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Home Forums Location of Mount Sinai MOUNT SINAI CANDIDATES BY REGION


  • Deborah Hurn

    September 26, 2021 at 5:42 am

    To get things going for the open debate on Mount Sinai and the Exodus route, I will post here an Appendix to my dissertation on the biblical regions. The Appendix simply groups the mountains by region with a simple summary of the biblical case for each.



    For the first two stages of the wilderness itinerary (Goshen-to-Sinai; Sinai-to-Kadesh), proposed locations for the geographic regions depend largely upon scholars’ preferred candidates for Mount Sinai (Fig. 7: Mount Sinai-Horeb Candidates). There are so many mountain candidates with varying credentials and, in many instances, inadequate literature that it is not possible to properly and fairly compare them. As Hershel Shanks observes:

    “More than twenty sites in the Sinai Peninsula have been identified as Mount Sinai, all based on Exodus routes referred to in the Bible or late traditions or early traveler accounts…. There is not even a single site that draws the majority of scholars. On the contrary, some (or many) of the sites identified as Mount Sinai are one-person proposals. None of the identifications has gained any traction.”[1]

    In an investigation dedicated to the geographic regions of the exodus and wanderings, therefore, it is better to group and consider the candidates by region. Menashe Har-El takes such an approach in his 1968 investigation of exodus geography, representing and critiquing the views of representative scholars who variously locate Mount Sinai in:

    1. the southern Sinai Peninsula

    2. the northern Sinai Peninsula

    3. ‘Midian’ (by which he means northwest Saudi Arabia)

    4. ‘Edom’ (now southern Jordan).[2]

    James K. Hoffmeier and Barry J. Beitzel also classify the Mount Sinai candidates by region but combine into one group all candidates to the east of the Rift Valley (the Arabah and Aqaba Gulf).[3]

    [1] Hershel Shanks, “Respondent’s Remarks,” in Session III: (Re)Locating Mount Sinai: A Survey of Alternative Theories (Mount Sinai–Mount Karkom?, Mizpe Ramon, 2013).

    [2] Har-El, Sinai Journeys, 175–284.

    [3] Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai, 125–48; Beitzel, New Moody Bible Atlas, 109–13.

  • Deborah Hurn

    September 26, 2021 at 5:50 am


    The tradition that Mount Sinai lies in the southern Sinai Peninsula arose from biblical indications that a great distance lies between Mount Sinai-Horeb and Kadesh-barnea. The Deuteronomy foreword seems to situate Mount Horeb at eleven days’ walking distance from Kadesh-barnea (Deut 1:1-2, cf. v. 19),[1] while the Numbers itinerary lists some twenty stations between these terminals (Num 33:16-36).[2] The prophet Elijah, having travelled a day’s journey past Beersheba into the wilderness, then went a further forty days without food on his pilgrimage to Mount Horeb (1 Kgs 19:3-8). Kadesh-barnea, known to lie on the southern border of Judah (Num 34:4; Josh 15:1-4), was eventually identified at Ayn Qudayrat[3] some three or four days’ walk southwest from Beersheba (78 linear km) on a trajectory towards the southern Sinai.

    Explorers who support the traditional location of Mount Sinai at Jebel Musa or other peaks in southern Sinai include John L. Burckhardt,[4] Eduard Rüppell,[5] Edward Robinson,[6] Edward H. Palmer,[7] Samuel C. Bartlett,[8] and W. M. Flinders Petrie.[9] Later scholars supporting a southern Mount Sinai include Yohanan Aharoni,[10] Israel Finkelstein,[11] Kenneth A. Kitchen,[12]James K. Hoffmeier,[13] Anson F. Rainey,[14] and Barry J. Beitzel.[15]

    [1]</sup></sup> See #6.5 “Eleven days from Horeb”.

    [2]</sup></sup> See #6.14 Wanderings: Zin and Paran.

    [3]</sup></sup> Woolley and Lawrence, Wilderness of Zin, 1914–1915:6.

    [4]</sup></sup> Jebel Serbal. Burckhardt, Travels in Syria.

    [5]</sup></sup> Jebel Serbal. Eduard Rüppell, Reisen in Nubien, Kordofan, Und Dem Petraischen Arabien (Frankfurt am Main: Friedrich Wilmans, 1829).

