Judean Wilderness

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Judean Wilderness




1. The Judean Wilderness runs from north of Jericho to the southern end of the Dead Sea.


2. It lies on the western side of the lower Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area.


3. It’s about 60 miles (95 km.) long and about 13 miles (21 km.) wide.


4. It receives less than 2 inches (50 mm.) of rain per year.


5. Average high temperatures in the winter run in the 70s (21 C.) and highs in the summer run over 100 (40 C.)


6. Water is scarce and hard to find, and very little vegetation grows in the wilderness due to its lack of water and poor soil composition.


Historical Background


1. Even though the Judean Desert is dry and barren, it was settled long before recorded history began. Jericho, which dates to 5000 BC, is the oldest city in the Judean Desert, and the oldest continually inhabited city in the world.


2. En Gedi is another notable place which dates to about the same time as Jericho. It’s a large oasis that had cities built around it for over 5,000 years. 


3. Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other three cities around the Dead Sea date back to ancient times as well.


4. It appears God changed the climate of the Judean Wilderness after He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities. Scripture says that this area used to be like a watered garden of the Lord.
Genesis 13:10: And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)


5. God will cause the Judean Wilderness to flourish during the Millennial Reign of Christ on this earth.
Ezekiel 47:6–10: Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. 9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From En Gedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets.


Places of Interest


1. Judean Wilderness


2. Jordan River


3. Jericho


4. Qumran


5. Dead Sea


6. En Gedi


7. Masada


Judean Wilderness in the Bible


En Gedi and King David


1. En Gedi was one of David’s main hideouts when Saul was pursuing his life.
1 Samuel 23:28–29: So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore, that place was called the Rock of Escape. 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.


Qumran and the Essenes


1. The Essenes lived in the Judean Wilderness from about 200 BC to around 68 AD. They were a spiritually devoted group who left Jerusalem due to their belief that the priesthood had become corrupt. They devoted themselves to the study and strict obedience of Scripture. 


2. They also devoted themselves to copying and translating the Bible. When they saw the nation of Israel falling to the Romans in 68 AD, they hid their translations in caves by the Dead Sea. 


3. These translated manuscripts are called the Dead Sea Scrolls and were discovered in eleven caves along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea between the years 1947 and 1956.


John the Baptist


1. He was the prophesied forerunner of Christ, whose purpose was to prepare the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3).


2. His main message was a message of repentance.
Matthew 3:1–12: In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'" 4 Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist [similar to Elijah], and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.


3. He had the privilege of baptizing Jesus.
Matthew 3:13–17: Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, 17 and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”


4. He was beheaded for taking a stand against sin.
Herod Antipas became ruler (‘tetrarch’) of Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD. He ruled from his capital at Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. He divorced his first wife in order to marry Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Herod Philip. He imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist for criticizing his marriage (Matt. 14:1–12). 


Testing of Jesus


1. After Jesus was baptized, He was immediately led into the wilderness to be tested.
Matthew 4:1-11: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [tested] by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.


Faith Lesson from the Judean Wilderness


1. John the Baptist was a strong and serious witness for Jesus. John’s life is an example to us of the seriousness with which we are to approach the Christian life and our call to ministry.


2. John shows us how to stand firm in our faith no matter what the circumstances. Paul reminds us that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).


3. Christ was tested and overcame each test of Satan with Scripture.


4. God tested many of His servants before He called them to ministry, i.e., Moses, David, and the Prophets.


5. We are often tested by God as well.


6. Scripture says that leaders are to be tested before being placed into ministry (1 Tim. 3:10).


7. Has God tested me in various ways in my lifetime?


8. How have I responded to the tests He sends my way?


9. Do I know God’s Word so I can overcome the temptations of Satan?

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