Gad-Zukes!

Here in Kentucky, July is ending on a mild note.  This past week wasn’t as hot as the previous one; no temperatures in the 90s, anyway.  Yesterday was the most comfortable of all:  65 in the morning, 81 in the afternoon.  I can’t remember a day like that from the forty summers I spent in Florida, except maybe when hurricanes blotted out the sun!  As for rain, a few more showers means we’ve gotten an inch more in July than we usually do, so the year to this point has been a little on the wet side.

This week we got our first harvest from Leive’s garden, in the form of four zucchini and three eggplants.  The zucchini in particular are larger than what you’ll find in the grocery store, and because they are fat, they look more like cucumbers.  In the picture above are two “zukes” and one eggplant, each at least a foot long.  I put one of our parrot’s peanuts next to them to give you an idea of the size.  We gave most of them to Gene and Rezia because they donated those particular plants.  However, Leive got the latest zuke for her cooking, and despite the size, it was so good that she wants to grow one even larger, to see how big they get.

Who Says Latin Is No Longer Relevant?

I just received this list of modern Latin phrases.  The next time you’re in Rome, go ahead and give them a try.

HANDY LATIN PHRASES

1. Non calor sed umor est qui nobis incommodat.
It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

2. Lex clavatoris designati rescindenda est.
The designated hitter rule has got to go.

3. Sentio aliquos togatos contra me conspirare.
I think some people in togas are plotting against me.

4. Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris.
If Caesar were alive, you’d be chained to an oar.

5. Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

6. (At a barbeque)
Animadvertistine, ubicumque stes, fumum recta in faciem ferri?
Ever noticed how wherever you stand, the smoke goes right into your face?

7. Sona si Latine loqueris.
Honk if you speak Latin.

8. Si Hoc Legere Scis Nimium Eruditionis Habes.
If you can read this you’re over-educated.

9. Sentio aliquos togatos contra me conspirare.
I think some people in togas are plotting against me.

10. Vidi Vici Veni
I saw, I conquered, I came

11. Vacca foeda
Stupid cow

12. Mihi ignosce. Cum homine de cane debeo congredi.
Excuse me. I’ve got to see a man about a dog.

13. Raptus regaliter
Royally screwed

14. Si hoc signum legere potes, operis boni in rebus Latinus alacribus et fructuosis potiri potes!
If you can read this sign, you can get a good job in the fast-paced, high-paying world of Latin!

15. Gramen artificiosum odi.
I hate Astroturf.

16. Noli me vocare, ego te vocabo.
Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

17. Nullo metro compositum est.
It doesn’t rhyme.

18. Non curo. Si metrum non habet, non est poema.
I don’t care. If it doesn’t rhyme, it isn’t a poem.

19. Fac ut gaudeam.
Make my day.

20. Braccae illae virides cum subucula rosea et tunica Caledonia-quam elenganter concinnatur!
Those green pants go so well with that pink shirt and the plaid jacket!

21. Re vera, potas bene.
Say, you sure are drinking a lot.

22. Utinam barbari spatium proprium tuum invadant!
May barbarians invade your personal space!

23. Utinam coniurati te in foro interficiant!
May conspirators assassinate you in the mall!

24. Utinam logica falsa tuam philosophiam totam suffodiant!
May faulty logic undermine your entire philosophy!

25. Radix lecti
Couch potato

26. Quo signo nata es?
What’s your sign?

27. O! Plus! Perge! Aio! Hui! Hem!
Oh! More! Go on! Yes! Ooh! Ummm!

28. Mellita, domi adsum.
Honey, I’m home.

29. Tarn exanimis quam tunica nehru fio.
I am as dead as the nehru jacket.

30. Ventis secundis, tene cursum.
Go with the flow.

31. Te precor dulcissime supplex!
Pretty please with a cherry on top!

32. Magister Mundi sum!
I am the Master of the Universe!

33. Fac me cocleario vomere!
Gag me with a spoon!

34. Te audire no possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.
I can’t hear you. I have a banana in my ear.

35. Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem!
Stand aside plebians! I am on imperial business.

36. Fac ut vivas.
Get a life.

37. Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
Let’s all wear mood rings!

38. Catapuitam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head.

The Un-Obama?

