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Desert of Paran

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The location of the Desert of Paran

Assyria, Ashdod, Ashkelon

Where was Paran?

The Desert of Paran or Wilderness of Paran (also sometimes spelled Pharan or Faran; Hebrew מדבר פארן Midbar Pa'ran), is a location mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. It is one of the places where the Israelites spent part of their 40 years of wandering after the Exodus, and was also a home to Ishmael, and a place of refuge for David.


The location of the Desert of Paran

In Arabic tradition it has often been equated with an area of the Hejaz, around Mecca, linked to Ishmael and Abraham.

The map of Abraham's journey

Biblical Paran

The traditional route of the Exodus

The wilderness or Desert of Paran is said to be the place where Abraham's wife Sarai and her Egyptian servant girl Hagar (Genesis 16:1) by permission bore him a son Ishmael were sent into exile from Abraham's dwelling in Beersheba, as a result of which Hagar "departed, and strayed in the wilderness of Beer-sheba" (Genesis 21):

Desert of Paran

Then God opened her [Hagar's] eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt. (Genesis 21:19-22)

The location of Hejaz

Paran is later mentioned in the Book of Numbers as a place where the Israelites temporarily settled during the Exodus:

Desert of Paran

Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran. (Numbers 10:12)

Paran again features in the opening lines of the Book of Deuteronomy:

These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the desert beyond the Jordan--that is, in the Arabah--opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. (Deuteronomy 1:1)

He said: "The LORD came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with myriads of holy ones, from his right hand went a fiery law for them." (Deuteronomy 33:2)

King David spent some time in the wilderness of Paran after Samuel died (1 Samuel 25:1).

1 Kings 11:17-18 states that when Hadad the Edomite fled from Edom to Egypt, he passed through Midian and Paran on the way to Egypt. This has led some commentators to suggest the possibility that Paran was a place on the way to Egypt from Edom and Midian.

It is not certain precisely where the wilderness of Paran is to be located. It is often associated with Mount Sinai in Egypt, and there is some evidence that it may originally have referred to the southern portion of the Sinai Peninsula.

Both Eusebius (in his Onomasticon, a Bible dictionary) and Jerome reported that Paran was a city in Paran desert, in Arabia Deserta (beyond Arabia Nabataea), southeast of Eilat Pharan. Onomasticon, under Pharan, states: "(Now) a city beyond Arabia adjoining the desert of the Saracens [who wander in the desert] through which the children of Israel went moving (camp) from Sinai. Located (we say) beyond Arabia on the south, three days journey to the east of Aila (in the desert Pharan) where Scripture affirms Ismael dwelled, whence the Ishmaelites. It is said (we read) also that (king) Chodollagomor cut to pieces those in 'Pharan which is in the desert'."

Eusebius' mention of Chodollagomor here refers to a possible earlier mention of Paran in Genesis 14:6, which states that as he and the other kings allied with him were campaigning in the region of Sodom and Gomorrah, they smote "the Horites in their mount Seir, unto El-paran, which is by the wilderness". (KJV)

Sebeos, the Armenian Bishop and historian, describing the Arab conquest of his time, wrote that the Arabs "assembled and came out from Paran".

in 1989, Professor Haseeb Shehada, in his translation of the Samaritan Torah, suggested an identification of the wilderness of Paran with the desert of Western Arabia, which is known today as Hijaz.

Arabic traditions

For Arabic People, especially Muslims, to link Paran with Mecca is imperative for the very existence of Islam as a religion. The Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi mentioned in his book that the Red Sea branches into two "at the extremity of al-Hijaz at a place called Faran".

The association of Paran in Genesis 21:21 with Ishmael and the Ishmaelites is affirmed by the Muslim geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi who writes "Faran, an arabized Hebrew word, one of the names of Mecca mentioned in the Bible." Muslim and Arabic traditions hold that the wilderness of Paran is, broadly speaking, the Hejaz, the northern half of Tihamah, stretching along the east side of the Red Sea starting from Jordan and Sinai, and that the specific site where Ishmael settled is that of Mecca, near the mountains of Paran.

The "Desert of Paran" is also interpreted as Hijaz in an old Arabic translation of the Samaritan Bible. When it was translated into English in 1851, it was found to include a footnote making this interpretation.

The name 'Paran' or 'Faran' has often been used to refer specifically to the wilderness and mountains near where Mecca is situated. Al-Hamdani in his book Geography of the Arabic Peninsula says that the Paran mountains around Mecca were named after Paran son of Amalek. Sam'ni in his Book of Surnames also says that the surname Farani is derived from the Faran mountains near Mecca in Hijaz

According to Wahb ibn Munabbih, there was a Tal Faran ("Hill of Faran") on the outskirts of Mecca, mentioned in his book Kitab al-Tijan, a Pre-Islamic Arabic folklore compilation. Ibn Munabbih further suggested an identification for Tal Faran as the 'mound of the Two runaways', a place where the Jurhum tribe found Hagar and Ishmael and thought of them as two runaways.

According to Immanuel Velikovsky, "the desert of Pharan according to the old Arabian sources, neglected by Biblical research, is in the mountainous area of Hedjaz". He identified the biblical Kadesh Barnea in the Paran desert with Mecca in the Hejaz desert.


Desert of Paran Wikipedia

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