Numbers 10:12
And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.
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(12) And the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.—The fact is here mentioned by way of anticipation (see Numbers 10:33). The spot referred to is probably Kibroth-hattaavah, which may have been at the southernmost extremity of the wilderness of Paran. In Deuteronomy 1:19 it is called “that great and terrible wilderness.” This wilderness is supposed to have been bounded by the land of Canaan on the north, by the valley of Arabah on the east, and by the desert of Sinai on the south. Its western boundary appears to have been the wilderness of Shur, or rather the river, or brook, of Egypt (Wady-el-Arish), which divides the wilderness into two parts, of which the western part is sometimes known as the wilderness of Shur. The sojourn of the Israelites was confined to the eastern part. (See Kurtz’s History of the Old Covenant, 3 p. 221.)

Numbers 10:12. Paran — From which they travelled to other places, and then returned into it again, Numbers 12:16.

10:11-28 After the Israelites had continued nearly a year at mount Sinai, and all was settled respecting their future worship, they began their march to Canaan. True religion begins with the knowledge of the holy law of God, and humiliation for sin, but we must go on towards perfection, in acquaintance with Christ and his gospel, and those effectual encouragements, motives, and assistances to holiness, which it proposes. They took their journey according to the commandment of the Lord, De 1:6-8, and as the cloud led them. Those who give themselves to the direction of God's word and Spirit, steer a steady course, even when they seem bewildered. While they are sure they cannot lose their God and Guide, they need not fear losing their way. They went out of the wilderness of Sinai, and rested in the wilderness of Paran. All our removes in this world are but from one wilderness to another. The changes we think will be for the better do not always prove so. We shall never be at rest, never at home, till we come to heaven, but all will be well there.The wilderness of Paran - See Genesis 14:6 note. The wilderness is mentioned here by anticipation. The earliest halting-places, Kibroth-hattaavah and Hazeroth, were not within its limits Numbers 11:35; Numbers 12:16. 12. wilderness of Paran—It stretched from the base of the Sinaitic group, or from Et-Tyh, over that extensive plateau to the southwestern borders of Palestine. From which they travelled to other places, and then returned into it again, Numbers 12:16.

And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai,.... Each of their camps removed from thence, and so everyone took their journey:

and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran; which was a signal for the camps to rest and pitch their tents; this was after they had gone three days journey, and were come to Taberah, which, it is probable, was in the wilderness of Paran; otherwise we read of their pitching in the wilderness of Paran, after they had been a month at Kibrothhattaavah, Numbers 11:34, and seven days at Hazeroth, Numbers 12:16; so they went from one wilderness to another; of this wilderness; see Gill on Genesis 21:21.

And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.
12. their journeys] their stages; cf. Numbers 33:1 f., Exodus 17:1.

the cloud abode] The verb is that to which mishkân ‘dwelling’ corresponds. The cloud settled down and abode upon the Tabernacle in the wilderness of Paran, as a sign that they were to halt there. See the opening note on ch. 11.

Paran] This wilderness lay to the north of the Sinaitic peninsula. Its eastern border would be roughly a line drawn from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Akaba. It is closely connected with Edom in Deuteronomy 33:2, Habakkuk 3:3. See the writer’s Exodus, p. ciii. It lay between Midian and Egypt (1 Kings 11:18); and was Ishmael’s dwelling-place (Genesis 21:21 E ). It apparently corresponded to the modern desert of Et-tih.

Verse 12. - Took their journeys. Literally, "marched according to their journeys" לְמַסְּעֵיהֶם. Septuagint, τίαις αὐτῶν, set forward with their baggage. And the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran. Taken by itself this would seem to apply to the first resting of the cloud and the first halt of the host after breaking up from "the wilderness of Sinai." It appears, however, from Numbers 12:16 that "the wilderness of Paran" was fully reached after leaving Hazeroth at the end of three days' journey from Sinai, nor would a shorter space of time suffice to carry the host across the mountain barrier of the Jebel et-Tih, which forms the clearly-marked southern limit of the desert plateau of Paran (see next note). Some critics have arbitrarily extended the limits of "the wilderness of Paran" so as to include the sandy waste between Sinai and the Jebel et-Tih, and therefore the very first halting-place of Israel. This, however, is unnecessary as well as arbitrary; for

(1) verses 12, 13 are evidently in the nature of a summary, and the same subject is confessedly taken up again in verse 33, sq.; and

(2) the departure from Sinai is expressly said to have been for a "three days' journey" (verse 33), which must mean that the march, although actually divided into three stages, was regarded as a single journey, because it brought them to their immediate destination in the wilderness of Paran. Here then is a plain reason for the statement in this verse: the cloud did indeed rest twice between the two wildernesses, but only so as to allow of a night's repose, not so as to break the continuity of the march. "The wilderness of Paran." Septuagint, ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τοῦ φαράν. This geographical expression is nowhere exactly defined in Holy Scripture, and the name itself has disappeared; for in spite of the resemblance in sound (a resemblance here, as in so many cases, wholly delusive), it seems to have no connection whatever with the Wady Feiran, the fertile valley at the base of Serbal, or with the town which once shared the name. All the allusions, however, in the Old Testament to Paran point to a district so clearly marked out, so deeply stamped with its own characteristics, by nature, that no mistake is possible. This district is now called et-Tih, i.e., the wandering, and is still remembered in the traditions of the Arabs as the scene of the wanderings of the people of God. Little known, and never thoroughly explored, its main features are nevertheless unmistakable, and its boundaries sharply defined. Measuring about 150 miles in either direction, its southern frontier (now called the Jebel et-Tih) is divided by the broad sandy waste of er-Ramleh from the Sinaitic mountains and the Sinaitic peninsula properly so called; its northern mountain mass looks across the deep fissure of the Wady Murreh (or desert of Zin), some ten or fifteen miles broad, into er-Rachmah, the mountain of the Amorite, the southern extension of the plateau of Judah; on the east it fails abruptly down to the narrow beach of the Elanite Gulf, and to the Arabah; on the west alone it sinks slowly into the sandy desert of Shur, which separates it from the Mediterranean and from Egypt. Et-Tih is itself divided into nearly equal halves, by the Wady el Arish (or "river of Egypt"), which, rising on the northern slopes of the Jebel et-Tih, and running northwards through the whole plateau, turns off to the west and is lost in the desert of Shur. That the western half of the plateau went also under the name of Paran is evident from the history of Ishmael (see especially Genesis 21:21; Genesis 25:18), but it was through the eastern portion alone that the wanderings of the Israelites, so far as we can trace them, lay. This "wilderness of Paran" is indeed "a great and terrible wilderness" (Deuteronomy 1:9), lacking for the most part the precipitous grandeur of the granite mountains of Sinai, but lacking also their fertile valleys and numerous streams. A bare limestone or sandstone plateau, crossed by low ranges of hills, seamed with innumerable dry water-courses, and interspersed with large patches of sand and gravel, is what now meets the eye of the traveler in this forsaken land. It is true that a good deal of rain falls at times, and that when it does fall vegetation appears with surprising rapidity and abundance; it is true also that the district has been persistently denuded of trees and shrubs for the sake of fuel. But whatever mitigations may have then existed, it