Chapter 11: The Elusive Mount

…Somewhere in the Sinai peninsula, the Nefilim had established their post-Diluvial Spaceport. Somewhere in the Sinai peninsula, mortals – a selected few, with their god’s blessing – could approach a certain mountain.

  • There, "Go back!" the guarding bird-men ordered Alexander, "for the land on which you stand belongs to God alone."
  • There, "Do not come nearer!" the Lord called out to Moses, "for the place whereon thou standest is sacred ground."
  • There, eagle-men challenged Gilgamesh with their stun-rays, only to realize he was no mere mortal.

…The Sumerians called the mount of encounter Mount MA.SHU – the Mount of the Supreme Barge. The tales of Alexander named it Mount Mushas – the Mountain of Moses.

…The Israelite Exodus from Egypt has been commemorated each year for the past thirty-three centuries by the celebration of the Passover. The historical and religious records of the Hebrews are replete with reference to the Exodus, the wanderings in the Wilderness, the Covenant at Mount Sinai. The people have been constantly reminded of the Theophany, when the whole nation of Israel had seen the Lord Yahweh alight in his glory upon the sacred mount. Yet its location was de-emphasized, lest attempts be made to make the place a cult center.

…The modern pilgrim, as pilgrims have done for centuries past, sets its course to the monastery of Santa Katarina, so named after the martyred Katherine of Egypt whose body angels carried to the nearby peak bearing her name. After an overnight stay, at daybreak, the pilgrims begin the climb to Gebel Mussa ("Mount Moses" in Arabic). It is the southern peak of a two mile massif rising south of the monastery – the "traditional" Mount Sinai with which the Theophany and the Lawgiving are associated.

…From the peak of Gebel Mussa, one can see some of the other peaks which make the granite heartland, of which this mount is a member. Surprisingly, it appears to be lower than many of its neighbors!

…Indeed in support of the Saint Katherine legend, the monks have put up a sign in the main building which proclaims:

Altitude 5012 FT
Moses Mount 7560 FT
St. Katherine Mount 8576 FT

…As one is convinced that Mount Katherine is indeed the higher one – in fact, the highest in the peninsula – and thus rightly chosen by the angels to hide the saint’s body thereon, one is also disappointed that – contrary to long-held beliefs – God had brought the Children of Israel to this forbidding area, to impress upon them his might and his laws not from the tallest mount around.

…Had God missed the right mountain?

Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, studying Arabic and Muslim customs, on April 15, 1816, he set on camelback from the town of Suez, at the head of Gulf of Suez. His goal was to retrace the route of the Exodus, and thereby to establish the true identity of Mount Sinai. Following the presumed route taken by the Israelites, he traveled south along the western coast of the peninsula… As he went south, Burckhardt noted the geography, topography, distances. He compared conditions and place names with the descriptions and names of the stations of the Exodus as mentioned in the Bible. Where the limestone ends, nature has provided a sandy belt which separates the plateau from a belt of Nubian sandstone serving as a cross-Sinai avenue. There Burckhardt turned inland, and after a while set his course southward into the granite heartland, reaching the Katherine monastery from the south (as today’s air traveler does).

…Some of his observations are of a lingering interest. The area, he found, produced excellent dates…

…Additional research established that the main monastic center in Sinai, through most of the centuries, was at Wadi Feiran, near Serbal – and not St. Katherine.

…When Burckhardt published his findings (Travels in Syria and the Holy Land ) his conclusions shook the scholarly and biblical world. The true Mount Sinai, he stated was not Mount Mussa, but Mount Serbal!

…The next major journey to Sinai was undertaken by the American Edward Robinson together with Eli Smith. Like Burckhardt, they left Suez City on camelback armed with his book and the Laborde’s maps, (a French Count, Leon de, who had toured Sinai back in 1826 and 1828). It took them thirteen early spring days to reach St. Katherine. There, Robinson gave the monk’s legends a thoroughgoing examination. He found out that at Feiran there indeed was a superior monastic community, sometimes led by full bishops, to which Katherine and several others monastic communities in southern Sinai were subordinate, so that tradition must have placed greater emphasis on Feiran. In the tales and documents, he discovered that mounts Mossa and Katherine were of no Christian consequence in the early Christian centuries, and that Katherine’s supremacy developed only in the seventeenth century, when the other unfortified monastic communities fell prey to invaders and marauders. Checking local Arab traditions, he found that the biblical names "Sinai" and "Horeb" were totally unknown to the local Bedouins, it was the Katherine monks who began to apply these names to certain mountains.

…Was Buckhardt then right?

More researchers came along and the same results were presented.

