From BiblePortal Wikipedia

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [1]

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 19:1 -Nu 19:1- 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,  Judges 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 .

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

SINAI (Mountain). A holy mountain in the Sinaitic peninsula (whose name is said to be derived from that of Sin, the moon-god). It is called Horeb by E [Note: Elohist.] and D [Note: Deuteronomist.] , whereas J [Note: Jahwist.] and P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] employ the name ‘Sinai.’ Here Moses was granted the vision of the burning bush (  Exodus 3:1 ), whereby he first received a call to lead the Israelites to adopt Jahweh as their covenanted God; and here took place the tremendous theophany which is the central event of the Pentateuch, wherein the covenant was ratified.

The identification of Mt. Sinai is a matter of some difficulty, and various attempts to discover it have been made from time to time. The traditional site is Jebel Mûsa , ‘the mountain of Moses,’ almost in the centre of the triangle; here there has been a convent ever since at least a.d. 385, about which date it was visited by St. Silvia of Aquitaine whose account of her pilgrimage still survives in part. This identification has therefore the warrant of antiquity. It is not, however, wholly free from difficulty, principally connected with questions of the route of the Exodus; but it is possible that with further study and discovery these difficulties may be found to he evanescent.

In recent years the tradition has been questioned, and two suggestions have been made calling for notice. The first is that originally suggested by Lepsius, who would place Sinai at Mount Serbal , some distance northwest of Jebel Mûsa. This theory has been championed, with a good deal of force, by the latest investigator, Professor Petrie’s assistant, Mr. C. T. Currelly (see Petrle, Researches in Sinai , ch. xvii.). The region appears more suitable for the occupation of a large host than the neighbourhood of Jebel Mûsa, and it accords better with the probable site of Rephidim.

The second view would place the mountain out of the peninsula altogether, unless it can be proved that the Land of Midian included that region. And, indeed, the close connexion evident between Sinai or Horeb and Midian, which appears, for example, in   Exodus 3:1-22 , makes this a theory worth consideration. But we are still in the dark as to the limits of Midian: all we can say is that it is not known whether Midian extended west of the Gulf of ‘Akabah, and that therefore it is not known whether Sinai was west of ‘Akabah. It must, however, be freely granted that to place Sinai east or north of ‘Akabah would entirely disjoint all identifications of places along the line of the itinerary of the Exodus.

For the allegorical use of ‘Sinai’ in  Galatians 4:25 , see art. Hagar.

R. A. S. Macalister.

SINAI (Peninsula). The triangular tongue of land intercepted between the limestone plateau of the Tih desert in the north, and the Gulfs of Suez and ‘Akabah, at the head of the Red Sea, on the south-west and south-east. It is a rugged and waste region, little watered, and full of wild and impressive mountain scenery. Except at some places on the coast, such as Tor, there is but little of a settled population.

This region was always, and still is, under Egyptian Influence, if not actually in Egyptian territory. From a very early period it was visited by emissaries from Egyptian kings in search of turquoise, which is yielded by the mines of the Wady Magharah. There sculptured steles were left, and scenes engraved in the rock, from the time of Semerkhet of the first dynasty, and Sneferu of the third dated by Professor Petrie in the fifth and sixth millennia b.c. These sculptures remained almost intact till recent years; till a party of English speculators, who came to attempt to re-work the old mines, wantonly destroyed many of them (see Petrie, Researches in Sinai , p. 46). What these vandais left was cut from the rock and removed for safety, under Professor Petrie’s direction, to the Cairo Museum. A remarkable temple, dedicated to Hathor, but adapted, it would appear, rather to Semitic forms of worship, exists at Serabîl el-Khadem , not far from these mines. It was probably erected partly for the benefit of the parties who visited the mines from time to time.

Geologically, Sinai is composed of rocks of the oldest (Archæan) period. These rocks are granite of a red and grey colour, and gneiss, with schists of various kinds hornbiende, talcose, and chioritic overlying them. Many later, but still ancient, dykes of diorite, basalt, etc., penetrate these primeval rocks. Vegetation is practically confined to the valleys, especially in the neighbourhood of water-springs.

