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."
Farini describes rock formations he thought was ruins of an ancient city, built in the form of an arc, with hidden parts left under the sand. No inscriptions was found so he guessed it was thousands of years old smack right in the middle of the Kalahari. If one consults the Khoi Khoi (an ancient people mentioned in the Bible though by another name) in the area has always said there was a large ancient city that had not been built by them. Other historians have claimed that the Khoi knew well about these cities where precious stones had been found, others are tales of large quarries, other talk about shipwrecks having been found - meaning there must have been a large body of water there in ancient times (perhaps the Dead Sea). This deserves a post of its own in the future, Lost Cities of the Kalahari, the Negev Desert in the Bible.
Knowing your Directions in Ancient Hebrew
Knowing that East and West was a slightly different measure back in the day, you will need a starting point. Now much the coastal line of what today is known as Southern Africa was the coast of ancient Israel. So traveling inland, would be traveling either West, South or East, as language and the placement of the Great Negev Desert (Kalahari) will reveal, The Great Desert was to the South. Confusing certainly, but only if you used to seeing the world as you have been told it is. However setting these measures on a compass is just a matter of coordination and agreement of what is North, South, East and West. Cardinal directions they call it, however it was changed as well from what was in the old days. Have an open mind and Lets look for these again.
Now today scientist say today that the Geographical North has moved (been moving for a while) and is moving more each year, perhaps this is to blame for these change in compass readings, Who knows... More likely is just the different cultures and each civilisations cosmological viewpoints, like Jerusalem being the focal and central point of the cardinal directions. This would change everything as the city was ransacked, forgotten and subsequently moved to another continent. Moved your starting point to another place on earth, say for instance Rome, that would change the outcome drastically.
However we luckily do know one constant we can use in this search, the fact that the Sun always rises in the East. So we will use that as our constant in this theory. That makes West easy to find, and then we have to figure out North and South. Again luckily Negev meant South in ancient Hebrew, meaning we only have to find the desert, which we speculate is the area known today as the Kalahari and the surrounding dry areas in Southwestern Africa.
This all makes more sense if you flip the map from the above example to the below which is likely how SoNiNi see the world (the Gate to the Heavens is towards the East according to Ezekiel). Then we use Jerusalem (approximate location) as the centre of direction in the world. You can google search this now and find that the Hebrews did think Jerusalem as the centre of the world, just as the Romans thought Rome to be the same. Hence we are we are today, different outsets always gives different results. And therefore we have different calendars and certainly different historical narratives.
Now lets get Scriptures involved, Genesis 28,14 SoNiNi gave Jacob a promise on where his descendants would be spreading:
“You will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
As you can see on the map Jerusalem is up in the mountainous regions north (south-east according to the Bible) of Cape Town (Capernaum). The reason for this is, if (it might not) Cape Town is the Biblical Capernaum (a Roman settlement in ancient times), then Jerusalem was supposed to be a mere 3 day walk from there. With Bethlehem also close. For all this to make sense according to Scriptures, there is allot of things that need to line up. We have to consider all these place being in close proximity, Jerusalem, Cana and Capernaum (John 2,11-13):
11 What Immanuel did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Immanuel went up to Jerusalem.
Bearing these places in mind, and directions like going up to Jerusalem, meaning the place was amidst the mountains. Lets look at some language, and as we see the ancient Hebrew expressions used for the different directions is what makes this interesting.
Qedem, Motsa or Mizrah - EAST
Yam, Marav or Akor - WEST
Negev, Darom, Teman or Yamin - SOUTH
Tsafon or Smol - NORTH
There are allot of synonyms in Scripture for these cardinal directions, when they got the suffix `a` is when they became directions rather than places. However this gets mixed up when using modern Hebrew, which is even closer to Arabic than say Swahili, and by then that language has changed so it is hardly a Bantu (African) language any longer.
