Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):

Mt Sinai in Midian

In archaeology, there are three things which are usually present in an archaeologically important site -- first, of course, is physical evidence. Second, is ancient inscriptions in the area, identifying or connection the particular discovery with the area. Finally, and very importantly, are the study of local traditions passed down through the natives of the region. This applies to the discoveries in what used to be the ancient land of Midian. The local people even refer to Jebel el-Lawz in northwestern Saudi Arabia as "Moses' mountain".

 


Mt. Sinai's Location in Midian

If we go the the Bible, the location of Mt. Sinai is not that difficult to ascertain. When YEHOVAH God first spoke to Moses regarding the great work of leading the people out of their Egyptian bondage, He told Moses:

"Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain." EXO 3:12

To find out exactly where Moses was when this conversation took place, we need to go to the beginning of chapter 3:

"Now 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. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed." EXO 3:1-2

This conversation took place at the foot of the "mountain of God". Moses was even told to remove his shoes, as he was standing was "holy ground" (verse 5). So, we now know that Moses was in Midian, in the "backside of the desert", which seems to us to imply the area opposite the main portion of the desert or, the other side of the mountain which provided the border of the desert. We make this assumption simply because in order to have a "backside of the desert", there must be something which marks a separation of the "frontside" and the "backside".

When Ron Wyatt studied the Biblical account, he noted these references -- that the mountain to which Moses was to lead the people was in Midian; and that the place where Moses spoke to YEHOVAH God in the burning bush was specifically stated to be in the "backside of the desert". With this information, along with the discoveries of the chariot parts in the Gulf of Aqaba, he looked for a mountain on the eastern side of the gulf which fit this description. There was only one candidate in his opinion, and this was Jebel el Lawz.

His flight maps showed this mountain to be in an almost semi-circular range, with a vast desert area around it as well as more than enough room for the encampment of perhaps a couple of million people along with their flocks and herds. Not only that, but there was a single, large oasis located perhaps 10 to 15 miles away -- an area that could have been the home of his father-in-law, Jethro -- and this was the town of Al-Bad.

He saw that there was desert area around Jebel el Lawz, between Al-Bad and the highest peak in this mountain range -- and that there were valleys in the mountain range which Moses could have led his flocks through, taking him to the "backside of the desert." Ron was convinced that this mountain had to be the one.

In 1978, he shared this theory with author Rene Noorbergen, who wrote the following in his 1982 book, Treasures of the Lost Races, p. 163-165:

"The theory on which Ron Wyatt was basing his exploratory trip into the Middle East was founded on two very obvious points made by Flavius Josephus and recorded in the Bible. Both mention that the Hebrew children went south from Egypt, through the desert, ending at the shore of the Red Sea in an area where `the mountains were closed with the sea.' That the Red Sea at that time extended -- in name at least -- as far as Eilat at the top of the Gulf of Aqaba can be seen in I Kings 9:26, where it states that `King Solomon made a navy of ships at Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom.'

Wyatt reasoned therefore that the Israelites had crossed the Sinai from west to east and had finally reached an area on the eastern coast (Gulf of Aqaba) where a mountain range met the sea. According to the record, the Egyptians had taken over the mountain peaks near the area to prevent the Hebrews from escaping. It also mentions that after they had crossed the Red Sea, Moses took them to `Mt. Sinai in order to offer sacrifices to God.'

A careful examination of the eastern shore of the Sinai peninsula allows for only one place where two million people and their flocks can be gathered. It is the wide expanse of beach near Nuweiba, the south end of which is closed off by steep mountains!

Nearby is a wide and wild mountain gorge known as the Wadi Watir, an ancient dried-out riverbed that forms a natural roadway into the Sinai desert, while both the Bible and Josephus indicate that Moses took the Hebrews to Mt. Sinai after they crossed the Red Sea into what is now known as Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, not far from the opposite shore is a mountain known as Jebel El Lawz, a steep, forbidding peak. Is it possible that this is the Mt. Sinai that Moses speaks of?

There are many different theories regarding the possible location of the real Mt. Sinai, and Ron Wyatt's location wasn't all that farfetched...."

The Traditional Mt. Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula

The traditional location in the Sinai Peninsula didn't "come into being" until almost 2,000 years after the Exodus:

"The origin of the present Monastery of Saint Catherine on the NW slope of Jebel Musa is traced back to A.D. 527, when Emperor Justinian established it on the site where Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, had erected a small church two centuries earlier." (The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 1962, p. 376.)

