Exile: Maundy Thursday, April 14 – Daniel


Others had spoken for God to those who claimed to carry his name. Not Daniel. In Daniel’s story we see the consummate exile: God’s people completely divested of political power, deported slaves in a foreign country.

Daniel had been resettled when Babylon exiled the leaders and the educated from Judah, and proves to be a wise and winsome leader in the midst of a culture that has its own new version of morality. It’s hard to find a better example of Jeremiah’s advice to the exiles, to seek the welfare of the country of exile (Jer 29:4-7). Time and again, Babylon prospers because of Daniel’s devotion and effort. In some ways, Daniel is the token minority: his food is different, his customs are different, he is in constant threat of losing his job or his life, and everyone is always looking to find fault with him. In spite of this, Daniel works harder and is more competent than any of his contemporaries—knowing their own literature, language, and magic better than they did! For all these reasons he’s loved . . . and hated. 

After breaking a law made especially for trapping people like him, Daniel is sentenced to death, placed in a pit with a stone rolled over the entrance and sealed. This righteous man, in the pit of his worst nightmare, is not torn to shreds by the vicious animals surrounding him. Instead, he is raised out of the darkness of the pit, has his life restored, and is completely vindicated. Meanwhile, his enemies, poetically (at least as poetic as death by lion can be) suffer the defeat they intended for him. It wouldn’t be the last time the stone rolled away revealing how God’s kingdom works.

Time and again, Daniel watched the long arm of the Lord reach into Babylon, reminding him and them who was the real King of the World. No one, no king, no nation, was beyond his reach. He reached inside the furnace (3:25), He could drive a dictator out to pasture (4:28-37), and He literally put the writing on the wall of the rave-turned-orgy in front of the most powerful man on earth (5:1-9). With all the violence and all the upheaval as the nations raged like animals, God still laughed at them (Ps 2). They didn’t know who they caught a glimpse of in the furnace, protecting His boys. He was the stone who turned world empires to dust and filled the world (2:34-35). He was the hand over the lion’s mouth (6:22). He was the human Daniel saw rolling in on thunderheads (7:13) given all power and authority (Mt 28:19-20) and worshiped by every tribe, nation, and tongue in an everlasting, invincible kingdom (Rev 7:9). Daniel’s God was a king. Not just King of the Jews, the King of Kings. 

In chapter 9, Daniel repents for the sins of his ancestors. Remembering the curses from Moses’ day, Daniel also acts like Moses, standing in the gap: confessing the sins of his sinful nation while begging for God’s mercy on that nation. And God answers in a peculiar way. He lets Daniel know that instead of the 70 years Jeremiah had predicted, the exile will actually last 490 years (70×7), confirmation that the small band led by Nehemiah and company had not ended anything.

Daniel reminds us there is no more profound act of resistance to oppressive world systems than prayer. Instead of kowtowing to authority figures to be sucked in and pulled along by either promises of promotion (5:17) or threats of violence (2:17), Daniel prays. Every day, he kneels before God so he can stand up to world powers. He is not unkind, he simply tells it like it is, calling Nebuchadnezzer to change his ways for his own good and for the sake of the oppressed (4:27). Daniel had everything to lose by simply praying. Yet he practiced civil disobedience by showing everyone to whom he bowed the knee, from where his power and agency came. He would not, could not, change anything before acknowledging his dependence on God. He staked his life on God revealing what he should say and do instead of his ability to figure it out (2:17-27). What about us? 

The whole time he resisted oppressive systems, suffered the pain of marginalization, stuck his neck out for his friends and enemies, was threatened with death multiple times, and then gave his best energies to the country that had enslaved him and killed his family, Daniel probably wondered why God had asked him to seek the prosperity of this place, these people. Our recourse is not escaping the systems of this world. No. Even while the nations rage and ravage around us like animals, no one can ever stop us from serving the true King, here and now on this planet. After all, it is all his, and He is always with us.

Watch: Bible Project video on Daniel

Listen: Daniel 1-12 (especially Daniel 1-6, 9)

Exile: Palm Sunday, April 10 – Jeremiah


Jeremiah paces around the room, unable to quench this fire eating away at his bones. His faithful scribe Baruch looks up every now and then, concerned, as Jeremiah dictates a letter to those exiled in Babylon. 

