WAS MT. SINAI A VOLCANO?  DISCOVERIES AFFECTING THE INTERPRETATION OF EXODUS

Introduction | Early Exploration | GeologyParting Remarks
East Al Jaw | Ash Cones | West Al Jaw | Tadra 

 

When I was younger I spent many hours in libraries researching the Sinai desert, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Northern Arabia.  There were caravan routes, wells, springs, and primitive Bedouin survival methods to study.  There are translations of the written records of Egypt, the Hebrew Bible, and the cuneiform texts of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Canaan providing information about early times, at least as early as the Bible.  While studying I learned a theory that Mt. Sinai in the book of Exodus was a volcano.  Later I learned of the existence of volcanoes in northern Arabia where the ancient region of Biblical Midian may have been located.  The apostle Paul wrote about Mt. Sinai being in Arabia in his letter to the Galatians.  More recently I do not look for the route of Exodus as I think it was probably a story more than a fact.  Yet I  pass on some of my knowledge of volcanoes in the land of Midian to those who may search for such.    

Some of the greener parts of Israel are not far from the desert fringes.  Many desert nomads may have desired to enter a land where grain was sown and groves of fruit and olive trees provided abundant harvests.  For years before the Bible was written Egyptian pharaohs campaigned in Canaan and took captives back to Egypt where they were held as slaves.  There was an Egyptian record of a few captives attempting to escape, yet no records of mass migrations out of Egypt to the north.  The Egyptian armies occupied Canaan and set up administrative centers such as the one found at Beth Shean in northern Israel and an Egyptian fort discovered on a hill in Joppa/Yafo overlooking the Mediterranean Sea from the times of the Ramesside dynasty.  Pharaoh Merneptah claimed to have conquered Ashkelon, Gezer, Yanoam, and Israel close to 1200 BC.  In this day Israel was as much a vassal outside of Egypt as the Semitic peoples who were sent as captives into Egypt.  These captives may have melted into the population within Egypt.    

The first five books of the Bible (Pentateuch/Torah) contain some wisdom and laws that are useful.  Some of these were observed in other nations historical records before they were recorded in Israel.  Archaeologists have found that there was increased settlement in the hill country north of Jerusalem after the end of the Bronze Age (1200 BCE).  The settlements were thought to be Jewish as there were few if any pig bones found in these layers. In the layers of town ruins below these Iron Age 1 ruins pig bones were found in larger numbers.  These findings are part of the evidence for early Israeli settlement in the hill country east of the immigrant sea people's habitations who were described as the Hebrew Bible as Peleshet (Philistine), in ancient Egyptian documents (Ramesses III) as Peleset and in English Bible translations as Philistine.  Pharaoh Merneptah (1212-1202 BC) reported his army defeated a group of people called Israel during one of his trips north into Canaan.  Whether Israel grew from ideas in the existing population of Canaan or from in influx of outsiders is open to speculation.   

Moses gave laws advising rejection of idol worship.  The power of spiritual reform against the belief that God desired the blood of sacrificed animals came from a religion that emerged from the Jewish religion as Christianity.

The evidence of recent volcanic activity in north-western Arabia will be supported by declassified CIA spy satellite photos, United States Geological Survey expedition reports, and a number of books and journal articles written about the subject. .        

                
Volcanic eruption in Java photo  

 

USGS

 

 

 

BIBLE QUOTES:     

In Deuteronomy 4:11 it was written:  "And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. 12 And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice." (KJV)

In Exodus 19:16  it was written: "And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightenings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled." (KJV)

From Psalms 97:1-5:  "The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.  2 Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.  3A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.  4 His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled.  5 The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth." (KJV)

From Micah 1:4:  "And the mountains shall be melted under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, as waters that are poured down a steep place." (KJV)

Those who witnessed volcanic eruptions had described the thunderous explosions of lava, ash, and gas rocketed into the air as gas and liquid was forced from the narrow pipe of the volcanic cone under tremendous pressure.  The gas and liquid decompressed sending lava bombs whizzing through the air.  Some have described the volcano as screaming or having a loud voice; perhaps loud like a trumpet.  The tremendous pillars of ash rising above a volcano were seen from miles away.  Often the eruption cloud blocked out the sun, moon, and stars.  Thick darkness was a result of the eruptions.  Fountains of lava sprayed into the air by night resembling a pillar of fire.  Eruptions in the desert might be more than fifty miles away with the ash column extending thousands of feet in the air and the glow of the lava fire as a glowing light in the dark night.  Earthquakes preceded and accompanied volcanic eruptions as the ground shifted under the mountain.  Underground lava chambers swelled and shrank with each eruption.  The air became supercharged with static electricity with the rising cloud of steam, gas, and ash.  Lightning storms associated with eruptions were visible at night and photographed.  
 

Another theory about Mt. Sinai was the thunderstorm theory.  The mountain was thought to have been in a violent thunderstorm during Israel's visitation of the place.  The mountains of Sinai, southern Israel, southern Jordan, and northern Arabia are not thickly forested yet rather consisted of isolated trees and some groves in the desert canyons of this region.  Most of the terrain was barren mountains, hills, and desert plain populated by small bushes and annual plants most visible during the winter rainy season. 

                                    Small ash/cinder cone eruption -- New Guinea     
                                    USGS                                 
                                  

     Kileau Volcano in Hawaii, flowing molten metals and viscous elements.    
     USGS

 

Lightening associated with volcanic eruptions:  http://www.weather.com/news/science/nature/volcano-lightning-photo-slideshow-20130314
Web Page showing photos of Saudi volcanoes in Harrat Khaibar:
http://www.saudicaves.com/bnw/index.html

 

Introduction | Early Exploration | GeologyParting Remarks
East Al Jaw | Ash Cones | West Al Jaw | Tadra 

BY DAVID HALL

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