Desert of Paran
The Desert of Paran or Wilderness of Paran (also sometimes spelled Pharan or Faran; Hebrew: מִדְבַּר פָּארָן, Midbar Pa'ran), is a location mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. It is one of the places where the Israelites spent part of their 40 years of wandering after the Exodus, and was also a home to Ishmael, and a place of refuge for David.
The Wilderness or Desert of Paran is said to be the place where the Egyptian servant girl Hagar of Abraham's wife Sarai (who by her permission bore him a son Ishmael) was sent into exile from Abraham's dwelling in Beersheba (Genesis 16:1). Hagar "departed, and strayed in the wilderness of Beer-sheba" (Genesis 21):
Then God opened her [Hagar's] eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt. (Genesis 21:19-22)
Paran is later mentioned in the Book of Numbers as a place where the Israelites temporarily settled during the Exodus:
Paran again features in the opening lines of the Book of Deuteronomy:
He said: "The LORD came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with myriads of holy ones, from his right hand went a fiery law for them." (Deuteronomy 33:2)
It is not certain precisely where the wilderness of Paran is to be located. It is often associated with Mount Sinai in Egypt, and there is some evidence that it may originally have referred to the southern portion of the Sinai Peninsula.
Both Eusebius (in his Onomasticon, a Bible dictionary) and Jerome reported that Paran was a city in Paran desert, in Arabia Deserta (beyond Arabia Nabataea), southeast of Eilat Pharan. Onomasticon, under Pharan, states: "(Now) a city beyond Arabia adjoining the desert of the Saracens [who wander in the desert] through which the children of Israel went moving (camp) from Sinai. Located (we say) beyond Arabia on the south, three days journey to the east of Aila (in the desert Pharan) where Scripture affirms Ismael dwelled, whence the Ishmaelites. It is said (we read) also that (king) Chodollagomor cut to pieces those in 'Pharan which is in the desert'."
Eusebius' mention of Chodollagomor here refers to a possible earlier mention of Paran in Genesis 14:6, which states that as he and the other kings allied with him were campaigning in the region of Sodom and Gomorrah, they smote "the Horites in their mount Seir, unto El-paran, which is by the wilderness". (KJV)
in 1989, Professor Haseeb Shehada, in his translation of the Samaritan Torah, suggested an identification of the wilderness of Paran with the desert of Western Arabia, which is known today as the Hijaz.
The association of Paran in Genesis 21:21 with Ishmael and the Ishmaelites is affirmed by the Muslim geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi who writes "Faran, an arabized Hebrew word, one of the names of Mecca mentioned in the Bible." Islamic and Arabic traditions hold that the wilderness of Paran is, broadly speaking, the Hejaz, the northern half of Tihamah, stretching along the east side of the Red Sea starting from Jordan and Sinai, and that the specific site where Ishmael settled is that of Mecca, near the mountains of Paran.
The "Desert of Paran" is also interpreted as Hijaz in an old Arabic translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch. When it was translated into English in 1851, it was found to include a footnote making this interpretation. The name 'Paran' or 'Faran' has often been used to refer specifically to the wilderness and mountains near where Mecca is situated. Al-Hamdani in his book Geography of the Arabic Peninsula says that the Paran mountains around Mecca were named after Paran son of Amalek. Sam'ni in his Book of Surnames also says that the surname Farani is derived from the Faran mountains near Mecca in Hijaz
According to Wahb ibn Munabbih, there was a Tal Faran ("Hill of Faran") on the outskirts of Mecca, mentioned in his book Kitab al-Tijan, a Pre-Islamic Arabic folklore compilation. Ibn Munabbih further suggested an identification for Tal Faran as the 'mound of the Two runaways', a place where the Jurhum tribe found Hagar and Ishmael and thought of them as two runaways.
Haggai Mazuz, a scholar of Islam associated with the Bar-Ilan University, asserts that Muslim polemicists' (like the Jewish convert Samawʾal al-Maghribī, 1125–1175 CE) appropriation of Deut. 33:2 has antecedence in Jewish tradition itself, as some Midrashim and Targumim, before the rise of Islam itself, posed a connection between Paran and Ishmael-Arabs, which might have fuelled later such apologetic Islamic interpretations in the first place. For instance, commentating on the Sifrei Debarīm, a halakhic midrash on Deuteronomy, dated from the 3rd to the 5th century CE, he says:
- See also Numbers 12:16
- Brisco, T.V. (1982). Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J (Revised ed.). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 241. ISBN 978-0-8028-3782-0.
- Eusebius. "entry for Pharan No 917". Onomasticon.
- Sebeos (1999). "30". The Armenian History of Sebeosi. liverpool: liverpool university press. pp. 95–97. OCLC 44228890.
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- Professor. Haseeb Shehada (1989) . Translation of the Samaritan Torah, p.90 .Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
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- "Quran Commentary of ibn Kathir mention of Abraham and Ishmael as a boy in the "land of Faran"" (PDF).
- The miracle of the well that happened to Hagar and Ishmael in Mecca is further identified in a hadith of Ibn Ezra with the well Zimum (Zimzum), "where the Arabs hold an annual festival", mentioned as the well of Hagar in Genesis 16:14: "She called the well Be'er Lachai Roi; it is between Kadesh and Bered". Dr Michael Sanders website
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- Sir Sayyid Aḥmad Khān (1870). A series of essays on the life of Mohammad: and subjects subsidiary thereto. London: Trübner & co. pp. 74–76.
- Hamdani, al-Hasan. Geography of the Arabian Peninsula. p. 285.
- al-Sam`ni, Abd Al-Karim (1912) [1140 CE]. Kitab al-Ansab: The book of surnames. London. OCLC 459336183. Archived from the original on March 2000.
- Al-Munabbih, Wahb bin (2009). Book of crowns on the kings of Himyar = Kitab al-Tigan. Piscataway: Gorgias Press. ISBN 1593335156.
- Haggai Mazuz, "Tracing possible Jewish influence on a common Islamic commentary on Deuteronomy 33:2" in Journal of Jewish Studies, Autumn 2016, vol. 67, no. 2, p. 294