Visiting Mt. Sinai with a Tour Group
Climb Sinai Mountain, where Moses received the Ten Commandments
Explore Saint Catherine's Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Pass under the Suez Canal on the journey
Full description: On the first day, meet your guide in your hotel lobby in Cairo and then head to Saint Catherine. On the way, travel under the Suez Canal, a world-famous canal which runs between Africa and Asia. Pass by the Oyun Musa, or Moses Spring, where the prophet found sweet water during the exodus from Egypt. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant, and your own expense, and finally arrive at the Saint Catherine area. Check-in at the St. Catherine Plaza Hotel and rest for the evening, with dinner included. At 2:00 AM the following night, you will have an early start to begin your climb to Mount Sinai. Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before you start your climb on the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments, accompanied by a local Bedouin guide. Once you descend, meet your guide who will give you a guided tour of Saint Catherine's Monastery. See the burning bush from Biblical lore. Afterwards, be transferred back to your hotel in Cairo. Only $350!
Exodus Chapters 15:22-18:27 highlights the journey after crossing the Red Sea 200 miles South to Mt. Sinai. Because hardly anyone reads the Bible these days, I've included Chapters 19-20 in the box below. This should make it easy for you to start doing your homework in an arena where commentaries and opinions fill libraries now. What's important is seeing the one true God in the midst of all the cacophony.
The Israelites Reach Mount Sinai
Exodus 19:1 At the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. 3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.’
7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 The people all answered as one: ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. 9 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.’
When Moses had told the words of the people to the Lord, 10 the Lord said to Moses: ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 You shall set limits for the people all around, saying, “Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch the edge of it. Any who touch the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch them, but they shall be stoned or shot with arrows; whether animal or human being, they shall not live.” When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they may go up on the mountain.’ 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people. He consecrated the people, and they washed their clothes. 15 And he said to the people, ‘Prepare for the third day; do not go near a woman.’
16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. 19 As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. 20 When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people not to break through to the Lord to look; otherwise many of them will perish. 22 Even the priests who approach the Lord must consecrate themselves or the Lord will break out against them.’ 23 Moses said to the Lord, ‘The people are not permitted to come up to Mount Sinai; for you yourself warned us, saying, “Set limits around the mountain and keep it holy.” ’ 24 The Lord said to him, ‘Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you; but do not let either the priests or the people break through to come up to the Lord; otherwise he will break out against them.’ 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.
The Ten Commandments
20:1 Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9For six days you shall labour and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. 12 Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13 You shall not murder 14 You shall not commit adultery. 15 You shall not steal. 16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. 17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, 19 and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.’ 20 Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.’ 21Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
22 The Lord said to Moses: Thus you shall say to the Israelites: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I spoke with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver alongside me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 You need make for me only an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt-offerings and your offerings of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 But if you make for me an altar of stone, do not build it of hewn stones; for if you use a chisel upon it you profane it. 26 You shall not go up by steps to my altar, so that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’
The story gets exciting again from 23:20-24:18
The Projected Conquest of Canaan
23 When my angel goes in front of you, and brings you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24 you shall not bow down to their gods, or worship them, or follow their practices, but you shall utterly demolish them and break their pillars in pieces. 25 You shall worship the Lord your God, and I will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from among you. 26 No one shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfil the number of your days. 27 I will send my terror in front of you, and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send the pestilence in front of you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, or the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31 I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates; for I will hand over to you the inhabitants of the land, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not live in your land, or they will make you sin against me; for if you worship their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.
The Blood of the Covenant
24 Then he said to Moses, ‘Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship at a distance. 2Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.’
3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, ‘All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed oxen as offerings of well-being to the Lord. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ 8 Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, ‘See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.’
9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
12 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.’ 13 So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14To the elders he had said, ‘Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.’
15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. 17Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.18Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
Chapters 32-35 are packed with action and awe:
32:1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 2 Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ 3 So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.’ 6 They rose early the next day, and offered burnt-offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.
7 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” ’ 9 The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’
11 But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, ‘O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.” ’ 14 And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, ‘There is a noise of war in the camp.’ 18 But he said,"
21 Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?’ 22 And Aaron said, ‘Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil. 23 They said to me, “Make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 24 So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off ”; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!’
25 When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 He said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbour.” ’ 28 The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. 29 Moses said, ‘Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.’
30 On the next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.’ 33 But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.’
35 Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf—the one that Aaron made.
The Command to Leave Sinai
33:1 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go, leave this place, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, and go to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, “To your descendants I will give it.” 2 I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.’
