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The Negev or southern region extended from the lower end of the Dead Sea SW to Kadesh Barnea, NW along the River of Egypt to the Mediterranean, its boundaries being somewhat indefinite in the semidesert regions. Its name, “a dry region,” does not indicate a desert; it probably arose because it had a less ample supply of water than Judah had. In it the Hebrews found Amalekites (Num.13.29), Jerahmeelites (1Sam.27.10), and other tribes whom they either exterminated or absorbed.——JOB

SOUTH. The problem of defining directions in a community which did not possess the compass must always have been a difficult one. East and W could be related to sunrise and sunset, but the intermediate direction of S produced a number of different Heb. concepts, e.g., תֵּימָן, H9402, the right hand of a person facing, by convention, toward the sunrise. Most commonly, however, the Heb. adopts negeb, “parched,” describing the region of semi-desert and desert lying in this direction, when viewed from the Israelite heartland. This term Negeb has now become firmly attached, as a regional name, to the southern extension of the modern Israeli state. The NT Gr. has νότος, G3803, for both “south wind” (cf. Luke 12:55) and “south.”

For Israel, the S must have had a significance not unlike that of “the Wild West” in American 19th-cent. thinking and its modern representations. This southern border of the kingdom was an uncertain and fluctuating affair, unmarked by any clear topographic feature. Beyond it lurked the warlike desert tribes, e.g. the Amalekites, and Israel learned to anticipate from this quarter both unpleasant climatic effects (see Storm) and also military attack. Thus Elihu’s comment that the whirlwind comes out of the S (Job 37:9) could also be said to indicate the unsettled, military character of the frontier, across which sudden attacks might always occur (1 Sam 30:1). The parallel with the Indian tribes and Indian wars in the American W is obvious.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) neghebh, according BDB from [?] naghabh, meaning "to be dry," the word most often used, in the Revised Version (British and American) capitalized (South) in those places where it seems to denote a particular region, i.e. to the South of Judah.

(2) yamin, "right hand," "right." The derived meaning, "south," seems to imply an eastern posture in prayer in which the right hand is toward the South; compare Arabic yamin, "right," and yemen, "Yemen," a region in Southwestern Arabia.

(3) teman, from the same root as (2) is often used for the south; also for the south wind (Ps 78:26; So 4:16).

(4) yam, literally, "sea" (Ps 107:3).

(5) darom, etymology doubtful (De 33:23; Eze 40:24).

(6) midhbar, literally, "desert" (Ps 75:6, reading doubtful).

(7) lips, "south west wind" (Ac 27:12).

(8) mesembria, literally, "mid-day"; "south" (Ac 8:26); "noon" (Ac 22:6).

(9) notos, "south wind" (Lu 12:55; Ac 27:13; 28:13); "south" (1 Macc 3:57; Mt 12:42; Lu 11:31; 13:29; Re 21:13).

The south wind is often referred to: see So 4:16; Job 37:9 (compare 9:9); Zec 9:14 (of Isa 21:1); Lu 12:55.

Of the passages where South (neghebh) clearly refers to a particular region between Palestine and Sinai see: "And Abraham journeyed, going on still toward the South" (neghbah) (Ge 12:9; 13:1; De 1:7). We read of "the South of the Jerahmeelites," "the South of the Kenites" (1Sa 27:10); "the South of the Cherethites," "the South of Caleb" (1Sa 30:14); "the South of Judah" (2Ch 28:18); "Ramoth of the South" (1Sa 30:27).

In Ps 126:4, "Turn again our captivity, O Yahweh, as the streams in the South," we have a figurative reference to the fact that, after a long period of drought, the dry watercourses are finally filled with rushing streams. The reference in Eze 20:46 f to "the forest of the South" is to a condition of things very different from that which exists today, though the region is not incapable of supporting trees if they are only planted and protected.