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Excerpt: "In the broad historical spectrum of the Bible, the experience of the Babylonian exile presents a particularly unique context in which to consider poverty. The captures and destruction of Jerusalem transformed the political landscape of Judah. Accordingly, new economic crises arose and found expression throughout exilic and post-exilic biblical texts. Within the biblical narratives portraying this event, I will examine a specific phrase, “the poorest of the land” (Hebrew, dallat ha-’aretz), which emerges in this economic chaos of exile. It appears in only four passages in the entire Hebrew Bible:

2 Kings 24:14: “The poorest of the people of the land”

2 Kings 25:12: “The poorest of the land”

Jeremiah 40:7: “The poorest of the land”

Jeremiah 52:15-16: “The poorest of the land”

All four of these passages deal with the capture of Jerusalem under Jehoiachin in 597 BCE or Zedekiah in 586, and the concomitant deportation of people. This historical context situates the phrase “poorest of the land” as an expression of economic peril during the exile."


Originally published in the Journal of Religion and Society Supplement Series 10, 61-69.