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Mount Sinai in Arabia? A Reconsideration

of Frank Moore Cross's Proposal[i]

Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia . . . (Gal 4:25)[i]

Introduction

            As many scholars of the past and present have reminded students of Scripture, the biblical account of Israel’s exodus from Egypt has prompted considerable study and controversy.One of the most baffling aspects of the biblical chronicle is the route which the children of Israel, under Moses’ leadership, took in their flight from Egypt.Most contributors to this investigation usually devote the majority of their attention to the identification of certain sites near the Egyptian delta so as to pinpoint, with reasonable certainty, the early stages of the Israelite exodus and the location of the subsequentcrossing of the yam suph.Comparatively less attention is paid to inquiries concerning the location of Mount Sinai, since, with few exceptions, the majority of students and scholars have concurred with a 4th century AD Christian tradition that identified the biblical Mt. Sinai as Jebel Musa, located in what is today the southern Sinai peninsula.[i]Renowned biblical scholar and orientalist Frank Moore Cross has been a conspicuous objector to this consensus.In a 1983 article, Cross argued that Mount Sinai was actually located in Midian, and that place names in several texts of the Hebrew Bible associated with Yahweh's geographical point of origin, such as Seir, Edom, Teman, Cushan and Midian itself, "point east of modern Sinai."[1]The goal of this article is to review the evidence for Cross's position, to augment his arguments with the aid of some text-critical observations and epigraphic evidence subsequent to the appearance of the article in which he articulated his position, and to argue that evangelical scholars should seriously reconsider his proposal.

The Biblical Text and the Geography of Ancient Canaan

            Contrary to the 4th century tradition, Gal 4:25 clearly does not situate Mount Sinai in the modern Sinai peninsula.This and several other oft-neglected verses in the Old Testament which echo Paul’s statement describe Yahweh’s original “base of operations,” the place where He gave Israel His laws (Exod 3:1-12, esp. 1,12; Exod 19:1-2), as somewhere between the Dead Sea and the northernmost tip of the Gulf of Aqaba:

 

Deut 33:2- He said, The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from mount Paran.He came with myriads of holy ones from the south, from his mountain slopes. 

Judg 5:4 - O Lord, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, and the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water.5 The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai[i]before the Lord, the God of Israel. 

Hab 3:3 - God came from Teman,the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.

Exod 3:1 - Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

            The above geographical terms are, of course, critical to the discussion.While the biblical writers cannot be said to have striven for the cartographic precision of our day, such references as have been handed down are sufficiently explicit for rejecting any notion that they describe Yahweh's geographical “homeland” as the southern tip of the modern Sinai peninsula.Nor should the fact that these verses occur in poetic literature be used to deny their geographic accuracy.One wonders how such texts would have any meaning at all to their ancient readers if either the topographic references or their linkage with Yahweh’s mountain had been confusing, or had contradicted material in the rest of the Scriptures.

The meaning of “Arabia” in Gal 4:25 was understood in ancient times very elastically, denoting the region (or regions) inhabited by “Arabs,” the Arabia Deserta of Greco-Roman geographers.[i]Modern geographers are also flexible in their definition, delimiting the Arabian peninsula as that land mass between the Gulf of Aqaba, the right fork of the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf.The northern boundary is considered to lie at the point at which the Fertile Crescent is distinguished from the Nafud desert.These criteria allow what is today known as Arabia to be divided into ten major divisions, all of which are technically “Arabia.”Two of these divisions are of interest for this study:the North Arabian Desert, which encompasses “southern Syria, western Iraq, eastern Jordan, and northern Saudi Arabia extending to the Nafud desert,” and the Hejaz, the region along the northern Red Sea down to (and including) Midian.[1]Since what is today the southern Sinai was unquestionably home to "Arabs," it is consequently argued that Paul's words in Gal 4:25 are consistent with the equation of Mount Sinai with Jebel Musa.This possibility cannot be contested if one is speaking only of the term "Sinai".Such an argument cannot be defended when the location of the mountain at which Yahweh spoke to Moses from the burning bush must also be triangulated with the geographic place-names of the other four verses above.

