Wilderness of Paran

There are two main wildernesses mentioned in Scripture: the Wilderness of Paran and the Wilderness of Zin. The wilderness of Paran is the location of much of the wilderness wanderings.

Numbers 10:12 (KJV): “And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.”

Wilderness Wanderings

Numbers 13:1-3 (KJV): “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.”

Vast and Dreadful Desert

The Paran plateau contains a lot of gravel because, due to a lack of rain, there is no soil formation. If any soil is formed, the wind blows it off.

Hagar and Ishmael came to this region after leaving Abraham and Sarah. Genesis 21:20-21 (KJV): “And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.”

Red Canyon

The red sandstone gorge is less than 1,000 feet (300 m) long and only 6–12 feet (2–4 m) wide. It drops several dozen feet in its short course. Huge limestone boulders have been swept here during floods and have become lodged in the gorge creating steps. Oxidized minerals create the shades of red that changes its look with the lighting. Though on a smaller scale, its look resembles the Siq of Petra in many ways.

Acacia Tree

The acacia tree (shittim) is common in the wilderness areas, particularly in stream beds. The durable wood of this tree was used in the construction of the tabernacle and a number of its objects, including the sacrificial altar, table of showbread, and ark of the covenant. There are four varieties of the acacia tree in the wilderness and they are characterized by prickly branches and sometimes have yellow flowers.

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Related Websites

See our Southern Wildlife page. For historical images of desert travel, see Life in the Holy Land.

Paran (Biblical Cyclopedia). A lengthy entry discussing the wilderness as described in Scripture and extrabiblical sources.

The Israelites remain at Kadesh Barnea (The Bible Journey). This page offers an overview of the biblical data on Kadesh Barnea and briefly describes the debate over its location.

Kadesh Barnea—How to Push Your Faith Past the Border of Fear (Wayne Stiles). An introduction to the site with a devotional bent.

Thoughts on Jebel al-Lawz and the Location of Mt. Sinai (Associates for Biblical Research). An article by Bryant Wood about the location of Mt. Sinai based on the biblical evidence. Includes a map of the Sinai Peninsula showing possible locations of the wilderness of Paran and Kadesh Barnea.

Deep inside Eilat’s Red Canyon, ancient wonders await (The Times of Israel). This article describes the experience of hiking through the canyon, and it includes several lovely pictures.

Acacia (Old Dominion University). An informative essay about the acacia tree and its use in the tabernacle. Includes several photos.