We begin a new series that explores one of The Bible’s most consistent themes. The pattern of Exile and Return is found in various forms throughout Scripture. The rhythm of Scripture is a constant reinforcement of the Exile and Return framework. Early stories like Joseph, Abraham, Job, and Jonah. Parables like the Prodigal Son and The Good Samaritan. Paul’s teachings on reconciliation and the promise of Revelation. In this series we focus on how this theme plays out in the Old Testament prophets, beginning with the stories of first and second Chronicles.
The basic theme of Exile and Return is actually one of the major meta-narratives of the scripture.
Paradise lost and gained
Adam was exiled from the Garden. One of the first things that happens is Jesus creates the earth. He walks with—he creates the man. He creates the woman. Male and female, he created them. They’re made in the image of God. And he puts them to tend and keep the garden. He gives them that job. And everything’s perfect, and everything’s innocent. He just gives them one command. And he says, in the day that you break this command, what’s going to happen? You’ll die.
Well they didn’t actually physically die that specific day, but death did come. And they did die. But what did happen that day? They got kicked out. They got exiled.
And death is, of course, separation.
If your battery dies that means that the electricity got curtailed, and it’s no longer flowing.
We have a loved one that just passed, and the body’s still around for a little while; but the spirit departed. There’s a separation that took place. It’s not a cessation of existence.
Adam and Eve were separated from the garden. Anybody remember why God took them out of the garden? So they wouldn’t eat of the Tree of Life and live forever.
What do you call somebody who’s dead and lives forever? A zombie. Yeah. So he didn’t want us to be zombies. It’s a very beneficial thing that he did, right?
But the other end of the meta-narrative is what? What’s going to happen at the other end of the narrative? It’s going to be return to paradise. What’s going to be in the new earth? The Tree of Life. So we’re going to get to eat of it finally.
The whole meta-narrative of the scripture is an exile. In Adam, all of us died. And then a return. And who does the restoration? God. And how much help does he get from us? None. We’re just always trying to screw it up, right? But this is the story of the Bible.
Now within that story you have a substantial number of other exile-and-return stories. So we’ve got Adam, and he’s exiled. And you’ve got the second Adam that does the restoration. And you’ve got the return of the new heaven and the new earth. I’m just going to say the new earth. New earth is when heaven comes to earth, and there’s a reuniting.
There’s been, in a sense, a death of the purpose of creation, and it’s not a cessation of existence, it’s exiled. And, now, it’s going to be returned. And we talked about that a lot in our last series.
Well there’s a large number of other exile-and-return stories within this story. James mentioned one of them, and it is Israel. But there’s really one that happens before that. What’s, maybe, the next big exile-and-return story that happens in the Bible, chronologically?
Well, Noah. How would you make Noah an exile-and-return story?
He exiled creation, and then he returned later.
Exile and return of the children of Israel
Okay, that’s fair. All right, so you’ve got Jacob/Israel, and Jacob/Israel lives in Canaan or the promised land. And where does he exile to?
Laban’s house. He goes to Laban’s house then returns.
Okay. All right. That’s fair. But when the family gets large, the bigger story is that they go to Egypt where Joseph is. And Joseph, of course, is a type of Christ. Jesus was essentially exiled from the family of Israel, right? They rejected him. And, yet, he’s going to be the one that saves them, isn’t he?
Joseph was exiled from the family. He had a dream where everybody’s bowing down to him and was pretty well uniformly rejected by the family; and, yet, when he goes to Egypt, he’s the one that saves them from starvation.
This, of course, was prophesied in Genesis when God did the covenant where he has the two torches, and he passes through the two torches, and, essentially, does a treaty like you would do between two nations. And normally the potentate of both nations would pass through the torches and the sacrifice that’s split in half to make this agreement. Kind of like we would do today when having a big ceremony on TV, and they would ceremonially sign the thing to make a public display. God passes through it all by himself because, in this case, he’s making a unilateral covenant, and part of what he says is, you’re going to go and be 400 years in exile.
