The Jewish Exile: How It Made the Bible

Tim and Jon break down how the Jewish exile impacted our modern Bible.

Episode 1
Feb 1, 2018
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Show Notes

The exile is one of the biggest but least discussed themes in the Bible. And it’s the subject of our new podcast series and a theme video that will be coming out later this year (2018).

The exile is a foreign concept to many modern people. Tim and Jon break down what and how the Jewish exile impacted our modern Bible.

In the first part of the episode (0-20:00) Tim shares a background story of John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace. Newton’s own personal story is one of exile and return from exile and led him to write Amazing Grace. Tim explains he thinks this is a good example of how trying experiences shape and color someone’s worldview.

In the second part (20:00-25:50), Tim explains that our modern Bible was shaped by the Jewish people who were exiled from their homeland in 586 B.C.E. by the Babylonian Empire. The cultural trauma of that event influenced the writings that Christians hold dear today. The 586 exile colors all of the Bible, start to finish.

In the third part (25:50-37:50), Tim does an overview of the whole Bible outlining Abraham’s nomadic roots, how his family originally immigrated from Babylon, how they lack a true home but Abraham has a promise from God that he will have a “promised land.” Tim quickly explains the divide of the nation of Israel into two smaller kingdoms after the death of Solomon. And how eventually both of those kingdoms were conquered by foreign invaders. Many of the Old Testament books like Ezekial are written in exile. Tim explains the Persian Empire coming to power and allowing the Jews to begin to return to their homeland, Jerusalem, but it was nothing like it had been before. Instead of returning independent, Israel was now living in their homeland but subject to a foreign ruler.

In the final part (37:50-end), the guys discuss how the Hebrew authors who wrote the Bible used the exile experience to prophecy of a new king, a king who would deliver them from their occupiers.

Show Resources:

The Murashu Family (archeology documents): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murashu_family

More info on our website: thebibleproject.com

Link to Exile video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSua9_WhQFE

Show Music:

Defender Instrumental by Rosasharn Music; Amazing Grace Guitar Solo by Rick Graham (Fair Use); Miss Emile by General Vibe; Mellow Relaxed Background Music by Jonathan Dennill

Show Produced by:

Dan Gummel and Jon Collins

Thank you to all our supporters!

Podcast Date: Feb 1, 2018


Speakers in the audio file:

Jon Collins

Tim Mackie

Jon: Hey, this is Jon at The Bible Project. Today we're starting a new discussion on a

theme, one of the biggest themes in the Bible, in fact, and one most of us have

never really thought about; The exile.

Tim: Yeah, the exile. This is the unsung theme.

Jon: In 586 BC, the Babylonian Empire came in and overthrew the nation of Israel,

captured the Israelite people, and forced them to relocate and live in Babylon as

exiles. This event was so severe that the problem of exile became the most

important idea in the shaping of the Hebrew Bible.

Tim: The Bible doesn't come from the powerful elite that rules Jerusalem in the days of

David. Their historical sources and materials go way back to those periods. But the

people who shaped the Bible began to shape it into form that you and I know it.

Those people are those who went through the exile to Babylon and live through

generations of slavery and suffering. Even when they came back to Jerusalem, they

were under oppressive military occupiers for centuries.

Jon: All that and more today on the podcast. Thanks for joining us. Here we go.


Jon: We're starting a new podcast series and a new video.

Tim: A new podcast series and a new theme video.

Jon: It's about the exile.

Tim: The exile of the Judeans to Babylon in 586 BC it's what all of us woke up thinking


Jon: The whole theme video is just about that specific exile?

Tim: No, no. It's a theme video, which means that this is an idea that runs throughout the

whole story of the Bible, from cover to cover it unifies it and that Jesus provides a

key turning point in how this theme develops and eliminates who he is.

The Exile. This is the unsung theme in the Bible. In terms of the popular imagination,

when people think of the Bible and what Christians believe, one of the first things I

think of is, oh, yeah, it is really important. They're always talking about is the exile to


Jon: Well, I think where the exile does come up - and this might be a good starting point

before your starting point - which is, in my faiths tradition, it was acknowledged that

we are sojourners and exiles.

Tim: That idea, yeah.

Jon: It really was connected to "this is not our home."

