Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For other places named Mount Sinai, see Mount Sinai (disambiguation)
Mount Sinai is the name of the mountain where according to the Bible God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. Since the time of Saint Helena it has been identified with Jabal Musa (or Gebel Musa), a mountain 2,285 metres high in the southern Sinai Peninsula. The Arabic name means Mount Moses.
Biblical Mount Sinai
Mt. Sinai is most famous for its importance in the Bible, in the book of 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.)
The name Sinai may come from the name of the moon god Sin. The area was reached by the Hebrews in the third month after the Exodus. Here they remained encamped for about a whole year. 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 to "the desert of Sinai," 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 the 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.
There is 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. Other sites have been suggested. The book The Gold of Exodus by Howard Blum opts for Jabal al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia. Prof. Colin Humphreys has argued in favor of the volcano Jabal Badr further south in Arabia in his book The Miracles of Exodus. An erupting volcano would explain many of the phenomena described in Exodus.
- Wikitravel: Mount Sinai
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