R. A. S. Macalister.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [3]

Si'na-i or Sin'a-i. (Thorny). Nearly in the centre of the peninsula, which stretches between the horns of the Red Sea, lies a wedge of granite, grunstein and porphyry rocks rising to between 8000 and 9000 feet above the sea. Its shape resembles a scalene triangle. These mountains may be divided into two great masses - that of Jebel Serbal , (8759 feet high), in the northwest above Wady Feiran , and the central group, roughly denoted by the general name of Sinai. This group rises abruptly from the Wady Es-Sheikh at its north foot, first to the cliffs of the Ras Sufsafeh , behind which, towers the pinnacle of Jebel Musa , (the Mount of Moses), and farther back to the right of it, the summit of Jebel Katerin , (Mount St. Catherine, 8705 feet), all being backed up and overtopped by Um Shamer , (the Mother Of Fennel , 9300 feet), which is the highest point of the whole peninsula.

Names. - These mountains are called Horeb, and sometimes Sinai. Some think that Horeb is the name of the whole range, and Sinai is the name of a particular mountain; others, that Sinai is the range, and Horeb is the particular mountain; while Stanley suggests that the distinction is one of usage, and that both names are applied to the same place.

The mountain from which the law was given. - Modern investigators have generally come to the conclusion that of the claimants; Jebel Serba, Jebel Musa and Ras Sufsafeh , the last, the modern Horeb of the monks - namely, the northwest and lower face of the Jebel Musa , crowned with a range of magnificent cliffs, the highest point called Ras Sufsafeh , as overlooking the plain, Er Rahah - is the scene of the giving of the law, and that peak, the mountain into which Moses ascended.

(But Jebel Musa and Ras Sufsafeh are really peaks of the same mountain, and Moses may have received the law on Jebel Musa , but it must have been proclaimed from Ras Sufsafeh . Jebel Musa is the traditional mount where Moses received the law from God. It is a mountain mass two miles long and one mile broad, The southern peak is 7363 feet high; the northern peak, Ras Sufsafeh is 6830 feet high.

It is in full view of the plain, Er Rahah , where the children of Israel were encamped. This plain is a smooth camping-ground, surrounded by mountains. It is about two miles long by half a mile broad, embracing 400 acres of available standing round made into a natural amphitheatre, by a low semicircular mount about 300 yards from the foot of the mountain. By actual measurement, it contains over 2,000,000 square yards, and with its branches over 4,000,000 square yards, so that the whole people of Israel, two million in number, would find ample accommodations for seeing and hearing.

In addition to this, the air is wonderfully clear, both for seeing and hearing. Dean Stanley says that "from the highest point of Ras Sufsafeh , to its lower peak, a distance of about 60 feet, the page of a book distinctly but not loudly read was perfectly audible." It was the belief of the Arabs who conducted Niebuhr , that they could make themselves heard across the Gulf of Akabah, - a belief fostered by the great distance to which the voice can actually be carried. There is no other place known among all these mountains so well adapted for the purpose of giving and receiving the law as this rocky pulpit of Ras Sufsafeh and the natural amphitheatre of Er Rahah . - Editor.)

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

(See Exodus .) The peninsula of Sinai is a triangular tract, bounded on the W. by the gulf of Suez, on the E. by the gulf of Akabah, and on the N. by a line drawn from Gaza through Beersheba to the S. of the Dead Sea. There are three divisions:

(1)' the southernmost, the neighbourhood of Sinai ;

(2) the desert of Et Tih , the scene of Israel's wanderings;

