Christian Churches of God

No. 194





The Place of Safety

(Edition 1.0 19970417-19970417)

For many years the Churches of God in their variant forms and others have taught a doctrine that the Church would be taken to a place of safety during the persecution and tribulation of the world over the period of the end times. This was located by various groups in various places. At one time it was to have been in Canada. At another time it was to have been in Petra. Some groups locate it at other places. The concept has a powerful appeal to those who see the world in physical and not spiritual terms. The purpose of this paper is to explore the biblical basis for such a doctrine and establish the true place of safety for the dedicated Christian.



Christian Churches of God

PO Box 369,  WODEN  ACT 2606,  AUSTRALIA




(Copyright © 1997  Wade Cox)


This paper may be freely copied and distributed provided it is copied in total with no alterations or deletions. The publisher’s name and address and the copyright notice must be included.  No charge may be levied on recipients of distributed copies.  Brief quotations may be embodied in critical articles and reviews without breaching copyright.


This paper is available from the World Wide Web page: and



The Place of Safety


Ancient Israel was taken out of Egypt under a pillar of fire and cloud. That pillar protected them and took them through the Red Sea. That manifestation of God, as the Presence or face of God, was a spiritual rock that was later to become Jesus Christ. God’s name was in him (Ex. 23:21; cf. Acts 7:38). Paul tells us of this action.

1Corinthians 10:1-4  Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (KJV)


God is our Rock

One of the confusions about the nature of God and of Christ relates to the description of Christ as the Rock of spiritual refreshment.


The Bible is clear that God is our Rock, our strength and our salvation (Ps. 18:1-2). We trust in Him and are not afraid (Isa. 12:2). The knowledge of salvation is a function of Christ and the prophets (Lk. 1:77).


The Bible explains that God is the Rock or Sur, which is the quarry or mountain from which all others are quarried. Thus, Christ as Rock is quarried from the Rock that is God, the Father of all. God is the Flint that circumcises Israel (Josh. 5:2) and the principle and effective cause (Deut. 32:4; cf. Maimonedes, Guide of the Perplexed, University of Chicago Press, 1965, Ch. 16, pp. 42 ff.).


God is the Rock of Israel, the Rock of their salvation (Deut. 32:15), the Rock that bore them (Deut. 32:18,30-31). 1Samuel 2:2 shows that our God is our Rock, an everlasting Rock (Isa. 26:4). It is from this Rock that all others are hewn, as are all the descendants of Abraham in the faith (Isa. 51:1-2).


Deuteronomy 32:17 shows that Eloah is the object of sacrifice. Here the Rock that bore Israel is the tsur (SHD 6697) or tsuwr (from SHD 6696) meaning a cliff or sharp rock as compressed. It is a rock or boulder and, figuratively, a refuge and can be also an edge or precipice. 1Samuel 2:2 asks: Is there any Rock like our God?


The Messiah is hewn from this Rock (Dan. 2:34,45) to subjugate the world empires. God, not Peter, nor Christ nor any other, is the Rock or foundation upon which Christ will build his Church (Mat. 16:18) and upon which he himself rests as our chief cornerstone in the spiritual edifice that is the Temple of God. God is the rock upon which the foundation stones of the twelve apostles are laid.


2Samuel 22:2-3 in the KJV has David say in the spirit: The Lord [Jehovah] is my Rock [sela], and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my rock in Him will I trust. However, the texts (MT, LXX and Syriac; cf. Green’s Interlinear and Companion Bible n.) say simply God my rock etc. Thus, God is the tsur and not Messiah as the KJV attempts here.


Messiah is the sela (SHD 5553) which is derived from an unused root meaning to be lofty and, hence, a craggy rock and, figuratively, a fortress. It is a ragged rock or stone or stronghold. He is not, however, the tsur which is God.


Christ was the stone hewn from the Rock as a mountain or quarry and he was then thrown at the end of the world empires and will destroy them.

Daniel 2:31-35 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. 32 This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. 35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. (KJV)


The stone that was hewn from the tsur that was God was SHD 69 eben which is the same as SHD 68 meaning a stone derived from SHD 1129 to build. Hence, this is a God-fashioned stone for the construction of the Temple. Hence, Christ is the cornerstone of the Temple.


The City of Petra

One might be excused for asking how, then, do we arrive at the concept of the city of Petra in Idumea being linked to a place of safety.


