Hitchcock's Bible NamesSinai
a bush; enmity
ATS Bible DictionarySinai
A mountain, or mountain range, in Arabia Petraea, in the peninsula formed by the two arms of the Red Sea, and rendered memorable as the spot where the law was given to Israel through Moses, Exodus 19:1Nu 10:33. As this mountain has been almost unknown in modern times, until recently, and is of such importance in Scripture history, we shall enter into some details respecting it.
The upper region of Sinai forms an irregular circle of thirty or forty miles in diameter, possessing numerous sources of water, a temperate climate, and a soil capable of supporting animal and vegetable life; for which reason it is the refuge of all the Bedaweens when the low country is parched up. This, therefore, was the part of the peninsula best adapted to the residence of nearly a year, during which the Israelites were numbered, and received their laws from the Most High. In the highest and central part of this region, seven thousand feet above the level of the sea, rises the sacred summit of Horeb or Sinai. The two names are used almost indiscriminately in the Bible, the former predominating in Deuteronomy. Some have thought there were two adjacent summits, called, in the time of Moses, Horeb and Sinai; and indeed the monks give these names to the northern and southern heights of the same ridge, three miles long. But the comparison of all the Scripture passages rather shows that HOREB was the general name for the group, and SINAI the name of the sacred summit.
In approaching this elevated region from the northwest, Burckhardt writes, "We now approached the central summits of Mount Sinai, which we had had in view for several days. Abrupt cliffs of granite, from six to eight hundred feet in height, whose surface is blackened by the sun, surround the avenues leading to the elevated region to which the name of Sinai is specifically applied. These cliffs inclose the holy mountain on three sides, leaving the east and northeast sides only, towards the Gulf of Akaba, more open to the view. At the end of three hours, we entered these cliffs by a narrow defile about forty feet in breadth, with perpendicular granite rocks on both sides. The ground is covered with sand and pebbles, brought down by the torrent which rushes from the upper region in the winter time."
The general approach to Sinai from the same quarter is thus described by Mr. Carne: "A few hours more, and we got sight of the mountains round Sinai. Their appearance was magnificent. When we drew near, and emerged out of a deep pass, the scenery was infinitely striking; and on the right extended a vast range of mountains, as far as the eye could reach, from the vicinity of Sinai down to Tor, on the Gulf of Suez. They were perfectly bar, but of grand and singular form. We had hoped to reach the convent by daylight; but the moon had risen some time when we entered the mouth of a narrow pass, where our conductors advised us to dismount. A gentle yet perpetual ascent led on, mile after mile, up this mournful valley, whose aspect was terrific, yet ever varying. It was not above two hundred yards in width, and the mountains rose to an immense height on each side. The road wound at their feet along the edge of a precipice, and amid masses of rock that had fallen from above. It was a toilsome path, generally over stones place like steps, probably by the Arabs; and the moonlight was of little service to us in this deep valley, as it only rested on the frowning summits above. Where is Mount Sinai- Was the inquiry of everyone."
"The Arabs pointed before to Jebel Moosa, the Mount of Moses, as it is called; but we could not distinguish it. Again and again point after point was turned, and we saw but the same stern scenery. But what had the beauty and softness of nature to do here- Mount Sinai required an approach like this, where all seemed to proclaim the land of miracles, and to have been visited by the terrors of the Lord. The scenes, as you gazed around, had an unearthly character, suited to the sound of the fearful trumpet that was heard there. We entered at last on the more open valley, about half a mile wide, and drew near this famous mountain."
