In Part 2, we looked at the case for Jebel Musa in the Sinai Peninsula being the real Mount Sinai. Now we are going to present the case for Jabal Al Lawz (almond mountain) in northwest Saudi Arabia. First of all, we know that Midian is there and we are going to identify a city 20 miles east, where Yitro lived, and Jebel Al Lawz is in the area. Al Bad is Madian, and we will have more on this. We will also be able to show where Kadesh Barnea was, and this will differ from the traditional site also.
In Num 10.29-31, we have some evidence that proves Mount Sinai was in the land of Midian because Moses needed Hobab the Midianite (the brother-in-law of Moses) as an expert (local) scout. Hobab was familiar with the area, not the Sinai Peninsula. He visited and traveled that area, between Jebel Al Lawz and Ezion Geber, north to Edom.
When Moses saw the burning bush, he had gone to the “rear wilderness” of Midian. He went to the “achar” in Hebrew (behind side), which can also mean “west.” He went to the western end of the wilderness, where pasture lands begin and there was Jebel Al Lawz. Moses would have been on the eastern side of the mountain when he saw the burning bush. This was not part of the area that Yitro controlled in Midian. We will also be able to show where Moses, Miriam and Aaron are buried. So, with that introduction, we are going to go into all of this in more detail.
One of the problems is that good archaeological research has not been done at Jebel Al Lawz, so we cannot say for sure if that is the mountain, or if all the things found arranged around the mountain are legitimate. However, there are commentators before the fourth century that tells us where they thought it was, some as far back as 600 years before Helena. The Septuagint (LXX) translates the Hebrew word “Midian” as “Madian” or “Madiam” (both mean the same thing) and this will become important. The translators saw this as a specific city (“polis” in Greek), as in “Madian-polis”, rather than a land. This may have been a city/state at the time. So, we are going to have a city called “Madian” and the region of Madian is called Midian. We believe that it is possible that Yitro/Jethro lived in Madian in Midian, but he was not a Micianite. We will show you who we think he was.
In Exo 18.5 it says “then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was camped at the mount of God.” The LXX says that Jethro, the priest of Madian, went out into the desert to meet Moses. The LXX translators believed that Jethro lived in a city called “Madiam.” He then had to go out of the city to meet Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai.
Ancient “Madian” has been found and it has been partially excavated and it lies near the city of Al-Bad, which is also called “Mughair Shuayb.” This area was inhabited during the 13-12 centuries B.C. when the Exodus occurred. There is an interesting point here. The Arabic name for this town has a name for Yitro in it (we will see this later). In the LXX, it says that the city of “Madian” had elders in it (Num 22.4).
Moses would have followed a trade route south to Midian. That trade route would have continued south along the east coast of the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea) to Ophir and Sheba, etc. Jewish traders used this route also during the late fourth-early third centuries B.C. serving the Ptolemies and Alexandria, Egypt. Archaeology has found pottery and much evidence for Midian, and the city of Madian having a presence during the time of the Exodus, giving evidence for Jebel Al Lawz as the site of Mount Sinai. There is no such evidence or presence at Jebel Musa in the Sinai Peninsula.
What we are attempting to show is that Jebel Musa in the Sinai Peninsula was not even thought of as the site of Mount Sinai until the fourth century A.D. and Helena, the mother of Constantine. Mount Sinai was near the home of Yitro because he met Moses there, and Yitro lived in Madian, in Midian. After Moses married Zipporah, they made their home in Madian, or “Madian-polis” according to the LXX. Mount Sinai is nearby, about 18 miles east.
Philo was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher (25 BC to 50 AD) living in Alexandria, and he was a contemporary of Yeshua, and he tells us where the Jews thought Mount Sinai was. He said it was the “highest and most sacred of the mountains in its region.” Jebel Musa is the Sinai Peninsula is not the tallest, but Jebel Al Lawz, east of Madian, is the tallest mountain in the region. He places Sinai “east” of the Sinai Peninsula and south of the promised land, or northwest Arabia, near the city of Madian. Philo also used the terms “Arab” and “Arabia” and these terms were restricted to the land east of the Gulf of Aqaba, where Yitro and the Ishmaelites lived (“Philo of Alexandria and the Exodus Route: 50 A.D.”, Bible.CA, Internet, by Steve Rudd). Josephus also described Mount Sinai as the tallest mountain in the region.
Arabia was the Arabian peninsula, and the Jews in Alexandria prospered nicely from the trade that came from there, and from places as far east as India. This clearly shows that Jews during the time of Yeshua and Paul thought Mount Sinai was in Arabia. Another good source for information is an article in Bible Review, April 2000, called “Mount Sinai in Arabia?” by Allen Kerkeslager. Paul was in Arabia in Gal 1.17 and said Mount Sinai is in Arabia (Gal 4.25).
Arabia was considered to be east of the Jordan River and the Arabian Peninsula, and it would include south Jordan, coming down into what we call Saudi Arabia in the time of Paul. They would have considered Arabia to be east of the Gulf of Aqaba also. Paul may have gone into the wilderness for a word from the Lord, much like Moses and Elijah (two witnesses personifying the Torah and the Prophets), and went to Arabia. He may have gone so far as Mount Sinai, like the other two did.
When Israel came out of Egypt, they took the Derek Seir (Edom) trade route road to the north tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, where Rephidim was located. The Amalekites had come down from the Petra area and Edom and confronted Israel there (Exo 17). After the Amalekites were defeated, Israel would have turned south into northwest Arabia. Jebel Al Lawz is the tallest mountain in the region of Madian-polis.
So, we have Philo, Josephus and ancient chronologers all saying Sinai is in northwest Arabia. Origen, Eusebius and Jerome, who were living in the third to fifth centuries A.D., recorded that Mount Sinai was in Arabia. This belief survived in monasteries around Madian until the Moslem conquest in the seventh century A.D. Then it appears in Islamic writings. By the ninth century A.D., Madian had become identified in Moslem tradition as the home of Yitro. Jethro became identified with the pre-Islamic prophet Shiayb (mentioned earlier), whose name is preserved in the local name given to Al Bad, or ancient Madian, as “Mughair Shiayb.” So, this town has “their” name for Yitro in it (Shiayb).
Jebel Al Lawz was visible to travelers along the routes nearby. The blackened top was a testimony to the mountain burning at the presence of God (Exo 19.18), according to some Jewish travelers. This mountain is only about 18 miles from the ancient Madian, so it is a good candidate for being Mount Sinai in northwest Arabia. Even more in its favor is at 8500 feet, it is the highest peak in the area. The name “Jebel Al Lawz” means “almond mountain. Why is that significant? We know that Aaron had a rod that was almond (Num 17.1-12).
In Part 4, we are going to take a closer look at Yitro and see who he is, and we will see that he was not a Midianite, but a separate people who worked in bronze.