A desolate or deserted area devoid of civilization. In the OT, the primary reference may be to the desolate wastes of Sinai in which the Israelites wandered for forty years following the exodus (Deut 8:15; Exod 15:22-25; Exod 16:3; Ps 78:40; Ps 95:8). But “wilderness” may also be applied to the area surrounding the oasis of Damascus (1Kgs 19:15) and could include the marginal cultivated land on the Transjordan plateau (Num 21:13; Deut 4:43) as well as the pastureland east of Bethlehem. It could comprise also tangled thickets and scrub, such as the “thorns” and “briers” of the wilderness near Succoth in the Jordan Valley (Judg 8:7; Judg 8:16). In the NT, “waterless places” are viewed as the natural habitat of evil spirits (Luke 11:24), so it was appropriate that Jesus would be tempted by Satan in an area variously referred to as “desert” or “wilderness” (Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). Likewise, when Jesus fed the multitudes in the “desert” or “wilderness” (Mark 8:4), he showed he was able to overcome its dangers, both physical and supernatural. Jesus’s forerunner, John the Baptist, had also appeared in the wilderness with his message of repentance (Mark 1:4), thus reminding Israel of its first days as chosen people in the desert of Sinai.

Deut 8:15

15who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock,

Exod 15:22-25

Bitter Water Made Sweet
22Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderne ... View more

Exod 16:3

3The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you ... View more

Ps 78:40

40How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
and grieved him in the desert!

Ps 95:8

8Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

1Kgs 19:15

15Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.

Num 21:13

13From there they set out, and camped on the other side of the Arnon, in the wilderness that extends from the boundary of the Amorites; for the Arnon is the bou ... View more

Deut 4:43

43Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland belonging to the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead belonging to the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan belonging to the Manassit ... View more

Judg 8:7

7Gideon replied, “Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will trample your flesh on the thorns of the wilderness and on briers.”

Judg 8:16

16So he took the elders of the city and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them he trampled the people of Succoth.

Luke 11:24

The Return of the Unclean Spirit
24“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not ... View more

Matt 4:1-11

The Temptation of Jesus
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwar ... View more

Luke 4:1-13

The Temptation of Jesus
1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,2where for forty days he was tempt ... View more

Mark 8:4

4His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?”

Mark 1:4

4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

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