When Yahweh resided in an Arabian volcano

"Yahweh came from Sinai" (Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:18). It is in Sinai that Moses first encounters Yahweh; it is back to Sinai that Moses leads Yahweh's people from Egypt; and it is from Sinai that, two years later, on Yahweh's order again, Moses sets off with them to conquer a piece of the Fertile Crescent.

But where is Sinai, with its Mount Horeb? Exodus unequivocally places it in the land of Midian. After fleeing "into Midianite territory," Moses is hosted by "a priest of Midian with seven daughters" (2:15-16). He "agreed to stay on there with the man, who gave him his daughter Zipporah in marriage" (2:21). Moses' father-in-law is named Reuel in Exodus 2:18, but Jethro in Numbers 3:1, "Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite" in Numbers 10:29, and "Hobab the Kenite" in Judges 1:16. We'll call him Jethro, his most popular name. His daughter Zipporah gave Moses two sons: Gershom (2:22) and Eliezer (18:4). It is while grazing his father-in-law's flocks that Moses finds himself near Mount Horeb, "to the far side of the desert" (3:1), where he hears Yahweh call his name. By implication, Sinai is in Midian.

And where is Midian? Greek authors unanimously place it in northwestern Arabia, on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. Even Paul the Apostle, who spent three years in Arabia, knew that "Sinai is a mountain in Arabia" (Galatians 4:25). It was not before the 4th century that the biblical Sinai was misplaced in the Egyptian peninsula, probably for geopolitical reasons (Egypt was within the control of the Roman Empire, unlike Arabia, under Persian influence). But placing the biblical Sinai west of the Gulf of Aqaba didn't make any sense, since that region had always belonged to Egypt (archeology has confirmed it). Why would the Israelites have settled there when chased by the Egyptian army? The same goes for Moses' earlier flight from Egypt as a wanted murderer. Never mind if these stories are true or not: the point is that their authors could not possibly have placed Sinai and Mount Horeb within Egyptian territory.

Where, then, did the Israelites cross the Red Sea? They probably didn't: the biblical "Red Sea" is a mistranslation originating from the Greek Septuagint. These waters are simply referred to in Hebrew as Yam Suph (23 times), which means "Sea of Reeds," and suggests a body of shallow fresh water, which Yahweh simply "dried up" before the Israelites, according to Joshua 2:10. It could be anywhere, in this land of ephemeral wadis.
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The precise location of Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai (both names are used interchangeably) can be deduced from the phenomena witnessed by the Israelites there:
"there were peals of thunder and flashes of lightning, dense cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast; and, in the camp, all the people trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God; and they took their stand at the bottom of the mountain. Mount Sinai was entirely wrapped in smoke, because Yahweh had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke rose like smoke from a furnace and the whole mountain shook violently. Louder and louder grew the trumpeting. Moses spoke, and God answered him in the thunder" (Exodus 19:16-19).
If Mount Horeb shakes like a volcano, rumbles like a volcano, smokes like a volcano, and spits fire like a volcano, then it should be a volcano. The region of Midian in Northwestern Arabia happens to be a volcanic area, unlike the Egyptian Sinai. Volcanic activity was still reported there in the Middle Ages.[1] One likely candidate is Jabal Maqla, which is part of the Jabal al-Lawz mountain range in northwestern Saudi Arabia. Its summit, reaching almost 8500 feet, consists of metamorphic rocks of volcanic origin.

Explorer Charles Beke was one of the first modern scholars to point out that Mount Sinai must be a volcano (Mount Sinai a Volcano, 1873), and to place it in Arabia (Sinai in Arabia and of Midian, 1878). New arguments were added in 1910 by Czech orientalist and explorer Alois Musil, who in turn inspired other investigators and scholars.[2] The Jabal al-Lawz candidacy has gained the support of a growing number of scholars, including Hershel Shanks, editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review, and Frank Moore Cross, professor of Hebrew at Harvard. What was originally a confidential scholarly debate began to be popularized in the 1990s, in books by adventurers such as Larry Williams,[3] or Howard Blum,[4] and documentary films such as "Searching for the real Mt Sinai," or "Search for Mt. Sinai-Mountain of Fire").

Two new books appeared recently, one by a Christian Evangelical, Joel Richardson (Mount Sinai in Arabia), and the other by a Jewish rabbi, Alexander Hool (Searching for Sinai). And in 2018, the Doubting Thomas Research Foundation has launched a couple of websites, and, dedicated to present the complete evidence for the Arabian Sinai. It has produced the best documentary so far, "Finding the Mountain of Moses: The Real Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia."

