Exile and Refugees in the Bible

A Community in Exile - Part 1

Genesis 3:1-24, Adam and Eve

Genesis 4:1-16, Cain


Genesis 12:1-10, 13:1-12, Abraham and Sarah

Genesis 13:14-18, 15:13-18, Abraham and Sarah


Genesis 16:1-15, 21:9-14, Hagar and Ishmael


Luke 1:57-80, John in the wilderness

Luke 3:1-9; Isaiah 40:1-5, John in the wilderness


Mark 1:9-12; Matthew 4:1-4, Jesus in the wilderness

Matthew 4:5-11, Jesus in the wilderness


Genesis 37:12-20, Joseph

Genesis 37:21-30, Joseph


Genesis 41:56-57, 42:1-3, Famine: the children of Israel in Goshen

Genesis 43:1-5, Famine: the children of Israel in Goshen

Genesis 45:1-10, Famine: the children of Israel in Goshen


Mark 5:1-10, Legion

Mark 5:11-20, Legion


Ruth 1:1-7, Famine and Foreigners: Elimelech, Naomi, and Ruth

Ruth 1:8-19a, Famine and Foreigners: Elimelech, Naomi, and Ruth


1 Samuel 21:1-6, David

1 Samuel 21:10-15, David

1 Samuel 22:1-5, David

1 Samuel 23:6-15a, David

1 Samuel 23:19-29, David


2 Samuel 13:28-39, Absalom


2 Samuel 15:13-23, David

2 Samuel 15:30-37, David



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Hagar and Ishamel, by Heinrich Hasselhorst.  Click to enlarge.
Hagar and Ishamel, by Heinrich Hasselhorst.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Click to enlarge.
Genesis 3:1-24, Adam and Eve (11/16/20)

A few weeks ago, Matt Greer began the announcements by saying, "In this particular time [of COVID shutdowns] ... we feel sometimes like we're a community in exile..." Well, we always have been, and always for the same few reasons: new opportunities; ostracism; spiritual renewal; the necessities of our profession; or escape from pursuit, persecution, or conditions. This study will visit with some of the individuals and communities that went before us in the faith, both as exiles and as refugees.

John Wesley notes that Satan still uses the same method he used on Eve: So if we find ourselves considering these questions, maybe we need to stop and think about who's asking before we get ostracized again. By the way, the rabbis say that the reason God didn't want Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Life was to keep them from living forever in their sin.


Genesis 4:1-16, Cain (11/17/20)

We've talked before about Cain's name and about Cain's offering. Now I want to talk about Cain's exile. Cain murdered his brother, and his punishment was exile. When he complained that someone might murder him in return (which is kind of ironic when you think about it), God marked him in some way for his own protection. Nevertheless, he was still exiled.


Genesis 12:1-10, 13:1-12, Abraham and Sarah (11/18/20)

Abram and Sarai left their home and family in Haran and went to Canaan; however, they weren't exiles. As far as we know, the only property Abraham ever owned in Canaan was the tomb in which he and Sarah were buried (Genesis 23 and 25); they were lifelong nomads. Nevertheless, there's a big difference between leaving the old country to flee from something and leaving the old country to obtain something. God promised them a great opportunity, if only they would trust him and go to a new country. (Abram and Sarai also spent part of their lives as refugees in Egypt to escape a famine. Overall, that worked out well for them, and they left richer than they came, but they were still refugees during that period.)


Genesis 13:14-18, 15:13-18, Abraham and Sarah (11/19/20)

Some people – like the ancestors of most modern Americans, Australians, and Canadians – came from somewhere else in search of new opportunities for themselves and their children, and this is why Abraham and Sarah had left Haran. God made great promises to them for their descendants! As far as we know, Abraham himself never owned land in Palestine, aside from a tomb.


Genesis 16:1-15, 21:9-14, Hagar and Ishmael (11/20/20)

When Hagar runs away, she and God talk it over, and she goes back. Surviving on your own was more difficult than getting along with a harsh mistress. The second time Hagar leaves is more interesting. I read somewhere that the child of a concubine had to inherit equally with the child of a wife, or else the concubine and child had to be freed. I don't think this is in the Law of Moses, but apparently it was the law at the time of Abraham. It explains Sarah's demand in 21:9-10. Either way, Hagar is ostracized.


Luke 1:57-80, John in the wilderness (11/23/20)

Just two quick notes about John, who spent most of his life in solitude. His father cannot speak, so the neighbors and friends "make signs to him," thus illustrating both meanings of the word "dumb" in the same sentence. Vs. 80 tells us that John grew up in the desert; John Wesley says this was the desert of Judea, which makes sense since he preached and baptized near Jerusalem (e.g., Matthew 3:5, Mark 1:5, John 1:9). Both Mary and Joseph were from Galilee (Luke 1:6, 2:4), about 90 miles away, which explains why John didn't know Jesus before Jesus came to be baptized (John 1:31).


Luke 3:1-9; Isaiah 40:1-5, John in the wilderness (11/24/20)

John is out in the wilderness, living the life and preaching the message of the prophets. People come to him in the wilderness for a baptism of repentance, that is, for the purpose of spiritual renewal.

Notice that the wording of Luke 3:3b-6 doesn't look much like Isaiah 40:3-5a. What's going on? Most English Old Testaments translate from a Hebrew text that dates back to 9th century A.D. The scripture of the first century for most Jews, especially outside Judea, was the Septuagint (LXX), a Greek translation made about 200 or 300 B.C. John quotes Isaiah almost exactly from the LXX, and I've read that this is true for almost all the other NT quotes of the OT as well. (Certainly every one I've ever looked at for myself has been the same.)