"There is no Jewish tradition of the geographical location of Mt. Sinai; it seems that its exact location was obscure already in the time of the monarchy....The Christian hermits and monks, mostly from Egypt, who settled in Southern Sinai from the second century C.E. on, made repeated efforts to identify the locality of the Exodus with actual places to which the believers could make their way as pilgrims. The identification of Mt. Sinai either with Jebel Sirbal near the oasis of Firan...,or with Jebel Musa, can be traced back as far as the fourth century C.E.". (The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, p. 1599.)

In 1761-1767, Von Haven, the member of a Danish expedition to the traditional site wrote, as reported in Arabia Felix: The Danish Expedition of 1971-1767, by Thorkild Hansen:

"I have observed earlier that we could not possibly be at Mount Sinai. The monastery [of St. Catherine] was situated in a narrow valley, which was not even large enough for a medium-sized army to be able to camp in, let alone the 600,000 men that Moses had with him, who, together with their wives and children, must have come to over 3,000,000."

The Sinai Peninsula = Egyptian Territory

The fact is clear that the Sinai Peninsula was always considered to be Egyptian territory. There is an abundance of evidence that the Egyptians controlled the Sinai Peninsula during the time of the Exodus because of their mining operations there. This archaeological evidence is still present and evident today. The peninsula today doesn't even have any population to speak of except those who live around the few oases, many of which today contain the gasoline stations for travellers -- travellers who are going to either the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba to go scuba diving or those visitors who go to the traditional Mt. Sinai.

In Arabia and the Bible by James Montgomery, we read on p. 31:

"...the land west of a line from the Wady of Egypt to the Elanitic Gulf [Gulf of Aqaba] has always belonged to the Egyptian political sphere, and actually that is the present boundary of Egypt....the South-Arabians called the same region Msr, i.e. Misraim, Egypt."

Biblical Description of Mt. Sinai and Volcanic Activity

"And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly...." EXO 19:18

"And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off." EXO 20:18

"The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel."JDG 5:5

"The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel." PSA 68:8

Above, we have read how the Bible clearly tells of how YEHOVAH's Presence at Mt. Sinai caused the earth to shake and smoke, much like volcanic activity. And several men in the past have recognized this fact.

Charles Beke, in the last century, was convinced that Mt. Sinai had to have been a volcano. He travelled to the Sinai Peninsula, hoping to find the exact mountain by finding one which displayed volcanic evidences. But, he came away disappointed because he found that not only was the traditional site non-volcanic, the other mountains in the Sinai were also non-volcanic! He then travelled to NW Arabia where he discovered that all down this western side were "harras", or vast lava and ash fields.

Whether the area of Mt. Sinai/Horeb was volcanic, or whether YEHOVAH's Presence resulted in the volcanic-like activity doesn't really matter. The Biblical description speaks of events which would result in the area having experienced these things- and the "consuming fire" of YEHOVAH God's Presence would leave an indelible mark on the mountain.

Local Traditions of Moses and Jethro in NW Arabia

But also importantly, the few explorers of this region found the NW area of Arabia (Midian) to have a vast array of local traditions about Moses and Jethro in the area, as H. St. John Philby writes of his extensive exploration of the area in his The Land of Midian, p. 222:

"From here my guide and I climed up the cliff to visit the `circles of Jethro' on the summit of Musalla ridge, from which we climbed down quite easily to our camp on the far side....A cairn marked the spot where Jethro is supposed to have prayed, and all round it are numerous circles,..."

Charles Doughtery travelled the entire area and in his chronicles of his journey, Travels in Arabia Deserta, he writes of:

"...a tradition amongst their [the inhabitants of this NW Arabian region] ancestors that `very anciently they occupied all that country about Maan, where also Moses fed the flocks of Jethro the Prophet.'"

Philby's Investigation of Jebel el Lawz

If we continue with Philby's account as left off above, he writes:

"From here [the ridge which had the `Circles of Jethro'] I had a magnificent view of the whole of the Midian mountain range, with Lauz [Lawz] and its sister peaks in the northeast and Maqla'a very little north of east, with the valley of al-Numair separating the latter from the low ridge of All Marra, extending from east to south-east, where the two peaks of Hurab stood out in front of the great range of Zuhd, which runs down to a point not far from the sea to our southward....The spot that held my imagination was the smooth, double-headed, granite boss of Hurab, an obvious candidate for identification with the Mount Horeb of the Exodus,...the only candidate for the honor which can claim to have preserved the name....According to Hasballah, the name Hurab applies primarily to the wadi [canyon], while he calls the mountain itself Al Manifa (which simply means lofty.)"

