In the previous Nugget I began to unravel the remaining route and told you that we have difficulties. The first problem is that we appear to have too many place names in the Numbers 33 list to fit into a route which should not have so many place names (toponyms). The second problem we have is what I want to address in this Nugget. I have given you in earlier Nuggets and Gems maps which had multiple locations for the same toponym. How is that possible? Quite simply it is easy to find complexity when humans are involved. There are numbers of reasons why we can have multiple locations for the same place name.
- There are variations as to where exactly the place is located.
- There are multiple theories as to the route and the associated place names.
- There are multiple names given to the same toponym.
- There are multiple places with the same toponym.
Just think about place names in your own geographical area. I have been considering the places in and around Auckland. There are streets named after their geographical location such as North Road, Great North Road, Main North Road, New North Road. There are streets named after the Queen of England here in New Zealand. So we have sixteen names for streets here in Auckland with “Queen” in the name. Then specifically we have streets named after particular queens such as Victoria and Elizabeth. So the variation grows. We have to be very aware when wanting to find a particular street to ensure we list the suburb it is in or its post code. If not the package will end up in the wrong place.
In June 1984 we produce a Vail Vagaries newsletter with an amusing account of something that had happened. Well we thought it was amusing at the time but others didn’t. We had had a delay in our visa’s coming through and wondered why. I had taken two books up to some Wycliffe folk who had been in Kalimantan for nine years. We were going to loan them one of the books on Islam in Indonesia and get them to read some selected portions of the New Testament in Indonesian so we could listen to the sentence patterns of the Indonesian language. On showing them both books they said, “You can’t take those books into Indonesia with you.” I said, “Why not? What’s wrong with either book?” Nothing, the problem was my name stamp in the front of the book.
‘Matamata’ reduplicated like that was the problem. ‘Mata’ is the Indonesia word for ‘eye’, the reduplication turns the word into the plural ‘eyes’ or ‘spy’. Putting that image along with my name stamp in our newsletter at a sensitive time was also a problem. Especially with the inference that perhaps we were spies. You can see how names and place names can become a problem in an unexpected way.
Ross asked in the previous Nugget about toponyms and the fact that many of the places would have been named by the Israelites after the events that happened in the location. That is true as I wrote in my answer to Ross’s question. But it is also true that people from other cultures and languages may well have named the place for a totally different reason. Or even for the same reason as we have seen with some of the toponyms given to same place by different language groups which mean the same but are derived from entirely different words. Suffice to say there can be both great variation or remarkable similarity.
All of the above leads me to our next problem we need to solve. I left you with these questions in the last Nugget.
- 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?
- Just how many places named Kadesh are there and how many times did they stay there?
- Were the places mentioned sequentially in a linear journey and they didn’t return to the same place?
- Were the Israelites wanderings in the wilderness circular or random?
It might surprise you to know there is fierce debate over these questions. There are many experts who wade in to the debate on this one. Some scholars argue that Kadesh and Kadesh Barnea are the same place. Some argue they are two different places. When it comes to Kadesh we have to understand that there are multiple references to Kadesh in the Scripture. Ten times the reference is to Kadesh and sixteen times the name given is Kadesh Barnea. Are these different places or are they the same place? Does the name Kadesh have to be qualified by the word Barnea, an area name, to distinguish it from just plain Kadesh? Or it is more complicated than that. Is there consistency between the two in terms or the place referred to? Or are there variations between ‘Kadesh’ and ‘Kadesh Barnea’ which make it more complicated than this?
The Israelites, the whole community, arrived in the first month (of the third year) at the Wilderness of Zin. The people settled at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.Numbers 20:1
Moses sent messengers from Kadesh: ‘To the king of Edom, your brother Israel says this: … here we are now at Kadesh – a town on the borders of your territory.Numbers 20:14-16
They left Ezion Geber and encamped in the Wilderness of Zin – that is at Kadesh. They left Kadesh and encamped at Mount Hor on the borders of the land of Edom.Numbers 32:36-37
The Amorites, who live in that country of hills, came swarming out against you like bees, pursued you and beat you from Seir to Hormah. On your return, you wept in Yahweh’s presence, but he would not listen to your cries or pay attention. That was why you had to stay at Kadesh as long as you did.’Deuteronomy 1:44-46
Then there are the references to Kadesh in Genesis 14:1-7 related to the battle of the four kings against the five kings:
Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (now called Kadesh) and conquered all the territory of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites living in Hazazon-tamar.Genesis 14:7
Then Kadesh appears again in the Hagar story in Genesis 16:7-14:
So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.Genesis 16:14
It stands to reason that there may well be multiple places called Kadesh or Kadesh Barnea because the word kadesh means ‘holy’. It is a general word like ‘queen’ rather than Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth. The word ‘holy’ may reasonably be expected to be applied in numbers of places. Just how many Kadesh and Kadesh Barnea were there?
That is what we will examine in the following Nugget. You have a week to play with the ideas for yourself before the next Nugget.