Golah: Wandering in EXILE

GOLAH: An exile, feminine noun (Strong’s 1473). GALAH: to be exiled, verb (Strong’s 1540).

Root: גלה

Sounds like: goh-lah / gah-lah

Isaiah 24:11b-12

All joy turns to gloom. The joy of the earth is banished exiled [galah גָּלָ֖ה].

Desolation is left in the city and the gate is battered to ruins.

Exile was a horrible word to the Hebrew people, and all too familiar. There was always the threat of losing their homeland and being forced back into the wilderness. When they were exiled, their joy was also in exile. 

The Hebrew word for exile is golah and it comes from the verb galah, which means to reveal or uncover. In other words, it described what it felt like to be an exile: uncovered, exposed, unprotected. 

Lamentations 4:22

The punishment of your wrongdoing has been completed, daughter of Zion; He will no longer exile you [l-ha-g’loh’tek לְהַגְלוֹתֵ֑ךְ].

But He will punish your wrongdoing, daughter of Edom; He will expose [exile/uncover: gilah גִּלָּ֖ה] your sins!

Literally, golah was someone who was unprotected. But it also meant that you were ripped apart from something you love, such as a person (child/parent/spouse), a place (Israel/home), or a thing (culture/language).

Quite often the people of the Bible felt unprotected and exposed because they were unprotected and exposed, over and over again. They were repeatedly sent out into the wilderness, into captivity, and that occurred right from the beginning: 

  • Eve and Adam were exiled out of God’s Garden (Genesis 3:22-24)
  • Cain went into exile, into the wilderness, after he killed his brother (Genesis 4:10-16)
  • Abraham exiled Hagar & Ishmael from the family camp and sent them into the wilderness (Genesis 21:14)
  • Moses, as a tiny baby, was exiled into the river (Exodus 2:3)
  • Moses, as a young man, fled to Midian after her murdered an Egyptian official. He was in exile, from the Egyptian court where he was raised, for many years before returning to free the Hebrew people (Exodus 2:15)
  • Even the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, was exiled out of his own kingdom and chased into the wilderness where he turned wild until he recognized that it was YHWH who was King of All (Daniel 4)

And then there were the really big international exiles: 

  • The Hebrew people were own exile out of Egypt under their own volition (Exodus)
  • Assyria attacked Israel and exiled the Northern Kingdoms, scattering them across the Assyrian kingdom (2 Kings 15:29)
  • Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and exiled its people to Babylon (2 Kings 24:14-16)

When people think of the word exile in the Bible, what tends to come to mind is the biggest political exile of all: Babylon.

Babylon swept into Jerusalem in 597 BC, and again in 586 BC, when they utterly destroyed the city, its walls and its grand Temple. Then they gathered the people and sent them into exile to Babylon as slaves. They were ripped away from their homes, their families, their Temple, their culture, their language. They were exiles in every sense of the word, exposed and unprotected.

The Prophets of Exile

For many of the prophets, their key message was to warn the people of potential exile: turn back to YHWH, or you risk exile. Already these people had exiled themselves from their own God. They turned their backs on YHWH and started worshipping pagan gods of foreign nations. But it was God’s Kingdom that was their true home, so God gave them the understanding of what it felt like to be banished from their homeland. They wanted to be exiled from God, so God exiled them from everything that God had given them. God would not protect them, they were exposed.

Amos stands out as one of the earliest prophets to use the word golah (exile). He warned Israel that, because of their behaviour, they were headed to exile:

Amos 7:10-17

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is unable to endure all his words. For this is what Amos says: ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will certainly go into exile [galoh yi-g’leh גָּלֹ֥ה יִגְלֶ֖ה] from its land.’” 

Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Go, you seer, flee to the land of Judah; and eat bread there and do your prophesying there! But do not prophesy at Bethel any longer, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence.

Then Amos replied to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. But YHWH took me from following the flock, and YHWH said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel.’ So now hear the word of YHWH: you are saying, ‘You shall not prophesy against Israel nor shall you prophesy against the house of Isaac.’ Therefore, this is what YHWH says: ‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, your sons and your daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be parceled up by a measuring line, and you yourself will die upon unclean soil. Furthermore Israel will certainly go  into exile [galoh yi-g’leh גָּלֹ֥ה יִגְלֶ֖ה] from its land.’”

Assyrian Exile

Approximately thirty years after Amos’ prediction, Assyria destroyed the Northern kingdom of Israel. The line of Israelite kings ended only a few decades later.

