Monday, November 12, 2012

Godly Play: Exile and Return

"Exile and Return" tells the story of how Israel and Judah are taken into captivity by Assyria and Babylon, and how a remnant returns many years later with Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild the temple and the city walls. As Godly Play is not meant to focus on historical facts, the whole process of this is greatly simplified in the story. Instead, this core lesson focuses on how the people of God discover that God is not only to be found in the temple. Miles away from their homeland in great sorrow, they discover that God is with them in Babylon as well.

The picture above is shortly before the final scene of the story. The chain represents "exile". Six figures have returned to Jerusalem, representing the groups that returned with Ezra and Nehemiah. Three figures remain in Babylon - they have chosen to stay, because they have seen that God is in the strange and foreign land as well.

When I got to the part where the people of God were being marched through the desert towards Babylon, I laid down the chain and said, "They were in exile. They could not go home." The oldest child in the room suddenly asked very loudly, "What does 'exile' mean?" I thought for a moment about what I should do. The easiest thing would be to just tell him what it meant. But that wouldn't help him in figuring things out for himself. So I told him to listen to the rest of the story and see if he saw any clues that would help him. 

When we began the "Wondering", he again asked, more frustrated than ever, what 'exile' meant. This time, I held up the chain and asked him what he thought of when he saw the chain. He immediately responded with "prison". I said, "Yes, that's what exile is like. It is like being in a prison of sorts where you can't go home."

Everybody's favorite part of the story was that the people of God found out that He was with them everywhere, even in Babylon. When asked about the most important part of the story, one child said that it was being carried away to Babylon. Why? 

"Because if they hadn't been carried away, they would never have learned that God was with them everywhere." 

Recognizing that great lessons come through hard situations -  I am continually amazed at the wisdom of the children. May that child remember this his whole life long!

During the creative phase, one child began playing with the chain. He then made a cross with the chain and proceeded to reenact the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. His play looked something like the picture below:

In my opinion, "Exile and Return" is an important story to tell before the Advent season begins. So many of the older Christmas songs in both German and English deal with the theme of Israel being ransomed. This, of course, refers both to the deliverance from sin and to the longing of the Jewish nation for deliverance from dominating political powers. Knowing this historical context in this story helps children understand why the people of Jesus' time were waiting for a different type of king to come. 

Linked to Montessori Monday at Living Montessori Now

and Waldorf Wednesday at Seasons of Joy


  1. What amazing sharings by the children! Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday, Sheila. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page:

  2. I so appreciate how you share your telling of these Bible stories. Thank you for all your hard work in documenting it.

    Thanks for linking up on Waldorf Wednesday. I hope we'll see you back this week! Feel free to add multiple links since we were off last week.