Maps of Mount Sinai, Egypt, and Midian
The following maps and images of the Mount Sinai site help show where each component is located. These maps show parts of northwestern Saudi Arabia, with the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba to the west. Below maps of the mountain's location are additional maps detailing the boundaries of Midian and Egypt.
The image below shows how the sites allegedly matching the Exodus story are clustered together. Jabal Maqla, the favored candidate for Mount Sinai/Horeb, is the mountain with a black top.
To the northwest of Jabal Maqla, there is a marker locating the distinctive split rock that may be the "Rock of Horeb" in/near the Rephidim encampment (which is where the Israelites fought the Amalekites).
To the northeast of Jabal Maqla, one can see where an ancient, pre-Islamic burial site is located. It is away from the Holy Precinct near the mountain and outside of the plain where the Israelites would have camped. It is also off the path that the Israelites would travel through. Its placement makes it a match for the burial ground for the worshipers of the Golden Calf.
Directly to the east of the mountain, you can see where the possible Altar of Moses is located, at the foot of the mountain. The possible Cave of Elijah is almost directly above it. Further to the east (behind the Altar of Moses) is the archaeological site that may have been where the worship of the Golden Calf took place.
Egypt and Midian
One important point in discovering the true location of Mount Sinai is to identify boundaries between ancient empires and lands. The Bible states in no uncertain terms that Moses went out of Egypt into Midian, so he could not have been within lands controlled by the ancient Egyptian empire.
Below are several maps of the region that show where ancient Egypt and Midian were located.
In the above map, the Sinai Peninsula is included as a part of ancient Egypt. St. Catherine's mountain, the traditional location, is located in the southern part of this peninsula. If Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he would not have stopped in territory that was under Egyptian control.
In the 16th century B.C., Pharaoh Ahmose took control of the Sinai Peninsula in his fight against the Hyksos.
The king immediately prosecuted the Hyksos' Palestinian associates by besieging Sharuhen, eventually plundering its wealth and massacring its population. In doing so Ahmose brought under his unquestioned control the roads across Sinai, and also reasserted the sort of boundary between Egypt and Palestine that had existed during the Middle Kingdom, before its erosion by the independent kingdom of Avaris.
Bill Manley, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt (London, England: Penguin, 1996), 66.
Dr. Allen Kerkeslager, in his scholarly study of Jewish Pilgrimages, also noted that during the Late Bronze Age, the Egyptians did control the Peninsula, and would have had troops to guard their interests.
The entire Sinai Peninsula at least as far east as the Avrah was withing Egyptian territory in the Late Bronze Age. Egyptian interests were guarded by Egyptian troops, especially in the southwestern Sinai peninsula, as testified by reliefs and the sheer importance of the turquoise and copper mines of the region ...
The southern Sinai peninsula was quite simply not in Midianite territory. The boundaries of Midianite territory were just slightly southwest of modern Eilat on the extreme northwestern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba.
Allen Kerkeslager, “Jewish Pilgrimage and Jewish Identity in Hellenistic and Early Roman Egypt,” in Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt, ed. David Frankfurter (Leiden: Koninklijke Brill, 1998), 151 (footnote 215).
In The Miracles of the Exodus: A Scientist's Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories, Dr. Colin Humphreys also notes that the Egyptians controlled this territory and were very much active mining copper and turquoise at Serabit el-Khadim (48).
Humphreys' research led him to conclude that the ancient Egyptian Empire began to lose control of the peninsula after the reign of Ramses II, sometime around 1194 - 1163 B.C. At either proposed date for the Exodus (1250 B.C. or 1446 B.C.), the peninsula would have been patently Egyptian-controlled territory.
Czech explorer and Professor of the Orient Alois Musil also wrote that the Sinai Peninsula was controlled by the Egyptians during the time of the Exodus, making the traditional location out of the question.