Tim: That's right. This world as you and I know it or just the physical world—

Jon: On two levels. One, this is not my home, heaven's my home. Then secondly, this

world is full of so many problems, and that's not right. So we're waiting for a new

reality where all these problems are fixed. To that degree, we're citizens of heaven

and it makes us exiles. We didn't use the word exile.

Tim: But it is the idea that this world isn't my home. I live here but my real home is a

different place.

Jon: In my tradition, that was this fuzzy idea of a different reality called heaven. But under

more biblical way of thinking about it is maybe this earth is my home, but it needs to

be recreated. So while awaiting that new creation, I am not at home.

Tim: That's right. You can tune it in light of our discussions and videos about heaven and

earth and new creation. You could say, the world as you and I experience it isn't our

true home or we don't live as if the story is finished here and now. That this world

has some fundamental change to undergo to become our true home and what it

was intended to be.

Jon: So it's not completely an unsung theme?

Tim: No. It's just about where and what is my true home. Is it this place transformed and

redeemed and healed or is it some other world that is nonphysical or disembodied

and this one gets scrapped?

Jon: But I think I'm going to be surprised at how embedded this theme is through the

entire story.

Tim: It's one of these things where I didn't understand the significance of the exile, like

new creation reading the Bible in my 20s.

This didn't jump out to me probably for a couple years after reading the Bible. Then,

of course, a number of great classes that I took in college and then that expose me

to different theologian authors who showed me this. Now it's one of those things

you can't un-see Once you see it, it's like this 3D pictures where you have to—

Jon: I had one of those in my room growing up.

Tim: Did you?

Jon: Yeah. Those were popular in the 90s. I remember they were in the mall at that time.

Tim: In my era of growing up going to the mall, which was the 90s.

Jon: The 90s mall era.

Tim: Remember when everybody would clutter around them and you had to relax your

eyes to look through it?

Jon: You just had to figure out how to look at it, and then all of a sudden, an image pops.

Tim: Then it's hard to un-see it.

Jon: Right.

Tim: Now you look at it and it's just like, "Oh, now..."

[crosstalk 00:05:59]

Jon: I had this one that was blue and white fuzz. Just shapes and just randomness. Then it

was a skier skiing down a mountain. It was like the only one I could see. I had a hard

time seeing them. I was so proud of myself. I hung it up in my room.

Tim: That was great. The Bible is like that. Totally, it's like that. You think you've spelunked

to the deepest chamber, and then you look harder and longer and some seasons of

life go by and then some things strike you and then you're like, "Oh, my gosh, how

did I never see this?"

The idea of exile is like that. It pervades literally from the first book to the last book

and everywhere in between. To get at it, there are two ways I think we could get at it.

One is just for you and I talking. I think this was a helpful example to me - just a cool

story about a guy named John Newton. He was a British clergyman who lived in

around London in the 1800s. Ring any bells? John Newton?

Jon: No. Now I'm looking at your notes.

Tim: He wrote a really famous song that has been song in American public ceremonies

for centuries now.

He's the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace." Here's a story. You can totally nerd

out on his story. He has a fascinating life story that involves a period of exile and


John Newton. He's born in London in 1725. His dad's a ship captain. He sails ships

around the Mediterranean transporting cargo.

Jon: This is the golden age of navigation?

Tim: Yes. British Empire it's at it's tight, right? The 1700s rules the known world. That kind

of thing. The economy on the Mediterranean is at the backbone of the Empire

because it's shipping all the goods from Egypt and Greece, Palestine and Morocco.

All that.

His dad grows up as a ship captain, and before growing up, he actually sailed the

Mediterranean on six different voyages with his dad. Can you imagine that?

Jon: As a child?

Tim: Yes. Can you imagine?

Jon: No.

Tim: Sailing the Mediterranean as a boy.

Jon: That'd be great.

Tim: That'd be incredible.

Jon: Although probably not the [unintelligible 00:08:35]. People are dying of scurvy. It's

not like that's awesome.

Tim: It probably wasn't. Anyway. He joins the Royal Navy when he becomes of age and

after a couple years in the Royal Navy, he hates it so much. They're in port and he

tries to desert the ship. He tries to run away. He gets arrested, and in front of his

crew of 350 sailors, he is tied to the railing, stripped bare, and flogged with a whip

96 times, which was the standard lashing. Then he was forced to do forced labor on

this ship.

