Helfried Weyer

Kadesh-Barnea from the air. A green ribbon in a barren landscape, Kadesh-Barnea was the end point of the Israelites’ Exodus trek. Moses sent out from here 12 men “to spy out the land of Canaan” (Numbers 13:17), and later, after the Amalekites and Canaanites had repulsed the Israelites in their first attempt to take the Promised Land, the Israelites returned to Kadesh-Barnea to continue their 40 years of wandering.

The small stream that serves as the lifeblood of this oasis flows from a spring, one of four springs in the region, at lower center. Tel Kadesh-Barnea (Tell Ein el-Qudeirat), in the open area at center, to the right of the crook in the stream, contains the remains of three fortresses, one atop the other, the earliest dating to the tenth century B.C. Despite the lack of archaeological evidence from the time of the Exodus, generally thought to be at least 300 years earlier, nearly all scholars agree that Ein el-Qudeirat is Kadesh-Barnea, it fits the geographical requirements well, and the name was preserved at a nearby spring called Ein Qadis, where another Israelite fort was discovered by Yohanan Aharoni. No such agreement can be found, however, on the question of how the Israelites got to Kadesh-Barnea—what route they took on the Exodus. In a new examination of this old question, author Itzhaq Beit-Arieh uses ecological and ethnographic clues to trace the Israelites’ most probable route.