Mount Sinai: Wikis


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For other places named Mount Sinai, see: Mount Sinai (disambiguation)
Mount Sinai

View from the summit of Mount Sinai
Elevation 2,285 m (7,497 ft)
Location Saint Katherine city, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt
Coordinates 28°32′23″N 33°58′24″E / 28.53972°N 33.97333°E / 28.53972; 33.97333
Sinai Peninsula, showing location of Jabal Musa

Mount Sinai (Arabic: طور سيناء, Ṭūr Sīnā’) (Hebrew: הר סיני, Har Sinai), also known as Mount Horeb, Mount Musa, Gabal Musa (Egyptian Arabic accent), Jabal Musa (standard Arabic meaning "Moses' Mountain") by the Bedouin, is the name of a mountain in Saint Katherine city, in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. In Arabic the words jabal and ṭūr have similar meanings, and Mount Sinai is mentioned in the Quran chapter 'The Fig' (Sūrat al-Tīn) as "Ṭūr Sīnīn"[1]. Thomas Stratton, a 19th-century Scottish writer, compared ancient Semitic languages with Gaelic and claimed that the resemblance of Syriac ܛܘܪ ṭür 'a mount' and Gaelic torr 'a hill' demonstrated an "affinity" between the two languages.[1] Jabal Musa is the Bedouin and Christian traditional location of the Biblical Mount Sinai.[2]



Mount Sinai is a 2285 m-high mountain in Saint Katherine city, in Sinai region. It is next to Mount St. Catherine (at 2,629 m,[3] the tallest peak on the Sinai peninsula)[4]. It is surrounded on all sides by higher peaks of the mountain range.



Mount Sinai's rocks were formed in the late stage of the Arabian-Nubian Shield's (ANS) evolution. Mount Sinai displays a ring complex that consists of alkaline granites intruded into diverse rock types, including volcanics. The granites range in composition from syenogranite to alkali feldspar granite. The volcanic rocks are alkaline to peralkaline and they are represented by subaerial flows and eruptions and subvolcanic porphyry. Generally, the nature of the exposed rocks in Mount Sinai indicates that they originated from different depths. (M. G. Shahien, Geol. Dept., Beni Suef, Egypt)


The Monastery of St. Catherine in Saint Katherine city is sited nearby at an elevation of around 1550 m.

Religious Significance

A Greek Orthodox Chapel at the top of Mount Sinai

According to Bedouin tradition, this is the mountain where God gave laws to the Israelites. However, the earliest Christian traditions place this event at the nearby Mount Serbal, and a monastery was founded at its base in the 4th century; it was only in the 6th century that the monastery moved to the foot of Mount Catherine, following the guidance of Josephus's earlier claim that Sinai was the highest mountain in the area. Jebel Musa, which is adjacent to Mount Catherine, was only equated with Sinai, by Christians, after the 15th century. Also, for Muslims, there is a chapter named after this mountain in the Qur’an, entitled Sūrat al-Tīn, sūrah 95, in which God swears by the fig and the olive, by Mount Sinai, and by the city of Mecca.

Christian orthodoxies settled upon this mountain in the third century, Georgians moved to Sinai in the fifth century, although a Georgian colony was formed in the ninth century. Georgians erected their own temples in this area. The construction of one such temple was connected with the name of David The Builder, who contributed to the erecting of temples in Georgia and abroad as well. There were political, cultural and religious motives for locating the temple on Mount Sinai. Georgian monks living there were deeply connected with their motherland. The temple had its own plots in Kartli. Some of the Georgian manuscripts of Sinai remain there, but others are kept in Tbilisi, St. Petersburg, Prague, New York, Paris and in private collections.

View down to the Monastery of St. Catherine from the trail to the summit.

Many modern biblical scholars now believe that the Israelites would have crossed the Sinai peninsula in a straight line, rather than detouring to the southern tip (assuming that they did not cross the eastern branch of the Red Sea/Reed Sea in boats or on a sandbar), and therefore look for Mount Sinai elsewhere.

