EXILE LITERATURE

This session was taught at the Christ Church Manchester School of Theology on Saturday 17th November 2018. The CCM School of Theology was set up to serve local churches in Manchester and beyond.

Topic: Exile Books

In this session, we look at the Exile Literature of the Bible.

Speaker: David Devenish

David is one of the key leaders in the Newfrontiers network of churches and is a regular teacher and writer on various topics both in the UK and internationally. In this session he takes us through the Exile books of the Old Testament, looking at the history and the part they play in the bigger picture of the Bible.

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NOTES

Exile Literature

Introduction

Division, Idolatry and Challenge

Dates – 931 – 791   
Key Threat – Aram / Syria   
Historical Passages – 1 Kings 12 – 2 Kings 13 2 Chronicles 10-25

Prophets – Elijah (Israel), Micaiah (Israel), Elisha (Israel)

Centrepiece – Destruction of the house of Baal Fall of the Omride dynasty à Davidic revival under Joash

Deportation, Injustice and Rescue

Dates – 791 – 687

Key Threat – Assyria

Historical Passages – 2 Kings 14-20 2 Chronicles 26-32

Prophets – Isaiah (Judah), Hosea (Israel), Amos (Israel), Jonah (Assyria), Micah (Judah), Nahum (Assyria), Huldah (Judah) 

Centrepiece – Destruction of Bethel Fall of the northern kingdom à Davidic revival under Hezekiah 

Decline, Reform and Collapse

Dates – 687 – 586

Key Threat – Babylon (Egypt also significant)

Historical – Passages 2 Kings 21-25 2 Chronicles 33-36 

Prophets – Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Habbakuk, Zephaniah 

Centrepiece – Destruction of Jerusalem temple Fall of the southern kingdom à Davidic revival under Jehoiachin

EZEKIEL

Ezekiel a trainee priest.

622BC.

“May God strengthen him” – Ezekiel.

In exile, Ezekiel became a prophet.

“Like a city”.

Ezekiel lived amongst the exiles in houses made with baked mud bricks.

He had to act out a number of his prophecies.

 The vision of Ezekiel 1 is probably the most epic and dramatic theophany (appearance of God) in the Bible

– A windstorm coming from the north, and a huge cloud with brightness all around it

– Fire flashing from within the cloud, and gleaming metal in the midst of it

– From the middle come four living creatures – humanlike, with four wings

  • They have four faces: of a human (ruler of creation on God’s behalf), a lion (king of wild animals), an ox (strongest of domestic animals), and an eagle (most powerful of the birds)
  • Their wings touch each other, forming an outward-looking square
  • Collectively, they resemble fire, with torches moving between them, a fire in the middle, and lightning flashing out of them  

 – Each living creature has a wheel-within-a-wheel (interlocking at 90 degrees, presumably) next to them

– The spirit of the living creature is within the wheels

– Over the heads of the living creatures is a gigantic crystal expanse (Carson: an upside-down crystal wok) 

– When their wings move, it sounds like the mighty tumult of an army. When the voice above them is heard, they let down their wings and fall silent

– Above the expanse is a throne, like sapphire, surrounded by rainbows of living colour

– Seated on the throne is one with a human appearance: gleaming metal from the waist up and fire from the waist down

 “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Yahweh”. Translation: it kind of looked a tiny bit like something that was ever-so-slightly like this, but that doesn’t even get close to describing God. 

Ezekiel 37 – Stages in Ezekiel’s Prophetic Vision.

Stage 1.

Stage 2.

Stage 3.

Stage 4.

Stage 5.

Stage 6.  

 

Ezekial 47 – The River of God

The further we go in mission from the temple the deeper the rivers – see parallels in Genesis 2:8-14 and Revelation 22:1-2.

 DANIEL

Daniel (and his 3 friends) were taken to Babylon in the first batch of exiles.

The purpose of the book of Daniel was to prepare God’s people to live under predominantly pagan governments which were often antagonistic to their faith.

In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar decided on building a massive gold statue, 90 feet tall and a foot wide.

“As a whole, the story relates how the men are put on the spot, denounced, interrogated, executed, delivered, and promoted. The arrogant king is humbled, the faithful Jews are exalted”, John Goldingay.

 WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM DANIEL?

a. Learn where you can compromise and where you must not.

• These guys chose their battles.

• Food laws. Why? Because the food laws and other Old Testament laws kept Israel as a separate nation.

• They refused to give glory to Government that should only be given to God.

 b. How do we react under great pressure?

