The Negev - The Desert of The South
Yebo, ewe, ee, ndizwone, hiswona, dumela ! Remember the stories we were brought up with, we know that the Good Book says that for 40-odd something years, they, meaning millions of Israelite African (Bantu) women and children included, wandered around in the Negev desert. Now that must have been a big piece of dry area to wander around in for all those years, unless they walked around in circles, like the thought process of your average historian. Now the very fact is that Abraham walked that stretch of land even before Moses and the Israelites went the same journey in their mass Exodus out of Egypt, is very interesting. Abraham walked out from the land Ur (Mesopotamia / Monomapata on old maps) a land on the "other side" of the Great Desert, inhabited by Sumerians (possibly Ugandans have Sumerian ancestry investigate their last names) and Chaldeans (ancient Babylonia). On his wanderings, the Great Negev Desert was in the way of Abraham when he set out from a city called Haran, he crossed and went into the desert but went back and entered lower Egypt. From this information can we start to determine were this desert was? Exodus 13,17-18 tells us this:
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, SoNiNi did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For SoNiNi said,
“If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”18 SoNiNi led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle."
In Scripture it was called The Negev, a hot and dry region said to be in the southern part of Israel. The Great Sea to its left, and this sea may have been coloured from all the sand coming from the Negev, the Red Sea also called Sea of Reeds (this Sea might even be dried up today and could have been located in the southern African central areas closer to Lower Egypt). Now as we shall see later, the word South in ancient Hebrew, actually is the same word Negev. This is not coincidental. It was named as such because just like the sun that rises in the East, the Negev Desert was a constant back in the day, and it was located to the South. Before you take out your compass, the important question to then ask is to the South of what? You see the Hebrews used Jerusalem as their focal point in determining their cardinal directions, which is not the same as ours today.
The Negev (The South) Desert plays an important role in the events of Abrahams life and throughout the Bantus wanderings in the desert. It is also of importance throughout the time of when the tribes was united and the time towards the divided Kingdom. The Negev is mentioned by 3 Prophets also, so the dry area area was known by all. It may also have expanded or even shrunk since ancient times, we dont know.
The Kalahari, as a part of the area in question is called today, stretches over vast landmasses and various salt flats, alluding to areas and lakes that once filled the region. All the arid and dry areas we believe, included Namibian, Angolan, and South African Desert, would be ancient descriptions of the old Negev Desert. So we can say, the Desert to the South. But not all these areas was always dry, as various pans and climates will attest. The Negev may have been smaller before and the area surrounding it had excellent vegetation and animal wildlife. In these areas one would be expecting to find the cities of the plains, as mention in the Bible, Sodom & Gomorrah, and Elam along the slopes of the Jordan River (that was most likely the Orange River flowing all the way from the highlands of what is today Lesotho).
Now after SoNiNi called Abraham, he left his home country called Mesopotamia also close to Sumer. Which perhaps could be the written Monomopata on old maps of Africa, a place that that stretched into Central and Northern Africa. Now from this possible place that Abraham started he went in search for the land of Promise as SoNiNi told him to do. In his initial travels he went as far as the Negev (Genesis 12,4), but when a severe famine came into the land, Abraham left the Negev and entered Egypt. After the Destruction of the Cities of the Plain, Abraham returned to the Negev (Genesis 20,1), and his son Isaac lived in the south of the Negev when he first met Rebekah (Genesis 24,62).
Back to the Bantu Hebrews wanderings in the Negev they also started in the southern parts (Deuteronomy 1,19-46):
19 Then, as SoNiNi na NiNi commanded us, we set out from Horeb and went toward the hill country of the Amorites through all that vast and dreadful wilderness that you have seen, and so we reached Kadesh Barnea. 20 Then I said to you, “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which SoNiNi na NiNi is giving us. 21 See, SoNiNi has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as The Lord of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
22 Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.”
During much of the 40-year wanderings they camped at the Oasis called Kadesh Barnea in the southern part of the Negev (Deuteronomy 1,19-46). The lands of the Negev was included in the lands that the Israelites were to possess in Deuteronomy 34,1-3. And as when they spied out the Promised Land, Moses instructed his scouts to go northward through the hill country, starting in the southerns parts of the Negev (Numbers 13,17-20). Joshua (the leader after Moses) led people into much conquests of these lands in the Negev (Joshua 10,40 ; 11,16 & 12,8). The Region of Negev was given to the Tribes of Judah and Simeon (Joshua 15, 19,1-9 & Judges 1,9).
There were many cities in the Negev (vast as it was and is today), one such was called Ziklag, given to King David by Achish the Philistine King of Gath, a place where David escaped to when King Saul wanted to kill him (1. Samuel 27,5-7).
More on Negev in Scripture, we find the Negev of Caleb that was raided by the Amalekites (1. Samuel 30,1). Now in territories in this southern region (Negev still meant south) we often find the Negev of Judah, Negev of Kenites, Negev of Jerahmelites (1. Samuel 27,10) and Negev of the Kerethites (1. Samuel 30,14).
In Hebrew Pleshet was another name for the Land of the Philistines (Genesis 21,32, Exodus 13,17, 1. Samuel 27,1 and Joel 3,4). In ancient times this area went from an area Philistia was called Gaza in the South to Ashdod in the North, with five main cities Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Ekron and Gath. From image above we see there are unexplained remains of cities in the Kalahari (baffling for archeologists off course, yet they are there buried beneath the continuous moving sands of the desert).
There was not allot of rainfall in the Desert and so agriculture or large economic development was not easy back then, as it is `easier` today. However it is said that the northern parts of the Negev there was grain farming, raising of goats, sheep and camels (1. Samuel 25,2, 1. Chronicles 4,38-41, 2. Chronicles 26,10). This farming can be seen in the various terrace formations in the areas, to retain the most water.
During the time of 1. and 2. Kings, you found many of the small villages in the Negev upped their patrols and sentry around the southern border of Judah being fortified. Now Isaiah mentions the different kinds of wild animals in the Negev when denouncing Judahs steady reliance on Egypt, and he referred to the land as `a land of hardship and distress (Isaiah 30,6). The Prophet Jeremiah said that when keeping the Sabbath people came from all around Jerusalem, which would include the desert areas of the Negev to observe the Sabbath (Jeremiah 17,26).
Obadiah prophesied about the people of the Negev (Obadiah 1,19-20):
"People from the Negev will occupy the mountains of Esau, and people from the foothills will possess the land of the Philistines. They will occupy the fields of Ephraim and Samaria, and Benjamin will possess Gilead. This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan will possess the land as far as Zarephath; the exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the towns of the Negev."
After the Fall of Jerusalem (at the time of the Exile) The Lands of Negev fell into the control of the Edomites. Then came the arrival of the Nabateans, that rebuilt much of the settlements and adding new villages in the Desert. They were good at harvesting water, and managed to farm and pasture these dry regions, which lead this area to grow.
Now there are still traces of lost cities, tone of these cities was found by a William Leonard Hunt (1838-1929) also known as Guillermo Farini, that wrote a report on a mysterious city he came across in the Negev (Kalahari) Desert. He presented his findings to the Geographical Society in Berlin and Britain, publishing a book chronicling his travels in great detail (Farini, 1886):
"...half-buried ruin – a huge wreck of stones On a lone and desolate spot; A temple – or a tomb for human bones Left by men to decay and rot. Rude sculptured blocks from the red sand project, And shapeless uncouth stones appear, Some great man’s ashes designed to protect, Buried many a thousand year. A relic, may be, of a glorious past, A city once grand and sublime, Destroyed by earthquake, defaced by the blast, Swept away by the hand of time."