When examined on the map, this wadi Hurab can be seen to extend directly to the foothills of Jebel el Lawz itself, the highest mountain in the entire region! Let's continue with Philby's narrative:

"...The main peak of Lauz, partly in cloud, rose to the south-east of our position....The upper part of the valley varied from 500 to 1,500 yards in width, with occasional wider basins allowing of splendid views of the great mountains, including the Lauz summit on which there seemed to be a patch of snow. The guide confirmed that it was snow; and, if so, it was the first and only time that I have ever seen snow in Sa'udi Arabia....Burton had never examined the gullies of Lauz or the other mountains in the Midian chain; and it is not unlikely that they may contain minerals of various kinds. The basalt pyramid of Maqla' looked climbable, but the sheer granite of the Lauz peaks would have needed more time and energy than I now had at my disposal. So far as I know, they have never been climbed by any human being."

Bible Commentaries on "Midian" and "Sinai"

All these quotes only confirm that in the last century, men were led to investigate the evidences of the true site of Mt. Sinai because the traditional site simply did not fit the Biblical description. For some reason, many Biblical scholars simply ignored the Biblical fact that Mt. Sinai was in Midian. A quick check in several Bible commentaries shows that the location of Midian is pretty much accepted as being in Saudi Arabia:

"Midian, a son of Abraham and Keturah (Gen. xxv.2; i Chr. i.32); progenitor of the Midianites, or Arabians dwelling principally in the desert north of the peninsula of Arabia. Southwards, they extended along the eastern shore of the Gulf of Eyleh [Guld of Aqaba]..." Smith's Bible Dictionary, under "Midian".

However, in this same book, under "Mt. Sinai", we find the traditional location in the Sinai Peninsula given.

Has anyone noted Paul's reference to Mt. Sinai?:

"For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children." GAL 4:25

Peake's Commentary on the Bible noticed it, as Paul's entire passage here is explained:

"Their mothers likewise represent the two dispensations. Hagar [Agar] represents that given on Mt. Sinai, and, Paul notes in passing the appropriateness of the fact that Mt. Sinai is in Arabia, the land to which Hagar took her son."

We have numerous commentaries which locate Midian in Saudi Arabia, but few which locate Sinai there. Why? In our opinion, YEHOVAH God allowed the true location to remain unknown until He saw fit to reveal it. If we carefully study the Biblical evidences which archaeology has revealed, we will see that the vast majority of these came to light beginning in the 1800's -- the time in earth's history in which these things could be presented to the world in publications and books. Had they been known for any length of time, there would be no evidence left.

"The Biblical references connecting Sinai with Mount Seir, Edom and the land of Midian seem clearly to indicate this region east of the Aelanitic Gulf (g. of Akaba) as pointed out by Beke (1834), Walhausen (1886), Sayce (1894), Moore (1895), Shede (1897), Gall (1898),Gunkel (1903), Edward Meyer (1906), Schmidt (1908), Gressmann (1913), Haupt (1914) and by Alois Musil in `The Northern Hegaz" (1911)." On the Track of the Exodus by C.C. Robertson, p. 87.

Jebel el Lawz  -- The Evidence at the Mountain

The first thing Ron noticed when he saw Jebel el Lawz in 1984, just prior to his arrest, was that the high peak of the mountain range was distinctly black. When one stands at the base of the mountain -- just outside the boundary markers which we will discuss a little later, the high peak that can be seen looks like it is made of coal. When "Abu Hesham" climbed the mountain a little north of this peak, and looked southward, the entire line of "black" could be seen. It looks exactly as if the very top portion of the entire top of the Lawz mountain had been evenly scorched

"And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire" EXO 19:18

The "Bounds" Set By Moses

"And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death." EXO 19:12

The area of the "holy precinct", the section Moses was directed by YEHOVAH God to enclose in "bounds" at the foot of the mountain, is enclosed by huge, 18 foot diameter round columns. These cannot be seen except upon close examination because over the intervening 3,400 years, soil and rock has accumulated around them raising the ground level.