The Song of Deborah, which textual scholars consider to be one of the oldest parts of the bible, suggests that Yahweh dwelt at Mount Seir, so many scholars favour a location in Nabatea (modern Arabia). Alternatively, the biblical descriptions of Sinai can be interpreted as describing a volcano, and so a small number of scholars have considered equating Sinai with locations in northwestern Saudi Arabia; there are no volcanoes in the Sinai Peninsula.


Sunrise on Mt. Sinai

There are two principal routes to the summit. The longer and shallower route, Siket El Bashait, takes about 2.5 hours on foot, though camels can be used. The steeper, more direct route (Siket Sayidna Musa) is up the 3,750 "steps of penitence" in the ravine behind the monastery.[5]


Another view from the summit of Mount Sinai
The last few meters of the climb up Mount Sinai.

The summit of the mountain has a mosque and a Greek Orthodox chapel (which was constructed in 1934 on the ruins of a 16th century church) neither of which are open to the public. The chapel supposedly encloses the rock from which God made the Tablets of the Law. [6] At the summit also is "Moses' cave" where Moses waited to receive the Ten Commandments.

View from the summit of Mount Sinai

See also


  1. ^ Library of Scotland, 1872.
  2. ^ Joseph J. Hobbs, Mount Sinai (University of Texas Press) 1995, discusses Mount Sinai as geography, history, ethnology and religion.
  3. ^ ""Mount Catherine" at". Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  4. ^ "Sinai Geology". 
  5. ^ "Mount Sinai". 
  6. ^ "Mount Sinai, Egypt". Places of Peace and Power. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Africa : North Africa : Egypt : Sinai : Mount Sinai
Monastery of St. Catherine and a snooty camel
Monastery of St. Catherine and a snooty camel

Mount Sinai (Arabic Gebel Musa) is in the middle of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt and rises 2642 metres above sea level.


Mount Sinai is said to be the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God; indeed, the Arabic name Gebel Musa means "Mount of Moses". While there is very little archaeological evidence to support this assertion, the mountain is still a popular pilgrimage site and home to the Monastery of St. Catherine, a Greek Orthodox monastery founded in the 6th century, one of the longest-running monasteries in the world and itself at the supposed location of the Burning Bush. The small town of al-Minya, outside the entrance to the valley, has sprung up to cater to tourists.

Get in

Your only choice of transport is by road. Dahab is 2 hours and 150 kilometers away, while the trip from Sharm el-Sheikh or Nuweiba is closer to 3 hours. Most visitors arrive on tours that arrive at approximately 1am at the foot of the mountain in order for travelers to climb the mountain overnight and watch the sunrise. Any guesthouse in Sinai can arrange for you to join a tour. There are also several very small Bedouin camps in St. Catherine that serve as accommodations for small groups of pilgrims.

Get around

You have two choices for getting around and climbing the mountain: on foot, or by camel. See Do for the full scoop.


The Monastery of St. Catherine, [1] at the foot of the mountain, is the easier of the two destinations here. Looking more like a fortress than a church, access is through a massive iron gate shut for the night and opened in the morning from 9 AM to 12 AM only (daily except Friday and Sunday). Note that the monastery observes the Greek Orthodox rites and is thus also closed for Christmas and Easter as calculated by the Greek Orthodox calendar.

  • Church of St. Catherine. The main church of the complex, completed in 551.
  • Basilica. Famous for a mosaic of the Transfiguration (as of 2008/07 in restoration and not in public).
  • Moses' Well. A spring that supplies water to the monastery and, according to legend, the location where Moses met his wife for the first time.
  • Library. One of the greatest repositories of ancient manuscripts in the world (second only to the Vatican), housing over 4500 rare volumes. No access without special permission (granted only to VIPs and bona fide scholars).
  • Ossuary. This morbid charnel house contains the skulls of 1400 years' worth of monks who have lived and died here.


Climbing Mount Sinai is the main objective for most visitors. There are two routes to choose from, entrances to which are rather poorly signposted, so choose carefully especially if climbing at night. Both paths lead to natural amphitheater known as Elijah's Hollow or the Seven Elders of Israel, where you'll find a teahouse for a break. From there, it's a final 750 steps (30 minutes) to reach the summit.

