My Thoughts. . .
In Jeremiah, when Jerusalem fell, captives were taken to Babylon. When Jews were given the choice of returning home, the trip took an estimated 40 to 45 days of walking. Ezra 2:64 gives the number of the returnees as 49,897. Can you imagine the logistics of moving that many people 618 miles from one location to the other? Today people have campers with refrigerators and stoves. Where do you find plenty of wood to make enough fires for that number to prepare meals? Today, we stop at a State Rest area for bathroom breaks. While stopping at one of those areas, or to fill the gas tank, we usually buy a cold drink. The path the Jews took did not have service stations nor Rest Stops with bathrooms and water fountains.
The distance to travel was about 618 miles. In today’s transportation that would take about 12 hours of steady driving. If you were capable of walking, how far can 50,000 people cover in a day? If a person walked the distance without stopping or slowing down, it would take him several days. Almost 50,000 people would probably cover 10 to 15 miles each day. At that rate, it would take about 41-42 days to make the trip.
If the group includes their livestock, setting up camp, and taking things down each day, preparing meals, and eating at least once each day, pacing themselves with children and elderly, the distance covered daily might be less. If hunting was necessary, killing the animals needed as well as dressing them out would add to more downtime. We often read passages like these as if they did things the way we do them. Even if a trip took 12 hours, we have air-conditioned cars. Unless water was crossed, I’m sure body odor among that group was noticeable. Daily clothing changes would be a modern happening, but not back then.
When they arrived in Judah, neither furnished houses nor empty dwellings were waiting to be occupied. Jerusalem had been burned down and the protective walls demolished. If they were going to eat, fields had to be prepared, seeds planted, and harvesting performed. Houses needed to be built or repaired. City walls required restoration and gates needed to be constructed and installed. The people who occupied the land did not form welcoming committees to greet those returnees. Self-defense was an important topic to learn and be proficient in. Spears and swords needed to always be at hand.
God was with them, but silver spoons were not available and rebuilding and protection came through hard work and vigilance.
“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11-13).
The lesson is ours for our benefit and growth in faith.