Is Mount Sinai Jabal al-Lawz or Jabal Maqla?
One issue that, at first, may confuse the reader is which mountain is actually is Mount Sinai: Jabal al-Lawz or Jabal Maqla? In his account of the history of the Jews, Josephus stated that Sinai was the highest peak in the region. Jabal al-Lawz is technically a taller peak than Maqla, but Jabal Maqla appears to be a more favorable candidate for being the single peak where this part of the Exodus story takes place.
One possible reason for this apparent discrepancy is that we see things differently with our modern eyes. We tend to assign a specific name to each particular geological feature that is around us. For example, we refer to Mt. Everest as a single mountain, even though it is within the Himalayan mountain range. However, several millennia ago, the manner in which people assigned names to geological features may have been very different.
Rather than assigning each peak a name, the entire range may be named after the highest of the mountains, which in this case, happen to be connected. We must also consider the fact that almost all of the other evidence that we examine, the possible golden calf site, Moses’ altar, the marble sections, and the wells, is all concentrated closer to Jabal Maqla than to Jabal al-Lawz.
In the Bible as well, the author refers to the same mountain by two different names: Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb. The famed Jewish Bible commentator Abraham ibn Ezra wrote during the Middle Ages that there was one mountain, but it had two tops, which each had different names. Protestant Reformer John Calvin also suggested that this was one mountain, but that the eastern side of it was called Sinai, and the western side called Horeb.
This theory is supported by Joel Richardson's experience in Saudi Arabia. In his book Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia: The True Location Revealed, Joel reveals how his conversations with local Bedouins reveals what they think about the mountain range, and "Jebel Musa" specifically.
When I asked a young Bedouin who lives at the base of the mountain what he called the specific mountain that we believe is Mount Sinai, he pointed and called it Jebel Musa, which means “Mountain of Moses.” When I asked him again, he gestured with both hands and pointed at all of the surrounding mountains and said that they were all called Jebel al-Lawz.
German Biblical Commentators C. F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch both recognize two distinct peaks in the Exodus account.
“Horeb was more general and comprehensive than that of Sinai; in other words, that Horeb was the range of which Sinai was one particular mountain, which only came prominently to view when Israel had arrived at the mount of legislation."
Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1
(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 379.
It is entirely possible that Horeb was the name for the range of peaks, and Sinai was the particular location where God's presence descended. If the issue is merely the manner in which geological characteristics are described, ancient versus modern, the theory of this site being the location of Biblical Mount Sinai still stands as valid.
Certain passages of the Torah state that the 10 Commandments were given at Horeb, but others say it was at Sinai. With these pieces of evidence in mind, the pieces of the puzzle fit.
Last updated March 19, 2019.