You will not find this question on the ‘entrance-to-heaven’ examination. It’s a question of interest, not church dogma. But it is indeed an interesting study. Looking for the location of Mt. Sinai and how the Israelis got there can become a very intriguing matter. First we must deal with the matter that Mt Sinai is also Mt. Horeb. Here are some examples showing that both Horeb and Sinai are names that apply to the same place.
Ex 3:1 Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
Ex 3:12 And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.
De 4:10 Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.
De 4:11 And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
De 4:12 And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
De 4:13 And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. (about Elijah) 1ki 20:8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb.
Ex.19:16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.
Ex 19:17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
Ex 19:18 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
Ex 19:19 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.
Ex 19:20 And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. (From the writings of Paul) Ga 4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
Ga 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Exodus, chapter nineteen, tells of when God came down on Mt Sinai and gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. Deuteronomy, chapter four, recalls those events some forty years later.
Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus when he was converted. After his conversion he went to Arabia where he learned about the gospel by the revelation of Jesus Christ, not by man, GA 1:11, 12. He also apparently learned about geography.
Ga 1:17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
Ga 4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. (The Galatians 4:25 reference is telling us the difference between the dispensation of ‘The Law and The Prophets’ and the dispensation of ‘Grace’ or ‘of The Holy Ghost’.)
This problem with names may be seated in language differences. We think Sinai was the name used in the Egyptian language and that Horeb was the same location in the Midianeze language. And now, since the seventh-century AD Muslim conquest, Egypt has used the Standard Arabic language. That has further confused us when we search for names used in the Bible. Egyptian names have been replaced by Arabic names. Notice this problem when we try to find the path across the Red Sea and to identify the location of Mt Sinai.
We conclude that Moses went to Mt Horeb in Midian and that God sent him back to Egypt telling him he would return to “this mountain” to worship God after leading Israel out of Egypt. An ancient map shows that Midian was across the Red Sea from the Sinai Peninsula in a part of what is now called Arabia. It is easy to see how one might think that Mt. Sinai should obviously be in the Sinai Peninsula, but think about the state of Washington, named after George Washington. He was born and died in the state of Virginia and never set foot in the state named after him. Perhaps the peninsula and the mountain were both named for the moon god or for someone or someplace elsewhere. But we can summarily dismiss any claim that Mt Sinai is in the Sinai Peninsula from the writings of Paul and from ancient maps and from the story of Moses.
Now comes the hard part, one that causes strong differences of opinions among scholars and historians. Are we rock solid in the knowledge of those things which we are about to assert here? No, but here goes anyway. Many people will strongly disagree with us and they may be right! Here is what we observed.
The Red Sea looks something like a giant slingshot with two relatively tiny arms. The right arm is pointed directly toward the Dead Sea, but it only goes as far north as the southern tip of the Israeli Negev Desert, to a city called Aqaba. That arm of the Red Sea is now called the Gulf of Aqaba. The other, larger, arm goes about two-thirds of the way up to the Mediterranean Sea and is now called the Gulf of Suez. Finished in 1869 (Wikipedia), the Suez Canal connects the northern tip of that arm of the Red Sea (the Gulf of Suez) to the Mediterranean Sea. Since the Suez Canal was not completed until the year 1869 it is not probable that Israel would have had any problem crossing from mainland Egypt into the Sinai Peninsula somewhere between the tip of the Gulf of Suez and the Mediterranean Sea. There are some lakes and some low lying areas, but crossing a “Reed Sea” was hardly worth mentioning even if it did happen. If they did traverse water it was not deep enough to create a wall on either side of them and subsequently drown Pharaoh’s army. We must agree with the critics; no miracle was required at this crossing.
Israel went from Rameses to Succoth. Originally Goshen was home to the extended family of Jacob, but that was four hundred and thirty years prior to the exodus. To put that into prospective subtract 430 from 2015; the answer is 1585. We cannot find Rameses, but it may have been a work center where the mud bricks were manufactured, who knows? They traveled next to Succoth, again we cannot find that place for sure, maybe the name is now something different in Arabic, but what we do know is that Moses knew the way to Mt. Horeb. When he first fled from Egypt, he headed for Midian – beyond the reach of Pharaoh – then forty years later he retraced his steps when the Lord sent him to deliver Israel from Egypt. And the Lord told him that he should bring Israel back to that mountain (Horeb). So let’s just make an educated guess; probably the shortest distance would be a ‘straight’ line from the lower Nile delta to Aqaba where the Negev Desert meets the Gulf of Aqaba. Then going on east beyond the tip of the gulf and turning south toward Horeb in the land of Midian should get you there. It seems the likely trip Moses had already traversed two times.
If we make a time line for this journey we would start with the tenth day of the first month (Abib then, Nisan now). On the tenth day a lamb was taken from among the sheep or from among the goats and kept up until the fourteenth day when it was sacrificed, roast with fire and eaten that night. Since this meal was eaten after sunset it was on the fifteenth day of the month and the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. This was going to be a very busy night, but God knew all about that and had it all planned. There was a full moon! It was about mid-night when God slew the first born of each Egyptian family. They did not die in their sleep to be discovered the following morning. But there was a mighty cry that went up at midnight and Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in the night and told them to get out of Egypt and that they could take their entire families and their herds with them.
