Wanderings of Israel
What were the wanderings of Israel?
The wanderings of Israel occured in the Sinai desert as a resulkt of their dosobedience to God, as recorded in the book of Numbers. A consideration of the geography and natural features of the desert between Egypt and Edom, in which the Hebrews are said to have wandered for 40 years, has a very important bearing on the question of the genuineness of the Pentateuch narrative.
This wilderness forms a wedge between the Gulfs of Suez and ‛Aḳabah , tapering South to the granite mountains near Sinai. It has a base 175 miles long East and West on the North, and the distance North and South Isaiah 250 miles. The area is thus over 20,000 square miles, or double the size of the Promised Land East and West of Jordan. On the North of this desert lie the plains of Gaza and Gerar, and the Neghebh or "dry region" (the south; see Numbers 13:17 the Revised Version (British and American)), including the plateau and low hills round Beersheba.
1. Mode of Traveling
Israel left Egypt in the early part of April (after the 14th of Abib) and reached Sinai about the 14th or 19th of the 3month (Exodus 19:1 ), or at the end of May. They thus took two months to accomplish a journey of about 117 miles; but from the first camp after crossing the Red Sea to that in the plain before the Mount ten marches are mentioned, giving intervals of less than 12 miles between each camp. Thus they evidently remained in camp for at least 50 days of the time, probably at the better supplied springs, including that of the starting-point, and those at Elim and Rephidim, in order to rest their flocks.
The camps were probably not all crowded round one spring, but spread over a distance of some miles. The Arabs indeed do not camp or keep their flocks close to the waters, probably in order not to defile them, but send the women with donkeys to fetch water, and drive the sheep and goats to the spring or well in the cool of the afternoon. Thus we read that Amalek "smote the hindmost" (Deut. 25:18), which may either mean the stragglers unable to keep up when "weary," or perhaps those in the camp most in the rear.
2. The Route: The First Camp:
The route of Israel has been very carefully described by Robinson (BR, 1838, I, 60-172; II, 95-195), and his account is mainly followed in this and the next sections. We may place the first camp, between the springs which supply Suez, which are about 4 miles apart. The first of these is scooped out among the sand hillocks, and bubbles up in a basin some 6 ft. deep. The water is brackish, but supplies as many as 200 camel loads at once for Suez. At ‛Ayyûn Mûsa ("the springs of Moses") there are seven springs, some being small and scooped in the sand. A few palms occur near the water (which is also brackish), and a little barley is grown, while in recent times gardens of pomegranates have been cultivated (A. E. Haynes, Man-Hunting in the Desert , 1894,106), which, with the palms, give a grateful shade.
3. Waters of Marah:
From this base Israel marched "three days in the wilderness" of Shur, "and found no water" (Exodus 15:22 ). They no doubt carried it with them, and may have sent back camels to fetch it. Even when they reached the waters of Marah ("the bitter") they found them undrinkable till sweetened. The site of Marah seems clearly to have been at ‛Ain Ḥawârah ("the white chalk spring"), named from the chalky mound beside it. This is 36 miles from ‛Ayyûn Mûsa , giving an average daily march of 12 miles.
There is no water on the route, though some might have been fetched from ‛Ain Abu Jerâd in Wâdy Sudr , and from the small spring of Abu Suweirah near the sea. Burckhardt thought that the water was sweetened from the berries of the Gharḳad shrub (which have an acid juice) on the thorny bushes near the spring. This red berry ripens, however, in June. There is no doubt, on the other hand, that the best treatment for brack water is the addition of an acid taste. The Arabs consider the waters of this spring to be the most bitter in the country near.
4. Camp by the Red Sea:
From Marah, the next march led to Elim ("the palms"), where were "twelve springs (not "wells") of water and seventy palms." The site seems clearly to have been in Wâdy Gharandil , where a brook is found fed by springs of better water than that of Marah. The distance is only about 6 miles, or an easy march, and palm trees exist near the waters. Israel then entered the desert of Sin, stretching from Elim to Sinai, reaching a camp "by the Red Sea" ( Numbers 33:10 ) just a month after leaving Egypt (Exodus 16:1). The probable site is near the mouth of Wâdy et -Ṭaiyibeh ("the goodly valley"), which is some 10 or 12 miles from the springs of Gharandil .