    [6]</sup></sup> Jebel Musa. Robinson, Biblical Researches, I:87–213.

    [7]</sup></sup> Ras Safsafa. Palmer, The Desert of the Exodus, Part I:1–145.

    [8]</sup></sup> Jebel Serbal. Bartlett, From Egypt to Palestine, 238–84.

    [9]</sup></sup> Jebel Serbal. Petrie, Researches in Sinai, 206, 247–54 Petrie’s assistant, Charles T. Currelly, wrote the last four chapters about Mount Sinai and the southern regions.

    10]</sup></sup> Unspecified peak. Yohanan Aharoni, The Land of Israel in Bible Times (Hbw), First published 1949 (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1962), 169–73.

    [11]</sup></sup> Unspecified peak. Finkelstein and Perevolotsky, “Southern Sinai Exodus Route,” 26–35, 38–41.

    [12]</sup></sup> Jebel Musa. Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI / Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans, 2003), 170.

    [13]</sup></sup> Ras Safsafa or Jebel Serbal. Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai, 140–48.

    [14]</sup></sup> Unspecified peak. Rainey and Notley, The Sacred Bridge, 120.

    [15]</sup></sup> Prefers Jebel Musa. Beitzel, New Moody Bible Atlas, 112–13.

    • Deborah Hurn

      September 26, 2021 at 5:57 am

      ran out of time to edit out all the format code which plagues this forum 🙁

  • Deborah Hurn

    September 26, 2021 at 5:58 am


    The proposal that Mount Sinai lies in the northern Sinai Peninsula also arose from biblical indicators. First, Moses’ request of Pharaoh to let the Hebrew slaves go three days’ journey into the wilderness to worship God (Exod 5:3; cf. 3:18; 8:27) together with the detail that their ultimate destination was Mount Sinai (19:1-4) may suggest that Mount Sinai lies three days’ journey from Goshen. Second, flocks of quail arrived at the Israelite camp after the people left the Red Sea coast and again after leaving Mount Sinai for Kadesh (Exod 16:13; Num 11:31-32). Quail are commonly netted in northern Sinai during their annual migration between southern Europe and Arabia or West Africa.[1] Third, Amalekite encounters with Israel during the journey from Goshen to Mount Sinai (Deut 25:17-18; Exod 17:8-13; 19:1-2) favour a route through the central or northern peninsula where Amalekites were otherwise active (Num 13:29; 14:25; Judg 1:16; cf. 1 Sam 15:6). Fourth, certain biblical poetic passages associate Sinai with Seir, Edom, Paran, Teman, and Midian (Deut 33:2; Judg 5:4; Hab 3:3, 7). According to other biblical and historical mentions in context, these regions lie on either side of the Arabah far from the southern Sinai Peninsula.[2]

    Explorers and scholars who propose locations in the northern Sinai Peninsula include Heinrich Graetz,[3] Gerhard Kittel,[4] Claude S. Jarvis,[5] Theodor Wiegand,[6] and Menashe Har-El, the latter offering a mountain candidate in west-central Sinai near the ancient cross-Sinai road.[7] Both Hebrew and English editions of Har-El’s investigation were published before Anati publicised his candidate, Har Karkom, so a review of Negev candidates does not appear.[8] Nonetheless, some of the arguments for and against candidates in the north of the peninsula are applicable.[9] Simcha Jacobovici offers another candidate in the Negev, also near the ancient cross-Sinai road, by triangulating a fourteen-days’ distance from Elim on the Suez coast (Exod 16:1-2; cf. 19:1) with an eleven-days’ distance from Kadesh (Deut 1:2) and “grazing distance” from the homeground of the Kenite clan (Exod 3:1) which he locates at Timna in the Southern Arabah.[10]

    <sup><sup>[1]</sup></sup> G. Wyper, “Quail,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988), 4.

    <sup><sup>[2]</sup></sup> See #6.12 Mount Seir (West): Geozone; #5.14 Wilderness of Paran; #7.8 Southern Arabah; #7.9 Land of Midian.

    <sup><sup>[3]</sup></sup> Jebel Araif en-Naqa. Heinrich Graetz, “Die Lage des Sinai oder Horeb,” Monatsschrift für die Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums 27 (1878): 337–60.

