Zin Desert

Zin Desert

Once explored by the legendary "Lawrence of Arabia"

The Wilderness of Zin/Desert of Zin (Hebrew: מדבר צין‎‎, Midbar Tzin) is a geographic area mentioned by the Torah as containing Kadesh-Barnea within it; and it is therefore also referred to as the "Wilderness of Kadesh". Most scholars, as well as traditional sources, consequently identify this wilderness as being part of the Arabah.

Similarly named is the Wilderness of Sin. Modern English translations make a distinction; but it is not easily evident from the Septuagint and the Vulgate that, apart from a couple of instances, render both Hebrew ṣin and sîn as "Sin". The "Wilderness of Sin" is mentioned by the Bible as being adjacent to Mount Sinai; some consider Sinai to refer to al-Madhbah at Petra, adjacent to the central Arabah, and it is thus eminently possible that the "Wilderness of Sin" and the "Wilderness of Zin" are the same place.

Kadesh or Qadhesh in Classical Hebrew: קָדֵשׁ‎‎, from the root קדש "holy", is a place-name that occurs several times in the Hebrew Bible. From the context it is implied that there were perhaps two different cities, both located south of, or at the southern border of, Canaan and the Kingdom of Judah, with one in a more easterly location than the other (see discussion in the "Location" paragraph). The alternate spelling appears as Qadesh Barneaʿ (קָדֵשׁ בַּרְנֵעַ), "Barnea" meaning wilderness wandering, and which some scholars hold to be a different place altogether. The Bible associates the place-name Kadesh (and/or Kadesh Barnea), with a number of biblical episodes, bestowing considerable importance to the site - or sites - in the narrative of the genesis of the Israelites. Kadesh was the chief site of encampment for the Israelites during their wandering in the wilderness of Zin (Deuteronomy 1:46); it was from Kadesh that the Israelite spies were sent out into Canaan (Numbers 13:1-26); the first failed attempt to take the land was made from Kadesh (Numbers 14:40-45); Moses disobediently struck the rock that brought forth water at Kadesh (Numbers 20:11); Miriam (Numbers 20:1) and Aaron (Numbers 20:22-29) both died and were buried near a place named Kadesh; and Moses sent envoys to the King of Edom from Kadesh (Numbers 20:14), asking for permission to let the Israelites use the King's Highway passing through his territory, which the Edomite king denied. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, Kadesh (later called Rekem) is identified with Petra, in Jordan.

Kadesh Barnea is a key feature in the common biblical formula delineating the southern border of the Land of Israel (cf. Numbers 34:4, Joshua 15:3, Ezekiel 47:19 etc.) and thus its identification is key to understanding both the ideal and geopolitically realised borders of ancient Israel.

It was this region that the British Arabist and adventurer T. E. Lawrence was exploring in a military survey for the British army when he was drafted into service. His expedition, funded by the Palestine Exploration Fund, included a survey of the entire Negev Desert.

Thomas Edward Lawrence, (16 August 1888 – 19 May 1935) was a British author, archaeologist, military officer, and diplomat. He was renowned for his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. The breadth and variety of his activities and associations, and his ability to describe them vividly in writing, earned him international fame as Lawrence of Arabia—a title used for the 1962 film based on his wartime activities.