Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):

Further Evidence for a Midian Mount Sinai!

"Of the many puzzles in biblical archaeology, one of the most vexing is establishing the route taken by the Israelites as they fled Egypt. There has been no lack of theories for tracking the Exodus..." However, the lack of archaeological evidence and the fact that the Sinai Peninsula was a part of Egypt clearly show that the Israelites could not have spent forty years in this area.

by John D. Keyser

Some time ago I wrote articles PROVING beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Mt. Sinai of the Bible is located in SAUDI ARABIA -- NOT the Sinai Peninsula. This mountain of the lawgiving was in MIDIAN, and Midian was located in the northwest corner of what is now the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

A number of progressive scholars have understood this fact during the last several centuries. Today, however, more and more researchers accept Paul's PLAIN statement in Galatians 4:25: "Now Hagar stands for MOUNT SINAI IN ARABIA and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children." One such researcher and Bible scholar is Frank Moore Cross.

Mr. Cross is a retired Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University. Cross's numerous fields of expertise include biblical history, the decipherment and dating of ancient texts, history of religion, the development of the biblical canon, ancient languages and customs, the development of the alphabet and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

According to the Bible Review, "of the many puzzles in biblical archaeology, one of the most vexing is establishing the route taken by the Israelites as they fled Egypt. There has been no lack of theories for tracking the Exodus -- a northern route along the Mediterranean called the 'Way of the Land of the Philistines' or the 'Way of the Sea'; a central route called the 'Way of Shur'; and a southern route that passes by Jebel Musa, the mountain most widely considered Mt. Sinai.

"Frank Moore Cross...considers all efforts to locate Mt. Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula misguided. He proposes, instead, that the Israelites' desert wanderings occurred in the land of Midian, east of the Gulf of Eilat (modern northwest Arabia). There are many mountains in this area and excavations at Qurayyah tend to support this proposal." (August, 1992, p. 24).

Shortly before his retirement, Cross met with Hershel Shanks -- editor of the Bible Review magazine -- for a wide-ranging interview in which MT. SINAI was discussed. Excerpts from this interview, which appeared in the August, 1992 issue of Bible Review, are now presented here for the readers of The Berean Voice:

HERSHEL SHANKS: I have heard you speak of Israelite origins but I have not seen in print your belief that the Israelites came out of Egypt and traveled to Canaan via Saudi Arabia. Is that correct?

FRANK MOORE CROSS:....Let me put my views in my words. The land of Midian played an important role in ancient Israelite history, in Israelite origins. The Midianites were West Semites and probably spoke a North West Semitic dialect. The role of the priest of Midian is most extraordinary in Epic tradition, particularly in view of later tradition, which treats the Midianites as an intractable enemy.

HS: Jethro?

FMC: Yes. Moses married his daughter (Exodus 2:15-22). The priestly offspring of Moses were thus half Israelite, half Midianite according to tradition. This too is extraordinary, and the fact that the tradition was preserved demands explanation....Epic tradition makes Israel's judiciary the creation of the priest of Midian (Exodus 18:14-27). And an old tradition records that the priest of Midian made sacrifices and joined in a communal feast with Aaron, mirabile dictu, and the elders of Israel (Exodus 18:12).

HS: Where is Midian?

FMC: Midian proper bordered Edom on the south and probably occupied part of the area that became southern Edom in what is now southern Transjordan. It also included the northwestern corner of the Hejaz; it is a land of formidable mountains as well as desert.

HS: In Saudi Arabia?

FMC: Yes. It is in the northwestern border area of what is now Saudi Arabia. I prefer to refer to it by the biblical term "Midian." Incidentally the Saudis will not permit excavation in this area despite efforts that Peter Parr and I conducted some years ago on behalf of the American Schools of Oriental Research and the British School of Archaeology.

HS: Isn't Midian traditionally placed in Sinai?

FMC: I should say rather that Sinai is placed in Midian.

HS: Are you saying that all scholars agree that Midian is south of the Jordanian-Saudi border?

FMC: I cannot say categorically all, but the consensus is that ancient Midian was south of Eilat on the Saudi side. Note too that tradition holds that the Midianites controlled routes north through Edom and Moab very much like the later Nabateans, and that Midian in Israel's earliest poetry is associated with Edom, Mt. Seir and Teman.

The notion that the "mountain of God" called Sinai and Horeb was located in what we now call the Sinai Peninsula has no older tradition supporting it than Byzantine times. It is one of the many holy places created for pilgrims in the Byzantine period.

HS: In the fourth century?

FMC: Yes.

HS: So you would place Sinai in what is today Saudi Arabia?

