Until the Messiah Came: The Rise and Fall of the Word of God, Part II
Updated: Nov 11, 2019
MAOZ, Shira Sorko-Ram, November 2019
It is 597 BC – the year of the first forced march of Jews exiled to Babylon. That year the Kingdom of Judea disappeared from the map. All Israel had left was a prophecy of hope by Jeremiah, that in 70 years, God would free them from their Babylonian exile and bring them back to their homeland.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.” Jeremiah 29:10
Then some 68 years later, a Persian King, Cyrus, conquered Babylon. God “stirred up his spirit” to decree that Jews could return home to Israel to rebuild their Temple.
Only 43,000 Jews were ready to leave Babylon. The tribe of Levites who were the spiritual leaders of the Jewish community had fragmented. Many Jews had assimilated and intermarried. They had traded Hebrew for Aramaic, the language of Babylon, and were doing well both in business and government. Hadn’t Jeremiah told them to settle in for the long haul, build houses and bless Babylon? Certainly, life was better in the diaspora than in desolate Judea. The Persians ruled, but overall, they were amiable towards the Jewish people who were scattered across the empire.
For those who did make the trek back to Israel, lack of strong spiritual leadership, poverty, scarcity of food and endless enemies kept them from any real economic progress. So God sent Haggai and Zachariah to encourage the rebuilding of the Temple. It would still take another 20 plus years to finish.