If we go the the Bible, the location of Mt. Sinai is not that difficult to ascertain. When God first spoke to Moses regarding the great work of leading the people out of their Egyptian bondage, He told Moses:
EXO 3:12 …, 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.
To find out exactly where Moses was when this conversation took place, we need to go to the beginning of chapter 3:
EXO 3:1 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. 2 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.
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 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 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 Nuweba, 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 Jebal 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 mear 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
EXO 19:18 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….20:18 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.
JDG 5:5 The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel.
PSA 68:8 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.
Above, we have read how the Bible clearly tells of how God’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 God’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 God’s Presence would leave an indelible mark on the mountain.
Local Traditions of Moses and Jethro in NW Arabia
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 traveled 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?: GAL 4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
“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, 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.