If you have not read Michael Heiser’s Reversing Hermon I recommend you have a look at it or his other accessible work. Much of what is in this post is derived from his thinking and his presentation of other scholarly work.


And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

-Mark 1:12-13 (KJV)

The wilderness is an important theme in Scripture – for a variety of reasons. One of the roles it plays is as a metaphor for profane space, the haunt of demons in the Ancient Near Eastern mind (but also to some extent in Greco-Roman culture). Consider the following passages where demons are thought to live in the desert and where they are symbolized by wild beasts.

And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

-Leviticus 16:9-10 (ESV)

And demons shall meet with monsters, and one hairy one shall cry out to another; there the lamia has lain down and found rest for herself.

-Isaiah 34:14 (English rendering of the Vulgate translation). Lamia is a Latin word for a female demon of the night, one Roman version of a vampire, which is a rendering of the Hebrew Lilith, which draws on the Mesopotamian tradition of the lilitu, a female night demon.

Babylon shall become a heap of ruins, the haunt of jackals, a horror and a hissing, without inhabitant.

-Jeremiah 51:37 (ESV)

And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

-Revelation 18:2 (KJV)

Jesus’ mission was to reverse the fall of man (Gen 3) and the fall of the B’nei ha-Elohim (Gen 6, 2 Pet 2:4, Jude 1:6). In going into the desert, the haunt of God’s enemies, he was proclaiming that Yahweh had come not only to His territory in Israel, but was taking back the whole world, which had been placed under the tutelage of the Sons of God (Deut 32:8, Ps 82, Gal 4). Jesus was telegraphing that Yahweh would reclaim the Gentiles and would establish Eden not in one place in the world as it had been in the past (Gen 2:8), but in all the earth.

This theme is developed further in the Gospels, such as Jesus’ visit to the Gentile territory of the Gadarenes / Gerasenes, where he casts the demon, Legion, out of a man (note the man is living among the graves outside the town, another unclean “desert” place and the traditional haunt of demons in Greco-Roman thought, and before that in North-west Semitic thought). Revelation culminates with the triumphant cry that Jesus’ work of reclaiming the nations and the earth is complete: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord [i.e. the Father] and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15, KJV). This passage forms a kind of mirror to the Devil’s offer to give Jesus the kingdoms of the world if He will fall down and worship him (Luke 4:5-7).

The Temptation marked the start of Jesus’ war against the powers of darkness; it was the sign that the new Eden would come in which Yahweh would dwell with men as he had intended from the beginning.