I have brought you to Sinai, the Mountain of God. Now we need to track the route from Sinai onward to Kadesh Barnea in the Wilderness of Paran and on finally to the Promised Land. We have reached a cross over point after arriving at Mount Sinai. As I told you in the previous Nugget, many consider the route from this point onward difficult to ascertain. William Dever and Kenneth Kitchen claim that any attempt to track the route listed in Numbers 33 is merely conjecture. Many experts in this field have claimed it is impossible to map the locations after Sinai with any degree of accuracy. The main difficulty is the multiplicity of place names listed in Numbers 33. Quite simply there are too many place names for such a short journey.
There are thirteen toponyms mentioned in the Numbers 33 list up to the arrival at Sinai. A journey which took a year and another year camped at Sinai. There are 21 toponyms mentioned between Sinai and Kadesh (Numbers 33:16-36)
- Mount Shapher
Moving on from there, there are ten toponyms listed between Kadesh and the encampment before entering the Promised Land (Numbers 33:36-49)
- Mount Hor (in the extremity of the land of Edom)
- Ije-Abarim, on the border of Moab.
- Lim (??)
- In the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo.
- On the plains of Moab by the Jordan, [near] Jericho, from Beth-Jeshimoth as far as Abel-Shittim)
We are told in Deuteronomy
[It takes] eleven days [to go] from Horeb, the way of Mount Seir, to Kadesh-Barnea. Deuteronomy 1:2
It took from the 20th day of the second month of the second year to leave Sinai. It was actually just an eleven day journey to go from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea. How is it then that there are so many place names between Mt Sinai and Kadesh Barnea? What are we to make of the journey from Kadesh Barnea onward to the entry point into the Promised Land when we are told it took 38 years (rounded off to 40) to get into the Promised Land?
And the days which we have walked from Kadesh-Barnea until we have passed over the Brook of Zered [are] thirty-eight years, until the consumption of all the generation of the men of battle from the midst of the camp, as YHWH has sworn to them . . .Deuteronomy 2:14
You can see for yourself, we are left with a number of questions.
- Did Israel arrive at Kadesh in the 3rd year and leave in the 38th?
- Or did they arrive at Kadesh in the 3rd year and leave in the 40th?
- Or did they wander around making two visits to Kadesh Barnea?
- Or are there two places named Kadesh?
You have three options:
- You can leave us here at Sinai and fend for yourself in the wilderness.
- You can stay here at Sinai while we move on, preferring to stay at Sinai, after all that is where God is, at the mountain of God.
- You can accompany us on the onward journey.
If you choose # 2, you are in illustrious company because Elijah did the same thing. He felt the place to go after fear struck him following Jezebel’s threat was Mt Sinai. But God asked him twice (1 Kings 19:9 and 13):- “What are you doing here Elijah?”
My suggestion is that you come with the group. Realise that God has moved on and doesn’t remain at Mt Sinai. Come with us for your own sake. I am sure you can come up with many questions of your own and you don’t need the prompts of my four questions. But I am sure too that you realise this next stage of the journey is fraught with conjecture. Is there any way through it all?
Well, join with me as we feel our way together. There were seven main theories related to the first part of the journey. Realise that many just give up when it comes to plotting to the journey from Sinai onward, concluding with Dever and Kitchen that it’s just too hard and theoretical. What are we to make of it all? I want to encourage you to join with us as we continue the journey together.