If you’re like me, you’re probably expecting Sarah Palin to be the Republican candidate for president in 2012, because of all the news events over the past two years.  Now after reading this Worldnet Daily article, I’m wondering if Herman Cain would have a better chance of winning.  He will if Barack Obama runs again, anyway.  I have heard Cain on the radio a few times (he fills in for Neal Boortz quite often), and was impressed with the intelligent arguments he makes on economic issues, but I didn’t know about his solid credentials as a business manager and a problem solver.  Click on the link below to check him out:

Is This Man Obama’s Worst Nightmare?

The Shortest Books for 2010

Back around 2000, I received a funny e-mail list of extremely thin books.  Now I have received an updated version of it:

1.  THINGS I DID TO DESERVE THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE by Barack Obama

2.  THINGS I LOVE ABOUT MY COUNTRY by Jane Fonda & Cindy Sheehan
Illustrated by Michael Moore
Forward by George Soros

3.  MY CHRISTIAN ACCOMPLISHMENTS by Rev. Jesse Jackson & Rev. Al Sharpton

4.  THINGS I LOVE ABOUT BILL by Hillary Clinton

5. Sequel to #4: THINGS I LOVE ABOUT HILLARY by Bill Clinton

6.  THINGS I CANNOT AFFORD by Bill Gates

7.  THINGS I WOULD NOT DO FOR MONEY by Dennis Rodman

8.  THINGS WE KNOW TO BE TRUE by Al Gore & John Kerry

9.  GUIDE TO THE PACIFIC by Amelia Earhart

10.  HOW TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST by Dr. Jack Kevorkian

11.  TO ALL THE MEN WE HAVE LOVED BEFORE by Ellen Degeneres & Rosie O’Donnell

12.  GUIDE TO DATING ETIQUETTE by Mike Tyson

13.  THE AMISH PHONE DIRECTORY

14.  MY PLAN TO FIND THE REAL KILLERS by O. J. Simpson

15.  HOW TO DRINK & DRIVE SAFELY by Ted Kennedy

16.  MY BOOK OF MORALS by Bill Clinton
with introduction by the Rev. Jesse Jackson

And, just added:

17.  My Complete Knowledge of Military Strategy by Nancy Pelosi

Unquote: You may want to run to Barnes and Noble or Amazon and get these before they disappear!  I could kick myself for missing “My Life On Land” by Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

Too Hot to Trot

We’re having another heat wave.  It got up to 94 degrees today, and the weatherman is warning the same for tomorrow; in fact, a heat advisory has been issued for both days.  But again, it could be worse.  On Thursday I checked on Florida, and where we used to live, it was 104, with a heat index of 109!  Then I called my Dad to make sure he’s all right, and indoors.

In our backyard, the Chinese cabbage has been attacked by some kind of black fly.  The damage was so bad that Leive pulled up the whole crop yesterday, declaring it unfit for human consumption, and threw it away (hopefully with most of the flies in the same bags).  We’re astonished, because we expected bugs to do that in Florida, but not in Kentucky!  They’re starting to get at the broccoli and eggplants, too, so we may have to spray after all.  Leive has also decided to plant kale in place of the cabbage, because she didn’t have a problem with pests eating kale in Florida, but we’ll have to wait until next month because that veggie likes it cold.

The good news is that the other plants are doing well.  Three eggplants so far, with the first one harvested on Wednesday; that was given to Gene & Rezia, because it came from one of their plants.  Today I saw the first zucchini, and the sweet potato vines are getting as aggressive as they were in Florida.  In a week we may have some tomatoes and peppers, too.

Really Scattered Showers

Leive has not needed to water her garden since last Friday, because we have been getting short and heavy rainstorms, before the ground has enough time to dry out.  They sound fierce when they strike, but because they don’t last more than an hour or two, we haven’t had the problem of water getting in the basement that I mentioned in previous messages.  Leive told me that in the Philippines this is known as a “boy rain”; by contrast, a “girl rain” is light but can last all day.

The first one came at sundown on Saturday.  It didn’t hurt us badly here in Lexington, but it’s the one getting the most news, because at the eastern end on the state, in Pike County, it caused the worst flooding seen there in years; two people were drowned.

