Exile was something that everyone dreaded. What would it feel like to you if you were suddenly taken from your home and banished from your country into one you knew very little about, maybe nothing about? Maybe just taken to the nearest port, put on the nearest ship, and told, "Don’t ever come back." You’d be stripped of all your goods, maybe all you had, the clothes on your back. You would have no income any more. You couldn’t work. Maybe you were even separated from your family.
Exile is a form of punishment that God has used from the very beginning. In Genesis 3, we have the first instance of exile imposed by God Himself.
So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Gen 3:23-24
The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth." Gen 4:10-12
The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. . Gen 11:6-7
But God said to him, "Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring." Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. Genesis 21:12-14
Abraham, Jacob and Joseph all had to go through exile at some part of their life to learn the lessons that God wanted them to learn so that they would look for the city that He had placed before them and grab hold of eternal life…….
Though they had short periods of obedience to God, it was very soon that Israel would sink into disobedience and God would have to send someone to save them for a time. But it was only a matter of time, a matter of generations before God had had enough and Israel and Judah had to be removed from the promised land and into exile. Unlike his predecessors from the time of Jeroboam, Hoshea neither established the rites of Baal, nor compelled the people to adhere to the symbolic worship of the calves (2 Kings 17). Yet the whole nation had become so completely apostate that God finally moved in righteous judgment.
In 2 Chronicles 36 we see the same thing happen to Judah. Judah was a little better than Israel. They kept the covenant a little bit longer than Israel, but again with them it was only a matter of time.
Judah was exiled for seventy years and still they rebelled. They rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, and they rebelled against the word of God which, through Jeremiah, was telling them to submit to King Nebuchadnezzar; "He’s My servant." And they put Jeremiah in prison because he was speaking treason, according to them. But he wasn’t. God was their King and He was saying, "I have chosen Nebuchadnezzar. Follow him and you will avert this calamity." And they still wouldn’t even listen to that. And so they went into exile.
We see how terrible that exile was in Psalm 137:
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
This was indeed a bleak moment for Israel and Judah.