The BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY or BABYLONIAN EXILE is the period in Jewish
history during which a number of Judahites of the ancient Kingdom of
Judah were captives in
Babylonia . After the
Battle of Carchemish in
Nebuchadnezzar , the king of Babylon, besieged
resulting in tribute being paid by King
to pay tribute in Nebuchadnezzar's fourth year, which led to another
siege in Nebuchadnezzar's seventh year, culminating with the death of
Jehoiakim and the exile of King
Jeconiah , his court and many others;
Zedekiah and others were exiled in
Nebuchadnezzar's eighteenth year; a later deportation occurred in
Nebuchadnezzar's twenty-third year. The dates, numbers of
deportations, and numbers of deportees given in the biblical accounts
vary. These deportations are dated to 597 BCE for the first, with
others dated at 587/586 BCE, and 582/581 BCE respectively.
After the fall of Babylon to the Persian king
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great in 539
BCE, exiled Judeans were permitted to return to Judah. According to
the biblical book of
Ezra , construction of the second temple in
Jerusalem began around 537 BCE. All these events are considered
Jewish history and culture, and had a far-reaching
impact on the development of Judaism.
Archaeological studies have revealed that not all of the population
of Judah was deported, and that, although
Jerusalem was utterly
destroyed, other parts of Judah continued to be inhabited during the
period of the exile. The return of the exiles was a gradual process
rather than a single event, and many of the deportees or their
descendants did not return.
* 1 Biblical accounts of the exile
* 2 Archaeological and other non-Biblical evidence
* 3 Exilic literature
* 4 Significance in
* 5 Chronology
* 6 See also
* 7 References
* 8 Further reading
BIBLICAL ACCOUNTS OF THE EXILE
In the late 7th century BCE, the kingdom of Judah was a client state
of the Assyrian empire. In the last decades of the century, Assyria
was overthrown by Babylon, an Assyrian province. Egypt , fearing the
sudden rise of the
Neo-Babylonian empire , seized control of Assyrian
territory up to the
Euphrates river in Syria, but Babylon
counter-attacked. In the process
Josiah , the king of Judah, was
killed in a battle with the Egyptians at the Battle of Megiddo (609
After the defeat of
Pharaoh Necho\'s army by the Babylonians at
Carchemish in 605 BCE,
Jehoiakim began paying tribute to
Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. Some of the young nobility of Judah
(such as Daniel ,
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego ) were taken to
In the following years, the court of
Jerusalem was divided into two
parties, in support of Egypt and Babylon. After
defeated in battle in 601 BCE by Egypt, Judah revolted against
Babylon, culminating in a three-month siege of
Jerusalem beginning in
late 598 BCE.
Jehoiakim , the king of Judah, died during the siege
and was succeeded by his son
Jehoiachin (also called
Jeconiah ) at the
age of eighteen. The city fell on 2
Adar (March 16) 597 BCE, and
Jerusalem and its Temple and took Jeconiah,
his court and other prominent citizens (including the prophet Ezekiel
) back to Babylon. Jehoiakim's uncle
Zedekiah was appointed king in
his place, but the exiles in Babylon continued to consider
Exilarch , or rightful ruler.
Despite warnings by
Jeremiah and others of the pro-Babylonian party,
Zedekiah revolted against Babylon and entered into an alliance with
Pharaoh Hophra .
Nebuchadnezzar returned, defeated the Egyptians, and
Jerusalem , resulting in the city's destruction in 587
Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city wall and the Temple, together
with the houses of the most important citizens.
Zedekiah and his sons
were captured, the sons were executed in front of Zedekiah, who was
then blinded and taken to Babylon with many others (Jer 52:10-11).
Judah became a Babylonian province, called Yehud , putting an end to
the independent Kingdom of Judah. (Because of the missing years in the
Jewish calendar , rabbinic sources place the date of the destruction
of the First Temple at 3338 HC (423 BCE) or 3358 HC (403 BCE)).
Illustration from the
Nuremberg Chronicle of the destruction of
Jerusalem under the Babylonian rule
The first governor appointed by Babylon was Gedaliah, a native
Judahite; he encouraged the many
Jews who had fled to surrounding
countries such as
Edom to return, and he took steps
to return the country to prosperity. Some time later, a surviving
member of the royal family assassinated
Gedaliah and his Babylonian
advisors, prompting many refugees to seek safety in Egypt. By the end
of the second decade of the 6th century, in addition to those who
remained in Judah, there were significant Jewish communities in
Babylon and in Egypt; this was the beginning of the later numerous
Jewish communities living permanently outside Judah in the Jewish
According to the book of
Ezra , the Persian
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great ended the
exile in 538 BCE, the year after he captured Babylon. The exile
ended with the return under
Zerubbabel the Prince (so-called because
he was a descendant of the royal line of
David ) and Joshua the Priest
(a descendant of the line of the former High Priests of the Temple)
and their construction of the
Second Temple in the period 521–516
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND OTHER NON-BIBLICAL EVIDENCE
Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem, his capture of King Jeconiah,
his appointment of
Zedekiah in his place, and the plundering of the
city in 597 BCE are corroborated by a passage in the Babylonian
Chronicles : :293
"In the seventh year, in the month of Kislev, the king of Akkad
mustered his troops, marched to the Hatti-land, and encamped against
the City of Judah and on the ninth day of the month of
Adar he seized
the city and captured the king. He appointed there a king of his own
choice and taking heavy tribute brought it back to Babylon."
