Why is Sinaï not part of Israel?

Where is the real Mount Sinai? No one really knows for sure. For centuries, scholars, explorers, and pilgrims have sought the location of the real Mount Sinai—the mountain where God gave the law to Moses and the people of Israel. To this day, several sites have been proposed, but no one site has been confirmed by archaeology as the place where God met with Moses.

The Bible gives some general clues about the location of Mount Sinai. We know it was outside of Egypt, because the Israelites came to Mount Sinai after leaving Egypt (Exodus 19:1). Scripture also hints that Sinai was not in Midian, based on Moses’ Midianite in-laws leaving Sinai to return to their own land (Exodus 18:27; Numbers 10:29–31). The traditional site of Mount Sinai is in the south central part of the Sinai Peninsula. The mountain, today called Jebel Musa (“the mountain of Moses”), has an elevation of 7,497 feet above sea level. In AD 530, St. Catherine’s Monastery was constructed at the northern foot of Mount Sinai. At the peak are a Christian chapel and an Islamic mosque. The ancient library at Jebel Musa was the source of Codex Sinaiticus, one of the major Greek texts used to aid Bible translation. Other locations proposed for Mount Sinai include sites in the western, central, and northern parts of the Sinai Peninsula. One theory identifies Mount Sinai as the modern Mount Yeroham in the northern Negev Desert. Others see Sinai as being in southern Edom, or Seir (Deuteronomy 33:2). Another view places Mount Sinai in northwestern Saudi Arabia, associating it with the mountain called Jabal Maqla or Jebel el-Lawz today.

In Galatians 4:25, Paul mentions “Mount Sinai in Arabia.”For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” The ancient world is not to be equated with “Saudi Arabia” in the modern world. The biblical term Arabia covers a vast area, including what we now call Saudi Arabia and the Sinai Peninsula. So, where is the real Mount Sinai? No one can say for sure, which in part belays why Sinai is not part of Israel. Scholars differ widely on proposed sites. What happened at Sinai changed the world; exactly where it happened is of small consequence.

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