  • Steps of Penitence. This aptly named steep path has been quite literally carved out of the rock by monks, and with 3750 steps to climb is the shorter but more challenging of the two. No mountain-climbing equipment required though, just strong thighs, and the views back down into the valley are superb even in the middle of the night. If the sky is clear the stars above can also be a spellbinding sight, as there are no major cities for miles and miles around. The route can be climbed in as little as 45 minutes, or as long as three hours, depending on your pace.
  • Camel Path (Siket El Bashait). A gentler, winding, wide path that snakes its way up to the summit that can be completed by the average traveler in 2.5 hours. As you can guess from the name, you can also climb up this way on the back of camel, and the "sawdust" that appears to coat much of the length of the path is in fact dried camel byproducts from the many trips before you. Be warned that the camel will bite you if it doesn't like you, so be nice, and a 3-hour ride up a mountain — going on foot is actually faster for most people — may not be the easiest introduction to the notoriously swaying gait of these camels. You'll also have to dismount about a kilometer before you reach the top and cover the last 700 steps on foot. Take care at the top also, as the surface is uneven.

At the top you will find a small chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity, constructed in 1934 on the ruins of an older 16th-century church. Better yet, if you timed your ascent right, you can see the sunrise over the parched, rocky expanse of the Sinai.

Note that it will be much cooler at the summit than on the coast, and in the winter at night subzero temperatures and even snow are not unknown. Dress warmly in layers, a flashlight is also a must. Blankets and mattresses can be rented at the top for circa 10 Egyptian pounds per piece, however, their state of cleanliness may be objectionable.

The intense silence of the mountain as well as its spiritual history makes it a popular spot for yoga and meditation groups. The local 'Gebeliya' Bedouin also run silent retreats for visitors, as well as trekking trips [2].


A local Bedouin woman has set up an exquisite craft shop in the village of St Katherine's. Fansina employs more then 200 local tribeswomen to make traditional hand-woven handicrafts which are unavailable anywhere else in the Sinai.

Eat & Drink

The monastery's hostel serves breakfast, but charges 10 LE (approximately $1.75) for an egg, a slice of bread with fig jam and a tea bag if you're not spending the night.


El Milga has some basic guesthouses and hotels. Most travellers, however, choose to daytrip (or, rather, nighttrip) from Dahab or Sharm el-Sheikh.

  • St. Catherine's, [3]. Basic dormitory-style accommodation. Around US$20/person.  edit

Get out

The only way out from Mt. Sinai is back to the coast.

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
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From BibleWiki

of Sin (the moon god), called also Horeb, the name of the mountain district which was reached by the Hebrews in the third month after the Exodus. Here they remained encamped for about a whole year. Their journey from the Red Sea to this encampment, including all the windings of the route, was about 150 miles.

The last twenty-two chapters of Exodus, together with the whole of Leviticus and Numbers. ch. 1-11, contain a record of all the transactions which occurred while they were here. From Rephidim (Ex 17:8ff) the Israelites journeyed forward through the Wady Solaf and Wady esh-Sheikh into the plain of er-Rahah, "the desert of Sinai," about 2 miles long and half a mile broad, and encamped there "before the mountain." The part of the mountain range, a protruding lower bluff, known as the Ras Sasafeh (Sufsafeh), rises almost perpendicularly from this plain, and is in all probability the Sinai of history. Dean Stanley thus describes the scene:, "The plain itself is not broken and uneven and narrowly shut in, like almost all others in the range, but presents a long retiring sweep, within which the people could remove and stand afar off. The cliff, rising like a huge altar in front of the whole congregation, and visible against the sky in lonely grandeur from end to end of the whole plain, is the very image of the 'mount that might be touched,' and from which the voice of God might be heard far and wide over the plain below." This was the scene of the giving of the law. From the Ras Sufsafeh the law was proclaimed to the people encamped below in the plain of er-Rahah. During the lengthened period of their encampment here the Israelites passed through a very memorable experience. An immense change passed over them. They are now an organized nation, bound by covenant engagement to serve the Lord their God, their ever-present divine Leader and Protector. At length, in the second month of the second year of the Exodus, they move their camp and march forward according to a prescribed order. After three days they reach the "wilderness of Paran," the "et-Tih", i.e., "the desert", and here they make their first encampment. At this time a spirit of discontent broke out amongst them, and the Lord manifested his displeasure by a fire which fell on the encampment and inflicted injury on them. Moses called the place Taberah, Num 11:1ff. The journey between Sinai and the southern boundary of the Promised Land (about 150 miles) at Kadesh was accomplished in about a year.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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The mountain on which the Mosaic Law was given.