Jehoiachin\'s Rations Tablets , describing ration orders for a
captive King of Judah, identified with King Jeconiah, have been
discovered during excavations in Babylon, in the royal archives of
Nebuchadnezzar. One of the tablets refers to food rations for
"Ya’u-kīnu, king of the land of Yahudu" and five royal princes, his
Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian forces returned in 588/586 BCE and
rampaged through Judah, leaving clear archaeological evidence of
destruction in many towns and settlements there. :294 Clay ostraca
from this period, referred to as the
Lachish letters , were discovered
during excavations; one, which was probably written to the commander
Lachish from an outlying base, describes how the signal fires from
nearby towns were disappearing: "And may (my lord) be apprised that we
are watching for the fire signals of
Lachish according to all the
signs which my lord has given, because we cannot see Azeqah."
Archaeological finds from
Jerusalem testify that virtually the whole
city within the walls was burnt to rubble in 587 BCE and utterly
Archaeological excavations and surveys have enabled the population of
Judah before the Babylonian destruction to be calculated with a high
degree of confidence to have been approximately 75,000. Taking the
different biblical numbers of exiles at their highest, 20,000, this
would mean that at most 25% of the population had been deported to
Babylon, with the remaining 75% staying in Judah. :306 Although
Jerusalem was destroyed and depopulated, with large parts of the city
remaining in ruins for 150 years, numerous other settlements in Judah
continued to be inhabited, with no signs of disruption visible in
archaeological studies. :307
Cyrus Cylinder , an ancient tablet on which is written a
declaration in the name of Cyrus referring to restoration of temples
and repatriation of exiled peoples, has often been taken as
corroboration of the authenticity of the biblical decrees attributed
to Cyrus, but other scholars point out that the cylinder's text is
specific to Babylon and Mesopotamia and makes no mention of Judah or
Jerusalem. Professor Lester L. Grabbe asserted that the "alleged
decree of Cyrus" regarding Judah, "cannot be considered authentic",
but that there was a "general policy of allowing deportees to return
and to re-establish cult sites". He also stated that archaeology
suggests that the return was a "trickle" taking place over decades,
rather than a single event.
As part of the Persian Empire , the former
Kingdom of Judah became
the province of Judah (
Yehud Medinata ) with different borders,
covering a smaller territory. The population of the province was
greatly reduced from that of the kingdom, archaeological surveys
showing a population of around 30,000 people in the 5th to 4th
centuries BCE. :308
An exhibition in
Jerusalem has on display over 100 cuneiform tablets
that detail trade in fruits and other commodities, taxes, debts, and
credits accumulated between
Jews driven from, or convinced to move
Jerusalem by King
Nebuchadnezzar around 600 BCE. They include
details on one exiled Judean family over four generations, all with
The exilic period was a rich one for Hebrew literature. Biblical
depictions of the exile include Book of
Jeremiah 39–43 (which saw
the exile as a lost opportunity); the final section of
2 Kings (which
portrays it as the temporary end of history);
2 Chronicles (in which
the exile is the "Sabbath of the land"); and the opening chapters of
Ezra , which records its end. Other works from or about the exile
include the stories in Daniel 1–6, Susanna ,
Bel and the Dragon ,
the "Story of the Three Youths" (
1 Esdras 3:1–5:6), and the books of
Book of Judith .
Priestly source , one of the four main sources of the Torah
/Pentateuch in the Bible, is primarily a product of the post-exilic
period when the former
Kingdom of Judah had become the Persian
province of Yehud. Also during this Persian period, the final
redaction of the Pentateuch purportedly took place. :310
SIGNIFICANCE IN JEWISH HISTORY
This section DOES NOT CITE ANY SOURCES . Please help improve this
section by adding citations to reliable sources . Unsourced material
may be challenged and removed . (August 2013) (Learn how and when to
remove this template message )
James Tissot , The Flight of the Prisoners.