Another storm came in at the same time on Monday.   I was attending a Pre-Paid Legal meeting at the time, and heard just a bit of noise.  I didn’t give it a second thought, because it sounded like somebody in the next room was moving tables.  Then when I left the hotel I saw the puddles and rain clouds, which were still flashing lightning, and realized what I had missed.  On Tuesday I heard that on the other side of town, the Monday night storm knocked town tents at a fair, injuring some folks (one had to be sent to the hospital).

The storms struck again yesterday evening, and we’re getting still another this morning as I write this.  Is Kentucky weather finally showing a pattern here?

Tisha B’Av, 5770

Tonight marks the beginning of the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av in Hebrew), the saddest day on the whole Jewish calendar.  A lot of Jews will fast on this day, like they will for Yom Kippur, two months from now.  This is not an official Jewish holiday in the sense that Yom Kippur and Passover are; it commemorates mainly Talmudic traditions, not something that God commanded His people to remember.

On this day in 587 or 586 B.C.,  the First Temple was destroyed.  Then on this day in 70 A.D., the Second Temple was destroyed.  Those events by themselves are bad enough, but an impressive number of other calamities reportedly happened on the 9th of Av, too.  Here is what I found on Wikipedia about that:

  • About 1446 B.C.:  The twelve spies sent by Moses into Canaan returned.  Ten of the spies delivered a bad report about giants in the land, making the Israelites too fearful to go in.  God ordered the Israelites to wander in the wilderness for forty years, until everyone who was an adult at that time had died, except for Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who delivered a positive report.
  • 135 A.D.:  Simeon Bar Kokhba’s revolt against Rome failed, and he was killed in the battle of Betar.
  • 1290:  Jews were expelled from England.
  • 1492:  The Alhambra Decree, which expelled the Jews from Spain, took effect on the 7th of Av, just two days before Tisha B’Av.
  • 1914:  In this year Tisha B’Av fell on August 1, the day when Germany declared war on Russia.  Before this date, it looked like World War I would be a small war, confined to the Balkans.  Instead, the next 41 years would be the most destructive time in European history.
  • 1942:  The mass deportation of Polish Jews began, from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka.

To end this message on a positive note, I will repost a paragraph from Chapter 14 of my Middle Eastern history, which covers a prophecy made on this day that came true:

There is a story told of Napoleon Bonaparte passing a crowded synagogue on the 9th of Av, the anniversary of when both the first and second Jewish temples were destroyed. Asking what was the meaning of the weeping and sorrow he heard, he was told that the Jews were mourning the loss of their country and sanctuary some 1800 years before. Deeply moved, Napoleon observed that “a people which weeps and mourns for the loss of its homeland 1800 years ago and does not forget–such a people will never be destroyed. Such a people can rest assured that its homeland will be returned to it.”

Happy Birthday, Brin-Brin!

We don’t really know when the family parrot hatched, except that it was some time in 1996.  However, it was on this day in 2007 that we bought him at a bird show in Bardstown, KY, so this day is as good as any for a birthday.

Today was supposed to be the hottest day of the year (so far), but thanks to some well-placed clouds casting shade, it did not get up to 95 degrees, as the weatherman forecasted (more like 88).  Still, I think I can forget about the next electric bill being any lower than the one I got for June.  On the radio it was announced that if you count summer as beginning June 21 and ending on August 31, this is the exact midpoint of the season.  Interesting that somebody would figure that out.  As a matter of fact, during my first year in Kentucky (2006), those were the days when I turned on the air conditioner of my apartment for the first time, and when I shut it off for the last time.

This week one of the side streets near me, Old Todds Road, is closed for repairs.  I sure hope the city won’t go beyond this week to fix it.  Normally I wouldn’t mention this here, but they seem to be adding insult to injury when they tell me to drive on Man O’War Blvd instead.  Heck, I drive on Old Todds Rd to get away from the Man O’War traffic!  A year and a half ago, the shutting down of another side street, Mapleleaf Dr., caused major traffic snarls, and that was next to the street they’re working on now.

Today the main news was about a young lady driving an SUV into the Kohl’s clothing store in Hamburg Village.  It looks like she was drunk (no surprise there), and luckily, nobody was hurt.  Last month Leive & I went into the same Kohl’s during Father’s Day weekend to buy some clothing for me.  Whew, good thing we don’t shop there more often!

