The Wilderness of Judea

John the Baptist preached in the wilderness of Judea (Matthew 3:3), and Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1). Jesus spoke to the crowds about John this way:

What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (Luke 7:24 ESV)

The wilderness (Greek eremos) of Judea is described this way in Bauer (BDAG):

Of the Judean wilderness, the stony, barren eastern declivity of the Judean mountains toward the Dead Sea and lower Jordan Valley.

The Hebrew word for this wilderness is midbar. Charles F. Pfeiffer said the wilderness of Judea,

is the region of rugged gorges and bad lands in the eastern part of Judah where the land slopes off toward the Jordan Valley. In ancient times this area was infested with wild animals. Except for a brief time during the spring rains the wilderness is arid. (Baker’s Bible Atlas, 201)

Many people who read the Bible in English, without checking into the matter, think of the wilderness as being a place filled with wild growth and underbrush. Jesus’ question to the crowds indicates that no reeds are to be found in the wilderness. In this case a picture really is worth a thousand words. This shows one of the many changing views one might see in the wilderness. This one was made in the month of November and shows a view west toward Jerusalem.

The wilderness of Judea. Looking west up toward Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The wilderness of Judea. Looking west toward Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The wilderness of Judea stretches west from the Jordan Valley up to the Mount of Olives. Of course, it extends much farther south along the Dead Sea.

Update: 04/01/09

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3 responses to “The Wilderness of Judea

  1. Bro Jenkins,
    After thinking about this sentence “The wilderness of Judea stretches east from the Jordan Valley up to the Mount of Olives.”, didn’t you mean “the wilderness of Judea stretches west from the Jordan Valley up to the Mount of Olives”? Also, if you send me an email, I’d like to send you a satellite shot of the wilderness area that I pieced together from Microsoft Live Earth. I preached on Mt 4 last Sunday, so the subject is kinda fresh on my mind. Thanks for this post. Craig Baugh

  2. Craig, Thanks for the note. You are absolutely correct. I probably started to mention that the wilderness stretched east from the Mount of Olives when I realized that the photo was looking west. Ferrell Jenkins

  3. I would love to travel the world! I would especially love to travel to places like Jerusalem to see all of the Christian history. I need to save up my money so I can go next year.

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