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NEGEB ("dry land"):

Tract of land in southern Judah, which, though fertile in comparison with the rest of Palestine, is nevertheless regarded as an arid country. The term "Negeb" refers very often to "the south" in general, just as "yam" (lit. "the sea") denotes "the west." Later translators, among others those of the Authorized Version, uniformly render "Negeb" by "the south." Lack of accuracy in keeping the two meanings distinct is noticeable in many instances, as in Gen. xiii. 1, where the Authorized Version renders "into the south," while Abraham is represented as traveling northward.

The Negeb was a plateau of moderate elevation (comp. Judges i. 9). Although not well supplied with water, it afforded abundant pasture for cattle (Gen. xx. 1, xxiv. 62, xxxvii. 1, xlvi. 5). The spies whom Moses sent to explore the land of Canaan reported the Negeb to be inhabited by the Amalekites (Num. xiii. 29), but at the time of the Israelitish invasion the Canaanites were located there (Judges l.c.). The Negeb, which included twenty-nine cities, besides villages, was assigned by Joshua to Judah; but subsequently a part of it was allotted to Simeon (Josh. xv. 21-32, xix. 1-8). The Negeb was afterward divided into five districts named after their occupants: the Negeb of Judah proper, the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites, the Negeb of the Kenites, the Negeb of the Cherethites, and the Negeb of Caleb (I Sam. xxvii. 10, xxx. 14).

The wealth of the Negeb in the time of Moses is indicated by the fact that the spies brought from it a cluster of grapes which had to be carried on a pole by two people (Num. xiii. 22-23); and later, in the time of Samuel and David, it was still famous for its fertility (I Sam. xv. 9, xxvii. 9, xxx. 16). During the period of the Kings, the Negeb is mentioned as having shared the fortunes of Judah; it suffered especially during the troubled times of Jeremiah. Its cities were among those which the Prophets promised would be restored (Jer. xiii. 19, xvii. 26, xxxii. 44, xxxiii. 13; Ob. i. 19-20).

Bibliography:
  • Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl.;
  • Hastings, Dict. Bible.
E. G. H. M. Sel.
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