is clear from the Bible itself that the country was then, as now, emphatically frightful (cf. Deuteronomy 1:19; Deuteronomy 8:15; Deuteronomy 32:10; Jeremiah 2:6). Something may be set, no doubt, to the account of rhetoric, and much may be allowed for variety of seasons. Even in Australia the very same district will appear at one time like the desolation of a thousand years, and in the very next year it will blossom as the rose. But at certain seasons at any rate et-Tih was (as it is) a "howling" wilderness, where the dreadful silence of a lifeless land was only broken by the nightly howling of unclean beasts who tracked the footsteps of the living in order to devour the carcasses of the dead. Perhaps so bad a country has never been attempted by any army in modern days, even by the Russian troops in Central Asia. Amongst the many Wadys which drain the uncertain rain-fall of the eastern half of et-Tih (and at the same time testify to a greater rain-fall in bygone ages), the most important is the Wady el Terafeh, which, also rising on the northern slopes of Jebel et-Tih, runs northwards and north-westwards, and finally opens into the Arabah. Towards its northern limit et-Tih changes its character for the worse. Here it rises into a precipitous quadrilateral of mountains, about forty miles square, not very lofty, but exceedingly steep and rugged, composed in great measure of dazzling masses of bare chalk or limestone, which glow as in a furnace beneath the summer sun. This mountain mass, now called the Azaimat, or mountain country of the Azazimeh, rising steeply from the rest of the plateau to the southward, is almost completely detached by deep depressions from the surrounding districts; at the north-west corner alone it is united by a short range of mountains with er-Rachmah, and so with the highlands of Southern Palestine. From this corner the Wady Murreh descends broad and deep towards the cast, forking at the eastern extremity towards the Arabah on the southeast, and towards the Dead Sea on the north. east. The interior of this inaccessible country has yet to be really explored, and it is the scanty nature of our present knowledge concerning it which, more than anything else, prevents us from following with any certainty the march of the Israelites as recorded in this book. Numbers 10:12After all the preparations were completed for the journey of the Israelites from Sinai to Canaan, on the 20th day of the second month, in the second year, the cloud rose up from the tent of witness, and the children of Israel broke up out of the desert of Sinai, למסעיהם, "according to their journeys" (lit., breaking up; see at Genesis 13:3 and Exodus 40:36, Exodus 40:38), i.e., in the order prescribed in Numbers 2:9, Numbers 2:16, Numbers 2:24, Numbers 2:31, and described in Numbers 10:14. of this chapter. "And the cloud rested in the desert of Paran." In these words, the whole journey from the desert of Sinai to the desert of Paran is given summarily, or as a heading; and the more minute description follows from Numbers 10:14 to Numbers 12:16. The "desert of Paran" was not the first station, but the third; and the Israelites did not arrive at it till after they had left Hazeroth (Numbers 12:16). The desert of Sinai is mentioned as the starting-point of the journey through the desert, in contrast with the desert of Paran, in the neighbourhood of Kadesh, whence the spies were sent out to Canaan (Numbers 13:2, Numbers 13:21), the goal and termination of their journey through the desert. That the words, "the cloud rested in the desert of Paran" (Numbers 10:12), contain a preliminary statement (like Genesis 27:23; Genesis 37:5, as compared with Numbers 10:8, and 1 Kings 6:9 as compared with Numbers 10:14, etc.), is unmistakeably apparent, from the fact that Moses' negotiations with Hobab, respecting his accompanying the Israelites to Canaan, as a guide who knew the road, are noticed for the first time in Numbers 10:29., although they took place before the departure from Sinai, and that after this the account of the breaking-up is resumed in Numbers 10:33, and the journey itself described, Hence, although Kurtz (iii. 220) rejects this explanation of Numbers 10:12 as "forced," and regards the desert of Paran as a place of encampment between Tabeerah and Kibroth-hattaavah, even he cannot help identifying the breaking-up described in Numbers 10:33 with that mentioned in Numbers 10:12; that is to say, regarding Numbers 10:12 as a summary of the events which are afterwards more fully described.

