Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

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ments, with reference to the separate remarks of one of his
countrymen, Mr. John Hogg, who handled the subject in a
very complete manner, and worked it out still further, first
in the Gentleman's Magazine, Marcli, 1847, and afterwards
in the Transact, of the B. Soc. of Literature, 2 Ser. vol. iii.
p. 183—236 (read May, 1847, Jan. 1848), under the title :
Bemarks and Additional Views on Br. Lepsius's Proofs that
Mount Serial is the true Mount Sinai ; on the Wilderness of
Sin ; on the Manna of the Israelites ; and on the Sinaitic In-
scriptions. This learned author combines the earliest testi-
monies about the tradition, and from them endeavours to
prove, that before the time of Justinian it was in favour of
Serbal, and not of Gebel Musa. He seems, in fact, to have
succeeded in proving this, but we shall return, to this ques-
tion below.

Since then the comprehensive work of my respected
friend Carl Eitter has appeared, which is executed with his
usual mastery of the subject : Vergleichende Erdkunde der
Sinai- Halhinsel, von Paldstina und Sgrien, erster Bandi
Berlin, 1848. Although he has employed and worked out
all imaginable authorities, from the most ancient to those of
modern date, and has formed a complete picture of the
Peninsula as a whole and in details, with a clear perception


and steady baud, both in its geograpliical bearing and in the
historical relations of its population, he has nevertheless not
neglected the question now under consideration, in which
geography and history are more intimately connected than
in any other. Sinai is to the Peninsula of Sinai what
Jerusalem is to Palestine, and as it is certain that the
erection of the church on Gebel Musa in the sixth century,
from a belief that it was founded on the spot of the lawgiving,
caused the liisto7ical centre of the Peninsula, which previously
coincided indisputably with the to\sTi of Pharan and its forest
of palms (the natural geographical centre), to be sundered
for the first time, and gradually, since the tenth century,
from this, and to be removed several days' journey farther
to the south, — so it is equally certain that the decision of
the question, whether this was a Jirst or secoiid separation
between the historical and geograpliical centre, must bear
most essentially on the comprehension and delineation of the
earliest history of the Peninsula, and might even exercise an
influence not only on the future form of Sinaitic literature,
but even on many relative conditions of the Peninsula itself,
which are in no small degree regulated by the objects aimed at
by the constantly increasing number of travellers. Eitter's re-
presentation was compelled at the very outset to decide for
one of these two views. At the same time, the new view, prof-
fered at the latest termination of the preliminary works of
merit, and in opposition to what had been held with implicit
faith for the last thousand years, and maintained with-
out exception by all recent writers of travels, now first ap-
peared in the form of an occasional and necessarily imperfect
traveller's account, and might very naturally lay even less
claim to a favourable hearing, not having hitherto received
critical examination from any quarter, nor been noticed by
later travellers. Por this reason I so much the more value
the careful and impartial examination of the grounds in
favour of Serbal being Moimt Sinai, for which Eitter has
granted a place in his work.

