31: Understanding the Exile (1)
Recap: The Early Prophetic Context
The Historical Context
The Prophetic Context through Jeremiah
doubt the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple within, and then
the Exile of the inhabitants of Judah, must have been the most traumatic
and devastating thing that ever happened to Israel. Again, without
doubt, it is the most dramatic and incredible judgment recorded in
the Bible. For a time it must have looked as if it was the end of
the people of Israel and question marks must have hung over all of
the words spoken over Israel from the days of Abram onwards, that
this would be their land forever.
this chapter we will examine the historical context and see who was
involved and when. Then we will go on to consider the prophetic context
and see how God's will was displayed through His prophet, Jeremiah.
Finally we will see the outworking or end of the exile. Because we
have covered the northern and southern kingdoms already in previous
chapters, we will simply use snippets from those chapters to resource
from the previous chapters the following are the final kings of the
Manasseh (55) before Jeremiah's time but referred to by him
Amon (2) before Jeremiah's time.
Josiah (31) Jeremiah's ministry started during his reign
Jehoahaz (3m) not mentioned by Jeremiah, perhaps because of brevity
we move on there are two warnings to heed:
Please read all the prophetic words of the warnings etc. from Jeremiah,
for a failure to do so will mean you will fail to understand the depth
of the crisis and the wonder of the grace of God.
Dates are important, and become more so the further we go through
these two chapters, because they show the order of events and the
wonder of the Lord's grace speaking and moving as He did.
Recap: The Early Prophetic Context
have already noted, in the studies of the kings, the following three
words that clearly seemed to indicate the Lord's long-term intent
in respect of disciplining or judging Jerusalem way before He brought
it about finally. Remember these words came long before the final
years of the southern kingdom:
In Hezekiah's time
Kings 20:16-18 Then
Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Hear the word of the
LORD: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and
all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried
off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. And some of your
descendants, your own flesh and blood, that will be born to you, will
be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king
rebuke came because Hezekiah had shown off to the representatives
would be brought in the years to come from Babylon (this was a strange
and unlikely word because Assyria was a greater threat at that time
than Babylon was).
Hezekiah's son was taken to Babylon (2 Chron 33:11) as the first fulfillment
Jehoiakim , Jehoiachin , and Zedekiah, later family members, were
all taken to Babylon
this also in Isa 39:5-7)
word was as early as somewhere around 700BC i.e. roughly about 130
before the fall of Jerusalem
In Manasseh's time
Kings 21:10-15 The
LORD said through his servants the prophets: " Manasseh
king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has
done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah
into sin with his idols. Therefore this is what the LORD, the God
of Israel , says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and
Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. I will
stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria
and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out
Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.
I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and hand them over to
their enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their foes,
because they have done evil in my eyes and have provoked me to anger
from the day their forefathers came out of Egypt until this day."
of Manasseh's terrible sins this massive judgment was declared (v.11)
will bring a massive disaster on Jerusalem (v.12)
as Samaria was wiped out and destroyed so will Jerusalem (v.13)
will be handed over to their enemies and the city utterly looted (v.14)
is a culmination of their sins committed ever since they left Egypt
Josiah's good reign
Kings 23:26-27 Nevertheless,
the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which
burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh
had done to provoke him to anger. So the LORD said, "I will remove
Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel , and I will reject
Jerusalem , the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said,
`There shall my Name be.
was after Josiah's good reign.
would appear that the Lord saw the depth to which Judah could descend
(as witnessed under Manasseh) and so even though Manasseh repented
in Babylon and brought the people back into good standing, and even
though he was followed by Josiah, nevertheless the Lord knew what
their ongoing life would be unless something really radical was done
to remove all idolatry.
judgment, it seems, was put on the back burner' until, despite Israel
being given further chances at redemption, the in-depth sin of the
kings and the people was revealed to be dealt with.
The Historical Context
have concluded that you can really only understand the words of the
prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel if you understand the historical events
taking place in their lifetimes. In this brief overview we will go
back and observe the kings of the southern kingdom after Israel in
the north is carried away and then the invasions of Nebuchadnezzar
that the Lord used to discipline Judah:
The kings of the south
pass and Israel, the northern kingdom, is carried away and still the
southern kingdom is a mix of good and bad kings.
was king in the south, when
Israel in the north was carried away, a bad king
who refused God's chastening (see 2 Chron 28:1-11,22-25).
who followed (2 Chron 29-32),
was essentially a good king
though he struggled with pride in his last years.
who followed was a
seriously bad king restoring idolatry in a big way
(2 Chron 33:1-11), and was carried to Babylon by God's discipline
where, amazingly, he repented and was restored to his land and to
kingship (2 Chron 33:12-20).
