"By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and cried
as we remembered Zion.
We hung our lyres on willow trees. …
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?"
"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever."
In Edenic Jarden, there's an orange sticker on the houses of those who have been certified as the safe/chosen/spared. Like the Israelites, those who live in Jarden are the Chosen People. But once you get in John Murphy’s pickup truck, cross the mythical bridge out of town and descend through the hostile, murmuring mass of the wannabe citizens of the Miraculous city, it gets…well, we already know Jarden’s not safe, but then there's Babylon.
In Genesis 11, we’re first introduced to Babylon ("Babel" and "Babylon" are the same word in Hebrew), where humans decide to reach up to heaven, and God confuses their languages and scatters them. Babylon becomes a symbol in Jewish scriptures of whatever threatens and defies God. (And, one of the enemies of God in Revelation is the Great Whore of Babylon.)
In 586-7 B.C.E., the Babylonians defeat the nation of Israel, kill its king and destroy its capital city. Israelites are carted 500 miles—the other side of the world—and relocated in Babylon. This Exile causes a foundational theological crisis for Jewish thinking: If God is the God of Israel and Israel is gone, then where is God? Is there even a God at all? And, who are we?
And so, the psalmist says, we sat by the rivers in Babylon, and we wept. Like Michael weeping with Jill on his porch. Like Kevin, standing agog in the drying-up river where the girls disappeared.
I think that's what John Murphy has already realized. "There are no miracles in Miracle," he tells Kevin, as they pass through the valley. They're headed toward the Babylon Motel with its crappy rooms strewn around. In cabin 12 is Isaac—the name of the Israelite patriarch, father of Jacob and Esau—the soothsayer whose house John burned down. Why are we here? John has decided the handprint on the gone girls’ car is Isaac’s.
Kevin saves Isaac and John from killing each other, but it’s just another step downward into darkness on what has already been a long day. And amidst this descent, Patti sings to Kevin in an ironic twist on the prayers of Psalm 136. Psalm 136, in which God rickrolls Israel: My mercy endures forever, aka: I’m never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down.
But if Evie and the other girls have Departed, is the Miracle over? In the final moment of the episode, mournful in the darkness, Michael—named for the archangel who leads God's armies against Satan—scratches the orange sticker off the front of the Murphys’ house. Has God given up on them—if there even is a God?