12 June 2016

Serabit el Khadim, Hathor, Moses, Mount Sinai and the Exodus

Serabit el Khadim is a mountain in the Sinai peninsula in Egypt. Near it are two other peaks with names that, to those who read the Torah / Pentateuch, may sound familiar: Jebel Saniya and Jebel Ghorabi. There is a temple to the goddess Hathor on Serabit el-Khadim.

After reading about the location in a fantasy fiction book that mentioned prominent archaeologist Flinders Petrie as well as the temple to Hathor, I became intrigued and wanted to learn more about this desert location. The book also mentioned the possibility that this location had been where Moses received the Ten Commandments, something that most definitely intrigued me as well.

I am personally interested in the story of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt and enjoy learning about the period of our world's history in which this Exodus may have taken place. Unlike many, I do not believe that Rameses II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus, believing it to be much more likely that the Exodus occurred around the time of Akhenaten. After all, Akhenaten changed the official religion of Egypt, turning it from a religion worshipping a large pantheon of gods and goddesses into one worshipping only a single god through Akhenaten - the Aten, depicted as the sun. As this Egyptian religion has a lot in common with the religion of Moses - monotheism - I started wondering what the connection was between the two.

According to the Bible, the tenth plague was the death of the firstborn males of Egypt. Akhenaten's older brother, the original Amenhotep III, died young and was the firstborn of his father. Akhenaten became Pharaoh only due to his older brother's death. What if the events Akhenaten witnessed as a child influenced him so much that he began to believe in the god of Moses and changed the state religion to one more in line with what he thought Moses believed and represented? While I am not someone who believes that every word in the Bible / Tanakh is true, I do believe that a lot of the stories in the Bible have a basis in fact. So, why wouldn't the Exodus also be based on actual events? Do I think events played out exactly as described in the Biblical books we know today? No. The Documentary Hypothesis sounds very plausible to me and I do believe that the Bible we know today is made up of stories from several different sources - stories woven together to make different tales into one narrative.

There is actual historical evidence that ancient Semitic peoples resided in north-eastern Egypt. There is actual historical evidence that the Egyptians used slaves to build many of the great monuments. There is actual historical evidence that Akhenaten lived - he was Tutankhamun's grandfather or forefather - and founded a new religion with its centre of worship based at Amarna. What if the ancient Hebrews helped build Amarna, instead of the store cities mentioned in the Bible? What if at least some of the Biblical plagues are based on actual events and inspired Akhenaten to make the sweeping changes he is so well known for today? What if...?

I am veering off-topic however, as I wanted to write about Serabit el Khadim. The website Mysterious World explains that Lina Eckenstein believed that Serabit el Khadim was the site of Moses' Mt. Sinai. Lina Eckenstein was a British polymath, historian, writer, researcher, philosopher, proofreader, translator, scholar, linguist and teacher. She was also a research assistant to Flinders Petrie, as well as someone who worked to change the role of women in society. She lived from 1857 to 1931 and, judging by the little information I've found about her online, sounds like someone I'd love to be stuck on a desert island with. Just imagine the stories someone like Lina Eckenstein could tell, the many amazing sights she'll have seen and the adventures she'll have had... I'm drifting off-topic again though. Back to Serabit el Khadim.

"As Eckenstein pointed out, besides fulfilling the geographical criteria as laid out in the Book of Exodus, the Serabit al-Kadim area also has many other outstanding features that the other locations do not share, including 1) the first recorded Semitic inscriptions, 2) a pre-existing temple complex (the Temple of Hathor, built over an even older Semitic temple), 3) a complete mining and manufacturing facility including substantial living quarters, and 4) a metallurgical facility including specialized tools, workstations and a crucible — all of which would have been necessary for Moses to have built the ark, the tabernacle and the associated furniture."

Source: Artifacts: The Exodus Revelation 1L Part 2: The Exodus | Mysterious World

Reading the paragraph above, Serabit el Khadim sounds like the perfect place for Moses to take his people to. Even the golden calf episode makes a lot of sense when one considers that Hathor was also known as the Cow Goddess as well as by many, many other names. To learn more about the origins of Hathor, read the very interesting article Origins of Hathor at the website if Sidney Rigdon.

Is it possible that the early Israelites took a lot of supplies with them when they fled from Egypt? Possible yes, however not all that likely when one considers they were, according to the story, being chased by an army. So, where did the people get the materials to build the Tabernacle with? Where did they get all the materials for the construction of the priestly garments? Reading about the construction of the Tabernacle and the making of the priestly garments as described in Exodus 38:21 to 40:38, one gets the idea that a lot of materials were needed for the construction / manufacture. Gold, silver, bronze, yarn in different colours, linen, precious stones, chains of pure gold, bells, clasps, frames, crossbars, posts and bases, ram skins, curtains... It seems logical that finding supplies in a desert can be hard (to say the least), which is why it makes sense to me that Moses and the Israelites did this at a location where supplies could be found.

Whether the Exodus as described in the Biblical Book of Exodus actually happened as described or not is something others have discussed for centuries. I am simply going with the answer that makes the most sense to me - some parts are based on fact while others are not. Even looking at modern-day reporting about an event, it often happens that different newspapers, television stations or reporters describe the same event in a different way - each from their own point of view, to influence readers / viewers to come to a certain conclusion or to promote a certain agenda. Just imagine what thousands of years of history, changes in religious mindset and thinking, as well as changes in understanding and culture might have done to change a story! Whether Serabit el Khadim truly is the site where Moses received the Ten Commandments is something only time will tell, if at all. Yet until we can be certain one way or another, it makes a lot of sense to me as a possible location for one of the most well-known happenings of the past several thousands of years.