This second article reveals Petra's mysterious past, the dozens of instances it is mentioned in Bible history. No other city was more important in the first exodus. Why? Does Petra's past reveal its future?
WHY should the valley through Petra be named after Moses if Moses was never there? Could it be that Moses and the children of Israel actually assembled in Petra before entering the Promised Land? Why are so many chapters in the Bible devoted to the minute details of the journey of Israel from Egypt to Palestine? Have these chapters hitherto undisclosed, but vital, meaning for us today?
After Mount Sinai — Where?
Today, almost no one supposes Israel ever saw Petra. Yet not more than two centuries ago it was common knowledge among scholars that Moses, Aaron, Miriam and the children of Israel journeyed through Petra! Now notice what really happened when Israel was about to leave Mt. Sinai. It is found in Numbers 10:11-12. "And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year [after the Exodus], that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle.... And the children took their journeys" — the original Hebrew reads "set forward by stages" (Jewish trans.) — "out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran." From Numbers 9:15 to 23, we learn that the encampments of Israel were determined by the movement of the cloud above the tabernacle. When the cloud was stationary, the people abode in their tents. When the cloud ascended and moved forward, the people followed it. The Eternal — the God of Israel, who later came in the flesh as Christ — was in that cloud! He was leading Israel. He determined their movements. Where did He take them? To "the wilderness of Paran," says Num. 10:12. But where is Paran? Men assume it may mean the Sinai Peninsula, southwest of Palestine. They are only guessing! THEY don't really know! Where does the Bible say it is? First, let's understand what the word "Paran" means. Young's Concordance gives the surprising definition: "FULL OF CAVERNS." Paran comes from the Hebrew root meaning "TO DIG OUT," or TO CUT OUT," according to the Encyclopaedia Biblica; hence, "to embellish or decorate" (Strong's Concordance). Here is a wilderness famous for a place in it which is full of caverns or caves! — embellished or decorated with tombs! Is this place Petra? We shall see. Certainly no city is more famous for its beautifully carved caves than Petra! Notice also that Ishmael — the ancestor of the Arabians — "dwelt in the wilderness of Paran" (Gen. 21:21). It does not say he dwelt in Sinai. The scripture reads Paran. And where is the ancestral home of the Arabs? In Arabia, east of the Sinai Peninsula! That indicates that the wilderness of Paran borders on Arabia! Now turn to Numbers 12:16. Note what it says — the children of Israel pitched their tents "in the wilderness of Paran." From here Moses sent the twelve men to spy out the land of Palestine. "And Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran according to the commandment of the Lord" (Num. 13:3). After 40 days "they came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to KADESH" (Num. 13:26).Kadesh is a city (Num. 20:16).
What Does "Kadesh" Mean?
Why was this city called "Kadesh"? In Hebrew, the word Kadesh means "holy." (See Young's Concordance.) What made the place holy? God did! God is holy, God dwelled in the cloud over the tabernacle. The cloud abode in the wilderness of Paran in Kadesh. God's presence sanctified the city and gave the: name Kadesh to it, Kadesh has more than one name, in the book of Numbers, God commanded Israel to go up and possess the land, beginning from "Kadesb" (Num, 13:26), But in Deuteronomy 9:23 we read: "Likewise when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then ye rebelled...." Kadesh-barnea is therefore another name for Kadesh. Why should the city of Kadesh also be called "Kadesh-barnea"? The Hebrew word barnea comes from two Hebrew words, bar and nua. The root meaning of nua (sometimes spelled nuwa) is "to waver or wander." It is often translated in the Old Testament as "wanderer," "vagabond," "fugitive." Bar means "son." It is used in such expressions as Bartimaeus, meaning "the son of Timaeus" (Mark 10:46), "Simon Dar-jona" — Siman the son of Jona (Mat. 16:17). It was at Kadesh (Numbers 13:26) that the Israelites wavered in their faith. They refused to trust God (Num. 14:1, 11). As a punishment they had to wander or be fugitives in the wilderness, "And the Lord's anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was consumed" (Numbers 32:13), Kadesh was never referred to as Kadesh-barnea until after the Israelites wavered in their faith and had to wander as a punishment (Numbers 32:8). The significance of the name barnea, then, is "the wandering sons." Observe, now, in what mountain range Kadesh is to be found.
Located in Mount Seir!
