- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology
Discovering Mt. Sinai
Why the question marks?
Let us begin this journey by finding Mt. Sinai on the Sinaitic peninsula, on the map provided below. Pay particular attention to the question mark (?) directly after "Mt. Sinai". In fact, you will notice that there are question marks after most of the land marks on the Sinaitic peninsula, meaning that the exact location of those land marks have not yet been established.
What did Paul say?
Next, let us take a moment to ponder on an event which took place during the life of Paul, the apostle. Paul, while bearing his testimony to those who dwelt at Galatia, concerning his visitation from Christ while on his destructive journey to Damascus, shares with his readers where he went to study the gospel of Christ preparatory to his ministry. Let us drop in on Paul's conversation:
"But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son to me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus (Gal. 1:15-17).
In order to capture the essence of what we are about to explore, we must grasp the meaning of what Paul just said. Paul, in his exhortation to those at Galatia, is recalling his experience when he encountered Christ on his way to Damascus. Although the account in Acts (Acts 9:1-8) tells of Saul, who is about to be known as Paul, goes to Damascus after his encounter with Jesus; Paul, in his personal testimony to those at Galatia, states that "immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, ... but I went to Arabia". Let us reason that Paul did go to Damascus as the account in Acts states to regain his vision, but afterward he went to Arabia. Paul is very specific about where he went, he states that afterward he did not confer "with flesh and blood, neither [did he go] up to Jerusalem" where the other apostles were, but that he went to Arabia.
The question I would like to put before us is why did Paul feel the need to go to Arabia? What was, and still may be, of such great importance in Arabia that Paul was desirous to visit? What was the cause of Paul's journey into Arabia? Whatever it was, it must have been of extreme importance. Let's reason this here for a moment. If Jesus were to suddenly appear unto you, where would you go afterward? I can only answer for myself, but I would go to the holiest spot I knew, which is exactly what I think Paul did. He went to a spot, which was very dear and special to him. But what would be in Arabia that would have been so dear and special to Paul?
The Two Covenants
Hold that question, for a moment, and let us continue with what Paul had to say: "For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he (Ishmael) who was of the bondwoman (Hagar) was born after the flesh; but he (Isaac) of the freewoman (Sarah) was by promise. Which things are an allegory; for these (Ishmael and Isaac) are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children" (Gal. 4:22-25 Parenthesis added).
This Agar is none other that the Egyptian handmaid of Sarah, Hagar, who mothered Ishmael, whom Paul refers to as "he who was of the bondwoman". This is the same bondwoman, and her son, who was expelled from Abraham's camp in Gen. 21.
At this point it should be pointed out that Abraham had left Egypt and settled in Hebron, an ancient city of Judah located approximately 20 miles south of Jerusalem; also known as Mamre or Kirjath-Arba. In fact, it was the burial site of Abraham and his family, (Gen. 23); and, it was at this settlement that Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away (Gen 21:14). After their expulsion, we read that Hagar and Ishmael "dwelt in the wilderness of Paran" (Gen 21:21).
This "wilderness of Paran" is described as the desert between Judaea and Sinai, forming the central part of the Sinaitic peninsula. This description would be accurate if Mt. Sinai is on the Sinaitic peninsula, however, according to Paul, Mt. Sinai is in Arabia, not on the Sinaitic peninsula. The Sinaitic peninsula never was a part of Arabia, nor under the sovereignty of any Arabian government. From the days of Abraham until the reign of the Roman Empire, the Sinaitic peninsula never was associated with Arabia.
As Abraham was contemplating over his wife's request to "cast out this bondwoman and her son", he was visited by God who said "unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed" (Gen. 21:10-13). These two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, are the two covenants Paul is referring to in Gal. 4:24.
God promised Abraham that both of his sons would be the progenitor of their own nation. Paul was focusing on this very subject when he wrote: "Which things are an allegory; for these (Ishmael and Isaac) are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai,...and answereth to Jerusalem".
NOTE: As we attempt to understand Paul, it is essential that we differentiate between the higher law and the higher priesthood. They are not to be interpreted as the same. The higher priesthood is the Melchizedek Priesthood; the higher law is the Celestial Law, commonly referred to as the everlasting covenant. One must remember that during the days of Moses the Children of Israel rejected the higher law when Moses first came down from Mt. Sinai, which is exactly what Paul is talking about here. That is why he states that "the one (Ishmael) from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage,...and answereth to Jerusalem". The lesser law answers to the higher law, does it not?
