Since the 4th. Century tourists have visited St.Catherine’s monastery on the assumption that this was near the mountain where the Ten Commandments were given to Moses. It is now time to amend our atlases and tour guides to locate the site at Jebel el Lawz east of the Gulf of Aqaba. Paul called it "Mount Sinai in Arabia" (Galatians 4:25). And it is possible that Paul spent three years there after his conversion. "I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards returned to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas" (Galatians 1:17-18).
The Jebel el Lawz location was first proposed by Ron Wyatt in a television interview on April 18, 1984. He released his Exodus video in 1998, and Howard Blum set out the evidence in The Gold of Exodus, Simon & Schuster, 1998. This was supported in the Campus Crusade video titled The Exodus Revealed, 2001. For other websites see www.arkdiscovery.com , www.pinkoski.com , www.anchorstone.com .
The purpose of this brief study is to show how Paul’s location of Mount Sinai in Arabia and the discoveries of Ron Wyatt and others would help us in interpreting the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
When Moses had been seen killing an Egyptian, he fled for his life and "settled in the land of Midian" (Exodus 2:15). This had to be outside Egyptian territory, and the land of Midian was to the east of Gulf of Aqaba. Moses lived with Jethro, the priest of Midian (3:1), who gave him his daughter Zipporah in marriage" (2:21; 3:1). Moses worked as Jethro’s shepherd and he pastured the sheep up the slopes of Mount Horeb (3:1). This Jebel el Lawz mountain would only be 20 - 40 (32 -64) km) to the north. But to take the flock back across the Strait of Tiran and 60 miles (96 km) up to what has been assumed to be Mount Sinai would have been an impossible task, and there he would be back into the danger of Egyptian control.
It is often assumed that the crossing of the Red Sea was at the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt. But it is clear that "God led the people by the round-about way of the wilderness toward (along) the Red Sea" (13:18). This 200 mile (320 km) journey along the shore would have taken at least a month, and by then the Egyptians caught up with them and had them cornered. They said "They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them" (14:3). This would fit a route south-east along the Red Sea to the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, from where there was no escape.
The only way out was now across the Strait of Tiran. This is still a fairly shallow area of water with two small islands. A strong wind or strong tide occasionally made it passable on foot. In this case the LORD "drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night" which enabled the Israelites to cross on dry land over to the Midianite Arabian side (Exodus 14:21). When the Egyptians tried to pursue them their chariots were clogged in water soaked land, and the LORD let the water return to its usual level and the Egyptian army was drowned (Exodus 14:15-29).
From the Strait of Tiran it would then be a short journey to the twelve springs of Elim and they approached Sinai "on the tenth day of the second month" (Exodus 16:1).
If Moses had taken the escaping multitude to the presently accepted site of Mount Sinai, Jethro would not have heard where they were. As it is he was able to join Moses and bring Zipporah and Moses' two sons to visit with him (18:1-7). That was "on the third new moon after the beginning of the Exodus (19:1).
The Israelites remained near Mount Sinai in Arabia for a year till the first census (Numbers 1:1) and the setting up of the tabernacle. They finally moved north toward the promised land in the second month of the second year after the Exodus (Numbers10:11). A week later they would have circled the east side of the Gulf of Aqaba, and arrived at Ezion Geber (now called Elath). From there the spies were sent 150 miles (240 km) up into the promised land, but the people were afraid and wanted to go back to Egypt (Numbers13:1 - 14:4). There was then a failed attempt to go into the promised land from the south, and they began a long journey up around the Dead Sea to the east. Finally after 40 years, after the death of Moses, they crossed the Jordan near Jericho.
What does Mount Sinai have to do with us and our modern world? For Orthodox Jews it was the sacred mountain where the laws of Moses were promulgated. For them as much as possible of the original laws (as given in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) must be treasured and obeyed. The torah defines Jewish identity, and strict obedience is required for God’s blessing upon his people. Secular Jews want to maintain the annual Passover tradition (as given in Exodus 12:1-28), but their main interest is in the covenant relating to the promised land as given to Abraham (Genesis 12:1, 7, 15:18, 17:8, 26:4, 28:4. Note the word parat means an overflowing river, in this case the Jordan, not the Euphrates, as the eastern boundary of the land).
For Egyptians the present location of Mount Sinai near the Christian monastery of St. Catherine’s is a great tourist attraction, but it has little religious significance.
If we are right in locating Mount Sinai on Jebel el Lawz, this would be a source of embarrassment for the Arabs of Saudi Arabia. The cities of Medina and Mecca a thousand miles (1600 km) to the south are of supreme importance for Muslim history. And Arabs look to the Qur’an for the wisdom and laws that they value. Moses is viewed as a great prophet, but they do not need the reminder that the laws of Moses came 2000 years before the writing of the Qur’an. Nor does Saudi Arabia want Jebel el Lawz to become a tourist site.
There are Christians who value the laws of Moses as rules that are relevant to us now. But Paul is quite clear in the Epistle to the Galatians that the death and resurrection of Jesus freed us from the Jewish kosher and other ceremonial laws connected with Sinai. "For freedom the Messiah has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).