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EXILE AND RESTORATION FROM EXILE IN THE SCRIPTURAL QUOTATIONS AND ALLUSIONS OF JESUS
douglas s. mccomiskey*
The subject of exile and restoration from exile in the teaching of Jesushas received much attention in recent days. Fundamentally, the question iswhether Jesus considered the Jews of his day still to be in the very exileimposed initially by the Babylonians and Assyrians. However, the biblicaldata is not straightforward since Jesus never explicitly states this. He doesnonetheless frequently quote, allude to, and employ themes from relevantprophets. Either he, in midrashic fashion, is applying to his contemporariespassages and themes that were actually fulfilled years earlier, or he, in some-thing of a pesher fashion, is directing them at people he considers to be theirdivinely intended, primary target audience (or a subset thereof). If the latter,the question remains: what proportion is midrashic and what proportion ispesher? Perhaps both occur. Another obstacle lies in our path. If Jesus andmany of his fellow Jews believed that the nation was still in exile, he wouldnot need to state this explicitly, presuming this was common ground. But theresulting rhetoric might generally be vague to those today who are unsureabout, or unaware of, this assumption.
It would appear as though Jesus wasmerely likening their state to that of exile, or something even less than this.Scholarly opinion is swinging in favor of the position that Jesus and his fellowJews held this common ground. Indeed, some scholars find exile and resto-ration from exile everywhere in the NT, yet probably due to overinterpreta-tion.
However, perhaps a majority of scholars, including Brant Pitre, still
J. M. Scott provides Second Temple Jewish evidence of both a stream that believed that Jewsin Palestine were still in exile and a stream that believed the contrary (Restoration of Israel,
Dictionary of Paul and His Letters
[ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin; Downers Grove:InterVarsity, 1993] 79699).
Some consider N. T. Wright an example, though he has contributed much that is now somewhatbroadly accepted (
The New Testament and the People of God
[Christian Origins and the Questionof God 1; London: SPCK, 1992]; and N. T. Wright,
Jesus and the Victory of God
[Christian Originsand the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996]). See his critics in Carey C. Newman, ed.,
Jesus and the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N. T. Wrights Jesus and the Victory ofGod
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1999). Rikki E. Watts sees restoration (the Isaianic new exodus)as the central theme and governing structural principle of the entire Gospel of Mark (
IsaiahsNew Exodus and Mark
[WUNT 88; Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997]) and David W. Pao does the
* Douglas McComiskey is professor of New Testament and chair of postgraduate studies, RidleyMelbourne, 170 The Avenue, Parkville, VIC 3052, Australia.
journal of the evangelical theological society
hold that the exile ended at the return of a few thousand Jews, as narratedin Ezra and Nehemiah.
Pitre qualifies this, suggesting that the exile shouldbe considered two exiles, that of the ten northern tribes and that of the twosouthern ones, with only the northern tribes still expelled in the time ofJesus.
One difficulty for both positions (exile of both Judah and Israel con-cluded in the era of Ezra-Nehemiah, or only that of Judah) is that many of thepassages on the gathering of the exiles, at the close of exile, have Israel andJudah gathered
, and often in conjunction with messianicactivity.
Consequently, the return in Ezra-Nehemiah is perhaps only thecommencement of a lengthy process of restoration, or perhaps a failed return.
A further difficulty for Pitre is that the northern tribes
have returnedunder Cyrus, but they
not, except a small few. They were no longerexpelled. Yet, because very few returned, they were universally consideredto be still in exile. In other words, exile may be viewed as concluded for agroup when they actually return and not simply when they are able to return.This is certainly consistent with several key OT passages where restorative
Brant Pitre is a recent, vigorous proponent of this. Countering N. T. Wright, he states, thereis little support in the Second Temple literature for the contention that Jews living in the land ofIsrael considered
to be still in exile: i.e. that the Babylonian Exile had not ended (
Jesus,the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atone-ment
[Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005] 35). He believes that the Babylonian exile indeed had ended, butnot the Assyrian one. Unfortunately, apart from some attention to Daniel, he provides no thoroughexamination of the relevant OT texts, many of which appear to depict a prolonged gathering fromexile that extends at least to the advent of the Messiah. Although wise in focusing on SecondTemple Jewish texts dating between 200
30, he never actually demonstrates that fewif any texts support the idea that Jews living in the land of Israel considered themselves to bestill in exile, and he does not discuss the targums from that period.
