As the period of the divided kingdom continued, God repeatedly sent prophets to urge His people to repent of their evil ways and return to Him (2 Chr 36:14-16; Jer 35:12-17). The cloaked figure represents these prophets collectively. His heavy cloak reminds of the burden these men bore to bring God’s message to the people. His shadowed eyes and dire expression warn of the disaster to come if the people do not heed God’s word, symbolized by the scrolls in the prophet’s hand.
Sadly, the people as a whole did not return to God and, as He warned, first Israel (2 Kgs 17:6-23) then Judah (2 Kgs 25:1-21; 2 Chr 36:17-21) was destroyed. Depicted similarly to the exodus from Egypt in panel 3, the mass of people here moves from the burning remains of Jerusalem to the statue representing Babylon, where they remained in exile for 70 years.Yet even while away from their own land, there were some who remained faithful to God. Esther’s role as queen (Est 1-10), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s deliverance in the fiery furnace (Dan 3), and Daniel’s protection in the lions’ den (Dan 6) are all examples of God’s faithfulness to His people and to move His plan of redemption forward. When the time of exile was fulfilled, God graciously returned a remnant of His people to Judah. There, under godly leadership again, the people began to rebuild, as depicted in the panel’s upper right (Ezra 1-6; Neh 1-6). God’s plans, however, exceeded the rebuilding of a physical kingdom. Through the re-establishment of His people in Jerusalem, God was preparing the way for the King that would bring salvation to all nations (Zech 8-9).
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