Well, in exile, what happens? They become a great nation. So even though the exile is really severe, it’s not a pleasant thing, this exile. Remember what happened to Abraham when this prophecy of 400 years happens? Remember what happens to him when he’s listening to this? A sense of dread comes on him. It’s such a horrific thing that’s going to happen. And, they’re crying out while they’re in Egypt because of the oppression that’s come upon them. But this is where they become a great nation.
And then God brings them out. He restores them back into Canaan, from which they left.
Now a lot of the Bible centers on this, doesn’t it? What specific books of the Bible do we have about this particular exile and return? Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Ruth. This is a big story that takes up a lot of the Bible, this particular exile and return.
Israel exiled to Assyria
What’s the next substantial exile and return that we see in the scripture? Yeah, there are two that take place. One is the Babylonian captivity. The other is the Assyrian captivity.
There’s a lot of little ones too.
And there’s a lot of little ones, there are, yes. Yeah, there are lots of small ones all in there, like you were mentioning the Moses one. Because Moses is exiled from Egypt personally. Goes on to Midian for 40 years and then comes back to be elevated to his spot as a deliverer. You know, “Hey, I’m here. I delivered you. I’m going to kill this guy!”
“You killed this guy.”
“Ah, I got to leave.” Because he was rejected. And he’s a picture of Christ too, right? And he’s rejected and then returns and restores.
So we’ve got two big narratives that happen next. One is Israel. Israel goes into captivity by the Assyrians. And they’re still there. And they’re part of the Diaspora, the general spreading of the Jews throughout all the nations.
I say they’re still there. They’re just now beginning to return because in 1948, Israel was reinstated as a nation after 2,000 years of not being a nation. And they’re just now beginning to return. And the next thing that’s going to happen is the 70th week of Daniel is going to take place, and then the whole kingdom will be restored to Israel.
And then within this one there’s the—because this happened. Anybody remember the date when this happened? When Assyria took Israel? 722. Very good. 722 B.C. is when this date happens.
We’re going to kind of lock in on some of these dates here because as we go through this series, I’m going to—what I’m hoping will happen is this massive amount of information that’s in the Bible will start coming together into more of a concrete structure for you in your head.
Judah exiled to Babylonian
Within this, there’s a whole other exile and return that happens that’s the Babylonian captivity.
So Israel goes, and they’re still kind of floating out there.
But then you have the Judean captivity, and this actually starts in 605 B.C. and culminates in 586 BC. And here you have Judah, and Judah is taken away by the Babylonians. And they stay there for, how long? How long do they stay? Seventy years. They stay in Babylon seventy years, and then they return. They return to Jerusalem. And they stay there until 70 AD. And then they join this one.
They then merge with the big Israel captivity to Assyria because they go into the Diaspora all throughout the earth as well.
Overview of the exile theme
Now this exile theme—you know, we’ve got the Exodus theme. We hit a large chunk of the Bible from that. This Israel going to Assyria and Judah going to Babylon really takes up most of the rest of the Old Testament, and, arguably, even the New Testament.
Let me just give you a brief overview, and then we’ll kind of start digging into this a little bit.
So this is, I’m going to say, a dominate theme in the following books 1 and 2 Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel. Anybody notice a pattern here? It’s all of them. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah—which means? Malachi is not part of this overall theme. So it’s basically everything including Ezra and Nehemiah and Esther.
The central theme of those books is this deportation and return.
Now, one of the interesting things about prophecy is that these prophets talk about this exile and return, and if they’re talking about the Judean exile and return, what do they always mix in with it?
They always talk about this ultimate exile and return and going into the kingdom of God. They always mix them all together.
And so, what we’ll do is we’ll go, and we’ll read one of these Old Testament books, and we’ll be reading it as, you know, but to you Bethlehem Ephrathah, you’ll be great among the nations because in you a ruler’s born. We think, oh, that’s Jesus. We know about that.
Well, it’s spoken into a world in which Micah is talking to them about this impending doom that’s about to happen, and their restoration. And to the Jews at that time, there are two different events happening, but it’s all just kind of talked about intermingled.
