- For other places named Mount Sinai, see Mount Sinai (disambiguation)
Sunrise on the Mount Sinai
Sinai Peninsula, showing location of Jabal Musa
Mount Sinai (2,285 meters) is a mountain in the southern Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. In Arabic, the mountain is known as Gebel Musa or Jabal Musa (literally Mount Moses).
Biblical Mount Sinai
Mt. Sinai is most famous for its importance in the Bible, in Exodus. Whether modern-day Gebel Musa is the same as the biblical Mount Sinai, however, is the subject of much religious and scholarly contention.
Jewish scholars have long asserted that the exact location of Mount Sinai was unknown, the reason being that its location was purposefully terra incognita. This is unsurprising since it is one of the holiest places in their religion, most famous for being the place where Moses was said in the Bible to have received the Ten Commandments from God. Judaism further teaches that the exact location of the original Mount Sinai was deliberately kept secret, so that no one would be tempted to erect a shrine at the tomb of Moses (itself an unknown location near in the territory of Moab.)
There is also a considerable weight of historical counterevidence to support the view that the mountain now known as Mount Sinai and its biblical namesake are not coterminous.
Sinai - 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. 17:8-13) 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 identified by some as the Sinai of history. Local tour groups and local religious groups advertise this mountain as the same Mount Sinai described in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, Old Testament). Historians and archaeologists point out that there is no one accepted tradition as to which mountain is the "real" Mount Sinai, and in fact there are several other small mountains in the area that some groups hold to be the real one.
According to the Bible, during their encampment here the Israelites passed through a memorable experience. After the giving of the law, they became an organized nation, bound by a covenant to be a kingdom of priests unto God. 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 God manifested his displeasure by a fire which fell on the encampment and inflicted injury on them. Moses called the place Taberah (q.v.), Num. 11:1-3. The journey between Sinai and the southern boundary of the Promised Land (about 150 miles) at Kadesh was accomplished in about a year.
The History of the Ancient Near East
This entry incorporates text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897, with some modernisation.