[b-hebrew] Evidenc for the Exodus

Walter R. Mattfeld mattfeld12 at charter.net
Wed Aug 4 20:21:51 EDT 2004

Stephen wrote:

>The description of Mt. Sinai in the Torah clearly describes a volcanic
>mountain. It almost requires a mental block not to see this. For example,
>see Exodus Chapter 19. There are numerous other examples.

Bill Rea wrote :
That starts from the assumption that what is being described is purely
a natural phenomena. Now if we consider that Moses went up into the
cloud on the top of the mountain for 40 days and nights and then
returned there must have been a miracle somewhere. Either we are
mistaken about our natural explanation or YHWH performed a miracle
in preserving the life of Moses who lived in a volcanic ash cloud
for a long time (if you think the 40 days and nights is merely a
symbolic time period.)

Take, for example, Ex 19:20 KJV

20 And the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and
the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.

If this is a volcanic eruption why does YHWH come *down* upon the

If you look for natural explanations of the signs and wonders in the
text you miss (probably deliberately) what the text is trying to tell
you. Often you end up only having pushed the sign or wonder into a
different aspect of the event, here the preservation of Moses' life.
It's a bit like the mess in Dr Suess's Cat in the Hat - the miraculous
just moves it doesn't go away. (That's an imperfect analogy.)

Dear Stephen and Bill,

Not all scholars have bought into the notion that Mount Sinai "must be" a
Volcano. As noted above by Bill Rea, the text suggests a cloud DESCENDS upon
Mt. Sinai with thunderings and lightnings (NOT erupts or _ascends_ from a
mount). We are told Yahweh is a FIERY GOD (Ex 24:17; De 5:24-26; 9:3).
Professor Frank Moore Cross understands that Yahweh's manifestation at Mt.
Sinai suggests he descends as a stormcloud full of lightining and thunder.
Of course, at times lightning sets off fires in nature.

Bill's note about the volcanic ash cloud that would _smother anyone_ near
the mount is a point well taken ! Many of the inhabitants of Pompeii and
Herculaneum in Italy died of aphixiation from the volcanic dust of  Mt.
Vesuvius before the ash settled on their dead bodies, burying them. Bill's
point is also well-taken about Moses climbing the mount, entering the ash
cloud which would surely have killed him. The people at the foot of the
mount would have died of ash asphixiation upon the settlement and collapse
of the volcanic smoke plume.

Having _eliminated_ Mt. Sinai as a volcano, we can put the Mt. back where
tradition places it, in the southern Sinai and not Saudi Arabia (the
so-called region of Madyan = Midian).

Professor Colin Humpreys (_The Miracles of Exodus, A Scientist's Discovery
of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories_. 2003)
attempted to identify the Pillar of Cloud leading Israel eastwards from
Egypt to Mt. Sinai as a volcanic plume. The problem ? How does the "volcanic
plume" _move_ from Jebel Bedr/Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia, leading Israel
"back," westwards, to Kadesh Barnea (his Ain el Qudeirat or Ain el Qadeis in
the Negev) ???

The Bible tells us that Yahweh spoke to Israel out of the FIRE, and that
because when they looked into this fire, they could see no image or form
(how could anyone "see through" a dark ash cloud and behold fire ?), they
were thus forbidden to make an image to worship (De 4:11-15). The notion of
a god being fiery in form is well attested in Egyptian and Mesopotamian
myths. The notion that a god could hurl down fire from heaven on his enemies
(2Ki 1:10-14; 2 Chr 7:1-3) is also well attested in Mesopotamian hymns to
their warrior gods like Asshur, Marduk and Ishtar, cf. the following url if


Yahweh (or his angel according to other verses) WAS DESCRIBED AS A PILLAR OF
CLOUD by day and a pillar of fire by night, leading Israel across the Sinai.
Why should it be so remarkable then, that this "moving" Pillar of Cloud
should _descend_ as a cloud full of fire in full view of the nation and
alight on the top of mount Sinai ? The Pillar of Cloud also _DESCENDS_
several times from heaven and "stands" at the entrance of the Tabernacle to
talk to Moses, while the nation beholds in awe the event (Ex 33:9-10).

I will have to AGREE with Bill Rea, that the narrative understands this to
be a MIRACLE not an erupting volcano.

Regards, Walter

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

mattfeld12 at charter.net


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