Exile in the Bible results from God’s people not conforming to God’s revealed will. This lack of conformity causes the banishment of rebellious sinners from the land. The best example of exile is the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC. God’s people refused the call of God’s prophets; with a broken heart, God allowed their enemies to overrun the land and take them into captivity. God had revealed His will through a gracious law; the people refused that law, and off they went into exile under tyrannical, foreign power.
Similarly, Canaanites were a rebellious people claiming the right to live in God’s land. God commanded Israel to drive them out. This exterminating exile in Hebrew is called “herem.” Oddly enough, God threatens rebellious, disobedient Israel with “herem” (Malachi 4:6). This is God’s last word before 420 years of silence between Malachi’s prophecy and the coming of John the Baptist. In grace, Malachi and John both promised a day when God’s people would be free from the threat of “herem.”
In many ways, the repeated exiles and threatenings in the Old Testament recapitulate Adam and Eve in the garden. They had one law from God, a very-easy “Don’t eat from one tree.” God threatened banishment and death if they disobeyed. That first couple just couldn’t resist; they committed cosmic treason against God’s gracious law, and out they went. They chose the kingdom of Satan instead of God’s rule, and God granted their wish.
Could it be that the ultimate exile in the Bible is Jesus bearing the sins of His people and enduring God’s “herem” against sin? Adam claimed to be king of Eden and ushered in thorns, death and curse. Because of Adam’s lack of conformity to God’s will, death banished him and all his natural offspring from Eden.
For all who would ever come to Jesus by faith, though they deserved the “herem” of perpetual exile from God, Jesus, as God-man and new Adam, wearing thorns, satisfied “herem” of divine justice. But Jesus did/does more than just that—amazing as that is. Jesus inaugurates the new covenant, promising a completely transformed heart for all His people (Luke 22:20; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:22-36). The new covenant will bring an obediential love for God, a faith that results in loving conformity to God’s revealed will.
Jesus promises ultimately to transform His people so that they are untemptable by sin (1 John 3:1-3; Hebrews 12:23). He guarantees that new covenant transformation will happen in them (Hebrews 7:22). That transformation means God’s people will never be banished from heavenly Jerusalem. They will live blissfully in the restored Eden forever.
May God continue obediential transformation by His Spirit in our lives today.