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Returning Home

Updated: Feb 3

1/23/2022: The past few weeks, I have been writing about the time known as the Babylonian Exile or the Babylonian Capture. To date, I have written about the Fall of Judah, and how God Saves the Righteous. The Babylonian Exile is so well documented in the Holy Bible, that the following books mention it, and I may be missing some:

· 2nd Kings 20-25 (Judah’s, and Jerusalem’s downfall)

· 2nd Chronicles 36 (Judah’s, and Jerusalem’s downfall)

· Ezra (return to Judah)

· Nehemiah (return to Judah)

· Esther (the Israelites that remained)

· Isaiah 44: 24-28 (prophesy about how Judah will be restored)

· Jeremiah (prophesies forewarning them of the capture, and the fall of Judah)

· Ezekiel (Judah’s, and Jerusalem’s downfall and time in captivity)

· Daniel (time in captivity)

· Haggai (return to Judah)

· Zechariah (remained in Babylon until King Darius (second king of Persia, after King Cyrus)

I tried to list this out in order of how the books are laid out in the Holy Bible, and the information in parentheses indicates that the chronology is out of order. If you chose to read the Holy Bible and gain more knowledge during this time, you can use the list above to guide you as you read across the Holy Bible.

The Proclamation that Changed Lives

The Babylonian Exile is a seventy-year period that starts with God warning the Israelites about their sins, the need to turn back to God, and those taken captive to Babylon and what life was like for them. Before we get into the details of the Israelites return to Judah, let’s first go over a prophecy in Isaiah:

24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself; 25 Who frustrates the signs of the babblers, And drives diviners mad; Who turns wise men backward, And makes their knowledge foolishness; 26 Who confirms the word of His servant, And performs the counsel of His messengers; Who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’

To the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’ And I will raise up her waste places; 27 Who says to the deep, ‘Be dry! And I will dry up your rivers’; 28 Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.” ’ To the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’ And I will raise up her waste places;

(Isaiah 44:24-28)

Isaiah was a prophet who lived roughly in 740-701 b.c. On the other hand, Cyrus was a Persian King who would be born between 580-590 b.c. and he founded the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire. Therefore, Isaiah prophesied this before Cyrus was even a glint in his parents’ eyes. (You may remember him from history class as Cyrus the Great who merged the Media and the Persian kingdoms when he became king.)

In the Holy Bible, King Cyrus was responsible for allowing the captives of Judah to return to their homeland. King Cyrus would overtake the Babylonian Empire in 539 b.c. He would issue this public proclamation in 538 b.c. sending the first wave back to Judah:

2All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. 3 Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. 4 And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.

Ezra 1:2-4 (see also 2nd Chronicles 36:23)

Jerusalem. Temple
Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Wix Media

The Return to Judah

The Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai document the return to Judah from Babylon. These books should be studied together for a better understanding of the Babylonian Exile. As the Israelites were taken in three waves, they returned in three waves:

  1. Zerubbabel the governor of Judah, led the first group in 538 b.c. and stated to rebuild the temple (Ezra chapters 1-6).

  2. Ezra (scribe and priest) led the next group in 458 b.c. and issued several reforms (Ezra chapters 7-10).

  3. Nehemiah led the last group in 414 b.c. rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem that the Chaldeans took down during the time of Jeremiah the prophet (Nehemiah).

During the first wave, those from the tribes of Benjamin, Judah, Levi, and the priests came with Zerubbabel. Those that came with Zerubbabel began construction on God’s temple. They built the foundation for the temple. When the foundation was laid, the Levites and the priests praised the Lord and sang (Ezra 3:10-13).

However, when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard about the rebuilding of the temple, they requested to build it alongside with them. Zerubbabel told them no. Then the people caused trouble for the Israelites and hired counselors to frustrate them from the days of King Cyrus, through the days of King Darius of Persia. In the time of King Artaxerxes, Rehum the Persian commander, and Shimshai the scribe, wrote a letter to the Persian King. This is what it said:

12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king’s treasury will be diminished. 14 Now because we receive support from the palace, it was not proper for us to see the king’s dishonor; therefore we have sent and informed the king, 15 that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed.

Ezra 3:12-15

King Artaxerxes sent a response telling the Israelites to cease work on the temple (Ezra 3:21). When Rehum received this word back from his king, he and his comrades went in haste to Jerusalem and forced them by arms to cease construction on the temple. However, some Israelites returned to Judah during King Artaxerxes reign. This led to the second wave of people that came back with Ezra, even though construction was forced to cease. Why? Because God had a plan, and He sent His people where they needed to be at a time that was necessary, even though construction would not resume for some time. Now if God led the Israelites to Judah to help build the temple, where might God lead you? Will you listen when that time comes?

Prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah

The prophets of Haggai and Zechariah both prophesied of Judah’s restoration. Through God’s word, Haggai said that the new temple would not only be filled with His glory, but “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former…And in this place I shall give peace” said the Lord (Haggai 2:9). In Zechariah 8, we learn that the Lord will return to Jerusalem and will dwell there. In addition, the Lord tells Zechariah that He will “strengthen the house of Judah and I will save the house of Joseph” (Zechariah 10:6). God also said that He will bring His people back from Egypt, and Assyria and into the land of Gilead and Lebanon “until no more room is found for them” (Zechariah 10:1).

When King Darius took the throne, he allowed work on the temple to resume (Ezra 6). The temple was finished and was dedicated. Work on the temple began in 536 b.c., and it was completed in 515 b.c. However, now it was time for the third and final wave of people that came back with Nehemiah in 444 b.c. They would construct the wall around Jerusalem in circa 443 b.c. According to the Holy Bible, the wall was finished in fifty-two days (Nehemiah 6:15).

Yet just because the Israelites came back to Judah in three waves, does not mean that all people returned. Some choose to stay in the Persian Empire and other regions. In those regions some converted to Judaism, and temples were built and expanded.

Revisiting Isaiah’s Prophecy

I want you to consider this passage from Haggai 1:3 where God tells Haggai to tell the people “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” God tells him that it that they need to “Consider your ways” in verse five. In verse seven, this message of considering your ways is repeated.

Now, I want you to compare Haggai 1: 3, with what Jesus said to His disciples on the road:

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. Matthew 8:20, and Luke 9:58

God’s house (the temple) in Jerusalem was destroyed when the Babylonians took the Israelites. Just as God had no place to dwell during this time, neither did Jesus have a place to rest. What does the book of Genesis say? That on the seventh day, the Lord rested and blessed that day and sanctified it (Genesis 2:1-2). What does Jesus say about rest? “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). In Mark 6:30-31, Jesus tells His disciples to rest. " Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.

Beloved, if Jesus gives true rest for your soul, why are you not getting rest for either your spirit, soul, and/or body?

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