Modern Kadesh or Ein Kadis
George L. Robinson
The Biblical World
Vol. 17, No. 5., May, 1901AD, pp. 327-338.

(Modern Kadesh or Ein Kadis, George L. Robinson, The Biblical World, Vol. 17, No. 5., May, 1901AD)

It is pretty generally agreed now that Kadesh of Scripture is probably the same as Ein Qedeis, or "Holy Fountain," of the Arabs. This is the opinion of Rowlands, who first identified it; of Ritter and Schultz ; of Palmer and Dr. H. Clay Trumbull ; of Guthe also, who, however, seems never to have visited the desert (Zeitschrift des Paldstina-Vereins, Vol. VIII, pp. 182 ff.); and of many others. The words Kadesh and Kadis are identical in meaning and etymology-a fact which naturally must have great weight in identifying lost sites. Several other names have been proposed as equally probable, but few, if any, explorers have been in a position to make a comparison, not having been able to visit more than one of the rival sites. Among them most notable of all is Ein el-Weibeh, advocated by Robinson in his Biblical Researches; but this spring is located too far to the north and east to have been the mustering-ground and rallying-point of the children of Israel on their desert march. Stanley in his Sinai and Palestine (pp. 92-8) identifies Sela' or Petra with Kadesh, which is absurd.

Seetzen (Reisen, Vol. 111, pp. 47 f.) made a trip south from Hebron in the spring of 1807, visiting 'Ain Kuderat and Wady el-'Ain, and also a " flat dry Wady " called by the Arabs " Wady el-Kadis," and this is the first hint we have by a modern traveler of the ancient Arabic name. In 1842 Rev. John Rowlands, then residing at Gaza, secured two sheikhs of the Terabin Arabs, who roam over the western third of the desert, and in company with Mr. Johns, for a time British vice-consul at Jerusalem, succeeded in discovering Kadis. In a letter to his friend and former desert-companion, Canon Williams, which the latter published in his work The Holy City (1845), Rowlands gives the only account we have of this journey. Rowlands was the first to suggest the identification of the two names Kadesh and Kadis. In 1870 Professor E. H. Palmer visited 'Ein Kadis, and in his capital work entitled The Desert of the Exodus (pp. 282 f.) gives the most accurate description of, the place of which we know. , In 1878 Rev. F. W. Holland made the journey to 'Ein Kadis, his description being given to us by Sir Charles W. Wilson in the Quarterly Statement o f the Palestine Exploration Fund (1884, pp. 9f.), compiled from his field notes. The last to visit Ein Qedeis was Rev. H Clay Trumbull, editor of the Sunday-School Times, who in 1881 rediscovered the site, describing his search for it at length in his scholarly work entitled Kadesh-Barnea (1884), but whose actual description of the 'Ain (pp. 272 f.), we regret to say, is more rhetorical than scientific. Before our recent visit, since 1881 no one (except possibly a single Frenchman), so far as the writer can ascertain, had been successful in visiting the "Sacred Fountain." Mr. E. L. Wilson, who was commissioned by Dr. Trumbull to visit 'Ein Kadis and secure, if possible, photographs for his published work, confesses in his book, entitled In Scripture Lands (189o, pp. 124 f.), that he was deceived by his dragoman and the Arabs, who conducted him, instead, to "an oasis several miles north of 'Ein Kadis, but it was not 4Ein Kadis." In like manner, Dr. Stewart, an English clergyman, in 1853, and Dr. W. M. Thompson, of the Land and the Book, and President Bartlett in 1874, were baffled in their attempts to visit this "holy" place. The writer was accompanied by Rev. Professor A. W. Anthony, of Cobb Divinity School, Lewiston, Me., and by Rev. John Harvey Lee, of Columbus, O. We were there on April 13, 1900.

In planning our desert trip in Cairo we found the greatest difficulty in securing a dragoman who would promise to conduct us farther than to Mt. Sinai and return. Over and over again we were assured by the interpreters and dragomans loitering about Shepherd's hotel, by the head clerks in Cook's tourist office, and by the missionaries also, that no white man had attempted to cross the desert northward from Mt. Sinai since Professor Palmer's death in 1882; that to attempt to get to Kadesh was well-nigh impossible, while to go from Kadesh direct to Petra was quite out of the question. Nevertheless, we were deter-mined not only to cross the desert from Sinai northward, but also to follow as nearly as possible in the footsteps of the children of Israel. Finally, after five days of hard work, a dragoman was secured; one who had escorted Drs. H. M. Field and George E. Post, and more recently the famous specialists who a few years ago discovered the Syriac manuscript in the Monastery of St. Catharine at Mt. Sinai, Mrs. Lewis and her sister, Mrs. Gibson, of Cambridge, England. Our dragoman's name was Hanna Abu Saab, which, being interpreted, means "John the Father of Difficulty." This looked a little ominous. But again and again in our bargaining with him we stipulated that, no matter what obstacles might arise, or what detours might be necessary to reach our goal, we must at all hazards see `Ein Kadis. Hanna had never been there before, and for our sakes it was fortunate that he had not, for very probably he would never have undertaken such a task a second time. I tried to get him to make a covenant of blood with us to the effect that he would show us Kadesh, but he refused. The contract between us, however, was formally drawn up and signed before starting, and sealed with the official stamp of the American consul in Cairo.

