Where Was Mount Sinai–Can it be located?

Here is an interesting post from Simcha Jacobovici on an academic conference he recently attended dealing with the various theories as to the location of Mt Sinai. As some of you know the various locations proposed, whether the traditional St Catherine’s, across the Red Sea in the Arabian Peninsula, and Mt Karkom, all have their advocates and their problems. Simcha is convinced that the strongest case can be made for HaShem el-Tarif, in the “wilderness of Paran” or Seir (see Deuteronomy 32:3)

A few weeks ago I gave a paper at a conference that took place at Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Desert of southern Israel. The conference dealt with the question: which mountain in the Sinai desert, or Negev, or Saudi Arabia, is the real Mount Sinai of the Bible, where Moses received the Ten Commandments?

For those who have never been to Mitzpe Ramon, you’re missing out. It’s on the edge of the Ramon makhtesh – Israel’s Grand Canyon. In fact, although it is called a “crater” in English, it is actually a “makhtesh” i.e., a “box canyon”, formed not by a meteor or a river, but by geological processes of a receding ocean. It is the world’s largest “makhtesh”!

On the edge of this incredible view, a group of scholars got together to debate which mountain in the area is the real Mount Sinai. The conference (May 12-14, 2013) was sponsored by the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center under the auspices of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, the City of Mitzpe Ramon, the Negev Development Authority, the Har Hanegev Field School and the Centre for Prehistoric and Ethnologic Studies, Capo di Ponte, Italy.

Ostensibly, the gathering was asked to consider Professor Emmanuel Anati’s theory that Mount Karkom in the Negev is the real Mount Sinai. Although Mount Karkom is a very interesting location, filled with some 40,000 examples of Negev rock art, it has been clear for years that it cannot be Mount Sinai. Professor Anati deserves tremendous credit for putting Mount Karkom on the map. He has done extremely important work documenting the archaeology of this site. Also, by pushing his mountain aggressively, he has initiated conferences such as the Mitzpe Ramon gathering. But science is science and Mount Karkom is not Mount Sinai.

You can read more of this post and download a copy of Simcha’s paper, “The Real Mount Sinai” here. By the way, Bryant G. Wood agrees with Simcha’s case for HaSehm el-Tarif as the only likely choice and summarizes his reasoning here.