The Wilderness of Sin/Desert of Sin (Hebrew: מִדְבַּר סִין, Midbar Sin‎) is a geographic area mentioned by the Bible as lying between Elim and Mount Sinai.[1][2] Sin does not refer to sinfulness, but is an untranslated word that would translate as the moon; biblical scholars suspect that the name Sin here refers to the semitic moon-deity Sin,[3][4][5] who was worshipped widely around the entire periphery of pre-Islamic Arabia, the Levant, and Mesopotamia.

The location the Bible refers to is unknown, as its determination relies heavily on the location of Mount Sinai. The traditional identification of Mount Sinai as Jabal Musa, one of the peaks at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, would imply that the wilderness of Sin was probably the narrow plain of el-Markha, which stretches along the eastern shore of the Red Sea for several miles toward the promontory of Ras Mohammed; however, most scholars have since rejected these traditional identifications. The more popular identification among modern scholars, of Sinai as al-Madhbah at Petra, would imply that the wilderness of Sin was roughly equatable with the central Arabah.

The wilderness of Sin is mentioned by the Bible as being one of the places that the Israelites wandered during their Exodus;[6] the similarly named wilderness of Zin is also mentioned by the Bible as having been a location through which the Israelites travelled. The Bible identifies Kadesh-Barnea as having been located within the wilderness of Zin,[7] and most scholars, as well as traditional sources, consequently identify this wilderness as being part of the Arabah;[3] it is thus eminently possible that the wilderness of Sin and the wilderness of Zin are actually the same place.

The biblical narrative states that on reaching the wilderness of Sin, the Israelites began to raise objections over the lack of food, as they had already consumed all the corn they had brought with them from Egypt. According to the account, Yahweh heard their murmurings, and so provided them with abundant manna and quail.

Later they left the wilderness of Sin and complained about a lack of water while camping at Rephidim.

Cultural references


  1. Exodus 16:1
  2. Numbers 33:11-12
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  4. Jewish Encyclopedia
  5. Peake's commentary on the Bible
  6. Numbers 13:3, Numbers 13:26
  7. Numbers 33:36

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

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