Jason Hensley
Uncovering the Jewish roots of Christianity

Next Year in Jerusalem


For years, many in the Jewish community have ended their Passover seder with the words “L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim,” or “Next year in Jerusalem.” The phrase proclaimed the hope of the Jewish people, rendered in Israel’s national anthem as, “To be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

This hope appears all over the pages of the Bible. Writing over 2500 years ago, Isaiah the prophet declared that “The redeemed of the LORD will return and come to Zion with triumph, and eternal joy on their heads. Jubilation and joy will overtake them and grief and groaning will flee” (Isaiah 35:10; my translation, as are all the other biblical references). Micah, a prophet contemporary with Isaiah, envisioned not just an exalted people, but an exalted Jerusalem: “In the latter days, the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the head of the mountains; it will be lifted up above the hills and peoples will flow to it” (Micah 4:1). 


The biblical hope centers around the city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel. It is a hope that promises a time of redemption––not just a time when the Jews are again in their land, but a time of true peace and comfort. After describing Jerusalem’s exaltation, Micah penned a more global picture: “He will judge between many peoples and he will maintain justice for mighty nations from afar and they will beat their swords to plowshares and their spears into tools for pruning. A nation will not lift a sword against another nation and they will no longer learn war. Rather, each person will sit under their vine and under their fig tree and no one will terrify them” (Micah 4:3–4a). Who wouldn’t want a world like that? 

It’s true that Passover remembers the Exodus. It emphasizes the deliverance God wrought through Moses and the way that the firstborn of the Israelites were spared through the blood of the lamb. But it also remembers another picture and another deliverance––this picture of a redeemed Jerusalem and a redeemed world. Consider the parallel: Moses spoke to the people about the Promised Land and sought to bring them to that land. The Hebrew prophets in their day, did the same thing. They spoke largely to a crowd that already lived in that Promised Land, yet that was soon going into exile (Jeremiah 7:34). Their message audience would thus soon find themselves in the same situation as the Israelites who had been in Egypt, just in a different locale. 


It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise to see that the Hebrew prophets harness the story of the Exodus to describe this time of Jerusalem’s redemption and the reversal of the captivity. Multiple prophets referenced a new exodus. Isaiah taught that the returning exiles would again cross a body of water (Isaiah 11:15). Zechariah wrote similarly (Zechariah 10:11). Ezekiel took the imagery of wandering in the wilderness and applied to a new generation of those seeking to return to the land of Israel (Ezekiel 34:35). Micah, however, is perhaps the most explicit: “Like the days of your going out from the land of Egypt, I will show him miracles” (Micah 7:15). 

Though the prophets often spoke and acted in obscurities, their message about the Exodus was fairly straightforward: it would happen again. 

Indeed, though the Babylonians conquered Judah in 586 BCE, Cyrus the Great conquered the Babylonians and offered the Jews the opportunity to return to Jerusalem. In some ways, the redemption had come. Nevertheless, this redemption was never to the extent that the prophets had said. It was an exodus, but it wasn’t like the first. Thus, Zechariah, one of the prophets referenced above, kept prophesying about a coming exodus, even after the exiles returned. In fact, the return from Babylon was highly anticlimactic. So few of the exiles in Babylon wanted to go back that Zechariah had to tell them to leave: “Up! Up! Flee from the land of the north, declares the LORD!” (Zechariah 2:6). The great exodus of the Hebrew prophets never came.


And thus, every year the phrase “Next year in Jerusalem” remembers that hope. Passover isn’t just a time for thinking about the past––it’s also about the future. In a time where shadows cloud Jerusalem’s future and Israel finds itself with many enemies, the story of Passover isn’t just a tradition or a ritual, it’s an imperative. This Passover, we remember the deliverance that God wrought for the Israelites. And, we hold on to the words of the Hebrew prophets––words that have yet to come to pass. Despite all that is going on in Israel today, and despite all that was going on in the times of the prophets, these writers held on to a hope that someday things would change. Just like the Hebrew prophets, the Jewish people have held on to hope. Even when the darkness appeared insurmountable, as the anthem says, “Our hope is not yet lost.”

Indeed. May that day come when not only Jerusalem will be exalted, but the world will learn peace. Until then we say, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

About the Author
Jason Hensley is an award-winning author who specializes in sacred religious texts. He teaches Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Greek, and lectures regularly throughout the world on Judaism, Christianity, and the relationship between them. He holds an MA in Biblical Languages, a DMin in Biblical Studies, and a PhD in Holocaust Studies.
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