The Negev is a desert covering over half of Israel’s total land area. Rocky mountain ranges are broken by wadis (dry riverbeds that fill after a rain), and three enormous, craterlike makhteshim (box canyons). It is an inverted triangle, bordered on the west by the desert of the Sinai Peninsula, and on the east by the Arabah valley.
The word negev comes from the Hebrew root denoting “dry.” In the Bible, the word negev is also used for the direction “south.”
The Negev contains five very different ecological regions, with differing amounts of rainfall and types of soil. The northern Negev, where Debir is, receives 12 inches of rain annually and has fairly fertile soils. By contrast, the Arabah Valley is very arid with barely 2 inches of rain annually. Little can grow there without irrigation and special soil additives.
Although a desert, the Negev is not at all devoid of life and never has been. The Canaanites, Amalekites, Amorites, and Edomites lived there centuries ago. Nomadic Bedouin still live in tents, moving seasonally along with their livestock. A handful of modern towns populate the Negev: Beersheeba, Arad, Elat, Dimona, the Kibbutz Sde Boker. Israel recently announced it is hoping to funnel over a half million new residents to the Negev in the next twenty years by building eleven cities in the southern region.
A few hardy trees and plants thrive there, among them acacia, terebinth, tamarisk, and broom bush. A myriad of flowers in bloom in spring, such as buckthorn, globe daisy, woundwort, desert tulip, Jacob’s rod, and anemone. Arabian leopards and Negev Tortoises, both endangered, survive in the Negev along with the Nubian ibex, striped hyena, Dorcas gazelle, and the sand partridge. I think the tiny Cairo spiny mouse is just adorable!
I love deserts. My grandparents lived in the desert when I grew up, and I find it to be a place of stark and dangerous beauty. If you’re not careful, you can lose your life very easily, but the scenery can be unparalleled.
The psalmist talked about the Negev:
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
The Jewish Bible says “like torrents in the Negev.” The wadis in the desert are dry most of the year. When a rain hits, they fill so quickly they can cause deadly flash floods. But that same water allows life to burst forth overnight, as grass, and flowers of every color blanket the sand.We all go thru desert times. But even if you don't see it, there is life around you. Click To TweetWe all go through times in life, some longer than others, when we feel as dry and barren as the Negev. But the Lord will be faithful, in His time, to send the rains, and fill our lives with colorful desert flowers of every color. It may be tough to wait for His time, I admit. But remember, even the Negev is not completely barren, even when the flowers are not visible. There may be only a spiny mouse hanging around, but there is life. And where there is life, God is at work.