Eilat, Alot of Miles from Canaan

In Numbers 13, God tells Moses to send spies to scout Canaan before Israel would enter the land. The land the spies traversed does not entirely match the map of modern day Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In Numbers 12, Israel left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran. The exact location of the Desert of Paran is not known today. Some place it in the modern northeastern Sinai Desert, others place it further east in the Transjordan, southeast of the Dead Sea.

In the Book of Joshua, God performs a miracle and holds the waters of the Jordan River so that Israel can cross into Canaan. South of the Dead Sea, no such miracle is required. The Sea of Galilee spills out into the Jordan River. The Jordan River is further fed by the Yarmouk River and the Zarqa River, which is identified with the Jabbok River in the Bible. These waters run south and empty into the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. While water may drain into the Jordan Rift Valley, no water from the Dead Sea flows south and uphill to the Red Sea. Thus there is no miracle needed to cross the Rift Valley.

Later in the biblical account, Israel traveled from the Sinai and crossed into Edomite territory, then headed north to the territories of Moab and Ammon, eventually crossing back west with Joshua across the Jordan River.

In Numbers 13, the Israelite spies took the following route: “So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.”

In Numbers 14, when the spies declared the land to be too difficult to conquer, the Israelites angered God by complaining. So God punished them: “as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times, not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” Moses was later punished similarly for striking the rock, and was also denied the right to enter Canaan. But both Moses and the nation of Israel crossed from the Sinai through the territory between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, an area that is part of modern day State of Israel, in order to reach Transjordan, while still under God’s punishment that they would never enter Canaan. Thus the biblical land of Canaan did not extend as far south as the areas Israel crossed and certainly the biblical land did not include a city on the Red Sea. 

To get a clear sense of the geography, the following map of the tribes of Israel from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs should make it clear that the land south of the Dead Sea, especially the modern city of Eilat, was outside of Israel’s ancient borders: