Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The adjective ερημος (eremos) refers to a state of disconnectedness in a network sort of way. Its origins aren't wholly clear but it seems within reason to recognize traces of the Proto-Indo-European root ere-, which means to separate and which also yields our English word "rare" (the one meaning "unusual," not the one meaning "undercooked").
Our adjective reflects the opposite of a word like πολις (polis), which is the word for city, but which clearly reminds of the adjective πολυς (polus), meaning many. A polis is not merely a whole bunch of people packed together but rather the bustling network that arises from an interlinked collection of essentially diverse individuals. Inversely, our adjective ερημος (eremos) speaks of a condition of disconnectedness: not cultivated, civilized or governed by a formal code.
This quality of ερημος (eremos) by itself is neither good nor bad. The Bible's first expression of negativity occurs when the Creator decides that it is "not good that man is alone" (Genesis 2:18), yet this assertion occurs prior to the fall and is thus a perfect function of God's uncompromised creation. Being disconnected is bad when the polis is virtuous, effective, just and readily available. In those cases our word would be akin the familiar noun ιδιωτης (idiotes), which means "in a category of their own" or rather "antisocial." The strength of a network lies in (a) the number of participants, and (b) the spread of their diversity, which means that the purpose of convention is to dis-agree. Essential humanities such as language and science can only arise when a lot of people interact and arrive at a natural and decentralized convention (see our article on ονομα, onoma, meaning noun or name), and being a loudmouth "idiot" while the rest is trying to respectfully formalize their disagreements in order to build a stronger network, is the same releasing mad cow disease in a thriving farming community.
If, on the other hand, the city is evil and its academia are governed by greed, ran by cartels and characterized by a steady stream of lies and abuse, anyone prudent would do well to take refuge in the uncultivated wilderness and collect one's own and unmanipulated thoughts. Israel, famously, broke away from Egypt and wandered the uncivilized wilderness for forty years, and since the Bible tells the history of wisdom (and not the history of politics or religion, as some seem to think) the story of the Exodus tells of how a band of devotees to scientific truth took their leave from a politicized and monetized wisdom tradition and made a fresh start living off the feral fat of the land (albeit initially sustained by the loot they heisted from their former hosts; Exodus 3:22).
The Hebrew word for wilderness is מדבר (midbar) and derives from the root דבר (dabar), meaning "word" or science; its Greek equivalent is the familiar concept of Logos, which is the unified summing up of the whole of natural law (compare Romans 1:20 to Colossians 1:16). The Biblical image of a wilderness is also not an inert sandy desert, as Hollywood curiously demands, but simply an uncultivated landscape where water flows and fruits grow freely but where also lions prowl and shelter is sparse.
It's actually quite common for folks who hold truth dearer than anything to break with received wisdom and dart off into the uncharted wild. So common, even, that entire communities have always existed outside the mainstream, with their own narrative currencies, histories and concerns. Famous escapees from established dogma who settled in those rogue communities are Moses (Exodus 3:1), David (1 Samuel 23:14), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), and of course John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1) and Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 4:1).
"Calling upon the name of YHWH" or pursuing of knowledge of the Creator by looking at creation is nearly as old as humanity (Genesis 4:26) and although the Temple of YHWH is the apex of human civilization, it's unfortunately not immune to corruption (see Jeremiah 7:11, Matthew 21:13, and read our article on Annas), and a stint in the wilderness is always a tempting option.
Particularly the prophet Isaiah had quite a few famous things to say about the wilderness. He foresaw an invader come from the desert (21:1) but also saw the desert bloom and produce fruit and cause celebration and gladness (35:1), and even rallied the people of the desert to pave the way for the complete revelation of the Creator (40:3). Deeply desiring truth while Big Money controls all temples, churches, universities and media outlets is a massively frustrating position (Hebrews 11:38), but now with the Internet and particularly with crypto-currencies, the rogue scholars of the world have never had greater opportunities to band up, and while the heedless jet set is licking its greasy fingers, rogue tribes are transforming from doling nomads to thriving emirates and will very soon bring to fall our world's most abominable evil empire (Revelation 18:2).
Note that the similar word ερεμνος (eremnos) means dark, murky or obscure, and that most creative spurts in the Bible are accompanied by darkness (Genesis 1:2, 15:17, Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 27:45).
The adjective ερημος (eremos), meaning wilderness, is used 50 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The noun ερημια (eremia), which likewise describes an uncultivated or disconnected place, or a state of separateness or even loneliness. This noun is used 4 times; see full concordance.
- The verb ερημοω (eremoo), meaning to turn into a wilderness, that is: to remove the formal backbone from some tradition and let it disintegrate. In the Bible this process is commonly depicted as cities being torn down and surrendered to the elements and wild animals. A famous such case in recent history is the demolition of the culture of alchemy by Robert Boyle and followers. Prior to the massive adoption of the scientific method, alchemy had had its advocates and practitioners (Isaac Newton, for instance), its literature, study groups and spin-off story-tellers. It had its haunts and libraries and was widely respected by the world's financial elite who were massively clueless about any of it. Modern science arose in consequence of adherence to scientific rigor, and in the centuries following, the whole bustling alchemical city came tumbling down and all its energies and resources were swept up in the pursuit of scientific convention. Our verb is used 5 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives: