Thursday, October 19, 2006

Where is Mount Sinai (Mt. Horeb)? Hashem el Tarif??

I heartily recommend Dr. Chris Heard's recent post, presenting an in-depth review of the investigation of Mount Sinai, the mountain of the covenant, in the Exodus Decoded special (click here). After a thorough review of the evidence, Chris concludes that the proposed new location, Hashem el Tarif, may or may not be correct. Let me add here a few brief thoughts and questions.

Deuteronomy 1:2 is a key verse in the discussion. The text mentions an 11-day distance between Mount Horeb / Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, a distance that roughly fits Hashem el Tarif as Mount Sinai. This definitely puts Hashem el Tarif on the map of likely possibilities for Mount Sinai. Dr. Uzi Avner, a respected student of the Sinai and Negev, favors this location for this reason among others. It's a much better fit than the idea of Harvard's Frank Cross and others (such as BAR's Hershel Shanks) who propose that Mt. Sinai was in Saudi Arabia.

Interestingly, the verse also mentions "Seir." Chris goes on to write, "I have no idea why anyone would want to go from Kadesh-barnea to Mount Horeb by way of Mount Seir. It seems like a strange route to me." True, so perhaps "Seir" means something different here in Deut 1:2 than the mountain point in eastern Edom on most Bible maps. Is the NAB on to something, when it speaks of "the highlands of Seir," rather than the traditional "Mount Seir," in this verse?

Judges 5:4 has Yahweh come from Edom and Seir to do battle for his people, and Deuteronomy 33:2 says, "Yahweh . . . dawned upon us from Seir." Where is this Seir? Uzi Avner has noted that the extension of Hashem el Tarif is identified as Jabel Seira on maps of the Sinai. Other scholars have noted that Egyptian topographical lists from the 14th and 13th centuries b.c.e. list a "country of Yhw-nomads" under the heading "country of Seir-nomads." All very interesting! And what about the open-air cult sites, graves of saints, and fresh-water spring at Hashem el Tarif? I'd like to know more about this evidence. For instance, does it reflect ancient veneration of Hashem el Tarif, before the Iron Age, before the exodus? Does it reflect pilgrimages to Mount Sinai by Israelites of the later, post-settlement, monarchic period? Does a holy mountain need a spring to water God's gardens (a la Eden)? These are honest questions...

Even if some Israelite pilgrims were using Hashem el Tarif as Mount Sinai, their identification was not necessarily correct, and other Israelites may have disagreed with it. 1 Kings 19:3-9 indicates that it took Elijah 41 days to reach Horeb from Beersheba. This tradition would put Mount Sinai much farther south in the Sinai. It would, in fact, be closer to Jebel Musa and St. Catherine's monastery, the traditional site of Christian pilgrimage to Mount Sinai.

Update: For my next post on this topic, with photo and map, click here.


Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Sir
You have brought up a good point that there seems to be two Seirs! = "Chris goes on to write, 'I have no idea why anyone would want to go from Kadesh-barnea to Mount Horeb by way of Mount Seir.' It seems like a strange route to me."

There are two "mount" Seirs in the Bible = Deuteronomy 2:1-5 has one "mount Seir" that Israel had "compassed" many days, and then in verse 3 Israel is told to leave = "Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward." Then in verse 4 they are told "Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir;", and then in verse 5 we are told that it is called a mountain also = "mount Seir". Two "mount Seir"s! See web site with new info on this subject =

PS a footnote, when Judges 5:4 said, "LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom..." Again there are two Seirs in the Bible, and the word "field" can be translated "country" or "land" (Strong's Concordance, this is online), and the word "Edom" just means "red" (Strong's Concordance), remember the Egytpians called the entire desert the "Red Land", which would be where all the proposed sites of Mt. Sinai are.

Fri Dec 14, 07:12:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Robert Feather said...

Clearly the Seirs that are cited as contenders for the Holy Mountain where Moses received the 10 Commandments carry many anomalous connections. Dr Chris Heard's Website effectively demolishes the Naked Archaeologist and James Cameron's thesis which is seen to be without any clothes. All the other suggested sites only fulfil a few of the necessary criteria.
Having just finished a trilogy on the origins of the Abrahamic religions, concluded with 'Black Holes in the Dead Sea Scrolls', I am now writing about the hard evidence for a convincing location for the Biblical Mount Sinai. Not only does the site identified meet the requirements of the Bible and historical references, but there is inscriptional evidence for the presence of the Israelites.
Robert Feather, London.

Sun Mar 17, 08:44:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger . said...

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Sat Jan 18, 04:10:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger . said...

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Sat Jan 18, 04:21:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger . said...

Dr. Heard's website does no such thing. I invite everyone to read my brief study on mount Sinai. Hashem el Tarif is the best candidate I've seen so far.

Tue Jan 21, 10:48:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger . said...

One example of Dr. Heard's "objections." He says there was tension in Jacobovici's claim that the mountain was easily accessible, but then said it was not accessible because it was in a military zone.

Quite obviously, the mountain was readily accessible to the Israelites. It currently lies in a military zone, restricting archaeological endeavors there. It was not in a military zone at the time of the Exodus!

Comments like these, and similar ones, pervade Chris Heard's analysis. Every one of his objections are without foundation.

Mon Jan 27, 02:36:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger . said...

In my study I also explain Elijah's journey to Horeb.

Mon Jan 27, 02:39:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Michael said...

The way from Be'er Sheva to Hashem el tarif is two days on foot. This of course does not correspond to the 40 days passage of the prophet Elijah, the fact is that it takes only 4 days to reach the South Sinai. So 40 days is a symbolic number of fasting, not actual travel

Sat Feb 15, 11:36:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Walter R. Mattfeld said...

Deut. 1:1-2 makes mention it being 11 days from Horeb to Kadesh barnea by way of Mt. Seir. It has been proposed that the "way of Mt. Seir," encountered between Mt. Sinai and Kadesh might be Gabal esh-Sha'ira? A Darb esh Sha'ira exists going due south from the Negeb and on to Jabal esh-Sha'ira, it continues on to the Gulf of Aqaba. Shaira is midway on the track from Jebel Musa to the Negeb.
Another Seir is associated with the Hill Country near Kadesh where Israel is routed to Hormah in the Negeb.
Then there is the Seir associated with Edom on the east side of the Arabah.
So the Bible suggests for some, the existence of THREE SEIRS!

Sun Jan 23, 06:38:00 PM GMT-5  

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