The argument goes along the lines of since the text in 2Samuel refers to Messiah who is the sela of David, and since the ancient name for Petra was also sela, then Petra is named for or after Christ. The logic is then misapplied where the term sela is another name from Almighty God from the misapplication of the text above to read the God of my Rock etc. so that Almighty God is also Sela. This is then taken to mean that Christ is God by Trinitarians, which is not what the text says. Binitarians take it to mean that God the Father was not mentioned in the Old Testament which is sheer nonsense as this text shows (see also Prov. 30:4-5; Mal. 2:10).


The logic of this argument is about as sound as saying that Rocky Balboa is Hollywood’s champ and the Rocky Mountains have the same name – hence, they are named after him.


However, we shall proceed with the analysis of the argument. It is acknowledged that sela or has-sela means a rock and perhaps cliff. It is alleged by the protagonists of the “Petra is the place of safety” argument that the specific area Sela of the Bible is identified with the rocky plateau of Umm el-Biyara which overlooks the city of Petra at a height of about 1,000 feet at some 3,700 feet above sea level. The name Petra is the Greek translation for Sela and means literally a mass of rock (SGD 4073). This is opposed to petros (SGD 4074) which means a piece of rock.


That is the distinction made by Christ in Matthew 16:18:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. (RSV)


Peter was the petros but Christ would build his Church on the Petra that was God.


The City of Petra was carved out of the cliffs or walls of a valley, approximately 1,500 metres long and 500 metres across.


Petra as the Sela of the OT

The advocates of Petra as the place of safety use the texts in the Bible which refer to Sela as being explicit references to the ancient city of Petra. We commence in Judges 1:36.


Judges 1:36  And the border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrab'bim, from Sela and upward. (RSV)


Akrabbim was an ascent south of the Dead Sea mentioned in Numbers 34:4. The name would mean the place of the scorpions from the word for a scorpion and also a scourge or whip (Strong’s Concordance and also SHD 6137 aqrab). It appears only in the form meaning Scorpion Pass (see Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 1, p. 75). It is a mountain pass on the southern border of Canaan. It is usually identified with Neqb es-Safa, where the road from Beer-sheba to the Arabah descends abruptly into the Waddi Murra. Another suggestion has been that it is Umm el-’Aqarab, on the western side of the Dead Sea, opposite the Lisan. In Hellenistic times, the area was known as the Akrabattene where Judas Maccabeus defeated the Idumeans (1Macc. 5:3). Josephus mentions a toparchy of Akrabattene south-east of Shechem (Wars of the Jews, II. xii. 4; IV. ix. 9). This area is south-west of the Dead Sea near the ascent of the Akrabbim (Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, ibid.).


The use of Sela here is by no means certain to be identified with Petra at all. And the feature mentioned is on the western side of the Dead Sea and the Arabah.


We will find this mis-identification to be common and especially in reference to the place of Kadesh which is also mis-identified with Petra.


It is by no means certain that Sela is identified with Petra. 2Kings 14:17 says Amaziah king of Judah killed 10,000 Edomites in the valley of Salt and took Sela by storm and called it Jokthe-el which it was then called up to the time of the writing of Kings.


The text in 2Chronicles 25:12 says merely that 10,000 Edomites were taken to the top of a rock and thrown down. The location of Sela with Petra is plausible but not certain and there are also texts identified with Sela that show that they cannot be at Petra.


The carvings of Petra are from the fourth century BCE to the second century CE. Petra served in the first century CE as the capital of the Nabateans. Paul spent some years of his life here.


The relationship between Edom and Judah was often precarious. The Assyrians invaded and annexed Gilead and the area of Galilee in 733-732 BCE under Tiglath-pileser III. When Nebuchadnezzar advanced against Judah in 588 BCE, a number of Jews fled to lands which included Ammon, Moab and Edom (Jer. 40:11). After the fall of Jerusalem, they returned to support Gedalia as governor. He was assassinated – seemingly on the orders of Baalis, king of the Ammonites (Jer. 40:14). The Edomites seized portion of the kingdom of Judah in the south which came to be called Idumea. The area was forcibly converted to Judaism by John Hyrcanus (135-104 BCE). Herod the Great stemmed from one of these forcibly converted Idumean families. Thus Edom found its place within Judaism.


At the time of Christ, the area from the Arnon north to the Jabbok and possibly as far as the Yarmuk was the area known as Perea. The Greek peran means beyond. The southern part of the area was Jewish which served as a Jewish link between Galilee and Judea even though it was on the east bank of the Jordan.


