Biblical Theology, Wilderness, New Exodus
Initially, wilderness may seem to be a concept of little significance in the Old Testament apart from acting as the setting for various events. However, as the Old Testament advances, wilderness becomes a place of vital importance as it is described in cosmic and eschatological language. The narratives within Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy do not form wilderness as a biblical motif in its own right. Rather, they lay the foundation for such a formation to take place later in Scripture. The Pentateuch teaches us that wilderness is to be understood as a place of both divine provision and national formation but also a place of rebellion and judgment. Not only this, but as the overarching characteristic of wilderness, the Pentateuch submits the location as a testing ground for the people of God. There is a historical pattern set in the Pentateuch concerning the wilderness that later pericopes like the Prophets pick up and develop. Building upon the wilderness as a place of rebellion in the Pentateuch, prophets like Ezekiel and Isaiah symbolically suggest that the wilderness is a place of chaos where sin and judgment reign. This becomes a cosmic reality, not simply a past Israelite experience. Incredibly, it is not God’s plan to allow the wilderness to remain a cosmic place of chaos, but by His grace and power, the Lord intends to transform it into an Edenic place where people can experience God’s presence. The rejuvenated wilderness is where God plans to gather His people to then guide them into the new exodus. What began as a mundane place of sand, rock, and rebellion has now become a glorious place of restoration.
Nottingham, Wesley. 2022. "An Old Testament Biblical Theology of Wilderness: From Simple Setting to Cosmic Context." Eleutheria 6, (1). https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/eleu/vol6/iss1/4