Can you even see the Sinaitic Peninsula from Midian?
At this time it should be pointed out that Midian is that strip of land, which makes up the east coast of the Gulf of Aquabah, placing us in Saudi Arabia, not on the Sinaitic Peninsula. The reason I am pointing this out is that if Moses' place of being was in Saudi Arabia, in the land of Midian, which is the east coast of the Gulf of Aquabah, it would have been impossible for Moses to see any land marks on the Sinaitic Peninsula. Please allow me to introduce the first picture to substantiate the statement of Moses not being able to see any landmarks on the Sinai Peninsula from the land of Midian. The coastline you are looking at in this first photograph is the east coastline of the Gulf of Aquabah. You are looking into the land of Midian. What is of interest to us in this photograph is this; the entire east coastline of the Gulf of Aquabah consists of that mountain range you see in that photo, and, as you can tell, the coastline reaches right up to the edge of this mountain range. The significance of these two statements is that Jethro's camp must have been on the other side of these mountains, on the east side, further inland, into Saudi Arabia. The land of Midian must have been on the east side of these mountains. As you can tell, one would not be able to see into the Sinaitic Peninsula from the land of Midian simply because there is a mountain range in the way. Now the biblical account clearly states that Moses "kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb (Sinai)" (Ex. 3: 1).
The East Coast line of the Gulf of Aquabah
Let us suppose that you are Moses and ...
Let us reason something together. Let us suppose you are Moses tending Jethro's flocks in the land of Midian, which would place you in Saudi Arabia, on the east side of the mountain range in photograph #1. Let us also suppose that Mt. Sinai is on the Sinaitic Peninsula. The time has come for you to "[lead] the flock to the backside of the desert, and [come] to the mountain of God, even to Horeb". In order for you to accomplish this task, supposing that Horeb (Mt. Sinai) is on the Sinaitic Peninsula, you would have to lead Jethro's flocks approximately 75 miles northward, then turn southwest and travel another 75 miles, not to mention the numerous mountains, rivers, cliffs, ravines, and other perilous landforms you and the sheep would have to overcome, just to water the sheep? If you had traveled just another 50 miles you would have traveled the distance required to go from Jethro's well to Jerusalem. All this just to water some sheep! This simple does not reason well at all.
In our quest of finding Mt. Sinai, there are some other points to ponder. First, let's turn our attention to the camp of Israel. Once Moses had safely led the children of Israel to Mt. Sinai and, upon the completion of the tabernacle, we read that 603,550 men over the age of 20 made their offerings (Ex. 38:26). If we were to reason that the population was a consistently equal percentage of males and females, we would then have 600,000 women over the age of 20 as well. We would also have to consider the possibility of children. Let us reason that there were 500,000 children in this camp as well. We now have over 1.5 million people Moses has just led out of Egypt. To help put this into a perspective we can relate to that would be a populous equivalent almost to the total population of the state of Utah. That is quite an exodus.
Let us remember that Pharaoh's army pursued after this mass exodus and not just a few men and horses either. The biblical account states that Pharaoh "took six hundred (600) chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them" (Ex. 14:7).
Given the length of a horse from nose to tail of 8 feet, 5 feet being the length of a chariot, and 3 feet between the horse and the chariot we have an overall length of 16 feet for one horse and chariot. Also to be considered would be the space required from one chariot to the next when they are running. Randomly selecting a very conservative distance of 15 feet between each chariot racing after this exodus, and supposing that the path was wide enough for 5 chariots to be running side by side we now have a train of chariots 3,600 feet long. Just over a half a mile long.
All right now, let's put this into a perspective we can reason with. We have 1.5 million people fleeing from an army of 600 plus chariots, approximately one half a mile long racing towards a waters edge. Let us remember that there were flocks and herds large enough to support all of these people as well.
The reason we are examining the size of this mass movement of bodies is to give us some ideal of what size of body of water will be needed to consume all of Pharaoh's army, and it does appear that a fairly large body of water is going to be needed. We are going to need a body of water at least several miles wide which would immediately eliminate any thought of rivers for there are no rivers of that size anywhere on the Sinaitic peninsula, which leaves us with only two possibilities, one being the Gulf of Suez, and the other would be the Gulf of Aquabah.