In the northern section, it mingled with the Decapolis which was a union of ten cities (deka = 10, polis = city). The Ammonite capital was the site of Philadelphia (now modern Amman). They also included Gerasa, Pella, Gadara, Scythopolis (Beth-shean) the only one on the west bank, and Damascus. They had been conquered by the Maccabeans in the second and first centuries BCE but the Romans restored their independence in 63 BCE and again after the death of Herod in 4 BCE. They were Hellenist communities even though they contained Jews.


North of the Yarmuk was the area ruled by the tetrarch Philip with the exception of the areas surrounding Gadara and Hippos which became part of the province of Syria. The town of this area was Caesarea Philippi, named from Philip. It was on a source of the Jordan and had a grotto dedicated to Pan and the Nymphs and was originally called Paneas and this has survived in the modern name Baniyas.


Other references to Petra and its surrounding area are held to be found in Isaiah 16:1.

Isaiah 16:1  They have sent lambs to the ruler of the land, from Sela, by way of the desert, to the mount of the daughter of Zion. (RSV)


This is expanded in the KJV.

Isaiah 16:1-5  Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion. 2 For it shall be, that, as a wandering bird cast out of the nest, so the daughters of Moab shall be at the fords of Arnon. 3 Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth. 4 Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land. 5 And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness. (KJV)


This section deals with the reduction of Moab so that it is small and feeble and deals with their captivity. This period is taken as being within three years. The lambs being sent to the ruler are taken to have spiritual significance. The area deals with Sela and the fords of Arnon. The lambs are held to refer to the Church. This is also seen as the tribute lamb of the ruler and perhaps refers to the event in 2Kings 3:4 where Mesha king of Moab did the same.


Sela here is identified as Petra being in Mt Seir near Mt Hor (see also Companion Bible noting 2Kings 14:7).


Another text which is sometimes used to indicate that the Church will live in the wilderness of Petra in the end days is found in Isaiah 42:11.

Isaiah 42:11 Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. (KJV)


This text refers to a much larger area than this and concerns the coastlands and the islands and also the wilderness and the cities. These prophecies were held to be concerning Sennacharib (cf. Isa. 10; Isa. 37). However, the Petra advocates place them in the end times. Kedar is a tribe of Ishmael. Isaiah 60:7 indicates that Kedar will find a place of ministry in the House of God at the advent of Messiah in the restoration. It must therefore be concluded that the Arab nation is to serve as part of the true faith, at that time.


Isaiah 60:4-12 Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. 5 Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. 6 The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD. 7 All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory. 8 Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows? 9 Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee. 10 And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee. 11 Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. 12 For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. (KJV)


This final conversion of the nations covers many people. Here we see that the entire Gentile world is meant.


The Petra advocates often hold that the Edomites are the Turks. The prophecy in Obadiah 3-4 is held to refer to them but the purpose or link to Petra is obscure.

Obadiah 3-4  The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground? 4 Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD. (KJV)


Petra is at present a wilderness. From the dimensions, it is also very small. The valley is as narrow as 250 metres wide in some cases. It is a sandstone gorge formed by erosion and the main gorge is called Wadi Musa or the valley of Moses. It is surrounded by sandstone cliffs. It is no more than 750,000 square meters in area. It might perhaps house as many as 1,000 small suburban house-blocks.


Kadesh as Sela

The next jump in logic in the argument for Petra as the place of safety is that the term Sela is applied to the place Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. Israel left Sinai and arrived at Kadesh where Miriam died and was buried.


Numbers 20:1-13  Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. 2 And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! 4 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? 5 And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. 6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them. 7 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. 13 This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them. (KJV)


Here, Moses was told to speak to the rock and it would give forth water enough to water the nation. Moses took Aaron’s rod and struck the rock twice in anger instead of speaking as he was commanded. For that reason, they were not permitted to go into the Promised Land.


This decision served three purposes. Firstly, it showed that there was no respect of persons in the law. Secondly, it was to point towards the end of the system under Moses and, thirdly, it prevented the nation from making idolatrous venues of the places of burial of Aaron and Moses. The word rock here is derived from sela and not from tsur. The idea that Kadesh was Petra is, however, another matter.


The case then seems to rest upon the identification of the wilderness of Paran as being that of Petra. This seems quite absurd. The Israelites left the wilderness of Sinai and, following the Cloud, entered the wilderness of Paran.

Numbers 10:12-13  And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran. 13 And they first took their journey according to the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses. (KJV)


The wilderness of Paran is identified in many verses in the Old Testament (Gen. 21:21; Num. 10:12; 12:16; 13:3,26; Deut. 1:1; 33:2; 1Sam. 25:1; 1Kgs. 11:18; Hab. 3:3). Deuteronomy 1:1 shows that it is against the Red Sea.