4 When the people heard these harsh words, they mourned, and no one put on ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, “You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, and I will decide what to do to you.” ’ 6 Therefore the Israelites stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onwards.
The Tent outside the Camp
7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each of them, at the entrance of their tents and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. 10 When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise and bow down, all of them, at the entrance of their tents. 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.
12 Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favour in my sight.” 13 Now if I have found favour in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favour in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.’ 14 He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ 15 And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favour in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.’
17 The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name.’ 18 Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ 19 And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The Lord”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But’, he said, ‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’ 21 And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’
Moses Makes New Tablets
‘The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
7 keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
yet by no means clearing the guilty,
but visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.’
8 And Moses quickly bowed his head towards the earth, and worshipped. 9 He said, ‘If now I have found favour in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.’
The Covenant Renewed
10 He said: I hereby make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform marvels, such as have not been performed in all the earth or in any nation; and all the people among whom you live shall see the work of the Lord; for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.
11 Observe what I command you today. See, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 12 Take care not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you are going, or it will become a snare among you.13 You shall tear down their altars, break their pillars, and cut down their sacred poles 14 (for you shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God). 15 You shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to their gods, someone among them will invite you, and you will eat of the sacrifice. 16 And you will take wives from among their daughters for your sons, and their daughters who prostitute themselves to their gods will make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods.
17 You shall not make cast idols.
18 You shall keep the festival of unleavened bread. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out from Egypt.
19 All that first opens the womb is mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. 20 The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem.
No one shall appear before me empty-handed.
21 For six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in ploughing time and in harvest time you shall rest. 22 You shall observe the festival of weeks, the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the festival of ingathering at the turn of the year. 23 Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. 24 For I will cast out nations before you, and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.
25 You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven, and the sacrifice of the festival of the passover shall not be left until the morning.
26 The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.
You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.
27 The Lord said to Moses: Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel. 28He was there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
The Shining Face of Moses
29 Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32 Afterwards all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34 but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
35:1 Moses assembled all the congregation of the Israelites and said to them: These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do:
2 For six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy sabbath of solemn rest to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 You shall kindle no fire in all your dwellings on the sabbath day.
Preparations for Making the Tabernacle
4 Moses said to all the congregation of the Israelites: This is the thing that the Lord has commanded: 5 Take from among you an offering to the Lord; let whoever is of a generous heart bring the Lord’s offering: gold, silver, and bronze; 6 blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen; goats’ hair, 7 tanned rams’ skins, and fine leather; acacia wood, 8oil for the light, spices for the anointing-oil and for the fragrant incense, 9 and onyx stones and gems to be set in the ephod and the breastpiece.
10 All who are skillful among you shall come and make all that the Lord has commanded: the tabernacle, 11 its tent and its covering, its clasps and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; 12the ark with its poles, the mercy-seat, and the curtain for the screen; 13 the table with its poles and all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 14 the lampstand also for the light, with its utensils and its lamps, and the oil for the light; 15 and the altar of incense, with its poles, and the anointing-oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the entrance, the entrance of the tabernacle; 16 the altar of burnt-offering, with its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin with its stand; 17 the hangings of the court, its pillars and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18 the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court, and their cords; 19 the finely worked vestments for ministering in the holy place, the holy vestments for the priest Aaron, and the vestments of his sons, for their service as priests.
Offerings for the Tabernacle
20 Then all the congregation of the Israelites withdrew from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and brought the Lord’s offering to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the sacred vestments. 22 So they came, both men and women; all who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earings and signet rings and pendants, all sorts of gold objects, everyone bringing an offering of gold to the Lord. 23 And everyone who possessed blue or purple or crimson yarn or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or fine leather,brought them. 24 Everyone who could make an offering of silver or bronze brought it as the Lord’s offering; and everyone who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work, brought it. 25 All the skillful women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun in blue and purple and crimson yarns and fine linen; 26 all the women whose hearts moved them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. 27And the leaders brought onyx stones and gems to be set in the ephod and the breastpiece, 28and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing-oil, and for the fragrant incense. 29 All the Israelite men and women whose hearts made them willing to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done, brought it as a freewill-offering to the Lord.
30 Then Moses said to the Israelites: See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 he has filled him with divine spirit, with skill, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, 32to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 33 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft. 34 And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do every kind of work done by an artisan or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and in fine linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of artisan or skilled designer...
At this point in world history, about 1400 BC, the God of the whole Earth honored His promises to Abraham, made about six hundred years earlier.
