The End of Exile?


Along with many other academics — and many hymnwriters — J. R. Daniel Kirk believes the advent ended the Babylonian exile. He writes: “The exile was insufficient to pay for the people’s sins. So not only did the exile endure, so did the sins which were its cause.” Is really this the case? Israel never again worshiped the Canaanite gods. However, he still has a lot to say that is good:

Matthew begins his narrative with quite the gripping tale. If it takes well-meaning, would-be readers of the Old Testament several weeks before they get mired in seemingly jumbled laws and endless genealogies, it takes their New Testament counterparts all of ten seconds.

Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham–and we get 20+ generations of genealogy to prove it.

But entailed in this genealogy is a story: a story of God’s promises. God has promised a king from the line of David, and God has promised a full restoration of the people–an end to the age of exile.

There was an age of Abraham; there was an age of David; and there was an age of exile (Matthew 1:17). But now the age of the messiah is dawning.

What God had promised to Israel is coming to fruition in Christ. What exile was supposed to do, but didn’t, will now be realized.

“You will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21, CEB).

Of course, this is what the prophet had long ago declared, but which had not yet been realized:

Comfort, comfort my people!
says your God.
Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her
compulsory service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid,
that she has received
from the LORD ’s hand
double for all her sins!
(Isa 40:1-2, CEB)

The exile was insufficient to pay for the people’s sins. So not only did the exile endure, so did the sins which were its cause.

Advent is the beginning of the end, the beginning of the age of the Messiah, the beginning of the restoration from exile.

Israel’s story is coming to its culmination.

Or, if you prefer the words of hymnody:

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here–
until the son of God appear.

The problem here is that two “Covenant cycles” have been conflated. Kirk is right that Israel is coming to an end, but not about the end of exile.

The exile had come to an end long before. The passage quoted above from Isaiah refers not to the events of the first century, but to the events of the Restoration era. It seems to me there are two reasons the scholarly consensus has it wrong: 1) the book of Esther is treated as fiction; and 2) an ignorance of the architecture of the Bible, i.e. many of the fulfilments of the predictions of the prophets were people rather than stones. Ezekiel’s temple was not a vision of the church (or some future carnal Israel), but a vision of the Restoration era’s Jew-Gentile worship construct, founded in Daniel. I’ve written a lot about that on this blog, but you can trace it all back to James Jordan’s groundbreaking commentary on Daniel.

Back to the first point, it relates to the Covenant — or “matrix” cycles. There are cycles within cycles. Israel’s complete history is a cycle. But within it, there are many others, including Israel’s “death” in Egypt (Abraham to Joshua) and Israel’s death in Babylon (Solomon to Cyrus). The history of Israel via Egypt was repeated, but with Babylon at the centre.

The nation was slain and resurrected numerous times under whatever Covenant Ethics were in force at the time, and each time, Israel was more mature, more prophetic.

Post exilic Israel was not weak and beggarly. The Jews as a people were promoted to corporate “prophetic advisor” to world emperors, serving in a higher court than the Davidic kings. It was Joseph replayed on a greater stage.

Daniel played the Covenant bridegroom, obeying in the Garden by refusing the food of kingdom until he was qualified publicly. And Esther matches him chiastically as the fragrant bridal resurrection body, marrying a new Solomon and conquering the entire world. The exile was indeed over.

The situation in the first century was due to entirely new sins by a new generation. The Jews forgot their prophetic ministry and, as under Samuel, demanded a king before time. Instead of Saul they got the Herods, and Christ was the new David. But the “slavery” they suffered under Rome had nothing to do with the sins of the Davidic kings. It was the result of their disobedience to the Restoration Covenant, the one predicted by Jeremiah and ratified in Ezra and Zechariah. They broke the new High Priestly lineage of Zadok, and became elitists instead of witnesses and prophets to the nations.

The nation had been split into two (as a sacrifice) and reunited (the houses of Judah and Israel). The only reason the writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah is because the same process was happening again, only this time it was the reunion of Jew and Gentile.

However, Kirk is correct in observing that it was the culmination of Israel’s history, and I would push that to a conclusion far beyond the consensus’ comfort zone:

Israel’s history follows the Creation week: Light on the waters (Call of Abraham); Firmament (Red Sea parted); Land and Sea (Canaan); Ruling Lights (the Kings); Swarms/Armies (Gentile Eagles and Sea Beasts); Mediators (Land Animals [Dan. 7), Joshua the High Priest to Jeshua the High Priest); and finally the Rest promised to the Old Covenant faithful, who were seated on thrones and now rule with Christ.

Our problem is that this pattern occurs at many levels in the Bible – like a fractal – and we have a hard time separating them from each other. The Bible Matrix is the answer.

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