Deuteronomy 1:1  These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab. (KJV)


This identification absolutely precludes an identification with the area east of the Arabah in which Petra is located. The only way we can remove it from the sea is to assume the word Suph is not referring to the Red Sea (cf. Num. 33:48-50; 35:1; 36:13). The problem still arises that the wilderness of Paran is on the border of the plain which is bounded by Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. This plain is the Arabah, and the wilderness of Paran appears to demarcate its western boundary. Laban is in its north. The southern point is at Ezion-geber on the gulf of Akaba.


It is true that Paran means ornamental (SHD 6290) but it is derived from SHD 6286 meaning to gleam and, hence, embellish. It means, figuratively, to boast or to explain in the sense also of explaining oneself and, hence, from the sense of ornamental foliage of a tree to glorify or to beautify oneself. In this sense, it was to prepare Israel in the final stages of beautification and glorification before it entered the Promised Land. This was also to refer to the Church in its final stages of glorification.


The concept from Young’s Concordance is taken that it is full of caverns and, hence, must mean Petra because it has caverns. There are a lot of caves in the desert south of Canaan and in the area of the Dead Sea. This seems to be extremely flimsy reasoning.



As we have seen, the texts preclude the wilderness of Paran being Petra (esp. Deut. 1:1). The Atlas of the Bible (Rogerson, Time Life Books, 1996 reprint) identifies the wilderness of Paran as being the area between the Sinai and the Negeb, actually forming part of the Negeb, and joining the Arabah on the west (ibid., pp. 26-27,114). The major part of it lies between the Arabah and the Ramon Depression. The area in the south known as Kadesh or Kadesh-barnea (Massah, Meribah, Enmishpat) is traditionally located at one of two places – either at Ein el-Qudeirat or Ein Qedeis. Ein el-Qudeirat has more water for stock but is in a deep and narrow valley. Both sites are approximately ten kilometres from each other in the upper catchment of the Wadi El-Arish to the west of the Ramon Depression (see ibid., p. 114). There is a line of habitable areas reaching north-east towards the Dead Sea joining the road which comes west from Scorpion Pass. Mt Hor is thought to be on the south of the Pass and associated with Mt Zin. The Ha-Qatan Depression is on the north.


Kadesh is some eleven days journey from Horeb by way of Mt. Seir (Deut. 1:2). This text indicates that from Horeb the Israelites wandered to the south of the Edomite territory. Horeb or Mt Sinai is located differently by some scholars. One view locates Sinai or Horeb with Jebel Helal some 60 kilometres west of Kadesh. This is insufficient to satisfy the eleven-day journey stated in Deuteronomy. Elijah fled from Jezebel’s forces and took forty days and forty nights to take him from one day’s journey from Beer-sheba to Horeb (1Kgs. 19:1-8). It is only 130 kilometres from south of Beer-sheba to Jebel Helal. The two other alternatives for Horeb or Mt Sinai are seen as Jebel Serbal or Jebel Musa. Ancient tradition places Jebel Musa (the Mountain of Moses) as Sinai. Serbal, 35 kilometres north-west of Musa, is more imposing in its relationship to the surrounding countryside and some favour it over Musa.


The real significance of Sinai is that it was here that God spoke to Moses. From here the orders to liberate Israel were given (Ex. 3:1-12). It was here that Moses took Israel after the Exodus to receive the law (Ex. 19; cf. Ex. 3:12). While waiting, the people lapsed into idolatry here with the golden calf (Ex. 32:1-6).


In other biblical texts, Sinai is held to have trembled when God passed through Edom and the wilderness (Jdg. 5:4-5; Ps. 68:7-8). Elijah fled to Horeb. This symbolism was as the prophets seeking the word of God through the spokesman who was the Elohim sent to Israel by God. The transfiguration seems to reflect this concept also (Mk. 9:2-8).


The text in Deuteronomy 1:19-20 shows that Israel came from Horeb through the wilderness by the way of the Mountain of the Amorites and came to Kadesh-barnea.