Today, only the tops of a few can be seen, sticking up through the ground just a few inches. It was one of columns that was partially excavated when Ron and Dave were there in 1985. Their construction is as follows: the outer wall, constructed of brick-sized rocks, is 18 foot in diameter; and the construction is similar to the large Egyptian columns.

Within this enclosed outer wall is another interior wall, several feet smaller. In between these two walls, other stones of the same size are placed vertically. Their location can be seen quite easily, as the soil covering them drops off about twenty feet along their entire course.

The evidence shows that they extended across from north to south in a fairly direct line, then end where a dried riverbed cuts through (this riverbed begins high up in the mountain, comes down the side, and extends out eastward). See Deu. 9:21.

The boundary columns then begin again along the southern edge of the riverbed, travel east, turn south and then turn westward, where they extend all the way to the southern side of the mountain.

The Altar at the Base of the Mountain

Within this boundary, very near the point where the base of the mountain meets the level plain, are the remains of a large, uncut stone altar.

The Holy Precinct

When viewed looking west, the entire area of the holy precinct can be seen. In immediate view to the right is a portion of the mountain which features double "peaks". Just below these peaks, in the face of the mountain, can be seen a cave. On the far right peak, there are two extremely large boulders with a solitary tree growing between them.

This strange tree which seemingly is growing out of the granite, is one of the first things Ron noticed when he first saw this mountain, and it is this tree which positively identifies the mountain.

In an area with miles and miles of mountains, there is no mistaking this particular site -- when you see the tree, you know you are there. In fact, "Abu Hesham" told Ron that it was only when he looked up and saw the tree between the massive granite boulders that he realized he was at the right mountain!

In archaeology, there are three things which are usually present in an archaeologically important site -- first, of course, is physical evidence. Second, is ancient inscriptions in the area, identifying or connection the particular discovery with the area. Finally, and very importantly, are the study of local traditions passed down through the natives of the region.

As we mentioned earlier, the Bedouin, Ibrahim Frich, told Ron and Dave that "Jebel Musa Henna", when they were at Jebel el Lawz. In other words, the local people even refer to this mountain as "Moses' mountain".

But there is a reference in a book written about 650 AD, which speaks of a tree on Sinai -- and the book from which this is taken, was written by a man who lived and knew western Saudi Arabia. This book is the Koran. The speaker in this passage is supposed to be Allah, who refers to himself in the plural as He states:

"We produced for you...a tree issuing from the Mount of Sinai that bears oil and seasoning..." (`The Koran, translated by Arthur J. Arberry, Chapter (Sura) "The Believers", para. 20.)

We know for a fact that Mohammed, the author of the Koran, visited this area at least once. For in about 631 AD, he concluded peace treaties with the Christian chief of Aqaba and the Jewish tribes in the oases of Maqna. This is the immediate area to the north and south of Jebel el Lawz -- within walking distance.

On the face of the mountain, as looking from outside the Holy Precinct, there extends the evidence of an ancient river or brook, that originated high in the mountain. The waters issued forth, spilling down through the southern part of the holy precinct, turning east and flowing to the edge of the boundary markers, then turning and flowing north. The path is still visible today. The Biblical account tells of this:

"And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small,...and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount." DEU 9:21

And gain, as we read the Koran, it appears that the peoples of this area knew the site of Mt. Sinai and this "brook" very well.

"Moses...said...`I observe a fire,...When he came to it, a voice cried from the right bank of the watercourse, in the sacred hollow, coming from the tree: Moses, I am God..." (Ibid., Chapter `The Story', para. 29-30.)

This is an amazing description of a scene which perfectly fits the evidence from the site! The "sacred hollow" describes the area at the foot of the blackened mountain, which is protected on three sides by the mountains. The tree is certainly to the right of the river and again fits.

Equally as interesting, from the point of being local Arabian tradition as captured in the Koran, is the following:

"Thou wast not upon the western side when We decreed to Moses the commandment, nor wast thou of those witnessing..." (Ibid, para. 44)

This illustrative language says that the people whom are being addressed were not on the "western" or opposite side of the mountain, neither were they on the eastern side, which is where "those witnessing" were located!

The Golden Calf Altar

As we said, the evidence which caused the Saudi archaeologist to say that this was a major archaeological discovery, was the petroglyphs on the altar which is located east of the holy precinct -- in fact, from the top of the mountain, looking down toward the sacred area, this altar is almost directly straight ahead. But it is perhaps a mile or more from the base of the mountain. As we read the Biblical account of the event, we can see that this site fits the description given perfectly:

And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides;... And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it." EXO 32:15-20

We can visualize Moses and Joshua looking out over the area from the plateau, getting ready to begin their final descent. They look out over the uninhabited holy precinct, and just outside the boundary columns, the people are in a great commotion, singing and dancing. And just beyond the great multitude, nestled close to a small hill, is the golden calf altar.

