Mark 1:12 Commentary | Driven Out Into the Wilderness

Mark Commentary

Mark 1:12 Text & Translation

12 Καὶ εὐθὺς τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτὸν ἐκβάλλει εἰς τὴν ἔρημον.1

And, straight away, the Spirit drives Him out into the wilderness. (Mk 1:12, AT)

Driven Out

Compared to Matthew (Mt 4:1-11) and Luke (Lk 4:1-13) Mark’s account of Jesus’ temptation is very brief.2

Interestingly, the Spirit (who has just descended into Jesus) does not merely send Jesus (cf. Mt 4:1, Lk 4:1) into the wilderness, He “expel[s]” / “drive[s] out” (ἐκβάλλω | ekballō) Jesus into the wilderness.3

This is actually the same word used when Jesus drives out demons (Mk 1:34, 39, 3:15, 22, 23, 6:13, 7:26, 9:18, 28, 38)4 or when people are forcefully sent away (Mk 1:43, 5:40, 11:15, 12:8).5 For example:

So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out [ekballō] demons. (Mk 1:39, NIV).6

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out [ekballō] those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, (Mk 11:15, NIV).7

Though Jesus is driven out, this does not mean that Jesus resists the Spirit or is unwilling to go.8 Nonetheless, there is a sense of urgency9 — “divine necessity”.10

We see a similar sense of “divine necessity” throughout Mark. For example, after Peter’s great confession in Mark 8 (Mk 8:29), we read:

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (Mk 8:31, NIV)11 (cf. Mk 9:12, Mk 13:7, 10, 14:49).

Also, perhaps this language alludes to how scapegoats were driven out into the wilderness — once they had symbolically been laden with the sins of Israel (Lev 16:21)12 — on the Day of Atonement.

20 “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness (Lev 16:20-22, NIV).13

Into the Wilderness (Test)

Many believed that demons were “attracted to pagan temples, bathhouses, graveyards, and deserts”14 (cf. Is 34:14; Dt 32:17).15

The wilderness was thought to be the home of (often evil) supernatural forces.16 Thus, in a way, Jesus will be battling Satan “on Satan’s own turf”.17

As we mentioned in our previous commentary, the wilderness was also the place of great prophetic promise.

John the Baptist (Mk 1:2-4) fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy about one calling in the wilderness to prepare the way for the LORD (Is 40:3-5).18

Yet, Israel was also tested in the wilderness (cf. Ps 95:7-11;19 cf. Dt 8:2)20 For Israel, the wilderness was a “place of disobedience, judgment, and grace”.21

Some say that, unlike Israel who was tested and failed in the wilderness (and had to wander there for forty years22 (Num 14:34, Numbers 14; Dt 8:2)) or Adam who was tempted by Satan and failed in the Garden23 (Genesis 3), Jesus passes the test.

However, others doubt that Mark is making this point in his brief account.24

That being said, as we have seen in a previous study of Jesus’ temptation (“Divine Paternity Test(s)”), in Luke, there certainly seems to be a more obvious comparison and contrast between Israel/Adam and Jesus.

Although Satan does not reappear in the narrative, Mark does not mention a decisive victory over him.25 This sets the stage for a major theme of Mark – Jesus’ continual battle with demonic forces.26

In Job, God confirms that Job is blameless (Job 1:8) and then allows Satan to test him27 (Job 1:9f.).

Here God confirms that Jesus is the Son of God, the Beloved Son of God, and the Suffering Servant who will bring salvation to the ends to the ends of the earth (Is 49:6; Is 52:13-53:12; Mk 1:11) — and then allows Satan to test him.

In both instances — as is always the case — God is sovereign.28


After His baptism and anointing, Jesus is “driven out” into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. The wilderness was not only the place of the prophetic promise fulfilled by John the Baptist, but also the place of Israel’s previous testing.

Soon, Jesus will square off with Satan — who will have somewhat of a home field advantage.

For more commentary on Mark, please visit the Book Study Overview page. For the sources cited, please see the bibliography.


  1. Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Mk 1:12.
  2. Kernaghan, 39; English, 43; Schnabel, 47; Lane, 59; Edwards, 39; Stein, 62
  3. BDAG, 299; cf. Kernaghan, 39; cf. Mt 4:1; Lk 4:1; English, 43; Brooks, 43; Edwards, 39; France, 84; Stein, 62; Strauss, 73 cf. Bock, 408
  4. UBS, 32
  5. UBS, 32
  6. UBS, 32
  7. UBS, 32
  8. UBS, 32; English, 43
  9. English, 43
  10. Brooks, 43
  11. English, 44
  12. Edwards, 39
  13. cf. Edwards, 39
  14. Keener, 130
  15. Witherington, 76
  16. UBS, 33-34; Cole, 109
  17. Keener, 130 cf. Garland, 50
  18. cf. Brooks, 44; Guelich, 37
  19. Witherington, 76; cf. Cole, 109; Edwards, 40; Strauss, 74
  20. Brooks, 44
  21. Garland, 53 cf. Edwards, 40
  22. Cole, 110; cf. Nebuchadnezzar? Dn 4:28-37; Witherington, 76
  23. Bock, 409; Guelich, 39; contra Stein, 64
  24. Brooks, 43
  25. Garland, 54;cf. Schnabel, 47; Brooks, 44; Lane, 60; Guelich, 38; cf. France, 84
  26. Witherington, 76; Garland, 54 cf. Brooks, 44; cf. Lane, 60, 62
  27. France, 84
  28. France, 86
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Imperfect Servant ✝?⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist