Mt. Sinai – The Golden Calf

Exodus CaseNow when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us [a]gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”…And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.

Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it.   Exodus 32, Selected Verses

What short memories they had! The plagues that struck all of Egypt but not them, the pillar of fire by day and of smoke by night, the parted sea, destruction of the Egyptian army, manna every morning, and the smoke, thunder, and lightning atop Sinai right there!

Hathor Cow Goddess

Hathor – human & bovine editions

But Moses took longer than they expected so it was time to move on to another god. Why a calf? After generations in Egypt, they were very familiar with their practice of worshipping cattle, so they went back to what they had known all their lives; Hathor, the Egyptian cow goddess.

God told Moses what was going on back at camp and sent him down. Before Moses got all the way down he could see the golden calf in the distance and hear the sounds of celebration. His first considered act was to break the two stone tablet of the Ten Commandments. He then went completely nuts, burned the thing down to ashes, spread the ashes in the water, and made everyone drink it.

Golden CalfWe shouldn’t expect to make an archeological find of a golden calf at the base of Jebel Musa in Saudi Arabia, but Moses does record in Exodus that Aaron made an alter to put it on. There is a large pile of broke slabs of rock in view of the descending route from the top of the mountain. Intact, they would have formed the base of a

Golden Calf Altar Base

Broken altar base

very large alter that could be seen a ways off.  for scale, note the fence around it that the Saudis erected to people off it. The size means it would have been a big figure, taking lots of gold. But remember that you had roughly 2 million Jewish slaves taking all the gold from their former slaveholders, so there was plenty on hand.

Impressive evidence on this find are the carvings that can be seen on those stones. They are of Egyptian style cattle and of people holding them up in worship, mirroring ancient Egyptian carvings.

Golden Calf Base Calf Petroglyphs

Several carvings seen on the base pieces

Another interesting piece of the carving is several depictions of a person or people worshiping the cow by seemingly supporting it from below.Golden Calf held by person

Compare that to a clear rendition of a typical ancient Egyptian carving of similar activities.

Golden Calf Egyptian Model

Drawn reproduction of ancient Egyptian carving

But there’s one last image that can be seen on those stone which have many carvings like those shown above.  Yes, there are Egyptian-style depictions of the cow goddess, Hathor.  But who’s to say that it was necessarily the Israelites who did all of this?  Well, what are the odds that you’d find a menorah carved into those same stones?

Golden Calf Base Menorah

Yup…right there

So far we seem to have a lot of traits in and around the site of Jebel Musa in Saudi Arabia that match the Biblical Mt. Sinai.  There are more!

NEXT – A summit meeting with God.

 

 

The Exodus Case – Mt. Sinai

“The Exodus Case” by Dr. Lennart Moller – Book Review, Part Seven of Seven

“16 Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Exodus 24:16-17

There is a traditional Mt. Sinai on the Sinai Peninsula. Because of this tradition, many people believe it is truly God’s Mountain. However, it does not match the description of His mountain as told in Exodus.

Again, Dr. Moller relies on his theory that Exodus is literally true in order to find where it leads us. We’ve already seen that it appears that the Red Sea crossing was not at the Red Sea proper, but across the Gulf of Aqaba. That places Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia, which agrees with biblical references to it being in Arabia (St. Paul). Josephus also places Mt. Sinai in Arabia.

The question becomes whether there is a mountain and surrounding area that precisely match the description in Exodus. Dr. Moller points to such a location, named Jabal Al Lawz. It is a mountain ridge in Saudi Arabia, which has a number of distinct characteristics as well as ruins, making it worth serious consideration as the true Mt. Sinai. Following are points which I will try to describe as briefly as I can.

The Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites as they approached Mt. Sinai. The battle was on a broad plain near the mountain. You might recall the story, because Moses had to keep his arms raised to God for them to prevail. As he tires, Aaron and Hur help hold his arms up. Such a plain is west of Jabal Al Lawz, as well as a rise for Moses to oversee the battle.

After the battle, Moses erects an altar to God, commemorating the victory. An ancient altar exists on the site.

