Exile – The Northern Kingdom
Just the gist (for small children and others with tiny attention spans):
There were some Israelites that remained faithful to God in the Northern Kingdom, despite Assyria’s very successful campaign to assimilate them into their pagan culture. Tobit and his family were one such family. God rewarded their faith by sending the archangel Raphael to help them recover their money, exorcise a killer demon and regain the eyesight Tobit lost in an unfortunate bird poo accident.
Jonah was more reluctantly faithful. It took a storm at sea, getting eaten by a giant fish and being spat out on land to for Jonah to finally give up running and do as God asked him.
For those that can handle just a bit more:
God’s people were:
- absorbed into Pagan territory in the north
- exiled from the Promised Land in the south
- dispirited to learn the Temple was in ruins
Since the Israelites were all scattered about in foreign countries and sacrifice could no longer be offered at the destroyed temple, following the law -specifically, the dietary law- became a large part of showing faithfulness to God’s covenant.
Following God’s instructions was also a way to show faithfulness, but sometimes it took being swallowed up and spit out by a monstrous fish in order to be persuaded to do so.
God told Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2). Which is Bible talk for: “Go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, to tell them to repent for they have been very naughty.” Jonah wanted absolutely nothing to do with this prophecy job. The Assyrians were Israel’s hated enemies. It would have been like God asking a Kansas City Chiefs player to divulge some winning plays to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Jonah hopped on the first boat to Tarshish to hide from God.
Apparently, he didn’t get the memo that God is all-present because God sent a wicked-crazy storm that threatened to break up the boat he’d sailed away on. The frightened sailors found out Jonah was the cause of the storm and he told them to just throw him into the sea. They tried to avoid it, but in the end, tossing him overboard was the only option left. And then a huge fish swallowed him up. He spent three days and three nights in that thing’s belly before it vomited him out onto dry land. (Normally, vomiting isn’t Christmas talk, but it seemed okay since the vomit was our story’s hero). (Jonah 1:3-2:10)
A second time, God told Jonah to go to Nineveh to proclaim His message to them. This time, Jonah acquiesced. He walked across the city yelling, “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed!” One day into his three-day walk through the city, the pagans believed him and covered themselves in sackcloth and ashes. (Sackcloth and ashes are Bible fashion for showing that someone is sorry). They fasted and covered even their animals in sackcloth and ashes and they repented. God saw their change of heart and decided not to destroy Nineveh. (Jonah 3)
Jonah was pretty mad that his arch enemies were saved and told God as much. God reminded him that the gentiles were his creatures too and were also deserving of His pity. (Jonah 4)
Even in Nineveh, the Las Vegas of the ancient near east, there were a small number of Israelites that remained devout.
Tobit was one such Israelite. Though resettled in Nineveh by the Assyrians, he would make the trip back to Jerusalem for important feast days with a small group of other Israelites. He became blind when bird poo fell in his eyes. (Tobit 1:10) #truestory He prayed for God’s help.
God sent the Archangel Saint Raphael to take Tobit’s son Tobias on a journey to collect some family money. Tobias falls in love with Sarah who has a demon that lurks near her that kills every man she marries. With great faith, Tobias follows the instructions of Saint Raphael, drives away the demon, marries Sarah and survives. (Tobit 8) He then collects the family money, returns home to his father with his bride and rubs fish gall in Tobit’s blinded eyes as instructed by the archangel. (Tobit 11) Tobit’s sight returns and he praises God with much love and gratitude.
However, Tobit was one of a few exceptions. Most Israelites in the Northern Kingdom absorbed into the surrounding pagan cultures and disappeared becoming the Ten Lost Tribes.