Mount Sinai

We saw that the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea. They are now encamped on the east coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, facing Nuweiba peninsula. They know where they are going, at least Moses and Aaron know; firstly to worship at Horeb and then to the land of Canaan.
The question is: Where do the people of Israel go after crossing the Red Sea? The Bible says: "So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water." (Exodus 15:22)

To the east of the Gulf of Aqaba, on the opposite side of Nuweiba there is a similar plain, very extensive desert and wilderness area, which more or less covers the whole of present day Saudi-Arabia and parts of Jordan (see figure).
After journeying further, the people of Israel come to Elim. The Bible says: "Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees." In the figure the possible location of Elim can be seen. This is an oasis in the area where the people of Israel traveling, with several hundred palm trees and 12 wells. The palm trees found in this oasis are rare for the region.

After staying a short time in Elim, the people of Israel leave and journey on the desert of Sin. The Bible says: "And they journeyed from Elim, and all congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai." (Exodus 16:1)
In the wilderness of Sin, God gave manna to the peeple of Israel. The Bible text describes the mana as "'it was like coriander side'." (Exodus 16:31) We know that coriander seeds are from 3-6 mm in diameter (see figure).

After the people of Israel had journeyed from encampment to encampment, according to the Loer´d command, they pitched camp in a place which came to be called Rephidim. The Bible says: "Then all congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink." (Exodus 17:1)
The question of water was a big problem and the Israelities directed their anger against Moses once again. The Bible says: "And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" (Exodus 17:3)
Moses turns to the Lord in prayer and the Lord replies to Moses: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel." (Exodus 17:5-6)

A Hebrew writer of history, Josephus, mentions that the people of Israel were to receive water from a place where they least expected it. He uses the term "river" when he describes the flow of water. The translator of Josephus´ historical scrpits, Whilliam Whiston (who lived 1667-1752) makes a comment that this rock could still be seen by travellers visiting the area. He describes the rock as being too big to be moved by horse and cart.
The question is: Can Rephidim and the rock of Horeb be found today? On the western side of Mount Horeb there is a place that was probably Rephidim. The area is characterised by a plain with several hills. On one of these hills there is a rock which can be seen from a distance, and which is remarkable in several ways (see figure). The rock in Rephidim does not resemble any of these natural formations. It looks more like a gigantic block which has been erected on this hill. The rock is as high as a six-storey building, i.e. 18-20 metres (see figure).
The Bible says that Moses struck the rock with his staff, and the split rock poured our large quantity of water. In this figure it can be clearly seen that the whole rock is split from top to bottom. The figure illustrates how it might have looked for the Israelites when they saw a river of water emerging from the split rock. The figure shows how the rock at the foot of the crack has eroded. It resembles rock formations on dried-out riverbeds, with smoothed and hollowed out block of rock. Below the rock, it looks as if water poured out in such large quantities that even now, 3500 years later, it still resembles the source of a river.

The Bible records that fighting broke out with the Amalekites, exactly at the place which was called Rephidim: "Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim." (Exodus 17:8) Moses appoints Joshua as commander of Israel´s army, and then climbs to the hilltop in Rephidim. According to the Bible, the people of Israel are victorious. The Bible tells that Moses erect an altar in the Lord´s honour: "And Moses built an altar and called its name, The Lord is my banner." (Exodus 17:15)
Close to the rock of Horeb, a few hundred metres away on the plain, stands a stone altar (see figure). It is very probable that Moses stood on this hill near the the rock during the battle.

The next question is: Who visits Moses and the people of Israel in the desert? The Bible says: "And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses´ father in law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people ? that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt? And Jethro, Moses father in law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God." (Exodus 18:1,5) There is the only one place for a permanent settlement in the region. This is for one reason: access to drinking water. Moses´ father in law Jethro, was the high priest of Midian. The high priest probably lived in the capital or permanent settlement of the region. The only place this could be is what is called Al Bad today, which is the area in red. Interestingly, the investigation of the land of Midian by R.F. Burton in 1878. revealed the position of what was called "Moses´ Well". This well was located in Al Bad.
Al Bad is located in the circle in the lowest part of the satellite photograph. The big satellite photograph is a magnification of mountain Horeb, seen as the black area in the lower left part of the photograph. The white area east of the black mountain is the campsite. This is mount Horeb seen from the campsite (see figure).

The mountain has three names in the Bible: "God´s mountain", "Mount Horeb" and "Mount Sinai". In modern times the mountain has been given the name Jabal Al Lawz and is called Jebel Musa or Moses´ mount, by bedouins.

In the encampment area, part of a millstone was found, a stone that together with a piece of log or a stone, was used for grinding flour (see figure). In this case it was probably used for preparing the manna to make bread. In the figure a corresponding millstone from ancient Egypt is shown. As can be seen, these two millstones were made in the same way suggesting an Egyptian origin.