who came next only
did bad and was assassinated within two years (2
the next king (2 Chron 34
& 35), was a remarkably good king
but was killed in an unnecessary battle.
was followed by the final four bad kings:
(who only lasted 3 months
2 Chron 36:1-5),
2 Chron 36:5-8),
3 months, 2 Chron 36:9,10) and finally
2 Chron 36:11-21).
much for Judah's closing history as far as the kings went. The final
three kings were all taken into captivity in Babylon:
(2 Chron 36:6), in 598BC,
(2 Chron 36:10) in 597BC, and then
in 587BC with the fall of Jerusalem.
by the north
emphasise the point immediately above, throughout this period Nebuchadnezzar
invaded three times, when
he came and took captives to Babylon from Judah:
It started in 605 , when Daniel and his friends
It was repeated in 597 when Ezekiel and some ten
thousand Jews were deported to Babylon (see 2 Kings 24:12-17) and
finally to quash Zedekiah's rebellion in 588/587.
(the siege of Jerusalem lasted over a year before it fell)
was a key player in the Exile, being God's instrument to bring it
about. The fact that he came three times to Jerusalem in this period
indicates the stubbornness and folly of the kings and leaders of Judah
who refused to heed God's words and repent and thus became objects
of His disciplinary judgments.
The Prophetic Context - through Jeremiah
understand why the Exile took place and why Jerusalem was destroyed
we have to see the words that came from heaven through God's prophets
on the scene. We start with Jeremiah. We should note that he focuses
on Nebuchadnezzar coming from the north but as we have noted already
Nebuchadnezzar came three times and took people away from Jerusalem
before finally destroying it. Here we will see first of all, Jeremiah
in context and then:
The Reason for the Judgments
Hopes for the Future
we read in the opening verses below we see Jeremiah prophesied through
the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah. However if we consider
the short table below, we will note that there were in fact five kings
of Judah in that period but perhaps the recorder doesn't bother to
mention Jehoahaz and Jehoiahin because they both only reigned for
such short periods.
Kings 22:1 - 23:30 / 2Chr 34:1 35:27
Kings 23:31-33 / 2Chron 36:1-4
609BC (3 months)
Kings 23:34 24:6 / 2Chr 36:5-8
Kings 24:8-15, 25:27-30 / 2Chr 36:9-10
598BC (3 months)
Kings 24:17 25:7 / 2Chr 36:11-14
Kings 25:8-26 / 2Chr 36:15-23
587BC then EXILE
in the Old Testament are sometimes difficult to tie down and make
exact and so those given above are likely to be within a year either
word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of
Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the
reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah,
down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah
son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into
is Jeremiah, God's man on the spot, presiding over this whole period
of history and speaking God's word into it again and again through
the reigns of the final five kings of the southern kingdom.
The JUDGMENTS that will come
is sometimes difficult to distinguish whether specific words were
generally about the destructions that are coming, or if they refer
to specific invasions. In a number of the prophetic words that we
will note throughout this and the next chapter, we
will put them in an itemised layout to make more clear
and emphasise the number of things that are being said in each word.
the outset) God's tool of discipline and judgment is identified
LORD said to me,
the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in
the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,"
declares the LORD.
will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of
Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against
all the towns of Judah.
I will pronounce my
judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me,
in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands
warning is about a northern invader who would be used to discipline
the southern kingdom.
does not specify which invasion this refers to or is just generally
about how God will discipline them.
cause is made clear idolatry and forsaking God.
extent of the Judgments clarified
in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say: `Sound the trumpet throughout
the land!' Cry aloud and say: `Gather together! Let us flee to the
fortified cities!' Raise the signal to go to Zion ! Flee for safety
For I am bringing
disaster from the north , even terrible destruction
." A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations
has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land.
will lie in ruins without inhabitant
"Tell this to the nations, proclaim it to Jerusalem:
`A besieging army
is coming from a distant land, raising a war cry against the cities
I looked, and the
fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins before the
LORD, before his fierce anger. This is what the LORD says: "The
whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely.
2,3 and 4 are a long challenge to Judah and as they near the end,
these specific warnings reiterate what came in that picture interpreted
in chapter 1: Destruction is coming from the north.
For disaster looms out of the north, even terrible destruction.
I will destroy the Daughter of Zion, so beautiful and delicate.
Jerusalem will be destroyed by an invader from the north
message is repeated again and again.