Jeremiah had been born as King Josiah was inaugurated. He probably entered his ministry as Zephaniah began lambasting Josiah and his government. An Assyrian empire had leveled the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Many of the people were carted off to Assyria and resettled there. Other people from other defeated countries were resettled into Israel, effectively obliterating their cultural and religious heritage. Already God’s words were coming true (Deut 28:36-37). 

Assyria had turned to do the same to Judah, but God had intervened. Yet, even after the Assyrian army finished off the Northern Kingdom, and Judah celebrated that they had been spared, Jeremiah had stood in God’s temple and shouted, “Do not think for a minute this place makes us special! Look at the way we’re treating immigrants and foster kids! Look at our senseless abuse and addictions!” God himself had told him, then and there, not to even pray for the nation (7:1-16). The threat of exile still loomed over them. 

No matter how hard they had tried, no matter how many times God warned the kings of Judah, they would not listen. Several times, Jeremiah had received death threats and even attempts at his life. No one wanted to hear this message. All throughout their culture, the religious experts were predicting peace and revival. But there would be no peace (8:11). Hadn’t Micah told them their wound was incurable? (Jer 15:18; 30:12) Why were they slapping around band aids trying to preserve their institutions? 

The Southern Kingdom must have thought they were lucky. Maybe they could dodge Moses’ prediction (Deut 32)? Maybe they had already skirted disaster and would just skip to God blessing them again? They had narrowly avoided Assyria’s army. But they had not escaped the curses the had sworn upon themselves. Another army finally showed up. Assyria had faded, but Babylon was just getting started. They raided the country and exiled most leaders and educated people to Babylon. It is to those people, those surviving leaders, that Jeremiah is writing. 

“This is what God is saying to those of you He carried off into exile . . . purse the peace of Babylon! There is no plan for insurgency. This new normal will not be over anytime soon, as some are saying. Things are not going back to the way they were. So plant yourselves where you are: live your life. You’re going to be here for a long time. But don’t worry, I know the plans I have for you . . . And I’ll bring you back one day.”  

God had specifically told Jeremiah to not pray for these people (7:16; 11:14; 14:11). How ironic it is that these people are now told to pray for Babylon (1). But this was part of God disciplining them. As Moses had seen, their hearts were still not loyal to God. But one day, Jeremiah had Baruch take this down: 

I’m going to marry Israel/Judah again. Not like before when I led them out of Egypt and they were unfaithful to me, even though we had just gotten married. No, I’m going to commit myself to them again. Only this time, I’m going to put My law in their minds and inscribe it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people (31:31-33).

A glimpse of hope for the future.


  1. Michael L. Brown, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 358-59.

Watch: Bible Project video on Jeremiah

Listen: Jeremiah 29

Exile: Wednesday, April 6 – Zephaniah


This man is no Amos: the shepherd prophet with no notable lineage or profession. Imagine, instead, a regal figure from royal blood, most likely of African descent, standing before the nation’s leaders and religious advisors (1). 

The anonymous army promised by Amos had come to the Northern Kingdom. Assyria had obliterated Israel. Perhaps the kingdom to the south thought the real problem had been dealt with. True, they weren’t perfect. But they were the part of the country serious about following God. 

Something miraculous had happened after Micah prophesied against the Southern Kingdom. The king (Hezekiah) had listened. “Micah’s powerful voice changed Hezekiah’s heart, reshaped Judah’s policies and so saved the nation from immediate catastrophe (cf. Jer. 26:17–19)” (2). Of course, the next king offended God more than ever. But now, the current king, Josiah, had implemented several aggressive reforms to again steer the nation back to God. 

Again, miraculously, someone had found a scroll of Moses’ words from Deuteronomy in the temple as they were renovating it. The young king asked them to read him the words written on the scroll. And as the blessings and curses (Duet 27-28), and the foreboding song of Moses (Duet 32), rolled off their lips, King Josiah’s heart grew heavier and heavier. Finally, he tore his clothes, barking out orders, “Go, inquire of Yahweh for me and for the people and for all of Judah concerning the words of this scroll that was found. For the wrath of Yahweh that is kindled against us is great because our ancestors did not listen to the words of this scroll to do according to all that is written concerning us!” (2 Kings 22:13). 

