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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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Sin, Desert of
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a famous mountain of Arabia Petraea, on which God gave the law to Moses, Exodus 19:1; Exodus 24:16; Exodus 31:18; Exodus 34:2; Exodus 34:4 , &c; Leviticus 25:1; Leviticus 26:46 . It stands in a kind of peninsula, formed by the two arms of the Red Sea; one extending north, called the Gulf of Kolsom; the other extending east, called the Gulf of Elan. The Arabs call Mount Sinai by the name of Tor, that is, the mountain, by way of excellence; or Gibel Mousa, "the mountain of Moses." It is two hundred and sixty miles from Cairo, which is a journey of ten days. The wilderness of Sinai, where the Israelites continued encamped almost a year, and where Moses erected the tabernacle of the covenant, is considerably elevated above the rest of the country; the ascent to it is very craggy, the greater part cut out of the rock; then one comes to a large space of ground, which is a plain surrounded on all sides by rocks and eminences, whose length is nearly twelve miles. Toward the extremity of this plain, on the north, two high mountains appear; the highest is called Sinai, the other Horeb. They are of very steep ascent, and do not stand on much ground in comparison to their extraordinary height. Sinai is at least one third part higher than the other, and its ascent more upright and difficult. The top of the mountain terminates in an uneven and rugged space, which might contain about sixty persons. On this eminence is built a little chapel, called St. Catherine's, where it is thought the body of this saint rested for three hundred and sixty years; but afterward it was removed into a church at the foot of the mountain. Near this chapel issues a fountain of very good fresh water: it is looked upon as miraculous, it not being conceivable how water can flow from the brow of so high and so barren a mountain. Mount Horeb stands west of Sinai; so that at sun-rising the shadow of Sinai covers Horeb. Beside the little fountain at the top of Sinai, there is another at the foot of Horeb, which supplies the monastery of St. Catherine. Five or six paces from thence they show a stone, whose height is four or five feet, and breadth about three, which they say is the very stone from whence Moses caused the water to gush out. Its colour is of a spotted grey; and it is, as it were, set in a kind of earth, where no other rock appears. This stone has twelve holes or channels, which are about a foot wide, from whence they say the water issued which the Israelites drank.

"Sinai," says Sandys, "has three tops of a marvellous height; that on the west side, where God appeared to Moses in a bush, fruitful in pasturage, far lower than the middlemost, and shadowed when the sun riseth thereon; which is that whereon God gave the law to Moses, and which is now called the Mount of Moses, at the foot of which stands the monastery called St. Catherine's, from which there were steps formerly up to the very top of the mountain, and were computed fourteen thousand in number. At present some of them are broken, but those that remain are well made, and easy to go up and down. There are, in several places of the ascent, good cisterns; and especially near the top, a fair and good one. The third or most easterly summit is called by the religious in those parts, Mount Catherine; on the top of which there is a dome, under which they say was interred the body of this saint, brought thither by angels after she was beheaded at Alexandria." One may judge of the height of St. Catherine's Mount, which certainly is not so high as that of Moses by a third part, from this circumstance, that Thevenot found much snow on both when he was there, which was in February. The monastery of St. Catherine is from Cairo some eight days' journey over the deserts.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Sinai'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​s/sinai.html. 1831-2.
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