Horeb and Sinai were thought synonymous by St. Jerome ("De situ et nom. Hebr.", in P.L., XXIII, 889), W. Gesenius amd, more recently, G. Ebers (p. 381). Ewald, Ed. Robinson. E.H. Palmer, and others think Horeb denoted the whole mountainous region about Sinai (Ex., xvii, 6). The origin of the name Sinai is disputed. It seems to be an adjective from the Hebrew word for "the desert" (Ewald and Ebers) or "the moon-god" (E. Schrader and others). The mount was called Sinai, or "the mount of God" probably before the time of Moses (Josephus, "Antiq. Jud.", II, xii.) The name is now given to the triangular peninsula lying between the desert of Southern Palestine, the Red Sea, and the gulfs of Akabah and Suez, with an area of about 10,000 square miles, which was the scene of the forty years' wandering of the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt.

The principal topographical features are two. North of the Jabal et-Tih (3200 to 3950 feet) stretches an arid plateau, the desert of Tih, marked by numerous Wadis, notably El-Arish, the "River of Egypt", which formed the southern boundary of the Promised Land (Gen., xv, 18; Num., xxxiv, 5). South of Jabal et-Tih rises a mountainous mass of granite streaked with porphyry, dividing into three principal groups: the western, Jabal Serbal (6750 feet); the central, Jabal Musa (7380 feet), Jabal Catherine (8560 feet), and Jabal Um Schomer (8470 feet); the eastern, Jabal Thebt (7906 feet) and Jabal Tarfa, which terminates in Ras Mohammed. It is among these mountains that Jewish and Christian tradition places the Sinai of the Bible, but the precise location is uncertain. It is Jabal Musa, according to a tradition traceable back to the fourth century, when St. Silvia of Aquitaine was there. Jabal Musa is defended by E.H. and H.S. Palmer, Vigouroux, Lagrange, and others. However, the difficulty of applying Ex., xix, 12, to Jabal Musa and the inscriptions found near Jabal Serbal have led some to favour Serbal. This was the opinion of St. Jerome (P.L., XXIII, 916, 933) and Cosmas (P.G., LXXXVIII, 217), and more recently of Birkhard and Lepsius, and it has of late been very strongly defended by G. Ebers, not to mention Beke, Gressmann, and others, who consider the whole story about Sinai (Ex., xix) only a mythical interpretation of some volcanic eruption. The more liberal critics, while agreeing generally that the Jewish traditions represented by the "Priest-Codex" and "Elohistic documents" place Sinai among the mountains in the south-central part of the peninsula, yet disagree as to its location by the older "Jahvistic" tradition (Ex., ii, 15, 16, 21; xviii, 1, 5). A. von Gall, whose opinion Welhausen thinks the best sustained, contends that Meribar (D. V. Temptation. - Ex., xvii, 14), that the Israelites never went so far south as Jabal Mûsa, and hence that Sinai must be looked for in Madian, on the east coast of Akabar. Others (cf. Winckler, II, p.29; Smend, p. 35, n. 2; and Weill, opp. Cit. Infra in bibliography) look for Sinai in the near neighbourhood of Cades (Ayn Qâdis) in Southern Palestine.

Sinai was the refuge of many Christian anchorites during the third-century persecutions of the Church. There are traces of a fourth-century monastery near Mount Serbal. In 527 the Emperor Justinian built the famous convent of Mt. Sinai on the north foot of Jabal Mûsa, which has been known since the ninth century as St. Catherine's. Its small library contains about 500 volumes of valuable manuscripts in Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Ethiopic, etc. It was here that Tischendorf, during his researches in 1844, 1853, and 1859, found a very ancient Greek MS. (since known as the "Codex Sinaiticus") containing most of the Septuagint, all the new Testament, the "Epistle of Barnabas" and the first part of the "Shepherd" of Hermas. Forty-three MS. Pages found by him are preserved at the University of Leipzig and known as the "Codex Friderico-Augustanus". In 1892 Mrs. Smith Lewis found at Sinai a fourth-century palimpsest Syriac text of St. Luke's Gospel. Sinai is rich in valuable inscriptions. M. de Vogüé gives 3200 Egyptian and Semitic inscriptions found in the Wâdi Mukatteb, the ruins of the temple of Ischta, or Astaroth-Carmain, and the iron and turquoise mines and granite and marble quarries, which were extensively worked under the twelfth and eighteenth Egyptian dynasties.