The cities in the Negev will be shut up, and there will be
no one to open them. All Judah will be carried into exile, carried
case there is any doubt, it means not only destruction but all Judah
will go into exile
of his prophecies are addressed to the four specific kings in this
Specific call to repentance in Josiah's day (probably 626)
the reign of King Josiah , the LORD said to me, "Have
you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every
high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery
appears this was probably about thirteen years into Josiah's reign
(see Jer 1:2)
main burden is to call for repentance and is not about end judgment
this repentance came and Josiah was greatly used to bring the nation
back to God (see 2 Chron 34 & 35)
Specific warning to Jehoiakin (must be 605)
word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth
year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah ,
which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon
.. I will
summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar
king of Babylon ," declares the LORD, "and I will bring
them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding
nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of
horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. I will banish from them
the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom,
the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country
will become a desolate wasteland
must be 605BC. This is shortly before Nebuchadnezzar comes later in
will devastate the surrounding nations and this land
Specific warning to Jehoiachin (must be 597)
surely as I live," declares the LORD, "even if you, Jehoiachin
son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my
right hand, I would still pull you off. I will hand you over to those
who seek your life, those you fear--to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon
and to the Babylonians. I will hurl you and the mother who gave you
birth into another country, where neither of you was born, and there
you both will die. You will never come back to the land you long to
a specific word to Jehoiachin who only reigned 3 months and was taken
to Babylon in 597.
Final specific warning to Zedekiah (almost certainly
21:1-10 . They
said: "Inquire now of the LORD for us because Nebuchadnezzar
king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the LORD will perform wonders
for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us." But
Jeremiah answered them, "Tell Zedekiah, `This
is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against
you the weapons of war that are in your hands, which you are using
to fight the king of Babylon and the Babylonians who are outside the
wall besieging you.
And I will gather
them inside this city.
I myself will fight
against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in anger and
fury and great wrath.
I will strike down
those who live in this city--both men and animals--and they will die
of a terrible plague.
After that, declares
the LORD, I will hand over Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and
the people in this city who survive the plague, sword and famine,
to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who seek their
lives. He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or
pity or compassion.'
tell the people, `This is what the LORD says: See, I am setting before
you the way of life and the way of death. Whoever stays in this city
will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and
surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; he
will escape with his life.
I have determined
to do this city harm and not good, declares the LORD. It will be given
into the hands of the king of Babylon , and he will destroy it with
Nebuchadnezzar is attacking Jerusalem (v.2) which probably makes it
early 588 after Zedekiah had rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar.
the Lord is going to send plague into Jerusalem (v.5,6)
the occupants will be handed over to Nebuchadnezzar (v.7)
the people have an option (v.8) surrender to Nebuchadnezzar and
live (v.9b) or stay and fight and die (v.9a)
way or another Jerusalem will be destroyed by fire (v.10)
have seen examples from Jeremiah where
brings general warning of destruction of Jerusalem and exile of
the people at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar
warns Josiah and the country to repent (and they
warns Jehoiakim that Nebuchadnezzar will be coming
warns Jehoiachin that Nebuchadnezzar will carry
warns Zedekiah that Jerusalem will fall shortly
REASONS for the Judgments that will come
far we have focused on the coming judgments facing each king but the
reader may legitimately ask, why were these things happening?
Now we need to look through Jeremiah to see God's indictment of the
The early charges agaisnt the nation in Josiah's day
initial charge (see chapter 2) is that Israel ( Judah ) had drifted
away from what they had once been and had taken up with false gods
or idols (2:11)
they had forsaken the Lord and replied upon Egypt and Assyria (2:17,18)
land was filled with signs of foreign religions (3:1,2)
had failed to learn from what had happened to Israel (3:6-10)
and lies prevail in Jerusalem (5:1,2)
have been stubborn and refused to return to the Lord (5:22-25)
these had simply been warnings and calls to repentance in Josiah's
day, and that followed and the subsequent period of his reign was
a good time.
Background Cause of the Main Judgment
specific sins spoken again, which we will come on to shortly, there
appears an overall cloud' hanging over the southern kingdom from
the days of Manasseh:
This is what the LORD says: "Those destined for death,
to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for starvation,
to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity.' "I will send
four kinds of destroyers against them," declares the LORD,
I will make them abhorrent
to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh
son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem. "Who
will have pity on you, O Jerusalem? Who will mourn for you? Who will
stop to ask how you are? You have rejected me," declares the
keep on backsliding. So I will lay hands on you and destroy
you; I can no longer show compassion.
will come to Jerusalem all because of what Manasseh did and the depth
to which apostasy settled in the heart of the nation.
if you like, we may see as the cloud hanging over the nation, the
potential in the nation just waiting to be repeated, backsliding just
waiting to happen yet again.
there are very specific reasons that he lays out which we'll move
Jeremiah is not necessarily in chronological order it is difficult
to know whether sins spoken about were ones in existence in the earlier
days of Josiah (which he dealt with) or whether they were ongoing
sins that kept on getting repeated in the reigns of those who followed
Josiah. We will simply pick up examples of those sins he speaks about
you will return, O Israel , return to me," declares the LORD.