The desert of Paran is the large desert plateau which is bounded on the east by the Arabah, the deep valley running from the southern point of the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf, and stretches westwards to the desert of Shur (Jifar; see Genesis 16:7; Exodus 15:22), that separates Egypt from Philistia: it reaches southwards to Jebel et Tih, the foremost spur of the Horeb mountains, and northwards to the mountains of the Amorites, the southern border of Canaan. The origin and etymology of the name are obscure. The opinion that it was derived from פאר, to open wide, and originally denoted the broad valley of Wady Murreh, between the Hebrew Negeb and the desert of Tih, and was then transferred to the whole district, has very little probability in it (Knobel). All that can be regarded as certain is, that the El-paran of Genesis 14:6 is a proof that in the very earliest times the name was applied to the whole of the desert of Tih down to the Elanitic Gulf, and that the Paran of the Bible had no historical connection either with the ́ ̀ and tribe of Φαρανῖται mentioned by Ptol. (v. 17, i. 3), or with the town of Φαράν, of which the remains are still to be seen in the Wady Feiran at Serbal, or with the tower of Faran Ahrun of Edrisi, the modern Hammn Faraun, on the Red Sea, to the south of the Wady Gharandel. By the Arabian geographers, Isztachri, Kazwini, and others, and also by the Bedouins, it is called et Tih, i.e., the wandering of the children of Israel, as being the ground upon which the children of Israel wandered about in the wilderness for forty years (or more accurately, thirty-eight). This desert plateau, which is thirty German miles (150 English) long from south to north, and almost as broad, consists, according to Arabian geographers, partly of sand and partly of firm soil, and is intersected through almost its entire length by the Wady el Arish, which commences at a short distance from the northern extremity of the southern border mountains of et Tih, and runs in nearly a straight line from south to north, only turning in a north-westerly direction towards the Mediterranean Sea, on the north-east of the Jebel el Helal. This wady divides the desert of Paran into a western and an eastern half. The western half lies lower than the eastern, and slopes off gradually, without any perceptible natural boundary, into the flat desert of Shur (Jifar), on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The eastern half (between the Arabah and the Wady el Arish) consists throughout of a lofty mountainous country, intersected by larger and smaller wadys, and with extensive table-land between the loftier ranges, which slopes off somewhat in a northerly direction, its southern edge being formed by the eastern spurs of the Jebel et Tih. It is intersected by the Wady el Jerafeh, which commences at the foot of the northern slope of the mountains of Tih, and after proceeding at first in a northerly direction, turns higher up in a north-easterly direction towards the Arabah, but rises in its northern portion to a strong mountain fortress, which is called, from its present inhabitants, the highlands of the Azazimeh, and is bounded on both south and north by steep and lofty mountain ranges. The southern boundary is formed by the range which connects the Araif en Nakba with the Jebel el Mukrah on the east; the northern boundary, by the mountain barrier which stretches along the Wady Murreh from west to east, and rises precipitously from it, and of which the following description has been given by Rowland and Williams, the first of modern travellers to visit this district, who entered the terra incognita by proceeding directly south from Hebron, past Arara or Aror, and surveyed it from the border of the Rachmah plateau, i.e., of the mountains of the Amorites (Deuteronomy 1:7, Deuteronomy 1:20, Deuteronomy 1:44), or the southernmost plateau of the mountains of Judah (see at Numbers 14:45): - "A gigantic mountain towered above us in savage grandeur, with masses of naked rock, resembling the bastions of some Cyclopean architecture, the end of which it was impossible for the eye to reach, towards either the west or the east. It extended also a long way towards the south; and with its rugged, broken, and dazzling masses of chalk, which reflected the burning rays of the sun, it looked like an unapproachable furnace, a most fearful desert, without the slightest trace of vegetation. A broad defile, called Wady Murreh, ran at the foot of this bulwark, towards the east; and after a course of several miles, on reaching the strangely formed mountain of Moddera (Madurah), it is divided into two parts, the southern branch still retaining the same name, and running eastwards to the Arabah, whilst the other was called Wady Fikreh, and ran in a north-easterly direction to the Dead Sea. This mountain barrier proved to us beyond a doubt that we were now standing on the southern boundary of the promised land; and we were confirmed in this opinion by the statement of the guide, that Kadesh was only a few hours distant from the point where we were standing" (Ritter, xiv. p. 1084). The place of encampment in the desert of Paran is to be sought for at the north-west corner of this lofty mountain range (see at Numbers 12:16).

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