The present population of Sinai is 4000 to 6000 semi-nomadic Arabs, Mohammedans, governed by their tribal sheikhs and immediately subject to the commandant of the garrison at Qal' at un-Nakhl, under the Intelligence Department of the Egyptian War Office at Cairo.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.


—Biblical Data:

Mount Horeb.

Mountain situated in the desert of Sinai, famous for its connection with the promulgation of the Law by God through Moses (Ex. xix. 1-xx. 18). The general opinion of modern scholars is that the name "Sinai" is derived from the name of the Babylonian moon-god Sin. Mount Sinai is often referred to as "the mountain" (that is, the mountain par excellence), "the mountain of Elohim" (Hebr.), and "the mountain of Yhwh" (Hebr.; Ex. iii. 1, iv. 27, xviii. 5, xix. 2, et passim; Num. x. 33), and in many other passages it is called "Horeb" (Ex. iii. 1; Deut. i. 2 et passim). The Biblical text, indeed, seems to indicate that this last was its proper name, while "Sinai" was applied to the desert. According to one theory, Sinai and Horeb are the names of two eminences belonging to the same range; if this be so the range became prominent in the history of the Hebrews some time before the promulgation of the Law. When Moses led the flocks of his father-in-law to the desert and came "to the mountain of God, even to Horeb," an angel appeared to him from a flaming bush, and then God Himself spoke to Moses, telling him that where he stood was holy ground, thus foreshadowing the great event that was to occur there. From that mountain God persuaded Moses to go to Pharaoh and deliver the Israelites from his yoke. After the Exodus, when the Israelites who had encamped at Rephidim were suffering with thirst, Moses, by command of God, smote water from a rock in Horeb (Ex. xvii. 6).

Having encamped before Mount Sinai, the Israelites were told that from this mountain they would receive the commandments of God, and that they would hear His very voice. They were commanded to give three days to preparation for that solemnity, for on the third day God would come down on the mountain in sight of all the people. Moses set a boundary up to which they might go, and they were prohibited under penalty of death from even touching the mountain. On the third day the mountain was enveloped in a cloud; it quaked and was filled with smoke as God descended upon it, while lightning-flashes shot forth, and the roar of thunder mingled with the peals of trumpets. Then Moses appeared upon it and promulgated the Ten Commandments, after which God instructed him in many of the laws which form a part of the Pentateuch (Ex. xix. 1-xxiii. 33). Later, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel went together up the mountain, where they saw the God of Israel. Mount Sinai was then enveloped in a cloud for six days, while on its summit, fire, the emblem of God, was seen burning. On the seventh day Moses was commanded by God to ascend the mountain to receive the tables of the Law; he remained there forty days and nights (Ex. xxiv. 9-10, 16-18). The Song of Moses refers to the solemn promulgation of the Law on Mount Sinai (Deut. xxxiii. 2); so does the Song of Deborah (Judges v.), which declares that the "earth trembled," the "heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water," and the "mountains melted" (comp. Ps. lxviii. 9, 17).

Horeb reappears later as the place to which Elijah escaped after Jezebel had massacred the prophets of Yhwh (I Kings xix. 8 et seq.).

—In Rabbinical Literature:

Different Names.