(3) the Νegeb , or "south country", the dwelling of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Near 'Αin Ηudherah ("Hazeroth") Mr. Palmer (Palestine Exploration Quarterly Statement, January, 1871) discovered Erweis El Ebeirig , which he believed to be the remains of an Israelite camp. The tombs outside he identified as the Κibroth Ηattaavah , "graves of lust" ( Numbers 11:31); the extensive remains betoken a large assemblage of people. Farther on the stone huts scattered over the hills and country, Arabic Νawamis ("mosquitos"), were probably Amalekite dwellings. Proceeding N. the explorers reached Ain Gadis or Kadesh , with a wady of the same name running from it beside a large plain. 'Ain Gadis is on the frontier of the Negeb or south country, which is now waste through neglect of the water supply, but bears traces of former cultivation arid ruins of many cities. Eshcol, where the spies went, lay not far off from Kadesh in the vine abounding district on the way to Hebron; the hill sides are covered with small stone heaps, on which the vines were trained.

To the north stand El Μeshrifeh or Ζephath "the watchtower," and Sbaita , all built of stone, without timber, "the city of the Zephath," afterward called Hormah ( Judges 1:17). The route lies then through the Amorite hills to Ruhaibeh, with the remains of an old well, the troughs being of great size and antiquity, the Rehoboth well of Isaac; near it Shutnet, or Sitnah. Then Beersheba with three wells, one dry, the other two full of water. Sinai stands in the center of the peninsula which lies between the two horns of the Red Sea. It is a wedge shaped mass of granite and porphyry platonic rocks, rising almost 9,000 ft. above the sea. On the S.W. lies a wide alluvial plain, coasting the gulf of Suez; on the E. side, coasting the Akabah gulf, the plain is narrow. There are three chief masses:

(1) The N.W. cluster, including five-peaked Serbal, 6,342 ft. above the sea.

(2) The E. and central mass, jebel Katherin its highest point, 8,063 ft. above the sea; jebel Musa, at the south end, about 7,000 ft.

(3) The S.E. close to (2), Um Shaumer its highest point. Ras Sufsafeh, the northern end of (2), with the vast plain Er Rahab ("the wilderness of Sinai") for Israel below, is the Mount Sinai of the law.

Horeb is the N. part of the Sinaitic range. At the foot of Ras Sufsafeh are alluvial mounds, which exactly correspond to the "bounds" set to restrain the people. In the long retiring sweep of Er Rahab the people could "remove and stand afar off," for it extends into the side valleys. Moses, coming through one of the oblique gullies at the side of Res Sufsafeh on the N. and S., might not see the camp, though hearing the noise, until he emerged from the Wady Ed Deir or the Wady Leja on the plain ( Exodus 32:15-19).

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

a famous mountain of Arabia Petraea, on which God gave the law to Moses,  Exodus 19:1;  Exodus 24:16;  Exodus 31:18;  Exodus 34:2;  Exodus 34:4 , &c;  Leviticus 25:1;  Leviticus 26:46 . It stands in a kind of peninsula, formed by the two arms of the Red Sea; one extending north, called the Gulf of Kolsom; the other extending east, called the Gulf of Elan. The Arabs call Mount Sinai by the name of Tor, that is, the mountain, by way of excellence; or Gibel Mousa, "the mountain of Moses." It is two hundred and sixty miles from Cairo, which is a journey of ten days. The wilderness of Sinai, where the Israelites continued encamped almost a year, and where Moses erected the tabernacle of the covenant, is considerably elevated above the rest of the country; the ascent to it is very craggy, the greater part cut out of the rock; then one comes to a large space of ground, which is a plain surrounded on all sides by rocks and eminences, whose length is nearly twelve miles. Toward the extremity of this plain, on the north, two high mountains appear; the highest is called Sinai, the other Horeb. They are of very steep ascent, and do not stand on much ground in comparison to their extraordinary height. Sinai is at least one third part higher than the other, and its ascent more upright and difficult. The top of the mountain terminates in an uneven and rugged space, which might contain about sixty persons. On this eminence is built a little chapel, called St. Catherine's, where it is thought the body of this saint rested for three hundred and sixty years; but afterward it was removed into a church at the foot of the mountain. Near this chapel issues a fountain of very good fresh water: it is looked upon as miraculous, it not being conceivable how water can flow from the brow of so high and so barren a mountain. Mount Horeb stands west of Sinai; so that at sun-rising the shadow of Sinai covers Horeb. Beside the little fountain at the top of Sinai, there is another at the foot of Horeb, which supplies the monastery of St. Catherine. Five or six paces from thence they show a stone, whose height is four or five feet, and breadth about three, which they say is the very stone from whence Moses caused the water to gush out. Its colour is of a spotted grey; and it is, as it were, set in a kind of earth, where no other rock appears. This stone has twelve holes or channels, which are about a foot wide, from whence they say the water issued which the Israelites drank.