The elevated valley or plain Er-Rahah, here and above referred to, is now generally believed to be the place where the Hebrews assembled to witness the giving of the law. Its is two miles long from northwest to southeast, and on an average half a mile wide. The square mile thus afforded is nearly doubled by the addition of those portions of side valleys, particularly Esh-Sheikh towards the northnortheast, from which the summit Tas-Sufsafeh can be seen. This summit, which Dr. Robinson takes to be the true Sinai, rises abruptly on the south side of the plain some fifteen hundred feet. It is the termination of a ridge running three miles southeast, the southern and highest point of which is called by the Arabs Jebel Musa, or Moses' Mount. Separated from this ridge by deep and steep ravines, are two parallel ridges, of which the eastern is called the Mountain of the Cross, and the western, Jebel Humr. The convent of St. Catharine lies in the ravine east of the true Sinai; while Mount Catharine is the south peak of the western ridge, lying southwest of Jebel Musa and rising more than one thousand feet higher. From the convent, Dr. Robinson ascended the central and sacred mountain, and the steep peak Ras-Sufsafeh. "The extreme difficulty," he says, "and even danger of the ascent, was well rewarded by the prospect that now opened before us. The whole plain Er-Rahah lay spread out beneath our feet; while Wady Esh Sheikh on the right and a recess on the left, both connected with the opening broadly from Er-Rahah, presented an area which serves nearly to double that of the plain. Our conviction was strengthened that here, or on some one of the adjacent cliffs, was the spot where the Lord descended in fire and proclaimed the law. Here lay the plain where the whole congregation might be assembled; here was the mount which might be approached and touched; and here the mountain brow where alone the lightnings and the thick cloud would be visible, and the thunders and the voice of the trump be heard, when the Lord came down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai. We gave ourselves up to the impressions of the awful scene; and read with a feeling which will never be forgotten the sublime account of the transaction and the commandments there promulgated, in the original words as recorded by the great Hebrew legislator."
The plain Er-Rahah is supposed to have been reached by the Hebrews from the shore of the Red Sea, south of the desert of Sin, by a series of wadys or broad ravines winding up among the mountains in an easterly direction, chiefly Wady Feiran and Wady Ehs-Sheikh. The former commences near the Red Sea, and opens into the latter, which making a circuit to the north of Sinai enters the plain at its foot from the north-northeast. For several miles from its termination here, this valley is half a mile wide. By the same northern entrance most travellers have approached the sacred mountain. Its south side is less known. To the spectator on Jebel Musa, it presents to trace of any plain, valley, or level ground to be compared with that on the north; yet some writers maintain that the Hebrews received the law at the southern foot of Sinai. See map, in the article EXODUS.
In many of the western Sinaite valleys, and most of all in ElMukatteb, which enters Wady Feiran from the northwest, the more accessible parts of the rocky sides are covered by thousands of inscriptions, usually short, and rudely carved in spots where travellers would naturally stop to rest at noon; frequently accompanied by a cross and mingled with representations of animals. The inscriptions are in an unknown character, but were at first ascribed to the ancient Israelites on their way from Egypt to Sinai; and afterwards to Christian pilgrims of the fourth century. Recently, however, many of them have been deciphered by Prof. Beer of Leipzig, who regards them as the only known remains of the language and characters once peculiar to the Nabathaeans of Arabia Petraea. Those thus far deciphered are simply proper names, neither Jewish nor Christian, preceded by some such words as "peace," "blessed," "in memory of."
The giving of the law upon Mount Sinai made it one of the most memorable spots on the globe. Here, moreover, God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Exodus 3:1-22 and Exodus 4:1-31; and six centuries later, sublimely revealed himself to the prophet Elijah when fleeing from the fury of Jezebel, 1 Kings 19:1-21. There are frequent allusions in Scripture to the glorious and awful delivery of the Law, Jud 5:5 Psalm 68:8,17 Habakkuk 3:3. In the New Testament, the dispensation proclaimed on Sinai is contrasted with the gospel of the grace of God, Galatians 4:24,25 Hebrews 12:18-29.
