Rabban Gamaliel, and the elders sitting together at the ascent into the gallery, in the mount of the Temple, had Jochanan, the priest, and the amanuensis, sitting with them. They said to him, |Go to, write to our brethren, the inhabitants of Upper Galilee, and Nether Galilee, health: we certify you, that the time is come of separating the tithes. And to our brethren, that inhabit the Upper South Country, and that inhabit the Nether South Country, health: we certify you,| &c.
The 'Upper South country' consisted of that part of the country, which was hilly; the 'Nether,' of a plain, and valley sinking on both sides. Which country, although it were barren above all other parts of the land, yet had its inhabitants, and those many, as well as other countries of the land.
He that turns over the Talmudical books, will meet very frequently with the name of the 'South,' taken for 'whole Judea' in opposition to 'Galilee.' |Those of Zippor enjoined a fast to obtain rain, but the rain came not down. Therefore, said they of Zippor, R. Joshua Ben Levi obtained rain for the southern people: but R. Chaninah hinders it from coming upon the people of Zippor. They were called, therefore, together to a second fast. R. Chaninah sent to fetch R. Joshua Ben Levi. And both went out to the fast, and yet rain fell not. He stood forth, therefore, and said before them, Neither doth Joshua Ben Levi obtain rain for the southern people, nor does R. Chaninah restrain it from the people of Zippor: but the southern people have a soft heart, to hear the words of the law and be humbled: but the people of Zippor have a hard heart.| But now R. Joshua Ben Levi, who was called |the southern,| was of Lydda: and those southern people, for whom he obtained rain, were of Lydda, and such as dwelt in that country.
|A devout disciple learned the intercalation of the year before his master, three years and a half: he came, and intercalated for Galilee: but he could not intercalate for the south,| that is, for Judea
Hence you may understand, in what sense some Rabbins are called southern: as |R. Jacob of the south|...|R. Samlai of the south|; whom you have disputing with certain, whom the Gemarists call heretics: whom I think rather to have been 'Christians.' And it seems to be the disputation of a Christian purposed to assert a trinity of persons in the Deity, but nevertheless a unity of the Deity. After you have heard the matter, perhaps you will be of my judgment. View the place.