Perhaps the most familiar of these to Bible students is Paran.In broadest terms, Paran designates the wilderness area south of Israel proper and west of Edom, an area which “encompasses all or part of the Sinai Peninsula and the southern Negev.”[i]Mount Paran, mentioned in two of our texts, has not been specifically identified.Scholars postulate that it is either a mountain or highland region in Paran, since rh (“mount”) can refer to a single mountain or a mountainous region.[1]The Old Testament contains a number of references to Paran besides the two aforementioned texts, and several of them are very helpful in creating a description of that locale which Yahweh called “home.”Num 13:3, 26 inform the reader that the twelve spies which were sent to Canaan from Paran (13:3; preposition Nm) and returned to “the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh” (13:26; preposition l)).Num 32:8 reads that the spies were sent from Kadesh-barnea (to which they presumably returned).Kadesh has been understood as either a city or town within Kadesh-barnea, which was within the region of Paran, or as a prominent spring located in the largest oasis of the Sinai Peninsula.[1]It is also possible (but debated) that the entire oasis was the biblical Kadesh-barnea, hence the overlap of the terms.[1]Deut 1:1 includes Paran among a series of locales which delineate the wilderness area where Israel camped during her wanderings, as being south of the Dead Sea and northeast of the modern Sinai peninsula.Further evidence for Paran being in this region comes from I Kgs 11:18, “where Solomon’s adversary, Hadad the Edomite, flees from Edom to Egypt by way of Midian and Paran,” or westward from Edom.[1]

Although it does not occur in the verses cited at the beginning of this paper, Edom is of great importance to an accurate understanding of the geographical terms therein.The location of Edom in the Transjordan to the northeast of the Gulf of Aqaba (in modern south Jordan) is well established.[i]Num 20:17 and Deut 2:1-8 place Edom in this area through a variety of geographical markers, and reveal that a route from Kadesh (west of Edom) heading eastward into Edom, probably east of Teman, was in mind.

            Both Seir and Teman are linked to Edom in the texts under consideration.Seir is used in the Old Testament either to designate part of the country of Edom, or, much like Kadesh for Paran, it occurs as a synonym for Edom.[i]With respect to the latter, the Old Testament describes the absorption of Seir into the Edomite state in a number of passages, thus creating the overlap in terminology.For example, in Gen 36:30 the “country of Seir,” was inhabited by the Horites, while the “sons of Esau” lived in Edom.On the other hand, in one of our texts, Judg 5:4,Seir is found to be in parallel with “the field of Edom.”Additionally, in Gen 32:3,“Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.”Taking the passages together, Seir had become part of Edom when the Edomites, the “sons of Esau,” conquered Seir.That Seir is in eastern proximity to the region of Paran / Kadesh is also indicated by Deut 1:44ff. and 2:2,8.Seir also included the mountainous territory of western Edom, as references to “Mount Seir” in the Old Testament denote.In the same manner, Teman in the Old Testament refers to either Edom or part of Edom.In Jer 49:20 the phrase “inhabitants of Teman” appears in parallelism with “Edom.”Technically, Teman could be understood as designating a town within the geographic region of Edom, but since it literally means “south” it could also refer to any southern region.[1]At some point it became intelligible to regard Teman as “Edom” since it was part of the Edomite state.[1]Scholars take these and other references indicating distinction and sameness as indicating that, although Seir and Teman were considered distinct from Edom, they both came to be more or less identified with Edom.[1]

Lastly, Exod 3:1 deserves special consideration in relation to the geographical debate:

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Exod 3:1 clearly links Mount Sinai (called Horeb at times outside Deuteronomy)in some way with Midian.[i]The text tells us that Moses led the flock "to the back ofthe desert," and then came to Mount brx, the mount of "the desert (a dry place)" or "desolation.”[1]This mountain was apparently located somewhere in the vicinity of Midian proper, a territory situated to the east and north of the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, since it is logically specious that Moses led Jethro's sheep roughly 150 miles to today’s Sinai peninsula over terrain completely inhospitable to domesticated animals.[1]

