Where is Mt. Sinai? At a recent colloquium in Israel, an international group of scholars debated the question. At the center of the debate was Har Karkom, a mountain ridge in the Negev Desert that archaeologist Emmanuel Anati believes to be the Biblical Mt. Sinai. Or could Mt. Sinai be in Saudia Arabia, where Moses was thought to have fled after escaping Egypt? In “Where Is Mount Sinai? The Case for Har Karkom and the Case for Saudia Arabia” in the March/April 2014 issue of BAR, Hershel Shanks examines these candidates.
Biblical Mt. Sinai has never been identified archaeologically with any scholarly consensus, though several sites have been considered. According to Shanks, none of the scholars who attended the colloquium in Israel discussed the traditional location of Mt. Sinai—the mountain called Jebel Musa looming over St. Catherine’s Monastery in the southern Sinai. Jebel Musa’s identification as Mt. Sinai developed in the early Byzantine period with the spread of monasticism into the Sinai desert.
The main point to take away is that scholars are not seriously considering the traditional site as the right one at all. Shanks himself “proposes that we reexamine … the ‘Midianite Hypothesis.’ According to this theory, Mt. Sinai was not in the Sinai Peninsula, but in Midian in northwest Saudi Arabia.” At any rate, I thought the blog’s readers might be interested in a current trend among Biblical archaeologists concerning the matter.