Geographer Glen Fritz Talks About his New Mt Sinai Book
PhD geographer Glen Fritz answers questions about his new book on Mount Sinai. The result of over 20 years of research, this stunning one-of-kind work makes the geographic and biblical case for the Exodus route leading to a mountain in modern Saudi Arabia.
Fritz comments on his book, The Exodus Mysteries: of Midian, Sinai and Jabal Al-Lawz
Q1: What made you want to write this book?
GLEN FRITZ: Years ago I realized that identifying the Exodus sea was the key to solving the Exodus route. I researched that question extensively and published my findings in “The Lost Sea of the Exodus” book. In short, the biblical “Red Sea” amounts to a late interpretation of the Hebrew sea called Yam Suph. The Red Sea term is very nonspecific, but the biblical references to Yam Suph clearly link it with the Gulf of Aqaba east of the Sinai Peninsula. Based on this determination, I also reconstructed the Exodus route from Egypt to the likely gulf crossing site (posted here).
The link between Yam Suph and the Gulf of Aqaba infers that Mount Sinai should be found farther east within Arabia. However, making a thorough geographical case for that location is a complex and lengthy undertaking that warranted a book of its own.
Q2: There has been criticism of the idea of Mount Sinai being on the Arabian Peninsula. What has been the biggest reason for those criticisms?
GLEN FRITZ: The criticism boils down to scholarly disagreement about the geographical definition of the Hebrew Yam Suph. The early traditions for a sea crossing near Egypt and a Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula arose from the limited understanding of the Red Sea geography. In particular, the size of the Gulf of Aqaba and its position at the foot of the “Promised Land.” This situation is portrayed well in antique maps such as shown here. As a result, the possibility that the Gulf of Aqaba was the Exodus sea was not considered for most of history.
Over the last century, confusion has been added to this issue by Egyptologists who have emphasized linguistics, rather than geography, in order to define Yam Suph as a reedy swamp near Egypt.
Q3: What is your general approach to this subject?
GLEN FRITZ: The route of the Exodus is not an archaeological problem. It is a geographical problem that must be analyzed with geographical tools.
The primary data source is the Hebrew Bible, which takes precedence over tradition. The main challenge is to correlate the biblical Exodus itinerary and landmarks with the physical geography and topography of the Exodus region.
The first Mount Sinai clues are found in Exodus 3:1, which describes Moses’ excursion to the “Mountain of God,” located in the “backside of the wilderness” relative to Midian. Since Moses traveled from Midian, it is important to ascertain its ancient domain, which has been a perennial topic of confusion. Historically, the land of Midian occupied the coastal Red Sea oasis in northwest Arabia. Armed with this knowledge, the mountains and historical travel paths in its vicinity can be cataloged and applied to Moses’ activity, and later, to the Hebrews’ journey to the mountain. (See evidence of walls built by nomads in Arabia.)
Q4: This work does not seem like a typical book. Why is it so expensive and what does it include?
GLEN FRITZ: This book is the product of more than twenty years of research, including travels to the Exodus region. Weighing in at a hefty six pounds, it has 576 glossy, 8-1/2” x 11” pages, with over 350 color maps, photos, and illustrations. It is nearly encyclopedic, presenting more geographical data and detail than any other Exodus-related book on the market. (See a past update that includes a video on searching for the lost sea of the Exodus.)
Q5: What was the biggest surprise to you along the way?
GLEN FRITZ: Overall, the sheer scale of the Exodus, the great multitude and the distances traversed, is awesome to contemplate. Having visited the Midian region, I was impressed with this stark reality as I plotted the route of the event through the mountain passes of the region.
Most of all, there is a fascinating relationship between the Egyptian army destruction at the sea crossing site and the Hebrews’ encampment at Yam Suph some days later. This serendipitous finding stemmed from my review of the Gulf of Aqaba oceanographic data in graduate school. A map of this analysis is shown here.
Q6: Do you have any plans for future works on biblical geography?
GLEN FRITZ: At this time, I don’t have any plans for a future book. A research project such as this is a consuming labor of love and it is daunting to think of going through it again. However, I am seeking ways to better explain the Exodus route on my website.
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