Tag Archives: Patriarchs

The Patriarchs lived in the Negev

English Bibles translate the Hebrew word negev in a variety of ways.

  • South — KJV; NKJV
  • “the South [country]” is the Translator’s Note in the NET Bible. A study note says, “Negev is the name for the southern desert region in the land of Canaan.”
  • Negeb — ESV
  • Negev — most modern English versions.
  • eremos — the word for desert or wilderness is used in the LXX. This word does not describe the Negev precisely enough.

I am away from home and most of my resources, but I recall hearing the late Anson Rainey describe the Negev like the figure 8. Turn the 8 horizontal with Beersheba in the center. The area is one that is often subject to drought and famine.

The Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob spent much time in the Negev (Genesis 12:9; 13:1,3; 20:1; 24:62).

The Israelite spies were sent by Moses from the Sinai to investigate Canaan. The text makes it clear that they had to go through the Negev to get to the hill country and Hebron. Hebron is only about 25 miles north of Beersheba. Once we head south from Hebron we begin to notice a change from the hill country to a more dry clime.

When Moses sent them to investigate the land of Canaan, he told them, “Go up through the Negev, and then go up into the hill country (Numbers 13:17 NET)

When they went up through the Negev, they came to Hebron… (Numbers 13:22 NET)

The Canaanite king of Arad lived in the Negev (Numbers 21:1). Arad is located east of Beersheba as the land slopes down to the Dead Sea.

Our photo today was made a few miles north of Beersheba. I think it illustrates the typical dryness of the region.

Sheep in the Negev. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheep in the Negev. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wells of water

Without water it is impossible for men to survive. Many disputes throughout history have been about water and water rights. The importance of water during the time of the the biblical patriarchs is prominent in several Bible accounts.

  • Abraham made a covenant with Abimelech. He said, “I dug this well” (Genesis 21:30). This covenant was made at Beersheba (well of seven).
  • Isaac had to dig again the wells of water dug by Abraham because the Philistines had filled them with debris (Genesis 26:15-18).
  • The scene around the well where the servant of Abraham selected the bride for Isaac is especially impressive (Genesis 24).
  • The meeting of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4).

The well was so important that the wise man used it as a euphemism to teach sexual purity.

Drink water from your own cistern And fresh water from your own well. (Proverbs 5:15)

At Petra in Jordan, men dressed in antique costumes demonstrate life among the Bedouin. Here we have a man at the well. This may seem ancient to younger people, but I drew water from a well when I was a youngster (and it was not in the patriarchal period!).

A Bedouin at Petra, Jordan, illustrates the importance of the well. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.