Deuteronomy 1:19-20 "And we set out from Horeb, and went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw, on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us; and we came to Ka'desh-bar'nea. 20 And I said to you, `You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God gives us. (RSV)


Kadesh was thus considered to be in the hill country of the Amorites. Hence, it is not in Edom. It was part of the inheritance of Israel and, thus, was north of the Wadi El-Arish. The Amorites were identified with the Canaanites and, thus, the area of southern Canaan is seemingly identified here. The trip to Kadesh-barnea was thus from the south to the area south of Edom from the foothills of Mt Seir and on across to the wilderness of Paran and Kadesh.


This view is supported from Judges 1:36.

Judges 1:36 And the border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrab'bim, from Sela and upward. (RSV)


The border of the Amorites was thus confined east of the Jordan to the area between the Arnon and the Jabbok but, on the western side, it went south opposite Edom down to Scorpion Pass which lies opposite the Rock or Sela. It is impossible that the border of the Amorites on the east is meant – as Petra is nowhere near the northern border of Edom. The Akrabbim is also slightly north-west of Petra on the other side of the Arabah.


Numbers 21 interprets the text in Deuteronomy. Kadesh was the area and from Kadesh the nation was subject to attack. They were attacked by the Amalekites and also by the Canaanites under Arad at Mt Hor. Here we see the name changed to Hormah.


Kadesh is outside of Edom because from here Moses sent messages to the king of Edom asking for passage along the route known as the King’s Highway (Num. 20:17). This request was refused and the Israelites made a detour around the southern edge of Edom and then turned north, keeping to the east of the eastern edge of the Edomite desert posts (Num. 21:4,10-13). Neither Kadesh nor the Israelites were in Edom.


It might be thought that Numbers 33:41-49 implies that Israel journeyed unhindered through Edom. Numbers 33:37 shows categorically that Kadesh is outside of Edom.

Numbers 33:37 And they removed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom. (KJV)


The text in Numbers seems to imply that they went to the east of Edom and then crossed Moab to the Arnon.


Numbers 21:11-13 And they journeyed from Oboth, and pitched at Ijeabarim, in the wilderness which is before Moab, toward the sunrising. 12 From thence they removed, and pitched in the valley of Zared. 13 From thence they removed, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, which is in the wilderness that cometh out of the coasts of the Amorites: for Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. (KJV)


The Arnon lies in Moab and flows to the eastern edge of the Dead Sea at its centre. Petra lies some 70 kilometres south of the Dead Sea on the eastern side of the Arabah.


From the Arnon they went to Beer-sheba (Num. 21:16). From the wilderness they went to Mattanah, then to Nahaliel and then to Bamoth. From Bamoth in the valley of Moab they went to Pisgah which looks towards the wilderness of Jeshimon. From here they sent messages unto Sihon king of the Amorites for permission to pass. He made war against Israel and was defeated. Israel then occupied the lands of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok. Thus taking up the lands east of the Jordan between Moab and Ammon (Num. 21:16-32). Again, this was not in Edom and after they had left Kadesh-barnea.


The texts in Deuteronomy 1:2-8 are generic and they relate to the giving of the area of the Amorites and the Canaanites from Ezion-geber to Lebanon and to the Euphrates where the Amorites or Amurru had extended. Deuteronomy 1:19-20 shows that the Amorites and the Canaanites were classed as one and the southern boundary of their hill country included Kadesh-barnea


Deuteronomy 1:8 shows that Israel passed by Edom from across the plain of the Arabah by the way from Elath and Ezion-geber and then they turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab. The Moabites were left alone as their inheritance had been given them through Lot. The giants had dwelt in Moab previously. They were called Emims there. In Seir they were called Horims and they had been eliminated by both the Edomites and the Moabites. They were like the Anakim (Deut. 1:10-12). God used the people of Abraham to eliminate these people called giants. It took thirty eight years for Israel to go from Kadesh-barnea around Edom and cross Zered into the land of the Amorites (Deut. 2:14). They crossed Moab by way of Ar (Deut. 2:18) on the border between Moab and Edom. This was a great distance from Petra.


The following emerges from these texts. The Arnon is not near Petra. And Kadesh-Barnea is approximately 100 kilometres from Petra. They are not the same place. In fact, from the texts, we see that Petra is not visited by Israel in their wanderings and they are specifically excluded from the area by the Edomites themselves.


Kadesh is where the spies were sent out to view the land. It is an important allegoric site for Israel. Kadesh is as a signpost (Gen. 16:14). From Numbers 13:26 we see that the spies were sent out from there and returned to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people in the wilderness of Paran at Kadesh (cf. also Num. 12:16; 13:3). This is confirmed by Deuteronomy 1:19-25.