The foothills here project close to the coast, and North of the valley is Jebel Ḥammâm Far'aûn ("the mountain of Pharaoh's hot bath"), named from hot sulphur springs. The water in Wâdy et -Ṭaiyibeh is said to be better than that of Marah, and this is the main Arab watering-place after passing Gharandil . A small pond is here described by Burckhardt at el -Murkhat , in the sandstone rock near the foot of the mountains, but the water is bitter and full of weeds, moss and mud. The site is close to a broad shore plain stretching South Here two roads diverge toward Sinai, which lies about 65 miles to the Southeast, and in this interval (Numbers 33:11-15 ) five stations are named, giving a daily march of 13 miles. The Hebrews probably took the lower and easier road, especially as it avoided the Egyptian mines of Wâdy el -Maghârah ("valley of the cave") and their station at Serâbı̂ṭ el -Khâdim ("pillars of the servant"), where - though this is not certain - there may have been a detachment of bowmen guarding the mines.
5. The Route to Sinai:
None of the five camps on this section of the route is certainly known. Dophkah apparently means "overdriving" of flocks, and Alush (according to the rabbis) "crowding," thus indicating the difficulties of the march. Rephidim ("refreshments") contrasts with these names and indicates a better camp. The site, ever since the 4th century AD, has always been shown in Wâdy Feirân (Eusebius, Onomasticon , under the word "Rephidim") - an oasis of date palms with a running stream. The distance from Sinai is about 18 miles, or 14 from the western end of the broad plain er - Râḥah in which Israel camped in sight of Horeb ; and the latter name ( Exodus 17:6 ) included the Desert of Sinai even as far West as Rephidim.
Here the rod of Moses, smiting the rock, revealed to the Hebrews an abundant supply, just as they despaired of water. Here apparently they could rest in comfort for some three weeks before the final march to the plain "before the mount" (Exodus 19:1 , Exodus 19:2 ), which they reached two months after leaving Egypt. Here Amalek - coming down probably from the mines - attacked them in the rear. Meanwhile there was ample time for the news of their journey to reach Midian, and for the family of Moses (Exodus 18:1-5 ) to reach Sinai. On one of the low hills near Wâdy Feirân , Moses watched the doubtful fight and built his stone altar. A steep pass separates the oasis from the Râḥah plain, and baggage camels usually round it on the North by Wâdy esh -Sheikh , which may have been the actual route. The Rephidim oasis has a fertile alluvial soil, and the spot was chosen by Christian hermits perhaps as early as the 3rd century AD.
1. The Stay at Sinai:
Israel remained at Mt. Sinai for 10 months, leaving it after the Passover of the "second year" (Numbers 9:1-3), and apparently soon after the feast, since, when they again witnessed the spring migration of the quail (Num. 11:31) "from the sea" - as they had done in the preceding year (Exodus 16:13 ) farther West - they were already about 20 miles on their road, at Kibroth-hattaavah, or "the graves of lust."
2. Site of Kadesh-Barnea:
(1) In order to follow their journey it is necessary to fix the site of Kadesh-barnea to which they were going, and there has been a good deal of confusion as to this city since, in 1844, John Rowlands discovered the site of the western Kadesh, at ‛Ain Ḳadı̂s in the northern part of the Tı̂h . Robinson pointed out ( BR , II, 194, note 3) that this site could not possibly be right for Kadesh-barnea; and, though it was accepted by Professor Palmer, who visited the vicinity in January, 1870, and has been advocated by Henry Clay Trumbull ( Kadesh - barnea , 1884), the identification makes hopeless chaos of the Old Testament topography.
The site of ‛Ain Ḳadı̂s is no doubt that of the Kadesh of Hagar (see SHUR ), and a tradition of her presence survives among the Arabs, probably derived from one of the early hermits, since a small hermitage was found by Palmer in the vicinity ( Survey of Western Palestine , Special Papers, 1881,19). But this spring is not said to have been at the "city" of Kadesh-barnea, which is clearly placed at the southeast corner of the land of Israel ( Joshua 15:3 ), while, in the same chapter (Joshua 15:23 ), another site called Kedesh is mentioned, with Adadah (‛Ada'deh 7 miles Southeast of Arad) and Hazor (at Jebel Ḥadı̂reh ); this Kedesh may very well have been at the western Kadesh.
