The birth of John

Lk. 1:57-80     John is born in 6BC. Zechariah confirms that, contrary to common custom, he is to be called John, even though he has no relative of that name. Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies that John will “go before the Lord to prepare his way” (Luke 1:76). John grows up and goes to live “in the desert” of Judaea (Luke 1:80) (see Map 3).


The Jewish Desert at Qumran      

The Judaean Desert at Qumran (Matthew 3:1)

                The Judaean Desert

The Judaean Desert (or Judaean Wilderness), to the west of the Dead Sea, is a dry and barren area with very low rainfall (see Map 3). In the summer, dry winds blow from the east across the Arabian Desert. In winter, westerly winds from the Mediterranean Sea drop most of their moisture over the Judaean Hills to the west, leaving the wilderness dry. In this barren, stony desert where very little grows, John the Baptist lives on a frugal diet of locusts and wild honey, begins a strict regime of fasting and prayer (see Luke 5:33) and embarks on his prophetic mission (see Matthew 3:1-6).

Modern travellers driving along the highway east from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea cross the barren wilderness of the Judaean Desert. Apart from an occasional encampment of nomadic Bedouins, this rocky wasteland is almost deserted to this day.

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