As a result of the ten spies producing the false report at Kadesh, Moses and the entire congregation, twenty years old and upwards there at Kadesh, were banned from entering the Promised Land. This is the same as coming to the Kingdom of God as a little child.


This sending out of spies should not be confused with the spies sent out to Jaazer (Num. 21:32).


Meribah is identified with Kadesh (in Num. 20:13; 27:14).


Kadesh was important in that it was from here that the rebellion seems to have occurred. After the spies produced the false report and the two loyal witnesses of Joshua and Caleb were given and rejected by the people, Israel was attacked by the Amalekites and had to withdraw to Hormah (which means destruction) but still in the wilderness of Paran or Zin (Num. 14:45). Numbers 16 to Numbers 19 deals with the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.


The rebellion of the congregation had occurred to the extent that the Lord was going to consume the entire congregation. The Rod of Aaron was then caused to bud from among the rods of the leaders of the twelve tribes, as a witness against the people of Israel and to establish the priesthood in Levi. From this point, the Levites were set apart as the priesthood and their inheritance was specified (Num. 18:1-32). The tithe was established as the inheritance of the priesthood and all of Levi for the service of Israel.


The law of the cleansing of the congregation (Num. 19:1-22) was also established here in Paran at Hormah. This period of destruction saw the congregation dealt with and, those not of the right attitude with God, destroyed.


Numbers 20:1 states the congregation then returned to Kadesh in the desert of Zin in Nisan of that year. Miriam died and was buried there. The people murmured against the Lord here and Moses did not believe God and struck the rock to bring forth water to them instead of simply speaking to it. Moses thought that his actions would produce water as in forcing a spring that was already there.


Here the Lord sanctified Himself in the congregation (Num. 20:13). In Numbers 20:16 Moses appeals to the Edomites. He establishes two things here. One is that it was an Angel that was sent by God to bring them out of Egypt. Also they considered that Kadesh was a city on the uttermost borders of Edom’s area of influence. Edom refused permission to pass through its lands. At this time Aaron was taken up on Mt Hor and his garments were stripped from him and given to his son Eleazar.


He then died and Israel mourned for him thirty days (Num. 20:25-29). This account appears in Deuteronomy 10:6. After Moses had received the commandments and placed them in the Ark, it is recorded that the children of Israel went from Beeroth or the children of Jaakan to Mosera. Aaron died there and he was buried, and Eleazar ministered in the priest’s office in his stead.


These are different names in the account. Beeroth is in the area of the children of Jaakan. Beeroth is a Hivvite city in Canaan (Josh. 9:17; 18:25; 2Sam. 4:2; Ezra 2:25; Neh. 7:29). It means wells (SHD 881; fem. pl.). Jaakan (SHD 3292 see also akan SHD 6130 to twist or tortuous) is termed an Idumean. He is a son of Ezer the son of Esau (1Chron. 1:38-42; cf. Gen. 36:20-21). Beney Ya’aqan is a place in the desert (SHD 1142). Mosera or Moseroth is an encampment in the wilderness (mentioned in Num. 33:30-31 and Deut. 10:6). The text  in Numbers shows that the Israelites went from Sinai through a series of locations from Sinai. Moseroth was the fifteenth camp from the Sinai desert. From Moseroth, they went to Bene Jaakan and from there to Hor-hagidgad, then to Jotbathah and to Ebronah and then Ezion-geber. From Ezion-geber they moved to the wilderness of Zin which is Kadesh.


It is beyond biblical dispute that Bene Jaakan is not Kadesh and that the movement of the tribes moved through Ezion-geber from the east (through Seir) to the west and to Kadesh which is in the wilderness of Zin.


Jaakan was a Horite meaning cave dweller and the movement of the tribes was next to Hor-hagidgad or the cave of the cleft (SHD 2735). Edom had many caves throughout its territory. The Kenites also were rock dwellers (Num. 24:21) as Balaam mentions. However, not all caves and not all cave dwellers are at Petra. The word for rock sela is not exclusively applied to Petra. Josephus attempts to place Petra as the place of the death of Miriam and that of Aaron on a nearby mountain (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. IV, iv, 7). This is identified in tradition as the Jebel Nebi Harun or the Mount of the Prophet Aaron. This is thus claimed to be Mt Hor.


Josephus also notes that the five chiefs of the Midianites were defeated by the Israelites under Moses and five of their chiefs were killed. These were Evi, Zur, Reba, Hur and Rekem. He was of the same name as the principal city of Arabia. The whole Arabian nation was held to call the city Arecem and the Greeks called it Petra (ibid., IV, vii, 1). Rekem means rock. Kadesh appears to be rendered as Rekem in the Aramaic and thus the tradition appears to have affected the matter. Whatever the case, the biblical text shows it to be impossible that Kadesh is Petra.


