CHXVII - XVII Exodus and the Exile The fall of Judah and...

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XVII. Exodus and the Exile: The fall of Judah and exile into captivity in Babylon stands second only to the exodus in its impact upon the nation's theological character. It is difficult to know where to begin to mark the "fall of the Jewish nation." Certainly its moral fall preceded the battering rams of the Babylonian empire, and the erosion from within was probably more damaging than the destruction from without. 1 In 663 BC the Egyptian capital, Thebes, was taken by Assyrian armies; with the fall of Egypt all hope of political independence in Palestine vanished. So deep had Jewish morality plummeted that Manasseh, one of the last Jewish kings in Jerusalem, had even resorted to sacrificing his children to a polytheistic host enshrined in Zion's temple (2Kings 21:5-13). The writer of 2 Kings described Manasseh as the worst rule to ever sit upon the throne of David (2Kings. 21:9, 11). He theologized that Manasseh's sin was so great that it could never be forgiven (2Kings 21:11-15; 24:3-4). Assyrian deities were worshiped in Jerusalem (21:3b-5). There was also a resurgence of the home-grown variety of Canaanite paganism (21:3a,7). Altars dedicated to the stars and planets appeared in YHWH's temple (21:5); the cult objects of the Canaanite fertility religions also appeared there, along with sacred cult prostitutes (23:7). The prophetic protest, which must have been very severe, is preserved only in a passing phrase. The passage offers an oracle from YHWH: 2 Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of every one who hears of it will tingle . ... I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. But in this text an ominous, new note emerges in Israel's prophecy; YHWH, who had be Israel's 1 Several contemporary inscriptions, from Babylon, reporting these events have survived from antiquity. Cf. Jame B. Prichard, The Ancient Near East (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1973), 202-06. 2 2Kings 21:12, 13. 1
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father and friend, has become the Israel's foe! It is a theme that would resound in the writings of the prophets of the exile as they struggle to explain to the nation what to make of their national catastrophe. 3 The moral failure which Jeremiah pointed to in metaphor, had results that Habakkuk described even more directly. Jeremiah warned: 4 Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate . . . for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. And Habakkuk reported: 5 YHWH has become like an enemy, he has destroyed Israel. . . . . . YHWH has brought an end in Zion appointed feast and Sabbath, and in his fierce indignation has spurned king and priest. The death of the great Assyrian King, Asshurbanapal (ca. 630 BC), signaled the decline
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CHXVII - XVII Exodus and the Exile The fall of Judah and...

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