These are the principal words used for desert in the Bible .
There are, however, others less frequently used, only one or two of which can be mentioned here: such as tohu , used in Gen., i, 2: "the earth was void ".
The word conveys the idea of ruin or desolation caused by hostile lands, as when God says to Jerusalem (Es., v, 14): "I will make thee desolate "; or when the Psalmist, referring to the punishment inflicted by Jehovah, says ( Psalm 9:7 ): "The enemy are consumed, left desolate for ever". It was looked upon as a place without water, thus Is., xliii, 19: "Behold I shall set up streams in the desert [ jeshimon ]". In poetical passages it is used as a parallel to midbar , cf.
Deut., xxxii, 10; Ps., lxxviii, 40 (Heb.): "How often did ye provoke him in the wilderness [ midbar ], and grieve him in the desert [ jeshimon ]?
So, too, there are the Arboth Moab ( Numbers 22:1 ), the Arboth Jericho ( Joshua ), etc., referring to the desolate districts connected with these places.
Horbah , derived from the root harab , "to lie waste", is translated in the Septuagint by the words eremos, eremosis, eremia . The word in the Greek is oikopedon and in the Vulgate domicilium; and the passage in which the word occurs is rendered in the Douay version : "I am like a night raven in the house ". Jerome , however, in his translation of the Psalm direct from the Hebrew employs the word solitudinum , which seems more correct: "I am like a night raven of the wastes".
Books have been written to discuss the geography of this region.
Suffice it to say that it comprises the ground over which the Israelites travelled from their crossing of the Red Sea till their arrival in the Promised Land.
A combination of these senses seems to have been the reason why in the poetical books the word is used of the wilderness.
When we speak of the desert our thoughts are naturally borne to such places as the Sahara, a great sandy waste, incapable of vegetation, impossible as a dwelling-place for men, and where no human being is found except when hurrying through as quickly as he can.
No such ideas are attached to the Hebrew words for desert.
Thus Is., xxxv, 1: "The land that was desolate [ midbar ] and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness [ 'arabah ] shall rejoice"; cf. Although the Septuagint frequently renders the word by eremos , it often uses other translations, as ge dipsosa and elos .
The Vulgate employs the words solitudo , desertum .