    <sup><sup>[4]</sup></sup> Jebel Araif en-Naqa. Rudolf Kittel, Geschichte Des Volkes Israel, (not in Eng. trans), vol. 1, 2 vols. (Stuttgart: Gotha, 1916).

    <sup><sup>[5]</sup></sup> Jebel Hallal. Jarvis, Yesterday and Today in Sinai, 165–84.

    <sup><sup>[6]</sup></sup> Jebel Yelleq. Theodor Wiegand, Sinai, vol. 1, Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen Des Deutsch-Türkischen Denkmalschutz-Kommandos (Berlin / Leipzig: De Gruyter, 1920), 53.

    <sup><sup>[7]</sup></sup> Jebel Sinn Bishr. Har-El, Sinai Journeys, 415–30.

    <sup><sup>[8]</sup></sup> Anati, Har Karkom: Montagna Sacra; Anati, “Has Mt. Sinai Been Found?,” 42–57.

    <sup><sup>[9]</sup></sup> See #5.17 Har Karkom–Mount Sinai.

    <sup><sup>[10]</sup></sup> Hashem al-Tarif. Simcha Jacobovici, “The Real Mount Sinai,” in Session III: (Re)Locating Mount Sinai: A Survey of Alternative Theories (Mount Sinai–Mount Karkom?, Mizpe Ramon, 2013); Simcha Jacobovici, “Mount Sinai Has Been Located,” The Jerusalem Post, September 25, 2013.

  • Deborah Hurn

    September 26, 2021 at 6:01 am


    The proposal that Mount Sinai lies in Arabia or southern Transjordan also rose from biblical indicators. First, when Moses fled from Pharaoh, he settled in the land of Midian and married a woman of the Kenite clan (Exod 2:15-16, 21; cf. Judg 1:16). His divine calling while leading sheep occurred at “the mount of God, Horeb” located “beyond the wilderness” in or near Midian (Exod 3:1-2). Midian is commonly supposed to lie beyond the Aqaba Gulf because Abraham sent Midian and five other sons by Keturah “eastward to the east country” (Gen 25:1-6) and also because Classical and Arab historians locate Midian to the east of the Gulf of Aqaba.[1] Second, naturalistic explanations for biblical miracles suggest that the terrifying display on Mount Sinai at the giving of the Sinaitic Covenant describes volcanic activity (Exod 24:17; Deut 4:11-12; 5:22-26; 9:10, 15; 10:4; Judg 5:5; Psa 68:8; Hag 2:6)[2] in a region where the only volcanoes lie to the east of the Rift Valley.[3] Third, the apostle Paul explicitly locates Mount Sinai in Arabia (Gal 4:25), a region suggested by some to be limited to the country east of the Jordan.[4]

    Explorers who propose locations in Arabia and Transjordan include Charles T. Beke,[5] Aloïs Musil,[6] and Harry S. J. B. Philby.[7] Later scholars who support Mount Sinai candidates in Arabia include Ditlef Nielsen,[8] Alfred Lucas,[9] Frank Moore Cross,[10] Allen Kerkeslager,[11] Colin J. Humphreys (physicist),[12] and Glenn Fritz (geographer).[13] Other proponents and defenders of the popular Jebel al-Lawz option are Larry Williams[14] and Bob Cornuke,[15] Howard Blum,[16] Lennart Möller,[17] and Joel Richardson.[18]

    It is not the task of this investigation to interrogate the claims for all Mount Sinai candidates. In any case, the debate on the identity of the mountain seems to have largely settled on a representative mountain for each region—Jebel Musa in Southern Sinai, Har Karkom in Northern Sinai, and Jebel al-Lawz in Arabia. The arguments for these three front-runners are by now so polarised and the parties so entrenched that the issue can no longer be addressed ‘head-on’ with a pros-and-cons style approach. There is another way to determine the best Mount Sinai candidate—not by its features or traditions but by its location relative to the regions of the wilderness journeys. The one that makes the best geographical sense should claim first place.