In dealing with this concept of the subjugation of the Canaanites and the Amorites, Joshua tells us that he conquered the whole country.


Joshua 10:40-41 So Joshua defeated the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded. 41 And Joshua defeated them from Ka'desh-bar'nea to Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, as far as Gibeon. (RSV)


The delineation here shows Kadesh-barnea as the point in the south stretching across to Gaza and from Goshen to Gibeon. They did not enter Edom and, thus, this is another proof that Kadesh-barnea is not in Edom let alone Petra. Kadesh-barnea is shown without doubt to be at the southern border of the inheritance of Judah joining the Negeb.


Joshua 15:1-4  The lot for the tribe of the people of Judah according to their families reached southward to the boundary of Edom, to the wilderness of Zin at the farthest south. 2 And their south boundary ran from the end of the Salt Sea, from the bay that faces southward; 3 it goes out southward of the ascent of Akrab'bim, passes along to Zin, and goes up south of Ka'desh-bar'nea, along by Hezron, up to Addar, turns about to Karka, 4 passes along to Azmon, goes out by the Brook of Egypt, and comes to its end at the sea. This shall be your south boundary. (RSV)


Kadesh-barnea, from this text, is south-west of the Dead Sea and Arabah and of Scorpion Pass and west of Zin and east of the river of Egypt.


The lesson to be learned from Kadesh strikes at the very heart of the place of safety doctrine. Whether Kadesh is west or east of the Arabah or at Petra which is virtually impossible, the thing to be borne in mind is that God tested the congregation here by loyalty and in war. They were punished for internal failure and they faced external threat of extinction. They were forced to withdraw and to cleanse themselves of their iniquity. Many died throughout this process. This was no physical place of safety. It was a spiritual place of safety. Those that survived did so because of their personal relationship with God. That was their place of safety. They survived pestilence, internal subversion, external war of annihilation and errors in leadership. They did this through their right relationship with God.


The Israelites stayed at Kadesh many days (Deut. 1:46) and from this point they developed their right relationship with God before moving on to possess the promised land.


Kadesh (SHD 6946) means a sanctuary. It is derived from SHD 6945 kadesh meaning a quasi-sacred person as a male devotee and means a sodomite or unclean person. This is in turn derived from SHD 6942 qadash meaning to make ceremonially clean and from the nature of the rites involved means also to defile.


The term barnea is derived from two words: SHD 1251 (bar (Chald.): field) and SHD 5128 (nuwa: to waver and hence to wander, waver, to be promoted, reel, scatter or be a vagabond). Strong holds it to mean desert of a fugitive. Thus, it means Kadesh or Sanctuary of the Wilderness of Wandering.


Was this then a place of safety in the sense that it was free from persecution and harm? No, it in fact means the reverse. The duality of the meaning of the name meant that if the individual was not right with God they were defiled. These people fell in large numbers from this place. Thus, it is truly a place of scattering. It was not at Petra, as the elect were specifically forbidden to enter the land of the Edomites. More importantly, Petra would not have held the numbers involved and the city was not carved out until almost a thousand years later.


The Idea of a Place of Safety

The idea is derived from a text in Revelation made to the Church at Philadelphia.


Revelation 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (KJV)


Revelation 3:10  Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth. (RSV)


This promise was to keep this group safe from the hour of temptation or hour of trial that was to come on the whole world. From this, it was assumed by all those who thought that they were the Philadelphian system (there appear to be few self-professing Laodiceans) that they would be taken somewhere to be kept from the hour of trial or temptation.


It was assumed also that this hour of trial was before the return of the Messiah. This may not be the case. It may actually be the advent that protects this Church. However, it was assumed that it was not the case and that this period was immediately prior to the return of Messiah. This period was often held to be coincidental with the three and one half years or 1,260 days of the two witnesses.


This was coupled with another verse which spoke of the church in the wilderness.


Revelation 12:1-12  And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. 3 And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; 5 she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. 7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world -- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!" (RSV)


Here we see that the woman gives birth to the man child. Here we see Messiah being born to the woman that is the congregation of Israel. Messiah was caught up to God and His throne. The woman then fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared for her for 1,260 days. This period is deemed to be the persecution of the Church. This is taken to be the time under the Holy Roman Empire which lasted from 590 to 1850, when it was disbanded.