As noted earlier, the texts considered above have either been habitually overlooked in discussions on the location of Mount Sinai, or have been deemed irrelevant.The argument is made that, aside from Exod 3:1, Sinai is portrayed in these verses as a region, not a mountain (cf. Deut 33:2).Additonally, these texts are assumed to describe Israel’s circular “March in the South / Sinai” through these geographic regions with Yahweh in the form of the Angel of the Lord leading the way.[i]

These criticisms lack substance for several reasons.Put simply, none of these three passages can be successfully matched with the Old Testament’s wilderness itineraries.Rather than depict Yahweh wandering in circles in the country south and east of Canaan, Deut 33:2; Hab 3:3, and Judg 5:4 each corroborate the others’ notion that Yahweh came from a certain region, that He hailed from a discernible location.[i]Hence it is merely an presumption brought to these texts that they are designed to depict Yahweh as “marching” anywhere, and that this march “begins and ends in the south.”[1]One the other hand, once the texts are considered without this presupposition, their line of reasoning is clear:Yahweh came from a mountainous region somewhere south and east of Canaan, the same region in which He dispensed his law to His people, and this regional place of departure (the place he went out “from”).It matters not that in Deut 33:2 Sinai is described as a region, not a mountain.The point is that the location of this region known as “Sinai” must be triangulated with the other place names describing Yahweh’s “homeland,” a feat which is impossible to do if one seeks to locate Mount Sinai in the modern Sinai peninsula.Lastly, since all these verses point to a geographical convergence, it is a contrivance to separate the reference to Midian in Exod 3:1 from them, since logic dictates that Moses was in the vicinity of Midian when he encountered the theophany at “the mountain of God.”

A Textual Problem, its Solution, and More Evidence for Sinai in "Arabia"

The first of the texts cited above was Deut 33:2 -

Deut 33:2He said, The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from mount Paran.He came with myriads of holy ones from the south, from his mountain slopes. 

As Tigay notes, this verse "bristles with difficulties."[i]There are significant discrepancies between MT and LXX, and opting for either in its entirety is unsatisfactory.The Hebrew of MT is pointed #$deqo tbob;rIm'.[1]The form tbob;rIm', which occurs only here, is difficult.[1]The usual form for “thousands” or “myriads” is hbbr.In Deuteronomy 33:2 the defective plural construct form is complicated (or rendered unintelligible) by the addition of the prefixed Nm.The LXX translator either had a different Vorlage (t)), or made an interpretive translation, since LXX reads sun here.[1]Waltke and O'Connor, in their treatment of Nm, do not allow for the comitative translation "with," (the basic sense of t)),and state that the preposition Nmand its longer variant forms designate relationships that "involve origins and causes."[1]These relationships are reflected in translations such as "from, out of, by, because of."Nm simply does not point to comitative relationships or a sense of being "alongside."Nevertheless, our choices to this point are to read either "from" myriads" (keeping Nm) or "with myriads" (going with t) sun), or to opt for the JPS Torah translation decision, which translates the MT's prefixed Nm in its customary way (“from”) and leaves tbbr stand as a possible place name.Having an unidentified place-name here is not a troubling choice, since many of the places associated with the exodus itinerary and wilderness wanderings are unidentified.It may be undesirable for evangelical considerations of inerrancy (see below).The MT form (regarding the word as meaning "myriads" and not a place name) assumes the noun form is a defectively pointed plural ofhbbr.This would be consistent with LXX muriasin ("myriads"), so that we are either looking at "myriads" of something "from" (MT) or "with" (LXX).