Here stands Zephaniah, a devout believer and elite member of society in the middle of a reform movement, most likely bringing some helpful insight for turning the place around. Maybe they nodded in satisfaction as one of their own railed against the cultures and countries surrounding them (2:4-15), as God threatened to turn the unassailable world power, Assyria, into a spooky abandoned house infested with animals (2:15). But their smiles turn upside down when he turns on them. They are ravenous lions and wolves, he says (3:3-4), as he blasts every level of leadership. He warns, God wasn’t going fix things (2:12). God was still going to work every morning, never failing to bring justice (3:5), and yet there was no level to which they would not stoop to do their own work instead of His! And now God’s about to wipe the slate clean with fire (1:2-3; 3:8). This man may have delivered the first “turn or burn” sermon (literally!).

Though other prophets spoke of the “Day of the Lord,” it is front and center for Zephaniah. The Day of the Lord is Yahweh’s Day, when He would unleash the consequences of people’s decisions, and their collective cultural impact. Since Moses, God had promised Israel blessings and curses depending on whether they listened to Him or not. Zephaniah now feels the tremors growing closer as a foreign army marches to invade, bringing chaos with them, bringing the exile Moses promised. They had already watched this promise come to pass in the northern kingdom. Now, it was their turn.

Zephaniah, whose name means “Yahweh has hidden,” echoes the words of the pagan king of Nineveh from the story of Jonah, when he says “Seek Yahweh, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zeph 2:3). With God’s cleansing inferno of justice also comes His purifying love. Just as always, God will use calamity to remove humanity’s impurities. As three young men–Daniel’s friends–will later discover when that foreign army finally arrives, the safest place to be when the fire comes is at the blazing center, talking with the one who himself is light (Dan 3), “no one to make them afraid” (Zeph 3:13). The southern kingdom would feel the blaze of that cleansing, holy, convicting fire . . . Would they still trust God, even after the painful purification? Or would they allow it to consume them? What about us?


  1. J. Daniel Hays, From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race, Series Ed. D. A. Carson, New Studies in Biblical Theology – 14, (Downers Grove, IL: Apollos, InterVarsity Press, 2003), 123.
  2. Bruce Waltke, “Micah,” from , Obadiah, Jonah and Micah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 26, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 150.

Watch: Bible Project video on Zephaniah; Bible Project video on The Day of the Lord

Listen: Zephaniah 1-3

Exile: Sunday, April 3 – Micah


It would be easy to get the idea that all the problems were in Israel’s Northern Kingdom, while the other half of the country was unscathed in Judah. Micah clears up that misconception. Micah cried out against the false teaching of overconfidence and self-indulgence of Judah’s talking heads: the false prophets. Micah speaks on behalf of, not the upper crust of society, but the commoner, the country folk. He hones his sights in on Judah’s leadership: kings and leaders who hate good and love evil, and have built their society on bloodshed and violence (3:1-10). 

Micah did not call anyone to change. From his perspective the people’s “wound is incurable” (1:9). In this way, he is one of the first radicals. While not trying to tear down the institutions of Judah, Micah did discern the political leaders were bringing curses down on everyone’s heads. He subpoenas everyone into court to be judged by God (6:1). The politicians, prophets, and pastors of his day were all so stubborn that Judah “could only be changed by the dissolution of the structures in which they trusted and the institutions that provided the cover for their underhanded actions” (1). He lets it slip that the two kingdoms of Israel will be sacked and led away by not one but two nations—Assyria and Babylon (4:8-13). You see, “the false prophets saw no connection between Israel’s sin and the rampaging army, but the true prophet saw the Lord marching above it (Micah 1:3–7) fulfilling the curses he had threatened when he gave Israel her moral covenant at the beginning” (2).

Yet there was future hope. Micah believed history was the key to the future. Yes, looking back reminded of him of his people’s faithlessness and Moses’ promise of exile. But he also remembered God’s unshakeable integrity and His promises to restore. They were still waiting on someone to rescue them, someone who could fundamentally change their hearts toward God. Another king, perhaps?