"And we journeyed from Horeb, and went through all that great and dreadful wilderness which ye saw, by the way TO the hill country of the Amorites, as the Lord our God commanded us: and we came to Kadesh-barnea" (Deut. 1:19). The "hill country of the Amorites" is defined bv Moffatt in Judges 1:36 as extending "from the Scorpion Pass ["Akrabbim" in King James Version) to Sela and beyond it." Sela is Petra! Consider another vital point. To reach Kadesh from Horeb or Sinai [Horeb is another name for Sinai (Mal. 4:4 and Deut, 4:10-13)], the usual 11-day route went "BY THE WAY OF MOUNT SEIR"! Or, in other words, Israel journeyed BY THE MOUNT SEIR ROAD! But where is Mount Seir? Mount Seir is that chain of mountains between Arabia and the Arabah or "plain" mentioned so often in the Bible. It lies east of the Arabah and extends from the Gulf of Aqaba north to near the Dead Sea. Most maps in the back of a Bible will have these places located correctly. These maps, however, misplace Kadesh. The "Kadesh" usually located in the Sinai Peninsula is not the city Moses describes, but is the "Kedesh" of Joshua 15:23 instead — another place altogether. Now consider this: if the wilderness of Paran and Kadesh were in the Sinai Peninsula southwest of Palestine, THERE WOULD BE NO REASON FOR TRAVELING BY THE WAY OF MOUNT SEIR! The only reason one would have to travel by the Way of Mount Seir — or by the Mr. Seir Road — is that Paran and Kadesh lay east of the Sinai Peninsula — in other words, in the vicinity of Petra! Take another scripture — Deuteronomy 1:6-7: "The Lord our God spoke unto us in Horeb, saying: 'Ye have dwelt long enough in this mountain; turn you, and take your journey, and go to the hill-country of the Amorites and unto all the places nigh thereunto, IN THE ARABAH [in the King James Version it is called "the PLAIN"), in the hill-country, in the Lowland, and in the South, and by the sea-shore [of the Mediterranean); the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates'" (Jewish trans.). Did you notice that? Israel was to journey to the Amorite hill-country, where Kadesh was located. From there they were to enter the promised land from the east, to proceed westward to the shore of the Mediterranean, and then go north to Lebanon and the Euphrates (verse 21). The first part of the promised land they would enter was the ARABAH — the wilderness just west of Petra in Mt. Seir! Here is just one more proof that Kadesh and the wilderness of Paran were east of the Arabah — east of the Sinai Peninsula — in Mount Seir, in the vicinity of Petra!
Israel Whipped in SEIR
But this is not all the evidence. Notice! When Israel refused to trust God, He sternly told them: "Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them see it" (Num. 14:23). Upon receiving this rebuke, they imperiously said: "Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the Lord hath promised: for we have sinned. And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the Lord.... Go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. ... But they presumed to go up unto the hill top:... Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah" (Numbers 14:40-45). Notice where this disaster befell Israel. The people were defeated even to Hormah. Where is Hormah? "And the Amorites" — who were Canaanites — "came out against you, as bees do, and destroyed you in SEIR, even unto Hormah"! (Deut. 1:42-45.) It was in Seir — in the mountain range where Petra is located — that Israel was handed this severe defeat. This was not somewhere in the Sinai wilderness. This was in Seir. The Bible says so!
Yet Another Proof!
Kadesh is also said to be located in "the Wilderness of Zin." "For ye rebelled," God told Moses, "against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin" (Num. 27:14). Since Kadesh is located in the wilderness of Paran and in the wilderness of Zin, it certainly appears that Zin and Paran are two different names for the same wilderness, doesn't it? What does "Zin" mean? Here is the answer! The spies began to search the promised land from the city of Kadesh-barnea, That is recorded in Deut. 1:19-23. Kadesh was their starting point. It was an important city on the border of the promised land. It was in fact one of the promised "gates of your enemies" (Gen. 22:17). But according to Numbers 13:21, we discover that "they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin.... And they returned unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh" (verse 26). The Wilderness of Zin is mentioned no less than 10 times in the Bible. Invariably the only city associated with it is Kadesh. Kadesh is also the only city associated with Paran. Remember that Paran means "caverns." But what does Zin mean? It comes from the Hebrew root meaning a mountainous crag, as if piercing the sky! (See Strong's Concordance.) Here is what the Encyclopaedia Biblica says: Zin "may mean the 'wall' of rock within which the wilderness of Zin lies"! What better description could we find for the region of Petra than this! Petra is famous for its stupendous crags jutting high into the sky. Is it a coincidence that Petra — with its rocky crags and its caves — is the only city in the region of Arabia from which the words Paran and Zin can both be derived? Some have been confused between the "Wilderness of Zin" and the "Wilderness of Sin." They are not the same. They are spelled differently in Hebrew. The Wilderness of Sin was reached by Israel before they even came to Sinai (Exodus 16:1). The wilderness of Zin was reached after Israel departed from Sinai. Sin was northwest of Sinai. Zin was far to the northeast of Mount Sinai.
Where Was the "Wilderness of Wandering"?
The epoch — making night following the return of the 12 spies, "all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept" (Num. 14:1). Their anger rose to rebellion next day. They hurled the accusation "Would God we had died in this wilderness" (verse 2). When God heard it, He ordered Moses to tell the people: "Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea" (verse 25, last half). Remember, Israel was already in the wilderness of Zin or Paran. Now God orders them to leave Kadesh and go into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea — that is, by the Red Sea Road. They reached Kadesh by the Mount Seir Road. Now they are to leave by another route for an area called "the wilderness." After their crushing defeat that morning at Hormah, Moses reported: "And ye returned and wept before the Lord; but the Lord would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you. So you abode in Kadesh many days" — how long? "According unto the days [the forty days of anxious waiting for the spies' return] that you abode there" (Deut. 1:45-46). God would not let them remain in Kadesh any longer. He was determined that they were to leave that day for the wilderness, rather than enter Palestine. They did not deserve the promised land. They despised it. The many clays of waiting, in which they dwelled in Kadesh, comprised over 40 long days. When the spies returned, they rebelled. Thus, instead of entering the land of Canaan, Moses wrote: "Then we 'turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the Lord spake unto me" (Deut. 2:1). The children of Israel now move southwest from Kadesh. They take the road that leads to the Red Sea in order to journey into the wilderness. This is the wilderness which they had asked to die in (Num, 14:2) — and in it they were going to die! Moses called it "that great and dreadful wilderness" — the edge of which they passed through when journeying from Sinai to Mount Seir (Deut. 1:19). This wilderness in the Sinai Peninsula has been called throughout history simply Et Tih — meaning "the Wilderness"; or Badiyat et-Tih Beni Israel — meaning "the Wilderness of the Wanderings of the Children of Israel." This designation runs back in the Arabian historians as far back as we have any track of their name for this desert," says Trumbull, on page 67 of Kadesh-barnea. Nowhere in all the Bible is this area ever called Zin or Paran! It is entirely mislabeled on most Bible maps today. Nearly 37 1/2 years were spent wandering in this. desolate, arid region. No notice is taken of any wilderness encampments during those years. Only a few major events occurring during the period are recorded in Numbers 15 through 19.
Encampments Listed in Order
Before we proceed further, let's consider Numbers 33. This entire chapter is devoted to the encampments of the children of Israel. This list of seemingly unimportant encampments may have far more importance for us today than we dream! Everything is placed in the Bible for a purpose! Turn now to Numbers 33. Beginning with verse 1: "These are the journeys of the children of Israel.... And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys BY THE COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD." Then Moses lists the stopovers to Sinai (verse 15). We have read in Deuteronomy 1:2 that the trip could be made from Sinai to Kadesh in eleven days of normal travel. The Israelites took longer, of course. Sometimes they remained a week (Num. 12:15) or a month (Num. 11:20) in one location before moving. In the list in Numbers 33, the name "Kadesh" appears only once as an encampment (verses 36-37). In this list it appears just before the short journey to Mr. Hor. It is therefore the second time Israel entered Kadesh. Since the children of Israel were in Kadesh twice, it is hardly likely that the first stop there should have been omitted in Num, 33. Nor indeed is it! In Numbers 12:16, observe that the camping points between Hazeroth and the wilderness of Paran are skipped over. In Numbers 33:18-30 you will find them listed. Mt. Shapher (verse 23) is one of the famous mountain peaks in the Mr. Seir range. "The Mr. Shapher of Moses... is the Jebel Shafeh of the Arabs, [which gave its name to] the mountain range lying NNE [northnortheast] of Akabah, and extending from the head of that gulf to the neighborhood of Petra and Mount Hor," wrote Charles Forster in Sinai Photographed, p. 144. This one peak gave its name to the entire range of mountains inhabited by the descendants of Seir. The remaining stops after Mt. Shapher take us east along Mt. Seir to BeneJaakan (verse 31).
Bene-Jaakan is Kadesh!
