The greater part of that vast wilderness region in which the nation of Israel wandered about for some 38 years before entering the Promised Land. (Nu 10:11, 12; De 2:14) Having no fixed boundaries, Paran occupied the central and northeastern portion of the Sinai Peninsula. On the E was that part of the Rift Valley known as the Arabah and also the Gulf of ʽAqaba, on the S the Wilderness of Sinai, on the SW the Wilderness of Sin, and on the NW and N the Wildernesses of Etham and Shur. Toward the Dead Sea to the NE, Paran blended with, and perhaps included, the Wilderness of Zin and perhaps even reached up to Beer-sheba near the mountains of Judah.—1Sa 25:1, 2.
For the most part Paran was a rough mountainous region of limestone, plateaulike in places, the central section being between 600 and 750 m (2,000 to 2,500 ft) high. (De 33:2; compare Hab 3:3.) It was also included as part of “that great and fear-inspiring wilderness” referred to at Deuteronomy 1:1, 19; 8:15. Except during the brief rainy seasons, the gravel face of this rude country is devoid of green vegetation; springs are few and far between. These factors emphasize how completely the nation of Israel, numbering perhaps 3,000,000 persons, was dependent upon Jehovah for his miraculous provision of food and water during the many years they wandered in the wilderness.—Ex 16:1, 4, 12-15, 35; De 2:7; 8:15, 16.
Apparently the first reference to this Wilderness of Paran was in the days of Lot when Chedorlaomer and his allies defeated a number of cities in the vicinities of the Dead Sea and Edom as far S as El-paran. (Ge 14:4-6) Later, after Ishmael was dismissed by his father Abraham, he settled down in the Wilderness of Paran and occupied himself mainly with the hunt.—Ge 21:20, 21.
However, the principal references to Paran are in connection with the wanderings of the Israelites. After leaving Mount Sinai, Israel camped at Taberah and Kibroth-hattaavah, then at Hazeroth on the southern edge of Paran, before moving N toward Kadesh-barnea. (Nu 10:12, 33; 11:3, 34, 35; 12:16) Not long after entering Paran, the 12 spies were sent out to investigate Canaan. (Nu 13:3, 26) The bad report given by the majority upon their return resulted in Jehovah’s decree that the nation prolong their stay in the wilderness until all the registered ones who had murmured against God had died off. (Nu 13:31-33; 14:20-34) During that 40 years, by far the majority of Israel’s campsites, from Egypt to the Promised Land, were in Paran.—Nu 33:1-49.
According to the Greek Septuagint, David went into the Wilderness of Maon following the death and burial of Samuel. However, the Masoretic text, Syriac Peshitta, and Latin Vulgate say he went into the Wilderness of Paran. (1Sa 25:1) When David became king and made war on Edom, the young Edomite prince Hadad, together with some of his father’s servants, made his escape to Egypt. On the way down they were joined by certain men of Paran as they passed through that country.—1Ki 11:15-18.