In the Hebrew Bible, the captivity in Babylon is presented as a
punishment for idolatry and disobedience to
Yahweh in a similar way to
the presentation of Israelite slavery in Egypt followed by
deliverance. The Babylonian Captivity had a number of serious effects
Judaism and Jewish culture. For example, the current Hebrew
alphabet was adopted during this period, replacing the Paleo-Hebrew
This period saw the last high-point of biblical prophecy in the
Ezekiel , followed by the emergence of the central role of
Torah in Jewish life. According to many historical-critical
Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be
regarded as the authoritative text for Jews. This period saw their
transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without
a central Temple.
This process coincided with the emergence of scribes and sages as
Jewish leaders (see
Ezra ). Prior to exile, the people of Israel had
been organized according to tribe. Afterwards, they were organized by
smaller family groups. Only the tribe of
Levi continued in its temple
role after the return. After this time, there were always sizable
Jews living outside
Eretz Israel ; thus, it also marks the
beginning of the "
Jewish diaspora ", unless this is considered to have
begun with the
Assyrian Captivity of Israel .
Rabbinic literature , Babylon was one of a number of metaphors for
the Jewish diaspora. Most frequently the term "Babylon" meant the
diaspora prior to the destruction of the
Second Temple . The
post-destruction term for the
Jewish Diaspora was "Rome ", or "
The following table is based on Rainer Albertz's work on Israel in
exile. (Alternative dates are possible.)
Jehoiakim (succeeded Jehoahaz , who replaced
reigned only 3 months) Began giving tribute to
Nebuchadnezzar in 605
BCE. First deportation, including Daniel .
Jehoiachin (reigned 3 months). Siege and fall of
Second deportation, 16 March 597
Zedekiah made king of Judah by
Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon
Siege and fall of
Jerusalem . Solomon\'s Temple destroyed.
Third deportation July/August 587
Gedaliah the Babylonian-appointed governor of Yehud Province
Jews flee to Egypt and a possible fourth deportation to Babylon
Jehoiachin after 37 years in a Babylonian prison. He
remains in Babylon
Persians conquer Babylon (October)
Decree of Cyrus allows
Jews to return to Jerusalem
Return by many
Jews to Yehud under
Zerubbabel and Joshua the High
Second Temple laid
Avignon Papacy , sometimes called the "Babylonian Captivity of the
* ^ Coogan, Michael (2009). A Brief Introduction to the Old
Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* ^ Moore, Megan Bishop; Kelle, Brad E. (2011). Biblical History
and Israel S Past: The Changing Study of the Bible and History. Wm. B.
Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 357–358. ISBN 0802862608 . Retrieved 11
June 2015. Overall, the difficulty in calculation arises because the
biblical texts provide varying numbers for the different deportations.
The HB/OT’s conflicting figures for the dates, number, and victims
of the Babylonian deportations become even more of a problem for
historical reconstruction because, other than the brief reference to
the first capture of
Jerusalem (597) in the Babylonian Chronicle,
historians have only the biblical sources with which to work.
* ^ Dunn, James G.; Rogerston, John William (2003). Eerdmans
Commentary on the Bible. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 545. ISBN
* ^ Jonathan Stökl, Caroline Waerzegger (2015). Exile and Return:
The Babylonian Context. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. pp. 7–11, 30,
* ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica. 3 (2nd ed.). p. 27.
* ^ Stern, Ephraim (November–December 2000). "The Babylonian
Gap". Biblical Archaeology Review. 26 (6). From 604 BCE to 538 BCE
—there is a complete gap in evidence suggesting occupation. ... I do
not mean to imply that the country was uninhabited during the period
between the Babylonian destruction and the Persian period. There were
undoubtedly some settlements, but the population was very small. Many
towns and villages were either completely or partly destroyed. The
rest were barely functioning. International trade virtually ceased.
Only two regions appear to have been spared this fate—the northern
part of Judah (the region of Benjamin) and probably the land of Ammon,
although the latter region awaits further investigation.
* ^ Geoffrey Wigoder, The Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of
the Bible Pub. by Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. (2006)
* ^ Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Hebrew Bible, Continuum International,
1996, page x. ISBN 0-304-33703-X
* ^ 2Kings 24:6–8
* ^ Philip J. King, Jeremiah: An Archaeological Companion
(Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), page 23.
* ^ The Oxford History of the Biblical World, ed. by Michael D
Coogan. Pub. by Oxford University Press, 1999. pg 350
Talmud Bavli , avodah zara p. 9a.
Josephus , seder
hadoroth year 3338
* ^ malbim to ezekiel 24:1, abarbanel et al.
* ^ A B "
Second Temple Period (538 BCE. to 70 CE) Persian Rule".
Biu.ac.il. Retrieved 2014-03-15.
* ^ Harper's Bible Dictionary, ed. by Achtemeier, etc., Harper
Silberman, Neil Asher (2001). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New
Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. Simon and
Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-86912-4 .