Mark 1:9-12; Matthew 4:1-4, Jesus in the wilderness (11/25/20)

As is our custom at this time of year, most of the readings and study tips are going to be shorter than usual from now through the first of the year. It's better that we read short passages daily than long passages once in a while.

Exile can be a time of consideration. Immediately after his baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness to consider what kind of Messiah he was going to be. The first choice was self-indulgence, but he rejected that.


Matthew 4:5-11, Jesus in the wilderness (11/26/20)

The second temptation was to gain fame by working flashy and impressive miracles without cause. Jesus rejected that, and notice his reasoning: it's one thing to have faith, and another thing to expect God to save you from the results of your own foolishness. The final temptation – a real one given the expectations of the people for the Messiah – was to take political power. Jesus rejected that, too. His time in the wilderness was well spent.


Genesis 37:12-20, Joseph (11/27/20)

Here's a brief introduction to the story of Joseph. It's short, so you might be able to get through it without dozing off from the effects of Thanksgiving dinner.


Genesis 37:21-30, Joseph (11/30/20)

Joseph's own family sold him into slavery and exile. It still happens. Pray for an end to the slave trade.


Genesis 41:56-57, 42:1-3, Famine: the children of Israel in Goshen (12/01/20)

Famine forces Jacob to send his sons to Egypt to buy food. Famines still occur. Support organizations that provide famine relief through prayer and gifts.


Genesis 43:1-5, Famine: the children of Israel in Goshen (12/02/20)

Jacob and his sons faced a hard choice: starve or risk the loss of Rachel's only remaining son. Pray for people facing hard choices.


Genesis 45:1-10, Famine: the children of Israel in Goshen (12/03/20)

Joseph's brothers found not only food but also safety and success in Egypt. It still happens. Pray that refugees from disaster will be welcomed and successful in their new homes. Meantime, always remember this: even though God can bring something good out of the evil we do, it's a lot easier for God to bring something good out of the good we do! Don't get confused about the message in vss. 7-8.


Mark 5:1-10, Legion (12/04/20)

Legion is the name of the many unclean spirits, not of the man. The man himself has been exiled not only from his family and community, but also from his own mind. It still happens. Pray for those with psychoses and dementia.


Mark 5:11-20, Legion (12/07/20)

Note. vs. 17. Jesus was ostracized because he cured the man of demon-possession! (Well, it probably didn't help anything that he caused the destruction of 2,000 pigs.)


Ruth 1:1-7, Famine and Foreigners: Elimelech, Naomi, and Ruth (12/08/20)

Famine results in refugees. Free fact: did you know that Oprah Winfrey's real name is Orpah?


Ruth 1:8-19a, Famine and Foreigners: Elimelech, Naomi, and Ruth (12/09/20)

Ruth has to choose. Will she stay with her beloved mother-in-law, and probably never see her parents again or have children of her own? Or will she stay with her family and take her chances in the future-husband and mother-in-law stakes? Sometimes every choice is a form of exile.

Note on vs. 11. Under Jewish law, a childless deceased man's brother must marry the widow in order to provide a child for the deceased (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).


1 Samuel 21:1-6, David (12/15/20)

David tells Ahimelech a little fib in vs. 2. He's not in the wilderness on business for King Saul; he's hiding out because Saul wants to kill him (1 Samuel 20).


1 Samuel 21:10-15, David (12/16/20)

David flees from Saul to a Philistine city, Gath, but unfortunately he is recognized as an enemy of the Philistines. So now he has to flee from Gath.


1 Samuel 22:1-5, David (12/17/20)

King Saul is still looking for David, so David stays on the move. His advantage over us is that even though he's in exile, he is also the head of a large and growing community of followers who move with him.

By the way, notice in vss. 3-4 that David brings his parents to the king of Moab, who takes them in as refugees. Remember that Ruth, David's great-grandmother, was a Moabitess.


1 Samuel 23:6-15a, David (12/18/20)

So David left Gath, spent some time in Keilah, and now he's in Ziph, still fleeing from the government that's out to kill him.

The ephod was some sort of priestly garment (Exodus 28). David seems to be using it as a tool for determining the will of God, much as some of us would ask a question and open a Bible at random to seek an answer. (We usually get a good answer; everything in the Bible is related to everything in our life.)


1 Samuel 23:19-29, David (12/21/20)

David was 30 years old when he became king (2 Samuel 5:4), and he was "youth" when he first came to Saul's attention (1 Samuel 17:55). It looks like he spent at least 10 years hiding out from Saul.


2 Samuel 13:28-39, Absalom (12/22/20)

David's family was a little dysfunctional. The oldest son, Amnon, raped his own half-sister Tamar, who was the full sister of David's third son, Absalom. Two years later, Absalom murders Amnon in revenge. Now Absalom is on the run. David eventually starts to miss him.


2 Samuel 15:13-23, David (12/23/20)

Yesterday we saw that David was starting to miss his son, Absalom the fratricide. He let him come back to Jerusalem, where Absalom immediately started cultivating the friendship of important people and undermining David's authority. Now Absalom stages a coup against his father, King David, and David is in exile again.


2 Samuel 15:30-37, David (12/24/20)

Jerusalem sits on a mountain, Mt. Zion, although the Temple is actually on a slightly lower peak, Mt. Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1). To get to the Mount of Olives, David had to go down into the Kidron Valley and then back up again (see a cross section). This is roughly the same path that Jesus followed on several occasions, about a thousand years later.



More of A Community in Exile
Community in Exile - Part 2

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