"Sinai," says Sandys, "has three tops of a marvellous height; that on the west side, where God appeared to Moses in a bush, fruitful in pasturage, far lower than the middlemost, and shadowed when the sun riseth thereon; which is that whereon God gave the law to Moses, and which is now called the Mount of Moses, at the foot of which stands the monastery called St. Catherine's, from which there were steps formerly up to the very top of the mountain, and were computed fourteen thousand in number. At present some of them are broken, but those that remain are well made, and easy to go up and down. There are, in several places of the ascent, good cisterns; and especially near the top, a fair and good one. The third or most easterly summit is called by the religious in those parts, Mount Catherine; on the top of which there is a dome, under which they say was interred the body of this saint, brought thither by angels after she was beheaded at Alexandria." One may judge of the height of St. Catherine's Mount, which certainly is not so high as that of Moses by a third part, from this circumstance, that Thevenot found much snow on both when he was there, which was in February. The monastery of St. Catherine is from Cairo some eight days' journey over the deserts.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

The Sinai Peninsular is the dry region that lies south of Palestine between the two northern arms of the Red Sea. Within it are the semi-desert regions known as the Wilderness of Shur in the north and the Wilderness of Paran in the north-east. (For map see Shur .)

In the biblical record the Sinai region’s chief importance is as the location of the mountain in the south known as Horeb, or Mount Sinai. This was the place where God first met Moses and where he later established his covenant with the travelling Israelites ( Exodus 3:1;  Exodus 3:12;  Acts 7:30). Through that covenant God formally made them his people and gave them this law (Exodus 19;  Exodus 24:16;  Exodus 34:1-4;  Exodus 34:29;  Leviticus 7:37-38;  Leviticus 27:34;  Deuteronomy 1:6;  Deuteronomy 1:19;  Deuteronomy 5:1-2;  1 Kings 8:9;  Acts 7:38).

For about one year the people of Israel camped at Mt Sinai, organizing themselves for the new life that lay ahead in Canaan ( Exodus 19:1;  Numbers 10:11). But because of their disobedience, they took about forty years to reach Canaan. They spent much of this time in the wilderness regions of the Sinai Peninsular, where the older generation passed away and a new generation grew up. It was this new generation that entered Canaan ( Numbers 1:19;  Numbers 10:12;  Numbers 14:31-34;  Numbers 26:63-65).

Several hundred years later, when the prophet Elijah felt that God’s covenant people were a total failure, God brought him to Mt Sinai to reassure him. Though God would punish Israel, he would preserve the faithful minority and through them fulfil his covenant promises ( 1 Kings 19:8-18).

To Israelites, the covenant was inseparably linked with Sinai. But it was a covenant that was limited by time and restricted to one nation. The new covenant, by contrast, has no such limitations or restrictions. It comes into being through Jesus Christ and is identified not with Sinai but with heaven ( Galatians 4:24-27;  Hebrews 12:18-29; see Covenant ).