NEOM and the Saudi-Israeli secret deal

So far, the Saud royal clan, while well aware of possessing the true Sinai and the archaeological remnants surrounding it, have prohibited its access to foreign adventurers and archaeologists. But it may soon become an issue in the war of holy places in the Middle East. During their occupation of the Egyptian Sinai between 1967 and 1982, the Israelis had engaged in intense but fruitless archaeological search there; the Arabian alternative for the Mountain of God cannot leave them indifferent. Huge symbolic power is at stake. As everything biblical, the issue has far-reaching geopolitical implications in the eyes of the lords of Zion. Not to mention the financial prospect. Joel Richardson's introduction to his Mount Sinai in Arabia sounds like a touristic pamphlet targeting Yahweh worshippers worldwide:
"This was the very place where God Himself 'came down'. [...] This is a mountain that is literally drenched with divine history. [...] Visiting Jebel al-Lawz [...] was the single most soul-stirring and faith-building experience of my life. [...] The time is ripe. Within the sovereignty of God, I fully believe that the season has come in which Jebel al-Lawz will finally be fully opened not only to archeologists but to the whole world."
The growing popularization of the Arabian Sinai cannot be unrelated to the NEOM project announced in October 2017 by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: a high-tech, ultra-connected, transnational mega city and economic zone, covering 10,230 square-miles (about the size of Massachusetts), which happens to correspond roughly to ancient Midian. Operating under a specific legal regime geared for a Western lifestyle and insulated from Islamic law, NEOM will also target luxury tourism. Richardson hopes that Jebel al-Lawz will be part of the attraction:
"If current plans continue, the Saudi Kingdom will soon be opening to tourism for the first time in its history. Is the sovereign hand of God at work? [...] In the current atmosphere of increasing unbelief, the same God who descended upon the mountain before multitudes has ordained that it now emerge from the relative shadows to be marveled upon by an even greater multitude."[5]
Neom israel
Israel, whose city of Eilat will be just a few kilometers away with direct access by boat, is a major — although discreet — stakeholder in the mega-project. A Jerusalem Post reporter claims to have seen
"correspondence between Arab diplomats and Israeli businessmen confirming that talks are ongoing over economic cooperation, and a number of Israeli companies are already selling cybersecurity tools to the Saudi government."
This joint venture, comments the Israeli reporter, is "a blow to the decades-long Arab League boycott of the Jewish state." Indeed, the legendary Saudi-Israeli enmity is rapidly morphing into an overt alliance for the control of the Middle East at the expense of Iran. MBS may now be reversing 70 years of Saudi boycott of Israel, saying, "Jews have a right to their own land."
netanyahu kushner
What sparked this romance was love potion # 9/11. This sophisticated false flag operation orchestrated by the crypto-Zionist neocons had an inbuilt device to blackmail Saudi Arabia into alignment (or, let's say, force the Sauds to purge their anti-Israeli elements): besides Osama bin Laden, 15 of the 19 alleged hijackers were Saudis. That was a message in itself, and David Wurmser hammered it with an article in the Weekly Standard of October 29, 2001, entitled: "The Saudi Connection: Osama bin Laden's a Lot Closer to the Saudi Royal Family Than You Think." Many books and articles were written with the same line.[6] Pressure increased when the New York Times, July 26, 2003, revealed that a 28-page section detailing possible involvement of specific Saudi officials had been censored from the 9/11 Commission Report. One of the key men in this blackmailing operation was Senator Bob Graham, brother-in-law of Washington Post owner Katharine Graham (born Meyer), with his book[7] and interviews, notably on Democracy Now. To anyone aware that bin Laden had nothing to do with 9/11, it should be obvious that the 28 "censored" pages of the 9/11 Commission report are a sham like the rest of it, an integral part of the false flag to blackmail Saudi Arabia into a new Israel-friendly policy.

It was effective, judging from the good job the Saudis have done for Israel in the last decade, by directing their jihadists against Libya and Syria. "Israel is said to be working with Saudi Arabia on an Iran strike plan," according to The Times of Israel, November 17, 2013. The Saud's war in Yemen, directed against the Houthi Ansarullah movement, mostly Shiite and Israelophobic ("Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews," says their slogan), is another proof of their readiness to serve Zion. On October 26, 2017, Mohammad bin Salman declared that his war against Yemen is about preventing the creation of another Hezbollah in the Middle East. Iran is justifiably worried about this new alliance, as you can see in this 2017 Press TV debate.

Some believe that the Saudi-Israeli secret alliance actually goes back to the very foundation of Saudi Arabia. At least, a strong argument can be made that the creation of Saudi Arabia by Great Britain in the early 20th century fitted the Zionist agenda (read "How Zionism helped create the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia"). Made and maintained by the same Anglo-Zionist forces, both States are destined to disappear together, Sheikh Imran Hosein believes. But the Zionist plan is to fulfill Yahweh's promise to Abraham (which Jews generally consider a promise to the Jews): "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates" (Genesis 15:18-21). Which, of course, means that northern Arabia must one day fall under Israeli control. Which is what NEOM may really be about. The signs of a "Greater Israel" hidden agenda are everywhere, including in such headlines as Haaretz's "Before Islam: When Saudi Arabia Was a Jewish Kingdom," a perfect example of Israelis' propensity to use insignificant or fraudulent archeological findings to support their imperial hubris.

Greater Israel, "from the Nile to the Euphrates"

There are actually rumors that both Muhammad ibn Saud (1710-1765), founder of the Saud dynasty, and his partner Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab (1703-1792), founder of Wahhabism, were Jews of ancient stock. The Memoirs of a British spy named Hempher, made known in 1888 by Ottoman admiral Ayyub Sabri Pasha, claims that Abd-al-Wahab was from a family of Dönmeh, and that his reform was covertly supported by the British as part of a strategy to foment division within Islam and destabilize Ottoman rule. This source is taken seriously in an Iraqi Military Intelligence report dated 2002 and entitled "The Emergence of Wahhabism and its Historical Roots", translated by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Iraqi report also refers to other Arabian sources claiming that ibn Saud was descended from a Jewish merchant from Basra. These claims receive a lot of echo in the Islamic world. It is especially common among Iranian Shiites to consider that "Wahhabism has its roots in Judaism," as an Iranian top general recently stated.[8] Wahhabis do indeed seem to be driven by the same bloodthirsty demon that spoke to Moses, Joshua and Elijah, a point appropriately illustrated by their fury against Baal, Yahweh's biblical nemesis, whose ancient temple in Palmyra the Islamic State blew up in 2015.

