In exile, identity is challenged and alliegence is divided. There was conflict in the Jewish community in Babylonian exile. Some wanted to hear Jeremiah’s call for a peace ethic in Babylon, but others wanted to hear Hananiah’s call to a resistance ethic. Should Israel just accept their fate as an exiled and broken nation and absorb completely into Babylon? Or should they resist their overlords and actively work to undermine Babylon? Or should they do something in between?
Often times people feel displaced in life. Many people feel melancholic, knowing they should be at home here on earth, but often times wondering why life can be so hard and why humans make it harder with how they behave. Walker Percy says the fundamental mystery of the universe is why we feel so alone in the world.
The Bible states that the solution to both Israel’s exile problem and humanity’s exile problem is the same solution. A king who will come and deliver them and reunite heaven and earth for all.
Our modern Bible was shaped by the Jewish people who were exiled from their homeland in 586 BC by the Babylonian Empire. The cultural trauma of that event influenced the writings that Christians hold dear today. The 586 exile colors all of the Bible, start to finish. The Hebrew authors who wrote the Bible used the exile experience to prophecy of a new king, a king who would deliver them from their occupiers.
The exile metaphor is a theme that runs through the entire Bible. The Hebrew Bible authors wrote Genesis believing that humanity has been exiled from the Garden of Eden and perfect unity with God. The Hebrews believed that their exile represented all humanity’s exile of heaven and earth being separated from each other. After humanity is banished from Eden, we embark on the first exile journey – settling in a world that is no longer home. When God calls Abraham to leave Babylon (Ur), he and Sarah lack a true home but Abraham has a promise from God that he will have a “promised land.”