Hope for the Future during the Exile

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.

trumpet-zionThe 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?


7 thoughts on “Hope for the Future during the Exile

  1. Israel’s hope during the Diaspora was for their people to be reunited. This stands as a beautiful ballad as Israel desires to be united with its people in Jerusalem. Isaiah 54, gives us a glimpse of future blessings for Israel. This chapter of Isaiah instills hope of a future where Israel is reunited in a free nation. Israel desires much, while they live under the thumb of rulers. Israel is focusing on new hope and a future restoration of their society that has been established by God. That is a wonderful thing to hope for, but are they missing out on asking the question of why God has them under the authority of the greatest world powers of the age? I believe God is more clever in these dark times of Israel, than people give him credit for. Anthony Tomasino writes, in his book, Judaism before Jesus, that Alexander wanted to free eastern civilization from its dark barbaric society. He wanted to bring the light of the Greek culture to the eastern world. After conquering the world, he began to enjoy its culture and developed the desire to blend Greek and Persian Society. It is frustrating, but Israel dealt with the more difficult hand of Greece. There was some desire for Greek culture to be drawn in by Eastern culture not just vice-versa. If Israel would have been more loving to their cruel rulers, they could have changed history more than rebelling. Israel is obsessed with trying to repeat the Judge’s Cycle of old in their hopes of restoring their kingdom. If Israel would have just loved their enemies their future would have been imminently brighter with the promises of God. The children of Israel would have rallied to that. Perhaps Israel’s focus was too far in the future, instead of on learning from the present.

    • You’ve made some really good points, Ben. I would like to add that during this period the people were eager to experience the promises of God’s blessing of prosperity, expansion, peace, and the return of God’s own glorious presence to the building of the temple, but were, instead, met with economic privation, crop failure, pestilence, and prolonged drought (Malachi 3:10). On top of that, they continued to experience severe opposition and spiritual destitution. Thus, the returning Jews high expectations of a hopeful future when returning from exile, and finding that they were the ones who would have to restore it to its former glory. In Anthony Tomasino’s book, Judaism Before Jesus, he mentions that this future hope can either be an immediate fulfillment for the age in which they were given; an eschatological significance for the time of the consummation of God’s salvation story; and an ongoing fulfillment, an ethical or theological significance for God’s people of any time and place. It may not be viewed as the type of restoration that they were hoping for, but as time progresses, one can see the ongoing fulfillment.

  2. One question brought up in the forum that I wish to expand on more is the question, “Or, are these the hopes of Judeans now living in a barren and oppressed land, people who are looking forward to a future liberation? ” As Judeans faced oppression within the midst of an exile it’s hard to imagine Jews not wanting to or even resist the idea for the likes of a future liberation. Hope for the future was perhaps one of the only positive factors that may have inhibited their thoughts, perhaps primarily due to the oppression they were in fact facing both economically and morally. As was mentioned within the forum post many people including Philo of Alexandria, indicated that the Jews would even return to to the land of Israel (Long forum). If the common consensus among MANY people was in fact that the remaining amount of diaspora Jews would be returned to the promise land, then it does explain why some of the Jews would have “Great Expectations” or hopes for a riddance of the oppression or other positive outcomes to be determined in the future.

  3. Your question at the end “Or more troubling, have Christians transformed some of these Jewish hopes for restoration into a hope for heaven?” makes me wonder why would we consider it troubling that Christians take the hope for a new Israel which is in fact described in Revelation specifically the new Jerusalem. Though for the Jews their hope may not have been looking directly at this eschatological age the likely source of their hope is from the verses throughout the Old Testament that point towards the Messiah and his new kingdom.

  4. I think that at the time these were written and in the following years, this was mostly an expression of their hope of future liberation. This desire is seen in their attempts to rebel the ruling Roman Empire and in their perceptions that the Messiah would ultimately overthrow their oppressors through glorious revolution. Now, I would think that they are more so hoping for a restoration to the glory of the old kingdom of Israel. Is it an escape for them? I’m not sure I would call it that. For them, it is true hope that they cling to and goal to pursue. Have Christians interpreted it as a hope for heaven? I would think so but I’m not sure how I could see that as troubling. Is it troubling because it implies robbing the Jews of this hope of a restored earthly kingdom of Israel?

  5. In some ways we can look at these hopes as escapism, because history has shown it difficult for a certain group of members in society to revert back to “glory days/the good ol’ days”. Even in desolation, rebuilding hopes or a culture can lead to something better or, more adjusted for the times and surroundings. As for restoration of the kingdom of Israel, I am reminded of a sermon I once gave where the disciples asked Jesus before he peaced out into the heavens, asking him if he was going to restore the kingdom of Israel. Jesus essentially told them that would happen according to God’s agenda and, here we are, quite a ways down the line from there.

    Hope for freedom can be tied to the foundations of ones’ religion (or at least, in most cases). Unfortunately because of the emphasized idea of restoring the kingdom of Israel, both Jews and Christians alike find themselves in a bind.

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