The Rabbis consider "Sinai" and "Horeb" to be two names of the same mountain, which had besides three other names: (1) "Har ha-Elohim" (= "the mountain of God"), the Israelites having received there the knowledge of the divinity of God; (2) "Har Bashan," the latter word being interpreted as though it were "beshen" (= "with the teeth"), that is to say, mankind through the virtue of this mountain obtains its sustenance; and (3) "Har Gabnunim" (= "a mountain pure as cheese"). The names "Horeb" and "Sinai" are interpreted to mean, respectively, "the mountain of the sword," because through this mountain the Sanhedrin acquired the right to sentence a man to capital punishment, and "hostility," inasmuch as the mountain was hostile to the heathen (Ex. R. ii. 6). Shab. 89a, b gives the following four additional names of Sinai: "Ẓin," "Ḳadesh," "Ḳedomot," and "Paran," but declares that its original name was "Horeb" (comp. Midr. Abkir, quoted in Yalḳ., Ex. 169); according to Pirḳe R. El. xli., it acquired the name "Sinai" only after God had appeared to Moses in the bush ("seneh"; comp. Sinai, Biblical Data).

Jacob's dream is an allegorical allusion to Sinai (Gen. xxviii. 12), "ladder" being interpreted as meaning the mountain. It is also supposed by the Rabbis that the well near which Jacob met Rachel (ib. xxix. 2) symbolizes Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai and Moses had been predestined from the days of Creation to meet each other; and therefore the former, when Moses led his father-in-law's flocks towardit (Ex. iii. 1), moved from its foundation and went to meet him. It stopped only when Moses was upon it; and both manifested great joy at the meeting. Moreover, Moses recognized that it was the mount of God on seeing that birds hovered over but did not alight upon it. According to another authority, the birds fell at Moses' feet (Yalḳuṭ Re'ubeni, Shemot, quoting the Zohar).

Scene of the Law-giving.

Sinai, however, acquired its greatest importance through the promulgation of the Law. God's descent upon the mountain was the sixth of His descents from heaven (Pirḳe R. El. xiv.). He had previously measured all the mountains, and His choice fell on Sinai because it was lower than the others. Then the other mountains, particularly Tabor and Carmel, began to dispute among themselves, each claiming that it ought to be the place of the delivery of the Torah. God, however, said to them: "Do not dispute; you are all unworthy of this occasion, as idols have been placed upon all of you except Sinai" (Soṭah 5a; Mek., Yitro, Baḥodesh, 4; Gen. R. xcix. 1; Lev. R. xiii. 2; Num. R. xiii. 5). Referring to Ex. xix. 17, Mek., l.c. 3 concludes that the mountain was torn from its foundation and that the Israelites were placed just under it (but see Shab. l.c.). The mountain was not very large, and when God descended upon it He was accompanied by 22,000 companies of archangels and by an equal number of chariots similar to that seen by Ezekiel. God therefore ordered the mountain to extend itself, so as to be capable of receiving such a host (Tan., Ẓaw, 16). In order to reconcile Ex. xix. 20 (where it is said that God descended upon the mountain) with ib. xx. 22 (which declares that God spoke to the Israelites from heaven), the Rabbis hold that God lowered the heavens and spread them on Sinai (Mek., l.c. 4). A similar statement occurs in Pirḳe R. El. xli., namely, that the mountain was removed from its foundation and that the heavens were rent asunder, the summit of the mountain extending into the opening. Moses, while standing on Sinai, could thus see everything that was going on in the heavens.

Since that time Mount Sinai has become synonymous with holiness (Yalḳ., Ps. 785). Sinai and Moriah are the two sacred mountains, through whose virtue the world exists (Midr. Teh. to Ps. lxxxvii.). After the arrival of the Messiah, God will bring Sinai, Carmel, and Tabor together, and will build the Temple on them; and all three will sing in chorus His praises (Yalḳ., Isa. 391, quoting the Pesiḳta, Midr. Teh. l.c.). Rabbah bar bar Ḥana relates that while he was traveling in the desert an Arab showed him Mount Sinai. It was encompassed by a scorpion which had its head raised; and Rabbah heard a Bat Ḳol, cry: "Wo is me for having sworn! For who can now make my oath of no effect?" (B. B. 74a).

