Glimpses of Israel - The Negev, Birthplace of a Nation

by Joseph Hunting

4,000 years ago Abraham, Isaac and Jacob dug wells and grazed their flocks in the Negev wilderness. During a severe famine Jacob and his household of seventy migrated to Egypt where their descendants sojourned for 430 years.

During that time they prospered and multiplied until a Pharaoh arose in the land "who knew not Joseph" and subjected the Hebrews to a twin programme of genocide and slavery.

God heard their cry for deliverance and brought them out of bondage with mighty miracles and demonstrations of His power. The first 40 years of Israel's history as a free people were spent being moulded into a nation in the Negev wilderness. It was in this awful solitude, far from contact with other peoples, that God moulded the Hebrews from a people brought up as slaves to become a nation whose exploits under Joshua are still marvelled at.

I doubt if one could survive 40 days in this wilderness. To be sure, there are wadis where one may find desert vegetation, and at En Gedi or En Avdat even water. Yet God sustained an estimated two million people for 40 years. Furthermore even their clothing and footwear did not deteriorate.

In ancient times the Nabateans pioneered the art of water-harvesting in the Negev desert and the remains of their dams and water-courses are still evident. Abraham's descendants of this generation have introduced some of the finest skills known to modern agriculture in their endeavour to transform the wilderness. And Isaiah prophesied: " ... the Lord shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places, and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord." (Isaiah 51:3)