Si’na-i, or Sin’a-i (thorny). Nearly in the centre of the peninsula which stretches between the horns of the Red Sea lies a wedge of granite, grünstein, and porphyry rocks rising to between 8000 and 9000 feet above the sea. Its shape resembles a scalene triangle. These mountains may be divided into two great masses—that of Jebel Serbal (6759 feet high), in the northwest above Wady Feirán, and the central group, roughly denoted by the general name of Sinai. This group rises abruptly from the Wady es-Sheikh at its north foot, first to the cliffs of the Ras Sufsâfeh, behind which towers the pinnacle of Jebel Mûsa (the Mount of Moses), and farther back to the right of it the summit of Jebel Katerin (Mount St. Catherine, 8705 feet), all being backed up and overtopped by Um Shamer (the mother of fennel, 9300 feet), which is the highest point of the whole peninsula.
1. Names.—These mountains are called Horeb, and sometimes Sinai. Some think that Horeb is the name of the whole range, and Sinai the name of a particular mountain; others, that Sinai is the range and Horeb the particular mountain; while Stanley suggests that the distinction is one of usage, and that both names are applied to the same place.
2. The mountain from which the law was given.—Modern investigators have generally come to the conclusion that of the claimants Jebel Serbal, Jebel Mûsa, and Ras Sufsâfeh, the last, the modern Horeb of the monks—viz., the northwest and lower face of the Jebel Mûsa, crowned with a range of magnificent cliffs, the highest point called Ras Sufsâfeh, as overlooking the plain er Râhah—is the scene of the giving of the law, and that peak the mountain into which Moses ascended. (But Jebel Mûsa and Ras Sufsâfeh are really peaks of the same mountain, and Moses may have received the law on Jebel Mûsa, but it must have been proclaimed from Ras Sufsâfeh. Jebel Mûsa is the traditional mount where Moses received the law from God. It is a mountain mass two miles long and one mile broad. The southern peak is 7363 feet high; the northern peak, Ras Sufsâfeh, is 6830 feet high. It is in full view of the plain er Râhah, where the children of Israel were encamped. This plain is a smooth camping-ground, surrounded by mountains. It is about two miles long by half a mile broad, embracing 400 acres of available standing-ground made into a natural amphitheatre by a low semicircular mound about 300 yards from the foot of the mountain. By actual measurement it contains over 2,000,000 square yards, and with its branches over 4,000,000 square yards, so that the whole people of Israel, two million in number, would final ample accommodations for seeing and hearing. In addition to this, the air is wonderfully clear, both for seeing and hearing. Dean Stanley says that “from the highest point of Ras Sufsâfeh to its lower peak, a distance of about 60 feet, the page of a book distinctly but not loudly read was perfectly audible.” It was the belief of the Arabs who conducted Niebuhr that they could make themselves heard across the Gulf of Akabah—a belief fostered by the great distance to which the voice can actually be carried. There is no other place known among all these mountains so well adapted for the purpose of giving and receiving the law as this rocky pulpit of Ras Sufsâfeh and the natural amphitheatre of er Râhah.
Sinai and the Plain of Er Râhah. (From a Photograph.)
Outline Map of Mount Sinai. (After Ordnance Survey.)