The Sinai Peninsular is the dry region that lies south of Palestine between the two northern arms of the Red Sea. Within it are the semi-desert regions known as the Wilderness of Shur in the north and the Wilderness of Paran in the north-east. (For map see SHUR.) In the biblical record the Sinai region’s chief importance is as the location of the mountain in the south known as Horeb, or Mount Sinai. This was the place where God first met Moses and where he later established his covenant with the travelling Israelites (Exod 3:1,12; Acts 7:30). Through that covenant God formally made them his people and gave them this law (Exod 19:1-25; 24:16; 34:1-4,29; Lev 7:37- 38; 27:34; Deut 1:6,19; 5:1-2; 1 Kings 8:9; Acts 7:38). For about one year the people of Israel camped at Mt Sinai, organizing themselves for the new life that lay ahead in Canaan (Exod 19:1; Num 10:11).
But because of their disobedience, they took about forty years to reach Canaan. They spent much of this time in the wilderness regions of the Sinai Peninsular, where the older generation passed away and a new generation grew up. It was this new generation that entered Canaan (Num 1:19; 10:12; 14:31-34; 26:63-65). Several hundred years later, when the prophet Elijah felt that God’s covenant people were a total failure, God brought him to Mt Sinai to reassure him. Though God would punish Israel, he would preserve the faithful minority and through them fulfil his covenant promises (1 Kings 19:8-18). To Israelites, the covenant was inseparably linked with Sinai. But it was a covenant that was limited by time and restricted to one nation. The new covenant, by contrast, has no such limitations or restrictions. It comes into being through Jesus Christ and is identified not with Sinai but with heaven (Gal 4:24-27; Heb 12:18-29; see COVENANT).