John the Baptist - His person, proclamation, and baptism
|1In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. [*]Isaiah 40:3-5 4And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
|2As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. [*]Malachi 3:1 3The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. [*]Isaiah 40:3-5 4John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5And there went out unto him all the land of Judæa, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. 6And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
|3And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 4As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. [*]Isaiah 40:3-5
The Judean Wilderness is often referred to in the Bible simply by the term “wilderness.” Its Hebrew name was Yeshimon, meaning “devastation.” The Judean Wilderness extends from just north of Jerusalem to the southern tip of the Dead Sea. The strip of land itself ranges from 10-20 miles wide and lies between the hill country of Judah and the Rift Valley. This area is in the “rain shadow” - that area on the east side of the hill country that receives little rain from the Mediterranean Sea. The desert is hot and dry most of the year.
The area experiences a tremendous drop in elevation. From Jerusalem to Jericho, a distance of about 15 miles, the elevation drops from 2,600 feet above sea level to 1,100 feet below sea level- a drop of 3,700 feet. Because of the steepness of the twisted canyons, even the downhill journey from Jerusalem to Jericho can take 6-8 hours on foot. In the Old Testament, individual portions of the Judean Wilderness were often named for nearby towns and villages-the desert of En Gedi, the desert of Maon, the desert of Tekoa, and the desert of Ziph.
The name Jordan, or yarad in Hebrew, means “to go down...to descend.” From the time it leaves its main sources at the foot of Mount Hermon, it drops 2,600 feet to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth’s surface. Its course follows the largest fault zone on earth, the Great Rift Valley, which begins in Turkey and extends to East Africa.
The melted snows from Mount Hermon which spring forth at Dan and Caesarea Philippi are the main source of the river. As the river runs down toward the Sea of Galilee, the volume of water increases as several small tributaries and springs contribute to the flow. About 264 billion gallons of water flow through the Jordan River each year.
After the Jordan River exits the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, it meanders 125 miles (although the distance in a straight line is only 65 miles) to the Dead Sea. The depth of the river varies with the season as well as by region. At some points it is as shallow as three feet, in other places 10 to 12 feet. In the spring, however, the Jordan used to be “at flood stage all during the harvest” (Joshua 3:15). Today about 90 percent of the Jordan flow has been diverted for domestic or agricultural use.
The southern part of the Jordan attracts few tourists because it straddles Israel and the country of Jordan. Just above the Dead Sea, across from Jericho, near what the Bible calls “Bethany beyond the Jordan,” John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River (John 1:28).
Perea was the term used by the historian Flavius Josephus, and others, for a section of the territory east of The Jordan River, opposite Judea and Samaria. Although the word Perea is not found in the Scriptures, the area was mentioned frequently in the Gospels as the “land beyond the Jordan”. John the Baptist baptized in Perea, and was also martyred there at Herod’s fortress of Machaerus. Jesus Christ often visited Perea during His ministry, and had many followers from there, which at the time had a large Jewish population.
Jesus spent most of his final 3 months before Passion Week traveling around Perea, teaching in its towns and villages. Jesus had been in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-39), and the Jews tried to stone him again. He escaped their grasp and went back across the Jordan into Perea for the final months before his crucifixion. During these months he taught his disciples about the cost of following him and he tried to prepare them for his coming death.
Today, most of Perea is in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.