The children of Israel were in the land of Gershon, northeast Egypt, when they started the exodus. To head towards the Gulf of Suez from the land of Gershon one would have to head almost due south-southeast, deeper into the land of Egypt. It seems highly unlikely that this mass movement of bodies fleeing from Pharaoh's army would head deeper into Pharaoh's domain, which would be the only way to reach the Gulf of Suez. Therefore the only other option would be to head for the Gulf of Aquabah.
A rather interesting fact to introduce at this time is that the mouth of the Gulf of Aquabah is the narrowest and shallowest part of that Gulf.
Let us reason that Moses and his exodus had arrived on the west shore of the Gulf of Aquabah, right at the mouth of the gulf, and they crossed over at this spot. Again, according to the biblical account, the next miracle that Moses performed was to take a branch of a tree and dip it into a very bitter river that was not safe for human drinking, referred to as the water of Marah. Let us join in the account Moses gives to us about this part of their exodus: "So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink: And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet:" (Ex. 15:22-25). If the children of Israel did cross at the mouth of the Gulf of Aquabah, then the "wilderness of Shur" must be in Saudi Arabia.
Moses then states: "And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees; and they encamped there by the waters" (Ex. 15: 27). I would like to direct your attention back to the first photograph. If you will look closely at that photograph there appears to be what looks like a crack running from west to east through those mountains.
Look once again at this photograph, do you see what appears to be a "crack" in the mountain?
Look for the "crack" in the mountain.
What could have caused that "crack"?
That "crack" is an ancient pathway where a river once flowed. In this next series of photographs you will discover the source of that river and evidence that there was indeed a river flowing through that "crack".
Look for the cement "caps"!
That "crack" is an ancient pathway where a river once flowed. Look carefully in those last three photographs and you will discover the source of what once use to be a mighty river. These three photographs were taken at the very most east end of that "crack" through that mountain range, inland in Saudi Arabia. Notice the cement structures in each of those photos. These cement structures are "caps" where springs have been capped off restricting the flow of an old river that once flowed from those springs. Notice the flat smooth riverbed that begins at the base of those ancient springs.
Walking through time!
In this series of three photographs, the first was taken just 200 yards westward from those photographs of the capped springs. In the next photograph you are actually entering into the "crack". Did you happen to notice the little bush in the first photograph? Look closely in the second photograph and you will find it again. See it? As you are walking towards that plant, you are headed westward, entering into that "crack", and headed towards the Gulf of Aquabah. Notice the smoothness of the rocks on each side of this passage way. Notice also the height of the smoothness of those rocks. The only way that smoothness, and how high up it reaches on those rocks, could have been created would have been by the continuous flow of a river, a mighty strong river at that, and one that had been there for a very long time. In the last two photographs you are in the "crack" headed towards the Gulf of Aquabah. You are walking on the bed of that ancient river that once flowed through these mountains and emptied into the Gulf of Aquabah. You can actually drive a four-wheel drive vehicle all the way through from the springs to the gulf.
Let us put this river with it palm trees on the back burner just for a minute while we explore another point of interest. The entire land space of the Sinaitic Peninsula is a rather limited, being only 150 miles in width (east to west) and 225 miles in length (north to south), yet Moses with the entire camp of Israel (approximately 1.5 million people) with their herds and flocks spent 40 years in such a small, confined area? Please keep in mind that the entire peninsula is rather mountainous and barren. Plus these 1.5 million people were camped around this mountain. Let us go look at a map of that terrain to see if we are able to reason this mass movement of people and animals wandering around in such a limited living space for 40 years. It does not even seem likely that the land could support such an ordeal. However, if Moses and the camp of Israel did cross over the Gulf of Aquabah and dwelt in Saudi Arabia, that land mass could very easily support that amount of people and animals for 40 years. Saudi Arabia is at least 10 times the landmass of the Sinai Peninsula.
Now, the reason I am pulling all of these landmarks out of the scriptural references of the exodus of the House of Israel is because it gives us a map!!! That's right. We are now going to be looking for a land that will have the following landmarks in their order as they appear in the scriptures, which is as follows:
A large body of water to cross
The "Waters of Marah (Ex. 15: 22-25)
The land of Elim with its springs and palm trees (Ex. 15: 27)
Jethro's well (Ex. 18: 1-6)
Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19: 1-2)
I have not been able to find these landmarks upon the Sinaitic Peninsula, however, if you were to cross over at the mouth of the Gulf of Aquabah, and enter in Saudi Arabia, you would then find that these landmarks do exist in Saudi Arabia, just as they appear in the scriptures.