Although the crypto-Jewish origins of Wahhabism and/or the Saud dynasty seem impossible to authenticate, they are not implausible. There have been powerful Jewish communities in Arabia from very ancient times. At the time of the prophet Muhammad, writes Gordon Newby in A History of the Jews of Arabia, "Jews were present in all areas of Arabian society. There were Jewish merchants, Jewish bedouins, Jewish farmers, Jewish poets, and Jewish warriors. Jews lives in castles and in tents. They spoke Arabic as well as Hebrew and Aramaic."[9] They bore Arab names and their tribal organization was no different from that of other Arabs. Many converted to Islam over the centuries but some may have maintained some secret Jewishness. The most powerful Jewish community that Muhammad had to deal with was that of Khaybar, a hundred miles north of Medina. In the 12th century, there were still 50,000 Jews in that region, according to Jewish traveller Benjamin of Tuleda. They "go forth to pillage and to capture booty from distant lands in conjunction with the Arabs, their neighbors and allies."[10] In 1875, Charles Montagu Doughty found that they had become "Moslems outwardly, but, in secret, cruel Jews that will suffer no stranger to enter among them."[11] Itzhak Ben-Zvi postulates a form of crypto-Judaism to explain the simultaneity of the decline of north Arabian Jewry and the rise of the Wahhabis.[12]

The Arabian cradle of Judaism

The question of the Jewish origins of the Sauds belongs to the larger issue of the ties between Judaism, Islam, and Arabia. In the rest of this article, I will present the overwhelming evidence for the Arab origin of the Israelites, then the equally overwhelming evidence for the Jewish origin of Islam and the Mosaic pattern of its conquest of Syria. By connecting these two pictures, we'll get a broader perspective on the deep cultural current that has kept spreading from the Arabian desert since Moses' time.

First, let's get back to Moses' story. As I have said in an earlier article, the general scholarly consensus is that the first compilation of the Tanakh dates from the exilic period. But the Exodus story itself is much older and, apart from miracles and revelations, it has the ring of historical plausibility. The name "Israelites" must be anachronistic, though, since the kingdom named Israel existed long before being converted to Yahwism by Judeans. The Bible indicates that the "Israelites" were called "Hebrews" by the Egyptians (14 times in Exodus) and by the Philistines (8 times in 1Samuel), a term also employed with the vulgar meaning of "bandits" or "robbers" in Isaiah 1:23 and Hosea 6:9.[13] That name may be identical to the Habirus mentioned in the Amarna tablets discovered in Middle Egypt, sent from Canaan some time during the second millennium BCE to implore the speedy aid of the Pharaoh against the nomadic tribes of Habirus.[14] Moses' throng of migrants was probably not the first wave of Habirus to covet Canaan, and certainly not the last.

Canaan was a prosperous region, unlike the poorer lands of its southern fringe. Its inhabitants, whom the Bible portrays as detestable idolaters, were members of a technologically and culturally advanced civilization, organized in city-states, producing wheat, wine, oil, and other valuable products in large quantities. According to the report of the tribal chiefs sent by Moses in reconnaissance, "It does indeed flow with milk and honey. [...] At the same time, its inhabitants are a powerful people; the towns are fortified and very big" (Numbers 13:27-28).
greater israel
It is commonly held that the biblical paradigm for the relationship between Jews and Arabs is encapsulated in the Genesis story of the half-brothers Isaac and Ishmael. But in fact, a more revealing background is provided by the Exodus story of the Israelis' interaction with the Midianites, a semi-nomadic people known for their advanced skill in domesticating camels, and for their extensive commercial activity.[15]

As in a palimpsest, the narrative presenting Moses as the true discoverer of Yahweh seems to be written over an older story presenting Yahweh as a Midianite god adopted by Moses from his father-in-law, who is said to be a "priest" (kohen). Exodus hints that Mount Horeb was already known "holy ground" (3:5) when Moses approached it. And the Bible so much emphasizes that marrying a non-Israelite woman leads to adopting her gods that we may apply it to Moses, especially since it is Moses' Midianite wife who, "taking up a flint, [...] cut off her son's foreskin" in order to appease Yahweh's anger toward her husband (Exodus 4:24-26).

In Exodus 18, after leading his people from Egypt and establishing his camp in the Midianite desert, "Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed to him and kissed him." Then Jethro "offered a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God; and Aaron and all the elders of Israel came and ate with Moses' father-in-law in the presence of God" (18:7-12). Here it is Jethro who acts as a priest of Yahweh, while Moses and Aaron are merely guests in the ceremony. Soon after, when Moses feels overwhelmed by the task of governing alone a great number of people, it is Jethro who, again with the authority of a priest of Yahweh, advises him to institute the Judges; "Moses took his father-in-law's advice and did just as he said" (18:19-25). Moses then needs his father-in-law to guide him to Canaan, telling him: "You know where we can camp in the desert, and so you will be our eyes. If you come with us, we shall share with you whatever blessings Yahweh gives us" (Numbers 10:31-32). From Judges 1:16, we understand that Moses's father-in-law agreed and "marched up with the sons of Judah."

The sum of all these stories suggests that the cult of Yahweh originated with the Midianites. This hypothesis was first formulated in German by Friedrich Wilhelm Ghillany in 1863,[16] then in English by Karl Budde in 1899.[17] The theory has gained wide support, and is today convincingly presented by Swiss scholar Thomas Römer.[18] It doesn't necessarily imply that the Hebrews only adopted Yahweh under Moses' guidance: when Yahweh mandates Moses to tell his people in Egypt, "Yahweh, the god of your ancestors, has appeared to me" (3:16), the implication is rather that he is talking to Midianites. The situation is historically plausible, since nomadic tribes are known to have migrated into the pastureland of the border-districts of Egypt, from where they could be put to contribution for any great building operations.[19]

Moses' most significant innovation to the Midianite cult, apparently, was to provide Yahweh with mobility, thanks to the Ark and the Tabernacle, a luxurious gold-plated tent (using the gold stolen from the Egyptians), the detailed specifications of which are given in Exodus, chapters 25 to 31. Henceforth, it is in this tent that Moses — believe it or not — would talk to Yahweh "face to face, as a man talks to his friend" (33:11). That delocalization of Yahweh can be regarded as the first stage in the long process that will ultimately turn Yahweh from a volcano-dwelling deity into the omnipresent "God of Heaven and Earth."

