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  • 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.