The prophet Micah lived roughly during the years 735-700 BC, right around the time of the Assyrian invasion of the Northern tribes of Israel, which occurred in 721 BC. Micah was born in Judah but he prophesied against both Israel and Judah:

Micah 1:5-9, 16

[YHWH:] All this is due to the wrongdoing of Jacob and the sins of the house of Israel. What is the wrongdoing of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? What is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?

For I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the open country, planting places for a vineyard. I will hurl her stones down into the valley, and lay bare [uncover: a-galeh אֲגַלֶּֽה] her foundations.

All of her idols will be crushed, all of her earnings will be burned with fire, and all of her images I will make desolate; for she collected them from a prostitute’s earnings, and to the earnings of a prostitute they will return.

Because of this I must mourn and wail, I must go barefoot and naked; I must do mourning like the jackals, and a mourning like the ostriches. For her wound is incurable, for it has come to Judah; it has reached the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem

…Shave yourself bald, yes, cut off your hair, because of the children of your delight; extend your baldness like the eagle, for they will go from you into exile [galu גָל֖וּ].

Assyria did, indeed, turn Samaria into a  heap of ruins. But Micah’s prophetic words did not exclude Judah, the Southern kingdom. The wound of Israel was incurable, and the disease was heading to Jerusalem. 

However Assyria, try as they might, could not defeat Jerusalem and they retreated in their defeat. 

Assyria was the “big bad” before the time of the Babylonians, but their power would eventually fall. The prophet Nahum lived around the time of Assyria’s downfall, and he either predicted their fall or commentated on the fall after it happened. Here’s what he had to say:

Nahum 3:1-3, 8-10, 18-19

Woe to the bloody city, completely full of lies and pillage; her prey does not leave. The sound of the whip, the sound of the roar of the wheel, galloping horses and bounding chariots! Horsemen charging, swords flashing, spears gleaming, many killed, a mass of corpses, and there is no end to the dead bodies— they stumble over the dead bodies!…

…Are you (Assyria) better than No-amon, which was situated by the canals of the Nile, with water surrounding her, whose rampart was the sea, whose wall consisted of the sea? Ethiopia was her might, Egypt too, without limits. Put and Lubim were among her helpers. Yet she became an exile [la-golah לַגֹּלָה֙], she went into captivity; also her small children were smashed to pieces at the head of every street; they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound with shackles

…Your shepherds are sleeping, O king of Assyria; your officers are lying down. Your people are scattered on the mountains and there is no one to gather them. There is no relief for your collapse, your wound is incurable. All who hear about you will clap their hands over you, for upon whom has your evil not come continually?

Assyria, the mighty and terrifying nation, received the punishment they had handed out to so many others… they were scattered in exile and fatally wounded. 

Babylonian Exile

Around the time that Assyria fell, Babylon was rising up in power. It would be Babylon that would utterly destroy the Southern kingdom of Judah (Jerusalem) and Benjamin.

Not surprisingly the word golah (“exile”) was used most commonly by Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the prophets who lived through the time of the Babylonian exile. 

Jeremiah 20:1-6

When Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief overseer in the house of YHWH, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, Pashhur had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put him in the stocks that were at the upper Benjamin Gate, which was by the house of YHWH. 

Then on the next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “Pashhur is not the name YHWH has called you, but rather Magor-missabib [horror on all sides]. For this is what YHWH says: ‘Behold, I am going to make you a horror to yourself and to all your friends; and while your eyes look on, they will fall by the sword of their enemies. So I will hand all Judah over to the king of Babylon, and he will take them away as exiles [w-hi-g’lam וְהִגְלָ֥ם] to Babylon and will kill them with the sword. I will also give all the wealth of this city, all its produce and all its valuable things—even all the treasures of the kings of Judah I will hand over to their enemies, and they will plunder them, take them away, and bring them to Babylon. And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into captivity; and you will enter Babylon, and there you will die and there you will be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have falsely prophesied.’”

This was a very direct prophecy. Pashur, and all of Judah, was going to Babylon. But not all hope was lost, YHWH had a plan in place to bring them back home:

Jeremiah 29:4-7, 10-14

“This is what YHWH of armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles [ha-golah הַ֨גּוֹלָ֔ה] whom I have sent into exile [hi-g’leti הִגְלֵ֥יתִי] from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and father sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may give birth to sons and daughters; and grow in numbers there and do not decrease. Seek the prosperity of the city where I have sent you into exile [hi-g’leti הִגְלֵ֤יתִי], and pray to YHWH in its behalf; for in its prosperity will be your prosperity.’…

…For this is what YHWH says: ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares YHWH, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will let Myself be found by you,’ declares YHWH, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you,’ declares YHWH, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile [hi-g’leti הִגְלֵ֥יתִי].’

