WILDERNESS OF THE WANDERING
The region where the Israelites spent about forty years after the exodus from Egypt. (Deut. 8:2) It is not possible to determine the exact route of their wandering, for many of the locations mentioned in the Bible account cannot be identified. (See the names of the various places under their own headings.) Tradition links Mount Sinai with a red granite ridge centrally situated in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula. It appears that, for a considerable distance before getting to Mount Sinai, the Israelites traveled fairly close to the Red Sea (evidently its western arm now known as the Gulf of Suez), one of their encampments being by the Red Sea. From Mount Sinai, where the Israelites arrived in the third month (Sivan, May-June) after leaving Egypt (Ex. 19:3), they took a northerly course and eventually came to Kadesh (Kadesh-barnea) in the wilderness of Zin. Sometime after engaging in rebellious murmurings due to the bad report brought back by ten of the spies sent into the Promised Land, the Israelites seemingly left Kadesh, returning there in the first month of the fortieth year after the Exodus. In the interim they had encamped at various places, including Ezion-geber at the head of the Gulf of Aqabah. Subsequent to their second departure from Kadesh, the Israelites pitched camp at a number of places near the territory of Edom until finally coming to the desert plains of Moab.—Num. 12:16–13:3, 25, 26; 20:1; 33:9-49; see KADESH, KADESH-BARNEA.
With the exception of scattered oases, the Sinai Peninsula is largely a region of sand, hard gravel and rock. Meager vegetation grows in the wadis. Anciently there may have been a greater amount of rainfall and also more vegetation. However, without God’s care, the Israelites, possibly numbering three million, could never have survived in this barren region. As Moses told them on the plains of Moab: “Watch out for yourself that you may not forget Jehovah your God . . . who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves; who caused you to walk through the great and fear-inspiring wilderness, with poisonous serpents and scorpions and with thirsty ground that has no water; who brought forth water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you with manna in the wilderness, which your fathers had not known, in order to humble you and in order to put you to the test so as to do you good in your afterdays.”—Deut. 8:11-16.