—Critical View:

Modern scholars differ widely as to the exact geographical position of Mount Sinai. It is generally thought to be situated in the middle of the Sinaitic Peninsula, which apparently acquired its name from the mountain. But there is a whole group of mountains there, known to the Arabs as Jabal al-Ṭur, as it was to Idrisi (ed. Jaubert, p. 332) and Abu al-Fida (Hudson, "Geographiæ Veteris Scriptores Minores," iii. 74, Oxford, 1712); and it appears from Niebuhr ("Description de l'Arabie," p. 200) that this group is still occasionally called Ṭur Sinai, just as it was by Ibn Ḥaukal (ed. Ouseley, p. 29). According to the statement of Josephus ("Ant." iii. 5, § 1) that the Law was promulgated from the highest mountain in that country, the scene must have occurred on the peak now known as Mount Catherine. But the opinion of the natives is that the Biblical Sinai is identical with the peak now called Jabal Musa (Mountain of Moses), which is north of Mount Catherine. Other scholars, again, think that the scene must be placed on the Ras al-Ṣafṣafah (= "peak of the willow-tree"), the highest peak of the supposed Horeb, as at the foot of that peak there is a plain large enough for a camp.

But Grätz ("Monatsschrift," xxvii. 337 et seq.) and, later, Sayce ("Imperial and Asiatic Quarterly Review," 1893, vi. 149 et seq.) have concluded that the Biblical Sinai must not be looked for at all in the so-called Sinaitic Peninsula. It may be noted, by the way, that this appellation is not ancient; it was not known in the time of Josephus, who described Mount Sinai simply as situated in Arabia Petræa. Von Gall ("Altisraelitische Kultuslätten," p. 15) considers that originally Horeb and Sinai were the names of two distinct peaks, that Horeb was in the Sinaitic Peninsula, and Sinai in Midian, and that the identification of the two mountains is a post-exilic mistake (comp. Mal. iii. 22; Ps. cvi. 19). Von Gall's assertion, however, is not approved by critics like Holzinger and Sayce.

By comparing Num. xxxiii. 8-10 with Deut. i. 1 it is to be concluded that Sinai was between the Gulf of 'Aḳabah and Paran. According to this theory, Sinai-Horeb was either a part of Mount Seir or it was not far west of it, and Deut. xxxiii. 2, as well as Judges v. 4-5, favors the former supposition. The whole region now denominated the Sinaitic Peninsula was then under Egyptian control and strongly garrisoned. Baker Green identified Sinai with Mount Hor, which forms a part of Mount Seir, and Beke identified it with Jabal al-Nur (= "mountain of light"), at the northern end of the Gulf of 'Aḳabah.

It is evident that, long before the promulgation of the Law, Mount Sinai was one of the sacred places in which one of the local Semitic divinities had been worshiped. This is clearly indicated in Ex. iii. 5: the ground was holy, for it was Yhwh's special dwelling-place. The expression "and brought you unto myself" (Ex. xix. 4) means that Yhwh brought the Israelites to His mountain. The two names of Sinai and Horeb, meaning respectively "moon" and "sun," are of a cosmological nature. According to the higher critics, the "mountain of Yhwh" is called "Sinai" in J (Ex. xix. 11, xxxiv. 4) and P (Ex. xvi. 1; xxiv. 16; xxxiv. 28, 32; Lev. xxv. 1, xxvi. 46, xxvii. 34). On the other hand, in E, the earlier source, Horeb is the seat of Yhwh (Ex. iii. 1, xvii. 6, xxxiii. 6; in the last-cited passage the words "from Mount Horeb" belong to verse 9); and so in D, as throughout Deuteronomy, with the exception of Deut. xxxiii. 2, which is not Deuteronomic andwhich is parallel to Judges v. 3 et seq. The wilderness of Sinai is mentioned only in P (Ex. xix. 11 et seq.; Lev. vii. 38; Num. i. 1, 19).

The object of E is to show that before the Exodus the Israelites were heathen until Yhwh revealed Himself from His mountain to Moses (Ex. iii. 9-14). In E, Jethro is not the priest of Midian, but is connected with the worship of Yhwh of Horeb. On the other hand, J makes Jethro the prince of Midian, and omits all the expressions used by E tending to connect the cult of Yhwh with the older cult.

Bibliography: W. R. Smith, Rel. of Sem. pp. 110-111; Robinson, Researches, i. 140, 158, 176-177; Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, pp. 29 et seq.; Winer, B. R.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.

See also: SINAITIC COMMANDMENTS (Jewish Encyclopedia)


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