As they walk through the holy precinct and near the camp, just inside the borders of the holy precinct, they can clearly see the golden calf high upon the altar. Moses throws down the Tables of Stone, just inside the Holy Precinct, but in the sight of the people. He keeps walking straight ahead, directly to Aaron and the altar. Taking the golden calf, he throws it in the fire which Aaron had used to melt the gold in order to form the calf (see verse 24).

With the calf perhaps melted down into a formless "blob", he takes it and climbs upon the altar Aaron built and grinds it down into dust. He then takes the large pile of gold dust to the stream which flows from the mountain and strews it in the water at the place where the stream flows out of the Holy Precinct. Since no one can venture beyond the borders set about the Holy Precinct, no one who drinks the water can escape the pollution of the gold in it -- and the entire camp probably experienced tremendous stomach problems from the gold.

Thus far, the evidences at Jebel el Lawz fit the Biblical description perfectly!

The Altar at the Foot of the Mountain

If we stand just outside the boundary columns and look directly west into the Holy Precinct, near the foot of the mountain to the left is an altar made of uncut stones. Standing in front of this altar, it is about shoulder high to Ron -- but if you walk around behind it, the slope of the ground beneath it causes it to only be a little above knee high to Ron.

"And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. 26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon." EXO 20:25

Again, the altar fits the Biblical description. The stones are natural in shape -- no tool has been used to shape its stones. It has no steps -- Moses could easily make the offerings upon it when he stood behind it, which would have him facing the congregation.

Extending out from this altar at about a 90 degree angle, is a sort of walled in area. Perhaps this was where the animals were slaughtered, or it may have been the foundation for some type of tent/building.

The Twelve Pillars

"And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel." EXO 24:4

With no more information than this as to the twelve pillars, we look to the Hebrew word translated to read "pillars" -- it is "matstsebah". Could this be the origin of the word "massebah", which is a term for a one-piece, standing stone pillar?

If so, we would assume that these pillars would be simple standing stones, not columns constructed out of many rocks fitted together. But we can go to another example:

And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the LORD spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan,in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day." JOS 4:8-9

These were clearly one piece stones. So, we can expect that the "pillars" Moses erect were not constructed out of numerous rocks fit together. And in the Holy Precinct, to the far right and near the front (looking westward into the area) there is a semicircle of twelve large granite boulders, about six feet wide and nine feet tall (this is an estimate based on the drop in ground level). These are, like the eighteen foot diameter boundary columns, covered by alluvial soil, washed into the area by seasonal showers and only the tops are visible.

The White Marble Shrine

Near the altar at the base of the mountain, are the remains of some type of shrine built of pure white, polished marble. Its style indicates it was from a much later date -- it was round, with eight sets of double columns at even intervals. Its roof was a polished dome. The pieces of the columns are about twenty-one inches in diameter, with one measurement taken as 20.6 inches -- the royal cubit used in Noah's Ark and in building the Tabernacle and its furnishings. There are quite a number of these still lying in the area, and were seen by Ron on his first trip to the site in 1984.

When Ron and Dave were exploring the region, each separated by the Interrogation team, Ron found a piece of white marble with an inscription on it in Archaic Hebrew, which he committed to memory and buried, not telling the Saudis about it. He believes that section will prove that Solomon had the shrine built if he can ever get back out there and retrieve it, or have it safely retrieved.

Rephidim

Just over the western side of the mountain range, opposite the Holy Precinct, these is an area which features an incredible, five to six-story rock perched upon a hill that it about 200 feet high. This rock is split through the middle and displays the pattern of water erosion and evidence that numerous streams came forth in several directions.

About 200 yards from this rock, is another altar, similar in construction to the one in the Holy Precinct. Exodus 17:15 "And Moses built an altar....." This area also features an immense plain area in which the battle with the Amalekites could have taken place.

The evidence is overwhelming -- we have only touched on a small amount of the archaeological evidence at this site. When we can do so without compromising "Abu Hesham's" safety, everything will be made public and available in video and publications. For now, we must continue to be patient!

 

-- Edited By John D. Keyser.

 

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