Seir and Mount Paran

Deuteronomy 33:2

The next Biblical passage of importance which Muslim writers quote as referring to Muhammad is found in Deuteronomy 33:2. The words are as follows, ‘And he (Moses) said, The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from Mount Paran.’ Concerning this passage Muslim controversialists write as follows, ‘The words quoted above may be divided into three sections. In the first the words, “The Lord came from Sinai” are fulfilled in the terrible works of power performed, and in the religion preached by Hazrat Musa. The words of the second section “He rose up from Seir unto them” find their fulfilment in Hazrat Isa, and in the Injil preached by him. Then Allah mentions by the mouth of His servant a far-distant event, and in the third section the words “He shined forth from Mount Paran” find a wonderful and literal fulfilment in Hazrat Muhammad.’ 9

If the Muslim writer who penned the words quoted above had first studied the geography of the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel on their journey from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan, 10 and had examined, with even ordinary attention, a map of that part of the ancient world, he would not have made himself the laughing-stock of all intelligent people; for even the most cursory glance at a good map of that region will show that Sinai, Seir and Paran are three mountains comparatively near one another, and situated in the Sinaitic Peninsula between Palestine and the Red Sea. The attempt to find a reference to the missions of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad in the passage quoted is not only fanciful, and geographically unsound, but it ignores the real meaning of the passage altogether, which has not the slightest reference whatever to any Prophet. The passage contains a historical reference to past events, and reminds the children of Israel of the wonderful display of divine glory and power at the several places mentioned during their long wilderness journey. The reader will easily be able to verify this by a reference to Exodus 19, Numbers 13, 14, 16, and Deuteronomy 2.

One fatal mistake invariably made by Muslim controversialists is to take a word or a passage from the Christian Scriptures, and by entirely divorcing it from its context subject it to the most fanciful interpretations. It apparently never occurs to them to look for other Biblical references to names and places which might be expected to throw light upon the questions at issue. The result is disastrous, as may be seen from the passage at present under discussion. If Madhu Miah, the writer of Baibele Muhammad quoted above, had but taken the trouble to consult the many passages of the Bible in which both Seir and Paran are mentioned, he would never have been so foolish as to have contended that these mountains signify the missions respectively of Jesus and Muhammad, for a study of the geography of the region will make it abundantly clear that Jesus never visited Seir, and Muhammad had no acquaintance with Paran. As a matter of fact Mount Seir was situated in what was then the country of Edom, lying some distance to the south of the Dead Sea. This is clear from Genesis 32:3, where we read, ‘And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the field of Edom.’ The same fact is still more clearly brought out in Genesis 36:8-9, where it is written, ‘And Esau dwelt in Mount Seir: Esau is Edom. And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir.’

Again a study of the wilderness journeyings of the children of Israel will show that in order to pass into the land of Canaan it was desirable to pass through Edom; hence it is recorded that, ‘Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us . . . let us pass, I pray thee, through thy land, . . and Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass through me, lest I come out with the sword’ (Numbers 20:14, 17, 18). This passage makes it clear that on the journey from Egypt, the land of Edom, and so Seir, was reached before Canaan.

Yet again we read in Deuteronomy 1:2, that ‘It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea.’ This quotation confirms, what has been already proven, that Mount Seir lay between Horeb and Kadesh-barnea, both these latter places lying to the south of the Dead Sea. The reader will now be in a position to appreciate the absurdity of the contention—made, strangely enough, by many reputable Muslim authors —that the term ‘Mount Seir’ has some connexion with the ministry of the Lord Jesus. Thus another Muslim author says, ‘Seir is the name of a mountain in Syria, where Jesus used to go, and where he got commands through angels as to his Gospel.’ 11 The latter, we know, was born in Bethlehem, brought up in Nazareth in the northern Province of Galilee, and all His life ministered to the people of His native land. Far from Jesus living in Edom, Ezekiel makes it clear that the Edomites, in other words the people of Seir, were the confirmed enemies of the Jews, and in Ezekiel 35 the destruction of their cities in consequence is clearly foretold! Consequently the statement that the words, ‘He rose up from Mount Seir unto them’, find their fulfilment in Hazrat Isa and in the Injil preached by Him, has not the slightest foundation either in reason or in Scripture.

It cannot but be a matter of most profound regret that the writers referred to are as ignorant of the geographical position of Mount Paran as they are of Mount Seir. Far from Muhammad being born in Mount Paran, or having even lived there, there is most conclusive evidence that that mountain was situated some five hundred miles to the north of Mecca, the acknowledged birthplace of Muhammad and there is nothing, either in Scripture or in history, to connect the Prophet of Islam with the former place. A comparison of the Biblical references to Paran will make this indisputably evident. As a matter of fact Paran was a mountain to the north of Sinai, as may be seen from the following words of Scripture, ‘And the children of Israel set forward according to their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud abode in the wilderness of Paran’ (Numbers 10:12). Moreover it is stated with the utmost clearness that when the children of Israel in their journey from Egypt drew near to the southern borders of Canaan, Moses sent from the wilderness of Paran a number of spies in order to spy out the promised land. Thus we read that, ‘Afterward the people journeyed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel’ (Numbers 12:16 and 13:1). The return of the spies was the occasion of a special manifestation of the glory of God, as we read in Numbers 14:10, where it is said that, ‘The glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting unto all the children of Israel.’ The reader is now in a position to judge whether the words ‘He shined forth from Mount Paran’ have any reference to a man who lived in Mecca some five hundred miles to the south of Paran, or whether they do not refer to the special ‘glory of the Lord’ which appeared to the children of Israel in Paran as recorded above.

9. Baibele Muhammad. Calcutta, A.H. 1320, p. 17.

10. The geographical position of Seir and Paran precludes any reference to Jesus and Muhammad.

11. Proof of Prophet Mohammad from the Bible. Lahore, p. 12.