Yet Yahweh would long remain attached to the volcanic crater from which it first emerged into this world. He had guided the Israelites from Egypt, "by day in a pillar of cloud to show them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light" (13:21), as if by a vision of himself as volcano. On the eve of the migration from Sinai to Canaan, there is a vague notion that he wouldn't really leave his mountain, but will "send an angel" to guide Moses (Exodus 23:20).[20] Centuries after the Exodus, the prophet Elijah walks 40 days on a pilgrimage to "the mount of God, to Horeb," where, after a hurricane, an earthquake and a fire eruption, he received God's word (1Kings 19). Yahweh continues to be called El Shaddai, possibly meaning "the god from the mountain" (Genesis 17:1, Exodus 6:2-3).[21] His addiction to the "pleasant smell" of carbonized flesh, known as holocausts (Genesis 8:21) can be ascribed to his volcanic genes. And he definitely keeps a volcanic character throughout: he is "a consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24), expected in prophetic visions to "glow like a furnace," and "set ablaze" all evil-doers (Malachi 3:19).

Other Abrahamic peoples

According to Genesis 25:2-4, the Midianites are descendants of Abraham by his second wife Keturah. They are therefore heirs of the Abrahamic covenant, just like the Ishmaelites, descendants of Abraham by his servant Agar. Midianites and Ishmaelites are actually more or less confused in Genesis 37, where it is said that Joseph was sold by Midianites to Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt (37:28), then that "the Midianites had sold him in Egypt" (37:36).
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In addition to the Midianites, the Israelites interact with a series of peoples on their way to Canaan, notably the Moabites, the Edomites (or Idumeans), and the Amalekites. Although they practice agriculture around urbanized crossroads, all these peoples are mostly semi-nomadic pastors and merchants. They are all given as descendants of Abraham in Genesis: Moab is Abraham's nephew (19:31-38), Edom or Esau is Abraham's grandson (25:25), and Amaleq is Esau's grandson (36:12). Kinship doesn't necessarily rhyme with friendship. The Israelites are told in Deuteronomy, "You must not regard the Edomite as detestable, for he is your brother" (23:8), but Moabites must be excluded from the community to the tenth generation (23:4-5). As for the Amalekites, who "occupy the Negeb area" according to Numbers 13:29, they deserve to be eradicated from the face of the earth according to 1Samuel 15:2.

In Judges 1:16, Moses's father-in-law is called a Kenite rather than a Midianite. It is generally assumed that the Kenites were a tribe among the larger nation of the Midianites, and that the Israelites had a special alliance with the Kenites, rather than with the Midianites as a whole. The name of the Kenites actually means "blacksmiths" or "iron-workers", and it makes sense for such people to worship a volcano. Tribes of blacksmiths were nomadic because their skills were required over a very wide area. They were the objects of superstitious fears, because the art of metalworking is associated with magic. Strangely, the name of the Kenites (Qayn in Hebrew) is identical to the name of Cain, whose descendants are described in Genesis 4 as "restless wanderers" living in tents, inventors of ironwork, makers of metallic musical instruments, and protected from harm by a mysterious mark. The original Cain and Abel story must have originated from a people who claimed Cain as their ancestors,[22] since the third brother Seth appears to be a secondary addition (his children's names in Genesis 5:6-32 are a copy of Cain's children's names in Genesis 4:17-18). Other biblical traditions may be derived from Kenite folklore, according to Hyam Maccoby.[23]

According to 1 Chronicles 2:55, the Kenites are "descended from Hammath, father of the House of Rechab." This makes the Kenites identical or kindred to the Rechabites. Jonadab the son of Rechab stands at the side of the Judean Yahwist general Jehu when he exterminates the priests of Baal in the northern kingdom of Israel (2Rois 10). The prophet Jeremiah commends the Rechabites for their fidelity to Yahweh and to their ancestor who ordered them not to "drink wine, build houses, sow seed, plant vineyards or own them, but [to] live in tents all your lives" (Jeremiah 35:6-7). Benjamin of Tuleda mentions Rechabites in Arabia in the 12th century, and several explorers still find them there in the early 19th century.[24]

The Kenites and Rechabites are the only peoples besides the Israelites who are presented systematically in benevolent terms in the bible. Saul spares the Kenites when he exterminates the Amalekites among whom they dwell, because, he tells them, "you acted with faithful love towards all the Israelites when they were coming up from Egypt" (1Samuel 15:6). When David "sent parts of the booty to the elders of Judah, town by town," some of it goes to "the towns of the Kenites" (1Samuel 30:26-29).[25] In contrast, the rest of the Midianites are presented negatively from the beginning of the conquest of Canaan. In Numbers 31, Midianites dwelling in the land of Moab are blamed for inciting the Israelites to intermarry with the Moabites, bringing on them "the vengeance of Yahweh." Moses formed an army to slaughter all the Midianites. (Yet in Judges 6, the Midianites are still a powerful people, allied with the Amalekites to oppress the Israelites.)

