A couple of weeks ago, I became the happy owner of a Tübinger Bibelatlas (thanks Eisenbrauns!). It’s a beautiful atlas, though still not close to the absolutely magnificent Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World. While flipping through and reading what text there is, the relatively extended essay “Comment on the Sinai Map” by Götz Schmitt caught my eye. The Sinai Map is one of the four maps not originally appearing in the Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients (or TAVO), which is the source for all the other maps, but which were produced especially for inclusion in the Tübinger Bibelatlas, and so the extended description of the map was considered necessary. There is a very interesting passage in Schmitt’s essay (“Comment on the Sinai Map,” col. 1 [there are no page numbers]):
There are two central issues for the geographical interpretation of the texts: Kadesh and Paran. The approximate location of Kadesh is taken from the list of borders in Num 34:3-5/Josh 15:3f. and Ez 47:18. According to this, Kadesh was on the southern border of Judah between the Dead Sea and the “Brook of Egypt” (Wādī Ġazza or Wādī l-ʿArīš). The name appears in ʿAin Qudēs; however, there is more in favor of the oasis and ruins at ʿAin al-Qudērāt ca. 10 km farther north. In the older sources, Kadesh is not of great significance (it is mentioned only in Num 13:26 and 20:1). It acquires this for the first time in Deuteronomy. Presumable reflected in this is an increased significance of Kadesh at that time. This corresponds to the archaeological discovery at Tall al-Qudērāt, a fortress that had existed in various times since the 10th century and was without equal in the region during itls last phase at the close of the monarchy.
Later, in the Roman period, we find Kadesh identified with Rekem, i.e., Petra, and correspondingly, Mount Hor with Ğabal Hārūn near Petra. E. A. Knauf has shown that we have to reckon with this secondary positioning of Kadesh even in Biblical texts (Biblische Notizen 61, 1992, 22-26). The negotiations that Moses held from his location in Kadesh for permission to pass through Edom (Num 21:14-21) have no meaning at all unless Kadesh Petra is meant. At best, passage through a small corner northwest of Edom would come into question, when viewed from the actual, Judean Kadesh. In any case, we now must deal with the question of what is meant by “Kadesh.” The list of borders in Num 34, through which we learn the true location of Kadesh, belongs to an addition of the Priestly Source. That the authors of the original text were also familiar with the content of this document is quite probable in view of the mention of the Wilderness of Zin. Thus, Kadesh in the Priestly Source is still the Kadesh south of Judah. The Mount Hor of the Priestly Source is probably there, as well, one station away from Kadesh. Just as Moses died near the border of the Promised Land, so too did Aaron.
So, there are several things going on here, but the most intriguing, indeed compelling, item is the equation of Kadesh with Petra. Knauf’s article, short as it is, packs alot of information into it in this regard. We’ll get to that in a moment.
First, I feel the need to note some of my own objections to some of the above, as I’ve dealt with several of these subjects in the past. The Shihor of Egypt, the border between Egypt and Israel, was at the easternmost branch of the Nile, not at a further distance from Egypt. Further, I tack otherwise in regards to the Documentary Hypothesis (that is, that it’s malarkey, and further, it is malarchy), describing an alternative perspective on the issue in two separate posts here and here, which I’ll expand upon in the future. My discussion will proceed in keeping with those perspectives. One may follow along or not as one wishes.