The ship ended up in port. This is on the Atlantic. He ends up in port in what it is

today the country of Sierra Leone. The ship captain hates him so much; he just

dumps him to die at the port. He ends up getting arrested—

Jon: He hates him because he deserted?

Tim: Yeah, yeah. It's just like, "This guy's worthless." So he just dumped him at the port, so

he's got nothing and nobody.

Jon: He's in a strange land.

Tim: He gets arrested and he ends up becoming a slave in the home of...He's a white

European so he's privileged in that he has that going for him.

Jon: Because there's other white European there?

Tim: There's a lot of Brits around and so no. For three years he ends up in this indentured

servant position on the estate of one of the Royal Princesses, I forget her name. But

he ends up essentially as a high-status slave exiled from his homeland for three

years. What he oversees is slaves on the estate.

Eventually, he gets freed from that. He somehow gains his freedom. I'm highly

abbreviating here. Eventually attains this freedom and he gets on a ship back to

London. Of course, major storm off the coast of Ireland.

Jon: It only took him three years from like, "I got nothing, dumped on a continent to now

I'm ready to go back"?

Tim: Well, three years.

Jon: That's a long time but that's pretty impressive. I mean, he could have just given up

or just been a slave for this family the rest of his life.

Tim: It probably wasn't the worst gig in the world.

Jon: No. But as an indentured servant, it wouldn't be easy to just all of a sudden be like,

"Okay, now I'm going to leave," and have enough money to take a ship back to

London. Get it on him.

Tim: Get it on him for trying to get back home. He's an exile trying to get back home.

Jon: He was motivated. You could see the motivation to get back home there.

Tim: That's right. As the story goes, the ship off the coast of Ireland, there's a major storm

and it just gets shredded. The ship is shredded. This is a famous part of his diaries

because it's his conversion moment.

He starts praying and crying out to God. He's below deck and there's a big hole in

the hull of the ship and there's all this water gushing in. As he tells the story, he cried

out to God in prayer, "Save us, save me." Then the ship lurches because of a big

wave, and a huge stack of cargo tips over and plugs perfectly the hole. Enough, not

perfectly. But plugs it enough that it stops the water flow for the ship to drift onto

the ground in beach. So the whole ships survive. He survives off the coast of Ireland.

Anyway, he sees this as a sign from God.

Jon: A miracle.

Tim: Yeah, a miracle. He marks that as a significant moment, but after getting back to

London, he does the only thing he knows what to do is the life on the seas. So he

gets the job actually as the first mate on a slave trading ship in British West on the

Atlantic slave trade. He does this for six years old.

But in his diaries, he talks about how he's deeply conflicted about this because he

knows that God saved him. At least that's what he believes, he's beginning to read

his Bible and so on, but he's engaging in the kidnapping, purchasing and

transporting of slaves in horrific conditions on these ships. He does it for six years

until he suffers a stroke, which he sees as another sign of judgment from God.

Jon: How old is he at this point? He's born in 1725, and I think that was 1754 when that

happened. He's 29.

Jon: He got a stroke in his 20s?

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Living hard.

Tim: Talk about a hard life. He's not even 30.

Jon: He's not even 30 and he's had more life experience than most people.

Tim: Now, I'm really truncating. He gets married. But in the late 50s, so he's in his early

30s, he renounces the slave trade. He's very familiar with it, he thinks it's horrible. So

he fully converts whole life conversion to Jesus and he goes to seminary.

In 1755, his new job was being appointed as a tax collector in the port of Liverpool

and in his spare time he studied Greek and Hebrew, was ordained as a priest in the

Church of England. He became a local church pastor.

Jon: What's the Church of England?

Tim: The Anglican Church.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: He becomes a pastor. Here we get into the story of how he meets William

Wilberforce and he's a part of founding this incredibly influential group of

networked Christian businessmen and politicians. He becomes a part of the abolition

movement led by William Wilberforce. He was actually one of the key Wilberforce's

mentors and key inspirations. Newton lived to see the passage of the Slave Trade

Act 1807, which is crucial in the abolition of slavery.

Anyway, he went on to live this really incredible life, but his own calling was just to a

local parish serving the poor and preaching sermons in the name of Jesus. Here's

what's remarkable. I knew about Amazing Grace like most Americans - like this song.