(2) Kadesh-barnea is noticed in 10 passages of the Old Testament, and in 16 other verses is called Kadesh only. The name probably means "the holy place of the desert of wandering," and - as we shall see - the wanderings of Israel were confined to the ‛Arabah . The place is described as "a city in the uttermost ... border" of Edom ( Numbers 20:16 ), Edom being the "red land" of Mt. Seir, so called from its red sandstones, as contrasted with the white Tı̂h limestone. It is also very clearly placed (Numbers 34:3 , Numbers 34:4 ) South of the Dead Sea (compare Joshua 15:3 ), while Ezekiel also (Ezekiel 47:19 ) gives it as the southeastern limit of the land, opposed to Tamar (Tamrah near Gaza) as the southeastern border town.
A constant tradition, among Jews and Christians alike, identifies Kadesh-barnea with Petra, and this as early as the time of Josephus, who says that Aaron died on a mountain near Petra (Ant. , IV, iv, 7), and that the old name of Petra was Arekem (vii, 1).
The Targum of Onkelos (on Numbers 34:4 ) renders Kadesh-barnea by "Rekem of the G'aia " and this name - meaning "many-colored" - was due to the many-colored rocks near Petra, while the g'aia or "outcry" is probably that of Israel at Meribah-kadesh (Numbers 27:14 ), and may have some connection with the name of the village el -Jii , at Petra, which is now called Wâdy Mûsa ("the valley of Moses") by the Arabs, who have a tradition that the gorge leading to Petra was cloven by the rod of Moses when he struck the rock at the "waters of strife" (Numbers 27:14 ), forming the present stream which represents that of "Meribah of Kadesh."
Eusebius also (in Onomasticon under the word "Barne") connects Kadesh with Petra, and this traditional site so fully answers the requirements of the journey in question that it may be accepted as one of the best-fixed points on the route, especially as the position of Hazeroth agrees with this conclusion. Hazeroth ( Numbers 11:35 ; Numbers 12:16 ; Numbers 33:17 ; Deuteronomy 1:1 ) means "enclosures," and the name survives at ‛Ain Ḥaḍrah ("spring of the enclosure") about 30 miles Northeast of Mt. Sinai on the way to the ‛Arabah . It was the 3rd camp from Sinai, the 1st being Taberah (Numbers 11:3 ) and the 2nd Kibroth-hattaavah (Numbers 11:35 ), giving a daily march of 10 miles. See KADESH-BARNEA .
3. The Route: Hazeroth to Moseroth:
After passing Hazeroth (Numbers 12:16 ; Numbers 13:3 ) the journey appears to have been leisurely, and Israel probably camped for some time in the best pastures of the ‛Arabah . For the spies were sent from Paran near Hazeroth to explore the route to Kadesh, and to examine the "south country" through which Israel hoped to enter Palestine (Numbers 13:17 , Numbers 13:21 ). They explored this district (Numbers 13:21 ; Numbers 32:8 ) from "the wilderness of Zin," or otherwise "from Kadesh-barnea," on the East, to Rehob - probably Rehoboth (now er -Ruheibeh ) - on the West; and - having been absent 40 days (Numbers 13:25 ) - after visiting Hebron (Numbers 13:22 ) they returned by the direct route leading South of Arad (Tell ‛Arâd ) to Petra, which road is called (Numbers 21:1 ) the "way of the spies."
On their return, in the season of "first-ripe grapes" (Numbers 13:20 ), they found Israel at Kadesh (Numbers 13:26 ). No place North of Hebron is mentioned in the account of their explorations, and it is difficult to suppose that, in 40 days, they could have reached the Syrian city of Hamath, which is some 350 miles North of Petra, and have returned thence. The definition of Rehob (mentioned before Hebron) as being 'on the coming to Hamath' (Numbers 13:21 ) is best explained as a scribe's error, due to an indistinct manuscript, the original reading being ḥălāceth (חלצת ), and referring to the classical Elussa (now Khalasah ) which lies 10 miles North of Rehoboth on the main road to Beersheba and Hebron. Israel left Sinai in the spring, after the Passover, and was near Hazeroth in the time of the quail migration. Hazeroth possesses the only perennial supply of water in the region, from its vicinity the spies set forth in August.