The war in the heavens took place from this time. Now the period of the war in the heavens could have started from the ascension of Messiah following the resurrection. Thus, the war would have not been tied to the time of the woman in the wilderness but from the removal of Satan in the war.


The important text here is that the saints overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony and they loved not their lives unto death. There is no promise here that they were protected from death or persecution. In fact, it is the opposite.


The persecution of the congregation which brought forth the man child began with the confining of Satan. This congregation was also therefore inclusive of Judah. Verse 14 then takes us into the subject of the wings of the great eagle.


The Wings of the Great Eagle

Revelation 12:13-17  And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. (RSV)


There are two groups here. One is the descendants of the woman who are the physical descendants, and the other group are the spiritual descendants. These are the remnant of her seed that keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Thus it is not Judah that is being spoken of here – it is the Church. Here at the last, the Church is being persecuted.


We have, from this concept, the view that Israel is the woman who is composed both of physical and spiritual groups.


Many of the groups espousing Petra as a place of safety hold this text to mean that they will be taken to Petra (or the various other places) on the wings of a great eagle. In fact, one church used it to justify the purchase of aircraft and the scandalous misuse of tithe funds including welfare or third tithe funds.


The wings of a great eagle are identified in the Old Testament.


Exodus 19:3-6  And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." (RSV)


The great eagle was Jesus Christ whom God gave Israel as a responsibility (Deut. 32:8-9 RSV). God bore Israel on the wings of this great eagle out of Egypt into the wilderness that He might bring her to Himself that they might become a peculiar treasure above all nations by obeying His voice (which was itself the eagle, the Elohim who spoke) and also by obeying His covenant.


This being, we now know as Jesus Christ, had responsibility for the protection of Israel as the nation and the Church. Satan attempted to destroy this group over a long period.


The protection of Israel lay in its diversification and scattering – not in its concentration in one place as the terms involved in Kadesh imply.


Another concept of escape is found in 1Samuel 23:24-29.

1Samuel 23:24-29  And they arose, and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the wilderness of Ma'on, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshi'mon. 25 And Saul and his men went to seek him. And David was told; therefore he went down to the rock which is in the wilderness of Ma'on. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Ma'on. 26 Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain; and David was making haste to get away from Saul, as Saul and his men were closing in upon David and his men to capture them, 27 when a messenger came to Saul, saying, "Make haste and come; for the Philistines have made a raid upon the land." 28 So Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines; therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. 29 And David went up from there, and dwelt in the strongholds of En-ge'di. (RSV)


The concept here is that of flight and escape. The Rock of Escape was the refuge for David in his persecution by Saul. The division here is also reflected in the concept of refuge. The use of rock here is clearly not Petra but is still a refuge. The proponents of Petra seem to try and fit every text into the framework of the place of safety doctrine. However, safety here was in flight and the rock was not Petra.


The Flight of the Elect

One of the key texts in understanding the intent of Messiah and the Church is that of Matthew 10:16-42.

Matthew 10:16-42  "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes. 24 "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Be-el'zebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. 26 "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. 34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man's foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. 40 "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. 41 He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42 And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." (RSV)


The key text is at verse 23. When they persecute you in one town flee to the next. Truly I say to you that you will not have gone through the towns of Israel till the Son of Man comes.


He who seeks to save his life shall lose it. The place of safety is a doctrine of comfort to people who lack the faith and understanding to face the truth. It is doctrine of control. It seeks to claim the right of determination of the congregation of God and appropriate it to a control group and not to God. It does not look to the heart as God does, but rather to comfort.


There is no promise that the elect will not be required to give their lives for the faith. Indeed, the contrary is true. The key point is that Israel will be still unconverted and persecuting the elect when the Messiah comes again. To understand this text, we also need to understand who Israel is. The extraordinary thing is that the strongest advocates of the place of safety doctrine are themselves British Israelites.


The place of safety is in the hand of God. Deuteronomy 28 shows the blessings and the curses. It shows every one of us that obedience to the laws of God is the requirement for protection (see the paper The Blessings and the Curses (No. 75)).


The doctrine of the place of safety strikes at the very heart of the conversion of the individual. It seeks to elevate an organisation above the structure of God and the one on one relationship that is developed from the priesthood of the nation that was promised from the sojourn at Kadesh.


That organisation, no matter how great, which does not do the will of God, shall not survive.


Our place of safety is in the hand of God as a reflection of our personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.