            At this point, however, things break down.Other scholars do not assume thathbbr is behindtbbr, preferring instead to emend and repoint.The evidence that MT’s#$deqo tbob;rIm' should be emended and repointed to #$d'qf tbarIm;@mi (“from Meribath Kadesh”) is strong.First, the Septuagint vocalizes #$dqas#$d'qf (Kadhj).Second, the place-name Meribah (hbyrm) occurs in the same chapter (33:8).Meribah is referred to as Meribath Kadesh in other Old Testament texts (cp. Num 20:13,24; 27:14; Deut 32:51).The emendedtbarIm: would then be a defectively (re-)pointed construct form ofhbyrm.As Tigay points out, “a reference to Kadesh also suits the context, since Kadesh was located in the wilderness of Paran at the border of Seir –Edom (Num 13:26; 20:14,16).”[i]Unfortunately, such an option removes a reference to angelic beings in this portion of the text, thereby creating, along with the two textual problems below, a difficulty for biblical inerrancy, for this verse (in its MT form) is apparently the text to which Paul and Stephen are alluding when they teach that the law was delivered by angelic beings (Acts 7:38,53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2).The translation options to this point then are four:(1)"from (Nm) myriads of holy ones"; (2) "with (t)) myriads of / from Kadesh"; (3) "from (Nm) Meribath-Kadesh" (more on this option below); and (4)JPS Torah's "from (Nm) Rebiboth (tbbr)-Kadesh," which keeps MT as is, as an unknown place-name.

            MT follows "he came from myriads of holy ones" withthe phrase wml td#$) wnymym ("from his right hand (went) a fiery law for them [i.e., Israel])."Two text-critical problems face the (evangelical) translator here.The first is the unusualformtd#$) as meaning "fiery law."[i]As it stands,td#$) would be a singular construct form.[1]The singular absolute of this noun, however, is hdf#$)' , which means "foundation", "mountain", or "mountain slopes."[1]As BHS points out, some manuscripts divide the word into the separate wordstd #$), which would allow a reference to the law (td).A more significant problem is that the resulting MT translation ("he came frommyriads of holy ones; from his right hand (went) a fiery law for them") specifically removes angels as being present at the giving of the law, contrary to what the New Testament authors state,since the translation clearly has Yahweh leaving the angelic hosts behind.[1]One cannot argue that the law still came from angels or was given by them even though they were left behind in heaven, since this would make the Almighty a messenger boy for them - not the other way around.It is also contrary to all that is known about the divine council in the ancient near east and the Hebrew Bible.One could argue that the New Testament references come from the LXX, since that translation retains an angelic presence, but this is also ineffective.The LXX has no reference to the law at all, havinga1ggeloi met 0 a0utou= rather thanwml td#$).[1]Hence the LXX adds a reference to angelic beings, but removes a reference to the Mosaic law.How could the New Testament authors have this text in mind?

            My own suggestion for these problems derives from Ps 68:17 (Hebrew, 18), which reads in the NIV (the brackets denoting a reconstructive decision): 

the chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord [has come] from Sinai into his sanctuary. 

N)n#$ ypl) Mytbr Myhl) bkr

#$dqb ynys Mb ynd)

The first line, of course, is an allusion to the heavenly host of God.In thesecond line the NIV follows the suggestion in the BHS apparatus to read ynAysimi )bf instead of MT’synaysi Mbf, thereby producing a verb for the sentence ("the Lord [has come] from Sinai into his sanctuary").This decision and its translation is of no help for a solution to having angelic beings involved in giving the law.If one adapts the MT as is, however, the verb being understood, one can view the preposition as doing "double-duty" and so translate "the Lord (was) with them at Sinai.[i]This syntactical phenomenon is known as the "preposition override" function of the preposition.[1]Additionally, if MT’s#$deqo@b@ais then repointed to #$d'qfb;, the verse would read "the Lord (was) with them [i.e., the angelic hosts] at Sinai in Kadesh.The textual problems are thereby solved, and, if the above solution is combined with an emended Deut 33:2 ("he came from Meribat Kadesh; from his right hand (went) a fiery law for them"), all the important elements come together - the law and the presence of the heavenly host.[1]Moreover, two additional references, one of them very categorical, are secured for yet another place name in the area north of the Sinai peninsula near the gulf of Aqaba and Seir/ Teman/ Edom.

Extrabiblical Evidence for Yahweh's Headquarters in "Arabia"

            There are two lines of extrabiblical evidence, admittedly circumstantial, that suggest that the worship of Yahweh took place in the regions northwest of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Transjordanian areas of Seir-Edom from a very ancient time.

