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In Exodus 16:1, the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, and in Exodus 17:1 the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin. We are told this is between Elim and Sinai and that afterwards they travelled to Rephidim. However this information seems too vague for the Wilderness to be located with certainty.

I am after a hermeneutic explanation of where or what the Wilderness of Sin was, and what its significance was.

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Exodus 15:27-16:1 says:

And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters. And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.

The wilderness of Sin is between Elim and Sinai. The word given as "Sin" is Ciyn (Strong's H5512), which has no connection to the "cause of transgression".

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It was at the outskirts of the Wilderness of Sin that Israel murmured against the Lord, and during the days of their sojourn there that He provided them quail and manna.

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  • enegue Unfortunately this tells us nothing about the location that is not already provided in the question. We are told this is between Elim and Mt Sinai, but we do not know where Elim and Mt Sinai are, and the map is no more than a guess as to the location of the Wilderness of Sin. If you think the Wilderness of Sin was an identifiable location, we need to do better than this. – Dick Harfield Nov 16 '15 at 19:49
  • For those who believe the journey of Moses is fiction, then nothing will suffice as proof that the wilderness of Sin is a real place. For those who believe differently, then it's just a matter of investigating the places Moses mentions. Maps like the one I presented give us the best guesses concerning Moses journey, based on what has been discovered about the places listed in the Bible. Because the wilderness of Sin is a large expanse of desert, then it's location is, in all likelihood, correct. Not so, Elim, though. I will investigate further about Mt Sinai. – enegue Nov 16 '15 at 20:50
  • Yes please, if you could investigate where you think Elim & MT Sinai might be. Belief that the journey occurred or not is irrelevant on BH.SE, because we are after hermeneutic analysis, not "best guesses". Whether or not your answer turns out to be correct, what we are looking for is "show your working": evidence as to how you arrived at this answer, other than by guessing. This may help you. – Dick Harfield Nov 16 '15 at 21:33
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Exodus chapters 17 and 18 appear to contain parallel interpolations into an earlier text. In 16:2, the Israelites complain about lack of food and then verses 16:2-36 explain how the Lord responded with manna. In verses 17:1b-2, the Israelites complain about lack of water and then verses 17:3-7 explain how the Lord commanded Moses to provide drinking water. Tzemah Yoreh (The First Book of God, pages 79-80) believes the first of these passages was written by the Priestly Source and that the second (17:1b-2) contains Yahwistic and Priestly material.

For our purposes, whether or not we regard the two passages in which the Israelites complain and are satisfied as interpolations, they can be removed without otherwise affecting the context, resulting in:

Exodus 16:1: And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 17:1a,8: And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim ... Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.

The war against the Amalek commences after the Israelites leave the Wilderness of Sin and is only be conducted by day, "until the going down of the sun". Surprisingly, the Israelites can only succeed while Moses holds his hand high, supported on a pile of stones. As the name "Rephidim" (Hebrew: רְפִידִם‎) may mean 'supports', it is probably not a real location but an allegory. This then leads to the conclusion the the Wilderness of Sin could similarly be an allegory, rather than a real location.

We now know that the ancient Semitic moon god was called Sin, so the Wilderness of Sin could have been the night, when the moon god ruled. When the Israelites left his domain - when day broke - they fought with the help of the sun.

On this basis, Wilderness of Sin was a poetic description of the night, contrasting the domain of the moon god with that of the sun god, who helped defeat the Amalek. On this analysis, there is no physical place corresponding to the Wilderness of Sin.

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  • There's no citation for the assertion at Wikipedia about the meaning of רְפִידִם. Have you got a cited reference? When people use words like "could have been" it is usually an indication that there's a stretch involved in making the connection. – enegue Nov 18 '15 at 7:21
  • @enegue I did not say that my answer came from Wikipedia. I have much more stringent standards than simply relying on popular internet sites, although they are useful for backup references, as here. However, in referring to:Wikipedia, do you mean: "biblical scholars suspect that the name Sin here refers to the semitic moon-deity Sin"? – Dick Harfield Nov 18 '15 at 8:54
  • Hartfield I didn't say you got your answer from Wikipedia. I just followed your link and noticed that the author of the page didn't cite the sources for the claim. – enegue Nov 18 '15 at 9:14

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