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Why did God send the Israelites into captivity?

Your Question: Why did God send the Israelites into captivity?

God sent the Israelites into captivity because they disobeyed the Lord and served other Gods. Through this discipline, the Jewish nation learned to only worship God. Likewise, God may punish us for our sins, but it is always a call to repent and return to Him.

Disobedient to the commandments

The Lord saved the Israelites from captivity in Egypt and brought them to the promised land. Before they entered the land, God gave them His commandments. This was accompanied by a solemn warning. If they obeyed the commandments, the Lord would richly bless them. But if they would be disobedient, God’s curse would fall on them. Part of the curse is “the LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known” (Deuteronomy 28:36).

After the Israelites entered into the promised land, they did not obey God as they should. For a few centuries there was no king. ‘Everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ (Judges 21:25), instead of seeking the will of God. After that God gave kings to Israel, but many of them did not serve the Lord. Idolatry was rampant. God sent prophets, but most often the people did not repent and return to Him. The depth of depravity was reached during the reign of king Manasseh. He erected altars to false Gods, sacrificed his own sons in the fire and put an idol in the temple in Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 21:3-7).

Captivity of the Israelites

So finally, God did what He had said even before the Israelites were in Israel: they were taken captive and led to another country, Babylon. This happened in three waves. In 605 BC the Babylonians first gained power in Judah (see 2 Kings 24:1). Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, captured it, and took some of the most important people, among whom Daniel, captive to Babylon (see Daniel 1:1-7).

The second wave happened after Judah rebelled against the Babylonians. In 597 BC Jerusalem was conquered a second time by the army of Nebudchadnezzar. This time over 10,000 men were taken as captives to Babylon: officials, soldiers, and craftsmen (see 2 Kings 24:10-17).

The third wave happened in the year 586 BC, after another Judean rebellion was crushed by Nebuchadnezzar. This time he set fire to the city, and destroyed the temple. The remaining Judeans were taken into exile to Babylon (see 2 Kings 25:1-21).

Prophecy of Jeremiah

Between the second and the third wave, Jeremiah prophesied that the total time of captivity would be 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10). On the one hand this emphasised how serious the sin of Israel was. They would not be saved after a few years, as they expected. On the other hand, it showed God’s grace. For He promised to not forget them, but to save them in the end. And He did. The Persians took over the Babylonian Empire, and released the Jews. As Jeremiah had prophesied, 70 years after the first captivity, the first returnees arrived in Israel.

The captivity for once and for all cured the Jews of their sin of idolatry. Never again would they bow before other gods. The hard punishment that the Lord gave them for forsaking him, resulted in their repentance.

Repentance for our sins

When we sin, the Lord punishes us to teach us that He is serious about His commandments. But His punishment is also a call to repentance. Let us obey Him always, so that we may experience His loving presence instead of His discipline, that also stems from His love. But even if we sin, we may know that there is always a way back, like there was for Israel. For Jesus Christ has carried the punishment for the sins of everybody who believes in Him.

Read also: Why did God not want to give a king to Israel?

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