Mt. Sinai

Mt. Sinai

Two Biblical passages clearly place Mt. Sinai outside the Land of Midian. In Exodus 18, Moses and the Israelites are camped at “the Mountain of God” (Mt. Sinai) when Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, visits them from Midian.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God.

Verse 27 says, “Then Moses let his father-in-law depart [from Mt. Sinai], and he went his way to his own land [Midian].” Jethro departs from Mt. Sinai to return to the Land of Midian. According to Mandelkern Biblical Concordance, the phrase “his own land” (third person singular possessive) is used 30 times in the Hebrew Scriptures (Ex. 18:27; Num. 21:24,26,34,35; Deut. 2:24,31; 3:2; 4:47; 11:3; 29:1 [29:2 Eng.]; 33:13; 34:11; Josh. 8:1; I Kings 22:36; II Kings 18:33; Isa. 2:7,8; 13:14; 18:2,7; 36:18; 37:7; Jer. 2:15; 27:7; 50:18; Prov. 8:31; Dan. 11:19,28; Neh. 9:10; Mandelkern 1896:153).

In the five-book Pentateuch the phrase is use 13 times. Each time it is used of a specific geo-political entity, a kingdom, nation or tribal area.

  • It is used of the Kingdom of the Amorites (Num. 21:24,26; Deut. 2:24,31; 4:47), with the borders clearly delineated as going from the Arnon to the Jabbok (Num. 21:24).
  • The Kingdom of Bashan (Num. 21:34,35; Deut. 3:2; 4:47), which is implied as going from the Jabbok to Mt. Hermon (Deut. 4:48).
  • The nation of Egypt (Deut. 11:3; 29:1 [29:2 Eng.]; 34:11) as well as the tribal territory of Joseph (Deut. 33:13).
  • Joshua gives the delineation of the tribal territory of Ephraim and Manasseh which make up the tribes of Joseph (Deut. 33:17; Josh. 13:29-33; 16:1-10; 17:1-18).

If Moses is consistent with his use of the word,  the context suggests Jethro returned to the country of Midian, not to a plot of ground that he controlled as the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz contend.