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Hebrew Bible:Why God sent his people to exile

  • Page ID
    20263
  • Zoe Shepherd

    5 March 2019

    Throughout the Hebrew Bible, the prophets argued that the exile happened because the people failed to follow God’s instructions. God gave the people specific instructions in order to be faithful to the Lord. God believed the people had properly listened to the instructions God gave them. However, the people began to partake in many sinful actions. Evil desires were fulfilled, and God started to become angry. When God noticed the people’s rebellious way of life, God disliked the way the people were acting. Therefore, God brought exile upon the people. When the people realized why they were exiled and started to repent, God forgave them. Based on the evidence in the readings Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah, I agree with the prophets that God exiled the people because they failed to follow instructions.

    In the book of Hosea, the use of more specific sins was described along with claims about the exile. Hosea was written before the exile happened and foreshadowed the event happening. One brief mentioning of the exile was hidden in a question: “What will you do on the day of appointed festival, and on the day of the festival of the Lord?” (Hosea 9.5). On the surface, it seemed as if this was not the exile being written about. However, it truly was about the exile because, when gaining a deeper understanding of the reference to the festival, the festival was the day the Lord would exile the people. This is shown in the following verse: “For even if they escape destruction, Egypt shall gather them, Memphis shall bury them. Nettles shall possess their precious things of silver; thorns shall be in their tents” (Hosea 9.6). Further on, the Lord depicted the way the people would act when the exile is brought upon them: “The inhabitants of Samaria tremble for the calf of Bethaven. Its people shall mourn for it, and its idolatrous priests shall wail over it, over its glory that has departed from it” (Hosea 10.5). The people will be in fear of how the Lord will punish them due to their sinful acts. Some of the sinful acts included “swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hosea 4.2).

    The people had no faith or loyalty to God, and God noticed their acts of evil. Hence, God cried, “I will punish them for their ways, and repay them for their deeds. They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply; because they have forsaken the Lord to devote themselves to whoredom” (Hosea 4.9-10). The disappointment that God faced was hard because God put faith into his followers in hopes that they could follow instructions as the Lord asked them to do so. In order to ensure the punishment was long-lasting, the Lord also stated, “And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4.6). The generations to come will face the consequences of those before them. Unfortunately, due to the failure to follow simple instructions God gave to them, the people faced exile. Additionally, the people worshipped more than one God, and one of the first rules God gave them was to only follow one Lord. The people once again failed to listen to God’s advice, giving God another reason to exile them.

    In the book of Micah, more references to the actual event of the exile are addressed along with some of the people’s sinful actions. Within the first chapter, a statement about the exile was given: “Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair for your pampered children; make yourselves as bald as the eagle, for they have gone from you into exile” (Micah 1.16). The reason the people were exiled was stated shortly after and Micah describes the 722 exile in this verse. A general statement about the sinful acts that the people had done was spoken by the Lord: “Alas for those who devise wickedness and evil deeds on their beds!” (Micah 2.1). The people had performed evil actions even though God had warned them not to do so. God had made his rules clear to the people, yet they failed to listen. Therefore, God said, “Arise and go; for this is no place to rest, because of uncleanness that destroys with a grievous destruction” (Micah 2.10). Since the people partook in sinful actions, they were unclean in God’s eyes and were no longer welcomed. God stated, “And I said: Listen, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel!” (Micah 3.1). The people were not smart enough to hear what God said in order to keep themselves from facing the awful fate of exile. Thus, God proceeded to exile them: “Writhe and groan, O daughter Zion, like a woman in labor; for now you shall go forth from the city and camp in the open country; you shall go to Babylon” (Micah 4.10). Because the prophet had already warned them to repent, God decided to exile the people to Babylon for their sins in hopes of teaching the people a lesson. Hopefully, the people will learn from this lesson and follow God’s instructions if God forgives them and gives them another chance.

    The book of Isaiah covered the time before, during, and after the exile; therefore, the book included the prophecy of the exile, the actual exile, and the aftermath of the exile. Before the exile occurred, God trusted the people to follow directions. God then left the people alone to make their own decisions, but the people ignored what God was saying. God exclaimed, “How the faithful city has become a whore!,” when the people were making bad choices (Isaiah 1.21). Considering the sinful actions of the people, God brought exile upon them. God said, “Therefore my people go into exile without knowledge; their nobles are dying of hunger, and their multitude is parched with thirst” (Isaiah 5.13). The people encountered exile and were not happy. Eventually, the people realized why they were sent to exile and began to repent. The people stated, “It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” (Isaiah 50.9). Hence, the people realized that they were sinful and were fulfilling evil desires. The people began to repent: “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40.2). When God became aware of the people’s realization and repentance, God released them from exile. After the exile was over, God attempted to instruct the people again. God told the people, “Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil” (Isaiah 56.2). Through the repetition of the same instructions God gave the people before the exile, the people seemed to have learned from their mistakes and proceeded to follow God in a faithful way.

    Personally, I agree with the prophet's argument that God exiled the people because they failed to follow instructions based on the support given in the readings Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah. Within God’s instructions, God told the people to refrain from sin. Nonetheless, the people began to partake in sinful actions. Once God realized what had happened, God punished the people for not listening to him by exiling them. Additionally, God himself stated that he punished them because of their sinful actions, therefore proving that the people were sent to exile because they failed to be faithful.

    Zoe Shepherd, 2022, Social Work

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