‘And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount’, Exod. 19. 20.
Even today, the exact location of Mount Sinai is highly disputed by scholars, but the traditional view, going back as far as Justinian in the sixth century AD, is that the mountain can be identified with Jabal M?s? (mount of Moses), a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. The mountain is also known as Mount Horeb in the Old Testament, Deut. 1. 6, and it was here that God revealed Himself to Moses and gave him the Ten Commandments, Exod. 20. The mountain presented the children of Israel with an awesome sight as it appeared to them to be on fire, Deut. 4. 11, and the entire mountain trembled violently, similar to that of a volcanic eruption with smoke enveloping the whole scene, Exod. 19. 16-18, cp. Judg. 5. 5. The noise must also have been deafening as the blare of horns grew louder and louder, cp. Pss, 18. 8-16; 68. 7, 8, ultimately proclaiming the power and majesty of God in answering Moses through thunder, Exod. 19. 18, 19, see also Deut. 33. 2. The writer to the Hebrews tells us of the affect that this event had, when he states that ‘So terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake’, 12. 21. In the New Testament, Paul uses the imagery of the mountain in an allegory to compare and contrast two distinct covenants. The first covenant is characterized by bondage and linked directly to Mount Sinai, which is interpreted by Paul as the earthly Jerusalem or Judaism with its inherent bondage to the law. By contrast, the second covenant, which Paul describes as ‘the Jerusalem which is above’ is characterized by freedom, and equates to the mother of all those children of promise, i.e., like Isaac, children born after the Spirit not after the flesh, Gal. 4. 21-31. This imagery is further developed in Hebrews chapter 12 where those who belong to Christ have no need of a sacred mountain like Sinai, but ‘are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem’, v. 22.
Our picture also shows the famous Saint Catherine’s monastery that has existed at the foot of Mount Sinai since the sixth century AD. It was here, in the nineteenth century, that Constantin (von) Tischendorf discovered parts of the fourth century AD Codex now known as Sinaiticus, which contains the oldest surviving complete manuscript of the New Testament together with fragments of the Old Testament. Later, Tischendorf gifted the codex to his patron, the Russian Tsar Alexander II. When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917, they looted many of the prize artefacts of the Russian royal family, and, in 1933, under the ruthless leadership of Joseph Stalin, who was desperate for foreign currency to implement his socialist plans, sold the Codex to the British Museum for £100,000. How sad to think that God’s word has been so despised by men that it is simply reduced to some form of monetary value. May we learn to rightly value the word of God in our lives, and, like Ezekiel, may it taste as sweet as honey, Ezek. 3. 3.