Along the poute of the Israelites, stone-circles have been found. For example, in the Negev desert and other places in todays Israel. At Mount Horeb there is a huge number of stone circles. The sketch shows a possible function of the stone circles (see figure).
The Bible says that Moses was to mark out the boundary so that people of Israel would not come into contact with the foot of the mountain: "You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ´Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death? But Moses said to the Lord, ´The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for You warned us saying, ´Set bound around the mountain and consecrate it." (Exodus 19:12,23)
The Bible does not state what type of fence or demarcation Moses had put up. In this figure black bands of stone can be seen along the side of the mountain in the middle of the lighter, brownish stones. But, the more interesting find is the block of stone with a special type of inscription. The inscription is a mark of a foot or a shoe. This mark is interesting because it existed in Egypt, and there it was used to mark a holy place. There is a large number of stone blocks below Horeb with this inscription (see figure).

Also, there must be an altar below Mount Horeb. The Bible says: "And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain." (Exodus 24:4) The Lord is very detailed when He gives Moses the instructions of how this altar is to look: "And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for it you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it." (Exodus 20:25,26)
The Bible tells us that Moses built an altar below Horeb, and at the foot of this mountain there is an altar. From the distance and seen from above, the altar is formed in an angle like the letter L upside down. The altar is low (see figure). The wall is built of natural stone, uncut stone. From this aspect too, the existing altar satisfies the conditions (see figure). The altar is in two parts. The lefthand part consist of some for of pathway. It may be that animals were led in along two separate paths. Another possibility is that animals were led in along one path, and those who held the animals went back along the other path. The altar itself is the higher part, right part. This part is enclosed by a stone wall and is filled up with earth. From this aspect also, the altar at the mountain satisfies the requirements of the biblical text.

According to the biblical texts there should be 12 stone pillars below Mount Horeb: "And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel." (Exodus 24:4) Within the sacred area, just below the rock face, there are the remains of stone pillars. The row of stone pillars is coloured yellow (see figure). Ten stone pillars are standing in marked semi-circles, and there are two empty places as though two stone pillars are missing.

The people of Israel made themselves an idol of gold, a golden calf when they thought that Moses had disappeared during his 40 days on Horeb. The circle in the figure indicate the altar to the golden calf, exactly where the Bible relates Moses would have seen it as he went down the mountain. Also, we can see the altar of the golden calf fenced by the Saudi-Arabian authorities. It is very interesting, that there are many bull inscriptions at the altar (see figure). These are typical Egyptian bull inscriptions, according to the Egyptian cult of Apis or bull cult (see figure). This is the only known place in Saudi-Arabia where inscriptions of this type have been found.
Apis bulls are extremely common in Egyptian culture. It should be particularly noted that it was usual to depict these bulls with a sort of squared pattern or other pathern. On one stone close to the altar is the inscription. One of these inscriptions is very interesting, where a person is "lifting" a bull in worship (see figure). This type of inscription can be found in Egypt (see figure).

The Bible says, that a stream of water poured down from Mount Horeb to give up water to the people of Israel and their livestock: "Then I took your sin, the calf which you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it and ground it very small, untill it was as fine as dust; and I threw its dust into the brook that descended from the mountain." (Deuteronomy 9:21)
At the foot of the mountain the stream of water can be seen as a dried up river-bed winding through the sacred area below the mountain. The riverbed at the base of the mountain has been "filled with water" in this illustration. The difference in level between the "banks" and the "bed" of the pond is about 2.5 feet, which meant a considerable amount of water.
To ensure good quality drinking water, double-walled wells were dug along the banks (see figure). Outline sketches for these wells can be seen in the figure. The wells had an outer wall of stone, an interspace filled with gravel and sand and an inner wall of stone. To reach the wells the water had to pass through ground consisting of sand and gravel. This filter system can resemble what we have in modern times for the purification of drinking water.

The traditional location of Mount Sinai is in the middle of the southern part of the Sinai peninsula, which is marked in the figure. There is the traditional Mount Sinai on the Sinai peninsula. So how was the traditional Mount Sinai arrived at as the mountain described in the book of Exodus? In the fourth century AD, Helena the mother of Constantine the Great, built a chapel on the north-west slope of the mountain on the Sinai peninsula. The monastery of St. Catherine which is still there, can be dated to about 527 AD, and was founded by the Emperor Justinius. And, this is the connection with the traditional Mount Sinai.
But, we saw where is the location of Mount Sinai.

In this figure the top of Horeb is shown. The upper part of the mountain ridge is black, while the rest of the mountain is golden brown in colour. There is a clear line between the different colours on the mountain. The top is quite different from the rest of the mountain. The black stone is obsidian, a mineral formed at high temperature (see figure). There are speculations as to how the upper part has been transformed by heat, but the Bible says: "Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking." (Exodus 20:18)

The Bible says that the Tabernacle was a sanctuary for the Lord. The Ark of the Covenant was the most important part of the Tabernacle. It is very interesting that the Ark was made of acacia wood, the only tree commonly found in this desert environment of Saudi Arabia (see figure).

When the Saudi-Arabian authorities were informed about the finds at this mountain they fenced the area. To protect the area, guards with machine guns are constantly stationed at this location (see figure). We can see that there is a number of matters which support the hypothesis that today´s Jabal Al Lawz is the biblical Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai.

For more informations see:
The Exodus Case by Lennart Muller