Gabal Sin Bishar
Coordinates: Gabal Sin Bishar (also called Jebel Sin Bishar or Mount Sin Bishar) is a mountain located in west-central Sinai. It was proposed to be the biblical Mount Sinai by Menashe Har-El, a biblical geographer at Tel Aviv University in his book The Sinai Journeys: The Route of the Exodus. This location was used for Zondervan's NIV Atlas of the Bible.
Menashe Har-El examined the pros and cons of various theories on where Mount Sinai is located. These include:
- the southern Sinai peninsula (including the traditional location of Gabal Horeb)
- the northern Sinai peninsula
- the central Sinai peninsula
- the Suder valley in the west-central Sinai peninsula
- Midian and Edom.
All locations have proponents, but Gabal Horeb in the southern peninsula has been the traditional location since the 4th century AD (but notably not before).
The Old Testament prophet Elijah, according to 1 Kings 19, is the last person recorded in the Bible as visiting Mount Sinai. The account of his visit does not give geographical details that help determine the actual location, but suggests the location was known long after the Jewish people left the mountain. Unfortunately, there are no surviving extra-biblical documents that mark the location. Whether the Second Temple's sacred books (given by Roman General Titus to Josephus) contained information on the location of Mount Sinai is unknown, but Josephus did write about the mountain. However, Dr. Har-El was a geologist and he discusses in detail the geographic and environmental markers in Sinai, which do survive to the present day. He notes how they compare with the biblical account.
Dr. Har-El gave nine main reasons why he believed the traditional location of Gabal Horeb (Gabal Musa)in southern Sinai was not Mount Sinai:
|(a)||The geology, soils, and vegetation in the southern peninsula could not support the Jewish people for the year they dwelt there.|
|(b)||In southern Sinai, there are numerous oases, but they are not mentioned in the Bible (yet the Bible mentions in detail other oases and natural features on the Exodus route).|
|(c)||Natural conditions in the southern Sinai would not have allowed for enough food (other than fish) for the Jewish people to survive.|
|(d)||There are fishing grounds in the southern Sinai, but the Jewish people complained in Numbers 11:5 that they missed the fish they used to eat in Egypt. Complaining of a lack of fish in one's diet when in southern Sinai it could be found nearby undermines this location as a candidate.|
|(e)||Southern Sinai does not lie on the route to Canaan or Kadesh-Barnea.|
|(f)||Critically, southern Sinai does not lie on the route to Midian from Egypt. Moses had camped at Mount Sinai when returning to Egypt from Midian with his wife and son. He also met Aaron there when returning to Egypt from Midian (Exodus 4:27) on a different trip. Thus strongly suggests Mount Sinai was located near the ancient road connecting Egypt to Midian – a road still used today as an Islamic pilgrimage route to Mecca from Egypt.|
|(g)||Mount Sinai should be three days journey from Egypt, based on Pharaoh's request of Moses in Exodus 8:24, and Exodus 5:3. This would rule out Mount Sinai being in southern Egypt, which was much further away.|
|(h)||There were copper and turquoise mines in southern Sinai that may have been guarded by the Egyptian army. The Jewish people are unlikely to have willingly remained near any military outposts after leaving their homes in Goshen.|
|(i)||Gabal Sin Bishar is eleven days journey to Kadesh-Barnea, fulfilling Deuteronomy 1:2. The candidates in southern Sinai are much further away. Dr. Har-El also argued against the other southern locations for the same reason.|
Gabal Sin Bishar & Suder ValleyEdit
Har-El believes the evidence supports Mount Sinai being located in the Suder Valley in the west-central Sinai Peninsula. His reasons include:
|(a)||This region is far enough from potential Egyptian armies in the mining region of the south and the road in the north along the Mediterranean Sea – the Way of the Land of the Philistines – to survive without encountering Egyptian troops.|
|(b)||The Suder Valley is located in an area known to have been used by Semitic people who traveled to Egypt (1 Kings 11:17–18).|
|(c)||The meeting between Aaron and Moses (Exodus 4:27) likely took place on the road between Midian and Egypt, but closer to Egypt.|
|(d)||The Suder valley fits the wilderness described in the Bible.|
|(e)||"Gabal Sin Bishar" means "the reporting of the law" or "the laws of man", and this is the only mountain where, possibly, the name "Sinai" has been preserved in the name "sin".|
|(f)||Har-El cites Josephus' writings, who had access to the Jewish Temple's sacred books that he was given by Roman General Titus after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Josephus writes that the mountain was the highest mountain in its surroundings. The prominence of Gabal Sin Bishar is tooth-shaped and stands out from its surroundings, despite being 618 meters above sea level and only 300 meters above the landscape. This also means it is not so high that it would be difficult for 80 year-old Moses to go up and down four times (Exodus chapters 19–34) or too difficult for the Aaron and the 70 elders to go up with him.|
|(g)||There are graves and pottery from the middle Bronze Age.|
|(h)||There are circular piles of stones at the base of Gabal Sin Bishar (Exodus 24:4).|
|(i)||Notably, it addresses Pharaoh's request to not go far outside of Egypt (three days from the border as prescribed in Exodus 3:24).|
|(j)||There is a widespread presence of chalk and flint in Wadi Suder. (Exodus 4:24–26 records that Moses' son was circumcised on short notice using flint at the base of the mountain.)|
|(k)||The pastureland and water nearby could have supported the Jewish people for a year.|
Dr. Har-El links Gabal Sin Bishar with a probable route the Jewish people took when fleeing Pharaoh across the Bitter Lakes, where Moses divided the Sea of Reeds. He also links Gabal Sin Bishar with the way stations and travel times the Jewish people took toward the Promised Land when they left Mount Sinai. Unfortunately, due to an Egyptian military presence near Gabal Sin Bishar, the ability of archeologists to further investigate this location is not an option.