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SHUR (shūr, Heb. shûr, wall). A locality south of Palestine and east of Egypt. It was in this region that the angel of the Lord found Hagar when she fled from Sarah (Gen.16.7-Gen.16.14). Abraham too lived in this territory at one time (Gen.20.1).

SHUR shŏŏr (שׁ֔וּר; LXX Σουρ; wall). A fortified wall or region along the eastern border of Egypt.

Reference is first made to a line of fortifications on the eastern border of the delta in “the Story of Si-nuhe” where Si-nuhe says he “came up to the wall-of-the-Ruler, made to oppose the Asiatics and to crush the Sand-Crossers” (ANET, p. 19; cf. p. 446). This net of forts, set up to keep out the Bedouin tribes, is prob. referred to in the account of the Ishmaelites who “dwelt from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria” (Gen 25:18), also where “Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt” (1 Sam 15:7), and in connection with David’s “raids upon the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites” who “were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt” (1 Sam 27:8).

It is possible that the ancient fortifications may have given their name to the region E of it, and it is to the latter that the above instances of Shur refer. In Exodus 15:22 such is obviously the case, for Moses led the Israelites “into the wilderness of Shur” called “the wilderness of Etham” in Numbers 33:8. The region is prob. also intended when it is said that Abraham “dwelt between Kadesh and Shur” (Gen 20:1).

Genesis 16:7 mentions “the spring on the way to Shur” where the Lord found Hagar on her flight from Sarai. The “way to Shur” (דֶּ֥רֶכְ שֽׁוּר) is prob. an ancient caravan route, the last segment of the northern route of the King's Highway|King’s Highway which came out of Edom, passed through the wilderness of Zin to Kadesh-barnea and reached Egypt via “the wilderness of Shur” (Exod 15:22).


C. L. Woolley and T. E. Lawrence, The Wilderness of Zin (new ed., 1936), 57-62; IDB, R-Z (1962), 342; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible, A Historical Geography (1962, 1967), 10, 11, 39-52, 130, 179.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

shur, shoor (shur; Sour): The name of a desert East of the Gulf of Suez. The word means a "wall," and may probably refer to the mountain wall of the Tih plateau as visible from the shore plains. In Ge 16:7 Hagar at Kadesh (`Ain Qadis) (see 16:14) is said to have been "in the way to Shur." Abraham also lived "between Kadesh and Shur" (Ge 20:1). The position of Shur is defined (Ge 25:18) as being "opposite Egypt on the way to Assyria." After crossing the Red Sea (Ex 15:4) the Hebrews entered the desert of Shur (Ex 15:22), which extended southward a distance of three days’ journey. It is again noticed (1Sa 15:7) as being opposite Egypt, and (1Sa 27:8) as near Egypt. There is thus no doubt of its situation, on the East of the Red Sea, and of the Bitter Lakes.

Brugsch, however, proposed to regard Shur ("the wall") as equivalent to the Egyptian anbu ("wall"), the name of a fortification of some kind apparently near Kantarah] (see Migdol (2)), probably barring the entrance to Egypt on the road from Pelusium to Zoan. The extent of this "wall" is unknown, but Brugsch connects it with the wall mentioned by Diodorus Siculus (i.4) who wrote about 8 BC, and who attributed it to Sesostris (probably Rameses II) who defended "the east side of Egypt against the irruptions of the Syrians and Arabians, by a wall drawn from Pelusium through the deserts as far as to Heliopolis, for a space of 1,500 furlongs." Heliopolis lies 90 miles (not 188) Southwest of Pelusium: this wall, if it existed at all, would have run on the edge of the desert which extends North of Wady Tumeilat from Kantarah] to Tell el-Kebir; but this line, on the borders of Goshen, is evidently much too far West to have any connection with the desert of Shur East of the Gulf of Suez. See Budge, Hist. Egypt, 90; Brugsch, Egypt under the Pharaohs, abridged edition, 320.