            First, there exist Egyptian texts that refer to people known as Shasu (Egyptians\3sw), usually understood as meaning “bedouins,” in the area of Edom.[i]Scholars of such data have determined that the Shasuare to be connected with southern Palestine and Transjordan, and that they were certainly inhabitants of Edom and Seir.[1]One such text from Rameses II’s temple at (Amarah in Sudan includes the phrases s\3swyhwands\3sw s(rr .[1]Thesephrases were initially translated as, respectively, “Yahwa (in the land of) the Shasu bedouins” and “Seir (in the land of) the Shasu bedouins.”Despite the temptation to see the first as a reference to Yahweh, subsequent scholarship has demonstrated that yhw also appears on Rameses III’s toponym list from Medinet Habu.[1]Yhw then, is a territory, as is s(rr.In regard to this second toponym, scholars have both accepted to its identification as Seir, and firmly opposed it.[1]It is accurate to say, however, that some toponyms began as proper or deity names.Whether this is an example of such an evolution is unknown, but it is suggestive that the very region under consideration appears in proximity to a place named Yhw.[1]

            Second, it is well known among Biblical scholars that one of the inscriptions from Kuntillet (Ajrud contains the phrase “Yahweh of Teman.”[i]Since the inscription dates to ca. 800 BC, it could be argued that Yahweh-religion arrived at Teman as a result of Israelite influence after the exodus.

Objections

            There exists no systematic rebuttal of the position articulated in this paper, due no doubt to the frequent neglect of these verses in discussions of the location of Mount Sinai.Treatments of the exodus itinerary offer an oblique criticism, but they either beg the question, assuming what they intend to prove, or depend entirely on guesswork concerning yet unidentified place-names on that itinerary.[i]The validity of a central-Sinai route for the exodus, which is essential for a Mount Sinai identification in the region descrbed by the verses under consideration here, has been ably articulated and defended on several occasions, and is unnecessary for this paper.[1]

            Perhaps the most substantive challenge to any view that Mount Sinai is not to be located in the modern Sinai peninsula can be found in the work of Graham Davies.While Daviesfails to cite any of the verses considered here in several articles dealing with the exodus/Sinai question, his work must be considered.[i]

            In one article, Davies deals with Deut 1:2, a verse that he feels makes an Arabian location very unlikely:“It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.”[i]Davies devotes much space to surveying the instances in ancient literature that might provide an accurate estimation of how many miles could reasonably be covered on foot in a day.He arrives at the figure of somewhere between 16 and 23 miles, which would mean, by extrapolation, that the journey from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea would be 180-250 miles, a figure clearly incompatible, in his reasoning, with the view that Mount Sinai is somewhere in the region of the desert of Paran and Seir.[1]The problem with Davies view is that he assumes the journey described in Deuteronomy 1:2 is a linear and not a circuitous route.Emmanuel Anati, along with others who favor northern or central Sinai routes, has demonstrated that the linear approach is very likely not the correct understanding.[1]Additionally, there is no verb in the Hebrew of the verse, and so a translation of “it takes” is subjective, requiring the linear assumption.The verse could just as well be translated “we spent / we needed eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road,” thereby relating an elapse of time within a small, contained, geographic region, not a linear route with speciifc mileage covered per day.Interestingly, Davies himself admits that “mountains on the east side of the Gulf of Aqaba” (such as in Midian) could also fit his data.[1]

            Davies other treatment of the location of Mount Sinai is specifically a response to another scholar’s attempt, based on Targumic evidence, to identify Paul’s equation of Hagar with “Mount Sinai in Arabia” as a reference to the Nabataean el-H[egra.[i]It is also an attempt to show Paul could never have had this location in mind, thereby, in Davies’ mind, leaving no logical referent for Paul’s statement, thus creating a Pauline error or mere speculation.This author agrees with Davies’ criticisms of his opponent’s arguments, and could even accept (but does not) the presence of Hagar in Gal 4:25 as not being original for text-critical reasons.[1]None of this remotely effects the position espoused in this paper, though.There is no need to have Paul be aware of Targumic tradition in order to support the thesis that Mount Sinai is in Arabia.Had Davies been willing to consider the texts dealt with in this paper (and none of his articles deal seriously with these texts), he may have concluded the obvious:that Paul made his statement on the basis of these very texts.