Moses is a type of Christ therefore. He stands between a holy God and a lost, sinful people who are the objects of God's grace and mercy.
The Great Gulf Fixed between God and man was temporarily breached by Moses.
Later that imperfect action would be fully closed by God Himself--coming in Person through His Son Jesus to reconcile God and man once and for all.
The Law of Moses tells us what God is like as a Personal. He is not a legalist!
The Law of Moses, the Levitical priesthood, the Tabernacle and two temples that followed all pointed to a coming Savior.
Psalm 40, a Messianic Psalm was fulfilled by Jesus.
Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt-offering and sin-offering
you have not required.
Then I said, ‘Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.’
I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
This is confirmed in Hebrews 10.
A covenant is an agreement between parties subject to terms and conditions agreed upon between two parties. Common covenants are: your Driver's License, your citizenship in a nation, your home loan, your mortgage, a business contract. Above all, your marriage covenant with your spouse! Some covenants are conditional--the failure of either party nullifies the covenant. The New Covenant God made with Israel and the true Church is unconditional. Our failure, Israel's failure, does not nullify the New Covenant! That New Covenant foretold by Jeremiah after Jerusalem was destroyed in 583 BC, was put into effect by Jesus the Messiah at the Last Supper. Although the New Covenant is with Israel it overflows to all gentiles who come into the family of Jesus.
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’ When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:26-30)
.What is a Covenant?
The Main Covenants of God
God's faithfulness: Israel and the New Covenant
Israel's Covenant with Sheol
The New Covenant: Entering In
The New Covenant Defined
“I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”
2 Thus says the Lord:
“The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness—
Israel, when I went to give him rest.”
3 The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
4 Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!
You shall again be adorned with your tambourines,
And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.
5 You shall yet plant vines on the mountains of Samaria;
The planters shall plant and eat them as ordinary food.
6 For there shall be a day
When the watchmen will cry on Mount Ephraim,
‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
To the Lord our God.’ ”
7 For thus says the Lord:
“Sing with gladness for Jacob,
And shout among the chief of the nations;
Proclaim, give praise, and say,
‘O Lord, save Your people,
The remnant of Israel!’
8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country,
And gather them from the ends of the earth,
Among them the blind and the lame,
The woman with child
And the one who labors with child, together;
A great throng shall return there.
9 They shall come with weeping,
And with supplications I will lead them.
I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters,
In a straight way in which they shall not stumble;
For I am a Father to Israel,
And Ephraim is My firstborn.
10 “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
And declare it in the isles afar off, and say,
‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
And keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’
11 For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
And ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.
12 Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion,
Streaming to the goodness of the Lord—
For wheat and new wine and oil,
For the young of the flock and the herd;
Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden,
And they shall sorrow no more at all.
13 “Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance,
And the young men and the old, together;
For I will turn their mourning to joy,
Will comfort them,
And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.
14 I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance,
And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord.”
15 Thus says the Lord:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.”
16 Thus says the Lord:
“Refrain your voice from weeping,
And your eyes from tears;
For your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord,
And they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
17 There is hope in your future, says the Lord,
That your children shall come back to their own border.
18 “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself:
‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised,
Like an untrained bull;
Restore me, and I will return,
For You are the Lord my God.
19 Surely, after my turning, I repented;
And after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh;
I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated,
Because I bore the reproach of my youth.’
20 Is Ephraim My dear son?
Is he a pleasant child?
For though I spoke against him,
I earnestly remember him still;
Therefore My heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord.
21 “Set up signposts,
Set your heart toward the highway,
The way in which you went.
Turn back, O virgin of Israel,
Turn back to these your cities.
22 How long will you gad about,
O you backsliding daughter?
For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth—
A woman shall encompass a man.”
23 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:
“They shall again use this speech in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I bring back their captivity:
‘The Lord bless you, O home of justice, and mountain of holiness!’
24 And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all its cities together, farmers and those going out with flocks.
25 For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”
26 After this I awoke and looked around, and my sleep was sweet to me.
27 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that
I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast.
28 And it shall come to pass, that as I have watched over them
to pluck up, to break down, to throw down, to destroy, and to afflict,
so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord.
29 In those days they shall say no more:
‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity;
every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.
