The Mountain of God: The Discovery of the Real Mt Sinai
On the trail of truth people want to touch history. Mount Sinai is where God reached down and, with His own finger, wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. At Mount Sinai, 3500 years ago, Almighty God made a Covenant with His people Israel, and presented them with the standards which became the foundations for all law in Western civilisation.
A Biblical exploration
‘In Search of the Mountain of God’ is the gripping true story of the adventures of explorers on a quest to find the real Mount Sinai. Inspired by American astronaut Jim Irwin and satellite photographs, former police investigator and SWAT team member, Robert Cornuke of Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration Institute (BASE) and Larry Williams headed off to Saudi Arabia to find the evidence.
Why search Saudi Arabia?
Why would anyone look for Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia? Most modern maps in Bible dictionaries and commentaries identify a location in the Sinai Peninsula. If one looks closer at most of those maps though, you will see some question marks. There are actually eight mountain peaks which have been proposed as the site of the real Mount Sinai. The peak at St. Catherine’s Monastery is the most popular, but it is not based on any archaeological research, but rather the vision of a mystic.
However, the Bible clearly states that Mount Sinai is in Arabia (Gal 4:25). Therefore the BASE explorers were determined to search for it in Saudi Arabia.
They had reports from David Fasold, and Ron Wyatt who claimed to have scouted Jabal al-Lawz, which bore all the distinctive marks of the real Mount Sinai. Unfortunately, Fasold was arrested by Saudi police and spent a terrifying week in jail being charged by the king’s prosecutor with “robbing Saudi Arabia of its wealth from antiquity.” He was stripped of all his film, video footage, notes and other evidence that he had accumulated to authenticate his find. In 1984, Ron Wyatt and his sons had been detained and interrogated for 75 days after exploring Jabal al-Lawz. Fasold and Wyatt had written to Jim Irwin of the High Flight Foundation in the hope that an astronaut of Irwin’s stature might be able to gain official clearance to mount an exploration of the peak. Jabal al-Lawz was situated in the middle of a Saudi military reservation, fenced in by chain link and barbed wire fence.
It was to reach this forbidden, politically explosive archaeological site that galvanised Robert and Larry to embark on their mission to Saudi Arabia. They were well aware that Saudi Arabia is one of the most politically oppressive nations on earth. Not one church, not even a synagogue, is allowed in all of Saudi Arabia. Women are not allowed to drive cars in Saudi Arabia. Religious police enforce stringent dress codes. Missionary work is illegal. People have even been imprisoned for mispronouncing the name of their prophet, Muhammad.
A story of drama and adventure
This discovery is a dramatic story of how the explorers conspired to enter the country and launch across an ocean of fire-baked wilderness, crossing rocky crags and scaling the eight thousand foot Jabal al-Lawz, which the locals called Jebel Musa (or the Mountain of Moses). The summit of Jabal al-Lawz was found to be scorched black. The dirt and rock were burnt black and shiny, like melted black plastic. Clearly something unnatural and intensely hot had incinerated the mountain top.
Assuming the mountain to be volcanic, Cornuke broke one rock in half, revealing an inner core of plain brown granite. What kind of heat could have melted the surface rock to a black marble glaze and leave the underlying granite intact? They opened their Bible to Exodus 19:18-19: “Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire.
The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently.” Exodus 24:17 states that the Glory of the Lord was “like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.”
Etched on the altar were distinct shapes of cows and bulls resembling the Egyptian Hathor and Apis bull gods. Cattle have never been a domesticated livestock in Saudi Arabia, which raises the question: Why would cattle be memorialised in stone unless they were driven there by the Israelites?
The cave of Elijah
“He (Elijah) travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the Mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.” Just below the summit of Jabal al-Lawz sits a sizable cave - the cave of Elijah? - large enough for a man to stand up inside. There is no cave on the traditional Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula, as Scripture describes. Note the large, sprawling plain at the base of the mountain that would have provided an ample camp site for the Hebrew multitude.
The rock of Horeb
On the slope of Jabal al-Lawz stood a towering pillar of rock, split laser fine straight down the middle, approximately 20 inches wide from top to bottom. Was this the rock split at Horeb? Exodus 17:5-6 “Take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go, I will stand there before you, by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” The explorers saw massive water erosion at the base of the split rock. These water-polished boulders lie in the natural streambed that runs down from the split rock, an ancient watershed furnishing clear evidence of a fast rushing stream into a lake large enough to provide water for millions in the desert. “He brought streams out of the rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers … when he struck the rock, water gushed out and streams flowed abundantly.”
The stone pillars
Moses set up 12 stone pillars representing the 12 tribes of Israel strewn near the V-shaped altar, toppled over and broken in sections, lay the hewn stumps of stone pillars. Cornuke counted them and found twelve stumps - perhaps the remains of the pillars of Moses erected to represent the 12 tribes of Israel? It was the sum of evidence located above the mountain that spoke to the authenticity as the real Mount Sinai.
