Beneath The Surface An Editorial Comment -- By: Bryant G. Wood
BSP 13:4 (Fall 2000) p. 98
Beneath The Surface
An Editorial Comment
There has been much publicity in recent years concerning the identification of Jebel al-Lawz as Mt. Sinai. Although this idea is not new, it has been given new life by two adventurers, Robert Cornuke and Larry Williams. In our lead story Gordon Franz examines their claims, and in the following article David Faiman discusses another candidate for Mt. Sinai, Jebel Sin Bishr. These two sites represent the geographical extremes for possible locations of the sacred mountain—Jebel al-Lawz being in Saudi Arabia and Jebel Sin Bishr in the western Sinai near the northern end of the Gulf of Suez.
Although present knowledge does not allow us to pinpoint the exact position of Mt. Sinai, we can ascertain its general location from data given in the Bible. The Bible tells us exactly how long it took the Israelites to travel from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh Barnea. Knowing their approximate rate of travel provides a rough calculation of the distance traveled. This places Mt. Sinai in the general area of the northern Sinai Peninsula, not in Saudi Arabia or the western Sinai. Scholars have paid scant attention to this important information in their efforts to locate Mt. Sinai.
BSP 13:4 (Fall 2000) p. 99
Individuals traveling in the Sinai on camelback average about 20 mi per day, or a little less (Davies 1979: 95–96). Donkey and camel caravans can average between 16 and 23 mi per day (Davies 1979: 96, cf. Beitzel 1985: 91), depending upon the terrain. Early in the 15th century BC, the Egyptian army under the leadership of Tuthmosis III averaged a commendable 15 mi per day in traversing the relatively easy coastal route from the eastern border of Egypt to Gaza (Wilson 1969: 235, n. 16). Once they left Gaza, however, and began to negotiate the rugged terrain of central Canaan, their rate decreased to 7 mi per day (Wilson 1969: 235, n. 18).
We have another record of a long journey made by a large number of people in Biblical times. This was the trip made from Babylon to Jerusalem by Ezra and a group of Jews returning from Exile. They left Babylon on the 12th day of the first month (Ezr 8:31) and arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month (Ezr 7:9).
The total elapsed time for the expedition was thus 121 days less 11, or 110 days. Allowing 15 days for Sabbath rest gives 95 travel days. The total distance covered was ca. 900 mi (The NIV Study Bible, note on Ezra 7:7–9), resulting in an average of 9.5 mi per day. Ezra and his company were following a well-traveled route without flocks and herds and t...
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