Moses with Tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt, 1659

Mount Horeb (Hebrew: הַר חֹרֵב Har Ḥōrēḇ; Greek in the Septuagint: Χωρήβ, Chōrēb; Latin in the Vulgate: Horeb) is the mountain at which the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God, according to the Book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible. It is described in two places (the Book of Exodus and the Books of Kings)[1] as הַר הָאֱלֹהִים the "Mountain of Elohim". The mountain is also called the Mountain of YHWH.[2]

In other biblical passages, these events are described as having transpired at Mount Sinai. Although most scholars consider Sinai and Horeb to have been different names for the same place,[3][4][5] there is a minority body of opinion that they may have been different locations.[2]

The Protestant reformer John Calvin took the view that Sinai and Horeb were the same mountain, with the eastern side of the mountain being called Sinai and the western side being called Horeb.[6] Abraham Ibn Ezra suggested that there was one mountain, "only it had two tops, which bore these different names".[7] Locally, around Saint Catherine's Monastery, which is built adjacent to the Egyptian Mount Sinai and to Willow Peak, the latter is considered to be the Biblical Mount Horeb.[8]


"Horeb" is thought to mean glowing/heat, which seems to be a reference to the Sun, while Sinai may have derived from the name of Sin, the Ancient Mesopotamian religion deity of the Moon,[2][9] and thus Sinai and Horeb would be the mountains of the Moon and Sun, respectively.[2]


Moses Striking the Rock at Horeb, engraving by Gustave Doré from "La Sainte Bible", 1865

The name Horeb first occurs at Exodus 3:1, with the story of Moses and the burning bush.[10] According to Exodus 3:5, the ground of the mountain was considered holy, and Moses was commanded by God to remove his sandals.

Exodus 17:6 describes the incident when the Israelites were in the wilderness without water. When Moses was "upon the rock at Horeb", he strikes the rock and obtains drinking water from the rock.[11] Verse 7 goes on to say that Moses "called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'"[12]

The only other use of the name in Exodus is in chapter 33, where Horeb is the location where the Israelites stripped off their ornaments.[13] This passage (i.e., Exodus 33:1–6) suggests that Horeb was the location from which the Israelites set off towards Canaan as they resumed their Exodus journey.

In Deuteronomy, Horeb is mentioned several times in the account of the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness.[14] Moses recalled in Deuteronomy 1:6 that God had said to the Israelites at Horeb, "You have dwelt long enough at this mountain: turn and take your journey",[15] confirming that Horeb was the location from which they set off towards Canaan.

Other mentions of Horeb in Deuteronomy are found in the account of the delivery to Moses of the Ten Commandments, and in references back to it.[16] There are similar references at Psalm 106 and Malachi 4:4.[17] Deuteronomy 5:2 ("The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb") creates the sense that the current generation to whom Moses was speaking had been present at Mount Horeb when Moses descended with the commandments, although "the individuals who [had been] present had all perished with the exception of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb. [The] nation survived, and as it was with the nation as an organic whole that the covenant had been made. It might be with propriety said that it was made with those whom Moses addressed at this time, inasmuch as they constituted the nation."[18]

God Appears to Elijah on Mount Horeb, 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld

1 Kings 8:9 and 2 Chronicles 5:10 state that the Ark of the Covenant contained only the tablets delivered to Moses at Horeb.[19] In 1 Kings 19:8, Elijah visits "Horeb the mount of God".[20]

According to the documentary hypothesis, the name Sinai is used in the Torah only by the Jahwist and Priestly Source, whereas Horeb is used only by the Elohist and Deuteronomist.[9][21]

There are no references to Horeb in the New Testament. In Galatians 4:24–25, Mount Sinai is mentioned: "One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children." Mount Sinai/Horeb is alluded to in Hebrews 12:18–21.[22]


Mountain on the Sinai Peninsula identified by Francis Frith as Horeb

Main article: Biblical Mount Sinai § Suggested locations

The location of Horeb is disputed. Jewish and Christian scholars have advanced varying opinions as to its whereabouts since biblical times.[2] Elijah is described in 1 Kings 19:1–21 as traveling to Horeb (taking 40 days to walk there from Beersheba),[23] in a way which implies that its position was familiar when that was written, but there are no biblical references set any later in time. Additionally the passage identifies a cave large enough to lodge in.

Christian tradition considers Mount Horeb to be Willow Peak, located adjacent to Saint Catherine's Monastery.[8]


  1. ^ Exodus 3:1; 1 Kings 19:8
  2. ^ a b c d e Jacobs, Joseph; Seligsohn, Max; Bacher, Wilhelm. "Mount Horeb". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  3. ^ Coogan, Michael David. The Old Testament: A historical and literary introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures. Oxford University Press, USA, 2017: p. 108
  4. ^ Coogan, Michael David. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Oxford University Press, USA, 2001: p. 67.
  5. ^ Wright, N. T. (2018). Paul: A Biography. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK). p. 63. ISBN 978-0-281-07875-2. OCLC 994933821.
  6. ^ "Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 3: Harmony of the Law, Part I: Exodus 3". Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  7. ^ Gill, John. Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible on Deuteronomy 5, accessed 2 November 2015.
  8. ^ a b Tenney, Merrill C. (10 August 2010). The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 5: Revised Full-Color Edition. Zondervan Academic. p. 1157. ISBN 978-0-310-87700-4. Christian tradition generally claims Ras es-Safsaf as the Biblical Horeb and Jebel Musa as Sinai.
  9. ^ a b D. M. G. Stalker (1963). "Exodus". In Matthew Black and H. H. Rowley (ed.). Peake's Commentary on the Bible (second ed.). Thomas Nelson. section 178c.
  10. ^ Exodus 3:1
  11. ^ Exodus 17:6
  12. ^ Exodus 17:7
  13. ^ Exodus 33:6
  14. ^ Deuteronomy 1:2; 1:6; 1:19
  15. ^ Deuteronomy 1:6
  16. ^ Deuteronomy 4:10; 4:15; 5:2;9:8; 18:16; 28:69
  17. ^ Psalms 106:19; Malachi 4:4
  18. ^ Pulpit Commentary on Deuteronomy 5,, accessed 2 November 2015
  19. ^ 1 Kings 8:9; 2 Chronicles 5:10
  20. ^ 1 Kings 19:8
  21. ^ Harris, J. Rendel (1902). "Sinai, Mount". In James Hastings (ed.). A Dictionary of the Bible.
  22. ^ Calvin, John (2005). Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. p. 331.
  23. ^ 1 Kings 19:1–21