586 B. C. – Jewish Exile No. 1.
When the Jewish people were taken into exile by the Babylonians in 586 B. C. almost all of them were led by the nose to Babylonia.
70 years later when they were held by the Persians (who had defeated Babylon), Cyrus, the Persian Monarch was moved by Almighty God to assist them in returning to their homeland.
Only a portion of them chose to return when offered the opportunity. Many of them stayed in Mesopotamia and other more developed countries. They had become acclimated to a life more affluent and permissive.
Those who did return to Palestine had much of which to repent and much to learn. After that 70-year absence from God’s land, they had to learn:
(1) That their return must involve a return to holy living, renouncing other gods and shunning the people who had settled that land in their absence. Why? Because these other people worshipped other gods. For example, those young Jews who married young pagan, Gentile women were castigated and had to cast out those wives! Nehemiah: “Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign!”
(2) They had to learn as did their forbears that they are a “distinctive people”—set apart to demonstrate God’s glory, righteousness and love.
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Also, after they arrived back in their land, they had fierce opposition from non-Jewish settlers who had drifted in and settled there. These were termed “the people of the land.” Recognize that? That’s what the Palestinians are, so they claim, though that is highly suspect as authentic studies will indicate. (See: Joan Peters: From Time Immemorial, JKAP)
These non-natives of God’s land in about 490 B. C. discouraged the returning Jews, just as the Palestinians/Arabs have done ever since the early 1900’s. They reported to the empire’s authorities that the Jews were big trouble. So, the Jews were forced to interrupt the building of the temple.
Ezra 4:4 – “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them….”
And so, the temple under construction stood unfinished for 17 years before the work resumed. They had to learn that this return had to mean a return to obedience to the Mosaic Law and to the God who had called them into being under Abraham. They also had to settle for a much smaller and more modest temple in Jerusalem. This helped lessen their pride.
WHAT THEY WERE LEARNING: The restoration of the land and people doesn’t come easily. But….
“The hand of the Lord our God was upon us…” – Ezra 8:31-32a
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Jewish Exile No. 2 – 1900 A. D. to the present.
Modern Israel is a nation of returned Jews--back from their exile after two millennia! But….
Not all Jews have returned to the land from their exile. Six million Jews remain in America. But they don’t consider themselves as in exile. And furthermore, they are disappearing through intermarriage!
And now, a strange spirit of anti-Semitism is increasing in America. There is widespread hostility towards them especially in the New York Area and on university campuses, places that used to be Jewish turf. American Jews, just within the past few months, are feeling noticeably less secure because of anti-Semitic terrorism and hateful demonstrations against the policies of the State of Israel.
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However, for their part, the Israeli Jews constitute an immigrant country.
These, like their ancient brothers and sisters, do not officially have the whole land that they possessed before their exile. Under the Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate, all the designated land would be theirs in which to settle. But the same British who provided this land later took the largest part of it and gave it to the Arabs.
From a biblical point of view, modern Israelis have shown timidity and lack of faith in God. Aren't I blunt? But true, they were magnificently brave during the 6-Day War; but then, brave Israelis tip-toed into the forbidden territory following that war. Their enemy wouldn’t negotiate with them nor would they recognize Israel as a nation. Israel had subdued her enemies on every side in just six days! And yet, the Israeli leaders decided they would forbid their own Israeli citizens from ENTERING this conquered land. And so, Judea and Samaria would not be opened up the slightest bit (at first) to any Jews!
Nevertheless, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) came to be occupied by an increasing number of determined Jewish “settlers”. How did that happen? Because little by little, those few religious Jews went in and put up housing, defying their own Jewish/Israeli government. The trickle became larger until it was quite a phenomenon; and the government had to give in. The building of infrastructure in the West Bank began.
Here we are—a half century later, and they are still tiptoeing, still guarded and still checking with America and the U. N. In fact, the liberals among them are guided by the European outlook: Judea and Samaria should be given back to the Arabs; and the Jewish “settlements” on that “West Bank” area must be abandoned in response to Palestinian demands.
To them, the basic parameters of the State of Israel are and should be presently determined not by the will of God, (laughable to many of them) but by human declarations, for example: The British Mandate, The Fourth Geneva Convention, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, other international laws, and by coordination with America’s State Department and President.
NOTE THIS: They do NOT have a motto like America’s “In God we trust.” And so, they lean upon a nation that DOES have this motto!
QUESTION: So, is the nation of Israel--the nation of former exiles--timid or brave?
ANSWER: They are strong militarily, but they are weak in relation to their relation to the Most High God and the strength that only HE can give.
This generation of Jewish exiles from all over the world is WEAK in spirit. They have a high degree of intelligence and they have produced technological “miracles,” but there is a huge vacuum in the soul of the nation.
And therefore, the long delay in claiming the land.
NOTE: Those who settled in the land in Ezra’s day did so in spite of virulent opposition. The opposition came from people of mixed or other races who knew not the true God. The strength of the returning Jews came from the Lord.
“When the…Arabs and Ammonites….heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward, they were very angry, and all plotted to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it…So I (the man Ezra) stationed the people…and said to them: ‘Do not be afraid of them. (Nehemiah 4:7-10 NRSV)
" Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.” (Nehemiah 4:14 NRSV)
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