I remember when I was first told about his story and that it was this super hard life

of just his own horrible choices that led to a long period of exile from his homeland,

and then dangerous life-threatening return, and then what he gave his life to after

that experience of exile.

Then I remember going back and looking at the lyrics of the song. It completely

changes their meaning to think of this man writing these words when.

Jon: What part of his life did you write?

Tim: Yes, I did write that down. He wrote it in "I was in these years in ministry." He wrote a

number. Actually, he's a credible brain. He wrote a lot of different poems and hymns.

1779 was when he published a volume of hymns and Amazing Grace was in that

collection. So he's now 54 in 1779.

Jon: Do you think he just love to...was there a lot of singing on sailboats, do you think?

Tim: That's a great question. I have no idea.

Jon: Like sailing teams.

Tim: My boys are in a pirate phase. Hardy har is how they greet me in the morning. Hardy

har, dad. Hardy har, har, where be the treasure? And they sing pirates on. I have no


Jon: It must be.

Tim: It must be. I just want to read the words of the poem. Think about a man who's been

shipwrecked, whose been exiled and functioned as a slave, functioned as a

taskmaster of slaves, a transporter of slaves, heart attack, or a stroke. Just a gnarly

life on the seas.

Jon: Greedy sailor.


Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch; like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

Remember the moment he identified as the beginning of his conversion was in the

belly of the ship watching a piece of cargo tip over and plug a hole of a sinking ship.

That's so gnarly.

Jon: That's the hour he first believed.

Tim: Through many dangers, toils, and snares,

I have already come,

'Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures.

When this flesh and heart shall fail,

And mortal life shall cease;

I shall possess within the veil,

A life of joy and peace.

Maybe I'm just nerding out. I don't know what I'm sharing. For me, this was a deeply

meaningful experience. After I learned about his story, this song just became so

profound to me. It's one of those things where you think you know something, and

then you realize the life experience that shaped a human that could write a poem

like that, and then you'll never read the poem the same way.

There's something about his experience of exile and slavery and physical hardship

that makes you sympathetic to these words in a way. Like if you never knew his

story, and all you know about the song is like you grew up with strict religious

grandparents and you go to church with them twice a year, and they forced you to

sing the song. But then, all of a sudden, the same poem can feel like oppressive

religiosity and all that kind of thing. But once you realize that it comes from

someone who suffered in exile, you're sympathetic to it and there's an openness to


I think it's just the same principle when somebody who has suffered deeply starts

talking people usually are quite and start listening.


Tim: Here's why I think this is a helpful example is that the Bible as inform the literary

shape that you and I know it is the product of a people group that underwent

centuries of slavery and exile. The Bible is - we've used this phrase before - a

minority report.

The Bible doesn't come from the powerful elite that ruled Jerusalem and the days of

David. They are historical sources and materials that go way back to those periods.

But the people who shaped the Bible began to shape it into the form that you and I

know it. Those people are those who went through the exile to Babylon and lives

through generations of slavery and suffering. Even when they came back to

Jerusalem, they were under oppressive military occupiers for centuries up to Jesus'

own day.

The Jesus movement for the first centuries, all the New Testament documents come

from the period when the Jesus movement was a persecuted religious minority. The

Bible speaks to us from the same type of posture as John Newton.

Jon: Yeah, of just this rough life. But for the biblical authors, it's generations of pretty


Tim: Not just one lifetime; generations.

Jon: It's good to think about that. It's good to think about how gnarly it would be to be

taken from your home. I mean it's gnarly that John Newton was abandoned, but part

of me is kind of like—

Tim: He deserved it.

Jon: No. Well, he's a kid that grew up on the sea and he doesn't have a family. It's almost

this cool adventure story even though it was rough. But imagine you're just living in

your community and some Empire comes in.

Tim: Invading army comes.

Jon: Invading army with just military power you can't deal with and they just take over

and they ship you all out to some foreign land.

Tim: Imagine just that scene of marching in file.

Jon: Yeah. With your family, extended family, people you have no idea, just the fear—

Tim: Filling stuff into the bag on your back or on your pack donkey and you're walking

away, never to return.

