Life in Exile
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (v. 7).- Jeremiah 29
Babylon conquered Jerusalem fully and finally in 586 B.C., destroying the temple and carrying the vast majority of Judahites into exile (2 Kings 25:1–21). Yet that was not the first time Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and captured its residents. He first attacked Jerusalem in 604 B.C., during the reign of King Jehoiakim, and forced Judah to pay tribute (24:1a). Nebuchadnezzar also took the prophet Daniel and many other promising young people of Judah to serve him in Babylon (Dan. 1:1–7). After three years of servitude, Jehoiakim rebelled, but military campaigns elsewhere delayed Nebuchadnezzar’s response. By the time he got to Jerusalem in 597 B.C., Jehoiakim was dead and Jehoiachin sat on the throne (2 Kings 24:1b–9). Jehoiachin, who was also known as Jeconiah, placed himself under Babylon’s yoke. That time, Nebuchadnezzar took virtually every skilled and educated person from Judah, including Jehoiachin, and he put Zedekiah on the throne (2 Kings 24:10–17). Those exiles included Kish, the forefather of Esther’s cousin Mordecai, and the prophet Ezekiel (Est. 2:5–6; Ezek. 1:1–3).
Jeremiah wrote to the aforementioned exiles in Babylon, and his letter is found in Jeremiah 29. Evidently, even those whom Nebuchadnezzar had already captured still doubted that God would really destroy the Holy City. They were listening to the false prophets who promised peace and safety for Jerusalem and a quick return to Judah to the exiles in Babylon (v. 15). Jeremiah’s response was to rebuke the false prophets, remind the people of the true fate of Jerusalem for its impenitence, and tell them to settle down, for they were going to be in Babylon for a while (vv. 1–14).
The Judahites were to go about normal life while they lived outside of their land. Instead of holding off marriage, childbearing, and property ownership until they returned to Judah, they were to continue to multiply and labor, fulfilling the original vocation given to humanity (vv. 4–6; see Gen. 1:28). Though the children of Jacob were out of their homeland, God’s law remained in force, and the people were not allowed to neglect it because of their location. The same is true for us today.
Seventy years were ordained for the exiles’ stay in Babylon, but God graciously promised that He was not finished with His people. The Lord’s final goal was to prosper His elect, and He would bring a repentant Judah back to its land (Jer. 29:10–14).
First Peter 2:11 speaks of Christians as exiles in this world, for though we are citizens of the heavenly kingdom, we are right now living in a foreign land. Thus, Jeremiah’s words in today’s passage are instructive for how we are to live until Jesus returns. We are to seek the welfare of the land in which we live, which means that we should pray for our leaders, become informed voters, and even, if we are so called, work within the halls of government for the good of our country.
Passages for Further Study