The Wild Places Bible Guide – 11
March 25, 2019
Monday, March 25
The great wild place of the Old Testament is ancient Israel’s exile into foreign lands. The two halves of the divided kingdom were defeated by regional superpowers in the 8th and 6th centuries B.C. In exile, people questioned their faith and had to come to grips with failure, loss, powerlessness, pain, and doubt. This week we’ll read some of the narrative texts of exile, and next week some of its poetry.
II Kings 25:1-21, 27-30 (CEB)
1 So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s rule, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem with his entire army. He camped beside the city and built a siege wall all around it. 2 The city was under attack until King Zedekiah’s eleventh year. 3 On the ninth day of the month, the famine in the city got so bad that no food remained for the common people. 4 Then the enemy broke into the city. All the soldiers fled by night using the gate between the two walls near the King’s Garden. The Chaldeans were surrounding the city, so the soldiers ran toward the desert plain. 5 But the Chaldean army chased King Zedekiah and caught up with him in the Jericho plains. His entire army deserted him. 6 So the Chaldeans captured the king and brought him back to the Babylonian king, who was at Riblah. There his punishment was determined. 7 Zedekiah’s sons were slaughtered right before his eyes. Then he was blinded, put in bronze chains, and taken off to Babylon.
8 On the seventh day of the fifth month in the nineteenth year of Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan arrived at Jerusalem. He was the commander of the guard and an official of the Babylonian king.9 He burned down the Lord’s temple, the royal palace, and all of Jerusalem’s houses. He burned down every important building. 10 The whole Chaldean army under the commander of the guard tore down the walls surrounding Jerusalem. 11 Then Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard exiled the people who were left in the city, those who had already surrendered to Babylon’s king, and the rest of the population.12 The commander of the guard left some of the land’s poor people behind to work the vineyards and be farmers. 13 The Chaldeans shattered the bronze columns, the stands, and the bronze Sea that were in the Lord’s temple. They carried the bronze off to Babylon. 14 They also took the pots, the shovels, the wick trimmers, the dishes, and all the bronze items that had been used in the temple. 15 The commander of the guard took the fire pans and the sprinkling bowls, which were made of pure gold and pure silver. 16 The bronze in all these objects—the two pillars, the Sea, and the stands that Solomon had made for the Lord’s temple—was too heavy to weigh. 17 Each pillar was twenty-seven feet high. The bronze capital on top of the first pillar was four and a half feet high. Decorative lattices and pomegranates, all made from bronze, were around the capital. And the second pillar was decorated with lattices just like the first.
18 The commander of the guard also took away Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank, and the three doorkeepers. 19 Of those still left in the city, Nebuzaradan took away an officer who was in charge of the army and five royal advisors who were discovered in the city. He also took away the secretary of the officer responsible for drafting the land’s people to fight, as well as sixty people who were discovered in the city. 20 Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard took all of these people and brought them to the Babylonian king at Riblah.21 The king of Babylon struck them down, killing them in Riblah in the land of Hamath.
Points of Interest
- There are too many names and dates to worry about in a day’s reading. Instead, picture the scene: there is a small country whose capital is besieged by the attacking army of a much larger country. Famine strikes so that the royalty is still eating, but everyone else starves. The army breaks through the wall. The defending army flees, abandoning the people, and then when the army is pursued, they abandon the king. Said king is tortured and exiled, his sons killed. How do you feel, left to live in the ruins of this city?
Later, the conquering army returns and burns down your city. Many of the people who didn’t die in the famine or the invasion are scattered; those that remain are carted off to become slaves. The few officials who try to hide out are kidnapped; word returns that they’ve been killed in a faraway land. The most beautiful building, your people’s grand temple, is looted and then destroyed. If you are any one of these survivors, how do you feel about your life? How do you feel about the God of your country, the one you used to worship in the temple that is no more?
The short paragraph, “Judah was exiled from its land” is the conclusion to this whole tale, the last chapter in this book. The nation is scattered. The dream is over.
The books of Samuel and Kings tell a four-part history of the rise and fall of ancient Israel, including its southern kingdom of Judah, the last portion to remain independent. The story begins with an ascendant monarchy that the author thinks is a bad idea. A few kings, despite their significant faults, are given positive reports. Most are disappointments. And then four hundred years later, the last king of all the dynasties lives a life of luxury as a sell-out in the employ of his people’s conqueror. The people’s story ends with a betrayal. The people suffer, while their king eats well in their oppressor’s service. This must have been a maddening story to read – so unjust, so unfair.
A Direction for Prayer
Perhaps some of your friends and family have experienced loss – the loss of homeland, the loss of loved ones, the loss of a dream. If so, pray that they have God’s help to survive and to find a next chapter beyond this loss.
Spiritual Exercise of the Week
Growing Hope – This week, the exercise will vary slightly from day to day. Each day, though, you’ll be invited to grow hope in your own wild place of exile – a loss that you or your culture has suffered, a dream that has died, some way that you don’t belong, don’t fit, or aren’t understood in your current context.
The temptation in exile is to a death of faith or a loss of hope. Today, follow the lead of this passage, and honestly name to God and self the exile that most strikes you. Confess without shame your own temptation to a death of faith or a loss of hope.