Finally, we need to mention the Benjaminites. Although they are presented as one of the twelve tribes, the last chapters of Judges (19 to 21) show them at war with the other eleven tribes. Benjamin means Ben Yamin, or "son of Yemen." Does that mean they came from Yemen, the south-western part of Arabia? It is not certain, since Yemen actually means "South". But it is a strong possibility. There is a very ancient Jewish presence in Yemen, going back at least to the Himyarite Kingdom that controlled Arabia from the beginning of our era or earlier. It is believed that the king of Himyar converted to Judaism in 380 and that in the 6th century, the last Jewish king, Yûsuf Dhû Nuwâs, unleashed a great massacre of Christians, but fell in his turn when the Ethiopian Christian king invaded Yemen. The dates and details of this story are uncertain, and the origin of the Yemenite Jews (most of them relocated to Israel in 1949-50) remains partly mysterious. According to one of their legends, they were descended from the union of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. According to another, they had migrated from Israel before the destruction of the First Temple, and had refused to return from exile at the time of Ezra.[26] Genetic studies show that they are closely related to other Jewish groups, and linguistic studies show that Yemenite Hebrew is archaic.[27]

In conclusion, we have found an abundance of biblical evidence that Yahweh was originally a Midianite god, perhaps specially worshipped by the Kenites and the Rechabites, and that those presented as "Israelites" originate from Arabia (whether or not they had spent time in eastern Egypt). There is also extra-biblical evidence of a very ancient connection between Jews and Arabs. The three Jewish tribes residing in Yathrib (Medina) at the time of Muhammad claimed they had been living in the Hijaz since the time of Moses. Orientalist David Samuel Margoliouth believed their presence may very well be that ancient. He also argued that many Hebrew names, including that of Yahweh, were Arabic, and that the Book of Job, among other biblical stories, "ostensibly comes from Arabia."[28]

The story of Joseph looks totally Arabian to Kamal Salibi, professor of history and archeology in Beirut. In The Bible Came from Arabia (1985), he proposes a radical hypothesis: he relocates in Western Arabia all biblical place names and therefore all biblical history, from Abraham to Solomon through Moses. Egyptian researcher Ashraf Ezzat comes to a similar conclusion in his book Egypt Knew no Pharaohs nor Israelites. I do not find those theories very strong, but the evidence of the Arabic origin of Yahwism, the matrix of Jewish culture, is overwhelming.

The Judaic cradle of Islam

I mentioned earlier the thesis that Wahhabism is a Jewish creation. But was not Islam itself a Jewish creation from the beginning? The influence of Judaism on Muhammad is beyond question. It is reflected in many Koranic references to Moses (Musa), Abraham (Ibrahim), Joseph, David, Jonah, Solomon, and other biblical figures. Whole surahs are devoted to biblical legends, "often with postbiblical midrashic embellishments presumably gathered from local Jewish oral traditions," writes professor Mark Cohen in the A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations. "At the outset, most scholars agree, Muhammad assumed the Jews would flock to his preaching and recognize him as their own prophet — indeed, the final, or 'seal' of the prophets."[29] He prayed toward Jerusalem, adopted the Jews' prohibitions, and fasted on the same days. He married a woman from the Banu an-Nadir, one of the two wealthiest Jewish tribes of Yathrib (Medina), considered to be of priestly origin, which puts him in a position strikingly reminiscent of Moses marrying the daughter of a Midianite priest.

The Jewish tribes of Yathrib "were supposed to have derived from a migration of priests to Arabia some time after the destruction of the Second Temple," explains Gordon Newby, author of a respected History of the Jews of Arabia. "The presence of a [Jewish] priestly influence in Arabia will help account for the plethora of eschatological traditions ascribed to Jews in Islamic literature or utilized by Muslim exegetes based on Jewish writings".[30] According to Newby, "Islam developed against the background of an Arabia strongly under the influence of Judaism."
"Islam and Judaism in Arabia during Muhammad's lifetime were operating in the same sphere of religious discourse: the same fundamental questions were discussed from similar perspectives; moral and ethical values were similar; both religions shared the same religious characters, stories, and anecdotes. We can see this when we look at the implied context of the Qur'ânic message. There is no expectation that the stories we call biblical are anything but familiar to the Arabian listeners. [...] Muhammad's expectations that he might convert the Jews to his view were not unreasonable. It is clear that Muhammad did not think that he was starting a 'new' religion but, rather, restoring and reforming the Abrahamic heritage among the Jews and Christians of Arabia."[31]
According to French historian of Islam Alfred-Louis de Prémare, all information available, from every origin (Syriac, Armenian or Greek), indicates that Muhammad was the initiator of the Arab conquest of Palestine. The initial orientation of the prayer towards the Holy City bears witness to this (it was redirected toward Mecca in the 8th century).[32] Like the Israelite conquest ten centuries before, the Arab conquest was a form of razzia. It "appealed to the greed for booty of ever larger circles of Arabs," in the words of historian of Islam Hichem Djait. "Almost all Arabs who participated in the wars of conquest found themselves enriched by booty, to the point that we can say that booty became the incentive for the conquest."[33] Like the Israelites, they had a strong ethnic consciousness: the Prophet and most of his companions, as well as all the caliphs up to the 13th century, came from a single Arab tribe, the Quraych, who already controlled the sanctuary of Mecca in pre-Islamic times.

The context was strikingly similar to that of the biblical conquest of Canaan. Moses had taken advantage of the centuries-long struggle between Egypt and Assyria for the control of Syria. Muhammad and his successors took advantage of the war between the Persian and the Byzantium empires for the control of the very same territory. These Byzantine-Sasanian wars had exhausted both empires' military resources, and revived among Jewish communities the messianic hope of seizing power over the ancient land of Israel. Around 612, the 4,000 Jews living in the city of Tyre secretly conspired with Jews from Jerusalem, Cyprus, Damascus, Tiberias and Galilee, to seize their city during the Christian holiday of Easter, then march together to drive the Christians out of Jerusalem. The plot was discovered and the Jewish army of 26,000 found Tyre well prepared to receive them. But when in 614 the Persians besieged Jerusalem, they were assisted from within by the Jews, who then received governorship over the city and permission to build a temple. The Jews then committed one of the largest massacres of Christians in history (read "Mamilla Pool," by Israel Shamir). The Persians changed their policy within three months and expelled the Jews from Jerusalem.

