Here, you can be 2 miles from a village and be in isolated wilderness. It is vast, 1/3 of Palestine. There are places where only one tree grows and any vegetation is snatched up by herds of goats or camels. Nowadays you’ll see 4-wheeler tracks on some of the rounded mountains, but in the wadis (valleys) where winter run-off can be intense, there is little that passes through.
In Scripture, the wilderness was a place of foreboding, where you sent someone off to die, or to hide or escape, where Israel was punished for its rejection of God and a place of curse. In the summer months there is no water to be found except from wells. It is a place where only God exists, for nothing else can, and in the quiet, aloneness perhaps that is the best way to be attentive to God. It can be a place to easily die, or struggle to live, only by dependence upon God. Yet it is a place from which comes hope, promise and life. Isaiah 40.3 “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”
It has a stark beauty that draws you to hike, sit and wonder. It is vast, and produces nothing but surrender, stripping you of all upon which you normally depend. Luke 4.1 “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,”
The people must have been entranced by the revolutionary beckoning of John for them to want to travel even into the wilderness to see him. Mark 1.4 “John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
It is a place where only the most loving go to find the one loved, an image of the limitless love of God searching even in a place of lostness. Luke 15.4
“Which one of you, having 100 sheep and losing 1 of them, does not leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?”