If you were to cross over from the Sinaitic Peninsula into Saudi Arabia at the mouth of the Gulf of Aquabah, one of the first land marks you would encounter is the remnants of the "waters of Marah". Traveling northward you would then encounter the land of Elim with its springs and palm trees.
Elim with it's palm trees and springs
Moving northward again, you would encounter Jethro's well.
And northward one more time...
You are looking at what I believe to be Mt. Sinai, the mountain of God.
Let us now pay attention to yet another verse out of the Bible. "In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount". (Ex. 19: 1-2) Focus on the phrase "desert of Sinai". It almost seems like a description of a mountain rising up out of the desert. With that thought in mind, lets look at two more photos. See how flat the land is right up to the edge of the mountain, and all the way around the mountain. What a perfect campsite for all of those folks with their animals.
What a perfect discription of their campsite, and what a perfect picture of their campsite!!!
The desert of Mt. Sinai
Now go back to that last verse quoted and recall the words, the desert of Mt. Sinai. Now take a look at this last photograph.
What you are looking at is the back side of Mt. Sinai. Sure does look like a desert to me. What do you think?
The back side of Mt. Sinai.
The back side of Mt. Sinai.
The highest peak in the background to the left side in this photograph is the back side of Mt. Sinai.
Another man's journey...
It is time now to turn our attention to another man's Odyssey; another man, who was once well familiar with the land around the Gulf of Aquabah. Let us travel back in time to when another one of God's servants, a man much like Moses, who led a much smaller group of people out of harms way. The many prophecies of those of old who had forewarned the inhabitants of Jerusalem that impending doom was in the balance if they, the children of Israel, did not return to that God who had led them out of Egypt, were about to be fulfilled. The Dragon's beast (Rev. 13:1-18) [ To learn about the Beast and Its Image click here] was about to be unleashed on Jerusalem. We will be going back in time to about 600 B.C. A man by the name of Lehi has just received a vision from God directing him to take his family and the family of Ishmael, another prominent man of Old Jerusalem, and leave the land of Jerusalem.
Let us drop in on the story as told by one who was there: "For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life.
"And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.
"And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.
"And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.
"And he came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea; and he did travel in the wilderness with his family, which consisted of my mother, Sariah, and my elder brothers, who were Laman, Lemuel, and Sam.
"And it came to pass that when he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water." (1 Nephi 2:1-6)
Recapturing the essence of the story just told to us, Lehi, when he left Jerusalem, headed south to a place known as the "borders near the shore of the Red Sea".
To help establish the where-a-bouts of their first camp just described as "in a valley by the side of a river of water", let us listen to another part of this story. After they had camped at the spot just described, "it came to pass that we did take our tents and depart into the wilderness, across the river Laman. And it came to pass that we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction; and we did call the name of the place Shazer." (1 Nephi 16: 12-13).
There are only two bodies of water Lehi and his family could have camped on, the first being the Gulf of Suez and the other being the Gulf of Aquabah. The Gulf of Suez is immediately ruled out because you cannot travel on a south-southeast direction from anywhere within the Gulf of Suez without ending up in the Red Sea. With that resolved the only place they could have selected as their first camp would had to have been somewhere on the east coast of the Gulf of Aquabah.
To further strengthen our position that the east coast of the Gulf of Aquabah is the only place that could be referred to as "the borders which are nearer the Red Sea", we read in 1 Nephi 17:1 that "we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel east-ward from that time forth...And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness...And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum (Arabian Sea), which, being interpreted, is many waters". (1 Nephi17: 1,4-5 Parenthesis added)
If you were to leave Jerusalem and head for the Red Sea, and then travel southeast for the span of 4 days and another span of days not mentioned, then head due east for 8 years, folks, the body of water you would have first encountered would be the east coast of the Gulf of Aquabah, in Saudi Arabia. There are no other options.
With this established, let us return now to Lehi's first campsite described as "in a valley by the side of a river of water".
