The Judean Desert – Wilderness of Judah
A small desert, approximately 1,500 square kilometers, filled with treasures from nature and ancient Biblical history with mountain cliffs, rolling hills set beside plateaus, riverbeds set in deep canyons and braided by several rivers. Some of the rivers supply water year-round which creates oases. The edge of the wilderness is marked by 300 foot cliffs towering along the western shore of the Dead Sea and since its location is close to Jerusalem settlements can be found along its perimeters. Springtime in the wilderness is a time for blossoms, only for a very short season; for when the sun comes out in full force, it dries up again to become a dry wilderness. The Judean Desert wilderness in intertwined within scripture with some of the most significant events in Jesus’ life taken place in and around the Judean desert wilderness. It is located the southern province Judea in Israel; bordered by the Judean Mountains to the West and the Dead Sea to the East. Judea includes the territories of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Dan, Simeon, and part of Ephraim and contains the cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Bethany, Bethpage, Emmaus and others. Since Jerusalem is located on a hill anytime someone is traveling to Jerusalem they are “going up” and anytime they are going away from Jerusalem they are “going down”.
The desert is known for its rugged landscape, which has provided a refuge and hiding place for those seeking solitude and isolation throughout its history. Magnificent monasteries were built in the cliffs and rock crevasses with some of these monasteries still active and others only ancient ruins such as Mar Saba Monastery. The wilderness also holds fortresses from the days of the Maccabees such as Massada and Horkenya. Recently, just decades ago the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in a cave in Qumran from the Byzantine period.
David found refuge here when he hid from King Saul in the wilderness of Ziphm Moab and Ein Gedi all of which are part of the Judean wilderness. “And David stayed in strongholds in the wilderness, and remained in the mountains in the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand.” (1 Samuel 23:14) “So he brought them before the king of Moab, and they dwelt with him all the time that David was in the stronghold.” (1 Samuel 22:4). “Then David went up from there and dwelt in strongholds at En Gedi.” (1 Samuel 23:19).
“The Judean Desert wilderness is nestled up against the Jordan river on its most north-eastern edge near where it enters the northern end of the Dead Sea. John the Baptist lived in this desert wilderness until the day of his manifestation to Israel: regarding in the days of Jesus when John the Baptist appeared preaching in the wilderness desert of Judea. Jerusalem and all Judea and all the country about the Jordan went out to hear him and were baptized in the Jordan by him, confessing their sins.” (Matthew 3:5-6).
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (40 days). Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” (Matthew 4:1,11). Scripture from the Bible reveals in this desert wilderness one the most important victories in the life of Jesus is when He overcame temptation after his baptism by John the Baptist. Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.” (Mark 1:12-13).
Jesus and disciples preached and baptized in this area traveling throughout as scripture testifies, “After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. Now John also was baptizing in Aenon (roughly 8 miles south near Jordan) near Salim (the home of Melchizedek), because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. For John had not yet been thrown into prison.” (John 3:22-23-24).
Jesus left the Judean Desert Wilderness after John the Baptist was put in prison by Herod making John’s imprisonment a key to God’s timeline. “Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee.” (Matthew 4:12).
“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15). “After John the Baptist had been thrown into prison, Jesus and his disciples departed Judea. Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.” (John 4:1-3).
The “Promise Land”: The “Promised Son”. (Isaiah 9:1).