    <sup><sup>[1]</sup></sup> Davies, The Way of the Wilderness, 52, 64 citing Yakut 3.557 and Maraṣid 2.214 and citing von Wissman’s discussion of Ptolemy’s Geography and Josephus’ Antiquities (2.257) in; August Pauly, Georg Wissowa, and Wilhelm Kroll, Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2013), 525–52, 544–45.

    <sup><sup>[2]</sup></sup> Charles T. Beke, Mount Sinai a Volcano (London: Tinsley Bros., 1873).

    <sup><sup>[3]</sup></sup> Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai, 131.

    <sup><sup>[4]</sup></sup> Beke, Sinai in Arabia, 4; Cornuke and Halbrook, In Search of the Mountain of God, 170–71.

    <sup><sup>[5]</sup></sup> Jebel Baghir/Ithm. Beke, Sinai in Arabia.

    <sup><sup>[6]</sup></sup> Seib al-Hrob (Jebel Harb). Aloïs Musil, The Northern Hejaz (New York: American Geographic Society, 1926), 263–64.

    <sup><sup>[7]</sup></sup> Jebel Manifa. Harry St. John B. Philby, The Land of Midian (London: Ernest Benn, 1957).

    <sup><sup>[8]</sup></sup> Jebel al-Madhbah. Ditlef Nielsen, The Site of the Biblical Mount Sinai: A Claim for Petra (Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1928).

    <sup><sup>[9]</sup></sup> Jebel Baghir. Alfred Lucas, The Route of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (London: E. Arnold, 1938).

    <sup><sup>[10]</sup></sup> Jebel al-Lawz. Hershel Shanks, Frank Moore Cross: Conversations With a Bible Scholar (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1994).

    <sup><sup>[11]</sup></sup> Jebel al-Lawz. Kerkeslager, “Mt. Sinai—in Arabia?,” 23–39, 52.

    <sup><sup>[12]</sup></sup> Hala al-Badr. Humphreys, Miracles of the Exodus.

    <sup><sup>[13]</sup></sup> Jebel al-Lawz. Glen A. Fritz, The Exodus Mysteries of Midian, Sinai, & Jabal al-Lawz (Vero Beach, FA: GeoTech, 2019).

    <sup><sup>[14]</sup></sup> Larry R. Williams, The Mountain of Moses: The Discovery of Mount Sinai (New York, NY: Wynwood, 1990).

    <sup><sup>[15]</sup></sup> Cornuke and Halbrook, In Search of the Mountain of God.

    <sup><sup>[16]</sup></sup> Howard Blum, The Gold of the Exodus: The Discovery of the True Mount Sinai (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998).

    <sup><sup>[17]</sup></sup> In company with Jim and Penny Caldwell. Lennart Möller, The Exodus Case: New Discoveries Confirm the Historical Exodus, 3rd ext. ed. (Copenhagen, Denmark: Casscom Media / Scandinavia Publishing, 2008).

    <sup><sup>[18]</sup></sup> Richardson, Mount Sinai.

  • Deborah Hurn

    September 26, 2021 at 6:06 am


    The three general regions for locating Mount Sinai candidates—southern Sinai Peninsula, northern Sinai Peninsula, and Arabia (territories east of the Rift Valley)—have implications for the site of the Red Sea crossing, the direction and extent of the exodus route, and the locations of the wildernesses, as follows:

    · Southern Sinai candidates (including Jebel Musa) limit the Red Sea crossing to somewhere in the Suez Isthmus,[1] require a journey southeast towards the granite interior of southern Sinai, and confine the wildernesses of the exodus journey to the western side of the Sinai Peninsula.

    · Northern Sinai–Southern Negev candidates (including Har Karkom) limit the Red Sea crossing to somewhere in the Suez Isthmus or along the Mediterranean coast, require a journey eastward across central or northern Sinai, and confine the wildernesses of the exodus journey to the central and northern Sinai Peninsula.

    · Arabia-Transjordan candidates for Mount Sinai (including Jebel al-Lawz) require a journey eastward across the central Sinai, locate the Red Sea crossing somewhere in the Aqaba Gulf (with few exceptions), and confine the wildernesses of the exodus journey to the area around the Aqaba Gulf and the eastern side of the Rift Valley.

    [1] The shallow valley between Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula running some 100 km between the Mediterranean Sea in the north and the Red Sea in south.

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