Daily Archives: October 7, 2011

The location of Mount Sinai

Horeb is probably the range of mountains (cf. Exodus 17:6), and Sinai the peak. The terms are used interchangeably in several passages (cf. Acts 7:30,38 with Exodus 3:1ff.). Several sites have been suggested for Mount Sinai. Here are the major ones.

1. Some have suggested the Land of Midian because of what appears to be volcanic action (Exodus 19:18). It is argued that there has been no volcanic activity in the Sinai Peninsula, but that there has been in Midian. The Bible says, “the Lord descended upon it in fire.” This was miraculous activity.

2. Mt. Serbal at Wadi Feiran. There is no plain large enough for the encampment of Israel. This tradition goes back to Eusebius (4th century A.D.).

3. The traditional site is a peak known as Jebel Musa (Mount Moses). The elevation is 7,519 feet. The plain of el-Raha (Arabic for the Rest) at the foot of Jebel Musa has enough water for an encampment of considerable duration. G. Ernest Wright says, “we are left with the traditional location of Mt. Sinai as still the most probable” (20th Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1033). Grollenberg comments more from emotion than from reason:

“A visit to the traditional Mount Sinai suffices to dispel all these doubts. The huge granite formations are an awe-inspiring spectacle. The atmosphere, the light and the colours, the incredible stillness, all conspire to make the scene an unforgettable setting for the meeting of God with man” (Atlas of the Bible, 48).

The photo below was made above Saint Catherine’s Monastery with a view toward el-Raha, the Rest.

View of el-Raha, the Rest, at Jebel Musa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of el-Raha, the Rest, at Jebel Musa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

4. Some scholars have suggested sites much further north in the Sinai peninsula.

There is no way to know for certain the location of Mount Sinai, but the traditional site fits well with much of the biblical evidence. Rasmussen says the “meeting of Moses and Aaron at the ‘mountain of God’ could well have been this spot (Exod. 4:27)” (Zondervan Atlas of the Bible Revised Edition. 105).

Click on the photo for an image suitable for use in teaching presentations.