From Promise to Exile:
by Marvin E. Tate
How did the people of Israel go from inhabiting the promised land to living in a land of Exile, namely Babylon? How could they have received such a promise of new beginnings only to see it all taken away? This tragic story of rise and fall is found in Joshua-Kings. These books move from land, given as promised, to exile, executed by God (Yahweh) because of the infidelity of the people and the unwillingness of the kings to obey the Torah and listen to the prophets.
Why is it important to study about this odyssey from promised land to exile? A relevant reason is in the Near East. One can open almost any newspaper and see problems over land possession in the land of Israel. The Israeli-Palestinian question over who owns what land is not a recent issue. Indeed, both sides look to history to support their claims. A thorough study of Joshua-Kings can lead us to a fuller understanding of an issue that has extreme political and religious implications on an international scale. More, such a study ultimately reveals how religious believers can receive gifts from God that can be used appropriately, leading to reward, or inappropriately, leading to the loss of the gift itself.
Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings are historical books of the canon, but in Jewish tradition, except for Ruth, they are labeled as prophetic literature. In these books are some of the most familiar and unfamiliar stories in all of scripture: war and peace, birth and death, love and rape. In Joshua-Kings there are prophets who kill and prophesy the fall of Jerusalem and those are the good ones. Others provide the most unlikely way out of impossible situations.
These books describe the rise and fall of God's chosen people. What made them fall? What mistakes did they make? Did they do anything right? How strong was their faith? How strong is ours?