Conclusion

          This author believes that the evidence for locating Mount Sinai in a geographical region south of the Dead Sea and north of the Gulf od Aqaba - loosely designated in Paul’s day as “Arabia” - is compelling.As Cross states, "the geographical terms Seir, Edom, Teman, as well as Cushan and Midian, point east of modern Sinai."[i]This reality, coupled with the frank assessment by John Currid that no archaeological remains have been uncovered in the modern Sinai peninsula that would indicate the route of the Israelites should prompt evangelicals to reassess the confidence placed in the traditional site.[1]Unfortunately, there is no way to know exactly how the areas designated by the terms Seir, Teman, Paran, and Meribat Kadesh regionally overlap, so that one might actually locate the true Mount Sinai with absolute certainty.[1]While this author supposes many will remain content with tradition, one conclusion is unequivocal.It is possible to simultaneously hold a Midianite (“Arabian”) location for Mount Sinai, take the itineraries of the exodus and wilderness wanderings seriously, and incorporate the verses advanced in this paper into the discussion.Doing the same while holding that Mount Sinai is located at the southern tip of the modern Sinai peninsula is not possible, for the geographical terms in our texts cannot be located anywhere in that vicinity.The burden of proof should therefore be placed squarely on the shoulders of those who would espouse a 4th century tradition to the neglect of these texts.



[1] The position espoused in this paper should in no way be taken as an endorsement of the book The Gold of Exodus, by Howard Blum (Simon and Schuster, 1998).This writer agrees with the assessment of this recent popular work by Neil Asher Silberman (“Yahoos in Arabia,” Archaeology 51:3 (May-June 1998):74-76), namely, that the book bears no resemblance to serious archaeological inquiry nor biblical studies.However, this criticism is in reference to the academic quality of the presentation, as well as its use of pejorative stereotypes of Middle Eastern peoples.The thesis that Mount Sinai may be in Arabia has been put forth by no less renowned a scholar than Frank Moore Cross (see the body of this article).Silberman admits such, but sweeps by Cross’s position by erroneously referring to it as a “casual suggestion.”This would hardly be the impression left by anyone who actually reads Cross’s work on the subject (see the bibliography).

[1]Unless otherwise stated, all verse citations are from the NIV.

[1]G. I. Davies, "Sinai, Mount," ABD, vol. VI, ed. D.N. Freedman (New York:Doubleday, 1992):48.According to Davies, the 4th century ADtradition that identified Mount Sinai as Jebel Musa may have a 2nd century AD Jewish antecedent, but this possibility does not justify ignoring the verses discussed in this article.Jeffrey Tigay, in his commentary on Deuteronomy, is skeptical that there exists any rabbinical evidence of the sort Davies claims (J. Tigay, The JPS Torah Commentary:Deuteronomy (Philadelphia:The Jewish Publication Society, 1996):420).Among those evangelical scholars who identify Mt. Sinai with Jebel Musa are Eugene Merrill, Kingdom of Priests (Grand Rapids:Baker Book House,1987); Walter Kaiser, A History of Israel : From the Bronze Age Through the Jewish Wars (Nashville:Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1998); James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt:The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (New York:Oxford University Press, 1997): 187.Merrill (p. 165) is one of the few historians of ancient Israel to even mention the verses dealt with inthis article.However, he seems to relate them to Transjordanian conquests without making any reference to how they relate to the location of Mount Sinai.

[1]Frank Cross, “The Epic Tradition of Early Israel,” in The Poet and the Historian, ed. Richard Elliot Friedman (Chico, CA:Scholars Press, 1983):31-34.

[1] This translation takes the demonstrativehzin the phrase ynys hz adjectivally.The instances where this syntactical possibility occurs are rare, but the choice seems warranted here.See Paul Jouon, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (2 vols.), trans. Takamitsu Muraoka (Rome:Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblica, 1993): par. 143i, note 3.

[1]Robert Houston Smith, "Arabia,"ABD, vol. I, ed. D. N. Freedman (New York:Doubleday, 1992):324-25.

[1]Ibid., 324; Juris Zarins, "Arabia, Prehistory of," ABD, vol. I, ed. D. N. Freedman (New York:Doubleday, 1992):327.

