(Kaʹdesh) [Holy Place], Kadesh-barnea (Kaʹdesh-barʹne·a) [Holy Place of Barnea].
An Israelite wilderness encampment situated at the extremity of Edomite territory near “the way to Shur,” perhaps the modern Darb el-Shur extending from Hebron to Egypt. (Ge 16:7, 14; Nu 20:14-16 [Heb. ʽir (city) at Nu 20:16 may simply mean encampment; compare Nu 13:19.]) Apparently 11 days’ travel distance by way of Mount Seir separated Kadesh-barnea from Horeb.—De 1:2.
Kadesh is spoken of as being located in both the Wilderness of Paran and the Wilderness of Zin. Possibly Zin and Paran were adjoining wildernesses that met at Kadesh, and therefore, the site could be referred to as lying in either one. Or, the Wilderness of Zin may have been part of the larger Wilderness of Paran. (Nu 13:26; 20:1) In Abraham’s time the place was known both as En-mishpat and as Kadesh. (Ge 14:7; 20:1) It is perhaps the same site as Kedesh.—Jos 15:21, 23.
ʽAin Qedeis, about 80 km (50 mi) SSW of Beer-sheba, has been suggested as a possible identification for Kadesh. In the midst of a desolate wilderness (compare De 1:19), the pure and sweet water of the spring at Qedeis supports an oasis of grass, shrubs, and trees. There are also two other springs in the vicinity, ʽAin el-Qudeirat and ʽAin el-Qeseimeh. Today the largest of the three springs is ʽAin el-Qudeirat, and for this reason some favor identifying it with Kadesh-barnea. However, ʽAin Qedeis is the most easterly spring. Consequently, the identification of ʽAin Qedeis with Kadesh-barnea seems to be more in line with the description of the E-W course of Canaan’s southern boundary: Kadesh-barnea (ʽAin Qedeis?), Hazar-addar (ʽAin el-Qudeirat?), and Azmon (ʽAin el-Qeseimeh?).—Nu 34:3-5.
If the Israelites did encamp in this area, because of the vast multitude they doubtless used all three springs. For example, the encampment just before crossing the Jordan spread out “from Beth-jeshimoth to Abel-shittim.” (Nu 33:49) That was a distance of about 8 km (5 mi), according to the suggested sites for those places. The distance from Kadesh-barnea (ʽAin Qedeis) to Azmon (ʽAin el-Qeseimeh) is about 14 km (8.5 mi); and to Hazar-addar (ʽAin el-Qudeirat) is 9 km (5.5 mi). So, for them to have used all three springs is not an unreasonable possibility. It is also possible that the whole area was called Kadesh-barnea with the name preserved in the SE spring.—See ADDAR No. 2; AZMON.
In the second year after their Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites pulled away from Hazeroth and encamped at Kadesh-barnea. (Compare Nu 10:11, 12, 33, 34; 12:16; 13:26.) Moses then sent 12 men to spy out the Promised Land. Ten of these spies brought back a bad report, resulting in rebellious murmurings among the Israelites. Jehovah, therefore, sentenced the nation to wander in the wilderness. Israel’s subsequent attempt to take Canaan without divine approval and direction brought humiliating defeat. (Nu 13:1-16, 25-29; 14:1-9, 26-34, 44, 45; 32:7-13; De 1:41-45) For some time thereafter the Israelites stayed at Kadesh-barnea. (De 1:46) But it was not Jehovah’s purpose for them to remain there. Earlier he had said to them: “While the Amalekites and the Canaanites are dwelling in the low plain, you people make a turn tomorrow [a Heb. idiom meaning “later on,” as at Ex 13:14] and pull away to march to the wilderness by way of the Red Sea.”—Nu 14:25.
Accordingly, the Israelites left Kadesh-barnea and walked about in the wilderness for 38 years. (De 2:1, 14) It seems that during these years they spent time at some 18 different places, this being the number of camp stages listed after the Israelites left Hazeroth. (Compare Nu 12:16–13:3, 25, 26; 33:16-36.) Although Israel encamped at Kadesh after departing from Hazeroth, Numbers 33:18 does not mention Kadesh after Hazeroth. This may have been an intentional omission or perhaps, as some have suggested in the past, Kadesh may be the same as Rithmah.
Finally the Israelites appear to have returned to Kadesh in the first month of the 40th year after the Exodus. (Nu 20:1; 33:36-39) Moses’ sister Miriam died there. Later, Moses and Aaron lost the privilege of entering the Promised Land for failing to sanctify Jehovah in connection with the miraculous provision of water for the Israelites encamped at Kadesh. From there Moses subsequently asked Edom’s permission to pass through its territory. (Nu 20:1-17) This request was denied, and seemingly the Israelites remained a while longer at Kadesh (Nu 20:18; Jg 11:16, 17) before moving on toward the Promised Land by way of Mount Hor. (Nu 20:22; 33:37) When they reached the Plains of Moab, E of the Jordan, Jehovah designated Kadesh-barnea as a part of the southern border of the Promised Land. (Nu 33:50; 34:4) Later, the Israelites under Joshua conquered the area extending from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza (Jos 10:41), and Kadesh-barnea came to be on the southern boundary of Judah.—Jos 15:1-4.
Psalm 29:8 speaks of Jehovah’s voice as causing the Wilderness of Kadesh ‘to writhe.’ The allusion may be to a violent storm that rushes from the mountains of the N to the region of Kadesh in the S and there blows about the sands in such a way as to give the appearance of a writhing wilderness.