| || |The Berean Expositor Volume 37 - Page 17 of 208 Index | Zoom | |
While Israel were miraculously fed by the manna during their forty years wandering in
the wilderness, we read of no such miraculous provision for the flocks and herds that
accompanied them, yet they lived and thrived throughout that trying period. Some
wilderness were "great and terrible", some were described as "waste howling" wilderness
but the basic meaning of the word wilderness is not that of scorched arid desert, neither is
the typical and spiritual meaning to be found in such a condition. The main word
translated "wilderness" in the O.T. is midbar, which is derived from dabar "to lead or to
drive" as cattle. Gesenius defines the word as "an uninhabitable plain country, fit for
feeding flocks, not desert, a pasture".
So we read in Joel 2: 22 "the pastures of the wilderness do spring", as in Psa. 65: 12
we read "Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness; and Thy paths drop fatness. They
drop upon the pastures of the wilderness", and in Isa. 42: 11 "let the wilderness and the
cities thereof lift up their voice".
The English word retains something of the primitive idea as may be seen by
examining its composition and origin. It is composed of the word "wilder", a shortened
form of "wild deer", and our forefathers when laying out a garden often set aside one
portion called a wilderness, so that it may grow in unchecked luxuriance--never that it
may become a desert.
The Greek word translated "wilderness" is eremos which is derived from eremoo "to
make desolate". The word however sometimes denotes no more than uncultivated
ground used as a common or pasture in distinction from arable and enclosed land
("Shaw's Travels", and Doddridge on Luke 15: 4).
"The wilderness of Judaea" (Matt. 3: 1) does not mean a country absolutely desert
and uninhabited, but only little cultivated and thinly inhabited, as in Josh. 15: 61, 62.
We come now to the passages that provoked this inquiry. The Lord demanded of
Pharaoh through Moses saying:
"The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us; and now let us go, we beseech thee,
three days journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God"
(Exod. 3: 18).
The essence of this demand is discovered in the contrast that is intended between the
sophistication of Egypt and the primitive uncivilized nature of the wilderness; Egypt
famed for its "wisdom" (Acts 7: 22) which Moses had to unlearn in the "desert" or
"wilderness" (Exod. 3: 1); Egypt noted for its temples, its pyramids, its sphinx, its gods;
Egypt in which even the Israelites trusted sometimes rather than in the Lord, so much so
that Isaiah had to say "now the Egyptians are men, and not God" (Isa. 31: 3); Egypt the
type of the world in its apparent independence of rain from heaven (Zech. 14: 18, 19). In
contrast with Egypt, Scripture places the wilderness, a place unspoiled by the hand of
man, a place where one could meet with God undisturbed by the deadening distractions
of so called civilization.