You see, God’s government was opposed to Judah’s corrupt government. His kingdom superseded concerns about national borders, encompassing the whole world (4:1-4, 13; 7:16-17) (3). And it was over this kingdom that Micah prophesied another king, like King David, would come from no-account Bethlehem. Some future year in Jerusalem, one chosen by God because of his humble heart (and not his bonne fides) would shepherd God’s flock again, comprising people of all tribes, nations, and ethnicities (4:2; 5:2-4). What is required in this kingdom? Not great acts of sacrifice, not lavish pomp and circumstance, but “to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8). 

In the final chapter of Micah, the prophet personifies the nation with a beautiful proclamation. A representative voice–speaking as the whole nation–acknowledges their sin, that they stand doomed before God, and will face the consequences. Yet . . . the speaker cries out with confidence, “But as for me, I will look to Yahweh; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy! For though I fall I shall arise; when I sit in darkness Yahweh will be a light for me. I will bear the rage of Yahweh, for I have sinned against him” (7:7-9). Little did they know, their king, their Good Shepherd from Bethlehem, would become this figure, standing in the place of his doomed people, yet, ultimately, rising from the darkness. Darkness, suffering, and, yes, even exile, were all a segue—part of how their hearts would be changed. 


  1. C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 119.
  2. Bruce Waltke, “Micah,” from , Obadiah, Jonah and Micah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 26, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 151.
  3. Bullock, 119.

Watch: Bible Project video on Micah

Listen: Micah 1-7

Exile: Sunday, March 27 – Hosea


Probably around the same time Amos arrived in town, at the idolatrous temple in Bethel, God was asking another prophet in the Northern Kingdom to do something even more outrageous: “Get yourself a prostitute wife and have some kids with her.” Of course, Hosea’s peers did not understand. Hosea was likely a middle to upper-class man. He was supposed to be an upstanding citizen. But his life decisions led people to say he was a “fool” and “out of his mind” (9:7). 

In some ways, the nation of Israel was founded from the beginning on idolatry, as the people quickly made a golden calf and called it their God, Yahweh. Now, the people are again worshiping God at a golden calf in Bethel. Yet they say they know God. This claim would be their undoing. It was one thing not to worship God—but to worship a distorted image of God–while still calling it God–was fatal.

Through the risk and suffering in this prophet’s personal life, God communicated His own grief and spurned love with His people. Hosea models the gut-wrenching risk of love, especially the grief of God trying to love the people He created. Perhaps Paul was reflecting on Hosea’s life and marriage when he later wrote that our marriages tell a story of love: ideally, the story of God loving his people (Eph. 5:32).

Hosea compares Israel to a “silly dove, easily deceived and senseless—now calling to Egypt, now turning to Assyria. When they go, I will throw my net over them; I will pull them down like birds of the air . . . I will catch them” (7:11-12). This description is a callback to Jonah (Jonah means dove in Hebrew). Just like Jonah cared more about God blessing himself or his country (crying over a weed but getting angry when God saved an entire city) so these people don’t mourn over the right things but rather cry when their comfort is disturbed (7:14) The nation does not realize the dangerous situation she’s in because of her outward prosperity. Her corrupted priorities were symptoms of the malaise that had crept in through their idol worship—their unfaithfulness to the God who had rescued them in the first place. They cared so little about the right things their strength was being sapped and they didn’t even know it (7:8-9). They were already living the curse. 

Despite Israel immediately prostituting herself to that golden calf, God was said to have married the nation, the people of Israel, when He entered in covenant with them at Mt. Sinai. Now, even though she had continued to abandon Him to play the whore with every other idol in sight, He still wanted to be with her. However, just as Gomer, Hosea’s wife, was sold into slavery in the interim, God’s people too would be led back into slavery. They would be exiled. But . . . as the story played out before their eyes between the prophet and the prostitute, God wouldn’t be angry with them forever. Just like Israel in Egypt, just like Hosea and Gomer, He would buy his people back out of slavery to be with them again.

Watch: Bible Project video on Hosea

Listen: Hosea 1-4

Exile: Sunday, March 20 – Amos


Imagine the haggard shepherd, Amos, fresh off his journey from the Southern Kingdom (not six miles from Bethlehem). Imagine him stepping into the sanctuary in Bethel, where worship of God and country had been molded together in the shape of a bull. Imagine him dusting himself off and shutting the worship service down with breaking news from God. 

