Mountain of Fire Extinguished-A Critical Review

While I wasn’t looking, a new, 27 minute YouTube video with an extremely witty title popped up in the past month (June 25, 2011), finally helping to turn the tide around regarding the amount of YouTube videos for and against Jebel al-Lawz. It was not me who made it (a TaylorX04 did), for I do not have a YouTube account (I do as of Jan. 4, 2012), but it does use one statement clearly taken from AJaL and links to the work in the description box. Overall, it is excellent in some parts, but is so-so or neglects to mention pro-Lawz arguments in others (a sort of negative curate’s egg).

Firstly, as I show in AJaL, Eusebius does not “declare a mountain in the southern portion of the Sinai Peninsula to be Mount Sinai“, but is confused, somewhat like the planner of the Madaba Map-

As for Eusebius, who wrote the Onomasticon living in Caesarea Palestina while the Province of Arabia was being entirely removed from Arabia, in 293 AD (, long before 327 AD, when Helena established the chapel of the Burning Bush, he seems to suffer from conflation of sources, confusing a “Pharan” 3 days east of Aila (entry on “Pharan”) with the Pharan traditionally considered to be the site of Raphidim, having the “Monastery of the Hill of Moses”, 28°42’36.7″N, 33°37’55″E, on Jebel Tahuneh (entry on Raphidim). By this he ends up with a Midianite Sinai (entry on Choreb) with Rapadim “near Pharan”.

The first person to explicitly state a Jebel Musa/Ras Safsafeh tradition is Egeria, and the tradition was solidified by St. Helena in 327, after the writing of the Onomasticon in the 290s. Jerome, who translated Eusebius’s Onomasticon, also clearly implies a locale of Rephidim somewhere between Pharan and Ras Safsafeh.

Also, contra the video’s statement “This proposed [south Sinai] location has been rejected by many Christians and scholars, though, because of its faliure to fit the biblical portrait, among other reasons.”, I show clearly in the last section of AJaL that Jebel Musa/Ras Safsafeh perfectly fits the biblical portrait, and that those “many Christians” only reject the site because they think St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Wadi ed-Deir is thought to be the campsite of the Israelites, while that monastery is only a monument to the Burning Bush and the Virgin Mary! If one looks at the plain to the NW of Ras Safsafeh, that is, er-Raha, the traditional Sinai fits wonderfully (and, indeed, is the most impressive mountain in any part of the Sinai Peninsula).

It perfectly describes the context in the 2:30-6:00 minute area. However, it gets a little awry when describing the methodology one should use when searching for Sinai. Yes, one cannot use the Bible as a road map, but one must have an interpretation of the Bible as describing real localities in order to even try to analyze the Exodus itinerary. The video is also fuzzy on the sea crossing, since it is unclear whether TaylorX04 is referring to the Gulf of Suez crossing or the “Suez Canal area” crossing. The video gets it totally wrong on why scholars think the area of the Suez Canal area is supported by scholars. It is NOT because of any interpretation of the term “Sea of Reeds” as referring to the reedy lakes of the Suez Canal area, for the Gulf of Aqaba is mentioned as Yam Suph several times in the Bible. Lake Timsah was a seasonal lake until the canal-building, was NOT in the Gulf of Suez (what a laughable error!!) and was barely ever filled with water in Nisan. The statement “Further significance is that this site was connected to Pithom by a canal which was referred to as Migdol Baalzephon by one Ptolemaic-era text” is an awful mistake! While TaylorX04 does point out a certain Ptolemaic itinerary which lists a “Migdol Baalzephon”, it was a fortress, not a canal, and, due to its lateness, might not have any bearing whatsoever on the Exodus account, which was likely written half a millennium earlier. He must not have read any part of the very important section 6 of AJaL. I will quote it here for his benefit:

6. The only body of water the name “Yam Suph” is undeniably used for is the Gulf of Aqaba. Therefore, the crossing should be located at the Gulf of Aqaba.

