IN the Scriptures, the term wilderness seems to be applied to any uninhabited or uncultivated tract of land. Some of these were entirely dry and barren, while others afforded good pasturage, and in some instances were really beautiful, especially in spring, when they were covered with an endless profusion of bright flowers.

The wilderness of Judea was the most noted in Palestine. It extends southward, from near Bethel, some thirty-five or forty miles along the eastern slope that falls off into the Jordan valley and the Dead Sea.

Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, and Tekoah are situated along the highest part of a mountainous ridge, in what is called the "hill country of Judea." This region, though hilly and somewhat rocky, abounded in fertile spots, and was rich in pasturage, olive-groves, fig-orchards, and vineyards between this hill country and the Dead Sea lies the main part of the wilderness of Judea, where David wandered when pursued by Saul, and where John came preaching "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. "It is best described in the words of those who have visited it. Dr. Fish represents it as "ghostly, treeless, grassless, breathless." He says, "It is only needful for one to ride a day through these sterile wastes, where eternal silence reigns, and the sun pelts so pitilessly, to appreciate God's gift in green pastures, and babbling brooks, and dewy lawns." In the words of Mr. Porter: "The eastern declivities of the ridge, so fertile and picturesque in Samaria, are here a wilderness bare, white, and absolutely desolate; without trees, or grass, or stream, or fountain. Naked slopes of white gravel and white rock descend rapidly and irregularly from the brow of the ridge, till at length they dip in frowning precipices into the Jordan valley or Dead Sea. Naked ravines, too, like huge fissures, with perpendicular walls of rock often several hundred feet in height, furrow these slopes from top to bottom." He says that the wild and savage grandeur of some of the ravines, or wadys, is almost appalling. It is described by Van de Velde as "a bare, arid wilderness; an endless succession of shapeless yellow and ash-colored hills, without grass or shrub, without water, and almost without life." Mr. Prime, in his "Tent Life in the Holy Land," says: "We crossed the Kedron, and struck across the wild, mountainous district which lies on the west side of the Dead Sea. No picture can convey an idea of the utter desolation of this country. Not a tree is visible, nor any vegetation, except low shrubs of a dry, harsh, rush-like plant, which the Bedouin women were gathering for fuel. The face of the country was as if a thousand conical hills had been let fall on it, and we were finding our way around and over them. There was no regularity about them." He says, 

"The most remarkable feature of these hills was the immense quantity of snails which covered the ground, oftentimes making acres of it white."

The deep ravines and gorges abound in caves. Some of these caves must be the very ones in which David hid away from his cruel pursuers; and, indeed, many of them are now inhabited by monks, who have sought to hide away from the world in this region of awful solitude. Of one of these valleys a writer says: "The grave was not more profound in its seclusion to him who fled from the courts of Europe to forget and be forgotten."

Since John baptized in Jordan, his preaching must have been mainly in the northeastern part of the wilderness, which was scarcely less wild and barren than that part already described. 

In some of its gorges, however, a few shrubs were found, and in the rainy season, flowers are still sufficiently abundant to afford honey, which numerous swarms of bees deposit along the sides and in the clefts of overhanging rocks. Some think that the locusts on which John subsisted were the insects of that name, which settle upon the bushes in great numbers at nightfall; but many now suppose that his food was the nutrient fruit of a species of locust, still found in that vicinity.