He does this at p 736, &c. He here rejects the opinion


that the tradition of the convent on Gebel Musa, known
only since tlie sixth century, could have any weight in form-
ing a decision ; " the tradition of the still older convent of
Serbal, and of the town of Serbal in Wadi Firan, might be
said to have existed just as truly, but has only been lost to
usJ" Other reasons, therefore, derived from nature and
history, must speak in its favour. He then cites the view
adopted by Eobinson, who places Eaphidim in the upper
part of the Wadi e' Scheikh ; but with justice he places in
opposition to this, that it then encroaches upon the farther
march, and would be mentioned ; and shortly afterwards he
says, in as convincing a manner, that we cannot then con-
ceive how the people could have murmured for want of
water, already one day's journey beyond the Firan, which,
was so richly supplied with water, while this can be easily
explained on the long way from Elim, as far as the
neighbourhood of Firan. Eitter therefore agrees with me
and the old tradition in regarding the wonderful brook of
Firan as the spring of Moses. He only thinks, if Moses
struck the spring out of the rock, it must then have been at
the beginning, and not at the termination of the present
brook, and he therefore transfers Eaphidim into the upper-
most portion of Wadi Firan, whose fertility did not exist
before the appearance of the spring. With respect to the
position of the Mount of the Law^, he evades positive de-
cision for the time. " Already," he says, " in both the
almost contemporaneous narrators, Jerome (Procopius ?)
and Cosmas, we see the division of the views entertained about
these localities, neither of which, even in the most recent
double view, it appears by decisive and sufficient grounds,
can be preferred, by us at least, alone before the others.
Since each of these two modes of explanation of a text so
indeterminate in topographical respects, and of a locality
still known so imperfectly, can only serve as Jiypothetical
prolabilities in a more exact interpretation, allow me to
point out cursorily our liypotJietical view of this affair, which
will perhaps never be placed in a perfectly clear light."


It amounts finally to this, that the "Mount of Grod,"
where Moses was encamped when he was visited bj Jethro
in Eaphidim, could liave in no case meant the convent mouji'
tain of Sinai {i. e. Gehel Mvsa), although this, on a later
occasion, is even thus called, as that of the true God, hut
from which they at that time under every supposition were far
removed, though prohally it might have been a designation
for the overtowering and far nearer Serial when they were
still in the camp at " Eaphidim .' ' He afterwards acknowledges
that before the 19th chapter there was an interruption of
the connection with the preceding chapters, but seeks a
reason for this in a gap in the text, while I would rather
assume that there was a short interpolation. Let the pro-
gress of the people from the Feiran valley into the upper
Talley of the Scheikh, and to Gebel Musa, the true Sinai, be
thrown into this gap. This at first is only called " the
Mount" (Exodus xix. 2), and becomes a "Mount of God'*
for the first time after the lawgiving (which, however, the
following verse, xix. 3, contradicts), while Serbal might have
been called "the Mount of God" from a heathen deity there
worshipped. " Both mounts, the Mount of God (Serbal) in
Eaphidim, and the mount in the Wilderness of Sinai, are
therefore just as difi'erent by name as they appear removed
from each other by the last day's marches between both
places of encampment." He regards the general natural
conditions of the country about Gebel Musa on account of
the greater security and coolness, and from the pasture-land
bearing a greater resemblance to the Alps, as more adapted
for a longer sojourn of the people. The name of Hoeeb
only, which is already mentioned in EAPninni, might serve
as an objection, yet he sees no sufficient ground not to ex-
tend this name to some of the lower mountains attached to
Serbal itself, for already Eoi3iyso>", HE>-GSTEXEERa, and
others, comprehend it as a general designation.

So far as I know, this is the first time that it has been
attempted to prove that there were two Mounts of God,
Serbal and Gebel Musa. This, however, certainly is the