Jon: And I'm sure people are dying and people are being abused. Because you're not

treated as the same level of human by another civilization. Then you find a way in

this new world for generations. And that's the setting where this biblical narrative is


Tim: That was one key event that happened in 586 BC to Jerusalem because that event

happened to the Babylonians in the Babylonian exile. That event happened to the

people who carried with them the stories and poems and the materials from earlier

on Israel's history. But the people who took all that into exile and begin to shape it

into the texts that we know as the books of the Old Testament, that experience of

exile as God used them, and inspired them to shape the Bible, that experience of

exile left its mark on how they told the whole story, how they framed their whole


Now all of a sudden, just like John Newton, when he thinks of trying to tell his life

story or write a poem, his whole life gets told through the lens of those few key

events of the shipwreck and the exile. So it's very similar that these events that

happened late in Israel's history shaped how they retold their entire history going all

the way back to the beginning and then going all the way forward so that when

Jesus lives half millennia after these events, he's still is using imagery and language

connected to exile and we're still living in exile and we're still waiting for the true

homecoming even though they're back in the land.

So this event completely has left its mark. It's again, like the 3D drawing. Once you

see it, you see, like, "Oh, my gosh." The Bible is the Bible for exiles. It's produced by

people who were in exile and it's produced by a whole culture that was shaped by

that experience even after they returned to the land. That's exactly what the Bible is.

It's totally what it is.

Jon: It's an assemblage of literature by people going into exile. But not only that, it's the

literature that they have which came from a minority position within Israel.

Tim: That's right.


Tim: I guess I'm still assuming that everybody just knows when the exile happened in

relationship to all the others. We should recap.

Jon: Let's set the stage.

Tim: We got Abraham.

Jon: Abraham came from?

Tim: His family came from the region of ancient Babylon.

Jon: Which would have been in the Mesopotamian?

Tim: Yeah. Where the Tigris and Euphrates...Basically by the Persian Gulf in modern day


Jon: So he's just a dude who he gets some religious experience from...He hears from God

Tim: His family emigrated from the region of Babylon all the way up into ancient Haran.

Jon: That was after he had God experience?

Tim: No.

Jon: It was before?

Tim: That's his dad.

Jon: Oh, his dad moves up there?

Tim: Yes, his dad moves up there.

Jon: That's where he's living?

Tim: In the narrative, that's where his family is.

Jon: That's where he grows up then?

Tim: That's where he is. He's already born.

Jon: We don't know where he grew up?

Tim: There are no details given. There's like two sentences. His family is from

Mesopotamia, Babylon. His family immigrates up to Haran. Even there they're

sojourners and immigrants - in Haran. Then it's from Haran that he journeys.

Jon: And is probably just a small village on the Euphrates? I mean, what do we know

about Haran?

Tim: It's an ancient city.

Jon: Not a village; it's a city. Ancient city on the Euphrates?

Tim: Yeah. On a river that flows into the Euphrates. So it was Abraham. Israel's origin

comes from a wandering Bible family. They emigrated multiple times. That's

important. Even though that's not technically exile, he wasn't forcibly removed there,

the whole of their story is of a people who don't have a true home from the very


Abraham goes into the land of Israel, Palestine, he wanders. He buys some land, but

he wanders. His family ends up actually emigrating down to Egypt and then the

famous story of Pharaoh - they become enslaved. Moses.

Jon: Abraham's family?

Tim: Abraham's family is four generations after him.

Jon: You're skipping?

Tim: I'm skipping forward now. I'm trying to get the big picture. We're just trying to get a

framework for the exile.

Jon: Yeah, yeah. Sorry I might be going too slow. But Abraham in Haran gets called by

God to go where?

Doesn't he get called to go somewhere else?

Tim: To go to the land of Canaan.

Jon: To the land of Canaan?

Tim: Yeah, that's right. We'll get here.

Jon: I just thought we skipped to Joseph.

Tim: I'm just doing the big picture story real quick.

Jon: Real big quick.

Tim: Real big picture because then we'll dive in and walk through the story a little more

slowly. Then we have the Exodus, Moses, they come out of Egypt into the promised

land. Joshua, period of judges, man, we don't have a king, tribes duking it out.

Finally, they get a king. Saul doesn't work out, and then David. Hooray. Solomon, he

puts Israel on the map on the international scene. Then after him, the tribes split.

There's a near civil war and they split into two rival kingdoms. There's a bunch of

tribes up in the north.

