Israel and the Promised Land VIII

December 21, 2010

The patience of the Lord in allowing the continuation of the northern kingdom of Israel for over 200 years is truly remarkable.  There was not one godly king in their entire history.  The fact that the Lord did not remove them from the land earlier is reminiscent of Genesis 15, where the Amoite peoples then in Canaan were given 400 years (from the time Israel entered Egypt) until their cup of iniquity was considered to be full to overflowing.

In 2 Kings 17, there is a brief summary given of the wider spiritual dynamics of what took place.  It adds an extra layer to what has been seen before.  In Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, the impression is left that, when things got bad enough, in regard to the disobedience of God’s people, and stayed bad enough long enough, all of them would be exiled among the nations.  But, that is not what happened here.  In the words of 17:21, “… the Lord tore Israel from the hand of the house of David.”  And, after their prolonged (i.e., over two centuries’ worth) idolatry, “the Lord removed Israel from His presence just as He had declared through all His servants the prophets.  So Israel has been exiled to Assyria from their homeland until today” (17:23).

Long-term, the fascinating thing to observe here is that the northern kingdom never did return from exile.  Why is that?  After the southern kingdom was kicked out of the land something over a century later, they did return.  What made the difference?

According to Leviticus 26:40, the only way back from exile for Israel was “to confess their sin and the sin of their fathers.”  If they did so, the Lord would “remember My covenant with Jacob”–and Isaac and Abraham–“and I will remember the land.”  However, the people would only be able to return after the land made up its Sabbaths by lying desolate without the people–as it did for the prophesied 70 years (Jer. 25, 29) during the Babylonian Captivity, as I will discuss more in my next post.

In regard to this wording, there is complete silence regarding  the aftermath of Israel being removed from the land.  There is absolutely no evidence that anyone did confess the sins of the northern kingdom–at least, it is not recorded anywhere in Scripture.  However, as we will discuss in more depth next time, it is clearly seen in Daniel 9:4ff. and Nehemiah 1:5ff. that both of those godly exiles did do exactly what Leviticus 26:40 required: confess not just their own sins, but those of their forefathers, also.

But, the wording of what is required for return from exile is different in Deuteronomy 30.  I will begin there next time, then proceed to the description of how Judah forfeited the land.

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