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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Rephidim', רְפַידַים, supports, i.e., perhaps, resting-places; Sept. and Josephus, ῾Ραφιδίν ), a station of the Israelites on their journey through the Arabian desert, to which they passed from the Desert of Sin (Exodus 17:1), situated, according to Numbers 33:14 sq., between Alush and the wilderness of Sinai. Here the Amalekites attacked Israel, but were repulsed (Exodus 17:8 sq.). Here also Moses struck the rock, from which the fountain of water leaped forth; to which the later Jewish traditions added many other wonders, as that the rock itself followed the people in theirjourney, supplying water always (seeWettstein and Schottgen, on 1 Corinthians 10:4; Buxtorf, Exercit. p. 391 sq.). The knowledge of this miraculous gift of water reached the Romans. Tacitus alludes to it (Hist. v, 3), and supposes that Moses was guided by wild asses, and then by the green pasture, to the exact spot where water was concealed (comp., in the Grecian mythology, especially Pausan. 4:36, 5; but the legend of Hippocrene [Ovid, Met. v, 256 sq.] has scarcely any points of resemblance). The most definite indication as to the situation of Rephidim is incidentally supplied in the Scripture account of the above miracle. While encamped at Rephidim, "there was no water for the people to drink," and they murmured against Moses. He was therefore commanded to "go on (עֲבֹר, pass, i.e. cross the desert shore) before the people," and with his rod to smite "the rock in Horeb," upon which (הִצּוּר
עִל, the towering cliff bounding the range et-Tlh) Jehovah stood. (This admirably suits the entrance of Wady Hibran, but is utterly vague and inapt if spoken of the interior.) In consequence of this, Rephidim was called Massah (" temptation") and, Meribah ("chiding"). As the Israelites, though encamped in Rephidim, were able to draw their needful supply of water from "the rock in Horeb," the two places must have been adjacent. Assuming Jebel Muisa to be Sinai (or Horeb), and that the Israelites approached it by Wady es-Sheik; which is the: only practicable route for such a multitude coming from Egypt, it follows that Rephidim was not more than one march — and apparently a short one — distant from the mountain. Notwithstanding this indication, however, the position of Rephidim has created much discussion among travellers and sacred geographers. Josephus appears to locate it very near to Sinai, and states that the place was entirely destitute of water, while in their preceding marches the people had met with fountains (Ant. 3:1, 7, and 5, 1). Eusebius and Jerome say it was near Mount Horeb ( Onomast. s.v. "Raphidim"). Cosmas places it at the distance of six miles, which agrees pretty nearly with that of Nebi Saleh (Topographia Christiana, v, 207 sq.). Robinson removes it some miles farther down Wady es-Sheik to a narrow gorge which forms a kind of door to the central group of mountains. He gets over the difficulty in regard to the proximity of Horeb by affirming that that name was given, not to a single mountain, but to the whole group (Bib. Res. i, 120). (See HOREB).
Mr. Sandie places Rephidim at the extreme end of Wady er-Rahah, and identifies it with a Wady Rudhwan. He supposes that the Israelites marched from the coast plain of el-KIaa by Wady Daghadah (Horeb and Jerusalem, p. 159). This route, however, would scarcely be practicable for such a multitude. Lepsius (ed. Bohn, p. 310 sq.), Stewart (Tent and Khan), Ritter (Pal. und Syr. i, 738 sq.), Stanley (Syr. and Pal. p. 40 sq.), and others, locate Rephidim in Wady Feiran, near the base of Mount Serbal, especially at the oasis of el-Hesmeh or the rock Hesy el-Khatatin (Palmer, Desert of the Exodus, p. 135). The great distance from Sinai — twelve hours' march — and the abundance of water at Feiran appear to be fatal to this theory. No spot in the whole peninsula has such a supply of water, and Feirin is on this account called "the paradise of the Bedawin." The position of Rephidim, it is thus seen, largely depends upon the route which the Israelites may be supposed to have taken from the Desert of Sin to Mount Sinai. Murphy (Comment. on Exodus p. 174 sq.) regards that by way of Wady Hibran as being out of the question, partly on account of its length (whereas it is really little, if any, farther than either of the two other practicable ones, especially the northern one by way of the Debbet er-Ramleh, which he prefers), and partly on account of the narrow and difficult passes (especially Nagb Ajameh) along it, which, however, are no worse than many others in different parts of their identified route (see Palmer, Desert of the Exodus [Amer. ed.], p. 228).
