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Taberah (Hebrew: תבערה‎) is one of the locations at which, according to the Book of Numbers, the Israelites passed through during their Exodus journey[1]. The biblical narrative states that the place received its name[2], which means burning[3], because Yahweh had set fire to the Israelites there, as vengeance against their continued complaints[4]; the text states that the fire first combusted the people at the outer edges of the Israelite group[5], and was extinguished when Moses prayed on the people's behalf[6].

According to textual scholars, the account concerning Taberah is part of the Elohist text, and occurs at the same point in the Exodus narrative as the account of Kibroth Hattaavah in the Jahwist text[7][8]; indeed, one or both of Tabarah (תבערה) and Hattavah (התאוה) may be phonological and typographical corruptions of the same original word[9]. Taberah is not listed in the full stations list later in the Book of Numbers, with the people going straight from Mount Sinai to Kibroth-hattavah[10], and there is no hint that the Israelites had to travel from Taberah to Kibroth-hattaavah, implying that they were the same location[11]; nevertheless, Taberah and Kibroth-hattaavah are listed as different places by a passage in Deuteronomy[12], which textual scholars ascribe to the deuteronomist, and consequently date to over two centuries later than the Jahwist and Elohist, and also later than the combined JE text[13].

Taberah is described by the Torah as being three days journey from Mount Sinai[14], and therefore its modern identification relies heavily on the identification of Mount Sinai. The traditional identification of Mount Sinai as one of the mountains at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula would imply that Taberah and Kibroth-hattaavah was/were probably in the Wadi Murrah, about 30 miles north-east of the southern tip, and exactly a day's journey from 'Ain Hudherah; in this area, at the Erweis el-Ebeirig, an ancient encampment has been found[15], but it dates to the Early Bronze Age (the early 3rd century BC)[16]. The traditional location of Mount Sinai has been rejected by the majority of scholars, as well as theologians, who favour a location at Mount Seir[11][17] or in north western Saudi Arabia[18][19], and others views propose locations in the Negev[20], or the central or northern Sinai desert[21].

Citations and notes

  1. Numbers 11:1-3
  2. Numbers 11:3
  3. Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  4. Numbers 11:1
  5. Numbers 11:1
  6. Numbers 11:2
  7. Peake's commentary on the Bible
  8. Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  9. Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  10. Numbers 33:16
  11. 11.0 11.1 Jewish Encyclopedia
  12. Deuteronomy 9:22
  13. Richard Elliott Friedman, Who wrote the Bible?
  14. Numbers 10:33
  15. E.H. Palmer, The Desert of the Exodus: Journeys on Foot in the Wilderness of the Forty Years' Wanderings (1872)
  16. Itzhaq Beit-Arieh, Archaeology of Sinai, The Ophir Expedition, Tel Aviv University (2003)
  17. Ditlef Nielsen, The Site of the Biblical Mount Sinai – A Claim for Petra (1927)
  18. Charles Beke, Mount Sinai, a Volcano (1873)
  19. Jean Koenig, Le site de Al-Jaw dans l'ancien pays de Madian
  20. Emmanuel Anati, The riddle of Mount Sinai : archaeological discoveries at Har Karkom (2001)
  21. Menashe Har-El, The Sinai Journeys: The Route of the Exodus

This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.

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