Back to interpreting this ancient language (which is what modern Jews have done, as Africans and progenitors of the language Africans will do the same). The Expression used for different directions in Hebrew, as read in the Hebrew script and vocabulary, is Yama (WEST), Qedma (EAST), Tsfona (NORTH) and Negba (SOUTH), the `a` at the end of the word indicates the direction. Without the suffix A, its becomes YAM, QEDEM, TSAFON and NEGEV. Modern Hebrew/Arabic used completely different words (hence the inclusion of the above).
Now lets dive into some Scriptures, Deuteronomy 3,27, we are given these 4 directions:
27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan.
The Ancient Hebrew here says Yama, Tsfona, Temana and Mizrah. Let us now investigate these Hebrew Cardinal directions, one by one. Starting with the oldest one, the East, the sun always rises to the East.
EAST - Qedem means literally forward, and shows that before people would face the rising Sun as some sort of default direction. However this word also means ancient, perhaps referring to ancient Kingdoms such as Babylon (which most likely was in Upper East-Africa, horn of Africa / Babel Mandel). But also places like Sumeria or Sumer (close to modern day Uganda, you can see the remains of the culture in their last names to this day). Now, did the Hebrews use the word ancient as a direction for these places? Some Scriptures seem to imply that Qedem was a place or the name for a larger area in ancient times, just corroborate this with Job 1,3, that says that Job was:
"...the greatest of all the men of the East (Qedem)".
This can then be interpreted in different ways, regardless if Qedem was an area or an actual Kingdom, one thing can be certain, it was to the East - where the Sun rises (Mpumalanga right). Interestingly the Dead Sea was in ancient Hebrew Qadmoni, which could have meant The Sea to the East OR The Ancient Sea.
More Scriptures that use these examples are Ezekiel 47,18:
“On the east side the boundary will run between Hauran and Damascus, along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel, to the Dead Sea and as far as Tamar. This will be the eastern boundary.
More in Joel 2,20:
“I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in The Great Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.”
And Zechariah 14,8:
8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.
And more Scriptures comes from Joshua that describes (among many places) the third allotment of land going to Zebulun (Joshua 19,10-15):
"10 The third lot came up for Zebulun according to its clans: The boundary of their inheritance went as far as Sarid. 11 Going west it ran to Maralah, touched Dabbesheth, and extended to the ravine near Jokneam. 12 It turned east from Sarid toward the sunrise to the territory of Kisloth Tabor and went on to Daberath and up to Japhia. 13 Then it continued eastward to Gath Hepher and Eth Kazin; it came out at Rimmon and turned toward Neah. 14 There the boundary went around on the north to Hannathon and ended at the Valley of Iphtah El. 15 Included were Kattath, Nahalal, Shimron, Idalah and Bethlehem. There were twelve towns and their villages."
It turned East towards the sunrise, furthermore in Numbers 2,3 it reads:
"3 On the east, toward the sunrise, the divisions of the camp of Judah are to encamp under their standard."
It was common back in the day to have Temples facing East towards the Sunrise, as was the case with the Temple Solomon built in Jerusalem. This has by and large been adopted by all coming churches, such as the Roman Catholic Empire, having their churches facing towards the East (or Orient if you will)
WEST - This direction then becomes default of the orientation EAST, which means west is right behind you. The word Achor, which means behind, was then used allot in the Bible as a description of the direction West.
The Prophet Isaiah will clarify (Isaiah 9,12):
“The Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west”.
This says qedem and achor, which translates roughly Arameans are in front of you and the Philistines are behind you. Now The Great Sea, or the Last Sea or the Sea Behind you, we find in Deuteronomy 11,24 and 34,2:
24 Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Sea (Yam). (..)
1 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, 2 all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Great Sea (West),3 the Negev (the South) and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar."
In both these verses the direction for west is Yam, or the Great Sea to the West, as a border that does not change. Just like Negev was to the South. In Numbers 3,23 it reads " camped behind the tabernacle westward" the text says "achor the tabernacle, yama". Meaning east for the tabernacle, towards the great sea.
Numbers 34,6 reads:
“As for the western (yam) border, you shall have the Great Sea (Yam).”