See, e.g., Isa 11:1016; 27:213; 43:17; 49:56; Jer 3:18; 23:18; 31:140; Ezek 37:1528;Zech 8:113; Amos 9:915, in their broader contexts. Furthermore, the passages that limit the sub-jugation under Babylon to seventy years (Jer 25:1112; 29:10; Zech 1:12; 7:5; Dan 9:2; 2 Chr 36:21)do not preclude the idea that the return of exiles depicted in Ezra-Nehemiah is at best the merebeginning of the gathering that preoccupies these prophets. Indeed, Jer 29:1014 stipulates thenecessary condition of turning to God before he would gather and restore; see J. A. Thompson,
The Book of Jeremiah
(NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 54748; and F. B. Huey, Jr.,
(NAC 16; Nashville: Broadman, 1993) 25354. Such turning occurredperiodically and in small numbers from Cyrus to Jesus (e.g. the returnees in Ezra/Nehemiah), sothe greater gathering was yet to occur. Actually, Jeremiah fixes the gathering and restoration inassociation with the inauguration of the new covenant, 29:1031:34, and Zechariah envisionsthe true end of the returnees feeble efforts at restoration to be accomplished by the Branch (3:8;and 6:12 in their literary contexts), the Messiah. On the Branch being the Messiah, see ThomasEdward McComiskey,
(The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commen-tary 3; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998) 107778, 111314.
See Charles L. Feinbergs analysis of Jer 29:1014 (
[EBC 6; Grand Rapids: Zon-dervan, 1986] 25455). This passage pictures the return under Ezra-Nehemiah as only part of aworldwide gathering of Jews that extends far beyond the initial return from Babylon.
same for Acts (
Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus
[Biblical Studies Library; Grand Rapids: Baker,2000]). Watts, too, has been criticized for overinterpretation (see T. R. Hatina, Exile,
Dictionary ofNew Testament Background
[ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter; Downers Grove: InterVarsity,2000] 350), and Pao shares much the same weaknesses.
exile in the scriptural quotations of jesus
return is contingent on willingly turning to God (e.g. Deut 30:110; Jer 3:1418; 15:121; 29:1014; cf. Isa 9:13; Ezek 20:3944; Hos 3:15; 7:1; Zech 1:16).Interestingly, this potentially allows a category of people who physically re-turn but are not being restored by God. These might not be valid returneesfrom exile. For that matter, it appears that the returnees in Ezra-Nehemiahperhaps considered themselves still exiles, calling themselves slaves in thePromised Land (Neh 9:36; cf. Ezra 9:9). An additional difficulty for Pitresposition is that it appears that the prophets could view the Assyrian exile ashistorically merging into the Babylonian exile and becoming one since thetechnical terms for exile (
) are only used in reference to the latter.Our goal here is to explore briefly Jesus theology of exile and of restorationfrom exile as reflected in his quotations of and allusions to the OT. Our con-tention is that Jesus considered the Jews in Galilee and Judea who were nothis followers still to be in the exile as defined in the OT simply because thetrue return had only begun at the commencement of his ministry.
ii. analysis of jesus ot quotations and allusionsthat relate to the exile
Craig Evans delineates several ways in which exile theology forms part ofthe foundation for Jesus teaching and actions.
However, his evidence is gen-erally indirect and based somewhat on supposition. We shall build on thisfoundation by examining numerous other Gospel passages that appear toexhibit, perhaps more directly, the (restoration from) exile theme.
Mark 1:1415 (Isaiah 9)
. One very important passage occurs at theinception of Jesus public ministry. Mark tells us that
hlqen oJ Ihsou e th;nGalilaan khruvsswn to; euaggevlion tou qeou ka levgwn oti peplhvrwtai oJ kairo;ka hggiken hJ Basilea tou qeou: metanoete ka pisteuvete ejn t euaggel
,Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, The timeis fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in thegospel (1:1415; par. Matt 4:12, 17).