International Standard Bible EncyclopediaSINAI
si'-ni, si'-na-i (cinay; Codex Alexandrinus Sina, Codex Vaticanus Seina):
1. The Name:
The name comes probably from a root meaning "to shine," which occurs in Syriac, and which in Babylonian is found in the name sinu for "the moon." The old explanation, "clayey," is inappropriate to any place in the Sinaitic desert, though it might apply to Sin (Ezekiel 30:15, 16) or Pelusium; even there, however, the applicability is doubtful. The desert of Sin (Exodus 16:1; Exodus 17:1 Numbers 33:11 f) lay between Sinai and the Gulf of Suez, and may have been named from the "glare" of its white chalk. But at Sinai "the glory of Yahweh was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel" (Exodus 24:17); and, indeed, the glory of the Lord still dyes the crags of Jebel Musa (the "mountain of Moses") with fiery red, reflected from its red granite and pink gneiss rocks, long after the shadows have fallen on the plain beneath. Sinai is mentioned, as a desert and a mountain, in 35 passages of the Old Testament. In 17 passages the same desert and mountain are called "Horeb," or "the waste." This term is chiefly used in Deuteronomy, though Sinai also occurs (Deuteronomy 33:2). In the other books of the Pentateuch, Sinai is the usual name, though Horeb also occurs (Exodus 3:1; Exodus 17:6; Exodus 33:6), applying both to the "Mount of God" and to the desert of Rephidim, some 20 miles to the Northwest.
2. Traditional Site:
The indications of position, in various passages of the Pentateuch, favor the identification with the traditional site, which has become generally accepted by all those explorers who have carefully considered the subject, though two other theories may need notice. Moses fled to the land of Midian (or "empty land"), which lay East of the Sinaitic peninsula (Numbers 22:4, 7; Numbers 25; Numbers 25 31), and when he wandered with his flocks to Horeb (Exodus 3:1) he is said to have reached the west side of the desert. In another note (Deuteronomy 1:2) we read that the distance was "eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea" or Petra (see WANDERINGS OF ISRAEL), the distance being about 145 miles, or 14 miles of daily march, though Israel-with its flocks, women and children-made 16 marches between these points. Sinai again is described as being distant from Egypt "three days' journey into the wilderness" (Exodus 5:3), the actual route being 117 miles, which Israel accomplished in 10 journeys. But, for Arabs not encumbered with families and herds, this distance could still be covered by an average march of 39 miles daily, on riding camels, or even, if necessary, on foot.
3. Identification with Jebel Musa:
These distances will not, however, allow of our placing Sinai farther East than Jebel Musa. Lofty mountains, in all parts of the world, have always been sacred and regarded as the mysterious abode of God; and Josephus says that Sinai is "the highest of all the mountains thereabout," and again is "the highest of all the mountains that are in that country, and is not only very difficult to be ascended by men, on account of its vast. altitude but because of the sharpness of its precipices: nay, indeed, it cannot be looked at without pain of the eyes, and besides this it was terrible and inaccessible, on account of the rumor that passed about, that God dwelt there" (Ant., II, xii, 1; III, v, 1). Evidently in his time Sinai was supposed to be one of the peaks of the great granitic block called et Tur-a term applying to any lofty mountain. This block has its highest peak in Jebel Katarin (so named from a legend of Catherine of Egypt), rising 8,550 ft. above the sea. Northeast of this is Jebel Musa (7, 370 ft.), which, though less high, is more conspicuous because of the open plain called er Rachah ("the wide") to its Northwest. This plain is about 4 miles long and has a width of over a mile, so that it forms, as Dr. E. Robinson (Biblical Researches, 1838, I, 89) seems to have been the first to note, a natural camp at the foot of the mountain, large enough for the probable numbers (see EXODUS, 3) of Israel.