And in a sense, it is all one big thing because we’re all part of this one big Adamic exile and this second Adamic return.
Now let me just go through, briefly, the book of 1 Chronicles. 1 Chronicles—has anybody ever wondered why they bothered to write the whole Kings twice? It’s from two different perspectives. I always wondered why it’s just—I already read that story. Why do I need to read that story again? Why is it in here twice?
Well 1 and 2 Chronicles is actually a history focusing on Judah, and it actually acknowledges, it’s not like they lost 1 and 2 Kings or anything. It acknowledges, if you want to read more about this, read in the book of the Kings.
But 1 and 2 Chronicles was written after the first Babylonian captivity, and it has an overriding theme to retell the history of Judah and answer a really important question.
If you were a captive in Israel, you grew up believing that you are the chosen people of God, you had been put on the earth to be a holy, priestly nation, where all the other nations are supposed to look at you, the God of the universe physically dwelt in your temple, and now your temple had been knocked down, and you had been taken to Babylon. What question would you have in your mind?
Am I still who I am? Yeah.
What other question might you have? Why did this happen? Yeah, why did this happen? What’s going on here? What happened to all these promises, right?
Well, 1 and 2 Chronicles are written to answer those questions.
Just look at the headings in your Bible and tell me what’s going on in 1 Chronicles. What happens first? What’s the very first thing? What’s the first chapter about? Their heritage.
Where does it start? Who’s the first person in their lineage? Adam. Now if we had a family tree that went all the way back to Adam, that would be pretty cool. I don’t know about your family tree. We as Americans, I think, have a disadvantage in family trees.
This is the way I tell my kids our family history: There were these crazy people in northern Scotland that painted themselves blue and fought naked. And the very bottom of those got pushed out, and they went to Ireland. And in Ireland they were just kind of the scum and mistreated by Britain and so forth. And the very bottom of those came to America.
And then it came to America. And the Scotch-Irish—actually my relative that came, came under the Bounty Act. The Bounty Act was an act where if you could get somebody crazy enough to live between you and the Indians as a protective measure, they would give you 40 acres. So that’s how my relative got here.
And so the crazy ones of those came and started moving west, and then the ones of those that were kind of a criminal element or couldn’t find a wife kept going west. And here we are. So that’s that.
But not so here. They’ve got their lineage traced all the way back to Adam. And the question is this is who you are. And it goes on.
Look, chapter 2 is all about genealogy. Chapter 3, the family of David, the family of Solomon, the family of Jeconiah, the family of Judah, the family of Simeon, the family of Reuben, the family of Gad, the family of Manasseh. This is Israel. The family of Levi. The family of Issachar.
—just to say, hey, you’re up there, but don’t think that’s who you are.
Yeah. You’re not Babylonian. You’re Jew, Okay? You’re Jewish.
Neftali, the family of Manasseh, the family of Ephraim, the family of Asher, the family of King Saul.
And then you get to chapter 9, and it says, So all Israel was recorded by genealogies, and indeed, they were inscribed in the book of the kings of Israel. But Judah was carried away captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness.
And that’s the recurring theme of 1 and 2 Chronicles. Because of their unfaithfulness. This is who you are, and this is why you’re here. You’re here because of your unfaithfulness.
And one of the recurring themes when people these days want to talk about philosophy, which tends to be fairly shallow, but one of the recurring themes is, why would God let evil happen? Why would he let evil happen? Why would he let bad things happen to quote-unquote “good people”?
Well, this is part of the uber story too. It’s the, you know, God has done this to the human race because of our unfaithfulness. We’re in exile.
So this Babylonian captivity is such a central part of the scripture—what I want to do is try to put some flesh and bones on it. And what I’m going to do is start with the character of Hezekiah.
But before I do that, let me just go through some dates here, and let’s just make sure we sort of have a framework. And what I’ll try to do is just repeat this over and over and over again where it becomes second nature to you. Let’s get the overall outline first.