A New Covenant
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—
33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Hiding in the Rock
The Hidden of the Lord
What Bible Prophecy is Not
Problems with Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia by Brad Sparks
Problems with Mt. Sinai in Arabia
Mt. Sinai is not at Jebel El-Lawz in Saudi Arabia, by Gordon Franz
Is Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia?* by Gordon Franz
Compiled by Brad Sparks
This article was first published in the June 2007 ABR E-Newsletter. The site favored by most scholars is Gebel Musa (Mountain of Moses), or one of several nearby mountains, in the high-mountain region of southern Sinai. This problem is of utmost importance, since finding the correct location of Mt. Sinai is at the heart of the question of the historicity of the Exodus account. Scholars today largely discount the Biblical account of the sojourn in Egypt, Exodus and wilderness wanderings as fiction...WHAT DO MT. HOREB, THE MOUNTAIN OF GOD, MT. PARAN AND MT. SEIR HAVE TO DO WITH MT. SINAI?
The short answer to our title question is that the Mountain of God, Mt. Horeb, Mt. Sinai and Mt. Paran are all names for Mt. Sinai, and Mt. Seir is important for determining the location of Mt. Sinai. The long answer, which is the subject of this article, is that each of these names provides important clues for determining where Mt. Sinai is located. The location of Mt. Sinai is one of the major mysteries in Biblical research. Yohanan Aharoni has stated, 'To-day the problem of identifying the r...
Surprisingly, the location of Mt. Sinai, one of the most significant places in the Bible, is not known with any degree of certainty. Over the years some two dozen sites have been proposed, none of which meets the Biblical requirements. The site favored by most scholars is Gebel Musa (Mountain of Moses), or one of several nearby mountains, in the high-mountain region of southern Sinai. Where are the Israelite Burials From the Wilderness Wanderings? What Do Mt. Horeb, The Mountain of God, Mt. Par...IS MOUNT SINAI IN SAUDI ARABIA?
This article examines four aspects of the question regarding whether or not Mt. Sinai is located in Saudi Arabia. First, the credibility of the claims will be questioned. Second, the false assumptions by the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz will be disputed. Third, the Biblical evidence will be discussed. Fourth, the archaeological evidence will be examined... This article was originally published in the Fall 2000 issue of Bible and Spade. Two treasure hunters stood on the top of Jebel al-Lawz t...THOUGHTS ON JEBEL AL-LAWZ AS THE LOCATION OF MOUNT SINAI
There has been much publicity in recent years concerning the identification of Jebel al-Lawz as Mt. Sinai. Although this idea is not new, it has been given new life by two adventurers, Robert Cornuke and Larry Williams. Although present knowledge does not allow us to pinpoint the exact position of Mt. Sinai, we can ascertain its general location from data given in the Bible. The Bible tells us exactly how long it took the Israelites to travel from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh Barnea. Knowing their appro...MOUNT SINAI IS NOT JEBEL AL-LAWZ IN SAUDI ARABIA
This paper was originally presented at the ETS/NEAS meeting on Thursday, November 15, 2001. It has been slightly edited for Web presentation. The last ten years have witnessed a proliferation of books, videos, websites, and television programs that have proposed a new site for Mt. Sinai — Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia. These sources also told about underwater searches for Pharaoh’s chariots and weapons from the Egyptian army. This paper examines three aspects of the identification of Mt. Sinai ...WHERE ARE THE ISRAELITE BURIALS FROM THE WILDERNESS WANDERINGS?
Some have raised the objection that Mount Sinai could not be in the Sinai Peninsula because millions of Israelites died during the Wilderness Wanderings and no graves of any of these Israelites have been discovered in the Sinai Peninsula from this period. Recently we received such an inquiry at the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) website by an anonymous individual identified only as 'Curious.' This individual states: 'How can it be logical to say the Israelites wandered in the Sinai Peni...THE MOUNT SINAI RESEARCH PROJECT
Surprisingly, the location of Mt. Sinai, one of the most significant places in the Bible, is not known with any degree of certainty. Over the years some two dozen sites have been proposed, none of which meets the Biblical requirements. Dr. Bryant Wood and Gary Byers are heading up research to re-evaluate the Biblical and historical evidence in order to identify the location of one of the most important mountains in the world. . ABR Staff. . . .CONFRONTING BAAL-ZEPHON: THE SPIRITUAL MESSAGE OF THE MEETING OF ISRAEL AND THE ARMIES OF EGYPT
You may ask, 'you mean it's actually important to know where the Israelites crossed the Red Sea?' or 'Does it really matter which mountain is Mt. Sinai?'... . Scott Lanser MA. This article was first published in the June 2006 ABR Electronic Newsletter. 'Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea...directly opposite Baal Zephon...''(Exodus 14:1). It would be a gross understatement to say that the issues of the locations ...DEBUNKING 'THE EXODUS DECODED'
The Exodus Decoded made its US debut August 20 on the History Channel. Produced and narrated by Simcha Jacobovici, the film purportedly provides new evidence to demonstrate the Exodus really happened. Some of Jacobovici's points are old hat... . Bryant G. Wood PhD. The $3.5 million documentary The Exodus Decoded made its US debut August 20 on the History Channel. Previously it had been broadcast on the Discovery Channel in Canada in April and was shown at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July.
