The last era in the Old Testament is known as the restoration and is defined by scholars as the period that God restored His people back to Judah. In actual terms the house that was restored was that of Judah. This house is differentiated from other tribes of Israel using the term Jews. The Jewish community had become idolatrous and sinful which made them not appealing before God’s eyes, He hence turned His face from them and they lost His protective grace (Wood, 1998, p. 316). Due to this the Jews were taken into captivity by the Babylonians but God had made a promise through their prophets that they would return back to Judah. It is hence important to understand why God brought this rebellious tribe back to Judah.
The restoration of Judah from exile was mainly due to God’s intentions of re-establishing the Covenant He had with the Jewish nation. It is interesting to note that almost all the other nations that had sinned against God and being taken into captivity seems to have lost their identity there, this is with the exception of Israel and Judah. It is believed that the reasons why these nations were able to be restored after captivity were because they had a covenant with God (Merill, 2008, p. 297). This covenant was a promise by God that they would not lose their identity under whatever circumstances.
The fact that God never goes against His word can be clearly seen in the restoration of the Jewish nation. God had made a promise to the fore-fathers of the nation and the tribe that He would give them the land they occupied forever. It was however impossible for this people to own the land while still in captivity in Babylon. God hence brought them back to restore them to their land, land which was not promised to the generation of exiles but to forefathers like Abraham and Jacob. God knew that if this people continued to stay in captivity there was a high likelihood that they would lose their identity and this would mean that they would not identify with the blessings God had promised their nation. People who had lost their genealogy during their captivity were presumed to have lost out in the promises of God to their forefathers and were even not allowed to preside over activities in the temple (NIV, Nehemiah, 7:64). It was hence important for the Jewish nation to be restored first to their homeland before being God’s promises were fulfilled onto them.
Another purpose for the restoration of the Jewish nation back to Judah was for them to rebuild God’s temple. This was necessary so that the Jewish nation could continue glorifying and worshipping God in His sacred abode. Interesting though is the fact that the people were saddened by the memories of the temple that was brought down and had been built by Solomon. Prophet Haggai however consoled them and told them not to be saddened by this because they should be rejoicing in the fact that God had restored them.
Upon their return, the Israelites and in particular the Jews had several tasks or responsibilities for them to complete. These tasks are considered as the role played by the nation in actualizing the restoration that God was doing.
One of these tasks was for the Jews to rebuild a temple for their God. This task was necessary so that the nation could get to worship and sacrifice to God again just like they did before they were taken captive by the Babylonians. This was necessary for the nation to re-establish their connection with God, for them to go back to their olden ways of worship and depart from idolatry which had led to their captivity. Haggai emphasizes this rebuilding of the temple as he demanded that the Jews first rebuild the destroyed temple before even rebuilding their homes (1:4). This was seen as a clear contrast to the building of the temple during David’s time where people’s homes were built before the temple. The act of building the temple before the homes of the returnees can be interpreted to mean that the people were now required to place God first in their activities instead of placing Him second after their personal matters. This was all God’s plan to restore them to have worship with Him again; this would also reduce the probability of idolatry creeping back to the nation.
Another task that the Jews were given was replenishment of the land that was given to their fore-fathers. This was for the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that He would make him the father of a big nation. This could not happen if the people were still in captivity as their children would also be taken as slaves and hence their nation would never grow. All these tasks were necessary for the restoration of the Jewish nation to God’s plan for them. God had saved His people from captivity and so it was now the turn of the people to fulfill their obligations as per the covenant they had with God (Bruce, 2003, p. 51). To complete this task, the Jews were required to rebuild the walls around their city. This was an important part in history since the walls of a city acted as a shield from external aggression; hence this task was seen as a sign from God that they had not only been restored but also protected from their enemies.
The restoration of the Jewish nation back to Judah had various interpretations by prophets who came before and after the exile. Ezekiel focused on telling the people that they were God’s main focus and not the land in which they lived in. Most of the other prophets also gave a message of God expanding the promises made in the covenant to His people. This expansion was seen in the fact that this nation and the whole tribe of Israel would no longer be limited to the land their forefathers had been given but would instead occupy the whole world. This interpretation was also in line to what Ezekiel had told His people, that God was more concerned with His people more than with the land they occupied and which had also been occupied by their forefathers. The expansion of the covenant, which was an interpretation, made by the prophets was seen in the fact that God had now promised His people that they get refuge from any place in the world (NIV, Gen., 18:18).
The story of restoration of the Jews is indeed very applicable to the Christians of today. This is because though most of the Christians do not go into captivity literally, some of them become captives of worldly things such as money and fame. This story hence can be used to show the Christians that God is ready to fulfill all that He had promised them and that they should seek God for that to happen. The story also shows that placing worship second in Christian’s life is a sure way to be taken captive by sinful ways. This in the end results in angering God and hence may lead to the Christian being defeated by their enemies. It is hence important that in everything they do, Christians should give first priority to worshipping God.
New International Version [NIV] (2007). Illinois: Tyndale House.
Merill, E. (2008). Historical Survey of the Old Testament. Michigan: Baker Academic
Wood, L. (1998). Prophets of Israel. Michigan: Baker Academic
Bruce, A. (2003). Temple Restoration in Early Achaemenid Judah. Journal of Biblical
Literature, 4(12), 45-54