nrccssnri/ rcsul/, fJiough not ifct cxpimscd hi/ofJirrs, irJtich all
inuat arrive at iv/io placcIiapJiidini in Firdn. In tliis, it appears
to mo, lies a main proof with relereuee to the eritieism of the
text, that both Mounts of (uhI arc to bo recognised in Scrhdl.
Wo must not hiy too much si ress on the greater security of the
])laln of Ivalia for a "harnessed" (Exodus xiii. 18) army of
()()0,()00 men, after it liad set firm footing in ilie hnui, besides
Serbal nuist have at all tinu^s olftnvd an achnirablt' phiee of re-
serve. The eokl in Ihe l\igh mountain range, wliieh, according
toliuPPELL and liouiNSON, free/.es the walcr \\\{o wc in the
convent (5000 feet above the S(\i) even as hite as IVbruary
(Ivitter, p. 1.15, GlH)), wouUl have nUnie renih^'od an open
encampment on tlie phiin of Ivalia during ihe uinter impos-
sibh\ for a popuhdion lately accustomed \o the Kgypiimi
climate. .But with respect to the vegetation in those dis-
tricts, which has imh'ed been ditferently described by diiferent
travellers, the idea that not the slightest doubt existed as to
this having been at one time the sojourn o^ ihe Israelites,
luay have partly causeil many to presujijiose ihe existence of
nn)re hcM-bs in the neighbourhood than iIicn- nutinentarilv
saw; ])artly, no iloubt, the season ot"thi^ year occasions some
variations. I thercM'ore only observe that I visitinl ihe
Peninsula about the same time of the year in which, accord-
ing to the iMosaic narration, the Israelites also went thither.
J\itter, tiuailv, has expressed his viinvs mi ilie Sinai ipu^st ion
on another occasion in a imindar essay, " The Peninsula o'C
Sinai, anil thi^ Path o( the (^hildren o^ Israel to Sinai/' in
(he "bAangi^lit'al Calemlar,'' Almanack tor 1852, pub-
lished bji F. Pipti\ j). I>1, i^c. Here also he places Ixaphidini
in I'^irau, and tcaci's the Mount of God at JRaphidim in
Sorluil. Ibit in op[iosition to the ideuliiy o( Serbal and
Sinai, \\c hcvo adduces principally tlu> two following rc^ast'ins.
As it has been now provetl thai the so-called Sinaitic inscrip-
tions hav(^ a Pagan origin, and that they indicate that Serbal,
to which they principally refer, was the " centre i^t'an ancient
worship," then this reuiarkabh* nuiuni. if aliwuly a hc)lv
mount of the' idolater, could not. havi^ been at the same tiuie

2 N


a '' Mount of Jeliovali' (p. 51), and furtlier (p. 52), "Israel's
liolj Mount of God was not situated in the territory of
Amaiek, like Serbal, but in tlie eastern and soutliern terri-
tory oi Midian, for it is said expressly (Exodus ix. 19), that
the Lord commanded Moses in Midian to go to Egypt, and
to lead the people to sacrifice to him upon this Mount Horeb
and Sinai in Midian" (Exodus iii. 1 — 12). AVith respect to
these two points however, the first, namely that Serbal was
also a IwJy mount for the Semitic people ruling over the
Peninsula at a later period, seems to me a reason of great
weight m/«z?owr of Serbal- Sinai, as indeed also already, he-
fore the lawgiving, it was not called "Idol Mount," but
Mount of God (Exodus iii. 1, iv. 27, xviii. 5), just as much
as after the lawgiving (Exodus xxiv. 13, 1 Kings xix. 8),
and a heathen readoption at a later period of the woi-ship of
this mount must certainly be less surprising. But that
Moses dwelt with Jethro in Midian, when the Lord spoke
to him, offers no ground to place the Mount of the Law in
Midian, for that is nowhere said. We only know that
Eaphidim, where Moses was visited by Jethro out of Midian,
was situated in the territory of the AmaleTcites, as these
here made the attack. Eusebius, who (s. v. 'PacpidliJ., see
note, p. 313) expressly places Eaphidim and Choreb in
Pharan, says (s. v. Xtoprj^) that this Mount of God lay in
Madian. In the Itinerar. Antonini, c. 40, also, Pharan is
placed in Madian.

I trust these remarks, in which I tliink I have touched
upon all the essential objections of the respected author, may
prove to bim how high a A^alue I place on each of his argu-
ments, as being those of one who is more competent to
judge in this field than any other person. Pitter's long proved
acuteness for tracing the correct view of such questions,
would have excited more consideration in me against my own
view of the subject, than all the reasons he has adduced,
which, taken singly at least, seem to me refutable, had I not
in tJiis case, at any rate, had the advantage of a personal
view of the localities, without any preconceived influence ;


this miglit render my judgment of earlier narrators more in-
dependent than could be the case with him.