Modern Hebrew uses the word West for evening is marav, relating to the position of the sun. Isaiah tries to say, I will gather your offspring from East and West (Isaiah 43,5):
“Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bring your offspring from the EAST (Mizrah), and gather you from the WEST (Marav)."
So its a play on words, from the morning to the evening. Examples again in Isaiah 59,10:
“So they will fear the name of SoNiNi from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun.”
Here again, it says ma’arav (the evening direction) and mizrach (the rising of the sun). Another great one is Psalm 103,12:
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
David is here saying as far as the rising of the sun from the setting of the sun, which is the furthest distance one can imagine for anyone today and back then. Nobody could travel as far as the sun travels in a day. Even though people today will have you believe that if you walked East you would end up in the West eventually, on a globe, but Scriptures do not describe the earth as a round ball or even remotely close.
SOUTH - When you find yourself in The Promised Land , The Great Sea then will always be on your west, similarly towards the Negev you will have your south direction. Modern Hebrew uses darom, which means south and often used in the Bible. If we read Deuteronomy 3,27:
27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan.
We see that Yama, tsfona, temana, mizrach, they are all in here. Teman is from yamin, which means right side. Now looking at Ezekiel 20,46, we find 3 expressions listen in just one verse:
“Son of man, set your face towards Teman, and speak out against the Darom and prophecy against the forest land of the Negev.”
In the verse from Psalm 89,12 "the north and the south, you have created them", it reads Yamin and Tsafon meaning right side and north. Now here Yamin, which is supposed to be The Great Sea to the West, is clearly used as south. If we read Isaiah 54,3:
3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.
So what is Isaiah saying, is he saying to the Right and Left or is he saying South and North? Here one must use the rule of context to decipher, Isaiah is talking about possessing nations and the settling of cities, one could fall for Isaiah saying North and South. Like in the Psalms yamin was used as south and the Hebrew for left is sometimes used as North (which backs up the claim of North and South having been switched at some point in time).
NORTH - In Jacobs promise, the north (tsafon, is the only direction that you find in modern Hebrew). The word itself means hidden as a direction you would not see the sun going, which works if you use our mapped out direction that switch of North and South. Smol in modern Hebrew means left and was based on the default direction, its very closely related to the Arabic north (shamal).
Is we use Left in the sense of north, we find in Genesis 14,15:
“He pursued them as far as Hobah which is smol of Damascus.”
More in Joshua 19:27.
“…and to the valley of Iphtael northward (tsfona) … then it proceeded on north (smol) to Cabul.”
So here we see the confusion. Left and right... You should be asking left and right of what? We should therefore call into question every time Scripture talks about right and left, as it can sometimes mean south and north... This gives a cardinal direction of East, kinda being the True North of the ancient times, as the Sun would come out of the East, every time. Put Jerusalem on a straight line, that makes North and South, either Left or Right of that straight line.
Then Scriptures like Genesis 13,9, conversation between Abraham and Lot, makes much more sense:
9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
Let us sum this up shall we. There are different ways of perceiving the four directions, all depending on where you are in the land of Israel and where Jerusalem is. Yam is west, Negev is south, those are the clear ones, the others seem reliant on forward and backward, and seemingly left and right, all calculated under the light of the sun (where it rises) and the location of Jerusalem.
In Genesis we see the 4 cardinal directions given to Jacob by SoNiNi, “Yama, qedma, tsfona, negba,” and in Deutronomy to Moses as “Yama, tsfona, temana, mizracha.” In Job we find a slightly different language again (Job 23:8-9):
“Behold I go qedem (East) but he is not there, and achor (West) but I cannot perceive him. When he acts in the smol (North), I cannot behold him. He turns on the yamin (West or left), I cannot see him.”
Is Job saying “forward, backward, left and right”…? Now to give an idea of how fickle and difficult it is to read these verses without being in the actual land of Israel or the Temple, OR knowing how ancient Hebrew was spoken, we will find that on the Day of Atonement. in Leviticus 16,14, it reads:
"14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front (East) of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.