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Home Forums Location of Mount Sinai The distance from Kadesh Barnea Reply To: The distance from Kadesh Barnea

  • Deborah Hurn

    February 9, 2021 at 8:18 pm

    Some relevant text on the location of Kadesh and Mount Hor “on the edge of Edom”

    MacDonald, Burton. “East of the Jordan”: Territories and Sites of the Hebrew Scriptures. ASOR Books 6. Boston, MA: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2000.

    [68] i) Kadesh (Num 20.14, 16, 22): Kadesh is said to be “a town on the edge of your territory” (Num 20.16), that is, Edomite territory. It was from Kadesh that the Israelites came to Mount Hor (Num 20.22) from which “they set out by way of the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom” (Num 21.4). Although the Targums, for the most part, make no attempt to locate the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert (Alexander 1974: 195–96; Davies 1979: 16), they consistently identify Kadesh with Petra (= Rekem) (Alexander 1974: 198; Davies 1979: 16–18) and Kadesh-barnea with Rekem Ge’a (Alexander 1974: 190–98). They locate Rekem (= Petra = Kadesh) on the borders of, but outside, the Land of Israel (Alexander 1974: 194–95). Josephus, however, makes no mention of this tradition (Davies 1979: 17). Eusebius follows the Targums in identifying Kadesh with Petra (= Rekem) in the land of Edom (112: 8). Moreover, he adds that Miriam [69] died and was buried there (112: 9–11), and that it was the place where Moses struck the rock to provide water for the people (Ex 17.1–7; Num 20.2–13).

    Despite these assertions from antiquity, Kadesh is generally located today at either ‘Ayn Qadeis (Davies 1979: 74–77, 88, 113 n. 58) or about
    8 km to the NNW at ‘Ayn al-Qudeirat (Woolley and Lawrence 1914–1915; Simons 1959: 136, et passim; Abel 1967, 1: 306, 2: 412; Cohen 1993: 843), “the richest and most centrally located of a group of springs on the southern edge of the Negev” (Aharoni 1979: 70). Located west of Wadi ‘Arabah, it is of no further concern here.

    [69] iii) Mount Hor (Num 20.22, 23, 25, 27; 21.4; 33.37, 38, 39, 41; 34.7, 8; Deut 32.50): The Israelites set out from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor (Num 20.22), which was “on the border of the land of Edom” (Num 20.23; see also Num 33.37) where Aaron died (Num 33.39). Since Kadesh is also said to be “a town on the edge of” Edomite territory (Num 20.16), there is a close geographical relationship between Kadesh and Mount Hor. It does not appear, however, that either site is in Edomite territory. Moreover, Mount Hor cannot be a great distance from Arad in the Negeb since the king of Arad, when he heard that Israel was coming, came out to do battle (Num 21.1; 33.40). A tradition dating at least to the time of Josephus has the death of Aaron taking place on one of the mountains surrounding Petra, the metropolis of the Arabs of Arabia (Ant 4.4.7), which the Targums identify with biblical Kadesh. Eusebius is aware of this tradition for he also locates Mount Hor east of the ‘Arabah near Petra, which he identifies with Kadesh. He states that until his time the rock Moses struck when his people asked
    for water was visible in this region (112: 10).

    [70] Modern Arabic names in the vicinity of Petra embody traditions about important events of the post-Sinai period of the wilderness wanderings (Alexander 1974: 198), for example: ‘Ayn Musa where Moses is said to have struck the rock; Wadi Musa in which the waters from this spring flow through Petra and on to the ‘Arabah; and of course Mount Hor, the site of Aaron’s death (Alexander 1974: 198). Alexander thinks these traditions developed to explain the entrance (as-Siq) at Petra and associate it with Num 16.31–32, which relates how the earth opened up and swallowed Korah and all their goods after Moses had finished speaking to the people (1974: 198–99). Burckhardt was aware of these traditions. Disguised as a Bedouin in 1812, he was able to see the city of Petra on the pretense of offering a goat as sacrifice to the prophet Aaron (1822: 419–31; see also Palmer 1871: 433–35).

    Biblical traditions about the area around Petra persist to the present. For example, the Mountain of Aaron (Jabal Nabi Harun/Jabal Harun) (elev. ca. 1350 m), to the southwest of the main segment of Petra and visible from it, is the location of a tomb, the upper portion of which is a white mosque1 said to belong to Aaron. From this location one is able to look down on the ‘Arabah and across it to the eastern Negeb. However, the tomb is most likely a refurbished Byzantine church, dating to the time of Justinian (A.D. 527–565), which commemorated the death of Aaron and the passing of the mantel to his son Eleazar (Num 20.28) (Abel 1967, 1: 388–89; see also Peterman and Schick 1996: 477–78).

    The difficulty in accepting a mountain in the neighborhood of Petra as the location of Mount Hor is that Petra is not on the “edge”/“border” of
    Edom but in Edom. Petra and vicinity would have been at the western edge of Edomite territory only in the city’s formative years. The text, however, appears to be late and dated to a time, possibly the seventh or sixth century, when the Edomites had expanded westward into the central Negeb. Moreover, Mount Hor is closely associated with Kadesh, which is probably located at ‘Ayn al-Qudeirat. Thus, a location west of the ‘Arabah and in the neighborhood of Kadesh should be sought for Mount Hor (Davies 1979: 91). For this reason, as well as the fact that Mount Hor cannot be located far from Arad, no further consideration will be given to this site.2