AppEifDix C. (P. 306.) — Eobinson gives the distances
from Ayun Musa to the point where Wadi Schebekeh and
Wadi Taibeh meet, vol. iii. Div. ii. p. 804i ; these accord
with BuECKHAEDT, p. 624, 625, who also records the more
remote points as far as Wadi Piran ; these last are confirmed
by mine, if we calculate his circuitous route by Dhafari.
E/obinson's calculation, p. 196, does not, however, take into
consideration the circuitous route, from four to five hours
longer from the Convent, through Wadi e' Scheikh, for Burck-
hardt passed over the Nakb el Haul in eleven hours to Piran,
while we occupied sixteen, without including the short way
round through the Kteffe valley. After this the distances
stand thus : Prom Ayun Musa to Ain Hawareh 18 hours
35 minutes ; then to Wadi Grharandel, 2 hours 30 mi-
nutes (not from one hour and a half to two hours from
Eobinson's place of encampment as it is calculated above,
p. 307) ; to the outlet of the valley near Abu Zelimeh, 7
hours 12 minutes ; to the sea, 1 hour ; to Wadi Schellal, 4
hours 15 minutes ; to Piran, 13 hours 45 minutes ; to the
Convent, 16 hours. Eobinson cannot remove the encamp-
ment in the Wilderness of Sin to a more southern point
than the outlet of Wadi Schellal, because the people here,
according to him, stept forth out of the Wilderness of Sin.
Por the same reason he is compelled to place Alus in Piean.
On the other hand, in my opinion, not alone is the encamp-
ment at the sea not different from that at the outlet of the
valley at Abu Zelimeh, but the Wilderness of Sin mentioned
in the Book of Exodus, which extended as far as Sinai, and
ended with Eaphidim, is also the same as the two stations
mentioned in the Book of Numbers, Daphka and Alus, and
therefore in the last passage should as little have been men-
tioned as peculiar places of encampment, as the Eed Sea. The
Wilderness of Sin accordingly, like the Wilderness of Sur,
embraced three days' journey. The stations, and their re-
moteness from each other, stand therefore as follows :



According to Eobinson.

three Stations from Ayun Musa to Ain Hawareh =

to Wadi Gharandel = Elim.

to the Sea.

to Wadi Schellal = Wilderness of Sin.

two Stations to Firan = Daphka and Alus.

two Stations to tlie Plain of Raha = Raphidim
and Sinai.

According to my assumption,
three Stations to Wadi Gharandel = Marah.

to the Outlet of the Valley near Abu Zelimeh = Elim.

three Stations to Firan, i. e. by Daphka and Alus to
Raphidim at Sinai.

It is easy to imagine why the latter stations are somewhat
shorter than the first, on account of the greater difficulty of
the road. According to Robinson, the fourth station would
be scarcely explicable. Why did the people murmur so near
the twelve springs of Elim? How would precisely that
strikingly long journey of more than eight hours, from Elim
to the sea, not have been mentioned at all ? And how was
it possible that the days' marches should have constantly in-
creased in length amidst the lofty mountains and difficult
ground ?

Appendix D. (P. 314 and 318.) — The expounders of this
passage take the words: >tp'>bffi?n ti7"TnS. ^^ In the third
month,^^ as if it were written, '• 6ii the first day of the third
ononth,^^ and therefore refer the following " the same day,'""
equally to the first day of the month. See GtESENItjs,
Thesaur. p. 404, b: "tertiis calendis post exitum," and
p. 449, b: tertio novilunio, i. e. calendis mensis tertii.
Ewald, Gesch. des V. Isr. ii. p. 189. " The Bay (?) of the
third month {i. e. however of the new moon, therefore the
first dayy) But the Seventy at all events have not under-
stood it in this manner, as they translate : Too Se ixr)vbs rov