FMC: ....Yes, in the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia, ancient Midian. There is new evidence favoring this identification. In the late 1960s and 1970s when Israel controlled the Sinai Peninsula, especially in the period shortly before it was returned to Egypt, the peninsula was explored systematically and intensely by archaeologists. What they found for the 13th to 12th centuries B.C.E., the era of Moses and Israel's entry into Canaan [actually it was earlier than this], was an archaeological blank save for Egyptian mining sites at Serabit el-Khadem and Timna near Eilat. There was no evidence of settled occupation to be found. This proved true even at the site generally identified with Kadesh-Barnea ('Ein Qudeirat). It was not occupied until the tenth century B.C.E. at the earliest, and its fortress was constructed only in the ninth century.

On the other hand, recent surveys of Midian have produced surprising discoveries of a developed civilization in precisely the period in question, the end of the Late Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, the 13th to 12th centuries [see my earlier comment -- JDK]....In short we have a blank Sinai and a thriving culture in Midian in this era.

Biblical traditions preserve much Midianite lore. At the end of his life Moses is described as going north into the district of Mt. Nebo and Mt. Peor in Transjordan. Both an Epic source and the Priestly source in the Balaam cycle in the Book of Numbers record traditions of Midianite presence in this area. Evidently they exercised at least commercial hegemony, controlling the newly developed incense trade. In Israelite sources, this area of Transjordan was assigned to Reuben, but was early lost to Moab, and is often called the "plains of Moab" in the Bible....I think it is fair to say that we can trace a cycle of Midianite lore from the locale of the mountain of God in Midian, and northward to Reuben. The Book of Deuteronomy places Moses' second giving of the law [Deuteronomy 4:44 through chapter 26] and the renewal of the covenant of the tribes in Reuben [Deuteronomy 29-31]. We are told too that it was in this same district that the rallying of the militia took place and the entry into the Promised Land was launched [Joshua 2-4]....

HS: Isn't the movement of the Israelites into Saudi Arabia just the opposite direction from what they wish to go?

FMC: That depends on what their goal was.

HS: I am assuming it is the Promised Land.

FMC: Matters are much more complicated....There is some reason to believe that there is a historical nucleus in the tradition that some elements of what later became Israel -- the Moses group, we can call them, or proto-Israel -- fled from Egypt and eventually (a generation or 40 years later, according to the biblical chronology) ended up invading Canaan from the Reubenite area of Transjordan. There is also archaeological evidence that tribal elements moved from east to west in occupying the central hill country of Canaan. Certainly there was the movement of other groups of people who were not of the Moses group. In Deuteronomistic tradition we are told that the Israelites compassed Mt. Seir many days.

So we cannot think of Israel leaving Egypt and making a beeline for the Promised Land. If the tradition of their long period in the wilderness has a historical basis, then the historian must ask how this tradition survived. Even if the group was small, counted at most in hundreds, rather than in millions as tradition in Numbers [Numbers 1:46] claims, they could not have survived for a generation in uninhabited Sinai....No,if the Israelite contingent from Egypt survived long in the southern wilderness, it was because they headed for an area in which there was civilization, irrigated crops, the means of sustenance. Southern Edom and Midian supply this need, and so I believe they headed there. And this doesn't even mention the alliance by marriage between Moses' family and the priestly house of Midian. That this alliance had a historical basis is difficult to doubt -- since it was profoundly objectionable to many circles in Israel, including the Priestly school, which finally edited the Tetrateuch; yet it was kept in....

To return to our thesis: There is embedded in the biblical tradition historical evidence of a migration or incursion from Reuben of elements of Israel who came from the south with ties to Midian, whose original leader was Moses.

HS: Did they come from Egypt?

FMC: Moses has as Egyptian name, and tradition early and late puts him in the house of Pharaoh. His descendants, too, sometimes exhibit Egyptian names. I have no reason to doubt that many who eventually reached Reuben (or the "plains of Moab" as the area is more frequently called in the Bible) came north from southern Edom and northern Midian, where the Midianite league flourished, and where, in my view, the mountain of God was located. They were refugees from Egypt or, in traditional terms, patriarchal folk who were freed from Egyptian slavery.

HS: Do you have any guess as to what mountain might be Mt. Sinai?

FMC: ....There are several enormous mountains in what is now northwestern Saudi Arabia. Jebel el-Lawz is the highest of the mountains in Midian -- 8,465 feet -- higher than any mountain in the Sinai Peninsula....


With this interview another scholar points out the impossibility of the traditional site for the mountain of YEHOVAH God. The lack of archaeological evidence and the fact that the Sinai Peninsula was a part of Egypt clearly show that the Israelites could not have spent forty years in this area.

If you would like more proof for a Midian Mt. Sinai, be sure to write for the articles Is Jebel Musa the Correct Mt. Sinai?, Mt. Sinai/Horeb -- Where Was It? and Mt. Sinai in Midian.


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Hope of Israel Ministries
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Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.

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