John the Baptist - His messages to the Pharisees, Sadducees, crowds, tax collectors, and soldiers
|7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
|7Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 9And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 10And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
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.