
    Jebel Musa, Morocco
    Jebel Musa , Mount Moses in English, is the name given to a mountain located in the northernmost part of Morocco on the African side of the Straits of Gibraltar...

    , whose name translates as mountain of Moses

External links

  • http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14011a.htm|publisher=New Advent, The Catholic Encyclopedia
  • http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,808671,00.html The Lost Mountain, 1956-12-03, TIME