Two Organizations That Are No Longer Relevant

A few years ago, John O’Sullivan, columnist and former editor of National Review, explained the liberal bias of established organizations with what he called O’Sullivan’s First Law: “All organizations that are not actually right wing will over time become left wing.” Examples of organizations whose agendas have gradually gotten more leftist include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Ford Foundation, the League of Women Voters, the YWCA, UNESCO, UNICEF, Planned Parenthood, the Episcopal Church, Canada and most of Europe.

Alas, now I will have to add the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to that list.  When I was a kid, NASA’s astronauts were my heroes; I’m too young to remember the Mercury program, but I still have fond memories of what Gemini, Apollo and Skylab accomplished.  Living just an hour’s drive from Cape Canaveral made it even better; I remember my Dad taking me to see Apollo 11 on the launching pad, one month before it went to the moon.   And when the war in Vietnam went badly, and the economy combined the worst features of inflation and stagnation, it seemed like going into space was the only thing the US government could do right.

At some point after the Space Shuttle started flying, NASA seemed to lose its sense of direction.  It didn’t surprise me too much when President Obama canceled the program to build a manned rocket that will replace the Space Shuttle; Lyndon Johnson was the last Democrat in the White House who could get excited about space travel.  I believe we can still count on NASA to launch unmanned probes on interesting missions, and there is the chance that a private company like Virgin Galactic will build the next manned vehicle, before we have to outsource to India or Russia to get our astronauts in orbit.  However, last month’s statement by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden knocked me for a loop.  Quote:

“When I became the NASA administrator — before I became the NASA administrator – [President Obama] charged me with three things: One was that he wanted me to re-inspire children to want to get into science and math; that he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and, third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.”

Unquote:  Why is NASA now a tool for social engineering?  If the goal is to make Moslems feel good about past accomplishments, there are much cheaper and simpler ways to do it, starting with hiring Arab, Turkish and Iranian teachers.  Yes, I know that a thousand years ago, the Islamic world was ahead of everybody else in math, science, literature, etc., but since the Renaissance, their positive contribution to humanity has been nothing, nada, zilch.  These days you are not likely to think of Moslem countries, when somebody talks about progress.  Heck, as recently as the 1970s, Saudi Arabian schools were teaching that the world is flat!

I am reminded of a joke that was told not too long ago about the TV show “Star Trek”:

Q:  Why do we routinely see Asians, blacks, Europeans and Russians on Star Trek, but not once have we ever seen a Moslem character?

A:  Because the show is set in the future!

(One show even had a Filipina actress as a guest star, so my wife’s homeland is accounted for.)

Apparently Mr. Bolden meant to say that, because he has said it at other times.  Still, I wouldn’t have believed it, if it had happened under any president before Obama.  I thought the first and foremost mission of NASA was to explore space.  Of course, as we find ways to make money from space or ways to benefit humanity, the mission may become more economic and less scientific.  And if we meet life out there, the mission will become diplomatic if the aliens are friendly, and military if they aren’t.  But nowhere have I heard anyone else, conservative or liberal, suggest that the main purpose of a space program is to affect society on earth.

I hope we’ll hear soon from Sir Richard Branson about how his spaceliner is coming along.

The other organization that is no longer relevant is the NAACP.  This week we learned it suspects the “Tea Party” movement is racist at its core, presumably because the current president is half black, and most “tea Partiers” are white.  Sean Hannity had a debate over this topic on the radio yesterday, and the NAACP spokesman could not name one example of racist behavior at a Tea Party rally; he just voiced fears that every time black Americans make a major advance, somebody forces them back later.  Well I wrote a response to those folks on The Xenophile Historian about five years ago; that ought to tell you the NAACP hasn’t been relevant for a long time.  Here’s what I said:

“Is there a law against a political organization changing its name when the name becomes obsolete? Case in point: a very prominent civil rights group still calls itself the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Where I come from, nobody has used the term ‘colored people’ for more than 30 years, without being tagged as a racist, unless they were talking about South Africans of mixed ancestry. Can’t the NAACP come up with a name that is more modern and ‘politically correct,’ like the National Association for the Advancement of African-Americans (NAAAA)?”

Where Was Mt. Sinai?