Ezekiel backed up Jeremiah’s prophecy with his own. God sent them into exile, but He would bring them back:

Ezekiel 39:21-29

[YHWH:] “And I will place My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. And the house of Israel will know that I am YHWH their God, from that day onward. The nations will know that the house of Israel went into exile [galu גָּל֣וּ] for their wrongdoing, because they were disloyal to Me, and I hid My face from them; so I handed them over to their adversaries, and all of them fell by the sword. In accordance with their uncleanness and their offenses I dealt with them, and I hid My face from them.”’”

Therefore this is what the Lord YHWH says: “Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on all the house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name. They will forget their disgrace and all their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid. When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall show Myself holy through them in the sight of the many nations. Then they will know that I am YHWH their God because I made them go into exile [b-ha-g’loh’ti בְּהַגְלוֹתִ֤י] among the nations, and then I gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer. I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,” declares the Lord YHWH.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied God’s promise to bring them back from exile… back to their promised land. And that was accomplished. After70 years in captivity, the Persians overtook the Babylonians, and the Jewish people were allowed to return back to Jerusalem (see Ezra 1:7-11). Their return was a great celebration; they could finally freely celebrate their heritage back in the land that YHWH had promised them:

Ezra 6:19-22a

The children of exile [b’ney ha-golah בְנֵי־ הַגּוֹלָ֖ה] held the Passover on the fourteenth of the first month. For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were pure. Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs for all the children of exile [b’ney ha-golah בְּנֵ֣י הַגּוֹלָ֔ה], both for their brothers the priests and for themselves. And the children of Israel who returned from the exile [mey-ha-golah מֵֽהַגּוֹלָ֔ה] and all those who had separated themselves from the impurity of the nations of the land to join them, to seek YHWH God of Israel, ate the Passover. And they held the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with joy, because YHWH had made them happy

In the book of Ezra the exiles (ha-golah) showed up twelve times. “The children of exile” (b’ney ha-golah) was a name that was commonly used to describe the collective group of returnees to Israel. This collective name of “the exiles” was also found in the book of Nehemiah (7:6) and in the scroll of Esther (about the Jews who opted not to return to Israel):

Esther 2:6

There was a Jew at the citadel in Susa whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been taken [ha-g’lah הַגֹּלָה֙] from Jerusalem with the exiles [ha-golah הַגֹּלָה֙] who had been deported [ha-g’l’tah הָגְלְתָ֔ה] with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had exiled [heg’lah הֶגְלָ֔ה].

This was kind of hitting the point over the head. Mordecai was extremely exiled. He had been exiled from Jerusalem with the exiles who had been exiled by Nebuchadnezzar “the exiler”. Good grief, you couldn’t get more exiled than that! The author was making a blatant point… Mordecai was not home; he was captive in a foreign land and he had to find a way to hold onto his heritage or die trying. The book of Esther is all about exiles surviving, and eventually thriving, in a foreign land.

Image by Jose Antonio Alba (Pixabay.com)

The Last Exile and Final Victory

Zechariah was a prophet after the Babylonian exile. He prophesied to the returnees of Jerusalem and called on them to take action:

Zechariah 6:9-15

The word of YHWH also came to me, saying, “Take an offering from the exiles [ha-golah הַגּוֹלָ֔ה], from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah; and you shall go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, where they have arrived from Babylon.

Also take silver and gold, make an ornate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘YHWH of armies says this: “Behold, there is a Man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of YHWH. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of YHWH, and He who will bear the majesty and sit and rule on His throne. So He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”’ Now the crown will become a reminder in the temple of YHWH to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. Those who are far away will come and build the temple of YHWH.” Then you will know that YHWH of armies has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey YHWH your God.

Zechariah called on the exiles, who had recently returned from Babylon, to give up whatever treasures they had to create a crown. The crown was to be placed on Joshua the priest’s head. It was a prophetic and symbolical statement announcing that One would come, known as the Branch, and he would be both Priest and King to all the people. Zechariah called on them to rebuild the Temple for the Priest-King to come.

Of course, the people had just been through, and survived, exile. They were rebuilding and rejoicing in their good fortune. But Zechariah had a new prophetic vision. He made an announcement about a day when Jerusalem would be taken by all the nations, and half the inhabitants exiled:

Zechariah 14:1-9

Behold, a day is coming for YHWH when the spoils taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be taken, the houses plundered, the women raped, and half of the city exiled [ba-golah בַּגּוֹלָ֔ה], but the rest of the people will not be eliminated from the city. Then YHWH will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west forming a very large valley. Half of the mountain will move toward the north, and the other half toward the south. And you will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then YHWH, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!