When the Byzantines took back Palestine in 628, and their emperor Heraclius made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem in 630, many Jews took refuge to Arabia, Persia or Egypt. More fled when, two years later, weary of his Jewish subjects' betrayals, Heraclius published an unprecedented decree compelling all the Jews and Samaritans of his empire to become Christians. Although the decree was not systematically enforced, it intensified the Jews' anti-Byzantine messianic fever. Several Jewish apocalyptic and prophetic texts were written in that period, some promissing that "the Empire will soon pass to Israel." The Sefer Zerubavel (or Apocalypse of Zerubbabel) announced the restoration of Israel and the establishment of the Third Temple, designating Heraclius (under the cryptogram Armilius) as the Antichrist. It is quite remarkable that the Islamic conquest of Syria followed within a few years of the proclamation by Heraclius of his "final solution" to the Jewish question.[34]

I recommand on the subject the first two chapters of the groundbreaking book by professors Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World (available on Drawing from non-Islamic sources of the 7th century, the authors find the origin of Islam in a form of Jewish messianism assigning to the Ishmaelites (or Hagarenes, from the name of Ishmael's mother Hagar) a share in God's promise to Abraham and the divinely ordained mission to take possession of the Promised Land in cooperation with the sons of Israel who have lost it.[35]

The sources used by the authors are not many, but they are very consistent in their accounts of "a wider intimacy in the relations of Arabs and Jews" at the time of Muhammad, and "the warmth of the Jewish reaction to the Arab invasion," as well as "a marked hostility towards Christianity on the part of the invaders." For example, the Doctrina Jacobi is a book written in Palestine in the 630s, in the form of a dialogue taking place in Carthage, between a sincerely converted Jew named Jacob and other Jews, either baptized by force or non-baptized. It mentions Muhammad as a prophet from the Saracens who is proclaiming "the advent of the anointed one who is to come" and the redemption of the Promised Land for all children of Abraham. The Secrets of Rabbi Simon ben Yohay is a Jewish apocalypse of the mid-eighth century. It asserts that God "brings the kingdom of Ishmael" in order to save the Jews from the wickedness of Byzantium. "He raises up over them a Prophet according to His will and will conquer the land for them and they will come and restore it in greatness, and there will be great terror between them and the sons of Esau." Another important source is an Armenian Chronicle written in the 660s and ascribed to Bishop Sebeos. According to Crone and Cook, it presents the Islamic conquest as "an irredentism directed to the recovery of a divinely conferred birthright to the Promised Land," in a partnership between the Sons of Ishmael and the Sons of Israel exiled in Arabia. It begins with the exodus of Jewish refugees from Edessa following its recovery by Heraclius from the Persians towards 628.
"They set out into the desert and came to Arabia, among the children of Ishmael; they sought their help, and explained to them that they were kinsmen according to the Bible. Although the Ishmaelites were ready to accept this close kinship, the Jews nevertheless could not convince the mass of the people, because their cults were different. At this time there was an Ishmaelite called Mahmet, a merchant; he presented himself to them as though at God's command, as a preacher, as the way of truth, and taught them to know the God of Abraham, for he was very well-informed, and very well-acquainted with the story of Moses. As the command came from on high, they all united under the authority of a single man, under a single law, and, abandoning vain cults, returned to the living God who had revealed Himself to their father Abraham. Mahmet forbade them to eat the flesh of any dead animal, to drink wine, to lie or to fornicate. He added: 'God has promised this land to Abraham and his posterity after him forever; he acted according to His promise while he loved Israel. Now you, you are the sons of Abraham and God fulfills in you the promise made to Abraham and his posterity. Only love the God of Abraham, go and take possession of your country which God gave to your father Abraham, and none will be able to resist you in the struggle, for God is with you.' [...] All that remained of the peoples of the children of Israel came to join them, and they constituted a mighty army. Then they sent an embassy to the emperor of the Greeks, saying: 'God has given this land as a heritage to our father Abraham and his posterity after him; we are the children of Abraham; you have held our country long enough; give it up peacefully, and we will not invade your territory; otherwise, we will retake with interest what you have taken.'"
The general picture drawn from non-Islamic sources finds confirmation in a few fossilized elements within the Islamic tradition, such as the "Constitution of Medina," "a patently anomalous and plausibly archaic element of the Islamic tradition," that documents the alliance between Muhammad and the powerful Jewish tribes of Yathrib.

It was only after the Arab conquest of Jerusalem that a break appeared between Jews and Arabs, leading to a rewriting of their relationship in Islamic sources. Crone and Cook find evidence of "an overt quarrel between Jews and Arabs over the possession of the site of the Holy of Holies, in which the Arabs frustrate a Jewish design to restore the Temple and build their own oratory there instead." Simultaneously, "as the Hagarenes broke with their erstwhile Jewish protégés and acquired large numbers of Christian subjects, their initial hostility to Christianity was clearly liable to erosion." The messianic significance of the conquest was toned down, and Jesus was recognized as Messiah — but the hatred of the cross was maintained through a clever invocation of Docetism. "In the figure of Jesus Christianity offered a messiah fully disengaged from the political fortunes of the Jews. All the Hagarenes had to do to rid themselves of their own messianic incubus was to borrow the messiah of the Christians."

However, "The harder they leant on Christianity to dissociate themselves from the Jews, the greater the danger that they would simply end up by becoming Christians like the majority of their subjects." Hence the development in the Koran of a specific "religion of Abraham," which consisted mainly of circumcision and sacrifice — in reality "the perpetuation of pagan practice under a new Abrahamic aegis." At this stage Samaritanism provided a model of dissociation from Judaism, with their alternative sanctuary of Shechem, supposedly founded by Abraham; when the Ishmaelites disengaged from Jerusalem, they likewise chose of a sanctuary of their own, namely Mecca's Kaaba — a pre-islamic pagan shrine — , and claimed it had been founded by Abraham. Islam also agreed with Samaritans that the Jewish Torah has been corrupted over time. Yet despite the schism, Islam never lost contact with its Jewish origin, and even "acquired its classical rabbinic form in the shadow of Babylonian Judaism, probably in the aftermath of the transfer of power from Syria to Iraq in the middle of the eighth century."

