The Judean Wilderness is one of the most known areas of Israel, though not always recognized. It’s significance goes back deep into the Old Testament through the New Testament.
The Judean Wilderness Location
The Judean Wilderness is located in the central eastern part of Israel. It includes popular Holy Land Tour stops such as the Dead Sea, Qumrum, Masada and Jericho.
Climate of the Judean Wilderness
The term wilderness can sometimes make people think of thick woods or and terrain, but in reality it is simply referred to as “an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.”. This
While there are some areas of Judea that are very inhabited, such as Jerusalem and Bethlehem but there is a very large area that is certainly not inhabited!
This area is very desolate and can be extremely hot. This is also the location of En Gedi, an oasis in the middle of the desert where David hid. This may be a desert, but that doesn’t mean there is never rain. Flash floods are not uncommon and can be deadly. The winter rains bring gorgeous desert flowers in the spring.
King David in the Judean Wilderness
The Judean Wilderness has been largely uninhabited, but not completely. There has been accounts and evidence of life there that have included the oldest basket ever found, with an assumed age of over 10,000 years.
King David is known to have taken refuge in the desert hiding from King Saul as discussed in 1 Samuel chapters 21-23. This is also where many of the Psalms were written.
Later in his life David had to take refuge in the wilderness again when his son, Absolom attempted to usurp him for the throne.
“The whole country wept aloud as all the people passed by; the king crossed the Wadi Kidron, and all the people moved on towards the wilderness.”- 2 Samuel 15:23
Jesus in the Judean Wilderness
It is generally agreed upon that when the Bible speaks of Jesus being tempted in the Wilderness, it was the Judean Wilderness that they are speaking of. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test. Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Qumran in the Judean Wilderness
Qumran was a settlement of very a very fervent Hebrew sect, likely the Essenes. They are also thought to be the scribes who wrote and hid the Dead Sea Scrolls. Today, Many people visit the site that includes extensive excavations and a visitor center that offers explanation of the site as well as shopping and food opportunities.
Masada in the Judean Wilderness
Masada was built by King Herod as a retreat. It was a marvel of engineering, building a fortress on a mountain with wilderness all around. It eventually ended up being the hiding place and final stand of nearly 1000 Jewish rebels at the end of the First Jewish-Roman war. It is believed most of the rebels committed suicide rather than be captured and enslaved by the romans. Today it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Israel, not only for it’s amazing ruins and history, but also for its unbeatable views, trail and cable cars that can take you up to the top.
Qasr al-Yahud in the Judean Wilderness
John the Baptist was a resident of the Judean Wilderness. He preached and people would come to hear him and he baptized people along the banks of the Jordan River. One of those people was his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth. Today, tradition holds that that took place around the area now marked by Qasr al- Yuhad. Here you can be baptized in the same waters and Jesus, as well as be feet from the nation of Jordan.