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What the Bible says about Exile
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:22

Exile is a form of punishment that God has used from the very beginning. Here in Genesis 3, in the book of beginnings, we have the first instance of exile imposed by God Himself. It was exile from the Garden of Eden, from all that was wonderful and good that God had created, the perfect environment in which He had placed Adam and Eve. They could never go back. God placed an angel with a flaming sword that would turn whichever way any man juked to get back. If it were still there, it would deny us "paradise" even now.

This context shows three reasons we can glean to determine why God uses exile. The first one is evident—it was punishment for their sins. Adam and Eve took of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil when God said they should not take of it. That is sin, breaking a direct command of God. Exile was the punishment.

What else can we glean? What did their exile do? It separated them from access to Him. So, secondly, exile separates man from God. He does not want to be separated from us, but because of sin, it happens. It must happen because He does not like sin in the least. So this is a kind of corollary to the first point. Sin brings exile, and sin causes separation from God.

The third point must be read into it, but it is obvious from God's intent and the way God is. God imposes exile to spur repentance because it should be the natural inclination of men who have known God and all the glorious things that we can have in His presence to return to His good graces.

In summary, the first point is exile occurs because of sin. The second point is exile happens because sinners must be separated from God. And the third point is God uses exile as a goad to motivate sinners to repent.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

Genesis 4:9-12

Not only were the first two people on this earth exiled from Eden, but also their firstborn son was exiled even more harshly: He had to wander in the lands to the east with a mark on his head.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

Related Topics: Cain | Cain's Example | Exile | Exile, Surviving


Genesis 12:1

God exiled Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeans and then from Haran across the Euphrates River. He had to leave everything. He took his family with him, but when they left Haran, he even left his father's grave behind.

He had to leave all his kindred and go with Sarah and his servants into this wild Canaan, a land that was not his, to live there as a stranger and a pilgrim for the rest of his life. There is no record of him ever returning to Haran, not even to visit his father's grave. When he needed to make contact with his relatives in Haran, he sent Eliezer. For example, he sent Eliezer to get Rebekah as a wife for Isaac. In a sense, Isaac was sent into exile as well. Abraham, the father of our faith lived through many, many years of exile from the land of his birth.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

Related Topics: Abraham | Exile | Haran | Isaac


Genesis 46:1-7

By their own choice, the family of Israel went into a self-imposed exile, from Canaan to Egypt. We see in verse 3 that God Himself wanted this to occur. He had plans for Israel, and the Israelites had to go through this period of Egypt as part of that plan. They did not realize at the time that this voluntary sojourn in Egypt would lead to their forced slavery. Several generations would pass until the time they would be put under bitter bondage, when the Pharaoh would go so far as to call for all the sons of Israel to be killed after their birth.

It was only by God's mighty power in the Exodus that they were ever able to leave Egypt; they could not have done it on their own. In their minds, they were half-Egyptian by that time, perhaps even more. They really did not want to leave. Sure, they loved the idea of freedom, but as soon as they left Egypt, they wanted to go back.

It is ironic how hard it was for them to return to Canaan because they had forgotten that their real homeland was in the land of Canaan, not in Egypt. They had taken the place of their exile as home. They had become so enmeshed in the culture of Egypt that they considered it their own. We see this when, only a month out, they forced Aaron to bring some of that culture back into their lives in the form of a Golden Calf.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

Deuteronomy 28:62-68

That is low—not even good enough to be sold as slaves. This is how far God is willing to go to make the lessons of exile sink in. Because of sin, He has to do this as punishment. He has to separate us away from Him for a time. The purpose is to get us to repent, to bring us back to Him in the end. If this is what it takes, He is willing to do it.

It is very ironic that He says that He would rejoice in bringing Israel—or the church in type—low. This is not a fiendish type of joy in which a person gets his jollies out of making others hurt. God will rejoice because He can see the end and know that at least another step in His plan has been accomplished. He will put His whole heart into it to make sure that we come out of it as His people—in far better shape—on the other end.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

2 Kings 17:5-8

God was thorough. He just wiped them all out of the land of Canaan and sent them into the cities of the Medes and into Assyria—exiled. And in a way, they are still in exile. God has led them to the lands that He was holding for them.

The descendants of Israel who went into exile do not know that their homeland is back in Canaan. They have never gone back. That is a detail of how thorough God's exile of Israel was—they forgot everything. Just as He prophesied in Deuteronomy 28, the Israelites went into other lands and took gods of wood and stone and completely forgot their past.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

2 Chronicles 36:16

Nothing more could be done. They were sick from the tops of their heads to the soles of their feet. There was no way even God could cure them at that point except by sending them away, and that is what He did.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

Related Topics: Exile | Spiritual Sickness


Psalm 137:1

The Jews just bawled their eyes out. Their cherished city was gone. There was not even a hope of going back to what they remembered. The buildings were gone. The land was desolate. Who knows what kind of scorched earth policy Nebuchadnezzar used? The beauty of the land had been raped, and when they thought about Zion, the Temple, that beautiful city on a hill, they just sat down and sobbed.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

Psalm 137:2-6

This describes the bitterness of exile into which God forced Judah. Have we ever felt this way? Have we sighed and cried for the abominations of the church? That is what the Judeans who really learned the lesson of the exile did. It absolutely broke them down. They had to sit down and weep.

