The Negev Desert is the biggest geographical unit in Israel. It stretches from Beer-Sheva Valley down to the Red Sea, covering an area of 13,000 sq. kilometers. In 2017, with Erick’s film crew, I presented two sites that reflect significant Biblical events in this region for The Watchman show.
The Israelites and Arad
The Bible records the Israelites sojourning in the wilderness for 40 years. One of the reasons for their lengthy journey is their failed attempt to conquer Arad. The Book of Numbers records the King of Arad defeating the Israelites, forcing them to retreat into the desert, and enter the Promised Land from a different location. Ancient Arad is known to be in the eastern side of the Beer-Sheva Valley. Archaeological excavations at the site uncovered rich remains of a Canaanite city. The city’s acropolis proved to also have an Israelite fort, with a unique Judean temple. Recent research indicated the incense offering at this temple included cannabis.
Avdat and the Nabateans
On the turn of the first century, the Nabateans ruled over most of the Negev. Their wealth was derived from a very lucrative operation of transporting spices and perfumes across the Arabian Peninsula. Their capital was Petra, but one of the important stations for their camal caravans was Avdat, in the heart of the Negev.
Linking the site to the New Testament, perhaps “three wise man from the east” who came to visit Jesus upon his birth were really Nabateans merchants. Their offerings of myrrh and frankincense especially suggests so. The Nabateans were famous for transporting such goods.