If any great tribe flees today from the government and the army of a civilized state, it proceeds rapidly along the most convenient and most direct transport route, if only to escape as soon as possible from the territory and jurisdiction of the military power. Such also was the case in the fifteenth century before Christ, when the Israelites migrated from Egypt. The peninsula of Sinai at that time contained Egyptian garrisons. The tribes living there were more or less dependent upon Egypt and would have received orders to attack the Israelites with their garrisons and thus force them to return. The Israelites were therefore obliged to hasten so as to traverse the peninsula of Sinai before the garrisons were strengthened and the nomads incited against them.
Alois Musil, The Northern Hegaz: A Topographical Index, American Geographical Society (1926), 267.
Given this historical fact, it would not make sense for the Hebrews to flee to the Sinai Peninsula away from the Egyptians when the Egyptians controlled this very territory and had troops garrisoned in the region.
Indeed, the Scripture indicates dozens of times that the people went out of Egypt, and into another land (Exodus 3:8, 10-12; 6:11, 13, 26; 7:5; 12:17, 39, 42; 13:8-9, 14, 16, 18, among a host of other passages throughout the Pentateuch, Old Testament, and New Testament).
With these pieces of information in mind, it becomes nearly impossible to then justify the traditional site for Mount Sinai. The Israelites simply must have crossed into Midian at the Red Sea, and not into another portion of existing territory.
On the other side of the Gulf of Aqaba (or Yam Suph in ancient Hebrew) is Midian. The two most plausible theories for how the Israelites crossed into Midian are the Straits of Tiran and Nuewiba Beach options.
In this map below, "Mycenean Greece and The Orient," drawn by William R. Shepherd in 1911, he shows that the ancient Egyptian realm in 1450 B.C. encompassed the Sinai Peninsula, and Midian was on the east side of the Gulf of Aqaba. He included Mt. Sinai on the Peninsula in this map, so it is uncertain if he considered the territorial problem with this theorized location.
In spite of the historical fact that the Sinai Peninsula was technically under Egyptian control at this time, some historians and archaeologists still insist on the traditional location. The line of reasoning is frequently similar among these proponents, as Joel Richardson explains in his book Mount Sinai in Arabia: The True Location Revealed.
First, they claim that the common understanding of the term “Arabia” in Paul’s day would have included the Sinai Peninsula. We agree with this. From there, however, without any basis to do so, they simply say that this is where Paul must have been referring.
One example of this is Dr. James Hoffmeier's assertion that the term "Arabia" included the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula in Greco-Roman times. However, Hoffmeier asserts that because this region was included, when Paul referred to Arabia in Galatians 4:25, he was referring specifically to the Peninsula and nowhere else.
One Egyptologist, David Rohl, states plainly that the assertion Paul was referring to anywhere but the Peninsula is "complete nonsense" in his book Exodus: Myth or History?
Gordon Franz, advocate for Jebel Sin Bishar in the Western Sinai Peninsula, has the following to say about the map identification of Arabia.
The Galatians 4:25 reference might indeed support the view that Mount Sinai was in Saudi Arabia if the Apostle Paul was looking at a 1990 Rand McNally Atlas. However, it would not be true if he was looking at a First Century AD Roman road map.
Gordon Franz, “Is Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia?” Bible and Spade, Fall 2000.
The problem with Franz's objection is that Greco-Roman maps did not identify the land that is now Saudi Arabia as such, and obviously so. Though the names of these regions have changed over time, the landscape itself has not.
In Paul's day, the term "Arabia" may have been used in a variety of ways, but it certainly wasn't limited solely to the Sinai Peninsula, a region that many ancient cartographers did not fully understand, as many old maps do not show both the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba, including several of the ones towards the bottom of this page.
The following map from 17th Century English cartographer John Speed shows the Red Sea as almost one continuous body of water, rather than one that splits into the two gulfs, forming the Sinai Peninsula. The Peninsula can roughly be seen from his drawing, but the gulfs hardly exist according to maps from several centuries ago.
In spite of the fact that ancient cartographers misunderstood the Gulf of Aqaba, this doesn't detract from the validity of the theory that Mount Sinai is in Saudi Arabia. As Joel Richardson writes in his book:
Even among the Greco- Roman geographers, unqualified references to Arabia would most likely point to the Arabian Peninsula. In the fifth century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus used the term “Arabia” to identify the Arabian Peninsula. In fairness, however, as we have discussed elsewhere, even though Herodotus was not aware that the Sinai Peninsula even existed, he still would have viewed it to be part of Arabia.
