Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 9 – The Prophets and Writings
The term “diaspora” is usually reserved to refer to a group of people that has been scattered from a single location. In this case, the term is used to refer to the scattering of Jews from the Promised land. But this particular diaspora is only a part of God’s larger plans for His people.
Our God is a God of overflowing love. His love caused Him to create us so that His love could overflow from Himself to us. He wanted His image-bearers to carry out His mission of overflowing love and overflow from Eden to fill the entire earth. When we rebelled against His overflowing desire so that we could make a name for ourselves instead, He confused our language at Babel so that we would continue to flow out over the earth. When God wanted to prepare His Holy Nation for His mission, He scattered them to Egypt. When Israel rebelled against His mission of overflowing love, He scattered them from the Promised Land. The Son of God came in overflowing love to offer Himself in sacrifice in order to restore us to Himself. When the scattered Jews from many nations gathered for Pentecost, God reversed the action of Babel, and His message of overflowing love was shared in many languages so that the message of overflowing love would be carried to the Jews in many nations. To continue the overflow, God worked with Peter and Paul so that His love could flow out to the Gentiles as well. God further ensured the flowing out by using the Romans to scatter both Jews and Christians from Jerusalem. To this day, when our focus is more on building our Christian institutions, becoming too ingrown, God continues to scatter His people so that His message of overflowing love will reach more people in more places across the earth.
This program of overflowing creates a Dynamic Tension between our scattering and our unity. It would be well if our scattering was motivated by love so that we would continue to stay unified as we scatter. Sadly though, our scattering is often due to divisiveness rather than love, countermanding the intent that the world will recognize that we are disciples of Jesus because of our love.
[Bible references: I Kings 6:12; 2 Kings 17, 25; 2 Chronicles 36:15-16]
The covenant God made with Israel had the proviso “if you follow my commands.” Israel continually demonstrated its inability to do that and God’s judgement followed. The nation of Israel would suffer the consequences. The first sign of the consequences manifested itself in the splitting of Israel into two kingdoms.
After that, the northern kingdom of Israel was the first to collapse in 535BC with the invasion of the Assyrians whose policy was to scatter the captured inhabitants throughout their empire and replace them with Assyrians. These northern tribes seem to have been totally assimilated into the Assyrian empire and would not be heard from again in history.
In 722BC, the Babylonians conquered the southern kingdom of Judah. The best and the brightest of Judah were taken as captives to the capital of Babylonia for “retraining” so that they could contribute to the Babylonian society. It was at this point that the nation of Israel would now be referred to Jews. It was from this point on that, despite the return of some of the Jews to their homeland, most Jews would now be living outside their homeland.
[Bible references: Jeremiah 29:1-23; Daniel; Esther; Ezekiel]
During this exile, the Jews as they would now be called, had to become more deliberate if they were going to preserve their culture. It was during this time that the Jews would begin to collect all their writings in order to begin to determine what would be their scripture. They had the writings of Moses, but they had to determine what else should be included.
During this time, they focused more seriously on worshipping Yahweh. Before this time, the biblical and archeological records indicate that Israel had a habit of adopting the worship of any idols of the culture they were in contact with. But now they had to preserve their culture while living amid a dominant foreign culture. Although the origins are a little obscure, as temple worship was no longer available, synagogues as a permanent institution developed during the exile.
The books of Daniel, Esther and Ezekiel give examples of how the Jews were able to thrive, even while experiencing opposition, while the nation was in exile: Daniel as an exceptional administrator, Esther as queen to the emperor and Ezekiel as a prophet.
From this time forward, most Jews have remained outside their homeland with no access to the one temple in Jerusalem. It was during this time that local synagogues were created, with worship now being focused either in the home or at the synagogue.
 Margalit, Ruth. “In Search of David’s Lost Empire;”Syace, A.H. “Polytheism in Primitive Israel;” Zevit, Ziony. Review of “The Religions of Ancient Israel: A Parallactic Approach” by Hess. Richard Israel’s susceptibility to idol worship was so extensive, that archeological evidence indicates continuous polytheism
 Waltke, Bruce. “How We Got Our Old Testament;” Hirsch, Emil G. Blau L, Kohler, Kaufmann. Schmidt, Nathaniel “Bible Canon:”
 Gayle, Damien. “How idolatry continued in the Kingdom of Judah: Israeli dig uncovers temple and icons dating back to Old Testament era”
 Bacher, Wilhelm and Dembitz, Lewis N. “Synagogue”
Biological life flourishes because of its diversity. Different types of plants and animals allow life to exist and even thrive in extremely different types of environments. How do different types of personalities allow groups of people to thrive?
Read John 13:35. How is our love strengthened by our learning to love people different from ourselves?
From the beginning of humanity we have resisted other people having authority over us. What can help us trust other authority?
Read Jeremiah 25:11-12. It seemed hopeless. The unfaithful nation of Israel was no more. But promises were made by a faithful God who would eventually restore them. What are God’s promises to us?
Worship in exile
Synagogues were an innovation not even hinted at by Moses. Later on, Jesus gave no suggestion that He had a problem with synagogues. What does that suggest about innovations in the worship style of different congregations?
Read Jeremiah 29:1-23. What did Jeremiah say that the exiles were to do while they were in exile?