Acts 7.23 says that Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. Josephus says he was a Prince of Egypt, a military leader who defeated the Nubians (Ethiopia) to the south, and he takes an Ethiopian wife. When he flees Egypt, she is left there but joins him later. Exodus 2.11-15 tells us about an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating a Hebrew, and Moses intervened and killed the Egyptian. When the matter becomes known, Moses fled and Pharaoh tries to kill him. The question is, who was this taskmaster? Why would Pharaoh care? Moses was a high royal official, it wouldn’t be the first time a royal official took out a lowly work crew foreman. Was this task master related or a friend to Pharaoh? We just don’t know. But, as a result, Moses fled to Midian.
Exo 2.16 introduces us to a character named Yitro (Jethro), meaning “abundance” and he is called “the” priest of Midian. He will also be called Hobab (Judges 4.11). In Exo 2.18 it says, “When they came to Reuel their father, he said, ‘Why have you come back so soon today?'” This does not necessarily mean that this was Yitro, but possibly the grandfather who are often called “father” in Scripture (Gen 28.13 and 32.10). Midian was a son of Ham (Gen 10.6). The common view was that Yitro was a Midianite, a priest of Midian. This leaves the person with the impression that he was some pagan priest. We know the Midianites were very pagan and their women were cultic prostitutes. Balaam tried to use them to curse Israel (Num 25.1-18) in the Baal-Peor incident. We have this impression he was not only a pagan, but a pagan of the worst kind. However, one of the things we are going to explore is “Who was Yitro?” He was not a Midianite, involved in the worship of Baal-Peor. He was “the” priest of Midian.
The classic view among most is that Mount Sinai is in the Sinai Peninsula, at the bottom. Look on any map, and we want to point out a few reference points. When looking at Egypt, there is a place in Middle Egypt that is a very green area in a colored photo, called the Faiyum. A city named Harawa was there and that is where Joseph was. We all know where Israel is. The Sinai Peninsula is the traditional sight of Mount Sinai, but we do not believe that is accurate. Then in southern Israel we have the Arabah, and the traditional sight of Kadesh Barnea, and we don’t believe that is accurate either and we will show why later in the teaching. To the east you have Edom, or Seir. To the south of Edom we have Wadi Rum, which we believe is the Kadesh Barnea mentioned in Scripture. South of Wadi Rum, we have Midian on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. The Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba are part of the Yom Suf, or Red Sea. Within Midian we have a place called Jabal Al Lawz, or “Almond Mountain.” We believe this may be the real Mount Sinai. We will present why shortly. Just to the southwest of Jabal Al Lawz is a city called Al Bad. Now, keep these areas in mind as we move through the teachings because you will need to know where they are.
There is a road called the Derek Seir, or the “way to Seir (Edom).” If you want to go from Egypt to Edom, or from Edom to Egypt, you took this road. It was a trade route, which is important to both areas. IN the area we have what is called the Dead Sea, which is really a lake. The Dead Sea is full of asphalt and this was used in Egypt for embalming, water proofing boats, light, lubricating chariots and cosmetics. In Gen 37.28 it says that Midianite traders pulled Joseph out of a pit, and sold him to Ishmaelite traders who took him to Egypt on the Derek Seir.
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah became rich in the “oil” business by using the asphalt (bitumen, tar) from the Valley of Siddim, which will later be called the Dead Sea. Gen 14.10 says that there were tar pits there. It was a plain at the time, but after the destruction of the cities of the plain, the ground collapsed, making a valley and it filled with water. The historian Tacitus described :floating oil” there and Josephus said the Romans called the area “Lake Asphaltus.” The Nabateans who lived in the Petra area would collect the oil and sold it to Egypt. The lake would catch fire on occasions, so it was called “the lake of fire.” We know from Exo 2.15 that Moses fled to Midian. Moses will be 40 years old when he flees to Egypt and he will stay in Midian for another 40 years. Moses will be 80 when the Lord sends him back to Egypt to deliver the people. There is no retirement when you work for the Lord.
As we mentioned earlier, we have several names for Yitro. Horeb is another name for Sinai and the region around the mountain. In Exo 3.1 it says, “Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Yitro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the montain of God.” The word for “back side” is “achar” and it can mean “west.” He was on the western end of where the desert stopped and he could pasture near the mountain. Moses sees a bush that is burning but it was not being consumed. So, he comes up the mountain and is met by the angel of the Lord who appeared to him in the burning bush (v 2). Then it says “the Lord saw” that Moses was coming and “God called” him from the midst of the bush. Now, how can an angel of the Lord (messenger) be in the bush, but it says “God saw” and “God called.” To understand this, we must be familiar with the concept of a “Shaliach.” The Lord says that the ground Moses is standing on is “adamat kodesh” or “holy ground.” This is only the second time in the Torah that we have the word “kodesh” or a derivative of it used. The first time was Gen 2.3 when talking about the Sabbath.
So, let’s talk about the traditional Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula, at the southern tip. This site is based on the mother of Emperor Constantine, Helena. She was no Bible scholar and she went on a “fact finding” tour to find “holy” sites and relics. The Roman Empire had been going through a period of instability and divisions for a long time. Constantine is an emperor in the western empire, and there was an emperor in the eastern empire. He will ally himself with the Christians who help him fight for control over the whole empire, and he defeats the other Roman emperor in the east. This allows Christianity to be considered a legal religion (it was illegal up to this point. Judaism was legal because it predated the Roman Empire and Julius Caesar made it legal. Christianity says it replaced Judaism, therefore was not seen as legal and that is why they were persecuted).
Constantine does not become a Christian, but his mother does. There are some scholars today that are outside of Catholic orthodoxy who say that her trip to the Holy Land was political. It was meant to solidify the Christian movement. It was influential in the success of Constantine. who wanted to bring all the different factions in the empire together. You had the pagans and the Christians, and the objective was to find a middle ground that would work. We have the beginning of “icons” and “relics” and in order to have these, you must find them.
After her trip, she comes back with the “true cross” and she also locates other sites, including Mount Sinai. She builds churches and shrines on any site she thinks was valid. In every location she identified, it can be proven that they are not authentic for various reasons. She identified the site of the crucifixion (CHurch of the Holy Sepulchre), the birth of “Jesus” (Church of the Nativity) and Mount Sinai, known as Jebel Musa (mountain of Moses). There is not enough room for Israel to camp around the traditional Mount Sinai, and there is no evidence of an Israeli presence that has ever been found there.
There seems to be some evidence before the time of Helena that put Mount Sinai in another location. Paul puts in Arabia (Gal 4.25) and and so does Josephus (Antiquities, ll, xii, 1; lll, v, l), and so does Philo (“Philo of Alexandria and the Exodus Route: 50 A.D.” by Steve Rudd). Only after the fourth century (Constantine and Helena) do we have any record of Mount Sinai being at the traditional site in the Sinai Peninsula. This site is not universally accepted. Harvard professor of Hebrew Frank Moore Cross says that Sinai is in the modern, northwest part of Arabia, south of Jordan (Bible Review, August, 1992).
In Part 3 we will talk about the case for Jabal Al Lawz (almond mountain) in northwest Saudi Arabia.