On that day there will be no light; the luminaries will die out. For it will be a unique day which is known to YHWH, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at the time of evening there will be light.

And on that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.

And YHWH will be King over all the earth; on that day YHWH will be the only one, and His name the only one.

This would be an “oh no, not again!” moment for the people. Really, more exile?! But Zechariah was announcing YHWH’s final victory… when He would take a stand and declare victory over all the earth.

Years earlier, Isaiah also spoke of the final judgement on the earth and it included the word exile:

Isaiah 5:13-17

Therefore My people go into exile [galah גָּלָ֥ה] for their lack of knowledge; and their nobles are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst.

Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth beyond measure; and Jerusalem’s splendour, her multitude, her noise of revelry, and the jubilant within her, descend into it.

So the common people will be humbled and the person of importance brought low, the eyes of the haughty also will be brought low. But YHWH of armies will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness. Then the lambs will graze as in their pasture, and strangers will eat in the ruins of the wealthy.

Isaiah 49:21-23

“Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who has fathered these for me, since I have been bereaved of my children and cannot conceive, and I am an exile [golah גֹּלָ֣ה], and a wanderer? And who has raised these? Behold, I was left alone; where are these from?’”

This is what the Lord YHWH says: “Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations and set up My flag to the peoples; and they will bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.

Kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the ground and lick the dust from your feet; and you will know that I am YHWH; those who wait for Me with hope will not be put to shame.”

There would be a final exile and a final return home. One day, YHWH would reign victorious, but we are left to wait for that day. 

Exiled from God

In most of the Exile Stories the attention revolved around the loss of land and culture. But early in Israel’s history, the wife of Phinehas understood what the worst example of exile was. It was not about being exiled from your land, the most devastating exile was being exiled from God. At the time, the Hebrew nation was at war with the Philistines, and they had just been defeated in battle. Phinehas and his brother Hophni died in combat and the Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Philistines. When the High Priest Eli, father to Phinehas and Hophni, heard the news he also died instantly. 

1 Samuel 4:19-22

Now his [Eli’s] daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was pregnant and about to give birth; and when she heard the news that the ark of God had been taken and that her father-in-law and her husband had died, she kneeled down and gave birth, because her pains came upon her. And about the time of her death the women who were standing by her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have given birth to a son.” 

But she did not answer or pay attention. And she named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed [exiled: galah גָּלָ֥ה] from Israel,” because the ark of God had been taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband. So she said, “The glory has departed [exiled: galah גָּלָ֥ה] from Israel, because the ark of God has been taken.

This woman lost her husband, her father-in-law, and her brother-in-law. All of those who could protect her had vanished, but what gave her the greatest grief was that the Ark of the Covenant had been taken, and the Ark housed the Presence of YHWH. With the Ark gone, YHWH’s Presence had been exiled out of the camp. They were separated from their God; exiled from their YHWH. His glory was no longer with them.  That was the most devastating exile of all. 

Yeshua in Exile

The very first exile in the Bible was when Eve and Adam had to leave the Garden of God and God’s Presence within it. But God put a plan in place to reverse the curse. He would send an Anointed One (a Messiah) to fix the exile.

YHWH sent Yeshua (Jesus) to fix our exiled status and prepare the way to bring us back home to the Father. But Yeshua (Jesus) had a few exiles of His own to go through first:

  • He exiled Himself into the wilderness to face Ha-Satan (the Adversary) (Luke 4:1-13)
  • He was exiled out of his hometown of Nazareth after His reading and sermon in the Synagogue (Luke 4:14-30)
  • And finally He was exiled from earth by execution on a Roman cross (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19)

Yeshua went into exile, in order to free us from our exile. But before he went to the cross, and was exiled from earth, He said this to His followers:

John 14:1-6

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be. And you know the way where I am going.” 

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; how do we know the way?” 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

We are exiled from where we are meant to be… in the Garden Kingdom with our Creator. But Yeshua would go ahead and prepare a place for us. Then He would takes us by the hand and leads us out of exile and brings us home. The author of Hebrews put it this way:

Hebrews 11:13-16

All these [the faithful of the Old Testament] died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen and welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles [Greek: parepidemoi] on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country which they left, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

We are all wandering in exile, but God is prepared to welcome us home. The world, as it is, is not our true homeland. With Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross, Eve and Adam’s exile out of the Garden of Eden is over. Now we can all go back home when our days here are done and see our Creator, face to face. Yeshua paid our entrance fee back into the Kingdom. We are exiles no more.

Next week: CAPTIVE. 

3 thoughts on “Golah: Wandering in EXILE”

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