And well was this precaution taken; for, four days before reaching `Ein Kadis, Hanna and the servants formally endeavored to divert us from our course, asking us to give up attempting to visit the Sacred Spring. We were not so easily dissuaded, how-ever, but pressed steadily on, the Arabs interfering with us in our course only twice ; once the Ijaiwat tribe, who, being few in numbers, did not dare attack us, and were soon satisfied with a few dollars; a second time, the Teyahahs, who killed Palmer, and who came out in great numbers against us, and at first attempted to appropriate our burdened caravan, and then were bold enough to try to make the camels which we were riding kneel in order to dislodge us from our saddles. The men of a whole tent-village came out against us, and for about twenty minutes it seemed exceedingly doubtful whether we should reach `Ein Kadis after all. This time gold was required to pacify them, and in considerable quantity, but our ever-tactful dragoman was able, as usual, to father the difficulty.

Finally, we came to the broad plain of Kadesh itself, being guided by a Teyahah Arab whom we had secured the day before. We crossed the plain, which was extensive, to its northern border and encamped at the base of the foot-hills bordering on the Negeb,or "South Country." But hardly had we selected a favor-able spot on which to pitch our tents when two Arabs appeared on the scene and stood watching us with jealous eye. When they discovered a little later our intentions to visit the springs of Badesh on the following day, they demurred. Long before the tents were set up seven or eight others of their clan had been summoned and were of like mind. A little later all were squatted on the ground around our servants' fire and were loudly discussing, with our dragoman, the terms on which foreigners were allowed to look upon their Sacred Fountain. " On no terms whatever!" re-plied the sheikh. -Never!" ,Not for any price! " were the constant rejoinders. The whole night until near daybreak was spent in negotiating with these Unreasonables; offers of silver and then of gold were peremptorily rejected. Morning came. The countenance of our dragoman was fallen. At breakfast he came into our dining-tent, and wished a conference about our plan of procedure. The Arabs had not come to terms and probably would resist us if we should attempt to venture up the Wady. We were bidden to strike with our palm-clubs anyone who should seize our camels, or cause them to kneel. Meanwhile one more attempt would be made to arrange matters amicably. just then three of our most hostile opposers appeared before the door of our tent. Hanna resorted to the following scheme. He had learned their names during the night. Formally he bade me, with pomp, to take their names down in my notebook, in order, as he informed them, to report them to the Turkish governor at Gaza. I did so.

Two of them were sheikhs and were subject to the Gaza government. The formality of this little episode had a salutary effect upon them. Sheikh Salimi suddenly lost courage, promised that he would not further oppose us, and requested that his name be stricken from my book. It was formally erased in his presence. Sheikh Hashan had brought with him a sack of tobacco, wishing to find a market for his unsalable product. Our dragoman saw his opportunity. He quickly bought it and gave it to our servants to divide. This pleased Hashan, and he promised no longer to resist our progress. Hanna, soon afterward, also secured the chief of the two sheikhs to act as an extra escort, and in a few minutes we had broken camp and were off in the direction of Wady Kadis where the springs were located. We considered Hanna's tact a master-stroke of diplomacy, and inasmuch as no further opposition was made to us, we inscribed the day in our notes as "Good Friday," which according to the western calendar it really was.

The western approach to the 'Ain (from my field notes).-We mounted at 7 : 19 o'clock. The morning was clear and cool. There was a slight breeze blowing from the north. We start in the direction of Wady Kadis, which is about northeast from where we camped. The guides, going ahead, stir up a rabbit.