4. The Camps Between Hazeroth and Moseroth:
Most of the sites along this route are unknown, and their position can only be gathered from the meaning of the names; but the 6th station from Hazeroth was at Mt. Shepher (Numbers 33:23 ), and may have left its name corrupted into Tell el -‛Aṣfar (or ‛Asfar ), the Hebrew meaning "the shining hill," and the Arabic either the same or else "the yellow." This site is 60 miles from Hazeroth, giving a daily march of 10 miles.
As regards the other stations, Rithmah means "broomy," referring to the white desert broom; Rimmon-perez was a "cloven height," and Libnah a "white" chalky place; Rissah means "dewy," and Kehelathah , "gathering." From Mt. Shepher the distance to the vicinity of Mt. Hor is about 55 miles, and seven stations are named, giving an average march of 8 miles. The names are Haradah ( Numbers 33:24 ), "fearful," referring to a mountain; Makheloth , "gatherings"; Tahath - probably "below" - marking the descent into the ‛Arabah ; Terah , "delay," referring to rest in the better pastures; Mithkah , "sweetness" of pasture or of water; Hashmonah , "fatness"; and Moseroth ; probably meaning "the boundaries," near Mt. Hor. These names, though now lost, agree well with a journey through a rugged region of white limestone and yellow sandstone, followed by a descent into the pastoral valley of the ‛Arabah . The distances also are all probable for flocks.
The Thirty-Eight Years
1. The History:
From the time of their first arrival at Kadesh-barnea, in the autumn of the 2nd year, to the day that the Hebrews crossed the brook Zered in Moab on their final march, is said to have been a period of 38 years ( Deuteronomy 2:14 ), during which the first generation died out, and a strong race of desert warriors succeeded it. During this period Israel lived in the nomadic state, like modern Arabs who change camp according to the season within well-defined limits, visiting the higher pastures in summer, and wintering in the lower lands.
On their first arrival near Kadesh-barnea, they were discouraged by the report of the spies, and rebelled; but when they were ordered to turn South "by the way of the Red Sea" or Gulf of ‛Aḳabah , they made an unsuccessful attempt to enter Palestine by the way of the spies (Nu 14:25-45). They were discomfited by Amalekites at Hormah ("cutting off"), which place is otherwise called Zephath ( Judges 1:17 ).
Here also they were again defeated by the king of Arad (Numbers 21:1 , Numbers 21:3 ) in the early autumn of the 40th year of wandering. This site may well be placed at the ascent now called Nuḳb es -Ṣufah ("the pass of Zephath"), which preserves the Hebrew name, 45 miles Northwest of Mt. Hor, on the main road from Hebron to Petra. The route is well watered, and ‛Ain Yemen is a spring at the foot of this ascent leading to the higher terrace of the Tı̂h . Arad lies North of the road, and its Canaanite king no doubt marched South some 40 miles, to defend the top of the ascent down which the Amalekites had driven the first generation of Hebrews, who returned to the Kadesh-barnea camp.
2. The Camps Visited:
We are not left without any notice of the stations which Israel visited, and no doubt revisited annually, during the 38 years of nomadic life. We have in fact three passages which appear to define the limits of their wanderings. (1) In the first of these (Numbers 33:31-36 ) we find that they left Moseroth , near Mt. Hor, the site of which latter has always been shown - since the time of Josephus at least - at the remarkable mountain West of Petra, now called Jebel Hârân ("Aaron's Mountain"); thence they proceeded to the wells of the Bene-jaakan , to Hor-haggidgad , and to Jotbathah . Hor-haggidgad (or Gudgodah, Deuteronomy 10:7 ) signifies apparently the "hill of thunder," and the word is not in any way connected with the name of Wâdy Ghaḍaghı̂d ("the valley of failing waters"), applying to a ravine West of the ‛Arabah ; for the Hebrew and Arabic words have not a letter in common.
The site of Jotbathah, which was in "a land of brooks of waters" (Deuteronomy 10:7 ), is, on the other hand, pretty clearly to be fixed at ‛Ain et -Ṭâbah ("the good spring"), 28 miles North of ‛Aḳabah , and about 40 along the road from Mt. Hor. This spring, near a palm grove, feeds the winter lake of et -Ṭâbah to its West in the ‛Arabah . The next station was Abronah ("the crossing"), and if this refers to crossing the ‛Arabah to the western slopes, we are naturally brought - on the return journey - to Ezion-geber , at ‛Ain -ghudı̂an (the usual identification), which springs from the western slopes of the Tı̂h on the side of the lake opposite to Jotbathah. Thence the migrants gradually returned to Kadesh .