Keil, who likewise prefers the same northern route for reaching Sinai, observes (Comment. on Pent. [Clarke's ed.] 2, 75) that Rephidim lay at only one day's distance from Sinai (Exodus 19:2). He therefore locates Rephidim at the point where the Wady es-Sheik opens into the plain er- Rahah, although this would be almost at the foot of Sinai, and past several fountains which would have relieved their thirst without the need of a miracle. If, on the other hand, we should place Rephidim at the other end of the Wady es-Sheik, this, according to Keil's own showing, would be about as far from Sinai as the mouth of Wady Hibran, which last is, after all, only twenty miles, foilowing the windings of the valleys. The great objection to the access by way of the Debbet er-Ramleh is that although this (as the name signifies) is in the main a sandy plain, yet there are not wanting springs at various points along its course — one especially, Ain el- Akdar (i.e. "the green"), being situated just at its junction with Wady es- Sheik (Robinson, Bib. Res. i, 125). By the way of the plain el-Kaa and Wady Hibran, on the contrary, there is total drought, so that the Israelites, as the narrative requires, woutl have exhausted the stock brought probably from Elim, without having been meanwhile in a region where their scouts could have procured water within any reaching distance. For the same reason, the most natural route of all — by way of Wady Feiran — must be suspected, which, as already said, is the best watered and most fertile of all in that vicinity (ibid. i, 126). There is still another route from the Red Sea at Ras Abu-Zenimah (where the Israelites evidently encamped) to Sinai — namely, by way of Sarabet el-Khadim. This, although not so smooth as by wadies Feiran and es-Sheik, is nevertheless quite practicable, and is often taken by modern travellers. This route is advocated by Knobel, Keil, Cook (in his Specker's Commentary), and others, who find the Desert of Sin in Debbet er- Ramleh, Dophkah in Wady Tih, and perhaps Alush in Wady el- Esh. The water supply on this route is good, but the presence of a military force of Egyptians at the mines in Sarabet el-Khadim is a grave objection to its having been followed by the Israelites. There are two traditionary spots fixed upon as the scene of Moses' smiting of the rock, and hence called Hajr Mosa, or "Moses's Rock." Ole is pointed out by the Arabs in Wady Feiran,: and the other by the monks in Wady Lejah. The former is too distant and the latter too near for the Biblical account. SEE MERIBAH.
If the Israelites approached Sin ai by wav of Wady Hibran, we should look for Rephidim at the entrance of that valley from the plain along the Red Sea, as suggested under the article EXODE (See EXODE); but if they reached Mount Sinai by way of Wady Feiran, as most writers suppose or by way of Sarabet el-Khadim, then we must probably look for Rephidim somewhere near the entrance from Wady es-Sheik to the plain er-Rahah, perhaps at the pass of el-Watiyeh, indicated above by Robinson. This defile was visited and described by Burckhardt (Syria, etc., p. 488) as at about five hours' distance from where it issues from the plain er-Rahah, narrowing between abrupt cliffs of blackened granite to about forty feet in width. Here is also the traditional "seat of Moses." Within the pass the valley expands, affording ample space for a large camp. The nearest water is in Wady Sheb, two miles distant to the south-west (Porter, Hand-book, p. 65). See Ridgaway, The Lord's Land, p. 57 sq. The arguments in favor of the location of Rephidim at el-Watlyeh are forcibly presented by Mr. Holland in Jerusalem Recovered, p. 420 sq. (See SINAI).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Rephidim'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/r/rephidim.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.