Kadesh (Israel)

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This article is about Kadesh in the south of biblical Israel, for other uses see Qadesh (disambiguation).
Kadesh Barnea location

Kadesh or Qadhesh in Classical (Hebrew: קָדֵשׁ‎‎), from the root קדש "holy",[1] is a place-name that occurs several times in the Hebrew Bible. From the context it can be understood that it may refer to two different cities, both located south of, or at the southern border of, Canaan and the Kingdom of Judah, with one in a more easterly location than the other (see discussion in the "Location" paragraph). The name sometimes appears as Qadesh-Barneaʿ (קָדֵשׁ בַּרְנֵעַ), "Barnea" meaning wilderness wandering.[2] The Bible associates the place-names Kadesh and Kadesh Barnea, with a number of biblical episodes, bestowing considerable importance to the site - or sites - in the narrative of the genesis of the Israelites. Kadesh was the chief site of encampment for the Israelites during their wandering in the wilderness of Zin (Deuteronomy 1:46); it was from Kadesh that the Israelite spies were sent out into Canaan (Numbers 13:1-26); the first failed attempt to take the land was made from Kadesh (Numbers 14:40-45); Moses disobediently struck the rock that brought forth water at Kadesh (Numbers 20:11); Miriam (Numbers 20:1) and Aaron (Numbers 20:22-29) both died and were buried near a place named Kadesh; and Moses sent envoys to the King of Edom from Kadesh (Numbers 20:14), asking for permission to let the Israelites use the King's Highway passing through his territory, which the Edomite king denied.

Kadesh is also a key feature in the common biblical formula delineating the southern border of the Land of Israel (cf. Numbers 34:4, Joshua 15:3, Ezekiel 47:19 etc.)[3] and thus its identification is key to understanding both the ideal and geopolitically realised borders of ancient Israel.

Biblical references[edit]

  • Genesis 14:7 And they returned and came to Enmishpat, which [is] Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezon Tamar.
  • Gen 16:14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, [it is] between Kadesh and Bered.
  • Gen 20:1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
  • Numbers 13:26 And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.
  • Numbers 20:1 Then came the children of Israel, [even] the whole congregation, into the "desert" (a better translation of the word bmidbar is wilderness) of Zin in the first month and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.
The problem with these references and with most analysis of Kadesh is that there are two distinct cities called Kadesh. The first was Kadesh Barnea, located in the south in the wilderness of Zin, and the second was located in the east in the wilderness of Paran. It was in the second city that Miriam died, and this place was renamed Kadesh because it was a holy place for the rock where water came out, and because it was the burial ground for the entire people of Israel when they lived for 38 years on the west side of the Jordan before going up through Moab and Edom and then across the Jordan into Israel.[citation needed]
  • Numbers 20:14 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us
  • Numbers 20:16 And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt and, behold, we [are] in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border
  • Numbers 20:22 And the children of Israel, [even] the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.
  • Numbers 27:14 For ye rebelled 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.
  • Numbers 33:36 And they removed from Eziongaber, and pitched in the wilderness of Zin, which [is] Kadesh.
  • Numbers 33:37 And they removed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom.
This is further in the west: Kadesh number 2.[citation needed]
  • Deuteronomy 1:46 So ye abode in Kadesh many days, [yes, 38 years] according unto the days that ye abode [there].
  • Deuteronomy 32:51 Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.
This is Kadesh Barnea, in the south.[citation needed]
  • Judges 11:16 But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red Sea, and came to Kadesh;
This is discussing the original Kadesh that the Hebrews came to after leaving Egypt and where the spies went into Canaan to check out the land. It is also where after God gets upset and tells the Hebrews they will wander in the wilderness for 38 more years that they decide the next day to agree with God and entire Israel on their own and are slaughtered by the Amalekites and the Canaanites without the help of God and Moses.[citation needed]
  • Judges 11:17 Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying , Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land but the king of Edom would not hearken [thereto]. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab but he would not [consent]: and Israel abode in Kadesh.
  • Psalm 29:8 The voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.
  • Ezekiel 47:19 And the south side southward, from Tamar [even] to the waters of strife [in] Kadesh, the river to the great sea. And [this is] the south side southward.
  • Ezekiel 48:28 And by the border of Gad , at the south side southward , the border shall be even from Tamar [unto] the waters of strife [in] Kadesh, [and] to the river toward the great sea.