Tracking along with the opening chapters of Amos, we can again imagine Amos on his way up to the capital, calling out the surrounding nations as they fight against the God of Creation, before leveling the charge against the divided kingdom of Judah and Israel (Amos 1 & 2). Then, when he arrives at the temple in Bethel, he calls out every family sitting there (3:1), the housewives living in luxury while they disregard others (4:1), the at-ease upper-echelon (6:1-3), the pastors, politicians, and entertainers (6:5) are all held responsible. 

Not since Moses’ warning in Deuteronomy had a prophet reminded God’s people that the state and survival of the nation hinged on faithfulness to God. Prophets of old had spoken to the kings. Now, Amos is condemning not just the leaders, but the citizens of the Northern Kingdom.

Almost no citizen is spared other than the “poor and needy.” 

The country had experienced leisure, luxury, and security, while profiting from loopholes and pushing aside the poor (5:12). Did they not remember these were the very same curses they had called down upon their heads? But now another voice cries out on behalf of God, in the middle of their worship: “I hate this! I refuse to take one more look at your so-called worship of Me. Stop this cacophony of singing and music. Instead, let justice—that mighty river—flow and flood like a continuous stream of righteousness” (5:21-24). 

This is also the first time that a tremor is felt in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. No name is given, but dredging up the dreaded prophecy of Moses, Amos predicts exile. Another nation will come and take over their Northern Kingdom of Israel (6:14). The words had to have landed like a hammer on the congregation. 

That’s when the priest in charge of Bethel, Amaziah, had enough. He stepped forward to put an end to this uneducated shepherd’s yapping. He knew the law was on his side. He hadn’t been listening; he hadn’t heard that God was not on his side, even if the government was. Looking at this disheveled fellow, he says, “Go back to where you came from, and ply your trade in the Southern Kingdom if you’re looking for food. This is the king’s property and this is God’s house, the temple of our kingdom” (Amos 7:10-14).

But Amos doesn’t back down, “I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet. I was herding my sheep and keeping the sycamore trees when Yahweh snatched me away and sent me here. So listen up! You’ve told me to shut up. You want me to preach to someone else but not our own people. Well guess what? Disaster is coming on your family. Your land is going to be given away out from under you. And everyone in this land is going to be exiled away from it” (7:14-17). 

Amos boldly reminded Israel that–just as Moses had warned–disaster would follow their sin. His words devastated and angered those choosing sin over God. Yet his message concludes with a hope that the exiles could savor after they watched his warnings of captivity come true. God would raise up a new city of David, a new people of His own, planting them Himself, never to be uprooted (9:11-15).

Watch: Bible Project video on Amos

Listen: Amos 3-7

Exile: Sunday, March 13 – Jonah


Israel too was a country divided. The Northern Kingdom had split off years ago. They were coming out of a time of “prosperity and relative peace from pesty neighbors.” Years of fairly stable leadership had “created luxury and ease for many and spawned poverty and injustice for numerous others” (1). There had been grassroot stirrings that things were not right; a growing feeling of malignancy was creeping through the country’s moral fabric. The king at this time was a man named Jeroboam II. “He did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 14:24). His namesake, Jeroboam I, was the founder of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who had quickly steered the people of God toward idolatry (1 Kings 12).

However, in the middle of all this stands Jonah, a man of God, who speaks for God and assures the king that God will restore the borders of the land. Jonah, in his lifetime, assured the nation that others would not infringe on their territory. But actually, the story of Jonah is the story of God caring about other nations, and opposing the pride of Israel, the people known by His name—all through the same mopey, reluctant prophet. 

What we see follow in the book of Jonah is best described as satire. Perhaps, looking back, people realized just how silly this prophet was. Jonah himself was real, as seen by how Jesus references him alongside other historical figures (Matthew 12:38-42). But the book of Jonah makes a statement about the patriotic figure and his country. The people bearing the name and waving the banner GOD, if their resident “man of God” is any indication, seem to be the ones who respond least appropriately to Him. While the winds and waves obey His command, “pagans” from other countries bow the knee on a dime, and even the livestock repents when confronted with God’s word, the man of God from the people of God is vomited out by the fish that just can’t stomach his pride. 