In the same place, the Israelites complained to Moses about their thirst. God commands Moses to strike a large rock, which splits, and water pours forth. You might recall from an earlier post, the low-end estimate as to the size of their population is 2 million plus livestock. The flow of water had to be much more than a trickle or gurgle. At Jabal Al Lawz there is a 6 meter high rock, which is split through the middle, top to bottom. You can easily see right through that split. At its base are stones heavily eroded by water. Leading out from there are large wadis, which are dried up ponds or lakes. The area of the wadis appear large enough to have supplied such a population. The erosion starts at the rock.  There is no rise of land above it.  It is the tallest thing in the immediate area.

Mt. Sinai also appears in another biblical story. When Elijah does battle with the priests of Baal, God strikes with fire to ignite Elijah’s offering. Shortly after that, Elijah flees for his life and takes refuge in a cave on Mt. Sinai. There is such a cave that could be lived in at Jabal Al Lawz with a commanding view of the plain. You can also see the dried wadis from there.

The Israelites encamped around the east side of Mt. Sinai. Sure enough, on the east side of Jabal Al Lawz is evidence of an ancient encampment. The type of tents used then was supported by a center pole with a circle of rocks anchoring the base of the tent. Many such rock circles are found in this area, along with – wait for it – Egyptian style millstones for grinding grain.

God told Moses not to let anyone touch the mountain, lest they die. At regular intervals around the base of the mountain are found stones with a pictograph; the outline of a sandal with the laces laid out to the side. It was a common sign from Egypt that the place beyond was considered holy. Take off your sandals to enter, or Do Not Enter. It’s essentially a sign barrier telling everyone to Keep Out.

Josephus states that Mt. Sinai was the highest in the area. At 2200+ feet, Jabal Al Lawz towers over its neighbors.

There is a ruin of low walls in a configuration and height to possibly have been the altar God tells Moses to erect for a massive animal sacrifice. It was to be a low altar so that they wouldn’t have to climb steps to it, “…that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” In other words, so that no one could see up their tunics. Archeologists have said that they must be the ruins of the buildings. If so, where are the rest of the walls? If they crumbled, where are they? Other compelling characteristics of the site:
• The stones are all uncut, as specified by God
• It’s original height is estimated at about 1 meter, which would be about right.
• Archeologists have detected large amounts of “biological material” within the ruin. People don’t slaughter animals indoors, but they do at an altar.

While Moses was on the mountain, the Israelites cast the Golden Calf and put it on an altar. Visible from a cleft in the mountain as one descends is the plain of the encampment and a large pile of natural rocks, which could have served as a base for an altar. Before you think that this is a reach just because they are easily seen on the descent, inscribed on these rocks are Egyptian styled images of cows. Egyptians held cows sacred. It follows that the Israelites would use what they knew.

The Bible also describes a plateau part way up where Moses gathered with 70 elders before going to the top to meet with God. Just such a plateau exists on Jabal Al Lawz with enough room to comfortably accommodate 70+ people.

The very top of the ridge is blackened, essentially burnt to a crisp. This is a region that’s mostly desert. There is no vegetation to catch fire, no fuel for such a thoroughly burnt area.  This is not an area of volcanic activity in any time period.  But…

“Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.” Exodus 19:18

In addition, Dr. Moller notes that “The local population relate that even today Jabal Al Lawz (Mt. Horeb) is known by the inhabitants as “Jebel Musa,” which means ‘Moses’ Mount.’” Page 324.

These short paragraphs do no justice to the detail Dr. Moller presents in The Exodus Case. He is exceptionally careful to not make exclusive claims that he has definitely found the Red Sea crossing, Mt. Sinai, and more. He simply states his hypothesis that Exodus is literally true and proceeds to gather evidence to see where it leads. He invites readers to draw their own conclusions. He does this with 400+ pages of text and hundreds of color pictures.

Intrigued? The book is available on Amazon. I’d also recommend getting the two DVDs that Amazon will suggest you buy along with it. I got them and I’m glad I did. The book is 400+ pages with tons of documentation, but VERY readable.