It's confusing, because often in the story - this is now in the books of 1 Kings and 2

Kings - the northern tribes are often called Israel. Then the southern tribes based in

Jerusalem are the Judeans through the tribe of Judah. The word Israel can refer to all

of those together, or sometimes just the guys in the north. That's confusing.

The guys in the north their kingdom last 200 years after Solomon until one of the

first ancient Mesopotamian world empires comes - the Assyrians - and then they

attack besiege Samaria, take it out.

Jon: When you say Samaria—

Tim: Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom.

Jon: But they don't take out Jerusalem?

Tim: They don't. They try, but they don't succeed.

Jon: City on a hill.

Tim: So the northern tribes and the northern kingdom is just destroyed and it's the first

exile of any Israelites in 722 BC. All those...Well, many. We don't know how many, but

it seems like a lot where most of those Israelites were just straight up captive,

deported to all these other cities in the Assyrian Empire.

Then the Assyrians policy was to relocate other people groups and resettle them.

Just like mix everybody up. Then the Assyrian Empire Falls about 100 years after that

in 612 BC to the rising new power Babylon. Then it's Babylon who comes knocking

on Jerusalem's door. Three different times, Babylon came to captive and number of

Judah and Jerusalem, Israelites living in Jerusalem and took them in waves of exile to


This is where Ezekiel is taken in the second wave and so is Daniel. They started out

by just taking all the executive staff team, all the high-level leaders, important

people and then installing around puppet leaders.

Then those puppet leaders rebelled and so in 586 BC they just took out the city,

destroyed it, burned the temple, took tens of thousands of people in chains away

and relocated them to places like whereas Ezekiel is sitting in Ezekiel chapter 1 by

irrigation canal in a refugee camp. Somewhere in the delta of the Tigris and

Euphrates with these massive, massive agricultural fields. They would relocate slave

populations and just live in tents by the canals to work the fields. That's where

Ezekiel is on Page 1 of the book of Ezekiel.

Jon: So these exiled communities, Jewish exiles who are now basically...are they slaves

then? How are they treated?

Tim: Actually, we have very little information. Ezekiel, he gives us one window into people

living in refugee camps alongside irrigation canals. Daniel gives us a portrait. Some

of the elites who were really high potential they were recruited into the Babylonian

government and they dressed, talked, learned the language, dressed like

Babylonians kind of thing.

There was a whole trove of texts found. It was like name lists. I should know more

about these. They're called the Murashu documents. But it's all these lists of names

like city and town named lists from ancient Babylonian time. Cities and villages from

this time period.

Scholars, they're reading these and it's all these Babylonian names and then they

start coming across all these names that look like Hebrew names among the

Babylonian names. They can begin to paint a portrait of after a couple generations,

many Jews, and Israelites had just woven themselves into the fabric of day to day


Not unlike refugee families, maybe that comes to different countries. The first

generation is just totally traumatic., but their kids become what are called third

culture kids. Both have a sense of home with their family and their former life, but

now they have a new home, which means they have no home. Third culture.

Jon: Interesting.

Tim: So we don't know.

Jon: There's something really unique about the Jewish culture where the identity sticks. It

seems like a lot of immigrant populations assimilate pretty quickly into a new

culture. But they are in Babylon in different places for a couple hundred years?

Tim: Well, they're there. That happens in 586 is when the last wave and the destruction of

Jerusalem. But 50 years later, the Babylonian Empire crumbles - it didn't even make

it a century - and the Persian Empire rises to the scene. So they're from further east,

the Persians. Then they take over.

Jon: So now Persians—

Tim: Now the Persians are over the world Empire. They inherited from Babylon.

Jon: Who's in Jerusalem at this point?

Tim: All kinds of people. There's a lot of Judeans who were still in the land. They didn't

get taken into exile.

Jon: They can round up everyone.

Tim: There are lots of people still there who are Judeans, there are some stragglers from

the former northern kingdom that are there and then there's just all the northern

part. So 50 years later when the first waves of Judeans start coming back to

Jerusalem, that's what the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are all about in the Old


Jon: Because the Persians let them come back.

Tim: The Persians gave him permission to go back. The Persians watched Assyria Babylon

blow the world Empire.

Jon: They saw two rounds of world Empire building. They learned a thing or two?

Tim: They learned the iron fist and trying to erase people groups wasn't the way to go.

They had this policy of actually letting all these groups exiled by the Babylonians go

back home and rebuild their own identity, but under Persian governors and under

the Persian tax system, of course.