Consider a simple analogy. Imagine that I said, “God Bless America.” No one living today would understand me to be referring to Canada, Costa Rica, or Brazil. Technically however, these are all parts of North, Central, or South America.
It is true that the region of Arabia, as the Greco-Romans understood it, could certainly have included the Sinai Peninsula, but it's not likely that Arabia was the exclusive name for the Peninsula.
Historical Maps of Arabia Identifying Mount Sinai/Horeb
Several maps from centuries past have identified Mount Sinai/Horeb as being in what is likely Saudi Arabia. The ancient cartographers, who lacked our modern technology, tended to omit the Gulf of Aqaba from their maps of the region because they could not identify it in relation to the rest of the land and sea.
In spite of this lack of knowledge, the cartographers did appear to place Mount Sinai and Midian far enough east to be located not in the Sinai Peninsula, but the Arabian Peninsula. If anything, based on a more careful examination of the evidence, it leads us to believe with more surety that Mount Sinai is not at St. Catherine's in Egypt, but is across the Gulf of Aqaba in modern-day Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Glen Fritz notes in his book The Lost Sea of the Exodus that because of this geographical misunderstanding, this led scholars and theologians to simply accept the proposition that Mount Sinai was in Egypt's Peninsula with little contention (67). It wasn't until the 16th-century that any real understanding of the Gulf's size, and it was only the mid-1800s when maps began to reflect the Gulf's true significance.
There are two maps that have specifically placed Mount Sinai, Horeb, and Midian in these locations. The first is from 1654, a map of Arabia drawn by Chez Pierre Mariette. In the northwestern part of the map, one can see clearly marked "Sinai Mont" and "Mont Oreb."
To the southeast of Mont Oreb, there is also a city labeled as "Madian." This alternate spelling of Midian indicates that Sinai/Oreb (Horeb) in the surrounding area, and because Midian was mostly or entirely in modern day Saudi Arabia, is can be inferred that Mount Sinai may not have been in the Sinai Peninsula as the traditional theory maintains.
About three decades later in 1682, Dutch cartographer Frederick de Wit also drew a map of the Arabian Peninsula and identified Madian, Horeb M., and Sinai M. on his map.
Another Middle East map listing Mount Sinai is from Urbano Monte in 1587. This map, like the ones shown above, do not show the Gulf of Aqaba in its portrayal of the region. Sinai is marked by a yellow triangle on the right side.
17th-century cartographer Thomas Fuller also appears to have placed Mount Sinai in modern-day Saudi Arabia. On the map, he marked the "Desertum Sinai," "Sinai Mont," and "Horeb Mont" to the east of "Terra Midian."
Since Midian is known to be in modern Saudi territory, and Fuller placed Mount Sinai to the east, one may reasonably see that he understood that Mount Sinai was in the land of Midian.
As with previous maps, the Red Seas two gulfs are not properly shown here.
Another map drawn by Joannes Joansonius around 1650 A.D. indicates that Moses and the Israelites traveled to the land of Midian in their journey from Egypt, and also that Kadesh-Barnea was not within the borders of the Promised Land, but rather was at what we now know to be Petra, Jordan.
Just as with other pre-19th century maps, the Gulf of Aqaba is not on this map. What Joansonius does show on here, though, is that Mount Sinai was to the east of the city of Midian, which lay near the coast of the Red Sea.
This map is oriented "upside down," with the south being toward the top of the map, and the north at the bottom, so it may be difficult to orient all the points. Because of this unusual orientation, the left side of the map represents the east direction, and the right side represents the west.
We've noted where locations of interest are, including Sinai Mont and Oreb Mont (middle arrow pointing down) Madian (on the right pointing down), Terra Madian (on the right pointing up), Cadesh (on the left pointing right), and Petra (on the left pointing left).
Page last updated July 2, 2019.