"If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer
go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear,
`As surely as the LORD lives,' then the nations will be blessed by
him and in him they will glory."
had gone away from the Lord
had done this by worshiping idols
words sounded right but were false and hypocritical
Jerusalem , wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will
you harbor wicked thoughts?.... Your own conduct and actions have
brought this upon you
My people are fools; they do not know me.
They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are
skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good."
behaviour and wrong thinking is at the heart of this people who clearly
do not know their God.
Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem , look around and consider,
search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals
honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city
.. Your children
have forsaken me and sworn by gods that are not gods
.. The house
of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to me
The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way.
is rife! Idolatry is rife! They have abandoned God. False religion
6:13 (also 8:10) From
the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests
alike, all practice deceit.
If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with
each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien,
the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent
blood in this place, and if you do not follow other
gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this
place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever
you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense
to Baal and follow other gods you have not known
people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares
the LORD. They have set up their detestable idols
in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. They have built
the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to
burn their sons and daughters in the fire
logic is that these things were there and should be dealt with.
injustice and dishonesty and idolatry prevailed including child sacrifices.
have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their worthless
make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies;
it is not by truth that they triumph in the land.
They go from one sin to another; they do
not acknowledge me," declares the LORD. "Beware
of your friends; do not trust your brothers. For every brother
is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer.
Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth.
They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary
themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception;
in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me," declares the
and deception are the norm, together with ignoring the Lord.
11:3,4, 7,8, 10, 13
Tell them that this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says:
`Cursed is the man who does not obey the terms of this covenant--
the terms I commanded your forefathers when I brought them out of
.. From the time I brought your forefathers up from Egypt until
today, I warned them again and again, saying, "Obey me."
But they did not listen or pay attention; instead,
they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts
They have returned to the sins of their forefathers, who refused to
listen to my words. They have followed other gods
to serve them. Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah have
broken the covenant I made with their forefathers
have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah; and the altars
you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal
are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.'
the heart of the Sinai covenant was the call to worship one God only
since then they had broken that covenant and worshipped foreign gods
and foreign idols
forefathers had forsaken the Lord, they were worse
the land full of vile images
even their children know the Asherah pole idols
ignoring the Sabbath day
God has been rejected for idols
oppression and injustice again
the covenant broken and idols worshipped
oppression, injustice and violence
leaders don't care for the people
godlessness in the Temple
Jerusalem has become like Sodom and Gomorrah
they refuse the Lord's words and continue to worship idols
summarise: Judah have settle into a life of pagan idolatry that ignores
the Lord, forgets the past, has a counterfeit present religion and
a moral life that is so lacking so that oppression, injustice and
violence continue on and on.
for the Future
Possibility of repentance
is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD's house
and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship
in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not
omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his
evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I
was planning because of the evil they have done. Say to them, `This
is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law,
which I have set before you, and if you do not listen to the words
of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again
(though you have not listened), then I will make this house like Shiloh
and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.'
hope is that they will listen and turn back (v.3)
to listen will bring the judgments (v.4-6)
ii) Hope of Restoration after exile
is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for
Babylon , I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring
you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,"
declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and
come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and
find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,"
declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I
will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished
you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the
place from which I carried you into exile."
judgment is not the end.
Lord will bring His people back to Jerusalem (v.10)
intent is to bless them (v.11)
will call on Him with all their heart and He will bring them back
far in this study of the judgment that we call The Exile' we have
earlier prophetic input revealing God's long-term will,
kings of the southern kingdom after the fall of Samaria,
ministry of Jeremiah through the reigns of the last five kings,
warnings of the judgments to come, and
reasons for those judgment, and yet
given of a restoration after the Exile.
the impression is given via the earlier prophecies and those from
Jeremiah that this godless, unrighteous and idolatrous lifestyle
has so permeated the life of Judah that it cannot be removed by words.
Therefore the only option left is to completely clear the land of
all its people, and take them away to other lands for a forty year
period until the surviving remnant come to their senses. This will
be seen when God returns them to their land and they will come with
new hearts wanting nothing of their godless past and a yearning to
have God in their midst.
the next Chapter we will see the contributions of Ezekiel and Daniel
in revealing God's purposes through the Exile and subsequent restoration.
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