[1] Jeffries M. Hamilton, “Paran,” ABD, vol. V, ed. D.N. Freedman (New York:Doubleday, 1992):162; Tigay, 421.Hamilton’s description continues, adding, “and north of the wilderness of Sinai.”It is difficult to determine whether he is referring to the modern Sinai peninsula here, or has presupposed the location of Mt. Sinai.

[1] Tigay, 421; Richard J. Clifford, The Cosmic Mountain in Canaan and the Old Testament (Cambridge, 


Mass.:Harvard University Press, 1972):114, note 16.

[1]Hamilton, 162; Tigay, 420.

[1] Ibid.

[1] Ibid., 162.

[1] John Bartlett, Edom and the Edomites, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 77 (Sheffield, England:JSOT Press, 1989):33-54.

[1] Ernst Axel Knauf, “Seir,” ABD, vol. V, ed. D.N. Freedman (New York:Doubleday, 1992):1071-72.With respect to Seir being part of Edom, see Gen. 14:6; 36:20-21,30; Deut. 1:2, 44; 2:1; Josh. 11:17; 12:7.With reference to Seir as a synonym for Edom, see see Gen. 32:4; 33:14,16; 36:8-9; Num. 24:18; Deut. 2:4-5,8,12,22,29; Josh. 24:4; Ezek. 35:2-3.

[1] Yohanan Aharoni, ed., The MacMillan Bible Atlas (New York:MacMillan Publishing Company, 1977):42, Map 52; Tigay, 319.

[1] Ernst Axel Knauf, “Teman,” ABD, vol. VI, ed. D.N. Freedman (New York:Doubleday, 1992):347.For example, see Jer. 49:20; Obad. 9; Ezek. 25:13; Amos 1:12.

[1] Bartlett, 43; Knauf, “Teman,” 347.

[1] Tigay, 420.

[1] Jay P. Green, ed., BDB (Peabody, Mass.:Hendrickson, 1979):351.The waw consecutive can certainly in this context be understood as resultative or an event subsequent to the previous verb form (“then”). The word is hbrxin Exodus 3:1, the noun with the directive h.

[1] One wonders how Jethro’s flocks would have been sufficiently fed and watered on such a lengthy journey over barren desert terrain.

[1]Clifford, 108, 119.

[1]Each of these verses very clearly feature the preposition Nm prefixed to the respective place name.

[1] Ibid., 119.

[1]Tigay, 319.

[1]There is no daghesh in either in MT.

[1]Since tbbr in construct, but there is no nomen rectum (and the singular construct does not occur in MT).The form could be viewed as the defective plural though.

[1]As NIV apparently did, since it does not follow LXX totally.

[1]Bruce Waltke and M. O'Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, Indiana:Eisenbrauns, 1990):195, 212.

[1]Tigay, 320.

[1]There is no shewa under the #$ in td2f#$)' in MT.

[1]The qames[ results from (apparently) accentuated stress.

[1]BDB:78a.

[1] See again Gal. 3:19; Acts 7:38,53; Heb. 2:2.

[1]The LXX Vorlage apparently being the questionedMyl) wr#$) of BHS.

[1]The LXX reflects this as well.

[1]Waltke and O'Connor, 222; M. O'Connor, Hebrew Verse Structure (Winona Lake, Indiana:Eisenbrauns, 1980):310-311.

[1] In an intriguing twist, while the NIV opts for the MT text in regard to this textual note, it rejects the MT referenced by footnote 4 below, the very phrase in the MT of Deut. 33:2 that provides a reference to the law!In its note on Gal. 3:19, the NIV editors then refer the reader to Deut. 33:2, where theirtranslation, based on their textual decision, leaves the reader wanting for any connection between the angelic host and the law of Moses.

[1] Bartlett, 77; Tryggve Mettinger, In Search of God:The Meaning and Message of the Everlasting Names (Philadelphia:Fortress Press, 1988):26ff.These texts are as early as the fifteenth century BC.

[1] Bartlett,78.

[1] Mettinger, 26; Bartlett, 78-79; Gosta Ahlstrom, Who Were the Israelites? (Winona Lake, Indiana:Eisenbrauns, 1986):59.

[1] Bartlett, 79.

[1] Mettinger, 26; Bartlett, 79; Ahlstrom, 59; M. Astour, “Yahweh in Egyptian Topographical Lists,” Festschrift Elmar Edel 12 Martz 1979, Agypten und Altes Testament 1, ed. M. Gorg and E. Pusch (Bamberg, 1979):30.

[1] This is even more suggestive given an early date chronology for the exodus.If the early date is accepted, the areas in this text would have been permeated with Yahweh worship due to the presence of Israel and Jethro’s (Midianite) religion.

[1] J.A. Emerton, “New Light on Israelite Religion:The Implications of the Inscriptions from Kuntillet (Ajrud,” ZAW 94 (1982):12-13.

[1] For example, Beit Arieh acknowledges that scholars have “no idea” where certain sites are (p. 31), that the location of Mount Sinai is not certain (p. 32), and that a route along the Way of Shur or the Way of Seir is possible (p. 31).He goes on to base his southern route theory on the subjective results of ecology and ethnography.Davies (“Wilderness Wanderings”) admits that it is “impossible” to limit the place-names of the wilderness itineraries entirely in the north or south, and that the narratives aren’t always strictly geographical (p. 913).Davies demonstrates the unfortunate, but predictably dismissive attitude of so many who assume Sinai is in the southern peninsula when he discards Noth’s theory that the wilderness itineraries are actually lists of pilgrimage stations which pointed to a location of Mount Sinai in northwestern Arabiabecause “the routes indicated should be sought within the limits of the Sinai peninsula” (p. 913).Kitchen is perhaps the worst offender, for after his categorical statement that “only the southern route . . . fits the circumstances,” he offers the reader such compelling evidence as the presence of certain springs in the south (are there none in the north?), the fact that quails were encountered at the gulf of Suez in the evening.Kitchen refers to Exodus 16:13 and Num. 11:31, neither of which contain a specific geographical reference – he has assumed a southern route based on an earlier turn in an assumed southerly direction.The evening aspect is important to him because quail migration in the north Sinai is experienced in the morning.Can we leave no room for the miraculous?This is hardly convincing, and, as stated before, Kitchen omits any reference to the texts considered in this paper. 

[1] For example, see Emmanuel Anati, The Mountain of God (New York:Rizzoli, 1986); Claude Jarvis, Yesterday and Today in Sinai (London, 1938); Chales Beke, Sinai in Arabia and of Midian (London,1878); Alfred Lucas, The Route of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (London,1938); D. Neilsen, The Site of the Biblical Mount Sinai (Copenhagen, 1928);and again, Frank Cross, “The Epic Tradition of Early Israel,” in The Poet and the Historian.Not all these sources agree on a specific location for Mount Sinai, but they all agree that it is not in the modern southern Sinai peninsula.

[1]Aside from his more specific contributions cited below, Davies has also written an article entitled "The Wilderness Itineraries and Recent Archaeological Research," pp. 161-174 in Studies in the Pentateuch, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, ed. J.A. Emerton (Leiden:E.J. Brill, 1990).

[1] G. I. Davies, “The Significance of Deuteronomy 1.2 for the Location of Mount Horeb,” PEQ 111 (1979):87-101.

[1] Davies, “Deuteronomy 1.2,” 97.

[1] Anati, 161-196, and map on p. 250.

[1] Davies, “Deuteronomy 1.2,” 97ff.

[1] G.I. Davies, “Hagar, el-H[egra, and the Location of Mount Sinai,” VT XXII (1972):152-163.Note that the consonants for Hagar (rgh) are nearly identical with el-H[egra(rgx).

[1] Davies, “el-H[egra,” 159ff.

[1]F.M. Cross, "Epic Tradition," 33.

[1] Currid, 123.As Currid points out in a footnote on this page, the assumed escape from this conclusion, that ancient nomadic peoples would not leave evidence of their occupation that could be detected today, is invalid.While it is true that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," it seems to this author that it would be wiser (and more textually consistent) to incorporate these verses into the discussion of the location of Sinai and reevaluate our study of the issue.

[1] In the opinion of this author, Jebel el-Lawz seems like the best candidate.