Jonah also shows an amazing lack of awareness for his surroundings. While the sailors offer sacrifices to Yahweh overhead, he vows in the belly of the beast that if God rescues him, he will worship Him in the temple . . . presumably the temple in Bethel presided over by a cow statue. The place they called “the house of the Lord” had never had God in it! Later, he is seething over God’s patience and compassion with the Assyrians (Ex 34:6-7) . His distortion field is massive: he can’t stand God for being so good, or see how twisted his own desires are, as he weeps for a weed when God preserves the entire populace of the Assyrian capital, including their cattle.  

As Christians–God’s people who are supposed to represent him today–let’s read Jonah understanding that it was written to satirize people like us. When economic prosperity or simply a history of religiosity lead us to condemn God’s love for those we call our enemies, be careful. We may find ourselves swallowed up. Or as God asks Jonah—no matter what you think about what God is doing—“Is it right for you to be angry?”


  1.  C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 39.

Watch: Bible Project video on Jonah

Listen: Jonah 1-4

Exile: Sunday, March 6 – Moses


God had humored Moses and gone with Israel. Now it looked like a big mistake. After arriving to the land God had promised to give Abraham generations ago, nobody wants to go in! At the climax of the movie, the hero, finally able to fulfill destiny, turns back and says, “Nah” (Num 14).

Now, after the previous generation of ingrates has died off, God has once again brought the nation of Israel up to the border of the land he promised their ancestors. But this land, and the relationship with God, came with some warning labels. Before they cross the Jordan river, Moses divides the people into two groups who then scale two mountains that sit across from one another, forming a natural amphitheater. One recites all the good words, the blessings that will come if they follow God. The other group recites all the bad words, the curses that will come down on their heads should they forget God. From one side of the mountain echoed . . . 

If anyone creates something wonderful that they then secretly treat as God;
If anyone does not honor their parents;
If anyone cheats others through self-made loopholes;
If anyone mistreats or makes fun of the handicapped or helpless; 
If anyone deprives the immigrant, the refugee, the single mom, or the foster children justice;
If anyone is sexually perverted, dishonoring their family or creation;
If anyone secretly murders his fellow human; 
If anyone uses money as an excuse to kill people;
Let them be cursed (Deut 27). 

And then from other side of the valley, they heard:

If anyone listens to and follows Yahweh . . .
You will be blessed in the city and in the country;
You will be blessed by work, investments, and a family that produces and provides for you;
Yahweh will disrupt the plans of your enemies;
You will be known as unique and gifted people;
You will make whatever you do better, and bless others with your wealth;
If you listen to and follow Yahweh;
If not, all these things will flip and become curses for you.
You will suffer all the plagues I inflicted on Egypt—to set you free—if you turn and become the oppressor. Instead of rescuing you, I will send a foreign, unfeeling army to besiege you. You will be scattered all around where you can worship whatever you want. But you will have no peace. (Duet 28). 

Both groups rededicated themselves to Yahweh, signing themselves up for all the blessings and curses that would follow.

But immediately after the ceremony, God levels with Moses: not only is he going to die soon, but also God’s people are going to quickly turn away from him, and inherit all the curses they just said yes to. Even though they had just promised to live by what God said–blessings, curses, and all–they wouldn’t do it. They could do it, and Moses had urged them to choose life and remain loyal to the God that loved them (30:11-14). But their hearts would need to be circumcised, fundamentally changed, before they could truly love him with all their heart and soul (Deut. 30:6). Until then, they would experience both, blessings and curses. 

Moses already knew. He knew the character of the people and their children, whom he had led for so long. He knew the nature of his own twisted heart. They could not remain loyal for long. And so, instead of a song of celebration, Moses goes off to die after singing a song of doom over Israel. 

From the outset, the nation was founded on this story.

