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The English word nomad can be defined as "someone who has no permanent residence but travels around according to the seasons." The original reason, or purpose, of why nomads were seeming wanderers can be found in the original Greek word, pronounced nomas (keeping in mind that is just how the word sounded, not how it was written in Greek, since Greek uses a very different alphabet for writing - see The Greek Alphabet; also The Hebrew Alphabet) from which the English word nomad was derived. Nomads literally meant people who moved about to provide pasture for their flocks and herds.

"For he had possession of flocks and possession of herds"

As might be expected, competition for good pasture land between different groups of nomadic people was often a problem. Conflicts even occurred between groups within the same family, as happened with Abraham (see On His Own Two Feet) and his nephew Lot - which resulted in Lot choosing the area around Sodom and Gomorrah.


"And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold."

"And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel [see Beth for the meaning of "Beth"], unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of The Lord."

"And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land."

"And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left."

"And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before The Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of The Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in The Land Of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before The Lord exceedingly." (Genesis 13:2-3 KJV)

Abraham's son Isaac (see Isaac's Faith And Obedience) also knew conflicts due to competition between nomads, although in Isaac's case, as with Abraham's, the problem was more a matter of other people's jealousy, or fear, of Isaac because The Lord had blessed him with large flocks and herds. Much in keeping with petty human nature, rather than to work to build themselves up to their competitor's level, they preferred simply to tear others down to their level.

"Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and The Lord blessed him. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him. For all the wells which his father's servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth." (Genesis 26:12-15 KJV)

Isaac's son Jacob (who The Lord later renamed Israel) was also a nomad, and like his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac, Jacob became wealthy in flocks and herds because The Lord blessed him, but in Jacob's case, at the expense of dishonest Laban (see Jacob and Laban):

"And The Lord [see YHVH, Adonai, Jehovah, LORD] said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee."

"And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, And said unto them, I see your father's countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me. If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstreaked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstreaked. Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me" (Genesis 31:3-9 KJV)

When the Israelites arrived in Egypt, where they would remain for the next four centuries before the Exodus, they did so as nomads, with great flocks and herds:

"Then Joseph [see also Potiphar] came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen ... And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle." (Genesis 47:1,5-6 KJV)

Fact Finder: Was Moses a nomad in the years prior to his return to Egypt for the Exodus?
See The Education Of Moses

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