A Mount Sinai mission

Remember this sequence of numbers: 12068.

It shows up everywhere Bellevue businessman Douglas Vogt looks.

Once, he calculated the time from the creation of Adam to today, and it was 12,068 years.

Another time, he figured out the period of time between mass extinctions on earth - 12,068 years. The same sequence of numbers popped up when he multiplied the 300 cubits of Noah's ark by the size of the Egyptian Royal Cubit and then by the 12 tribes of Israel. And when he divided 12,068 by two - voila! the total of chapters and verses in the Torah he attributes to Jews. (Some were written by Romans, he says.)

In 1997, Vogt multiplied the 3,304 years since Moses led the Jews out of Egypt by 365.25 (the number of days in a year), ignored the decimal and rounded off and . . . well, you know.

So, later, when Vogt drew three straight lines on a topographic map and they converged in Egypt roughly 12.068 miles from two distinctive earthly landmarks, he decided he'd better go.

Vogt believes the point is Mount Sinai, the biblical rise where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

He can prove it, he says. With numbers.

Vogt went to the Sinai desert, to the point on the map, in 1997 and 1999. The Egyptian authorities were happy to let him poke around, he says, because Egypt thrives on tourism. And what better tourist site could there be than a Mount Sinai, accepted equally and peacefully by Christians, Muslims and Jews.

His wind-blown desert hillock fits the Biblical description of Moses' mountain perfectly, Vogt says.

It's only 1,123 feet high - low enough for the octogenarian Moses to climb to meet with God.

It is broad enough at the top for the former slaves Moses was leading from Egypt to the promised land to gather. Its northern slopes are marked with seven scars - seven is also a number found in abundance in the Bible, Vogt points out.

On top of the flat-topped mountain are the remains of altars, with stones still lying in vaguely rectangular shapes. There's a scattering of rocks that might have been the altar where Moses communed with God; due west are remains of a sacrificial altar. Nearby are rocks that could have held a table for bread and rocks that could have been candlestands.

The Israelites could have camped below, in a broad valley still strewn with pottery shards, flint leavings and the rocks they might have used to build altars. There's a wadi - a dried-up riverbed - nearby.

"All of these things are mentioned in the Scripture," says Vogt. "It all fits within the dimensions given."

Vogt dug beneath the main altar one moonlit night and found something not mentioned in Scripture, though. Several feet beneath the surface he hit boulders, which he believes are the remains of Abraham's altar. He believes Moses was sent to that spot by God not only to receive the commandments but also to cover Abraham's altar until the time was right to show the world.

Vogt's claim to have found Abraham's site would be considered improbable by most archaeologists. Abraham wasn't accompanied by thousands of people who might have left telltale signs behind, so there's been nothing for scientists to look for there.

But Sinai and evidence of the exodus is another story. In fact, at least two other mountains are promoted as the real Mount Sinai.

There's the Mount Sinai to the south of Vogt's, the one tourists have been going to since Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the fourth century to identify Christian landmarks and relics.

There's also Jabal al Lawz, a sharply pointed crag in Saudi Arabia claimed by Bob Cornuke, a former police officer from Colorado who's the subject of a best-selling book, "The Gold of Exodus" by Howard Blum.

Cornuke's claim is worthless, says David McCreery, an archaeologist and religion professor at Willamette University in Oregon: "They're just writing books and making money."

And Helena "did what tourists do today," McCreery said. "She went over and asked the locals where was Jesus born and where did he die and what else is there to see and they were happy to tell her something."

McCreery says he's skeptical of Vogt's claims, too.

Some of the pottery shards Vogt brought back from the Sinai appear to predate Moses by thousands of years and some appear to be Byzantine, from 1,600 to 1,400 years old, McCreery says. The region has been heavily settled at times, so shards are no surprise, although Vogt's photographs show only a few Bedouin encampments there today.

"The fact is, nobody knows where Mount Sinai is," McCreery says. "I think it's unlikely anyone will ever be able to identify it. The biblical descriptions are quite vague."

Vogt may seem like something of a numbers nerd with delusions of Scripture. But he's also a soft-spoken and earnest man, well-versed in the Bible, whose college degree is in accounting, with minors in geology and natural sciences.

His mother was Jewish, Vogt says, and "my father was German, which explains the name."

He describes himself as "an unobservant Orthodox Jew" who doesn't need to attend a synagogue because "God is everywhere."

Vogt's Bellevue business, Archive Index Systems, offers hardware and software for other businesses. And it has helped to finance his trips to the desert. He also has formed the Diehold Foundation to help fund his expeditions and plans to give presentations to religious organizations in hopes of raising enough money to take an archaeologist to the mountain in January.

The upstairs office in Vogt's yellow-stucco Bellevue home is crammed with maps of the holy land and books, including one he wrote in 1977 on "The Theory of Multidimensional Reality."

The ancient Bible he uses to bolster his arguments is branded with pink, yellow and green markers, underlined with black ink, scribbled with pencil notations and held together with duct tape.

And when he says God chose him to unveil Mount Sinai after all these years, there's not a trace of guile or boast in his voice.

"I feel personally that God wants people to know that the exodus story is true," he says evenly. "The clues are all imbedded in the Bible for anyone to find. I happened to do it. You have to read between the lines.

"There are these cycles that run through time, and unless man evolves to what he's supposed to be, he's basically going to be wiped out. It's like the Noah story all over again."

Vogt won't tell exactly where his Sinai is.

It's a nondescript hill surrounded by other nondescript hills.

It is easily overlooked for a reason, Vogt says - so that people won't turn it into a religious battleground as they have Jerusalem. And now God's cycle has come full turn, and the place has been revealed.

One last sign, Vogt says.

The Egyptian authorities chose the day he'd make his first trip to the desert and later he took out his calculator to figure out how long ago Moses was there. He used the dates of the full moon in the fall when Scripture says the Israelites arrived.

Vogt got there just before sunset, Nov. 30, 1997 - the way he figures, it was 1,206,800 days after Moses.

Sally Macdonald's phone message number is 206-464-2248. Her e-mail address is smacdonald@seattletimes.com