Some scholars see Islam as rooted in Judeo-Christian heresies, rather than in Judaism stricto sensu.[36] The arguments include a hadith about Waraka ibn Nawfal, a relative of Muhammad's first wife Khadija, presented as a priest of the "Nazarenes" and the first believer in Muhammad's calling (Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith, 1.3). When Muhammad told him about the angel's visit, Waraka told him this was the same angel that God had sent to Moses. Waraqa "knew both the Torah and the Gospel," and "copied in Hebrew all the part of the Gospel that God wanted him to transcribe." Clearly, Waraqa is more Jewish than Christian, as were "Nazarenes" in general, a term refering generally to Jewish believers in the messiahship of Jesus who kept loyal to the Torah and circumcision. So the thesis of the origin of Islam in Judaizing Christian heresy is not contradictory with the thesis of its Jewish origin; but it is too narrow.

What did the Muslims do for the Jews?

By combining what we have learnt about the Arab origin of Mosaic Judaism, on the one hand, and about the Jewish origin of Islam, on the other, we get a very broad historical perspective. The conquest of Canaan launched by Moses and achieved by Joshua, which gave birth to Judaism, and the conquest of Syria launched by Muhammad and achieved by Abu Bakr, which gave birth to Islam, appear as two tidal waves of the same irresistible drive of Arabs and other Habirus to leave their inhospitable deserts and conquer the weakest and closest part of the Fertile Crescent.

Each wave is supported by the previous one and contributes to empower it. In all their conquests, the Arabs were favorably received by the Jews, who helped them overthrow Byzantine power. When Syria fell into Arab hands after the decisive battle of Yarmouk against the Byzantines in 636, the Holy City, from where the Jews had been banned since 135, became open to them again, and they rushed in. Although Islam then took some distance from Judaism, Jews assisted the Arabs in their subsequent conquest of Persia. And nowhere was the cooperation between Jews and Muslims more intimate than in the conquest of Catholic Visigothic Spain in 711. Muslim and Catholic sources agree that the conquering army, composed mostly of Berbers, included also many Jews, and that Iberian Jews provided valuable aid to the invaders. They were so trusted that conquered cities were left under the control of Jews.[37]

In return, the Islamic conquest remained a godsend for Jewish communities everywhere, even though their messsianic expectations were not fully realized. Previously, the Jews were divided into two empires at war with each other; the Jews of the Byzantine Empire were cut off from the intellectual center of Babylon, under Persian rule. A century after Muhammad's death, virtually every Jew in the world lived in a unified political space. As dhimmis, they were still second-class citizens, but that was preferable to the status of non-citizens they had previously. In a world where, for two centuries, Muslims remained a minority, Jews were now equal to Christians, and enjoyed a very broad social autonomy. Arab conquerors, who needed skilled administrators, opened up for the Jews unexpected prospects for social advancement.

Jews no longer had to fear forced conversions. In fact, they were not even encouraged to convert by their Muslim masters. For in the ideology of the early conquerors, says Hichem Djait, "​​converting other peoples was not part of the agenda." The aim was to rule over them and live off their work through heavy tax (the jizyah).[38] Unlike the Christians, who for a long time remained attached to their Coptic, Syriac or Greek languages, the Jews quickly adopted Arabic, a Semitic language close to Aramaic and Hebrew, while developing, for internal use, a Judeo-Arabic language that allowed them to maintain a separation. Hebrew, which had been dead, was revived as a sacred language. "the Hebrew language developed its grammar and vocabulary on the model of the Arab language. The revival of Hebrew in our own times would be entirely unthinkable without the services rendered to it by Arabic in various ways a thousand years ago," wrote S. D. Goitein.[39] After the end of the Islamic conquest of Persia in the mid-8th century, the Talmudic institutions (Yeshiva) of Babylonia became the supreme spiritual authorities of the Jewish world, serving as centers of knowledge and organs of world government. Still in the 16th century, Jewish communities as far away as Spain sought guidance from Baghdad. "Islamic rule not only transformed Judaism but enabled its consolidation and diffusion," writes historian Marina Rustow.[40]

Considering all this, David Wasserstein states in an article published in the Jewish Chronicle, entitled "So, what did the Muslims do for the Jews?":
"Islam saved Jewry. This is an unpopular, discomforting claim in the modern world. But it is a historical truth. The argument for it is double. First,in 570 CE, when the Prophet Mohammad was born, the Jews and Judaism were on the way to oblivion. And second, the coming of Islam saved them, providing a new context in which they not only survived, but flourished, laying foundations for subsequent Jewish cultural prosperity — also in Christendom — through the medieval period into the modern world. [...] Had Islam not come along, Jewry in the west would have declined to disappearance and Jewry in the east would have become just another oriental cult.[41]
Today, Israel benefits from Islam in different ways. First, it can use Islam to defuse the only real threat it faces in the Middle East: Arab nationalism. Arab secular states, such as those of Nasser, Saddam, Gaddaffi or al-Assad, have been the most dangerous enemies of the State of Israel, while political Islam has been Israel's de facto ally in the weakening or the destruction of these states. It started with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. More recently, Israel has been supporting financially, militarily, and even medically, the jihadists who have plunged Syria into chaos. In Europe also, "Islam is the broom of Israel," says French rabbi David Touitou.


