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Reformed Literature
A Presbyterian Internet Journal

Exile and Return

Rev. Charles F. Pfeiffer

Published by Pickering and Inglis - various 2nd hand copies available from Amazon etc.

This book continues the trend of the last three reviews for looking at Biblical history and its links with archaeology. Kenneth Kitchen’s book is the final volume of an evangelical scholar who has consistently tried to uphold the truth of the Biblical narrative and show how it links with the academic work being done in the Universities. The two books by Pfeiffer (this one and the previous review on Between the Testaments) were written in the 1960s and came from a fundamentalist standpoint - therefore, you can be sure they are taking an orthodox line on the truthfulness of scripture.

The author is tackling what actually happened in historical terms in those latter chapters of the Old Testament after Israel had fallen to Assyria in 722BC and then Judah had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar in 587BC.

The book begins with a map and then outlines the military conquest of Nebuchadnezzar - showing how he first took on Syria (Assyria) and then move against his real foe in Egypt. Clearly, Palestine was in the middle of his path towards that goal. Pfeiffer shows how Jeremiah witnessed against Judah trying to play the two enemies off against one another. Chapter 2 highlights those last days of the Judean kings and in Chapter 3 how they were depending on support from Egypt. Chapter 4 looks just at Jeremiah and the witness that he bore and in Chapter 5 we see the contrast between his words at those found in the Lachish Letters. Chapters 6 to 8 look at life in exile and how the Jews adapted to the fall of the Temple and being relocated to a foreign land. Chapter 9 looks at Babylon itself, with its temples at the statues to Bel Marduk (with some nice pictures). Chapters 10 to 12 examine the intellectual and religious lives of those Babylonians and their achievements with features like the hanging gardens. The book then moves on to show how Jeremiah and Ezekiel were broadly contemporaries with one being in exile. He then shows the work of Nehemiah and Ezra in rebuilding Jerusalem. This links with the Sanballat and Tobiah issues and the other relocations of people within the Babylonian empire. It ends with showing the move of the Persian court down to Susa (Sushan) and the emergence of characters like Xerxes. The book ends with a chapter on Esther (a queen in the court at Susa) and how the exile altered Judaism with things like the adoption of the Aramaic language.

Just like Pfeiffer’s other book (Between the Testaments) it is something you will enjoy reading and find very readable.