Refutation: This is false, for Exodus 10:19 confirms that the whole Red Sea was meant by the term “Yam Suph”, for a wind coming from the Mediterranean and blowing all the locusts in both Upper and Lower Egypt toward the “Yam Suph” could not blow them all toward the Gulf of Aqaba. Out of the 24 mentions of “Yam Suph” in the Hebrew Bible, one (Exodus 10:19) refers to the whole Red Sea, another (Judges 11:16) probably refers to a confusion of the Sea of the Exodus with the Gulf of Aqaba,  eight, that is, one third, including Exodus 13:18, refer to the Gulf of Aqaba, two (Numbers 33:10-11) refer to the Gulf of Suez, and the other thirteen relate to the Sea of the Exodus. Exodus 15:22 confirms that the Sea of the Exodus was in the Isthmus of Suez, preferably, nearer to Shur than the Gulf. According to Exodus 13:17-22, the Israelites journeyed from Succoth/Tjeku, in the Wadi Tumilat, to Etham, which was at the edge of the wilderness, in order to attempt to use the Hajj route to get to Canaan. Since there is no Semitic etymology for “Etham”, the best etymology for this toponym is Egyptian “Isle of Atum”, Atum being the Egyptian primordial god. If this etymology is correct, the best fit for Etham would be the small “Ruines” on a peninsula in Lake Timsah in the Napoleonic maps, which are located around 30°32’45″N, 32°16’58″E. From there, the Israelites turned back (Exod 14:2), to camp facing(east of?) Pi-Hahiroth, between Migdol and the Sea of the Exodus, facing(east of?) Baal-Zephon, opposite it, by the Sea of the Exodus. It was there, not at Etham, that Israel was “shut in by the wilderness”, not by the mountains (Ex 14:3). The only finger of water that is “back” from my suggested location from Etham whose west side has any trace of wilderness is Lake Ballah. Indeed, the Ballah Lake was, as shown by Hoffmeier, called by the Egyptians “pe twfy”, equivalent to the Hebrew “Yam Suph”, and described as a watery region filled with reeds, rushes, tamarisks, and fish. The Red Sea, meanwhile, was called by the Egyptians “the Great Green” or “the great sea of the inverted water”, the Bitter Lakes were called “the Great Black”. Lake Ballah/pe twfy‘s description fits well with the fact “Suph” means “Reeds”, and was introduced to Egypt by Semites in the 2nd intermediate period (Kitchen, Kenneth, OROT, pg. 262), and the fact the writer of the Exodus 14 account needed to provide a coherent geographic setting for any possible mythological “Sea of the End” (for “Suph” can also mean ending, extermination). Lake Ballah was, during the Roman period, deep enough to hold crocodiles and stone quays at Tell Abu Sefeh, which continues to preserve the name “pe twfy“. If the Migdol of Exodus is to be identified with Amarna “Magdalu” and Ramesseside “Migdol”, and “Pi-Hahiroth” is to be identified with Qantara, as suggested by the fact it is mentioned in all passages relating to the location of the crossing and since the canal next to it might have been called by the Egyptians “pe-hrw” (“h” is with a dot under it), Baal-Zephon must, if the “facing” in Num 33:7 is to be interpreted as “east of”, be located at the small “Ruines” near Qantara in the Napoleonic Maps, which were destroyed by the cutting of the Suez Canal. If, as is likely, the scenario I have presented above is correct, the record of the Exodus must have been written before the Saite period, when Migdol moved to Tell Kedua. There must have also been two Seas of Reeds- the Red Sea and Lake Ballah.

The Red Sea was likely named “Yam Suph”, as Colin Humphreys suggests, from the fact that reeds do grow at the clayey head of the gulf of Aqaba due to rainwater from Seir and Paran flowing under the sands of the Aravah to the head of the gulf. The naming may have served as a deliberate irony on the name of the original Yam Suph/pe twfy and on the greater degree of similarity between the new Sea of Reeds and the the description given in the late twelfth century Song of the Sea than the sea the Song originally referred to.

And, for the record, the Nile-Red Sea canal which TaylorX04 speaks of was, as I have shown in the above AJaL section, likely dug after the crossing account in Ex. 14 was written. It simply cannot be known whether the Ptolemaic itinerary Taylor X04 refers to has any bearing on this issue. A Migdol was always located on the E. side of the mouth of Pelusiac I, and moved from its southern tip (site T-78, 30°54’46″N, 32°27’3″E) to its northeastern during the Saite period (to Tell Kedua, 30°58’60″N, 32°28’31″E), to an intermediate location during the Persian period (Tell el-Herr, 30°58’2″N, 32°29’35″E), where it remained as “Magdolum” during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Baal Zephon was moved to the highest point of the land strip surrounding Lake Sirbonis perhaps during the Saite or Persian period, although there might have been other Baal-Zephons still existing. There was also a fish-carrying “waters of Baal” during the Ramesside era (Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in the Sinai, pg. 106). In any case, Taylor X04’s evidence for a Suez area crossing is misguided-he should have just pointed to Exodus 15:22!! Moving on.

Taylor X04’s discussion of Josephus is excellent and deserves praise. Also an excellent point is that the Egyptians would not have been “swept away” on such a shallow land bridge as Cornuke and Williams show.