4. Description of Jebel Musu:
Jebel Musa has two main tops, that to the Southeast being crowned by a chapel. The other, divided by gorges into three precipitous crags, has the Convent to its North, and is called Ras-es-Cafcafeh, or "the willow top." North of the Convent is the lower top of Jebel edition Deir ("mountain of the monastery"). These heights were accurately determined by Royal Engineer surveyors in 1868 (Sir C. Wilson, Ordnance Survey of Sinai); and, though it is impossible to say which of the peaks Moses ascended, yet they are all much higher than any mountains in the Sinaitic desert, or in Midian. The highest tops in the Tih desert to the North are not much over 4,000 ft. Those in Midian, East of Elath, rise only to 4,200 ft. Even Jebel Serbal, 20 miles West of Sinai-a ridge with many crags, running 3 miles in length-is at its highest only 6,730 ft. above the sea. Horeb is not recorded to have been visited by any of the Hebrews after Moses, except by Elijah (1 Kings 19:8) in a time of storm. In favor of the traditional site it may also be observed that clouds suddenly formed, or lasting for days (Exodus 24:15 f), are apt to cap very lofty mountains. The Hebrews reached Sinai about the end of May (Exodus 19:1) and, on the 3rd day, "there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount" (Exodus 19:16). Such storms occur as a rule in the Sinaitic desert only in December and January, but thunderstorms are not unknown in Palestine even in May.
5. Patristic Evidence:
A constant tradition fixing the site is traceable back to the 4th century A.D. Eusebius and Jerome (Onomasticon, under the word "Choreb") place Horeb near Paran, which in their time was placed (Onomasticon, under the word "Raphidim") in Wady Feiran. Anchorites lived at Paran, and at Sinai at least as early as 365 A.D., and are noticed in 373 A.D., and often later (Robinson, Biblical Res., 1838, I, 122-28); the monastery was first built for them by Justinian in 527 A.D. and his chapel still exists. Cosmas (Topogr. Christ.), in the same reign, says that Rephidim was then called Pharan, and (distinguishing Horeb from Sinai, as Eusebius also does) he places it "about 6 miles from Pharan," and "near Sinai." These various considerations may suffice to show that the tradition as to Horeb is at least as old as the time of Josephus, and that it agrees with all the indications given in the Old Testament.
6. Lepsius' Theory:
Lepsius, it is true (Letters from Egypt, 1842-44), denying the existence of any unbroken tradition, and relying on his understanding of Cosmas, supposed Sinai to be the Jebel Serbal above mentioned, which lies immediately South of Wady Feiran. His main argument was that, visiting Sinai in March, he considered that the vicinity did not present sufficient water for Israel (Appendix B, 303-18). But, on this point, it is sufficient to give the opinion of the late F. W. Holland, based on the experience of four visits, in 1861, 1865, 1867-68.
He says (Recovery of Jerusalem, 524):
"With regard to water-supply there is no other spot in the whole Peninsula which is nearly so well supplied as the neighborhood of Jebel Musa. Four streams of running water are found there: one in Wady Leja; a second in Wady et Tl'ah which waters a succession of gardens extending more than 3 miles in length, and forms pools in which I have often had a swim; a third stream rises to the North of the watershed of the plain of er Rachah and runs West into Wady et Tl'ah; and a fourth, is formed by the drainage from the mountains of Umm Alawy, to the East of Wady Sebaiyeh and finds its way into that valley by a narrow ravine opposite Jebel edition Deir. In addition to these streams there are numerous wells and springs, affording excellent water throughout the whole of the granitie district. I have seldom found it necessary to carry water when making a mountain excursion, and the intermediate neighborhood of Jebel Musa would, I think, bear comparison with many mountain districts in Scotland with regard to its supply of water. There is also no other district in the Peninsula which affords such excellent pasturage."
This is important, as Israel encamped near Sinai from the end of May till April of the next year. There is also a well on the lower slope of Jebel Musa itself, where the ascent begins.
7. Greene's Theory:
Another theory, put forward by Mr. Baker Greene (The Hebrew Migration from Egypt), though accepted by Dr. Sayce (Higher Cricitism, 1894, 268), appears likewise to be entirely untenable. Mr. Greene supposed Elim (Exodus 15:27) to be Elath (Deuteronomy 2:8), now `Ailah at the head of the Gulf of `Akabah; and that Sinai therefore was some unknown mountain in Midian. But in this case Israel would in 4 days (see Exodus 15:22, 23, 27) have traveled a distance of 200 miles to reach Elim, which cannot but be regarded as quite impossible for the Hebrews when accompanied by women, children, flocks and herds.