Proponents of the 'Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia' thesis continue to appeal to Galatians 4:25 as a supporting argument for their theory. Gordon Franz shows how the first century reader would have understood Paul's geographic reference. In Galatians 4:25, the Apostle Paul identifies Mount Sinai as being in Arabia. He writes: “For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar - for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children –“ (4:24-25 NKJV, emphasis mine). The questions to be asked regarding this passage are:
The short answer is that in the days of the Apostle Paul the term “Arabia” included the Sinai Peninsula and did not correspond just to modern-day Saudi Arabia’s boundaries as some today mistakenly assert. The area of Saudi Arabia was one part of first century Arabia, but not the whole of Arabia. Thus the biblical Mount Sinai, located in the Sinai Peninsula, which in my opinion should be located at Jebel Sin-Bishar (Franz 2000: 112; Faiman 2000; Har-el 1983; Rasmussen 1989: 89-91), was in “Arabia.” The traditional Mount Sinai at Jebel Musa was also located in the Sinai in ancient “Arabia.” So Mount Sinai (either site) was in both the Sinai and in “Arabia,” which overlapped, and there is no disconnect with the Bible, ancient geography, or modern scholarship.
Based on this verse in Galatians, some have insisted that the Apostle Paul is referring to Mount Sinai being in Saudi Arabia, and not in the Sinai. For example, Robert Cornuke, the president of the BASE Institute, states:
“It’s [Galatians 4:25] one of several Bible references plainly describing the location of Mount Sinai. It’s in Arabia. Not in Egypt. Not in the Sinai Peninsula. And how does the Bible define Arabia? In both the Old and New Testaments, Arabia has always been located south and east of Palestine, the area of present-day Saudi Arabia. The Sinai Peninsula, on the other hand, lies south and west of Palestine. The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, informs us that Mount Sinai is in Saudi Arabia. Not Egypt!” (Cornuke and Halbrook 2000: 170-171; emphasis GWF).
His associate, Larry Williams, basically says the same thing (1990: 70-71), as did Ron Wyatt, who also placed Mount Sinai at Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia (Wyatt 1994; Standish and Standish 1999: 195-200). A word of caution though, as we have already read, all the Bible actually says is that Mount Sinai is in Arabia, not Saudi Arabia. It is not wise to read into the text that which is not stated, or to simplistically interpret 21st century political boundaries as applicable to a first century biblical text without any substantiation.
Where was Arabia According to the Ancient Sources?
Unfortunately no actual maps of Roman Arabia exist from the first century AD, so we are limited to the accounts of the geographers, historians, and contemporary travelers. As one examines these accounts, it will be seen that the vast territory of Arabia goes from the Nile Delta in eastern Egypt and the Arabian Gulf (Red Sea - Gulf of Suez) on the west, all the way over to the Persian Gulf on the east. It goes from Damascus in the north, to the tip of Yemen in the south. Today, the territory of first century Arabia would cover the areas of eastern Egypt, including the Sinai Peninsula, southern Israel, Jordan, and parts of Syria and Iraq, all of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Gulf States on the Persian Gulf. It is not limited to Saudi Arabia or the northwest quadrant of Saudi Arabia as Cornuke has stated.
Moses never used the word “Arab” or “Arabia” at the time he wrote the Pentateuch. The Book of Exodus thus cannot be used to locate “Arabia” which did not exist yet as a geographic term and so, of course, “Arabia” does not appear in that book of the Bible. The words “Arab” and “Arabia” appear later in the Bible (1 Kings 10:15; 2 Chron. 9:14; 17:11; 21:16; 22:1; 26:7; Neh. 2:19; 4:7; 6:1; Isa. 13:20; 21:13; Jer. 3:2; 25:24; Ezek. 27:21). So the Apostle Paul does not have a Mosaic use of the word “Arabia” in mind when he uses the word in Galatians 4:25, because “Arabia” did not exist in Moses’ day.
