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The Wilderness of Sin

The Wilderness of Sin, also sometimes translated as the Desert of Sin, was an area that the Israelites entered just after the Exodus i.e. "They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt." (Exodus 16:1 RSV). The sin in Wilderness of Sin is merely a transliteration of the Hebrew word pronounced seen which means thorn. Sinai, in Hebrew pronounced see-nah-ee (notice how different the English "Sinai" is pronounced in the actual Hebrew) is an expanded form of that word i.e. Sinai means thorny. The "sin" in Wilderness of Sin is not related or referring to the English word sin which means transgression against God. The Hebrew word for guilt, translated into English as sin (which originated from an old Anglo-Saxon word, not Hebrew), is pronounced kawt-taw-aw, which sounds nothing like "sin" in English.

"They set out from the Red Sea and encamped in the wilderness of Sin"

The Wilderness of Sin was encountered early in the Israelites' Wilderness Journey (see also Why Did Paul Say That Sinai Was In Arabia?). Note that "the wilderness of Sin" and "the wilderness of Sinai" are not the same; they arrived at "the wilderness of Sin" well before "the wilderness of Sinai."

Thorns

"And they set out from Elim, and encamped by the Red Sea. And they set out from the Red Sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin. And they set out from the wilderness of Sin, and encamped at Dophkah. And they set out from Dophkah, and encamped at Alush. And they set out from Alush, and encamped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink. And they set out from Rephidim, and encamped in the wilderness of Sinai." (Numbers 33:10-15 RSV)

Although the Wilderness of Sin was early in their journey, the Israelites had already begun to complain. In response, The Lord gave them manna.

"They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.

And the whole congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and said to them, "Would that we had died by the hand of The Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."

Then The Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily." (Exodus 16:1-5 RSV)

After The Lord fed them with manna, the Israelites journeyed "from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of The Lord," but they then began to grumble about water. The Lord then gave them water.

"All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of The Lord, and camped at Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people found fault with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink."

And Moses said to them, "Why do you find fault with me? Why do you put The Lord to the proof?"

But the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?"

So Moses cried to The Lord, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me."

And The Lord said to Moses, "Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel."

And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the faultfinding of the children of Israel, and because they put The Lord to the proof by saying, "Is The Lord among us or not?" (Exodus 17:1-7 RSV)

Fact Finder: How were various Hebrew and Greek words describing thorns used in the Bible?
See Thorns


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