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Twice in the Scriptures (Deut.33.2; Hab.3.3) Mount Paran is mentioned. Two mountains are suggested as being identified as Mount Paran, but the rugged range of mountains west of the Gulf of Aqabah seems to be the most logical site.

PARAN pâr’ ən (פָּארָ֑ן). A broad central area of desert in the Sinai Peninsula. It is to be distinguished from three smaller peripheral districts: the wilderness of Shur in the NW, bordering Egypt; the wilderness of Sinai, in the southern tip of the peninsula; and the wilderness of Zin, in the NE between Kadesh-barnea and the Arabah trough.

Consequently, there is some overlap in the rather vaguely defined boundaries of Paran. The whole area is some 23,000 square m., divisible into three main topographical sections. In the wilderness of Shur, to the N, lie wide open sandy plains and the dune-fringed coast. Paran is bordered to the S by ranges of hills or isolated groups such as the Moghara, Jelleg, and Hellal. The central area consists of elevated sedimentary tablelands, collectively called the “Jebel at Tih.” This is the great “desert of the wanderings,” rising from 3,900 to 5,290 ft. above sea level, terminating in the S in the high plateau of Egma. All this area, over half of the total drainage area of the Sinai Peninsula, is drained by the Wadi al’Arish and its seasonal tributaries into the Mediterranean. To the S of these tablelands are the crystalline mountains of southern Sinai (see Mount Sinai), a deeply dissected landscape of gorges and mountain blocks. The eastern edge of the Sinai peninsula is intensely broken up into dissected hills, trough faults, and wadi floors—a wild assortment of landforms impossible to describe in detail.


N. Glueck, Rivers in the Desert (1959); Y. Aharoni and M. Avi-Yonah, The Macmillan Bible Atlas (1968), Map No. 48.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

pa’-ran, (pa’ran, ’el-pa’ran; Pharan):

(1) El-paran (Ge 14:6) was the point farthest South reached by the kings. Septuagint renders ’el by terebinthos, and reads, "unto the terebinth of Paran." The evidence is slender, but it is not unreasonable to suppose that this is the place elsewhere (De 2:8; 1Ki 9:26, etc.) called Elath or Eloth (’el with feminine termination), a seaport town which gave its name to the Aelanitic Gulf (modern Gulf of `Aqaba), not far from the wilderness of Paran (2).

(2) Many places named in the narrative of the wanderings lay within the Wilderness of Paran (Nu 10:12; 13:21; 27:14; compare 13:3,16, etc.). It is identified with the high limestone plateau of Ettih, stretching from the Southwest of the Dead Sea to Sinai along the west side of the Arabah. This wilderness offered hospitality to Ishmael when driven from his father’s tent (Ge 21:21). Hither also came David when bereaved of Samuel’s protection (1Sa 25:1).

(3) Mount Paran (De 33:2; Hab 3:3) may be either Jebel Maqrah, 29 miles South of `Ain Kadis (Kadesh-barnea), and 130 miles North of Sinai (Palmer, Desert of the Exodus, 510); or the higher and more imposing range of mountains West of the Gulf of `Aqaba. This is the more probable if El-paran is rightly identified with Elath.

(4) Some place named Paran would seem to be referred to in De 1:1; but no trace of such a city has yet been found. Paran in 1Ki 11:18 doubtless refers to the district West of the Arabah.

W. Ewing