The word “Arab” first appears in an extra-biblical inscription from a monolith found at Kurkh from the time of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (853 BC). It describes the coalition of armies led by the rulers of Damascus, Hamath, Israel, and “Gindibu’ the Arab and his 1,000 camels” that battled against Shalmaneser III at Qarqar (Eph’al 1982: 21). Throughout the Assyrian period, various Assyrian kings describe the activities of the Arabs, or desert nomads, in their inscriptions (Eph’al 1982: 21-59).
The first time the word “Arabia” is used as a term for a designated geographical area is in the mid-fifth century BC by the famous Greek historian and traveler, Herodotus (ca. 450 BC). He traveled to Egypt and wrote about his trip in his book, The Persian Wars.
In his monumental work on ancient Arabs, Dr. Israel Eph’al of Tel Aviv University points out that:
“Herodotus, an important source for the demography of the mid-5th century B.C. Egypt and Sinai peninsula, calls the entire region east of the Nile and the Pelusian Branch, from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, ‘Arabia’, and its population ‘Arabs’ ([Herodotus, Persian Wars 2:8, 15, 19, 30, 75, 124, 158 [LCL 1: 283, 291, 297, 309, 361-363, 425, 471]).
The Gulf of Suez is called “the Arabian Sea” and the mountainous region [in Egypt] east of Heliopolis “the Arabian mountains” (2:8, 124 [LCL 1: 283, 425]). [In Egypt] Daphnae (biblical Tahpanhes, present-day Defeneh) is described as a border town with a garrison “against the Arabs and the Syrians” (2: 30 [LCL 1: 309]), and the town of Patumus (biblical Pithom) near Bubastis at the approach to Wadi Thumilat as “city of Arabia” (2:158 [LCL 1: 471]).”
(Eph’al 1982: 193-194, emphasis added; the Loeb Classical Library, LCL, bracketed references [...] were added by the author).
Herodotus’ description would therefore include all of the Sinai Peninsula in Arabia of his day.
In the mid-third century BC, when Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek (known as the Septuagint, abbreviated LXX) and followed the contemporary use of the word “Arabia,” they referred to Goshen as “Goshen in Arabia” (Gen. 45:10; 46:34; LXX English translation). The Children of Israel resided in Goshen during their 400 years sojourn in Egypt, which is located on the easternmost branch of the Nile Delta connected through to the Wadi Tumilat canal. Though Goshen is part of Egypt (Gen. 37:6, 27; Ex. 9:26), the translators of the Septuagint obviously considered it and the Sinai Peninsula in between the Egyptian Goshen-in-Arabia and what is now modern Saudi Arabia as all part of ancient “Arabia,” of course. The Eastern Nile Delta land of Goshen was Arabia, the Sinai was Arabia, and (Saudi) Arabia was Arabia.
Alexander the Great and the Arabs in Arabia
Alexander the Great went to fight the Arabians in the area of the Anti Lebanon Mountains, also known as Mount Hermon (Dar 1988: 26-27). This is situated in modern day Lebanon and Syria. Alexander the Great fought the Arabs in Arabia, but he was never in modern-day Saudi Arabia.
Flavius Arrianus, better known as Arrian, wrote a book about AD 150 about the life of Alexander the Great. He gave great details about Alexander’s campaign against the Persians. After the Greeks had taken Sidon, Alexander was preparing to move on Tyre. Because of harassment by the Arabs, “Alexander marched some of the cavalry squadrons, the hypaspists, the Agrianians and the archers in the direction of Arabia to the mountain called Antilebanon. Here he stormed and destroyed some places and brought others to terms; in ten days he was back at Sidon” (Anabasis of Alexander 2.20.4; LCL 1:195).
Plutarch (ca. AD 45-120), in his Parallel Lives of Alexander the Great (about AD 120), recounts the same incident by saying: “While the siege of the city [Tyre] was in progress, he made an expedition against the Arabianswho dwelt in the neighborhood of Mount Antilibanus” (Alexander 24.6; LCL 7:293).
Quintus Curtius (first century AD) wrote a history of Alexander the Great and also recounts this same incident in these words: “On Mount Libanus also the peasants of the Arabians attacked the Macedonians when they were in disorder, killed about thirty, and took a smaller number of prisoners. This state of affairs compelled Alexander to divide his forces, and lest he should seem slow in besieging on city, he left Perdiccas and Craterus in charge of that work and himself went to Arabia with a light-armed band” (History of Alexander 4.2.24 – 4.3.2; LCL 1:185). After this short campaign Curtius informs us: “And Alexander, on returning from Arabia, found hardly any traces of so great a causeway” (History of Alexander 4.3.7; LCL 1:187). For these historians, the part of “Arabia” that Alexander the Great was fighting Arabs in, was in what is today Lebanon and Syria, not Saudi Arabia.