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Sinai ( Sî'Nâi, or Sî'Naî, or Sî'Na-Î ), Broken or Deft Rocks? The name of a district, a range of mountains and a mountain peak. The district is in the peninsula lying between the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Akaba, and the mountains in the district are celebrated as the place where the Mosaic law was given.  Exodus 16:1;  Exodus 19:2-25;  Exodus 24:12;  Exodus 24:18;  Exodus 25:40;  Exodus 34:2-35;  Leviticus 7:38;  Leviticus 25:1;  Leviticus 26:46;  Leviticus 27:34;  Deuteronomy 33:2;  Judges 5:5;  Hebrews 8:5;  Hebrews 12:18-21. The "peak" where the law was given is now generally believed to be identical with Ras Sufsafeh, the northern portion of Jebel Musa.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [8]

The peninsula between the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Akabah; also one of the high peaks there. The peninsula is usually called in Scripture ‘the desert (or wilderness) of Sinai.’ St. Stephen ( Acts 7:30) recalls how an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses ‘in the wilderness of mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush.’ Mount Sinai was a sacred mountain from very early times, being possibly connected with the worship of the Babylonian moon-god Sin. In the Jewish tradition it was sacred to Jahweh, and was memorable as the place where God gave to Moses the ‘lively oracles’ ( Acts 7:38). See, further, Mount, Mountain. For  Galatians 4:24 f. see Hagar.

J. W. Duncan.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [9]

 Galatians 4:25 (a) This mountain represents the stern realities of the law. GOD appeared there in thunder and fire and thick darkness, for the law demands absolute obedience, or else punishment. It is in contrast with Calvary, where GOD appeared in human form, in tender loving kindness, and in love. The condition of Jerusalem at that time, with its wickedness, sin and the destruction wrought by its enemies was just a plain evidence of the tragedy that follows the broken laws of Sinai. (See  Exodus 19:18).

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 Exodus 17:8-13 Numbers 11:1-3

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [11]

See Mount Sinai

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

sı̄´nı̄ , sı̄´nā́ - ı̄ ( סיני , ṣı̄nay  ; Codex Alexandrinus Σινά , Siná , Codex Vaticanus Σεινά , Seiná ):