Here is the third (and last) portion of the essay I wrote on Moses.  Parts 1 & 2 were posted on June 21 and June 26.  Click here to see the whole paper, including the footnotes.

Where Was Mount Sinai?

The traditional site for Mt. Sinai, also called Mt. Horeb, is the tallest mountain on the Sinai peninsula, called Jebel Musa by the Arabs. It was identified as the holy mountain by St. Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine I, in the early fourth century A.D., after she came to the eastern Mediterranean lands, looking for evidence to back up the stories of the Bible. Consequently St. Catherine’s Monastery was built at the base of the mountain. The monastery’s extremely remote location has ensured that it would survive wars and other man-made upheavals, so today it is the oldest Christian monastery in the world that is still active with monks. Over seventeen centuries, the word of St. Helena and the presence of the monastery has convinced most Christians that Jebel Musa is the mountain that Moses stood on, first when he saw the burning bush, then when he received the Ten Commandments. Centuries later, the prophet Elijah fled to Mt. Sinai to escape the evil Queen Jezebel, so we know that the Israelites knew where the mountain was, for quite some time after they left the site.

Exodus
The traditional route of the Exodus.
(A thumbnail, click on the picture to see it full size in a separate window.)

Not all theologians are satisfied with that, though. Some believe that because the Israelites eventually wandered east of the Sinai peninsula before entering the Promised Land, a location for the mountain in the Negev, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia should be considered. Others have suggested that Mt. Sinai must be a volcano, because of the lights, noise and flames on the peak, while Moses was there. Since the late nineteenth century, more than a dozen mountains have been nominated as alternate candidates for Mt. Sinai.

In 1989 Ron Wyatt, an archaeologist and adventurer, published a book claiming the Durupinar mound in eastern Turkey was Noah’s Ark. In the book, he also claimed to have identified Jebel al-Lawz, a mountain in northwestern Saudi Arabia, as the correct Mt. Sinai. This meant that if he was right, then the Gulf of Aqaba, and not the Gulf of Suez or the “bitter lakes” that existed before the Suez Canal was dug, was the place where the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Shortly after that two other adventurers, Larry Williams and Bob Cornuke, went to Saudi Arabia to examine the evidence for themselves, and they came back as believers in the Arabian site. Cornuke wrote an exciting story of that trip, which involved trouble with the Saudi authorities and secret military installations; it sounded like a real-life Indiana Jones expedition. Because readers always like a good story, Cornuke and his associates usually get the credit for the Jebel al-Lawz theory, and it has been popular ever since.

On January 24, 2004, I attended a seminar held by the British archaeologist David Rohl, in Clearwater, Florida. Most of the seminar was a lecture with a slide show, covering the material in his first book, Pharaohs and Kings. You can see and hear the lecture and slides on the DVD set available here. The only part of the seminar not shown on the DVDs was the question & answer session at the end. In his presentation, Rohl did not talk much about the route taken by the Israelites through the wilderness, except for their first steps, which he traced carefully enough to pinpoint a location for the Red Sea crossing. From what I saw on his maps, I got the impression that he follows the route accepted by most Bible scholars, going mostly through the southern part of the Sinai peninsula, with Jebel Musa as Mt. Sinai. Though he did not talk about Mt. Sinai’s location, at least half the questions asked had to do with the “Mt. Sinai in Arabia” theory. That astonished me, and let me know how popular this theory really is. Rohl’s answer was that the only thing Jebel al-Lawz has going for it is that it is a burnt mountain, which you would expect if God was on top of it for forty days. As for the petroglyphs of cattle carved nearby, Rohl did not think those were cult images of the Golden Calf, because he has seen plenty of rock art like that in Egypt’s eastern desert.

Never call me trendy, and I have problems that keep me from accepting the Mt. Sinai = Jebel al-Lawz equation, which can be grouped into two categories. The first is the credibility of its proponents, the second is how it ignores the distances involved in the journey.