The plain is not entirely destitute of grass and grain. Here and there portions are under cultivation; the barley is green, stout, and headed out. As we approach the mouth of the Wady, acres of bowlders cover the broad surface. An immense volume of water must issue annually from this valley. The bowlders grow larger as we ascend. We ride northeast by east. We come to the mouth of the Wady at 8 o'clock. It seems to be about one-half mile broad. Yellowish-green "fox-tail" grass and retam bushes cover the bottom. No Arabs as yet in sight. We wonder where they are hiding in ambush for us; "Probably farther up the Wady where they can more successfully resist us," we reflected; but the reflection was unnecessary, for they did not molest us. The mountains on the left are of good height, shading down into a sandy point ; on the right they are low foot-hills dividing the Wady of Kadesh from the plain of Kadesh. Our ascent is gradual. Heaps upon heaps of boulders in the bed of the torrent valley proper. A deep gully, seven to ten feet deep and forty feet wide, cut out of the gravelly soil by the stream, extends along our right. At 8: io o'clock the valley is about one-third of a mile broad, and the features remain the same. The hills on the right have a greenish hue. It is an uninviting Wady to ascend, but the paths are good. Four Arabs with as many asses are spied ahead, but they give no signs of disturbance. Behind us in the distant west Jebel Helal stands boldly out upon the horizon. Our Arabs talk little. At 8 : 15 o'clock the Wady is about one-fourth of a mile broad, and at 8 : 22 begins to narrow rapidly, being not more than 125 yards wide. We meet a man driving a camel and bearing a long primitive spear pointed on both ends. The hills are symmetrical about our horizon. Our course is now east by southeast. The Wady is well clothed with fading grass, a kind of fox-tail. The sun is bright, the sky clear, and the air cool. The breeze now seems to be coming up the Wady from the west. Another great wash- out, or jorf, on our right about fourteen feet deep. The Wadti-makes a bend. Many little gray birds flit about. A tomb stands on our right, with others less pretentious near by. At 8:24 o'clock the Wady is only about one hundred and fifty feet broad. Another deep jorf. We descend into it. We are nearing the 'Ain. About ten fig trees are passed on our right, growing under a ledge of rocks. We see the last traces of a living stream which is being absorbed by the thirsty soil. Men and boys are busy at the fountain filling their waterskins. Their donkeys are grazing not far away-. We turn a corner in the bend of the Wady, cross over the stream, and are at 'Ein Kadis (8:37 o'clock), Whole time from camp, one hour and eighteen minutes ; or, from the mouth of the Wady, thirty minutes. According to Holland, there is another good approach from the southeast between Jebels Magrah and Jerafeh-a road frequented by marauding parties from the 'Arabah (cf. Quarterly Statement, 1884, pp. 5, 10). Kadesh is more open and more easily approached from this direction (cf. Palmer, Desert of the Exodus, p. 285).

The location of Ein Kadis and its identification with Kadesk-Barnea. 'Ein Kadis is located about fifty miles south of Beersheba ; according to Palmer, in latitude 31c 34' north and longitude 40 31 ' east, and about three miles west from the water-shed of the great 'Azazimeh plateau. It is situated at the foot of the mountains of the Negeb, or " South Country," on what might be called the natural northern boundary of the Badiet et-Tih, or "Desert of the Wanderings"-"that great expanse of treeless limestone plateau between the 'Arabah and Philistia." It is exactly east of Jebel Helal (about thirty miles away), is approximately the same distance south of El-Birein, and about two days' camel riding west from Petra. This location differs little from the biblical data concerning Kadesh. It is not far from the southern borders of Canaan (cf. Numb. 34:4); not long distant from Mt. Hor, probably Jebel 11jarun (cf. Numb. 20: 22) ; on the borders of the wilderness of Zin, which is probably that part of the desert west of the 'Arabah (cf. Numb. 20: 1); on the frontier of Edom (cf. Numb. 20: I6); and eleven days from Horeb via Mount Seir (Deut. I :2). The harmony of the biblical statements concerning Kadesh and the location of 'Ein Kadis is so patent that no other site can really be said in the minds of scholars to rival 'Ein Kadis as the true location of Kadesh-Barnea of Scripture.

Description of 'Ein Kadis (from field notes). Arrived 8:40 o'clock at what the natives called 'Ein Kadis. The camels are made to kneel on the sand near the Oshej trees (see plan). The Wady is jorf-like on the south side. The springs are on the north side of the stream. Large boulders lie about. We walk to the extreme eastern end of the watered portion of the Wady, taking a panoramic view of the whole. We locate at once the rock Meribah and begin our survey by examining the spring, or well, close by its base. It was dry. Its diameter at the bottom was about four feet and at the top ten ; approximately six feet deep, with steps leading down. Large shattered rocks hung over it. Manure lay deep close about its mouth, showing conclusively that it must frequently contain water which is used in watering the flocks and herds of the Arabs. The three ancient and primitive looking watering troughs near by prove the same; one being a large circular stone with a natural depression in its top, eight inches deep by eleven, and nine inches in diameter when measured in different directions. This well we have designated in our plan as the " Dry Themail," or pool.