Josephus, the first century AD Jewish historian, lived in Jerusalem for a number of years before its destruction by the Romans in AD 70. He was well familiar with the topography of the city as well as its walls, towers, and monumental buildings. In fact, he was a contemporary of the Apostle Paul who would understand the term “Arabia” the same way Josephus understood it.
In his Jewish Wars, written sometime between AD 75 and 79, Josephus describes the line of the third wall enclosing the northern part of Jerusalem. He mentions that there are ninety towers on this wall and the most important was the Psephinus Tower:
“... which rose at its north-west angle and opposite to which Titus camped. For, being seventy cubits high [thirty-five meters], it affords from sunrise a prospect embracing both Arabia and the utmost limits of Hebrew territory as far as the [Mediterranean] sea, it was of octagonal form” (Josephus, Jewish Wars 5.159-160 [LCL 3: 247-249]; see also Wars 5.147 [LCL 3: 243], emphasis added, brackets material added by the author).
When Josephus uses the word “Arabia” in this passage, he is not referring to the area of Saudi Arabia, but to the Trans-Jordanian Plateau. If he stood on top of the Psephinus Tower, he would observe first-hand Arabia to the east, as well as the Mediterranean Sea through a saddle in the hills by present-day Abu Gosh to the northwest.
When I was doing graduate work in archaeology and geography of the Bible at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem in the late 1970’s, I was able to climb onto the roof of a bank building (with permission of the guard), to have a similar view. This bank was approximately 35 meters high and close to where the Psephinus Tower had been located. I observed the mountains of Transjordan to the east (ancient Arabia), but could not see the Mediterranean Sea because of the haze. I have archaeologist friends, however, who have seen the Mediterranean Sea from the top of this building on several occasions. One can also calculate the visibility with the aid of a good topographical map. Josephus wrote this passage from first-hand experience. For him, Arabia included what is today the Kingdom of Jordan.
In the first century AD, the Nabatean kingdom, with its capital in Petra (today in southern Jordan), occupied part of what was known as “Arabia.” Josephus noted on several occasions that Petra was in Arabia (Wars 1.125, 159, 267; 4.454 [LCL 2:59, 75, 125; 3:135]). He also describes the extent of the Nabatean kingdom as from the Euphrates River to the Red Sea (Antiquities 1.220-221 [LCL 4:109]).
Josephus gives a description of Lake Asphaltitis, known today as “the Dead Sea,” in which he mentions that the “length of this lake is five hundred and eighty furlongs, measured in a line reaching to Zoara in Arabia” (Wars 4.482 [LCL 2:143], emphasis added). Zoara is the biblical Zoar and is located in the southeastern portion of the Dead Sea (Gen. 13:10; 14:2, 8; 19:22, 23, 39; Deut. 43:3).
Herod the Great fortified several sites on the border of his kingdom to keep an eye on the Nabateans in Arabia. One fortress was Machaerus (Voros 2012). It is situated on the east side of the Dead Sea because Herod understood how strategic the site was in “its proximity to Arabia, conveniently situated, as it was, with regards to that country, which it faces” (Josephus, Wars 7.172 [LCL 3:555], emphasis added). The territory of Arabia was fourteen kilometers to the south of Machaerus on the south side of the Arnon River.
Another site that Herod the Great fortified was the Herodium, the only building project named after him. The fortress is located a few kilometers to the southeast of Bethlehem in the Judean Desert “on the Arabian frontier” (Josephus, Wars 1:419 [LCL 2:199], emphasis added). From the top of the Herodium, one today can get a splendid view of the territory of Arabia to the east of the Dead Sea, but one can not see Saudi Arabia from the top of the Herodium.
Josephus describes the territory and borders of Perea to the east of the Jordan River. He states that:
“Perea extends in length from Machaerus to Pella, in breath from Philadelphia to the Jordan [River]. The northern frontier is Pella, which we have just mentioned, the western frontier is the Jordan [River]; on the south it is bounded by the land of Moab, on the east by Arabia, Heshbonitis, Philadelphia, and Gerasa” (Josephus, Jewish Wars 3.46-47; [LCL 2:589]; brackets and emphasis added by GWF).
Ancient Philadelphia is located under Ammon, the capital of the modern kingdom of Jordan.