After Succoth they encamped in Etham in the edge of the wilderness. Etham also eludes our maps but it was in the edge of the wilderness. It was here that the Lord told Moses to turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth and encamp by the sea. This is where the guessing game gets serious; some maps put Pi-hahiroth at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, the lower part of the Gulf of Aqaba. Some think Etham was on the west side of the Sinai peninsula and the Israelites crossed the place where the Suez Canal now lies then turned south going all the way to the southern tip of the peninsula and from there crossing over into Midian. Some details have been omitted to shorten this version because of strong personal beliefs.
Another scenario is that the Israelis took the upper end of a dry riverbed that begins in mid Sinai and ends up at the beach at Nuweiba, about midway up on the west coast of the Gulf of Aqaba.
Our pick of the observed opinions is … that what Moses had in mind was the probable route he had taken in the past, but then, at the command of God, they turned south and headed toward Pi-hahiroth putting them on the west bank rather than on the east bank of the Red Sea (Gulf of Aqaba). This would have been foolhardy had God not planned it punish Egypt one final time and magnify His Name among the heathen by a miraculous Red Sea crossing. The Lord told Moses, “Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, they are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.” certainly a reasonable conclusion if indeed they had turned south before reaching Midian. Basically they encamped by the sea and waited there as bait to attract Pharaoh, according to God’s plan. We think it was Pharaoh’s army that traveled the dry riverbed as a shortcut to Pi-hahiroth.
Nuweiba, a resort beach on the Sinai side of the Gulf of Aqaba has emerged as a leading candidate in the search for Pi-hahiroth. It had to be a place suitable for ‘encamping by the Sea’ and that is a very limiting factor. For most of the west coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, the mountains drop directly into the sea. There is hardly standing room for a few people. One notable exception is Nuweiba. There a dry river bed cuts through the mountains onto a beach. It appears that flash floods have washed sand and gravel into the sea and built up a delta-beach. Nuweiba, sometimes spelled Nuweibaa, is now a resort. You might want to plan your next vacation there and poke around a bit. Underwater cameras have taken pictures that reportedly show coral growing in the shape of chariot wheels; one showing an axel sticking up with a wheel shape on the top end of it. There are no actual wheels or axels, but the shape of the coral indicated it was formed on something solid, but which has disappeared over time.
Another very interesting Nuweiba feature is that in either direction, north or south, the mountains drop strait into the sea. It is uncrossable even if you could remove all the water. But out from the beach on this small delta is a sand covered ‘road’ beneath the water making it crossable if the water was not there. God remembered how the Egyptians had made the Israelis put their baby boys into the Nile River. How would Pharaoh like it if God drowned his army in the sea? The ten plagues were to persuade Pharaoh to let Israel go, but the killing of the baby boys had not yet been settled.
God works with split-second timing. A congealed wall of water stood on either side of the under-water, sand-and-silt bridge. Then, at just the right moment, the walls of water came tumbling down. Horses can swim and people can swim, but being caught between two tsunamis is something different. The effect of the dual tsunamis was as God intended, “not one” of the Egyptians survived. Egypt had been paid back for the lost lives of the Hebrew baby boys!
We pick Nuweiba as the Pi-hahiroth of the Bible. So which way was it from the point of crossing to Mt Horeb? No one knows because no one knows exactly where in Midian (now Arabia) Mt Horeb is located. The Israelis traveled three days into the wilderness of Shur and when they came to Marah they could not drink the water. By a miracle, God made the waters sweet so they had water. Next they came to Elim where there were palm trees and wells of water. They crossed the wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing from Egypt. That was exactly one Hebrew calendar month after beginning their journey and it is where the Manna began.
Ron Wyatt, a researcher, was looking for Mt Horeb near the supposed Red Sea crossing at Nuweiba and noticed Mt Jebel al Lawz at 8,465 Feet (Wikipedia), was the most prominent summit in that area. Many have disagreed with him, but nothing convincing as far as we can see. After his ‘discovery’ the Saudi government said that was a military base and put a fence around the area and put up signs warning of consequences for trespassing or taking artifacts. The natural inclination is to think the Saudi government took Wyatt’s claims seriously; or maybe they just didn’t want Christians flocking into their country.
Here is a link in case you want to explore Nuweiba where we think the Red Sea crossing took place. Caution: stay on the Egyptian side of the gulf. Don’t take chances by taking a boat to the Arabian side. I would take their warning seriously! To see the beach;
At : Hotels Flights Vacation Rentals Restaurants Destinations
click on: City Country Region
in box write ‘Nuweiba, Egypt’ and enter
click on green rectangle just below the beach to see thumbnails views of the area.
If this story is new to you, next time someone tells you how the children of Israel traveled for days to reach the area now traversed by the Suez Canal and that they became entangles in the wilderness on their way there; if they explain how the Israelis crossed the Reed Sea and the Egyptians were drowned trying to follow and that then the Israelites headed south into the Sinai Peninsula to find Mt Sinai there, you can smile knowingly. If you discover the ‘real’ location of the Red Sea crossing and of Mt Horeb (Sinai), please make sure to send verifiable proof before alerting us to the discovery, but we try to keep an open mind.new map
These are the routes as we suppose them to be. (Note Jebel al Alwayz should be Jebel al Wayz)
An enlarged view of Nuweiba beach extending out into the Red Sea.