The boundary markers
God ordered Moses to “put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, “Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it.‘“ Exodus 19:12
As per the picture left, one can see sun bleached pillars. Around Jabal al-Lawz they saw piles of sun bleached rocks arranged at 400 yard intervals in a perfect semi-circle. They believed that the orderly arranged rocks were the sacred markers which God ordered Moses to put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them to be careful not to go up the mountain, or touch the foot of it. Were the orderly arranged rocks the works of Moses’ own hands?
The bitter waters of Marah
Scattered throughout the oasis were a network of primitive cisterns - exactly 12, as Scripture describes. Lined with cement to prevent seepage, the springs contained the sweetest-tasting water Cornuke had ever tasted, leading the duo to believe they had stumbled across Elim’s palm-shaded rest stop. Was this where Moses and his parched countrymen found rest and refreshments?
Not far from the oasis lay the town of Al-Bad where the locals insist that the prophet Moses once pitched his tents. 35 kilometres east of the straits of Tiran, three days walking inland from the Red Sea crossing side, they saw a vast alkaline mud flat, pocked with bitter springs.
The Scripture relates: “For three days they travelled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter.” Exodus 15:22-23
Another historical site
On the trail to Jabal al-Lawz the explorers also discovered an oasis, which closely matched the Biblical description of the 12 springs and 70 palm trees where the children of Israel had camped (Exodus 15:27).
The springs and palms
“Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water” Exo 15:27. Had the duo stumbled across the seventy palms of Elim? On the trail to Jabal al-Lawz, precisely where the Bible suggests it should be, is a true oasis in the middle of the desert. Cornuke enjoyed the shade the grove had to offer, which closely resembled the Scriptural descriptions.
The Red Sea Crossing
“Was it not You who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over?”
The mysterious underwater reef as seen above, is the physical embodiment for the “road in the depths” described in Isaiah 51:10. Believed by the authors to be actual Red Sea crossing spot, the sliver of ghost-white reef is strategically placed land mass that might have allowed Hebrew multitudes to cross the depths abyss of the Gulf of Aqaba.
The path through the Red Sea
The reef also reveals the mysterious underwater land bridge which the children of Israel would have crossed the Red Sea over. “Your path led through the sea, Your way through the mighty waters, though Your footprints were not seen.” Psalm 77:19
A 500 metre wide coral reef, invisible on the surface, yet spanning the entire strait like a stealth aircraft carrier was evidently the “road in the depths”. “Was it not You who dried up the sea, the waters of the deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea, so that the redeemed may cross over.” Isaiah 51:10
The Scriptures clearly state that the Israelites went out of Egypt. As Sinai was in Egypt, the straits of Tiran were clearly the crossing point as their discovery of the springs of Marah and Elim (Al-Bad) on the road to Jabal al-Lawz clearly proved.
“By the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood firm like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.” Exodus 15:8
The waters in the straits reach up to 700 feet and some parts of the Red Sea have great cliffs dropping off to depths of up to 3000 feet. However, at the straits of Tiran, the underwater land bridge is impeccably positioned at one of the shallowest points on the gulf, showing how: “the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” Exodus 14:22
As the Scripture reports that the entire nation of Israel crossed the expanse by the “last watch of the night” Exodus 14:24, it would indicate that the total walking time was not much more than five to six hours. Only at the straits of Tiran would such a quick night-time crossing been possible. The distance from shore to shore along both branches of the Sea averages from ten to twenty miles, however at the straits of Tiran the distance is no more than two miles. God providently provided a walking bridge at the only point on the gulf where a multitude could cross, in a single night, on dry ground, with the wind making a wall of water on both sides.
This astonishing convergence of geological and oceanographic anomalies exist at just the right place to confirm the Biblical record and to provide an escape for the children of Israel from the Sinai Peninsula 3500 years ago. The hidden reef, which satellite photographs confirm is the only one across the Red Sea, becomes a giant compass arrow pointing due East to the Arabian side of the Gulf, the land of Midian and the real Mount Sinai.
Confirmation of God’s Word
These archaeological discoveries eloquently confirm the authenticity of God’s Word, providing a new energy to Biblical Apologetics over the most momentous event of the Old Covenant. With the exception of the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, more public miracles of God’s mighty hand took place in the Exodus and at Mount Sinai than at any other place, or time, in history.
Spreading the Word
“Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of a fire, as you have, and lived?… To take for Himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm...by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; beside Him there is no other...He brought you out of Egypt by His presence and His great strength...” Deut 4:32-39
Your church, home Bible study group and school need to see this DVD, ‘In Search of the Mountain of God’. It will inspire and empower their witness. It also gives the whole exciting story of the dangerous explorations, arrest and interrogations in a Saudi jail, and all the intrigue involved in investigating these ancient sites.