[b-hebrew] "The Negev" at Genesis 12: 9 Is Not the Negev Desert

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Aug 14 10:10:44 EDT 2008


“The Negev” at Genesis 12: 9 Is Not the Negev Desert
 
When Abraham gets to Canaan from Harran, Abraham soon discovers that all of 
Canaan proper, the entire length of which Abraham has just traversed, is 
temporarily afflicted by a drought/famine:
 
“And there was a famine in the land….”  Genesis 12: 10
 
The phrase “in the land” there refers to all of Canaan proper (in the 
narrowest sense), the entire length of which Abraham has just traversed:  northern 
Canaan/Galilee (the first clause at Genesis 12: 6), central Canaan (from 
Shechem to Beth-el:  Genesis 12: 6, 8), and southern Canaan proper (south of 
Beth-el, but north of the Negev Desert, as discussed below:  Genesis 12: 9).
 
The phrase “in the land” at Genesis 12: 10 does not refer to the Negev 
Desert.  The concept of a drought/famine applies to Canaan proper (in the narrowest 
sense), north of the Negev Desert, which relied on yearly rainfall to grow 
crops, but not to the Negev Desert itself, which frequently has little rainfall 
and where few crops are grown.
 
Immediately prior to Genesis 12: 10, when Abraham had left Beth-el, heading 
south, JBS1917 translates Genesis 12: 9 as follows:
 
“And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.”
 
In context, “the South/the negev” at Genesis 12: 9 must mean:  “the land 
south of Beth-el”, namely, southern Canaan proper, north of the Negev Desert.  
That includes Jerusalem, which has been an important city from the Early Bronze 
Age to the present.  “The South/the negev” at Genesis 12: 9 does  n-o-t  mean 
“the Negev Desert”.  In the secular history of the ancient world, the word “
negev” is never documented as being a proper name for “the Negev Desert”.  
Rather, “the Negev Desert” is the meaning of the word “Negev”, regardless of 
the context, only in post-Biblical languages such as Arabic and English, not in 
Biblical Hebrew.  In Biblical Hebrew, “negev” means “south”, and “the negev”
 means “the South”.  Whether this wording is referring to the Negev Desert 
or not depends entirely on the particular context.
 
The directional suffix he/H at the end of “the negev” at Genesis 12: 9 is 
hard to translate accurately into English.  Although the English words “to” or “
toward” are usually used, the concept is actually movement in an indicated 
direction.  Instead of “toward the South”, consider the following alternative 
wording/paraphrase:
 
“And [having left Beth-el, headed south,] Abrum journeyed on [farther south], 
going by stages to and through the land of Canaan south of Beth-el.”
 
(Genesis 13: 1, 3 uses the same wording regarding “the South/the negev”, 
with the same meaning.) 
 
Note that the Negev Desert is not being referenced at Genesis 12: 9.  Rather, 
“the South/the negev” at Genesis 12: 9 means “the land in Canaan proper 
south of Beth-el, north of the Negev Desert”.  That land includes the Jerusalem 
area.  “The South” here means, in context:  “south of Beth-el”.
 
Having reached the northern edge of the Negev Desert (Genesis 12: 9), but not 
yet having entered the Negev Desert, Abraham now notes (Genesis 12: 10) that 
throughout all of Canaan proper (in the narrowest sense, from Galilee on the 
north, to the northern edge of the Negev Desert on the south), all of which 
land Abraham’s party has just now traversed, drought/famine reigns everywhere:
 
“And there was a famine in the land….”  Genesis 12: 10
 
With there being drought/famine in all of Galilee, central Canaan, and 
southern Canaan proper as well, Abraham then determines (presumably pursuant to 
divine guidance) to go to Egypt at once.  In Egypt, Abraham sells directly to 
Pharaoh’s royal buyers, at a very high price, the valuable lapis lazuli (“rekush”
/goods at Genesis 12: 5, which is the same type of item that is later 
mentioned as “rekush”/loot at Genesis 14: 11-12, 16, 21) which his father Terakh had, 
on behalf of Terakh’s people, bought at Ur.  This propitious sale by Abraham 
in Egypt of lapis lazuli (“blue gold” in Chinese, blue sapphire in English) 
from its historical retail source in Ur brings considerable wealth to all of 
Terakh’s people (not just to Abraham, or just to Abraham and Lot;  Terakh’s 
people who benefited from Abraham’s daring, highly successful sale in Egypt of 
lapis lazuli include Abraham’s 318 armed retainers referenced, not too long 
thereafter, at Genesis 14: 14 as being willing to help rescue Abraham’s nephew 
Lot, way up north near Damascus, without sharing in any of Sodom’s loot/“rekush”
/lapis lazuli).
 
The drought/famine being referenced at Genesis 12: 10, which is the prelude 
to Abraham deciding to proceed directly to Egypt, has nothing to do with the 
Negev Desert.  Rather, this drought/famine is referring to the drought/famine 
that was temporarily afflicting “the land” -- that is, all of Canaan proper (in 
the narrowest sense), from Galilee in the north, to the northern edge of the 
Negev Desert in the south.  
 
Despite the presence of the word “negev” and the phrase “the negev”, there 
is no reference to the Negev Desert in chapter 12 of Genesis.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




**************Looking for a car that's sporty, fun and fits in your budget? 
Read reviews on AOL Autos.      
(http://autos.aol.com/cars-BMW-128-2008/expert-review?ncid=aolaut00050000000017 )



More information about the b-hebrew mailing list