Let us return to verse 5 of 1 Nephi chapter 2. Nephi states that his father "traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea." We have established, rather strongly, that the east coast of the Gulf of Aquabah is what Nephi refers to as "the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea". It is interesting to note that still to this day those who inhabit that land call that strip of land that is the east coast of the Gulf of Aquabah the border of the Red Sea.
Now, according to the words of the prophet of God we know as Nephi, he states that once his father had reached the borders of the Red Sea, that he traveled 3 days in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea.
During the days of Lehi the main mode of transportation was by camels, and it is well known that the average distance of one days travel for a camel is about 25 miles. Nephi stated that they traveled for 3 days down the coast of the Gulf of Aquabah, and by camel that would be 75 miles.
Let us return to photographs of that old river. Remember that riverbed, those polished sides of the mountain, and those capped springs that once allowed a river to flow through that "crack in the mountain" in the first photograph? There are no other rivers anywhere near that 75-mile distance from the beginning of the wilderness in the borders, which are nearer the Red Sea. The river bed you are looking at those photographs is what is left of the river referred to as the river of Laman in 1 Nephi 2:9, and the valley Lehi named after his son Lemuel. This is the Valley of Lemuel found in 1 Nephi 2:10. This is the very same campsite Lehi and his family was camped at 2,600 years ago when they first left Jerusalem!
It should be pointed out that the inhabitants of Israel were very familiar with the land surrounding the Gulf of Aquabah. During the days of Solomon a famous seaport was built under his supervision on the northern tip of the Gulf of Aquabah called Ezion-Geber. The house of Israel had never been sailors and knew nothing about shipbuilding, but the Phoenicians had learned the skills of shipbuilding and sailing over many centuries. They were well acquainted with the ways of the seas. Solomon therefore sent to Tyre for specialists to teach his kingdom the art of shipbuilding: "And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon "(1 Kings 9:27). However, Ezion-Geber was not only a seaport, it was also the center of the copper industry.
Now, we might ask ourselves, how did Solomon know that the Gulf of Aquabah was a major deposit for copper? Did not Moses order the children of Israel to overlay the horns, pans, shovels, basins, flesh hooks, fire pans, and the grate of their mobile tabernacle with brass? (Ex. 27:1-6). Is not brass an alloy consisting mainly of copper and zinc? And this is just one more tangent supporting the concept that Mt. Sinai is not on the Sinaitic peninsula, but it is in Arabia.
King Solomon's seaport Ezion-Geber was soon to replace the 1,200-mile trek from Othir (the south-western point of Saudi Arabia) to Jerusalem, also known as the "incense route".
The reason I am bringing the seaport of Ezion-Geber into our story is that you will notice that Nephi referred to the Gulf of Aquabah as "the borders which were nearer the Red Sea". Not "the borders which were near", but he specifically stated "nearer" the Red Sea. There are only two bodies of water that join themselves to the Red Sea: the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aquabah. If you were to refer to a map you will notice that the Gulf of Aquabah is nearer to both Jerusalem and the Red Sea than the Gulf of Suez.
From the days of Moses, to the days of Solomon, to the days of Lehi, to the days of Paul, all were familiar with the "borders of the wilderness, which were nearer to the Red Sea".
c. 1586 B.C. Moses leaves Egypt and discovers Mt. Sinai
c. 1000 B.C. Solomon begins to build Ezion-Geber
c. 600 B.C. Lehi enters into the land of Mt. Sinai
c. 45 A.D. Paul in Arabia
The route from Jerusalem to the Gulf of Aquabah was well known, and the land along the east coast of the Gulf of Aquabah was a sacred and holy land. It was the land of the Mt. Sinai. This is why Paul went to Arabia. Paul went to Mt. Sinai to prepare for his mission as a servant of God. He went to that holy land where Moses once prepared for his mission as a servant of God. Paul knew where he was going and why he was going there. He was well familiar with that region of land, and so were the hosts of the children of Israel as well. All of the trade routes, all of the mineral expeditions, all the flights of refuge were into Arabia, not into the Sinaitic peninsula. Folks, the evidence is overwhelming. Mt. Sinai is NOT on the Sinaitic Peninsula, it is in Saudi Arabia.
I hope you have enjoyed this presentation. If you found my hub worth reading, then perhaps you would enjoy reading my book, "The Book of Seals". If you would like a free copy of my book simply e-mail me at email@example.com stating that you would like a free copy of "The Book of Seals".