Watch: Bible Project video on Deuteronomy

Listen: Deuteronomy 27-33

Exile: Ash Wednesday, March 2 – The Marriage


It was possibly the biggest wedding ever planned. Yahweh had descended to the mountain. The people of Israel had consecrated themselves, preened for the ceremony. They had covenanted together and exchanged vows—but with a wrinkle. Because when God came down in his terrible glory, thunder and fire, voice like a trumpet, and power that made the mountain tremble, his bride cowered. They could not bear his voice. Instead, they sent the best man—Moses—on ahead to arrange things. They had said, “I do,” to one another with lengthy vows, done the equivalent of exchanging rings (the two stone tablets, a symbol of their covenant), and shared a meal. Then it was time for the big party. 

But first, God asked Moses to come up to him. Why not go ahead with the party? God was laying out plans for how he would literally pitch his tent among them so they could be together. They had to figure out the logistics of how this God—so good and but also so uniquely different (hear: holy)—could live with his people. No one had been near to God since before Adam and Eve had been exiled from his presence in Eden. But as God and Moses planned, all hell was breaking loose below them. 

Maybe their fidgeting was understandable. This wasn’t 40 minutes of picture-taking. They had been waiting on God and Moses for 40 days! Israel wouldn’t wait any longer; it was time to take things into their own hands. They begged Aaron to make a Yahweh for them. They would still love God . . . just, in their own way. So they spent all their money, all the wealth they had accumulated since God had rescued them from slavery down in Egypt, and Aaron used his talent to make an idol to represent Yahweh. “Here are the gods who rescued you from Egypt,” Aaron says. “Now let’s get this party started!” And then an orgy of eating, drinking, dancing and sex ensues as the people pleasure themselves without their husband.

On the mountain, Moses saw Yahweh’s eyes burn with wounded rage. He almost wiped them out that day. Moses managed to hold him back, remind him who he was and what he had promised (Ex 32:14). Even then, Yahweh couldn’t bring himself to go any further with his people who had so quickly and callously rejected him (33:3). Only, again, when Moses begged him, and said there was no point in them going to the land he had promised them if he wasn’t with them, did Yahweh agree to go (33:12-17). 

God carefully laid out two more stone tablets, like rings—the symbol of their commitment to one another. A commitment both he and Moses knew Israel would break. Yet he would still vow himself to Israel again. Then he reminded them why he would do it. He said, “I am Yahweh. I am an empathetic and gracious God, not with a quick temper, overflowing with loyal love and integrity, always loyally loving thousands upon thousands, and faithfully carrying away twistedness, betrayal, and failure. But I never fail to bring evildoers to justice, even if it takes generations” (Ex 34:6-7). 

Moses knelt before Him and cried, “Please, Yahweh, go with us! You’re right, they’re fickle people. Carry away our twistedness and our failure . . . and make us your own!”(34:9). 

It wasn’t going to be easy. They had hurt Yahweh, apparent by the fact that even after his tent was standing, and Yahweh entered the tent, no one was allowed to enter—not even Moses (40:35). 

We will get fidgety. We are still just as fickle. But as we start this journey through exile, let’s soak in this story, and remember God’s character, even after he is brutally betrayed: patient, loving, compassionate. He still makes a way to be with his people, even when they turn away from him. In a sea of instability, not least of which is our own affections, let’s never forget his integrity is our anchor. 

Watch: Bible Project video on Israel and the broken covenant

Listen: Exodus 32-34; also check out Psalm 106, where the songwriter reflects on Israel’s story of betraying Yahweh and His faithfulness toward them.

Exile: Some backgrounds and definitions

If y’all are anything like us, the exile part of Biblical history is the haziest. Even in our Bible story sets we love and use in our ministry in Madagascar, we basically jump from King David to Jesus, with a brief stop to hear how Isaiah predicts Jesus.

But in terms of Israel’s story–the story of the descendants of Abraham–exile is a critical epoch, a fulcrum. Much like how we view our own wars as Americans, or 9-11, or, now, COVID-19, the exile is a major historical event for Israel that divides her history into two parts: pre-exilic and post-exilic.

So, we want to give some brief background info and starting definitions as we try to dive deeper into the words of the prophets around exile. If you want to go further in your study, here are a couple of great resources to explore:

In the meantime, here are some ideas to get us started.


