South Country (נֶגֶב, Negeb, south, or, according to Buxtorf, Parkhurst, and Gesenius, arid or dry country). There was a certain tract of country or portion of Palestine which was variously designated as "the South," "the South Country," or "the Land of the South." It was so called whether it lay to the south or to the north of the point from whence reference was made to it, i.e. by persons who stood to the south of it or were approaching it from the south, as well as by those who lived to the north of it or were approaching it from the north. Thus Abraham, not only when he was journeying towards the south, as he proceeded southward from Bethel and from Hebron (Ge 12:9; Ge 20:1), but when he was travelling northward, is said to go into "the south:" "Abraham went up out of Egypt into the south," that is, into the South Country, or that part of the land of Canaan which was called "the south," and then "went on his journeys from the south," or South Country, "even to Bethel" (13:1, 3). When Moses sent the spies from Kadesh to search the land, he said into them, "Get you up this way southward;" not towards the south, or that point of the compass, according to the obscure rendering of the English translation, which he could not mean when he was directing them northward, but, according to the Hebrew, into the Negeb, or the south, i.e. the South Country, or that part of the Land of Promise which was so called; and then it is said that "they ascended by the south," that is, by or through the South Country, "and came into Hebron" (Nu 13:17,22). It was the abode of the Amalekites at the time that the spies searched the land, for in their report they said, "The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south" (ver. 29), and when Israel came by the way of the spies, or the second time to Kadesh, king Arad, who had come out against them, is said to have dwelt in the south, i.e. in the South Country, when his seat lay at the time to their north (21:1).
This district or tract of country was evidently the south part of Judaea, or the southern portion of the Land of Promise. It is spoken of in Jg 1:16 as "the wilderness of Judah, south of Arad;" and it is found to be, according to the meaning of the word wilderness, a hilly region, a strip of hilly country, running from the Dead Sea westward across the land of Palestine, or somewhat obliquely to the southwest, rising abruptly in grand precipices from the shore of the Dead Sea; next forming a high and extensive elevated plateau, intersected towards the west by one or two ranges of mountains; and finally sloping westward or sinking gradually into the land of Gerar, or the great plain south and southeast of Gaza. It constituted in general the portion of Judah (q.v.) that was set off to the tribe of Simeon (q.v.), and its boundaries (which have been inordinately extended by some, e.g. Wilton, The Negeb [Lond. 1863]) are to be defined by the cities specified in Jos 15:21-32; Jos 19:1-6. SEE TOPOGRAPHICAL TERMS.