(2) The second passage (Deuteronomy 10:6 , Deuteronomy 10:7 ). is one of many geographical notes added to the narrative of the wanderings, and gives the names in a different order - W ells of the Bene-jaakan, Moserah, Gudgodah, and Jotbathah - but this has little importance, as the camps, during 38 years, would often be at these springs.
(3) The third passage is in the preface to Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 1:1 , Deuteronomy 1:2 ), which enumerates the various places where Moses spoke to Israel at various times after leaving Sinai. These include the region East of Jordan, the wilderness, the ‛Arabah , "over against Suph," with all the district between Paran and Tophel (now Tufı̂leh , on the southern border of Moab), as well as Laban (probably the Libnah of Numbers 33:20 ), Hazeroth, and Dizahab which may be Dhahab on the seashore East of Sinai. This list, with the valuable notes added showing that Kadesh-barnea was 11 days from Horeb in the direction of Mt. Seir, refers to speeches down to the last days of Moses' life.
The wanderings of the 38 years do not include the march through Edom and Moab; and, though it is of course possible that they may have extended to Hazeroth and Sinai, it seems more probable that they were confined to the ‛Arabah between Petra and Jotbathah. Elath (now ‛Aḳabah ), on the eastern shore at the head of the gulfs, is not mentioned; for the raised beach South of the Lake of Jotbathah would not give pasture. In summer the camps would be on the western slopes of the valley, where grass might be found in April; and the annual migrations were thus within the limits of some 500 square miles, which is about the area now occupied by a strong tribe among Arabs.
The Final Journey
1. The Route:
In the 1st month of the 40th year (Numbers 20:1 ) Israel was at Kadesh in the desert of Zin, where Miriam was buried. They were troubled once more by want of water, till Moses smote the rock of Meribah ("strife"). They were commanded to keep peace with their relatives of Edom and Moab, whose lands were not attacked by the Hebrews till the time of Saul, and of David and his successors. They camped on the border of Kadesh, desiring to reach the main road to Moab through the city; and, when this was refused by the king of Edom, they withdrew a few miles West to Mt. Hor .
Here Aaron was buried, and was mourned for 30 days (Numbers 20:29 ), after which the 2nd attempt to reach Hebron by the main road (Numbers 21:1 ) was also repulsed. Since, on this occasion, Israel remained "many days" in Kadesh (Deuteronomy 1:46 ) and left it less than 38 years after they first reached it in autumn, it would seem that they may have started in August, and have taken about a month to reach the brook Zered; but only five stations are noticed (Numbers 21:10-12 ; Numbers 33:41-44 ) on the way.
They are not said - in any passage - to have gone to Elath, but they turned "from mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom" (Numbers 21:4 ), or, as otherwise stated (Deuteronomy 2:8 ), they went "from the way of the Arabah" on the road which led "from Elath and from Ezion-geber"; and thus, starting on the "way to the Red Sea," they "compassed mount Seir many days," turning "northward" by the "way of the wilderness of Moab" (Deuteronomy 2:1 , Deuteronomy 2:8 ) after passing through the coast of Edom (Deuteronomy 2:4 ).
2. The Five Stations to the Border of Moab:
If the list of five stations is complete, we may suppose that they left the ‛Arabah road not many miles South of Petra, striking East by an existing road leading to Mâ'an , and thus gaining the high plateau above Petra to the East, and reaching the present Ḥâj route. This view is confirmed by the notice of Punon as the 2nd camp, if we accept the statement of Eusebius ( Onomasticon , under the word "Phinon"); for he appears to have known it as an Edomite village North of Petra, in the desert, where convicts were employed digging copper.
The name, however, has not been recovered. The preceding camp at Zalmonah suggests some "gloomy" valley leading up to the Edomite plateau. North of Punon, the 3camp was at Oboth ("water bags"), and the 4th was at Iyim or Iye-abarim ("the ruins" or "the ruins of the crossings"), the site of which is pretty certainly at ‛Aimeh , a few miles North of Tophel. The total distance thus seems to have been about 60 miles for four marches, or 15 miles a day. Iyim was "in the border of Moab" ( Numbers 33:44 ) and in the desert facing Moab, in the East (Numbers 21:11 ).