• Pressure from authority.

• Pressure from conformity.

• Pressure from intimidation.

• Hebrews 4:16. 

  DANIEL – INTRODUCTION TO APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE 

• ““Apocalyptic” uses “cosmic” or “other worldly” language to describe “this worldly” realities or “spiritual” significance. E.g. the sun darkened, the stars falling, refer not to the collapse of the space-time world but to the startling and “cosmically” significant events such as the fall of great empires.”1

• The 3 sections of Scripture most associated with “apocalyptic” are Daniel (last 6 chapters), Revelation and the Temple discourses of Jesus.

 

DANIEL CHAPTER 7

These beasts represent the “demonic” and cruel, exploitation aspect of human government.

“In the meantime the Israelites were to live out their faith in a Gentile world under circumstances that would make it more and more difficult to do so. They had to count on the sovereignty of God to sustain them generation by generation, crisis by crisis. They also had to trust the power of God to control the flow of world empires as they rose and fell. God’s agenda is never in jeopardy; nevertheless, they were to be prepared for the long term.

Even Christ’s people today are not exactly thrilled over that word. We tend to prefer a quick-fix approach rather than the long view of discipleship. Not only Daniel 8 but Jesus himself has taught us better. He said we will ‘hear of wars and rumours of wars’, that ‘nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom’; but these are not the sign of the end, they are simply the way things will be in the present age. And it is in and through these bumps and jumps and lumps of history that we are to prove faithful.”2

JEREMIAH

• Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible (except for Psalms). “Jeremiah stood out among the citizens of that uncertain world as a man of vision; where most people saw only turmoil and uncertainty. He perceived the hand of God at work in the crises of his world and delivered a message… that addressed both his own age and subsequent generations.”3

• God spoke to Jeremiah. The best thing is to surrender. A completely unpopular message to a nationalistic people.

• Many were taken into captivity.

• Hope – 70 years. 

• Jeremiah was counter cultural and unpopular.

JEREMIAH AND JESUS

• Matt 16:13-16.

• Why did people think “You are like Jeremiah”?

• Jesus similarly stood against prevailing opinion on the same issues.

• The Temple.

• A new covenant.

• Jesus wept.

• Unlike Jeremiah, Jesus forgave his enemies; Jeremiah cursed them!

• Jeremiah brought a counter cultural message that nobody else was saying. Jeremiah 29:4-5 & 7.

• A new way of working for the Kingdom.

• “We must not form a subculture in which we externally dress and talk differently avoid certain gross behaviours, but internally we have the same values as the surrounding culture (e.g. believers may not smoke or drink too much or have sex outside of marriage, yet in their core beings they may be as materialistic and individualistic, and status or image conscious as the society around.)…rather we should form a counter culture. This is the reverse of a “subculture” – we are to be externally quite like the surrounding culture (positive towards and conversant with it) without jargon and other Christian trappings – yet in worldview, values and lifestyle, demonstrate chastity, simplicity, humility and self-sacrifice.4 He goes on to say “Jeremiah was a proponent of counter culture in Jeremiah 29.” Tim Keller.

ESTHER

The Jewish feast of Purim.

“Humour takes the edge off horror and makes it possible to read a story we would not otherwise be able to read.”5

King Xerxes, “Ahasuerus” “King Headache”.

Vashti dishonoured and shamed King Headache. “In honour based societies shaming constitutes a grave offence which regularly produces the most extreme responses.”6

Then search for a new queen.

Esther.

Mordecai.

Haman, an Agagite.

A date chosen by Pur (i.e. lot).

Key statement from Mordecai – Esther 4:14.

Esther and Mordecai were totally immersed in the Persian culture.

We may feel obliged to make compromises. Not as extreme ones as Esther.

They took advantage of “favour”.

They seized the moment of destiny at great personal risk.

 

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION

I. When did the captivity end? 70 years after going to Babylon? Or later – significance of 490 years?

II. What does the “Captivity Literature” teach us for living in “post Christendom” UK? 

Appendix

 1 NT Wright, “Jesus and the Victory of God”, p513

2 Dale Ralph Davies (BST), The Message of Daniel.

3 Word Biblical Commentary – Jeremiah 1-25, page xxx, Peter C Craigie.

4 Advancing The Gospel Into The 21st Century – Tim Keller – based on his plenary remarks at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the Mission America Coalition.

5 Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther For Everyone, John Goldingay, pg 164.

6 Tynedale Old Testament Commentaries – Esther, Debra Reid, pg 70

 

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