While many are familiar with the stories of individuals from the Old Testament – Adam & Eve, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Hannah, David, Elijah, Job, Daniel – the great story of the covenant people’s return from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem is not as well known. Here’s the timeline:
Solomon’s death – the united tribes (descendants of Jacob’s 12 sons) divide into Israel (10 tribes) in the north and Judah (2 tribes) in the south (includes the city of Jerusalem and the temple.)
721 BC (254 years later)
End of the northern kingdom of Israel – The 10 tribes are carried away by the Assyrian army. These are the “lost 10 tribes of Israel”.
609 BC (112 years after the northern kingdom fell)
Daniel and others from Judah are carried away to Babylon
587 BC (22 years after Daniel was taken)
Capture of Judah’s Jerusalem – many more carried away to Babylon
586 BC Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon
539 BC (48 years after Babylon captured of Jerusalem)
Persia conquers Babylon.
Persian king, Cyrus the Great, allows captives to return to Jerusalem with the stolen temple treasures. 50,000 return to rebuild the temple, led by Zerubbabel.
516 BC (70 years after the temple was destroyed by Babylonians)
The (Second) temple in Jerusalem is completed
458 BC (79 years after Zerubbabel ‘s group went back to Jerusalem)
Ezra commissioned to lead almost 2,000 additional exiles back to Jerusalem, along with much gold and silver for the temple.
Jeremiah the prophet had promised in Jeremiah 29:10-14 that God’s people would be without a temple for 70 years:
10 For thus saith the Lord, That after years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and my good word toward you, in causing you to to this place.
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected .
12 Then shall ye upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will .
13 And ye shall me, and find me, when ye shall for me with all your .
14 And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
King Cyrus, not a member of the covenant people, read the following Jewish prophecy in Isaiah, 44:28,45:1-4. (Considering it was written 100 years before Cyrus was born, it must have been a pretty powerful read!)
28 That saith of , He is my , and shall perform all my : even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be ; and to the , Thy foundation shall be laid.
1 Thus saith the Lord to his , to , whose right hand I have , to nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the ; and the gates shall not be shut;
2 I will go before thee, and make the places straight: I will in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
3 And I will give thee the , and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy , am the of Israel.
4 For Jacob my sake, and Israel mine , I have even thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.
As Zerubbabel’s first wave of returning Exiles walked the 1,000+ miles from Babylon back to Jerusalem, only those in their well over 50 years old could have remembered the city – most were too young to have lived there! To them, Jerusalem lived only in the stories of their parents and the scriptures that foretold their captivity. And yet, each of them thought of Jerusalem as “home”.
Psalm 137:1, 4-6
1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
I envision this song, Home Again, being sung with first Cyrus , then Zerubbabel alone on stage. The returning exile choir will weave their way up and down the theater aisles, singing. They will come up to the front of the stage as they stand facing the audience, singing the final verse:
On the site marked by God, made of stone and cedar wood,
Stands our temple of God, just where Solomon’s temple stood!
See the fathers weep! Hear the shout from Jerusalem!
Now the children of Israel can say they are home again:
Lyrics to this song can be found under #24 here.
I believe the desire to return to “home” is universal. MY heart is moved as I listen to these voices sing of their return to their nation’s home. My heart is filled with compassion for all those who are unwillingly away from their homeland.
My thanks to my ever-fabulous vocalists:
Thanks to our Cyrus, Bruce Burton, (who has a habit of portraying Persian Kings, having been our Xerxes in the 2-week Green Bay run of Esther: Queen of Persia. To hear more of Bruce’s work, click here) and our Zerubbabel, Jesse Baumgart (to hear more of Jesse’s work, click here). Thanks to the choir members: Greg Krehbiel, Tasha Fischer, Susan & Mikaela Torbenson, Steve & Christy Gilchrist, Lori Blean, Karen Gebhardt, Arlene & James Marker, Bob Olsen and Bill Sieber.