So yeah, the Persian government sponsored a whole bunch of groups returning, and

the Judeans were one of them. Zerubbabel, Ezra, then later Nehemiah, over the

course of a century, all these waves of doodads go back. But not everyone went

back. Lots of people stayed behind because they built their lives there.

Jon: Even after 50 years, you're like, "Well, this is our new home."

Tim: That's right. I mean, just think. Your psychology, your way of seeing the world after

undergoing an experience like it's very different from somebody who just grew up

and has lived their whole life in one town. Your sense of stability in the world is


I had a number of friends in college, who their families had emigrated from different

parts of the world. I had a friend whose family immigrated during the revolution in

the country. Their way of seeing the world and their way of thinking about stability

and money, all of it shaped by that experience. It's traumatic to relocate as a child.

These experiences have a deep psychological impact on people. Again, that's the

culture. The biblical authors, that's their story.


Jon: Was it then coming back during the Persian Empire that's when likely the Old

Testament was shaped?

Tim: Yeah. Again, the materials in the Old Test...like a quilt. The pieces of a quilt go way

back. But the framers of the quilt—

Jon: People pulled it all together in its final shape.

Tim: Begin to arrange it. Ezra comes back to the land and he's got this thing called the

Torah of Moses that he is teaching to people and that they're reading aloud. This

kind of a public reading of Scripture conversation. There's some earlier form of the

Scriptures. Then all the prophets who warned the Babylonians was coming to town

and nobody listened to them, now people are listening.

Jon: Yeah, we're reading those now.

Tim: The words and writings of the prophets that everybody ignored before the

Babylonian, all of a sudden these words are vindicated as—

Jon: And you've got these writings from what's happened with Daniel and his crew?

Tim: Yeah, Daniel and his crew, you've got all kinds of poems and ancient worship songs

that were sung in the temple before the exile. Those get along with all this new

poetry being produced by the community back in Jerusalem. They're shaping the

Hebrew Bible and that's a process that will take place over the next 200 years up

until the very final texts and books in the Hebrew Bible.

Jon: This is during the time then when they're coming back from exile. Not everyone.

They're rebuilding the city of Jerusalem; they're rebuilding the temple.

Tim: Rebuilding the temple. They're rebuilding their identity.

Jon: Now they're trying to explain, "Who are we, why do we have a temple, why do we

have the city?"

Tim: Why are we rebuilding it? What happened to the first one?

Jon: And why did we get hauled off?

Tim: Why did the exile happen?

Jon: All these questions are trying to be solidified and answered.

Tim: "And what hope is there for the future because we are the inheritors of these ancient

covenant promises—"

Jon: Of the God of the universe, the one true God—

Tim: Who wants to bring blessing to all of the nations through us. And that is just not

really been happening.

Jon: And the best era we had was under King David and his son.

Tim: Solomon. That was the golden era.

Jon: "That was the golden age and it seems like we need a king like that again. So when's

that going to happen?"

Tim: "When's a new David going to come and restore our land, free us from the foreign


Jon: Because they're still under occupation?

Tim: They're under the Persians, and the Persians lasted a couple of centuries till

Alexander the Great. Then Alexander the Great comes.

Jon: The fourth world builder.

Tim: Then he builds this thing that lives on in fractured, fragmented form for a couple

centuries until the Romans in the mid-first century BC.

Jon: It's the fifth.

Tim: Yeah, the fifth world Empire. So sequence and a lot of little mini things in between.

Sequence of five mega world empires spanning from 700 BC, all the way up to the

time of Jesus. That's 700 years right there in the Roman Empire last up until the 400

after Constantine.

Jon: They really got it right.

Tim: Yeah, the Romans lasted the longest.

Jon: They saw four other world empires, and they're like, "Okay, we can make this


Tim: That's right.

Jon: Thank you for listening to this episode of The Bible Project podcast. We're a

nonprofit crowdfunded studio in Portland, Oregon. We believe the Bible is one

unified story that leads to Jesus and we make lots of free resources to that end.

They're on our website at thebibleproject.com, and you can also view them all on

our YouTube channel, youtube.com/thebibleproject.

If the Bible's new to you, we've got a great series called "How to Read the Bible." So

check that one out. Thanks for being a part of this with us.


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