Exile of Israel


captive-mapIt was such faith that sustained the people in exile. The underlying dynamism of their faith had taught them always to start again and be on the move at the call of a God who constantly called them to go somewhere else,[1] to join in His otherness. Ezekiel acted out the mime of the migrating people (Ezek 12,6). It was no more in Jerusalem that one had to seek God and answer His call: “they shall know that I am the Lord, when I disperse them among the nations and scatter them through the countries” (Ezek 12,15). Where there is no more temple, cult and king, holy land and places consecrated to Yahweh, nothing left of what concretized the covenant with God, in Babylon, in a foreign land, where one could not even imagine that it would be possible to sing Zion’s canticles (Ps 137), the migrants would seek God in spite of all and God would let himself be found (Jer 29,13-14). Crushed, exiled, deprived of all that constituted its religious and cultural identity, Israel received a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek 1,19) and heard God’s voice. When they thought this voice was lost, it resounded more strongly and more purely in that desert of exile and in that annihilation (Isa 41,8-10).

The exile in Chaldea was necessary if the call of Abraham was to be heard again, as an invitation to be again on the move. The beginning of Second Isaiah gives the tone: “Prepare the way … make straight in the desert a highway” (Isa 40,3). It was for God Himself that a way had to be prepared. God was no more the God sitting or enthroned in His Temple or in His celestial palace, in the midst of cherubim. It was God walking, marching at the head of His people, on the move, in the midst of the nations, towards new horizons (Isa 43,18-19). Grandiose vision of a people on the move at the head of which Yahweh will go (Isa 52,12) displays the perspective of a whole people, that they are not limited to individual interior life, but show the way to a future filled with hope.

The way evoked by Second Isaiah was the one of the return to Zion, but Zion was so much transfigured that it became pure light for the nations[2] (Ps 87; Isa 60), so vast that it could welcome all peoples, so pure that it had no more terrestrial form (Isa 54,11-13). Jerusalem was no more a stone city, but the symbol of Israel’s and the world’s hope. It was also the centre from where the Good News of Salvation would spread[3] (Isa 40,9-10; 52,7-20). So, the way that returned to Jerusalem could paradoxically at the same time the highway that reaches the ends of the earth (Isa 49,6.9-12).

[1] Cf. M. H. Ellis, “On Conversion, Mission and the Reign of God: A Meditation in Exile,” Bangalore Theological Forum, Vol. XXXIII, no. 2, UTC, Bangalore, (2001), 184-207, 190-192.

[2] Cf. C. M. Maier, “Psalm 87 as a Reappraisal of the Zion Tradition and its Reception in Galatians 4, 26,” CBQ, Vol. 69, no. 3, The Heffernan Press Inc., Massachusetts, (2007), 473-486, 477-478.

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  1. Good to see you Blogging again Sharon, I value your knowledge on the History of the Bible and His people, I see very much in the Israelites journey my own. When I put away the things of the world after finding myself crushed and alone, I repented and sought God with all my heart and all my all and I found Him and so my heart and mind were changed….Amazing Grace how sweet the sound!

    I rejoice in that your heart seeks diligently after The Lord Sharon, He is The Living Word and in Him is all wisdom and knowledge and when we ask we receive.

    Colossians 2 :2 -3 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in Love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

    Christian Love from both of us – Anne

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