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 ,  Ezekiel 30:16 ) 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 Mûsa (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 ,  Numbers 22:7; 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 Mûsa . 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 Ṭûr - a term applying to any lofty mountain. This block has its highest peak in Jebel Kâtarı̂n (so named from a legend of Catherine of Egypt), rising 8,550 ft. above the sea. Northeast of this is Jebel Mûsa (7,370 ft.), which, though less high, is more conspicuous because of the open plain called er Râḥah ("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 Mûsa 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 Râs - es - Ṣafṣâfeh , or "the willow top." North of the Convent is the lower top of Jebel ed 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 Tı̂h 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 Serbâl , 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 AD. Eusebius and Jerome ( Onomasticon , under the word "Choreb") place Horeb near Paran, which in their time was placed ( Onomasticon , under the word "Raphidim") in Wâdy Feirân . Anchorites lived at Paran, and at Sinai at least as early as 365 AD, and are noticed in 373 AD, and often later (Robinson, Biblical Res., 1838, I, 122-28); the monastery was first built for them by Justinian in 527 Ad 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 Serbâl above mentioned, which lies immediately South of Wâdy Feirân . 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 Mûsa . Four streams of running water are found there: one in Wâdy Leja  ; a second in Wâdy et Ṭl'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 Raḥah and runs West into Wâdy et Ṭl'ah  ; and a fourth, is formed by the drainage from the mountains of Umm ‛Alawy , to the East of Wâdy Sebaiyeh and finds its way into that valley by a narrow ravine opposite Jebel ed 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 Mûsa 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 ,  Exodus 15:23 ,  Exodus 15:27 ) 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.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Si´nai. The Hebrew name, denoting a district of broken or cleft rocks, is descriptive of the region to which it is applied. That region, according to;;; , is a wild mountainous country in Arabia Petraea, whither the Israelites went from Rephidim, after they had been out of Egypt for the space of three months. Here the law was given to Moses, which fact renders this spot one of special and lasting interest. From the magnitude and prominence of the Sinaitic group of mountains, the entire district of which it forms a part has received the name of the peninsula of Sinai. This peninsula may be roughly described as formed by a line running from Suez to Ailah, all that lies on the south of this line falling within the peninsula. In the present-day the name Sinai is given by Christians to the cluster of mountains to which we have referred; but the Arabs have no other name for this group than Jebel et-Tur, sometimes adding the distinctive epithet Sina. In a stricter sense the name Sinai is applied to a very lofty ridge which lies between the two parallel valleys of Shu'eib and el-Leja. Of this ridge the northern end is termed Horeb, the southern Sinai, now called Jebel Mûsa, or Moses' Mount. The entire district is a heap of lofty granite rocks, with steep gorges and deep valleys. The Sinai ridge, including Horeb, is at least three miles in length. It rises boldly and majestically from the southern end of the plain Rahah, which is two geographical miles long, and ranges in breadth from one-third to two-thirds of a mile, making at least one square mile. This space is nearly doubled by extensions of the valley on the west and east. 'The examination convinced us,' says Robinson (Biblical Researches, i. 141), 'that here was space enough to satisfy all the requisitions of the Scriptural narrative, so far as it relates to the assembling of the congregation to receive the law.' Water is abundant in this mountainous region, to which the Bedouins betake themselves when oppressed by drought in the lower lands. As there is water, so also is there in the valleys great fruitfulness and sometimes luxuriance of vegetation, as well as beauty. What was the exact locality from which the law was given, it may not be easy to ascertain. The book of Deuteronomy (; , etc.) makes it to be Horeb, which seems most probable; for this, the north end of the range, rises immediately from the plain of which we have just spoken as the head-quarters of the Israelites. Sinai is, indeed, generally reputed to be the spot, and, as we have seen, the southern extremity of the range is denominated Moses' Mount; but this may have arisen from confounding together two meanings of Sinai, inasmuch as it denotes, 1, a district; 2, a particular part of that district. It was no doubt on Horeb, in the region of Sinai, that the law was promulgated. Robinson imputes the common error to tradition, and declares that 'there is not the slightest reason for supposing that Moses had anything to do with the summit which now bears his name. It is three miles distant from the plain on which the Israelites must have stood, and hidden from it by the intervening peaks of modern Horeb. No part of the plain is visible from the summit, nor are the bottoms of the adjacent valleys, nor is any spot to be seen around it where the people could have been assembled.' Robinson also ascended the northern extremity of the ridge, and had there a prospect which he thus describes:—'The whole plain, er-Râhah, lay spread out beneath our feet with the adjacent Wadys and mountains. Our conviction was strengthened that here, or on someone 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 that could be approached and touched, if not forbidden; 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 that will never be forgotten, the sublime account of the transaction and the commandment there promulgated.'

Having thus given a general view of Sinai, we shall now briefly trace the Israelites in their journey to the mountain. Another article [WANDERING] will follow their course into the Land of Promise. When safe on the eastern shore, the Israelites, had they taken the shortest route into Palestine, would have struck at once across the desert in a south-easterly direction to el-Arish or Gaza. But this route would have brought them into direct collision with the Philistines, with whom they were as yet quite unable to cope. Or they might have traversed the desert of Paran, following the pilgrim road of the present-day to Elath, and, turning to the north, have made for Palestine. In order to accomplish this, however, hostile hordes and nations would have to be encountered, whose superior skill and experience in war might have proved fatal to the newly liberated tribes of Israel. They were, therefore, wisely directed to take a course which necessitated the lapse of time, and gave promise of affording intellectual and moral discipline of the highest value.