3. From Iyim to Arnon:
Here therefore Israel left Edom; and between Iyim and the river Arnon, in a distance of about 32 miles, only one station is mentioned, being at the valley of Zered ( Numbers 21:12 ; Deuteronomy 2:13 , Deuteronomy 2:14 ). This has usually been placed at Wâdy el -Ḥesy ("the pebbly valley"), which flows into the Dead Sea, having its head near Iyim; but this is evidently too far South, and it is no doubt the great gorge at Kerak that is intended, having its head close to the Ḥâj road, halfway from Iyim to Arnon, giving a daily march of 16 miles.
The traditional identification of the Arnon with Wâdy Môjib is rendered certain by the positions of Diban ( Dhibân ) and Aroer ( ‛Ar‛aı̂r ) close by. It was the border of the Amorites, who had driven the Moabites South of this river (Numbers 21:13 ; Deuteronomy 2:36 ), depriving them of their best lands which stretched to Heshbon. These Amorites were apparently recent intruders who, with the Hittites (see HITTITES ), had invaded Damascus and Bashan from North Syria, and who no doubt had thus brought the fame of Balaam from Pethor (Numbers 22:5 ), on the Euphrates near Carchemish.
4. The Message to Sihon:
The Hebrews were now a strong people fit for war, and Moses sent messengers from the "wilderness of Kedemoth" (Deuteronomy 2:26 ) to Sihon in Heshbon, demanding a peaceful passage through his lands, such as had been accomplished through Edom and Moab. Kedemoth ("the Eastern Lands") was evidently the desert of Moab.
It was objected, by Colenso, to the narrative of the Pentateuch that, since Israel only reached the brook Zered in autumn of the 40th year, only six months are left for the conquest of North Moab, Gilead and Bashan. But it must be remembered that the Hebrews left all their impedimenta in the "plains of Moab" (Numbers 22:1 ) opposite Jericho at Shittim, so that the advance of their army in Gilead and Bashan was unimpeded. The Assyrians, in later times, covered in a season much longer distances than are attributed to Hebrew conquerors, and the six months leave quite enough time for the two missions sent from Moab (Nu 22:5-36) to fetch Balaam. See NUMBERS , BOOK OF .
5. From the Arnon to Shittim:
(1) It is notable that, for the march from the Arnon to Shittim, we have two lists of stations. That which is said to have been written down by Moses himself (Numbers 33:45-49 ) mentions only four stations in a distance of about 25 miles - namely Dibon-gad , Almon-diblathaim , Nebo and the plains of Moab , where the camps were placed at various waters from Beth-jeshimoth (Sûeimeh ) on the northeastern shore of the Dead Sea to Abelshittim ("the Meadow of Acacias"), now called the Ghôr es -Seisebân , or "Valley of Acacias." In this area of 50 square miles there were four running streams, besides springs, and excellent pasture for flocks. This therefore was the headquarters of the nation during the Amorite war.
(2) In the 2nd list (Numbers 21:13-20 ) we read of a still more gradual and cautious advance in the Amorite lands, and this may represent the march of the main body following the men of war. Leaving the Arnon, they reached "a well" (Beer), probably near Dibon, this being one of those shallow water pits which the Arabs still scoop out in the valleys when the water runs below the surface. Between Arnon and Pisgah (or Nebo) no less than five stations are noticed in about 20 miles, namely Beer , Mattanah ("the gift"), Nahaliel ("the valley of God"), Bamoth (or Bamoth-Baal ( Numbers 22:41 ), "the monuments of Baal"), and Pisgah (Jebel Neba ).
Of these only the last is certainly known, but the central station at Nahaliel may be placed at the great gorge of the Zerḳa Mâ‛aı̂n , the road from Dibon to Nebo crossing its head near Beth-meon. There was plenty of water in this vicinity. The last stage of Israel's march thus seems to represent a program of only about 4 miles a day, covered by the more rapid advance of the fighting men; and no doubt the women, children and flocks were not allowed to proceed at all until, at least, Sihon had been driven from Heshbon (Numbers 21:21-25 ).
Recommended for You
More on Christianity
More Religious Facts
World Religions - Main pages
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).