1. Credibility: As I read Ron Wyatt’s book, I thought he was onto something when he was looking for the Ark, but the rest of what he wrote seemed too good to be true. Among other things, he claimed to have discovered brimstone that fell on Sodom & Gomorrah; the secret to how the Egyptians built the pyramids; chariot wheels in the Gulf of Aqaba; the burial crypts of Amorite giants; the Ark of the Covenant; and the exact location of the spot where Jesus was crucified. Just one of those discoveries would make an archaeologist famous, and if Wyatt really found all of them, he would have been remembered as the luckiest archaeologist of all; by comparison, the gold of Troy and the treasures of Tutankhamen aren’t very meaningful. Wyatt promised a series of books, each one focused on one of his other discoveries, but he died of cancer before he got around to publishing them. Alas, even a fundamentalist like me can only believe so much. I may have been born in the night, but it wasn’t last night!

Another proponent of the theory I can think of is Dr. Lennart Moller, a Swedish author who wrote The Exodus Case: New Discoveries of the Historical Exodus. The book has enough gorgeous photographs inside to make you feel like you are looking at a National Geographic, and it has gained admirers just for its cool appearance. However, in the name of proving that Jebel al-Lawz is the correct mountain and that evidence for the Exodus exists, Moller also twists the accepted history of ancient Egypt until it is barely recognizable as Egyptian history. For example, he puts forth the theory that the XVIII dynasty pharaohs called Thutmose or Hatshepsut before they were crowned, and Amenhotep afterwards. In addition, he suggests that many Egyptians were really Israelites under other names. Thus, Joseph becomes Imhotep, the builder of the first pyramid, and Moses becomes Thutmose II. I guess that means I saw the body of Moses and didn’t know it, when I was in the mummy room of the Cairo Museum. Sorry, but I find such alterations too confusing to wrap my brain around them, and for me they create more problems than they solve. If I can’t understand what somebody is saying, how can I believe it?

2. Mileage Figures: Although the Bible has detailed information on the journey, today’s scholars have a hard time making sense of it. You can go to Numbers 33 for a list of every campsite, but almost none of those names can be pinpointed on a map; the main one we know for sure is Kadesh-Barnea, at the entrance to the Negev. Nor are any figures in miles or kilometers given for the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness. The only way distance is measured is by how many days it took to go from “Point A” to “Point B.”

The first such figure appears in Exodus 3:18 and 5:3, when Moses asks Pharaoh for permission to let the Israelites journey into the wilderness for three days, to perform sacrifices. Presumably this was how long it took Moses to travel from Mt. Sinai to Egypt, after he saw the burning bush. However, the Israelites would have traveled much slower over the same distance, for reasons explained below. Indeed, the commandment given to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days is usually taken as a sign that it took seven days just to get out of Egypt. Later on, we read that it takes eleven days to go from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea (Deuteronomy 1:2), so the holy mountain needs to be within range of that campsite, too.

We have a solid figure from the first campaign of Thutmose III, the greatest conqueror of Egypt’s XVIII dynasty. According to him, it took nine or ten days for his army to march from the fortress at Sile to Gaza, a distance of 150 miles. This works out to a little over fifteen miles a day.. Of course the chariots could go faster, but when they weren’t fighting, they had to advance at a slow pace so the foot soldiers and supply wagons could keep up with them. This alone rules out Jebel Musa as a candidate for Mt. Sinai, because it is 200 miles from the Suez Canal. Only an army with 100 percent of its soldiers riding on horseback, like the Huns or the Mongols, could think of 200 miles as a three-day journey.

Okay, if a bronze age army can be expected to go fifteen miles a day, how fast would a horde of civilians go? Well, an ordinary man in good health can also be expected to hike fifteen miles a day, if he is on a road or otherwise following favorable terrain. Unfortunately, the Bible specifically says the Israelites avoided the main road, the “Way of the Philistines” along the Sinai peninsula’s northern coast, so the path they took would have been off the roads, and they would have been slowed down by obstacles like deep sand. In addition, the group included women, children, old and sick adults, and livestock-all of them would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to go fifteen miles in a day. Finally, they would have stayed for days at any decent campsite; the Bible says it took them more than a month to cover the distance Moses covered by himself in three days. From my own travels, I learned that a group moves at the speed of its slowest member, so it’s safe to say these families of ex-slaves would have gone much slower than fifteen miles a day. Modern Bedouin families have been reported traveling an average of six miles a day on their migrations, and because the Israelites were living like Bedouins in the wilderness, we can also give them a speed of six miles a day.