Notice Numbers 33:37. In the fortieth year of the exodus, Israel journeyed from Kadesh to Mt. Hor where Aaron died. But when Moses related the same movements orally, he said: "And the children of Israel took their journey from Beeroth [Beeroth means "wells"] of the children of Jaakan to Mosera: where Aaron died" (Deut, 10:6). This scripture indicates that Mosera is another name applied to Mt. Hor and that Bene-Jaakan is another name for Kadesb. Mosera means "chastisement" in Hebrew (Young's Concordance), It was at Me. Hor that Aaron died as a chastisement for disobeying God at Kadesh. It is certainly a fitting name for the Mount. Now what does "Bene-jaakan" mean? The name "Bene-jaakan" is merely another way of saying "children of jaakan." The usual Hebrew word for child or son is ben. So the locale designated Bene-Jaakan is the place where the descendants of Jaakan settled. But who was Jaakan? Jaakan is spelled Jakan in I Chronicles 1:42 and Akan in Genesis 36:27. Jaakan was a son of Ezer. Ezer was a son of Seir the Horite (Gen. 36:20-21). The word Horite means cave-dweller according to all authorities. That makes the children of Jaakan Horires or cavedwellers. And what city in Me. Seir is more famous for its caves than Petra? History tells us that the Horites originally cut out the gaping caverns in Petra! Certainly Bene-Jaakan is another name for Petra! The few children of Jaakan at Kadesh did not resist the Israelites when Israel came to Kadesh the first time, or else they would not have been there to meet the Israelites nearly 40 years later! It appears also that a few of the Kenites dwelt around Petra and dominated the region. The Kenites had their strong dwelling place "in a rock" — "in Sela" according to the original Hebrew (Num. 24:21). Sela is Petra. Moses' father-in-law — a priest himself — was a Kenite (Judges 1:16) probably from Sela, where the children of Jaakan also dwelt. And isn't this also an indication that Moses' experiences in the wilderness for 40 years prior to the exodus were to fit him to lead Israel to the safety of Kadesh before entering the promised land? Is this also why several of the ministers have visited Petta today? But to return to Numbers 33. After leaving Kadesh the first time, the children of Israel did not need to stop at Mt. Hot. They proceeded southwest into the Arabah and came to Horhagidgad, then to Jotbathah, then to Ebronah (verses 32-34). This took them into the Sinaitic wilderness where no further encampments are recorded for about 37 years! We do not need to know the route of their miserable wanderings. The account in Num. 33 next picks up the journey of Israel from Eziongaber to Kadesh again (verses 35, 36) about the beginning of the fortieth year after the exodus.
The Return to Kadesh
Thirty-nine years have now elapsed since the Exodus from Egypt. "Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, to the desert of Zin in the first month [of the fortieth year, according to Josephus]: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam [the sister of Moses] died there, and was buried there" (Numbers 20:1 ). The Bible records that Miriam was buried in Kadesh. In William Whiston's footnote in Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, bk. IV, ch. iv, sec 7, we read that "her sepulchre is still extant near PETRA, the old capital city of Arabia Petraea, at this day; as also that of Aaron, not far off"! Now notice what happened next. "And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.... And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the ROCK before their eves; and it shall give forth his water, 'and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the ROCK: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts to drink." Then "Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the ROCK, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this ROCK? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the ROCK twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also." "And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron. Because ye believed Me not. to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel" — God had ordered Moses to speak to the ROCK, not to strike it, to show that it was God alone who could produce the water at the precise moment — " therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them" (Numbers 20:2, 7-8, 10-12). What rock is it that Moses struck? It is SELA in Hebrew!
"SELA" Another Name for PETRA
There are two Hebrew words commonly rendered rock. One is sela. the other is tsur. The word tsur may mean "it cliff, a rock, a boulder." When Moses struck "the rock in Horeb," 39 years before, he did not strike Sela or Petra. He struck tsur! Observe: "Behold, I," spoke God to Moses, "I will stand before thee there upon the rock [tsur] in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock [tsur], and there shall come water out of it. And he called the name of the place Massah [meaning "temptation"], and Meribah [meaning "strife"], because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?" (Exodus 17:6-7). This rock — tsur — is referred to spiritually in I Corinthians 10:4: "And they did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them [a better translation is "went with them"]: and that Rock was Christ." The waters which sprang from the two different rocks, nearly 39 years. apart, were both called "Meribah" (Exodus 17:7; Num. 20:13, 24). That has led some to confuse the events, Meribah means "strife." In both instances the children of Israel strove with God. To distinguish between the two, Moses was inspired to use the expression "Meribah in Kadesh" (Num. 27:14), or "Meribah-Kadesh" (Deut. 32:51), for the later strife over water at Sela. About four months have now elapsed since Israel came to Kadesh the second time. "And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto Mount Hor. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edam, saying, Aaron shall be gathered unto his people" (Num. 20:22-24).
Where Did Aaron Die?
The same event is recorded in Numbers 33:37-38. A little to the southwest of Petra is a 4800 foot mountain called Jebel Nebi Harun by the Arabs. It means Mount of the Prophet Aaron. It is the traditional site of the death of Aaron. Josephus, the Jewish historian in the time of the apostles, tells us that Aaron died on one of the "high mountains" which encompasses "Petra"! Mr. Hor is by Petra! — "by the coast of the land of Edam" (Num. 20:23). If you will scrutinize modern Bible maps you will see that some scholars speculate that Mt. Hor might have been Mr. Madurah in the Negeb, in the South of Palestine. But this area was well within the promised land. God never gave it to Edom. It is far to the west of Edorn's borders. It is not where Aaron died. Aaron died on the southern border of Edom in Seir.