One hundred and fifty feet northwest of this is another 'Ain, or pool, called by the Arabs of that locality Themail Kunnas (see plan). Small boulders lie about its mouth. It, too, is walled up, being five feet deep, four feet in diameter at the bot-tom, and ten at the top. The water was only six inches deep. A stone trough, not of marble, but almost as white as marble, lay near its opening. Considerable grass was growing in the immediate neighborhood.

About twenty-five feet below this 'Ain there was a third pool, called by the Arabs Themail Ibn-Ahadeb. It is situated just below two huge rocks designated in the plan. Its wall consists of but one row of stones. The water in the bottom of this shallow spring was not more than three inches deep, but sweet and good.

Immediately below and nearer the Wady bed two Arab boys were filling their waterskins from a flowing, gurgling fountain which the Arabs declared has no name. The stream issuing from this rude pool was copious, being large enough to fill a three-inch pipe. At various places in the near vicinity water bubbled forth, forming a considerable stream in the Wady and making it evident that here was the real source of the water supply. Rude attempts had been made by the Arabs at different spots to dig shallow pools in which it might collect.

There was still one other important Themail, or pool, a little farther down the Wady course, shallow, irregular in shape, about six feet in diameter in one direction and three in the other, exceedingly superficial, with a wall of small stones on its north-east side, and yet discharging a volume of water which would easily fill a three-inch pipe. It discharged itself immediately into the flowing stream of the Wady (see plan), the depth of which immediately below was on the average one foot, but before reaching the fig trees (boo feet from the source) was completely lost in the sand, being absorbed in the porous bed of the valley. The soil for some distance around the springs seemed to be full of water, which, with the help of the manure from the flocks, produces an abundant growth of grass in certain spots. It was our opinion, from the general appearance of the place, that, though there are now several pools or springs, the percolating waters could all easily be collected in a single Themafl, or fountain head, were a little enterprise shown by the Arabs in digging down a few feet below the surface of the soil. But alas, for the vis inertiae of the Bedouin! The name itself implies as much, for it is known among the Arabs as 'Ain (singular), not 'Ayun (plural), Kadis. The water belongs, we were told, to the Teyahah tribe, but in summer, when the plateau of the Azazimehs to the northeast is dry and their fountains empty, they are allowed to share the abundant and perennial supply of 'Ein Kadis. This fact alone is a strong proof in favor of its being identical with gadesh-Barnea of the Bible; the springs of Wadies Muweileh and El-'Ain, of Kuseimeh and guderat, being too remote from the plain of Kadesh to answer the conditions."

The importance of the site.-A single word concerning the importance of gadesh as a site will fittingly conclude our study. As is generally recognized, no spot except Sinai is so important in the history of Israel's wanderings as Kadesh. Here Israel's hosts halted to send forth spies to Canaan (Deut. i:1g). Here some of them proposed to appoint a new captain and return to Egypt (Numb. 14: 4). Here Israel probably encamped during the thirty-eight years of their wanderings, making it their rendezvous (cf. Driver, Deuteronomy, on 2:14, to the contrary). At Kadesh the tabernacle was located most probably and a rude tribunal established by Moses. Here Korah and his company rebelled (Numb. 16: if.). Here Aaron's rod budded in token of the preeminence of the Levites (Numb. 17: 1 f.). Here Miriam died (Numb. 20: 1). Here Moses smote the rock Meribah when he ought to have only spoken to it (Numb. 20: 1-12). It has even been conjectured that Kadesh was the scene of Jehovah's first manifestation to Moses, as this would better explain the words of Hobab, " I will depart to my own land and to my kindred" (Numb. 10: 30), which is more natural, it is claimed, than when supposed to have taken place in Horeb close to Hobab's home (cf. Encyclopcedia Biblica, article "Kadesh-Barnea").

[For other descriptions of 'Ein Kadis, compare that of HOLLAND given by WIL-SON from his notes (Quarterly Statement, 1884, pp. q f.; also 1879, p. 69); PALMER (Desert of the Exodus, pp. 282 f.); and TRUMBULL (Kadesh-Barnea, pp. 272 f.), who gives also (pp. 213 f.) ROWLAND'S description first published in the appendix to CANON WILLIAM'S work The Holy City (1845). All these correspond so perfectly with the writer's own observations of the place that there is no doubt that he and his party visited the true 'Ein Kadis.]

(Modern Kadesh or Ein Kadis, George L. Robinson, The Biblical World, Vol. 17, No. 5., May, 1901AD)


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