The Jewish diaspora begins as early as 722 B.C. when Assyria destroyed Samaria and deported some of the population to other Assyrian cities. For Judah, the exile began before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Babylon began deporting key people to Babylon to help integrate Jews in the empire.
The scattering of the Jewish people throughout the world is the foundation for the hope or restoration to the land in the future as the twelve tribes of Israel. The Diaspora will eventually come to an end, the land will be repopulated, Jewish cities will be rebuilt and the people will worship God in Jerusalem.
During the exile many Jews living outside the land looked forward to a time when God would gather the twelve tribes from the nations and return them to the Land. For example, the Psalms of Solomon were written sometime between dates from 70 to 45 B.C. and reflect the thinking of “devout Jews to the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans in the first century B.C.” (OTP 2:640; Trafton, “Solomon, Psalms of” in ABD 6:115-117).
PsSol 11:1-3 (OTP) Sound in Zion the signal trumpet of the sanctuary; announce in Jerusalem the voice of one bringing good news, for God has been merciful to Israel in watching over them. 2 Stand on a high place, Jerusalem, and look at your children, from the east and the west assembled together by the Lord. 3 From the north they come in the joy of their God; from far distant islands God has assembled them.
PsSol 17:28-31 (OTP) He will distribute them upon the land according to their tribes; the alien and the foreigner will no longer live near them. 29 He will judge peoples and nations in the wisdom of his righteousness. 30 And he will have gentile nations serving him under his yoke, and he will glorify the Lord in (a place) prominent (above) the whole earth. And he will purge Jerusalem (and make it) holy as it was even from the beginning, 31 (for) nations to come from the ends of the earth to see his glory, to bring as gifts her children who had been driven out, and to see the glory of the Lord with which God has glorified her.
Notice in these two examples the children of Zion are gathered from the four corners of the world back to mother Zion (recalling Isaiah 54). This “signal trumpet” sounds from the Temple and is an announcement of “good news” since the Jews living in the Diaspora will once again live in the land. In fact, the land will be divided into tribal divisions as it was in Joshua first took the land, but they will be ruled by a son of David (17:21) who will smash the nations (17:23-25) and Israel will once again be a holy people (17:26). Jerusalem itself will be holy, but the Gentile nations will come from the ends of the earth to offer worship (17:31).
Even Philo of Alexandria expected the Diaspora to return to the Land of Israel. In the following example, diaspora Jews will suddenly be restored to freedom at the sound of a signal. Masters will be so surprised at the sudden change they will set their Jewish slaves free. These claves will return to a land which is abundant in wealth and agricultural prosperity.
Philo, Rewards, 164 For even though they may be at the very extremities of the earth, acting as slaves to those enemies who have led them away in captivity, still they shall all be restored to freedom in one day, as at a given signal; their sudden and universal change to virtue causing a panic among their masters; for they will let them go, because they are ashamed to govern those who are better than themselves.
Philo, Rewards, 168 And when they come cities will be rebuilt which but a short time ago were in complete ruins, and the desert will be filled with inhabitants, and the barren land will change and become fertile, and the good fortune of their fathers and ancestors will be looked upon as a matter of but small importance, on account of the abundance of wealth of all kinds which they will have at the present moment, flowing forth from the graces of God as from ever-running fountains, which will thus confer vast wealth separately on each individual, and also on all the citizens in common, to an amount beyond the reach even of envy.
It is this age of prosperity the Jews will look for as they return from the Exile. These eschatological expectations increase throughout the period and have a profound influence on the material found in the New Testament.
But to what extent are these hopes a kind of fantasy for people living in distant lands hoping for a restoration of the “good old days”? Or, are these the hopes of Judeans now living in a barren and oppressed land, people who are looking forward to a future liberation? Is this kind of hope a form escapism? Or more troubling, have Christians transformed some of these Jewish hopes for restoration into a hope for heaven?