Okay, here are the speed figures we have so far. In miles per day:

  • Bedouins = 6
  • Individuals on foot, or a typical bronze age army = 15
  • Barbarians on horseback = about 60

Because the Strait of Tiran, the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, is 350 miles from the Suez Canal, all Arabian mountains are too far away to be Mt. Sinai. Add another seventy miles from Tiran to Jebel al-Lawz, and the distance becomes 420 miles. Not even Genghis Khan’s messenger could cover that distance in three days!

Nor can the distance be shortened by declaring that the Israelites started from somewhere in the Sinai. Today the Sinai peninsula is Egyptian territory, but for most of history it was not considered part of Egypt. The Egyptians went there to mine copper and turquoise, but they never wanted to live there, and most of the workers were slaves and prisoners, because working conditions in the mines were appalling. Before the twentieth century, nobody built cities in the Sinai. A home in such a place, even at an oasis, would have been about as appealing as living on a modern-day offshore oil rig. Though Egypt has been described as the world’s biggest sandbox, the Egyptians have always been river-dwellers, not desert people; 96 percent of Egypt’s population lives on 4 percent of the land–the part that is not desert. Also remember that when Jacob and his family came into Egypt, Pharaoh invited them to settle on the best land, in the eastern Nile delta. Nowhere in the Biblical account does it say that the Israelites were relocated to the Sinai, before Moses led them on the Exodus. Likewise, the two cities that the Israelites built in Exodus 1, Pithom and Raamses, have been identified with Tell er-Retaba and Tell ed-Daba; again, both sites are in the eastern Nile delta. And when the pharaohs decided that Egypt needed stronger defenses, they built canals, walls and forts where the Suez Canal runs today, which defended the Nile valley but not the Sinai. The only place in the Sinai where the Egyptians built forts was along the previously mentioned “Way of the Philistines.”

For more on the problems that come with putting Mt. Sinai in Arabia, see these pages by Gordon Franz and Brad Sparks.

Okay, so where do I think Mt. Sinai was? Forget Jebel Musa, and forget Jebel al-Lawz. My conclusion is that because the Israelites didn’t have any special transportation to speed them up, Mt. Sinai has to be in the northern half of the Sinai peninsula. A mountain in this area can be reached in the time the Bible says it took to get there, and will also be between 66 and 165 miles (an eleven-day journey) from Kadesh-Barnea. Therefore I favor the theories of Menashe Har-El, an Israeli professor who explored the Sinai during the years when Israel held it (1967-82), and retraced the steps of the Exodus while taking the mileage figures into account.

Menashe Har-El found a good spot for the Red Sea crossing among the previously mentioned “bitter lakes”; he points out that the Hebrew verison of the Old Testament does not say “Red Sea” but Yam Suf, meaning “Sea of Reeds,” and because reeds do not grow in salt water, this must mean the Israelites really crossed a lake of fresh or brackish water. Once in the Sinai, he found places for the first three campsites, Marah, Elim and Rephidim, that fit the descriptions given in Exodus. Rephidim is in the Wadi Suder, a dry riverbed that is the first convenient way to go inland, after leaving Egypt and the Gulf of Suez. Exodus 17:6 gives us a clue because there God says to Moses, “Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb,” meaning that Mt. Horeb-Sinai must be visible from Rephidim. Sure enough, there is one imposing mountain you can see from there, a 2,000-foot-high peak called Sinn Bishr. Sinn Bishr is an Arabic name, which appropriately can mean either “the announcement of the law” or “the laws of man.” The distance from the Suez Canal to Sinn Bishr is 45-55 miles, depending on your route–close enough for a three-day journey on foot if you push yourself.

map showing Sinn Bishr

A map showing Dr. Har-El’s proposed Exodus route, including his Mt. Sinai, Sinn Bishr. Source: Secrets of the Past, by the editors of Reader’s Digest, New York, Berkley Books, 1980, pg. 223.

So has the real Mt. Sinai been found? Because more than three thousand years have passed since the original story, I don’t think we’ll find proof that can convince everybody. And because Sinn Bishr is not the highest mountain that has been called Mt. Sinai, I suspect that for the foreseeable future, many people will stick to the candidates they prefer, especially Jebel Musa. But then, who said that truth has to be more spectacular than fiction?