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Wilderness of Paran

Paran is a desert area located in the north-eastern section of the Sinai peninsula, with the Arabah on the east and the wilderness of Shur on the west (see Bible Places). The Israelites arrived in the wilderness of Paran after a three day journey north from Mount Sinai, as attested by its modern-day name Badiet et-Tih, meaning "the desert of the wanderings." It was from Kadesh, in Paran, that the twelve scouts were sent into the Promised Land to gather information prior to what would have been the Israelites' entry just a little more than two years after the Exodus (Numbers 10:11), but only Joshua and Caleb had the courage and faith to report that the people should go in and take the land that God was giving them. An often overlooked fact of Bible History is that the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years not because the journey took that long to physically complete (the spies went in and returned in a matter of days), but as a death sentence for those who refused to enter the Promised Land when they first had the chance to do so. They were placed in a "holding pattern" until all of the disobedient and cowardly ones of adult age had died off (Numbers 32:10-13). Who or what they were did not save them, only those who obeyed God entered the land of God's Promise.

Map Of Israel's Wilderness Journey

Earlier in Bible history, when Sarah forced Hagar to leave Abraham, she and Ishmael went to live in the wilderness of Paran, where God continued to watch over them as He promised Abraham (see Isaac and Ishmael):

"And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, "What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation." Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. And God was with the lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt." (Genesis 21:17-21 RSV)

After the Exodus, the Israelites arrived in Paran after a three-day journey from Mount Sinai:

"In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud was taken up from over The Tabernacle of the testimony, and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran ... So they set out from the mount of The Lord three days' journey; and The Ark Of The Covenant of The Lord went before them three days' journey, to seek out a resting place for them." (Numbers 10:11-12,33 RSV)

In later years, after Samuel died, the future King David took refuge from Saul in Paran, where he married Abigail, the widow of Nabal:

"Now Samuel died; and all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah. Then David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran. And there was a man in Maon, whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was of good understanding and beautiful, but the man was churlish and ill-behaved; he was a Calebite. David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep." (1 Samuel 25:1-4 RSV)

Fact Finder: Was Paran mentioned in Moses' blessing upon the Israelites before he died?
Deuteronomy 33:1-2


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