…But if not Mount Mussa, why Mount Serbal? Besides its "correct" location at Wadi Feiran, Lepsius (Karl Richard, great Egyptologist and founder of scientific archaeology), found some concrete evidence. Describing the mount in glowing terms, he reported finding on its top: "A deep mountain hollow around which the five summits of Serbal unite in a half circle and form a towering crown." In the middle of this hollow he found ruins of an old convent. It was at that hallowed spot, he suggested that the "Glory of the Lord" had landed, in full view of the Israelites (who were gathered in the plain to the west). As to the fault that Robinson had found with Burckhardt’s Exodus route to Serbal – Lepsius offered an alternative detour which corrected the problem.

Many years of research were dedicated trying to find the route of the Exodus. Mr. Sitchin reviews them in some detail mentioning the Archaeologists, Cartographers, Authors, Explorers, and their opinions.

…As the debate continued to engross the scholarly and biblical world, it became apparent that the basic unresolved issue was this: Insofar as the Crossing was concerned, the weight of the evidence negated a northern body of water; but insofar as Mount Sinai was concerned, the weight of the evidence negated a southern location. The impasse focused the attention of scholars and explorers on the only remaining compromise: the Central Plain of the Sinai peninsula.

…The long occupation of the Sinai by Israel, in the aftermath of the 1967 war with Egypt, opened up the peninsula to study and research on an unprecedented scale. Archaeologists, historians, geographers, topographers, geologists, engineers examined the peninsula from tip to toe.

Beno Rothenberg (Sinai Explorations 1967 – 1972 and other reports), mostly under the auspices of Tel-Aviv University. In the Northern coastal strip, many ancient sites reflected the "bridge-like nature of this area." In the Central Plain of north Sinai, no ancient sites of permanent abode were found, but only evidence of camping sites, attesting that this was only a transit area. When the camping sites were plotted on the map, they formed "a clear line from the Negev toward Egypt, and this should be considered as the direction of prehistory movements across the ‘Desert of the Wanderings‘ (the el-Tih)."

Yet another controversial site was offered by a Hebrew University biblical geographer, Menasher Har-El, proposing another site of Crossing, and for the battle of Israel with Amalekites, according to him in the coast of the Gulf of Suez.

…This suggestion has been rejected by Israeli military experts familiar with the terrain and history of warfare in the Sinai.

…Where then, was Mount Sinai? We must look again at the ancient evidence.

…The Pharaoh, in his journey to the Afterlife, went eastward. Crossing the watery barrier he set his course to a pass in the mountains. He then reached the Duat, which was an oval-shaped valley surrounded by mountains. The "Mountain of Light" was situated where the stream of Osiris divided into tributaries, (pictorial shown in book).

…We have found similar pictorial evidence from Assyria.

The Assyrian kings, it should be remembered, arrived at the Sinai from the opposite direction, to that of the Egyptians kings: from the northeast, via Canaan. One of them, Esarhaddon, engraved on a stela what amounts to a route map of his own quest for "Life." It shows the date palm – the code emblem for the Sinai, a farming area symbolized by the plough, and a "Sacred Mount." In the upper register we see Esarhaddon at the shrine of the Supreme Deity, near the Tree of Life. It is flanked by the sign of the bull – the very image (the "golden calf") that the Israelites had fashioned at the foot of Mount Sinai.

…All this does not bespeak the harsh, barren granite peaks of southern Sinai. Rather, it suggests northern Sinai and its dominant Wadi El-Arish, whose very name means Stream of the Husbandman. It is among its tributaries, in a valley surrounded by mountains, that the Mount was located.

…There is only one such place in the whole of the Sinai peninsula. Geography, topography, historical texts, pictorial depictions – all point at the Central Plain in Sinai’s northern half.

…The Central Plain… its hard gravel top meant that it was admirably suited for the Spaceport of the Nefilim. And if Mount Mashu marked the gateway to the Spaceport, it had to be located on the outskirts of this facility.

…There have been found Sumerian cylinder seals depicting the appearance of a deity unto a shepherd. They show the god appearing from between two mountains, with a rocket-like tree behind him – perhaps the Sneh ("Burning Bush") of the biblical tale. The introduction of the two peaks in the shepherd scene fits the frequent biblical reference to the Lord as El Shaddai – God of the Two Peaks. It thus raises yet another distinction between the Mount of the Lawgiving and the Mountain of the Gods: the one was a solitary mount in a desert plain; the other seems to have been a combination of two sacred peaks.

…The Ugaritic texts also recognize a "Mountain of the Young Gods" in the environs of Kadesh, and two peaks of El and AsherahShad Elim, Shad Asheraht u Rahim – in the south of the peninsula. It was to that area at mebokh naharam ("Where the two bodies of water begin"), Kerev apheq tehomtam ("near the cleft of the two seas") that El had retired in his old age. The texts, we believe, describe the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula.

…There was, we conclude, a Gateway Mount on the perimeter of the Spaceport in the Central Plain. And there were two peaks in the peninsula’s southern tip that also played a role in the comings and goings of the Nefilim. They were the two peaks that measured up.

Continue to Chapter 12: The Pyramids of Gods and Kings

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