The quotes and ideas Josephus might well have come from me, and the references to Herodotus and Strabo might have been influenced by me, although Taylor X04 does not betray any influence of my words in the first section of AJaL. In any case, the parts around the 12 minute mark are very educational to all those who know little about the borders of Arabia in classical times. Taylor X04 does not refer to Paul’s use of the word “sustochios”, which might refer to Jebel al-Lawz if Paul knew his latitudes and implied a double meaning, but there is no indication Paul had any less-than-obvious meanings here. The rebuttal of the Midian argument seems to have come from me, however, the “land” argument is not in any way an argument I would use in a debate, for it in no way contradicts the location of Sinai in Midian. The term “land” might denote only the tract of land Jethro owned. What seems to me decisive is Exodus 15:22 and the lack of a reference to passing through Edom to get to Sinai in the Exodus narratives (Deut 1:2 implies more than one way to get to Kadesh than through Mount Seir). The eleven days argument is entirely borrowed from Gordon Franz, and is rebutted by me toward the end of AJaL. I shall quote the relevant passage here:

The proof of a North Ballah crossing in my refutation of Pillar 6 still does not narrow the location of Mount Sinai down enough. Some will quote Deut 1:2 to attempt to put Mt. Sinai in the North Sinai. Deut 1:2 appears to be only a redactorial comment, advice for a traveler, such as Edward Robinson, who, traveling by camel, started from St. Catherine’s Monastery on March 29th, 1:00 PM, arrived at Aqaba on April 4th, 3:50 PM, left Aqaba on April 5th, 1:15 PM, and arrived at Wadi Abu Retemat, (Num 33:18, “Rithmah”, same as Kadesh-Barnea, the plain NW of Meribah, that is, ‘Ain Qudeis), on April 10th, 1:10 PM, taking a total of twelve days from Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea. The fact of Horeb encompassing a larger region than just Mount Sinai and the fact Robinson stayed 21 ½ hours at Aqaba fully account for the extra day. Also, Elijah journeyed for forty days and forty nights to go to Horeb, without a camel, from Beersheba (1 Kings 19:8). If he traveled by Way of Kadesh, and his rate of travel to Horeb was the same as the Israelites’, Elijah only traveled two miles per day, an utter absurdity. If he traveled any faster than a slow shepherd, he would easily reach Jebel Musa in 40 days, and Hashm el-Tarif, 137 miles from Beersheba, in 21 days. Any candidate for Biblical Mount Sinai must then be south of 29°20′N.

The passage from Hoffmeier appears to come straight from me, since TaylorX04 certainly has not read Hoffmeier’s book. His replacement of “that” to “which” in the brackets clearly shows this. The “15 miles” claim at the 15:15 mark could only have come from me:

A hot glory of God is also rendered unnecessary by the biblical narrative, for God’s fire fried not Moses nor the bush, and, even if this desert varnish was caused by heat, God barely missed the summit and accidentally burned the whole mountain country west of Jebel al-Lawz for 15 miles!

It is, in fact, a remarkably conservative estimate, since a better estimate would be at least 17-19 miles, and at most 24! I report, you decide:

Also, TaylorX04 does a far better job than either Hoffmeier, Franz, or me in showing the absurdity of the claim that the petroglyphs on the stone heap near Jebel al-Lawz are the remains of Aaron’s altar. The art comparisons are brilliant!!! I was not aware of the Caldwells’ claims of finding footprint tracings and connecting them with the Bible. Also, showing other split rocks with wind erosion and pointing out the Jeddah floods goes far above and beyond what any person has done regarding the Wyattists’/Cornukites’ claim so far.

Might the sign in Aaron Sen’s photograph have been from my link to it, too? That was added relatively late (May/June). The analysis of what Wyatt, Williams and Cornuke had to gain was brilliant, especially in showing the Cornuke team’s shift in emphasis away from treasure hunting.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

4 thoughts on “Mountain of Fire Extinguished-A Critical Review”

    1. Danny Herman has made a collection of some (clearly modern) so-called Israeli pita bread structures in both Golan Heights and Sinai. In the Sinai, they clearly belong to the Bar Lev line, while in Golan Heights they also date to the 1967 war. What in the world makes you think these modern features have anything to do with Atlantis, or any other New Age bullshit you spout on your blog?

      1. Hello pithom
        I honestly do not know the work of Danny Herman them what you mean.
        In my article I have only highlighted the similarities with modern electronic symbology and from what we observe with Google Heart, it would seem consistent with a pattern and specific purposes, such as?
        I do not know, I did some interpretative hypotheses consistent, rational, and the questions still remain open.

        1. Clearly, you have not read my comment policy. Click on my links in my above comment to see what I mean. While it is clear the purposes of some of the installations in the central Sinai you have pointed out are unknown, this does not mean that one can form such absurd hypotheses regarding them as you have. Modern military installations tend to have a resemblance to modern electronic circuitry. Also, a “Heart” is a blood-pumping organ. “Earth” is a planet. Since you have clearly failed at proper communication in the English language, I have no choice but to block you.

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