Arguments against Al-Lawz as Mt. Sinai, refuted!
False argument: "Mt. al-Lawz was not Jethro's own county, although only 18 Km away. This proves Moses was near the traditional Mt. Sinai at Mt. Musa."
Two verses are used to support the idea that Moses must have been at Mt. Musa: 1. Exodus 18:27 "Then Moses bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way into his own land." 2. Numbers 10:29-31 "Then Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law, "We are setting out to the place of which the Lord said, 'I will give it to you'; come with us and we will do you good, for the Lord has promised good concerning Israel." But he said to him, "I will not come, but rather will go to my own land and relatives." Then he said, "Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will be as eyes for us."
- There is a desert of 18 km between Midian and Mt. al-Lawz, which represented a days journey. But in fact, the burning bush was on the eastern slope of Lawz which is 75 km away from Midian. Midian was on the western side of Lawz and the burning bush was on the eastern side.
- When Moses saw the burning bush, it says that he wandered in the rear wilderness. The fact that no other reference is given means that the only logical conclusion is that it was the rear wilderness of Midian. The Bible says that Moses went to the "behind side [Hebrew: "achar"] of the wilderness" Literally: achar "the hind or following part" (NASB Hebrew dictionary). So the east side of the Lawz would most certainly be described at the "behind wilderness". It is kind of like saying that Moses went to "the back forty". This is sufficient to understand why this was not part of the area of Midian proper that Jethro controlled.
- The LXX speaks of the "city (polis) of Madiam" in Num 22:4,7. Al-Bad is the city of Madian where Jethro lived, which was within the larger region known as the "Land of Midian". Just like New York, NEW YORK.
- Num 10:29-31 proves Mt. Sinai was in the land of Midian because Moses needed "Reuel the Midianite" as an expert local scout familiar with the land around Mt. Sinai. The only way Reuel could be familiar with the Mt. Sinai region, is if he regularly travelled in the area. It is very unlikely that Reuel would have regularly visited the area of Mt. Musa which is 180 miles from Midian. However Reuel would regularly travel the land between Mt. al-Lawz and Ezion Geber, north to Edom.
- Sometimes the expression "land of" denotes a large country area like Egypt as opposed to Midian, both of which include thousands of square miles: Ex 2:15; Hab 3:7; Acts 2:7. The term, "land of Midian" is used only three times in the Bible and each time it denotes a larger geographic region contrasted against. Moses left left the land of Egypt and entered the the Land of Midian. The Queen of Sheba contrasted Ethiopia in Africa to Israel: "It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. " 1 Kings 10:6. See also 2 Ki 19:7 where Sennacherib contrasts "his own land" of Assyria to Israel. Today we would say: "He left the land of USA and lived in the land of Canada".
- Quite often in the Bible the expression "land of" denotes local towns within the same country: The "land of Goshen" and "land of Egypt" are both within the Country of Egypt and under Pharaoh's control: Gen 50:7-8; Ex 9:25-26, Num 32:1. In these three verses "land of" denotes local "states or provinces" within the country of Egypt. Today we would say, "He left the land of Tennessee to live in the land of New York". Popular songs abound with stories of people leaving their home to make it big in California or New York, only to fail then move back to their own home again, all the while in the same country. When Jim Croce wrote his song, "New York's not my home" we understood he never left the USA.
- In the same way we notice that the land of Goshen was a city suburb within the country of Egypt. The Hebrews and Egyptians were living in two distinct city areas yet both were called "lands". The Land (local district) of Goshen was within the Land (Country) of Egypt. But the term "land of Egypt" also denotes the local city suburbs where the Hebrews did not live, as opposed to the land of Goshen. So the terms here are used to designate local tribal type boundaries not distinct countries.
- From a strictly language point of view, they were already out of Egypt while sleeping in Goshen before they left (Gen 50:7-8; Ex 9:25-26). They were already "out of Egypt" the first night they slept, 25 miles from Goshen. (Ex 12:51; 13:3; Deut 16:6) We understand that this means they were in their own land, or local territory with Egypt. Like many modern metropolises where one town has grown into the next, so the land of Goshen was adjacent to land where the Egyptians slept at night.
- The term "land", therefore, designates the local town where they slept at night in their own houses: Gen 50:7-8 "So Joseph went up to bury his father, and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household and all the elders of the land of Egypt, and all the household of Joseph and his brothers and his father's household; they left only their little ones and their flocks and their herds in the land of Goshen. " ; Exodus 9:25-26 "The hail struck all that was in the field through all the land of Egypt, both man and beast; the hail also struck every plant of the field and shattered every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the sons of Israel were, there was no hail."
- So Jethro and Hobab knew that Mt. al-Lawz was within the "Country of Midian" (Ex 2:15; Hab 3:7; Acts 2:7) which included all of modern north Saudi Arabia, but it is not their local home town where they slept and raised their families.
- The "promised land" is spoken of in two ways: The "one promised land" and the "twelve distinct lands" of the each tribe: "Joseph's own land" Deut 33:13; "the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah" Deuteronomy 34:2; "land of Galilee." 1 Kings 9:11; "land of Naphtali." 1 Kings 15:20; "land of Benjamin" 1 Samuel 9:16; "land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali" Isaiah 9:1; After the divided kingdom, the Assyrian Captivity in 722 BC was warned against the land of Israel, in distinction to the land of Judah: "thus says the Lord God to the land of Israel, 'An end! The end is coming on the four corners of the land. " Ezekiel 7:2. So in dividing up the tribes, each of the twelve tribes is called a local tribal land: "Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his inheritance." (Joshua 24:28) "When Joshua had dismissed the people, the sons of Israel went each to his inheritance to possess the land. " (Judges 2:6).
- Another interesting use is in Numbers 32:1 "Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had an exceedingly large number of livestock. So when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that it was indeed a place suitable for livestock, " Numbers 32:1. Here the lands denote strictly tribal areas within a larger land that was all given to the tribe of Reuben. Then in Joshua 22:9 it contrasts the lands of Canaan and Gilead: "The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned home and departed from the sons of Israel at Shiloh which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, to the land of their possession which they had possessed, according to the command of the Lord through Moses." (Josh 22:9). Here the land of Gilead included both the land of Jazer and Jazer, but was distinct from the land of Canaan, although both of which were "lands of inheritance".
- 1 Kings 22:36 proves a very localized tribal use of "his own land" which likely means each man went to his own house: "Every man to his own city (even within the same tribe) and every man to his own land (within the same tribe)." 1 Kings 22:36
- Isaiah forewarned the 10 tribes of Israel about the Assyrian Captivity in 722 BC that each man will flee to his own house, but they will be captured with their wives and children: "And it will be that like a hunted gazelle, ... They will each turn to his own people, And each one flee to his own land. " Isaiah 13:14
- Often the expression "his own land" refers to a single city, or a collection of cities in a very small geographic area. In many cases it refers to localized, tribal areas, even the very tract of land under a single person's control within a larger "country": Ai, for example, was one of many cities of the Amorites: Josh 8:1; see also: Exodus 18:27; Numbers 21:24,26,34-35; Deuteronomy 2:24,31; 3:2; 4:47; Deut 33:13; 1 Kings 22:36;
By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.
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