Exile connotes the loss of all that is familiar and comfortable. Emotionally, it is characterized by confusion. In the Bible, exile starts in the Garden of Eden, when humans decide to define what is good or bad on their own, without God. As a result, they can no longer live with God and they are cut off from him, Eden, and life itself. But God promised to bring them home and defeat their enemies through another person. 

God promised Abraham, one specific human, he would bless the world through him. Though he told Abraham to leave his home, he would give him another home in the Promised Land. Year after year, people waited for God to bring them home to this place. And though God continued to work through people (like Moses) and save Abraham’s people from death, slavery, etc., they never quite got back to the Garden. Eventually God did come to live with them. They finally made it into the Promised Land. They built a flourishing empire under some good kings—like King David that made people believe that perhaps everything was coming back together. But it wasn’t to be. 

God had already warned them that their people would continue to do things their own way, and it would lead to ruin. The one kingdom split into two, the Northern and Southern kingdoms, and people began worshiping everything but Yahweh their God. God continued to use people, prophets, to try and rescue the nation from itself. But eventually, both Israel and Judah were attacked, defeated, and exiled by other nations. And the hope became that, somehow, God would not only return them to their Promised Land but come to live with them and rule over them again.

The Divided Kingdom: North and South

Under King Saul, then David, and finally Solomon, the Hebrew people had been a united nation. However, due to bad leadership, buried tensions resurfaced and the nation split in two. The Northern Kingdom was known as Israel, as it comprised most tribes from Israel. The Southern Kingdom was primarily the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with Jerusalem still as its capital and, importantly, the temple where God lived. The Southern Kingdom was called Judah. To centralize spiritual power, the kings of the Northern Kingdom made a new capital in the city of Samaria, and a new temple in the city of Bethel. The temple at Bethel was home to a golden calf idol that Northern Israelites worshiped as Yahweh. 

Israel’s capital, Samaria, was sacked in 922 BC by the Assyrians, and the people of the Northern kingdom were either enslaved back in Assyria, or culturally assimilated with others imported into the territory. Assyria tried to conquer the Southern Kingdom at this time as well, but God prevented it. 

Judah’s destruction was a slow burn. First, in 587 BC, the Babylonians forcibly removed all the most educated people and exiled them to Babylon (think of Daniel and his friends). Then, when Babylon’s new territory would not submit, they completely razed the city in 593 BC.


The Prophets

Beginning with Moses, Israel needed a go-between. Moses is the prototypical prophet: speaking to God’s people on God’s behalf, but also empowered and used by God to deliver his people. In this way, prophets, and those of their ilk, are always a partial fulfillment of God’s promise to defeat evil through the “seed of the woman” (Gen 3:15). 

Later, Yahweh began the tradition of communicating with the nation of Israel through these prophets. Through men and women like these, God tried to pull the nation of Israel back from the brink. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about prophets, whether then or now, is that they were not officially part of either the ruling class or the religious class—they were not priests or kings. They could be anybody. They stood outside of these as a third eye of sorts, a way for God to hold his people, and especially their leaders, accountable. 

It’s also important to remember that although we know these people as true prophets today, they were not acknowledged as such during their lifetime. Prophets and messages of all kinds existed during this time, both good and bad, true and false. Often, the things they warned of happened after they were gone. In this way, prophets are usually honored—acknowledged, even listened to—in hindsight.


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America is not Israel. Yet, the story of Exile, as told through the pages of the Bible, is the story of how the mighty fall, how an entire nation, that had outwardly pledged allegiance to God, had actually always believed God pledged allegiance to them. It is the story of the corrosive effect of power, as rulers and religion do violence to the weakest in society. It is the story of how God will not leave the guilty unpunished, even through multiple generations, even those he had wanted to bless. 

But it is also the story of profound hope. Not the kind of hope that only glimmers when the sun is shining, but hope that radiates out when all is darkness. God is always calling his people back, sending them prophets to hold them accountable and remind them of his promises. Ultimately, the exile is how God prepared a nation for the Messiah, Jesus. You see, all God ever wanted was a human through whom he could bless the entire world. So eventually, Jesus comes to be that human, through whom God would start to bring everything back together. 

These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:11-13, NRSV).


  1. https://i0.wp.com/faithelement.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/timeline-graphic.png

2. http://www.thebibleinitiative.com/daniel