SPECIAL TOPIC: THE LOCATION OF MT. SINAI
A. If Moses was speaking literally and not figuratively of the "three day journey" he requested of Pharaoh (Exod. 3:18; 5:3; 8:27), that was not a long enough time for them to get to the traditional site in the southern Sinai peninsula. Therefore, some scholars place the mountain near the oasis of Kadesh-Barnea (see video on History Channel, "The Exodus Decoded").
B. The traditional site called "Jebel Musa," in the Wilderness of Sin, has several things in its favor.
1. A large plain before the mountain.
2. Deuteronomy 1:2 says it was an eleven day journey from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea.
3. The term "Sinai" (BDB 696, KB 751) is a non-Hebrew term. It may be linked to the Wilderness of Sin, which refers to a small desert bush. The Hebrew name for the mountain is Horeb (i.e., wilderness, BDB 352, cf. Exod. 3:1; 17:6; 33:6).
4. Mt. Sinai has been the traditional site since the fourth century a.d. It is in the "land of Midian," which included a large area of the Sinai peninsula and Arabia.
5. It seems that archaeology has confirmed the location of some of the cities mentioned in the Exodus account (Elim, Dophkah, Rephidim) as being on the western side of the Sinai Peninsula.
C. The Jews were never interested in the geographical location of Mt. Sinai. They believed that God gave them the Law and fulfilled His promise from Gen. 15:12-21. "Where" was not the issue and they did not intend to return to this site (i.e., no annual pilgrimage).
D. The traditional site of Mt. Sinai was not established until Pilgrimage of Silvia, written about a.d. 385-8 (cf. F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts, p. 151.
The other name used in the OT for the place YHWH gave His "Ten Words" was "Horeb" (BDB 352, KB 350, cf. Exod. 3:1; 17:6; 33:6; Deut. 1:2,6,19; 4:10,15; 5:2; 9:8; 18:16; 29:1; 1 Kgs. 8:9; 19:8; 2 Chr. 5:10; Ps. 106:19; Mal 4:4). This root may be related to the same three Hebrew consonants that mean "waste," "desolation," or "ruin" (BDB 352, KB 349). It seems that "Horeb" referred to a range of mountains and "Sinai" to one of its peaks.
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