Not a stretch of sand, an utterly barren waste, but a wild, uninhabited region. The words rendered in the Authorized Version by "desert," when used in the historical books denote definite localities.
Arabah. This word means that very depressed and enclosed region--the deepest and the hottest chasm in the world--the sunken valley north and south of the Dead Sea, but more particularly the former. Arabah in the sense of the Jordan valley is translated by the word "desert" only in (Ezekiel 47:8)
MIDBAR. This word, which our translators have most frequently rendered by "desert," is accurately "the pasture ground." It is most frequently used for those tracts of waste land which lie beyond the cultivated ground in the immediate neighborhood of the towns and villages of Palestine, and which are a very familiar feature to the traveller in that country. (Exodus 3:1; 6:3; 19:2)
CHARBAH appears to have the force of dryness, and thence of desolation. It is rendered "desert" in Psal 102:6; Isai 48:21; Ezek 13:4 The term commonly employed for it in the Authorized Version is "waste places" or "desolation."
Jeshimon, with the definite article, apparently denotes the waste tracts on both sides of the Dead Sea. In all these cases it is treated as a proper name in the Authorized Version. Without the article it occurs in a few passages of poetry in the following of which it is rendered; "desert:" (Psalms 78:40; 106:14; Isaiah 43:19,20)
Main reference: Smith's Bible Dictionary (1860s)
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