Kadesh, or Kadesh-Barnea, is described as an oasis south of Canaan, west of Arabah and east of the Brook of Egypt.[4] It is 11 days march by way of Mt. Seir from Horeb (Deut 1:2).

As many as eighteen sites have been proposed as the identification of biblical Kadesh.[5] Part of the confusion may arise from the fact that Kadesh is sometimes mentioned in connection with the Desert of Paran (Numbers 13:26) and at other times in connection with the Zin Desert (Numbers 20:1).[6] This discrepancy has been noted since the time of the medieval commentators, leading some (e.g. Hezekiah ben Manoah) to seek a reconciliatory model, while others (Abraham ibn Ezra and Nahmanides) have proposed two separate sites being identified as Kadesh.

A minority of modern scholarship has maintained that there were two sites identified as Kadesh[7]—western Kadesh (in the wilderness of Zin) and eastern Kadesh (often associated with Petra, Jordan in the wilderness of Paran). This view seems to be represented by Josephus [8] and Eusebius of Caesarea.[9] Josephus says he recognizes exactly where Miriam is buried and it is by the rock, but he refers to the rock (selah in Hebrew) while writing for the Romans in the lingua franca at the time, which was Greek, and the word for rock in Greek is "petra". The Nabataeans came to Petra in about 400 BCE knowing it to be an ancient burial ground of caves, and buried their dead on top of the graves used 100 years earlier by the Hebrews.[citation needed]

However, after a period in which researchers identified Kadesh with Ein Qedeis (Swedish article at ‘Ayn Qudays (sv)), since 1905 modern Ain el-Qudeirat (Swedish article at ‘Ayn al Khadīrāt (sv)) in Wadi el-Ain of northern Sinai has been widely accepted as the location of biblical Kadesh Barnea. Several Iron Age fortresses have been excavated there. The oldest, a small, elliptical structure dates to the tenth century BCE, and was abandoned for some time after its first destruction. A second fort, constructed during the eighth century BCE (probably during the reign of Uzziah), was destroyed during the seventh century BCE, most likely during Manasseh's reign. Two ostraca engraved in Hebrew have been recovered there, suggesting the Israelites did indeed occupy this site.[10] However, these Kadesh-Barnea ostraca are dated to the 8th or 7th century BCE and therefore are hundreds of years too recent to be associated with the biblical Exodus.[11]

Archeological excavations[edit]

Excavations at Ain el-Qudeirat conducted by Dr. Rudolph Cohen, former head of the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) during the Israeli occupation of Sinai following the 1967 war uncovered copious remains of the Middle Bronze I period (sometimes known as Intermediate Bronze Age), which were also found at numerous other sites in the Negev. On the other hand, Late Bronze Age, the conventional time of the Exodus, is unattested in the Negev. In an article in Biblical Archaeology Review of July, 1983, Cohen put forward the suggestion that the Exodus took place at the start of MBI and that the MBI people were, in fact, the Israelites. The idea, fully accepted by those who have worked at sites such as Ein Hatzeva, has not been widely adopted.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BDB 871-874; Koeler-Baumgartner 3:1072-1078; TDOT 12:521-545.
  2. ^ Tyndale Bible Dictionary
  3. ^ Zecharia Kallai, "The Southern Border of the Land of Israel — Pattern and Application", Vetus Testamentum XXXVII 4 1987, 438-445.
  4. ^ Exodus. 1.1993 By Cornelis Houtman
  5. ^ Trumbull, Kadesh-Barnea: Its Importance and Probable Site, 303.
  6. ^ Yigal Levin, Numbers 34:2-12, "The boundaries of the land of Canaan, and the empire of Necho," Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 30 2006, 65.
  7. ^ Isaacs, The True Boundaries of the Holy Land, 22–24; Wenham, Numbers, 152; and most recently D. Hacohen, "Kadesh and Rekem, Kadesh-Barnea and Rekem-Geah", in Y. Eshel, ed., Judea and Samaria Research Studies 11 (Ariel, 2002), 25–40 (Hebrew with English abstract).
  8. ^ Jewish Antiquities IV 82 cf. Numbers 20:1, 22-29
  9. ^ E. Klostermann, Eusebius—Das Omnosticon Der Biblischen Ortsnamen (Hildesheim, 1966), 113.
  10. ^ "Kadesh Barnea" pg. 214 in the NIV Archaeological Study Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005
  11. ^ Davies, Graham I., et al., "Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions: Corpus and Concordance, Volume 2", Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp82-85
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