What was special about Nachel (Wadi) Zered?

Photo Courtesy Sharona Halickman

Nachal Zered is mentioned in both Parshat Chukat and in Parshat Dvarim.

Let’s take a look at the first passage (Bamidbar 21:11-12):

They (B’nai Yisrael) journeyed from Ovot and encamped in the ruins of the passes in the wilderness facing Moav, towards the rising sun. From there they journeyed and encamped at Nachal Zered.

The second passage is in Dvarim (2:13-14) where Moshe tells B’nai Yisrael what God commanded them and gives us more details:

“Now, arise and cross Nachal Zered.” And we crossed Nachal Zered. The time that it took us to go from Kadesh Barnea until we crossed Nachal Zered was 38 years, until the end of the entire generation…

Sforno explains that since B’nai Yisrael could not cross through Seir (Edom) or Moav to enter the Land of Israel, in order to get to the Jordan River they were ordered to cross at Nachal Zered which is outside the territories of Seir and Moav.

What made Nachal Zered a unique location is that it was a turning point for B’nai Yisrael. This was their last destination in the wilderness. After crossing Nachal Zered, they were finally headed in the direction of the Land of C’naan. From there they went to conquer the Emori and began to inherit the land.

According to Tvuot Haaretz, the exact location of Nachal Zered is unknown. However, Professor Yoel Elitzur (Places in the Parsha p. 492) points out:

Based on the information that we have in the Tanach, Nachal Zered is located in the northeast part of Moav. It should be identified with Wadi Nukheile or Wadi Tafawiyye, which discharges into Wadi Nukheile…

Professor Yoel Elitzur is convinced that Wadi al-Hasa, which serves as the border between Moav and Edom, is not Nachal Zered even though most scholars and maps identify it as such. His reasoning is that according to the Torah it is in the northern part of Moav.

While most scholars and maps do not agree with Professor Elitzur, his reasoning makes sense. Wadi al-Hasa is too far south to be Nachal Zered.

If you happen to visit Jordan, keep this information in mind so that can have a more accurate understanding of where B’nai Yisrael were standing when they were told that they finally concluded their punishment of wandering in the desert due to the sin of the spies and were now ready to enter the Land of Israel.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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