Moses did not begin his arduous journey till, with a piety and a warmth of gratitude which well befitted the signal deliverance that his people had just been favored with, he celebrated the power, majesty, and goodness of God in a triumphal ode, full of the most appropriate, striking, and splendid images; in which commemorative festivity he was assisted by 'Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron,' and her associated female band, with poetry, music, and dancing. The spot where these rejoicings were held, could not have been far from that which still bears the name of Ayûn Mûsa, 'the fountains of Moses,' the situation of which is even now marked by a few palm-trees. This was a suitable place for the encampment, because well supplied with water. Here Robinson counted seven fountains, near which he saw a patch of barley, and a few cabbage plants. Hence the Israelites proceeded along the coast, three days' journey, into what is termed the wilderness of Shur. During this march they found no water. The district is hilly and sandy, with a few watercourses running into the Red Sea, which, failing rain, are dry. At the end of three days the Israelites reached the fountain Marah, but the waters were bitter, and could not be drunk. The stock which they had brought with them being now exhausted, they began to utter murmurings on finding themselves disappointed at Marah. Moses appealed to God, who directed him to a tree, which, being thrown into the waters, sweetened them. The people were satisfied and admonished. About this station authorities are agreed. It is identified with the fountain Hawârah. The basin is six or eight feet in diameter, and the water Robinson found about two feet deep. Its taste is unpleasant, saltish, and somewhat bitter.

The next station mentioned in Scripture is Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and three score and ten palm-trees. As is customary with travelers in these regions, 'they encamped there by the waters' . This place is generally admitted to be Wady Ghurundel, lying about half a day's journey south-east from Marah. The way from Egypt to Sinai lies through this valley; and, on account of its water and verdure, it is a chief caravan station at the present-day. From Elim the Israelites marched, encamping on the shore of the Red Sea, for which purpose they must have kept the high ground for sometime, since the precipices of Jebel Hûmmâin—a lofty and precipitous mountain of chalky limestone—run down to the brink of the sea. They, therefore, went on the land side of this mountain to the head of Wady Taiyikeh, which passes down south-west through the mountains to the shore. On the plain at the mouth of this valley was the encampment 'by the Red Sea' .

According to , the Israelites removed from the Red Sea, and encamped next in the wilderness of Sin. This Robinson identifies with 'the great plain which, beginning near el-Mûrkháh, extends with greater or less breadth almost to the extremity of the peninsula. In its broadest part it is called el-Kâa' (i. 106). Thus they kept along the shore, and did not yet ascend any of the fruitful valleys which run up towards the center of the district. They arrived in the wilderness of Sin on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure out of the land of Egypt; and being now wearied with their journey, and tired of their scanty fare, they began again to murmur. The contrast between the scant supply of the desert and the abundance of Egypt, furnished the immediate occasion of the outbreak of dissatisfaction. Bread and flesh were the chief demand; bread and flesh were miraculously supplied; the former by manna, the latter by quails.

The next station mentioned in Exodus is Rephidim; but in Numbers 33, Dophkah and Alush are added. The two latter were reached after the people had taken 'their journey out of the wilderness of Sin.' Dophkah is probably to be found near the spot where Wady Feirán runs into the gulf of Suez. Alush may have lain on the shore near Ras Jehan. From this point a range of calcareous rocks, termed Jebal Hemam, stretches along the shore, near the southern end of which the Hebrews took a sudden turn to the north-east, and, going up Wady Hibrân, reached the central Sinaitic district.

This was the last station before Sinai itself was reached. Naturally enough is it recorded, that 'there was no water for the people to drink.' The road was an arid gravelly plain; on either side were barren rocks. A natural supply was impossible. A miracle was wrought, and water was given. The Scripture makes it clear that it was from the Sinaitic group that the water was produced . The plain received two descriptive names—Massah, 'Temptation;' and Meribah, 'Strife.' It appears that the congregation was not allowed to pursue their way to Sinai unmolested. The Arabs thought the Israelites suitable for plunder, and fell upon them. These hordes are termed Amalekites. It appears that the conflict was a severe and doubtful one, which, by some extraordinary aid, ended in favor of the children of Israel. This aggression on the part of Amalek gave occasion to a permanent national hatred, which ended only in the extermination of the tribe . In commemoration of this victory Moses was commanded to write an account of it in a book: he also erected there an altar to Jehovah, and called the name of it 'Jehovah, my banner.'

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Sinai'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.