Destruction of the First Temple – 15

After the forced exile of the 10 tribes from the kingdomof Israel, Judahcarries on alone. It continues to be buffeted by the clashes between the great powers on its borders, and its kings must choose their alliances wisely. The kings of Judahare not always successful in this, and Judahis swept by a series of invasions which ultimately end in the exile of the top echelons of society, the destruction of the temple, and the termination of Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael.

This process is accompanied by the prophecies of Jeremiah. Jeremiah finds himself in the uncomfortable position of being forced into prophesying doom to the people ofJerusalemand the king. These prophecies are not well-received, and Jeremiah brings upon himself threats, curses, beatings and imprisonment. Yet he still continues to exhort the people to mend their ways, and recommends that they bow to the inevitable and give themselves up to the Babylonians.

We commemorate the destruction of the temple to this day, fasting on four days in the year to remember specific events in the process. Yet 2500 years after the events, withJerusalemno longer desolate, and a Jewish state in thelandofIsrael, what do they mean for us?

The Bible contains extensive narratives of this period, both from a strictly historical point of view (in II Kings chapter 18-end, II Chronicles chapter 29-end), and through the eyes of Jeremiah, the important prophet of the destruction. The devastation felt by the survivors is movingly described in the book of Lamentations, and the bitterness of exile in Psalm 137 (“By the rivers ofBabylon…”).

 

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