Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Leading Thought: The Babylonish Captivity
In chapter 17, we read about the kingdom of Israel, the ten tribes, being carried away captive into Assyria because of their idolatrous and wicked life, and that they never returned to the Holy Land.
Now if you will read carefully chapters 24 and 25, you will learn how fearfully wicked the other two tribes, the kingdom of Judah, had also become, where the kings were of David's lineage, and that they also were finally carried captive to Babylon.
How dreadfully they transgressed the laws of the Lord, how far they had gone away from Him, you can see from reading verse 4 of chapter 24, where we learn of the Jewish king who killed innocent people, and “he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon.” Again Jeremiah tells us in his prophecy that they burned incense to the idol Baal; poured out drink offerings to other gods; placed abominations in the house of Jehovah; built high places to Baal; and in the valley of Hinnom, which is close to Jerusalem, had their sons and daughters pass through the fire to the idol Molech (Jer. 32:29-35); and Jehoiakim, the king, cut in pieces and burnt in the fire the Word of the Lord which had been revealed through Jeremiah. (Jer. 36:20 to end)
In this way they profaned all the statutes, judgments, and laws which represented the good things which people should love, and the truths of the Word which people should believe, so that there was no good nor any truth remaining. Such a wicked and profane state of the Church is meant in the spiritual sense of the Word by “Babylon,” and therefore when the Jews had become so bad, they were given into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon; and not only the kings and princes, and the whole people, but also the treasures of the house of Jehovah, and afterwards all its golden vessels; and the temple was burnt, and the walls of the city torn down. Thus, the city was ruined, brought to desolation, and accursed.
You can easily understand that since the land of Canaan represented heaven, it would not do to let the Jews, after they had become so wicked and profane, to remain in that holy land, for they would have profaned it utterly. For this reason, Jeremiah the prophet told them to surrender of their own accord to the king of Babylon, and that they who would not do this, but who would remain in the land, would die of the sword, the famine, and the pestilence. (Jer. 25:1-11)
The ten tribes, or the “captivity of Israel,” never returned to the Holy Land. The Jews did. And there was a very important reason for this. It was not that the Jews became better in their captivity, for they did not. But the reason for their return was this: when the time should be at hand that the Lord would come into the world to redeem and save humanity, He was to be born in the Jewish nation, of a virgin of the house of David, and in the Holy Land, and was to manifest Himself where the Church would then be, and where His Word would be. For, the few good people who would then be among the Jews could know from the Word that the Lord was coming, and so could be prepared to receive Him.
This then was the reason that the Jews, unlike the ten tribes of Israel, were brought back again from Babylon, after having been captive there seventy years. Nevertheless, the number of years, seventy, represented the bitter and full profanation to which they had committed themselves.
When they were brought back, the temple was rebuilt. Yet they remained “a Babylonish” Church, as we know from the way the Lord, when He came, spoke of them in the New Testament, and also from the way that the priests and learned men, the scribes and Pharisees treated Him. Therefore, Jerusalem was destroyed again and the temple again burnt with fire, and it has never since been rebuilt, but a Mohammedan mosque occupies the site of the temple at the present day.
You will find the carrying away to Babylon referred to in the opening chapter of the New Testament, where we have “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ.” There the history of the Israelites and Jews is divided into three great periods: 1. From Abraham to David; 2. From David to the carrying away into Babylon; 3. From the carrying away into Babylon until Christ.
Since the carrying away into Babylon was really the end of the representative Church among the children of Israel, therefore the inspired Word gives their history only thus far, there being, in the prophets of later history, only allusions to the rebuilding of the temple.
You will see for yourself that we are at the end of the historical books of the Word. We have today the last chapter of the second book of Kings. After that come the Psalms and then the prophetical books. It is true that we know something about the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, how they rebuilt the temple, something of their subsequent history down to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. But most of what we know of this story is told in books that do not belong to the inspired Word of the Lord, although some of these books are bound up with the books of the Word in the “Bible.” They are good and interesting books, but they do not contain a spiritual sense, and therefore they are not Divine.
You will understand now why the historical books of the Word do not go any further; namely, because the Jews had ceased to be a Church representative of holy things.
It is very interesting to notice the connection of the prophetical books with this period.
The prophet Isaiah lived during the reign of the last kings of Judah.
Jeremiah lived during the time that the Jews were carried away. His warnings resulted in his being imprisoned by the king of Judah, showing still further how profane was the king. He was taken out of prison by the Babylonish king, who offered him a residence in Babylon, but Jeremiah preferred to remain with the poor people who were left in the land of Canaan to cultivate it. But even these did not heed his advice and warnings.
Ezekiel was among the captives in Chaldea, by the river Chebar.
Daniel was among the Jewish children who were captive at Babylon, and he became a distinguished officer of the Babylonish court. He was a faithful man, who under no circumstances neglected to worship Jehovah.
Zechariah was born in Babylon, and was among the first group of captives who returned to build the temple.
You will be interested to read some chapters from each of these prophets.