TpiTov TT] rjnepa ravrr]. It also appears that the Jewish tra-
dition have not comprehended it thus, as the Lawgiting,
which according to Exod. xix. 11, 15, occurred on the third
da J after their arrival, is even now solemnised by the Jews
on the fifth or sixth day of the third month, simultaneously
with the appointed harvest-feast, on the fiftieth day after the
Exodus (Leviticus xxiii. 15, 16) ; in accordance with this, the
arrival at Sinai must have happened on the third day of the
third month. We cannot, however, but perceive, how Itnn
without addition, might here be employed for neiv moon's day,
although in all other passages of customary speech it had lost
this etymological signification, and only meant month • even
in passages where the new moon's day itself was spoken of,
as in Exod. xl. 2, 17 ; Numb. i. 1 ; xxxiii. 38, where every-
where tri'nb inSS is especially added to it, " on the Jirst
(day) of the month," whereas passages like Numb. ix. 1, and
XX. 1, cannot naturally be cited, because here, there lies as
little reason as in Exod. xix. 1, to understand the Jirst of the
month, and the Seventy also do not translate, iv r]jxepa fiia, or
vov/irjvLa as in the former passages, but only in the simple
sense of the words eV rw fjLrjvi r© Trpoira. Our passage, Exod.
xix. 1, therefore, would alone remain, from which it would
be possible to conclude that there was such a double and
equivocal employment of li^ih, because here certainly the
following words, "the same day," indicate a particular single
day, which particular day, nevertheless, cannot be guessed
from our present text. But in my opinion this is exactly an
additional and not unimportant reason, to assume either a
transposition or a later insertion of these two verses. The
last is also assumed by Ewald, in so far as he, indeed (Gesch.
des V. Isr. p. 75), ascribes the account, xix. 8 — 24, but not
the two first verses, to the oldest sources. I have already
mentioned above (p. 316) that Josephus (Ant. iii. 2, 5), who
also does not understand the words from t\\Q first day of the
month, transposes the passage, and indeed to that very place
whither I, ignorant of this, had already placed it in my
earlier printed account, p. 48, namely, immediately after the


hattle of the Amalekites, to which " the same day" most na-
turally refers. If this is correct, then the original text ran
thus : that the Israelites at Eaphidim, in AVadi Firan, where
they fought the battle, were not only near Horeb, but also
near Sinai, that is to say, that both Mounts of God are one ;
and that, in fact, Moses first at Sinai received the visit of
Jethro, and, as appears most natural, first at Sinai organised
his people ; but at the same time it must be allowed that
Sinai, or Horeb, was no other mountain than Sebbal.

Supposing that, in this manner, we have correctly under-
stood the original connection, it did not first of all require
any statement of the month ; this would probably be only
added upon the isolation of the following section referring
to the lawgiving. In this case, only three exact dates for
the journey could exist. The people pass out from Eamses
in the first year, the first montli, on the fifteenth day; they
proceed from Elim, which is half-way, just one month after,
in the first year, second month, on the fifteenth day. The
days of rest at the stations are unknown, but if we assume
that the people proceeded without sojourning, then they
came to Eaphidim on the third day from Elim ; received the
water, and were attacked by Amalek on the fourth, fought
on the fifth till after sunset to the commencement of the sixth
day, and on the same sixth day (for the Hebrew day began
in the evening) encamped at Sinai. This would have been
in the fii'st year, in the second month, on the twentieth day.
Now as the retreat from Sinai followed in the second year,
in the second month, the twentieth day, then the sojourn at
Sinai would have lasted exactly one year. This coincidence
was perhaps originally as little the result of accident as the
duration of just one montli between the first departure from
Eamses and the second from Elim.

