Kadesh Barnea

Out of the proverbial 40 years of Wandering in the Desert, almost 38 years were spent in Kadesh Barnea. Usually the place is looked for in the Sinai Desert, and the preferred location is about 18 miles south of el-Arish on the Mediterranean coast.

As I show in another chapter, “The Great and Terrible Wilderness” was the Arabian Desert; Midian also was not in the Negev or on the coast of the Aqaba Gulf, but where today is Medina—the place where Moses spent years as a political emigré from Egypt, prior to the Exodus.

The reson for the long stay of the Israelites at Kadesh Barnea was in the existence there of sources of water, while in the Desert most of the rare sources became bitter.

I am also helped in my identification of Kadesh Barnea with Mecca by what I believe is the Arab autochthonous (in distinction with stories in the Koran which were borrowed from Jewish teachings) tradition of the passage of the Sea and wandering in the Desert told in the story of Mosai-ka-ya and his brother (carrying a name similar to Aaron, and a sister resembling Miriam), The lay flocks of wanderers under the leadership of these three occupied Mecca.

Mecca was abandoned by the Amalekites following the catastrophe that also ruined Egypt, shortly before its occupation by the Israelites, after Mecca was shattered by earthquakes and plagued by an invasion of vermin (ants). Israelites occupied the abandoned place. The Amalekites, plagued also by a plague of insects, moved toward Palestine and Egypt, and soon also built at el-Arish their fortress-capital Avaris. The Israelites, who were unable to break through to Palestine from the south, reached the abandoned capital of the Amalekites. At Mecca there are sources of water, considered sacred and many legends are preserved about them. The water sources of Kadesh-Barnea and the legends concerning the springs of Mecca indicate that some water springs, not destroyed in the catastrophe, were the main incentive for the Israelites to congregate there.

More than a score of years after I came to this conclusion and the Arab story of Mosai-ka-ya, Bar Broma, the author of Negeb published his view that Kadesh Barnea was in the Arab Desert (but quite north of Mecca) at Medain-Salib, formerly El-Hejr, about 450 km farther southeast from Petra, which place he identifies as Kadesh (not Kadesh-Barnea)—Palestine Exploration Quarterly July-December 1964. This view was left undiscussed as far as I know.As explained above, I identify it with Mecca, farther south.