‘I will wait for HaShem, Who is hiding His face from the house of Ya’akov, and I will hope in Him.’
— Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 8:17
Sadly, after they were delivered from the slavery of Mitzrayim through Zeroa HaShem with great signs and wonders, and after they had heard HaShem speak to them out of the midst of the fire that was blazing atop Mount Sinai—after the Children of Yisrael had covenanted with the Most High to have no other gods—they rebelled against Him in their impatience while Moshe spoke to Him on the mountain, creating a golden calf to worship, like they had seen in Mitzrayim.
Following this rebellion and more, testing HaShem again and again, though they had seen His deeds, HaShem had the Children of Yisrael remain in the wilderness for forty years. And just before the children of the people whom HaShem delivered from Mitzrayim finally entered the Promised Land, Moshe observed that the Children of Yisrael had failed to receive eyes that see and ears that hear, and hearts that understand.
‘And Moshe summoned all Yisrael and said to them: ‘You have seen all that HaShem did before your eyes in the land of Mitzrayim, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land; the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day HaShem has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”
— Devarim 29:1-3 (Hb.)
As the psalm warns,
‘The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak. They have eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear. Neither is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, as do all who trust in them.’
— Tehillim (Psalms) 135:15-18
Just as the people of Yisrael created the golden calf in the wilderness, the history of the nation of Yisrael after entering the physical boundaries of the land promised to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) was also characterised by rebellion against HaShem and hardness of heart. The people worshipped and served idols of the nations and of their own creation in the land that HaShem had given them as an inheritance. HaShem therefore chastened the nation many times by giving them into the hands of their enemies—a lasting peace they did not find.
In His mercy, however, HaShem sent many prophets to the people of Yisrael exhorting them to turn back to Him and to be faithful to the covenant He made them, by loving Him and walking in the Way that He had instructed, keeping the commandments given through His servant Moshe—especially in forsaking the so-called “gods” of the nations. And in His great mercy, He relented and delivered the nation from their enemies whenever the nation would turn back to Him. Yet the people persisted in turning from HaShem and worshipping the work of human hands.
Eventually, HaShem raised up David ben Yishai (David the son of Jesse), a man after His own heart, and had Shmuel HaNavi (the Prophet Samuel) anoint him king of the nation. Having found David faithful, HaShem promised that his offspring would reign continually on his throne until the World to Come. This ultimately referred to the coming anointed ruler (the Messiah) promised by HaShem from the beginning.
HaShem further promised David that the Messiah would come into the world through him, but King David’s son Shlomo (Solomon) was not faithful to HaShem in his later years—the awaited Messiah was yet to come. In spite of HaShem having appeared to him twice and Shlomo having been blessed by HaShem with wisdom and wealth beyond any other man on the face of the Earth, he was led astray by the many wives Shlomo he had taken from among the nations, and Shlomo did evil the eyes of HaShem.
Shlomo went after Ashtoret (Ashtoreth), the goddess of the Tzidonim (Sidonians), and after Milcom, the abomination of the Amonim (Ammonites). He also built places for the idols of his wives in the holy land, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. Because of this, Yisrael was divided into two kingdoms after Shlomo.
In the centuries that followed, the northern Kingdom of Yisrael and the southern Kingdom of Yehudah (Judah) were plagued with idolatry. In the first generation after Shlomo, fearing that his new kingdom would turn back and be reunited with the Kingdom of Yehudah if they made pilgrimages to the Temple of HaShem in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) in the south, the king of the northern kingdom, Yaravam (Jeroboam), promptly set up two golden calves in the north for his people to worship, saying, ‘These brought you out of Mitzrayim.’
This idolatry took root in the Kingdom of Yisrael and led to increasing idolatry and rebellion against HaShem. They went so far as to even engage in child sacrifice, after the despicable idolatrous practices of the surrounding nations. HaShem therefore raised up Ashur (Assyria) to bring the northern kingdom into exile two centuries after Shlomo.
‘The Children of Yisrael walked in all the sins that Yaravam did. They did not depart from them until HaShem removed Yisrael out of His sight, as He had spoken by all His servants the Prophets. So Yisrael was exiled from their own land…’
— Melakhim Beit (2 Kings) 17:22-23a
While the southern Kingdom of Yehudah fared slightly better in some ways, and remained in its place for an additional 135 years, it too eventually was taken into captivity by the Kasdim (Babylonians) for 70 years according to what HaShem had said to His people through Yirmeyahu HaNavi (the Prophet Jeremiah), because of idolatry, immorality, and murder (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 9b).
Before the exile of the southern Kingdom of Yehudah to Bavel (Babylon), after the northern Kingdom of Yisrael had been taken into captivity by Ashur, Yeshayahu HaNavi was sent to his people with a frightening message.
‘And I heard the voice of my Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I; send me.’ And He said, ‘Go, and say to this people, ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand. Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’
— Yeshayahu 6:8-10
To which, Yeshayahu inquired,
”How long, my Lord?’ And He said, ‘Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and HaShem removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And again in it is a tenth that returns, it will be to burn like a terebinth and like an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.’ The holy seed is its stump.’
— Yeshayahu 6:11-13
HaShem speaks here of two exiles, as Yeshayahu refers to again in Yeshayahu 11.
‘In that day my Lord will extend His hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of His people, from Ashur, from Mitzrayim, from Patros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Khamath, and from the coastlands of the Sea. He will raise an ensign for the nations and will assemble the downcast of Yisrael, and gather the scattered of Yehudah from the four directions of the Earth.’
— Yeshayahu 11:11-12
Just as HaShem had said, the Jewish people returned to the Promised Land after the 70-year Babylonian exile. There we remained until Zeroa HaShem became flesh and dwelt among us, after which we were taken into exile again. The second exile, along with the spiritual blindness that was decreed, has continued to this very generation, causing all but a remnant in Yisrael chosen by the grace of G-d to miss the promised Messiah, while the good news of Malkhut HaShamayim (the Reign / Kingdom of Heaven) and the forgiveness of sins through Yeshua HaMashiakh (the Messiah / Christ) has been taken to the ends of the Earth.
Thankfully, however, the signs abound that the blindness and exile are nearly finished. The Jewish people have and continue to return to the Promised Land, the desert is blooming, and blind eyes are increasingly being opened to the Radiance of the Glory of HaShem (cf. Ivrim 1:3).