Appendix E. (P. 319.) — Two inscriptions in marble,
referring to the foundation of the convent, still exist, which
are let into the external wall fiicing the convent-garden, one
in Greek, the other in Arabic. Burckhardt (Trav. p. 545)
says : " An Arabic inscription over the gate, in modern cha-

APPElifDIX. 551

racters, says that Justinian built the convent in the thirtieth
year of his reign, as a memorial of himself and his wife
Theodora. It is curious to find a passage of the Koran intro-
duced into this inscription : it was probably done by a Mos-
lem sculptor, without the knowledge of the monks." The
Arabic inscription is certainly over the small door leading
into the garden. Ent if Burckhardt saw it here, it is incon-
ceivable that he did not see the Greek inscription beside it,
let into the wall with a similar border and shelter. Eobin-
sox saw neither of them (i. p. 205) ; Eicci caused the
Greek inscription to be copied, and from his copy this has
been communicated and translated by Letiio:n'XE in the
Journ. des Sav. 1836, p. 538, with some slight deviations.
But as early as 1823, another copy, which escaped Letronne,
was published by Sir Er. Henniker {JVotes during a Visit to
Egypt, Sfc. p. 235, 236), which, however, is very inaccurate,
although it endeavours to render the written characters
themselves. The Arahic inscription, as far as I am aware,
is still quite unknown. I have taken an impression of both
on paper, and offer a faithful representation of them here.
The Greek runs thus :

'Ek ^aQpoiv dvqyepbrj to lepbv tovto jjLovacrrqpiov tov 2ivaLov opovs
iv6a iXaXrja-ev 6 deos tco Mcova-rj napa tov Taireivov ^acrCkeoiS
'P(op.aLcov 'lovGTTiviavov TVpos citdLov iJLvrjixoavvov avTov kol r/)? ov^vyov
TOV Qeobapas eXa,3e TeXns peTciTO TpiaKoaTov eVos ti]s /3ao-tAetas tov,
Kai KaT€(TTr]cr€u iv avro)^ r]vovp.^vov 6v6p.aTi AovXa ev eTei ano p,ev
'ASa/x jTKa OTTO de XpL(rTOV (pK^ »

" This holy convent of jMount Sinai, where God spoke to
Moses, was built from the foundation by Justinian, the lowly
king of the Eomans, in eternal remembrance of the same,
and of his consort Theodora; it was completed in the thir-
tieth year of his reign, and he placed a chief in the same,
one of the name of Dulas, in the year 6021 smce Adam, 527
since Christ."

LETEo:^f^^E read in the second line eV m Trpoorov in place of
evBuy and in the seventh line KaTea-rqae t6v in place of KUTeo -
rrjo-ev. The written characters indicate about the twelfth or


thirteenth century. As the Emperor Justinian reigned from
527 — 5G5, it is assumed by the writer that the determination
to found the convent, and at the same time the appointment
of his abbot Dulas, occurred in the first year of the reign of
the emperor, although the completion of the edifice is not
placed before the thirtieth year of the same, i. e. 556 after
Christ. The year 6021 from the creation of the world cor-
responds to the year 527 after Christ, according to the
Alexandrine era of Panodorus and Anianus.
The Arabic inscription is this :

(jL«)lljj^-j (^c ij^jb i^^^jjij J 1,0 jj' (_^:>Lx-j^, L_.*AjJkl .^j^^ S^-H^^

" The convent of Toe (Mount) Sina, and the Church of
the Mount of the Interview, was built by the dependent on
God, and hoping in the promise of his Lord, the pious King
of the Greek Confession, Justianus (for Justinian), in re-
membrance of himself and his consort Theodora to last for
all times, iu order that God might inherit the earth, and
who upon it : for lie is tlie lest of tlie lieirs. And the build-
ing was completed after thirty years of his reign. And he
appointed it a chief, with the name of Dhulas. And this
happened after Adam 6021, which corresponds with the year
527 of tlie era of the Lord Christ."

The written characters of the inscription, according to
the learned judgment of the consul. Dr. Wetzstein^, who
has also most kindly taken upon himself the re-writing and
translation of the inscription here communicated, indicate
that it did not exist before the year 550 of the Moham-
medan era, which thus refers to the period when the Greek
inscription was also composed. The passage in the Koran
which BuRCKHAEDT already mentions, is to be found, Sur.