C. R. Conder
Easton's Bible Dictionary
Of Sin (the moon god), called also Horeb, the name of the mountain district which was reached by the Hebrews in the third month after the Exodus. Here they remained encamped for about a whole year. Their journey from the Red Sea to this encampment, including all the windings of the route, was about 150 miles. The last twenty-two chapters of Exodus, together with the whole of Leviticus and Numbers 1
-11, contain a record of all the transactions which occurred while they were here. From Rephidim (Exodus 17:8
-13) the Israelites journeyed forward through the Wady Solaf and Wady esh-Sheikh into the plain of er-Rahah, "the desert of Sinai," about 2 miles long and half a mile broad, and encamped there "before the mountain." The part of the mountain range, a protruding lower bluff, known as the Ras Sasafeh (Sufsafeh), rises almost perpendicularly from this plain, and is in all probability the Sinai of history. Dean Stanley thus describes the scene:, "The plain itself is not broken and uneven and narrowly shut in, like almost all others in the range, but presents a long retiring sweep, within which the people could remove and stand afar off. The cliff, rising like a huge altar in front of the whole congregation, and visible against the sky in lonely grandeur from end to end of the whole plain, is the very image of the `mount that might be touched,' and from which the voice of God might be heard far and wide over the plain below." This was the scene of the giving of the law. From the Ras Sufsafeh the law was proclaimed to the people encamped below in the plain of er-Rahah. During the lengthened period of their encampment here the Israelites passed through a very memorable experience. An immense change passed over them. They are now an organized nation, bound by covenant engagement to serve the Lord their God, their ever-present divine Leader and Protector. At length, in the second month of the second year of the Exodus, they move their camp and march forward according to a prescribed order. After three days they reach the "wilderness of Paran," the "et-Tih", i.e., "the desert", and here they make their first encampment. At this time a spirit of discontent broke out amongst them, and the Lord manifested his displeasure by a fire which fell on the encampment and inflicted injury on them. Moses called the place Taberah (q.v.), Numbers 11:1
-3. The journey between Sinai and the southern boundary of the Promised Land (about 150 miles) at Kadesh was accomplished in about a year. (See MAP facing page 204.)
Strong's Hebrew5512b. Sin -- wilderness between Elim and Sinai....
<< 5512a, 5512b. Sin. 5513 >>. wilderness between Elim and Sinai
Word Origin of
foreign origin Definition wilderness between Elim and Sinai
. << 5512a, 5512b. ... /hebrew/5512b.htm - 5k
2722. Choreb -- "waste," a mountain in Sinai
... << 2721b, 2722. Choreb. 2723 >>. "waste," a mountain in Sinai. Transliteration:
Choreb Phonetic Spelling: (kho-rabe') Short Definition: Horeb. ...
/hebrew/2722.htm - 6k
4785. Marah -- a bitter spring in the Sinai peninsula
... << 4784, 4785. Marah. 4786 >>. a bitter spring in the Sinai peninsula. Transliteration:
Marah Phonetic Spelling: (maw-raw') Short Definition: Marah. ...
/hebrew/4785.htm - 6k
6290. Paran -- a place in Sinai
... << 6289, 6290. Paran. 6291 >>. a place in Sinai. Transliteration: Paran Phonetic
Spelling: (paw-rawn') Short Definition: Paran. Word ...
/hebrew/6290.htm - 6k
3837b. Laban -- a place in the Sinai desert
... << 3837a, 3837b. Laban. 3837c >>. a place in the Sinai desert. Transliteration:
Laban Short Definition: Laban. Word Origin from laben ...
/hebrew/3837b.htm - 5k
5514. Sinay -- the mountain where the law was given
... << 5513, 5514. Sinay. 5515 >>. the mountain where the law was given. Transliteration:
Sinay Phonetic Spelling: (see-nah'-ee) Short Definition: Sinai. ... Sinai. ...
/hebrew/5514.htm - 6k