The assumption that the famous biblical Mount Sinai is a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula was the decision of Emperor Constantine’s mother almost 2,000 years after the actual event of the Exodus. According to The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, “The origin of the present Monastery of Saint Catherine on the NW slope of Jebel Musa is traced back to A.D. 527, when Emperor Justinian established it on the site where Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, had erected a small church two centuries earlier.” So where is the real Mt Sinai?
In Search of the Real Mt Sinai
For six years between 1761 and 1767, a Danish archaeological expedition investigated Helena’s site and noted the impossibility of it being the authentic location. It was most obvious that the narrow valley, where the monastery was located was simply too limiting in space to accommodate the three million men, women, and children (not to mention all of their livestock!) who accompanied Moses in their flight from Egyptian slavery.
In 1978, archaeologist Ron Wyatt discovered chariot wheel remains deep in the Gulf of Eilat just off the Egyptian coast out from Nuweiba. Wyatt believed, therefore, that the real site of the elusive mountain lay in Arabia on the opposite shore. After studying maps of Saudi Arabia, he concluded that the most likely location was a peak, within a mountain range, known as Jebel el Lawz.
Many archaeologists have used the bible’s accurate text as a geographical guide to locate thousands of archaeological discoveries. Wyatt noted that the text recorded that the Israelites would be “out of Egypt” when they were to “serve God upon this mountain.” And that the mountain was “in Midian.” Helena’s mountain is in Egypt thus ruling it out. Midian is in Saudi Arabia but getting in to Saudi Arabia to embark on an archaeological expedition would not prove simple.
At the Stones of Exodus
Five years later Ron Wyatt crossed into the Saudi desert and after hitchhiking and hiring taxis, he arrived near the mountain. Lying on the ground he saw broken white pillars of marble. Immediately Wyatt recalled the biblical account, “and they built an altar at the foot of the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Ron and his team believed that these lithic artefacts were pieces of a memorial that had once been built near the altar. The stone fragments revealed that the columns were polished marble over half a metre in diameter. Additionally, there were numerous rectangular marble slabs. The slabs lay all around the altar, while some other pieces lay scattered father a field. Bedouin in the area reported that the stone “memorial” had been taken apart and pieces had been used in a mosque in Hagl. Was he standing at the Stones of Exodus?
Corroborating Evidence of the Exodus Stones
Archaeologists must consider every piece of evidential testimony when attempting to locate undiscovered sites. There are many factors that must corroborate before confirming a claim. Wyatt noted the pre-requisites and compared these to the location:
- The mountain top was blackened
- There were hundreds of hectares of suitable camping land
- The mountain range enclosed the area
- There was a huge rock, split in half
- Petroglyphs of an Egyptian cow
- Stones forming a sacrificial altar
This was convincing evidence. An archaeologist from Riyadh University observed these compelling discoveries. He concluded that the style of rock drawings of the bulls and cows on the altar had never been seen anywhere else in Saudi Arabia.
Even a cursory read of the biblical account reveals the perfect description of this site in Saudi Arabia. Sadly for professional archaeologists, politics, religion, and international relationships often prevent honest investigation. Wyatt and his team were arrested, jailed, and deported. The area has since been fenced off and western archaeologists have been denied access.
For almost four millennia the mountain of Sinai lay silent. It may be some years still before the Stones of Exodus can tell their story again.