In my last post, I discussed the origin of the Israelites and I suggested the reading of a few books of the Holy Bible to verify my post. Indeed, I would hope you would read them, especially those who have not read them before in their entirety.
The first five books of the Bible and the book of Joshua explain the origin of the Israelites. The books of Joshua, Kings and Chronicles explain the history as they lived in the Promised Land.
To be sure, in this post I want to concentrate on the events leading up to their going into captivity. However, before I do this, I need to call one thing to your attention.
Shortly after the Israelites crossed over into the Promised Land, the book of Joshua records a very important event. God called for the Israelites to chose Whom they would serve. God called them to a pair of mountains and call out the blessings that they would receive for following God. He also required them to call out the curses for not following God. They had a choice and they chose to follow God.
God promised that, even if Israel strayed, if they would repent and follow the Lord, he would heal their land and bless them. However, he told them that if they did not repent, that, among other things, He would scatter them throughout the world.
If we read Judges, and I wish you would, you will see several cases where they disobeyed God and worshiped idols. In some respects, they were worse than those who were in the land before them. Some of the events I find disgusting and I think most everyone would.
Yet, every time, they repented, God forgave them and He healed land and His people prospered.
It was God’s desire that Israel would be an example to the world. He wanted us to know what will happen when a nation follows the Lord. Unfortunately, they were often an example of a nation that did not follow the Lord. Repeatedly He punished them and they repented.
When the nation was split into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom, Israel followed foreign gods. Even though God frequently chastised them, it was only a matter of the degree of disobedience. Finally, as God warned, he sent them into captivity. The Assyrians came down and overthrew Israel and took many of them off into captivity.
Unlike Israel, Judah went through periods of obedience and periods of disobedience. This was mostly recorded in the history of the kings of Judah. When they had a good king, he would destroy the idols and made the people follow God. When they had a bad king, he allowed idol worship, even to the point that he too would worship the idols.
Whenever God would chastise them, they turned from their wicked ways and He would heal their land and the people prospered. In general, my own observation is that they could not stand the prosperity. As they prospered, they turned from God and claimed their success was by their own hands…. Or worse, by the hand of idols.
These oscillations continued over the decades until, finally, Judah refused to repent. When God chastised them, the people wrote it off as coincidence. (Rather as we do today)
So God gave up on them. He sent a prophet, Jeremiah. Today, he is known as the weeping prophet because he was given an impossible task. He was told to try to get the people to repent but God knew they would not and He told Jeremiah from the beginning that he would not succeed. (I know I sort of repeated myself, but it was something worth repeating.)
Jeremiah wrote 2 books, the one bearing his name and Lamentations. Parenthetically, lamentation means an expression of extreme grief or sorrow. God let Jeremiah know some of what was going to happen to Judah and it caused him great sorrow.
God caused the kingdom of Babylon to rise up and attack Judah. Through Jeremiah, He told them not to defend the city of Jerusalem. He told them to give up. The decision was already made and the best thing they could do was accept it.
Instead, they kept fighting to the point that they fulfilled the prophecies that they would eat their own babies and drink their own urine to survive during the siege.
Finally, about 100 years after the fall of Israel, Judah fell.
…BUT it didn’t stop there.
Another nation rose up, Persia and captured both Babylon and Assyria. I guess God planned it that way. Now, both Israel and Judah were under the authority of one king.
…and so it was that the entire nation of was again under one authority. However, not all of Israel was in Persia. Some remained in the Promised Land, those who were not taken away. Some went south, many into Egypt. To some degree, they were already scattered as God foretold back in the Book of Joshua.
After 70 years of captivity, fulfilling prophecy, the Israelis were allowed to return home. In the Scriptures, the numbers returning was recorded accurately by tribe. However, there is no recording of how many remained in Persia. There is no way of telling where they went or how many remain to this day in Iran.
One of God’s unconditional promises was that He would greatly multiply the seed of Abraham and He did. It is very likely that the number of Israelites doubled, tripled or greater while captive. Many Israelites can continue to trace their history back through time. Others have tried to hide their history. They find it safer.
Also, during their captivity, there was some intermarriage. The Book of Ester explicitly records the marriage of one Israeli woman to the King of Persia. At this point the scattering of God’s people is well under way, but it has only begun.
In my next post, I will bring us up to date. There is no way I, or anyone can completely follow where all the Israelites have gone, but I find it interesting that God, Himself, calls them Jews, all of them. So, from this point on, so will I. Even though Paul called himself a Jew, he was from the tribe of Benjamin. (I don’t try to explain it. I just take note of it.)