Exodus and Exile in Mark 1:1-8

Like Elijah (1 Kings 17:2-3), John the Baptist is identified with the wilderness—the vast barren badlands of Judah, seared by wind and heat. The wilderness represents a place of repentance and a place of God’s grace in Israel’s history. God delivered Israel from the slavery of Egypt by taking them into the wilderness—first to the wilderness of Sinai (Exod. 15:22ff), and thereafter in a symbolic wilderness of hope proclaimed by the prophets (Jer. 2:2-3; Hos. 2:14ff). In the wilderness Israel failed over and over again and it, along with failure after failure throughout Israel’s dynasty, eventually led to exile. John the Baptist begins his ministry in the wilderness because this is where Yawheh is going to return and reverse all the failures of Israel in Exile. And God does return in Jesus Christ, the beginning of good news that the return from exile has begun (Mk. 1:1).

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