[1] Colin Humphreys, The Miracles of Exodus: A Scientist's Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories, HarperOne, 2003.

[2] Jean Kœnig, "Le Sinaï, montagne de feu dans un désert de ténèbres," in Revue de l'histoire des religions, tome 167, n°2, 1965, pp. 129-155, on

[3] Larry Williams, The Mountain of Moses, The Discovery of Mount Sinai, Wynwood Press, 1990, republished under the title The Mount Sinai Myth.

[4] Howard Blum The Gold of Exodus: The Discovery of the True Mount Sinai, Simon & Schuster, 1998.

[5] Joel Richardson, Mount Sinai in Arabia, WinePress Media, 2019.

[6] Dore Gold, Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, Regnery Publishing, 2004.

[7] Bob Graham, Intelligence Matters: The CIA, the FBI, Saudi Arabia, and the Failure of America's War on Terror, Random House , 2004.

[8] Seth Frantzman, "IRGC General Soleimani says roots of Wahhabism are Jewish, linked to ISIS," Jerusalem Post, February 22, 2019.

[9] Gordon Darnell Newby, A History of the Jews of Arabia, From Ancient Times to Their Ecclipse under Islam, The University of South Carolina Press, 1988, p. 49.

[10] The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tuleda, critical text, translation and commentary by Marcus Nathan Adler, London, 1907, p. 47-48, on

[11] Ibid, footnote by Marcus Nathan Adler, p. 47.

[12] Itzhak Ben-Zvi, The Exiled and the Redeemed, Jewish Publication Society, 1957, p. 193, quoted in Gordon Darnell Newby, A History of the Jews of Arabia, From Ancient Times to Their Ecclipse under Islam, The University of South Carolina Press, 1988, p. 104.

[13] Niels Peter Lemche, The Israelites in History and Tradition, John Knox Press, 1998, pp. 58-60.

[14] Karl Budde, Religion of Israel to the Exile, New York, 1899 (, pp. 5-11.

[15] Thomas Römer, The Invention of God, Harvard UP, 2016, p. 57.

[16] In his Theologische Briefe an die Gebildeten der deutschen Nation, under the pseudonym of Richard von der Alm (Thomas Römer, The Invention of God, Harvard UP, 2016, p. 67).

[17] Karl Budde, Religion of Israel to the Exile, Lowrie Press, 2008, p. 19.

[18] Thomas Römer, The Invention of God, Harvard University Press, 2016.

[19] Karl Budde, Religion of Israel to the Exile, p. 12.

[20] In Judge 4:8, "the Angel of Yahweh," rather than Yahweh himself, gives victory to the Israelites.

[21] Thomas Römer, The Invention of God, Harvard UP, 2016, p. 108.

[22] There are other examples of nomadic people attributing their way of life to an ancestor's transgression. Yuri Slezkine remarks that before the modern era, some ethnic groups of wanderers conceived their mode of existence "as divine punishment for an original transgression" (Yuri Slezkine, The Jewish Century, Princeton UP, 2004, pp. 22-23).

[23] Hyam Maccoby, The Sacred Executioner: Human Sacrifice and the Legacy of Guilt, Thames & Hudson, 1982, pp. 13-51.

[24] Gordon Darnell Newby, A History of the Jews of Arabia, From Ancient Times to Their Ecclipse under Islam, The University of South Carolina Press, 1988, pp. 100, 103.

[25] See also Numbers 24:21 and Judges 5:24.

[26] Gordon Darnell Newby, A History of the Jews of Arabia, The University of South Carolina Press, 1988, pp. 18, 33-34.

[27] Gordon D. Newby, "The Jews of Arabia at the Birth of Islam," in Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora (eds), A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations - From the Origins to the Present Day, Princeton UP, 2013, pp. 39-57 (40).

[28] David Samuel Margoliouth, Relations Between Arabs and Israelites Prior to the Rise of Islam: The Schweich Lectures 1921, Oxford UP, 1924 (

[29] Mark R. Cohen, "Islamic Policy toward Jews from the Prophet Muhammad to the Pact of 'Umar," in Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora (eds), A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations - From the Origins to the Present Day, Princeton UP, 2013, pp. 58-70 (59).

[30] Gordon Darnell Newby, A History of the Jews of Arabia, The University of South Carolina Press, 1988, pp. 17 and 47.

[31] Gordon Darnell Newby, A History of the Jews of Arabia, The University of South Carolina Press, 1988, pp. 105, 84-85.

[32] Alfred-Louis de Prémare, Les Fondations de l'islam, Seuil, 2002, pp. 131-135.

[33] Hichem Djaït, La Grande Discorde. Religion et politique dans l'islam des origines, Gallimard, 1989, pp. 70-71, 96.

[34] Gilbert Dagron and Vincent Déroche, Juifs et chrétiens en Orient byzantin, Centre de recherche d'histoire et civilization de Byzance, 2010, p. 41.

[35] Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, Cambridge UP, 1977. The following summary is based on pp. 6-30.

[36] Karl-Heinz Ohlig and Gerd-Rudiger Puin (dir.), The Hidden Origins of Islam: New Research into Its Early History, Prometheus Books, 2010.

[37] Norman Roth, Jews, Visigoths and Muslims in medieval Spain: Cooperation and Conflict, Brill, 1994, pp. 79-90.

[38] Hichem Djaït, La Grande Discorde, Gallimard, 1989, p. 70.

[39] S. D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts through the Ages, Schocken Books, 1970, pp. 7-8.

[40] Marina Rustow, "Jews and Muslims in the Eastern Islamic World," in Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora (eds), A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations - From the Origins to the Present Day, Princeton UP, 2013, pp. 75-96 (77-78).

[41] David J Wasserstein, "So, what did the Muslims do for the Jews?" Jewish Chronicle, May 24, 2012, on