The overall outline, I’m going to say, 2000 B.C., 1500 B.C., 1000, 722, 586, 331. That’s good enough for the big dates.
So 2000. Who’s the big character in 2000? Abraham. So you’ve got Abraham as the 2000 character.
Who’s the big character in 1500? Moses, You got about four hundred years in Egypt, so you go Abraham, Moses.
Who’s the big character in 1000? You can pick one of two. David, OK. Saul, or David, or Solomon, all these guys. This is the king’s starting this thousand period.
And 722. This is the Assyrian captivity of Israel.
And then 586, the Babylonian captivity of Judah.
And 331. I’m adding that. Alexander the Great is defeated.
So, OK, now there are a few other dates I want to throw in here. So this is the big one. You need to really have this in your mind anytime you come to the scripture, or you kind of get lost.
1000, David or Solomon
722, The Assyrian captivity of Israel
586, The Babylonian captivity of Judah
331, Alexander the Great is defeated
And the axis of the world begins to shift. Actually access to the world has shifted from east to west.
So in 2000, you’ve got, basically, the book of Genesis, all the time before and up to Abraham. Moses, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, you’ve got the period of the Judges, Joshua, Judges, Ruth.
And then you have the kings, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. Then you’ve got the whole Babylonian captivity period, Ezra, Nehemiah, and all of the minor prophets that we mentioned, major and minor prophets that we mentioned, in large part. And this is kind of this period where we get most of our scripture.
Hezekiah is prominent during the period of 715 to 687. That’s his time of his kingdom. So he comes just after the Assyrian captivity. So, as you might expect, during his reign, Assyria is the great world power, and if you were the southern kingdom—and, you know, Israel is a really small place. It’s 100 miles long and 50 miles wide or something. And the northern kingdom had been deported by Assyria and if you’re the southern kingdom, what might you be worried about? You’re next, right? And that’s what we’re going to see in Hezekiah’s reign. That’s most of what happens with him.
So Hezekiah has another son, and this other son is one of the worst kings that Israel ever has. Anybody remember his name? Manasseh. Very good. And then, basically, after that, you start this whole captivity period.
605 is when the first deportation takes place, and this is when Daniel goes to Babylon. And I’ll try to get the exact numbers. They’re all estimates.
But the first couple of captivities, there’s maybe a thousand people or something go. And I think what’s happening is that what we’re doing, if we’re Babylon—the way all these ancient kingdoms worked, they weren’t really going out trying to tear down territory because they had an excess population that they’re looking to put more land into. The world is still largely unpopulated. If you’ve driven across anything, anywhere, there’s just mostly empty space.
Well back in this point in time, there’s really empty space. It’s not that they need more territory; it’s that they want sources of income. And so the way these guys would work is they would go and say, “You can either pay us a tribute, or we’ll kill you.” That was kind of a general approach. And so this is this tribute-seeking thing that’s going on.
And so what we’re trying to do here is bring them into our kingdom so we can get the tax. It’s an annexation. Has anybody ever known, like cities always want to annex—what do they want to annex? Property that has tax revenue associated with it, right? Well, they’re just an annexing stuff that has tax revenue. “Oh, those guys over there have lush farms. Let’s go get them.”
So when we do this here, what we do is we try to get the leaders in their society, a significant number of the leaders, to come to Babylon and integrate with them so that they become a part of us and us a part of them. You see how that works?
So the first couple of deportations, when Daniel comes, the second one is maybe five years later or something, and Ezekiel goes in that one. And then the third one is this 586, and what happens is that the king has made a treaty with Babylon and says, “Hey, I changed my mind. I’m going with Egypt instead.” And Nebuchadnezzar decides to make an example of them and comes in and just basically flattens the whole city.
Well, in that deportation there’s you know several thousands of people, basically, most of the people that were left alive go back to Babylon, and that’s largely how the Babylonian captivity takes place where most of Israel has now relocated to Babylon.
So having this time frame in mind I think is an important part of tracking what’s going on here as we as this thing unfurls for us.