MemberJanuary 20, 2021 at 5:51 am
The 11-day route of Deut 1:1-2 was the shortest or ‘ideal’ route between Mount Sinai-Horeb and the eastern gateway of Canaan. This was the route the Israelites started taking when they first left the holy mount in military formation in order to invade Canaan (Num 10-12). But over the first 5 days of the march, with a crisis at every named station (complaining/fire at Taberah, complaining/quails/plague at Kibroth-hattaavah, and a leadership challenge/exile at Hazeroth), morale collapsed and the people got no further than Kadesh-barnea in the Wilderness of Paran (Num 12:16; cf. 13:3, 26). From there, to buy time and regain confidence, Moses sent 12 spies into Canaan but they came back with an overall bad report (Num 13). Morale collapsed further, the people rebelled, God through Moses sentenced them to 40 years’ wandering in the wilderness, the people rebelled again, and their men invaded Southern Canaan to be soundly defeated by an alliance of Amorites, Canaanites, and Amalekites (Num 14; Deut 1:44).
Only then, after limping back to Kadesh (Deut 1:45), does the whole nation continue on through the rest of the stations in the Numbers itinerary of the Sinai-to-Kadesh journey (33:18-36). Early among the 17 stations of this segment is Libnah (vv. 20-21), a site also attested as ‘Laban’ on the prescriptive route between Mount Horeb and the Jordan river (Deut 1:1). But Israel did not continue to advance through the remaining named stations towards the Jordan River (as listed in Deut 1:1-2); but rather turned south and toured the resources of the Central- and Southern Negev and the Arabah (Num 14:25), arriving at last back at Kadesh, this time associated with the Wilderness of Zin where the nation was to be based for the rest of the 40 years (Num 33:36).
Although the people arrived in Kadesh twice during the course of this Sinai-to-Kadesh journey, only their second visit is noted in Num 33:36. There are some very good literary reasons for this, but I won’t cover them here. Every one of these unknown and unattested stations, both in Deut 1:1-2 and Num 33:16-36, can be identified with known water-sources along major ancient roads… if Mount Horeb-Sinai is at Har Karkom, and if Deut 1:1-2 describes an 11-day prospective itinerary between Horeb and the Jordan.