Josephus also mentions the southern border of Judea and states “it is marked by a village on the Arabian frontier, which the local Jews call Iardan” (Wars 3.51 [LCL 2:591], emphasis added). The village of Iardan has been tentatively identified with Arad in the Eastern Negev Basin [LCL 2:590, footnote d]. Arabia would include areas south of Judah, including the Beersheba Basin and the different wildernesses to the south of Beersheba, basically the southern part of Israel today.
This brief survey of Jewish Wars by Josephus demonstrates the first century understanding of the term Arabia. It included more than just the area of northwest Saudi Arabia. His understanding of the term included territory in modern-day Jordan and southern Israel, as well as the Sinai Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and part of Iraq. The Apostle Paul would have understood the term in the same way.
Strabo, a Greek geographer from Pontus on the Black Sea (64 BC to ca. AD 25), describes the territory of Arabia in his books on the geography and nature of the ancient world. In his Geography, he states:
“The whole of Arabia Felix (... is bounded by the whole extent of the Arabian Gulf [Red Sea] and by the Persian Gulf). And all the country occupied by the Tent-dwellers and by the Sheikh-governed tribes (which reaches to the Euphrates [River] and Syria)” (Geography 2.5.32 [LCL 1:499]; emphasis added, bracketed material added by GWF).
Elsewhere in his writings, Strabo delineates the eastern border of Arabia as the Persian Gulf (Geography 16.4.2 [LCL 7:307]).
Strabo, who visited Egypt during his lifetime, understood the geography of that area quite well and wrote about it in detail. For him, the western border of Arabia began at the east side of Egypt’s Nile River and the Arabian Gulf (today the Gulf of Suez) and went eastward, thus placing the Sinai Peninsula in first century Arabia (Geography 16:4:2; 17:1:21, 24-26, 30,31 [LCL 7: 309; 8: 71-79 85-87]).
The Apostle Paul would have been familiar with the writings of Strabo and would concur with him that “Arabia” went from eastern Egypt, across the Sinai and the Arabian Peninsula, all the way to the Persian Gulf. This would clearly put the Sinai Peninsula within Arabia of Strabo’s day as well as the Apostle Paul’s day.
Egeria, one of the early church mothers, traveled to the East between AD 381 and 384 and wrote a book about her pilgrimage. She visited Jebel Musa which she mistakenly, in my opinion, thought was Mount Sinai. She also visited the Land of Goshen (Wilkinson 1981: 91-103). She stayed at Clysma, the modern-day Suez City in eastern Egypt at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez, and from there went to visit the “city of Arabia” in Goshen in Egypt (Wilkinson 1981: 100). She wrote, “It gets its name from the region, which is called ‘the land of Arabia, the land of Goshen’, a region which, while it is a part of Egypt, is a great deal better than any of the rest” (Wilkinson 1981: 100-101, emphasis added). Egeria followed the Septuagint reading of Gen. 46:34 in her description of Goshen being in the Land of Arabia.
The Conclusion of the Matter
The ancient sources, both the contemporary and near-contemporary to the Apostle Paul, speak for themselves. When the Apostle Paul wrote that Mount Sinai was in Arabia, he was drawing on the contemporary understanding of the geographical location of “Arabia.” Ancient Arabia would include the territory from the Eastern Nile Delta and the Arabian Gulf (Red Sea – Gulf of Suez) across the Sinai Peninsula to the Persian Gulf. It would not be limited to just the northwest quadrant of Saudi Arabia as the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz would contend.
Based on the above, the ancient historians and geographers differ with Mr. Robert Cornuke’s recent statement that “Arabia has never been in the Sinai Peninsula when Paul wrote this [Gal. 4:25]” (August 8, 2012, AM session, Camp-of-the-Woods, Speculator, NY). Biblical and secular first century geography did include the Sinai Peninsula in “Arabia.” In summary, it seems that the Apostle Paul would have disagreed with Mr. Cornuke’s assertions about Mount Sinai never being in the Sinai Peninsula.
For a more detailed, scholarly, discussion of the ancient sources and related issues, see: Bowerstock 1971; 1983; 1990; Donner 1986; MacAdam 1989; Montgomery 1934; Murphy-O’Connor 1993.
For links to other critiques of Cornuke’s ideas, see: How Accurate are Bob Cornuke's Claims? (off-site link).
This article was revised on January 3, 2014 with additions concerning Alexander the Great.
See also Franz, Gordon, Is Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia? Bible and Spade13/4: 101-113. (2003)
Har-el, Menash, 1982 The Sinai Journeys. The Route of the Exodus. San Diego, CA: Ridgefield.
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