There is something to exile, to scattering, that God finds very good. It is not all grief. We know that God does nothing that is not for our good - either immediately or ultimately. One of the results of exile, if a person responds to it, is repentance, which is what God is looking for.

He wants our grief to be turned, as Paul says (II Corinthians 7:8-11), into zeal, into putting our whole hearts into our sorrow and then into the fruit that can be built from it. He wants us to get angry that we allowed things to go so far and to clear it out. Anger can be used to scour away sin, to be righteously indignant. We can use it like Drano® to clear the pipes and then direct that zeal to become righteous and holy once again, to do the things that God commands.

God will do whatever it takes to get us on the same page with Him, and if it means turning our lives upside down, turning us inside out, He will do it because He loves us. He still has us in the palm of His hand. We are still the apple of His eye, but He is not like a modern liberal who will not punish. He is a God who knows how to produce sons and daughters, and sometimes the worst punishments produce the best results. If He thinks the punished person will cooperate and learn the lesson, God is willing to take it that far.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

Jeremiah 24:1

This was the exile in which Daniel was taken away. Nebuchadnezzar took away the cream of the crop the first time he came through.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

Jeremiah 29:6

In times of exile, Jeremiah tells us to get married and have children, and have our children get married and have children too! What does this mean? The key to this is in the final thought, "that you may be increased there, and not diminished." To apply this spiritually, it means we should try to increase our numbers— to grow.

Personally, I have done my part the physical way: Beth and I have had three children in this church. Others have married someone out of the world, who have become converted members of God's church. This is not the normal way it should be done, but it happens every once in awhile. If God is working, if He is calling that person, He finds a way.

This piece of advice deals with "going to the world." The earlier commands relate to "feeding the flock." The third point, "increase as you are able," suggests increase by marrying, by having children, even by some form of proselytizing. But, always, the point is conversion. It is not to happen just to add numbers. We speak of God's flock, whose hallmark is quality, not quantity.

It is very hard both to feed the flock and go to the world. The indication here is first to get in good spiritual condition, and then, if possible, increase our numbers. Matthew 6:24 says we cannot serve God and mammon. It is dificult to do two things at once well, so we have to choose which is the most important. If Jeremiah 29:5-6 are any indication, the first and most important thing to do is to get oneself straight with God, and what resources are left over can go toward increasing one's numbers.

The first two points are most important right now, because God sent the church into exile because of sin. We must get rid of the sin first. Once we solve the problems, we will have the spiritual resources to increase our numbers. In Mark 10:28-30, to pull the principle there out of context, Peter says, "Master, we've left all to follow You." And He says, "Don't worry, Peter, for whatever you have lost I will return to you: mothers and brothers and sisters and fathers a hundredfold." So He will increase us. It is just a matter of when.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

Jeremiah 29:10-14

God promises, "I'm going to bring you home. You will no longer be in exile. I will give you the promised land. I will give you My rest." We have been seeking "the rest of God"'the true Sabbath, in His Kingdom (Hebrews 4). He says He will give it to us because of HIis good plans in His heart for us. He wants these good things to be given to us.

So He urges us to continue on, to build our families and to strengthen the ties between, not only within the family, but with other families of His people. We are to overcome, grow, and produce fruit, so that we will have the heart that will seek Him in everything. And if we can, to grow in numbers. He wants us to be increased and not diminished, if possible. He also advises us to be at peace with other men, to have the peace around us in which we can grow in righteousness and holiness and transform into His image.

When we do those things, and God's time is right, He will bring us out of our exile. But not until then. He is the one, the Master Timekeeper, and when He says it is the right time, it will be the very best time for us to come out of exile. From wherever He has scattered us, He will bring us back and settle us, giving us true rest in His Kingdom.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

James 1:1

In New Testament times, the house of Israel was still scattered—still in a state of punishment. Therefore, Israel was still in exile as late as the generation of James, still punished more than 750 years after Assyria conquered it.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Seven): Seven Years' Punishment

Revelation 1:9

John was on Patmos because he was being persecuted—he was in exile there, imprisoned on this island. Because he was preaching the Word of God, the authorities got rid of him by putting him on the island of Patmos.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works

Related Topics: Exile | John the Apostle | Patmos | Persecution


Find more Bible verses about Exile:
Exile {Nave's}

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