* ^ Thomas,
David Winton (1958). Documents from Old Testament Times
(1961 ed.). Edinburgh and London: Thomas Nelson. p. 84.
* ^ Cf. 2Kings 24:12, 24:15–24:16, 25:27–25:30; 2Chronicles
Jeremiah 22:24–22:6, 29:2, 52:31–52:34; Ezekiel
* ^ COJS staff. "Babylonian Ration List: King Jehoiakhin in Exile,
592/1 BCE". COJS.org. The Center for Online Judaic Studies. Archived
from the original on 16 June 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
Ya’u-kīnu, king of the land of Yahudu
* ^ Translation from Aḥituv, Shmuel. Echoes from the Past.
Jerusalem: CARTA Jerusalem, 2008, pg. 70.
* ^ A B Becking, Bob (2006). ""We All Returned as One!": Critical
Notes on the Myth of the Mass Return". In Lipschitz, Oded; Oeming,
Manfred. Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period. Winona Lake, IN:
Eisenbrauns. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-57506-104-7 .
* ^ A B Grabbe, Lester L. (2004). A History of the
Jews and Judaism
Second Temple Period: Yehud - A History of the Persian Province
of Judah v. 1. T & T Clark. p. 355. ISBN 978-0567089984 .
* ^ Yehud being the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew Yehuda, or
"Judah", and "medinata" the word for province
* ^ "Ancient tablets on display in
Jerusalem reveal Jewish life
during Babylon exile".
* ^ "Ancient tablets reveal life of
Jews in Nebuchadnezzar\'s
Babylon". 3 February 2017 – via Reuters.
* ^ Rainer Albertz, Israel in exile: the history and literature of
the sixth century BCE (page 15 link) Society for Biblical Literature,
* ^ Blum, Erhard (1998). "Issues and Problems in the Contemporary
Debate Regarding the Priestly Writings". In Sarah Shectman, Joel S.
Baden. The strata of the priestly writings: contemporary debate and
future directions. Theologischer Verlag. pp. 32–33.
* ^ A Concise History of the Jewish People Naomi E. Pasachoff,
Robert J. Littma Rowman & Littlefield, 2005 pg 43
* ^ Rainer Albertz, Israel in exile: the history and literature of
the sixth century BCE, p.xxi.
* page 77 with another list of dates
2 Kings 25:27
Wikimedia Commons has media related to BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY .
Yehud Medinata map, CET – Center For Educational technology
Yehud Medinata Border map, CET – Center For Educational
* Peter R. Ackroyd, "Exile and Restoration: A Study of Hebrew
Thought of the Sixth Century B.C." (SCM Press, 1968)
* Rainer Albertz, Bob Becking, "Yahwism after the Exile" Van Gorcum,
* Blenkinsopp, Joseph, "Judaism, the first phase: the place of Ezra
and Nehemiah in the origins of Judaism" (Eerdmans, 2009)
* Nodet, Étienne, "A search for the origins of Judaism: from Joshua
to the Mishnah" (Sheffield Academic Press, 1999, original edition
Editions du Cerf, 1997)
* Becking, Bob, and Korpel, Marjo Christina Annette (eds), "The
Crisis of Israelite Religion: Transformation of Religious Tradition in
Exilic & Post-Exilic Times" (Brill, 1999)
* Bedford, Peter Ross, "Temple restoration in early Achaemenid
Judah" (Brill, 2001)
* Berquist, Jon L., "Approaching Yehud: new approaches to the study
of the Persian period" (Society of Biblical Literature, 2007)
* Grabbe, Lester L., "A history of the
Judaism in the
Second Temple Period", vol.1 (T&T Clark International, 2004)
* Levine, Lee I., "Jerusalem: portrait of the city in the second
Temple period (538 B.C.E.-70 C.E.)" (Jewish Publication Society, 2002)
* Lipschitz, Oded, "The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem" (Eisenbrauns,
* Lipschitz, Oded, and Oeming, Manfred (eds), "Judah and the Judeans
in the Persian period" (Eisenbrauns, 2006)
* Middlemas, Jill Anne, "The troubles of templeless Judah" (Oxford
University Press, 2005)
* Stackert, Jeffrey, "Rewriting the Torah: literary revision in
Deuteronomy and the holiness code" (Mohr Siebeck, 2007)
* Vanderkam, James, "An introduction to early Judaism" (Eerdmans,
* "Babylonian Captivity". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.
* "Babylonish Captivity".
New International Encyclopedia . 1905.
* Ancient Israel and Judah
* Ancient Greece
* Ancient Libya
* Ancient Egypt
* Ancient Persia
* Babylonian captivity
* Under Muslim rule
* Golden Age
* Ottoman Empire
* Soviet Union
* United States
* World War II
* Israeli history
Jewish history in Israel/Palestine Population history
Genetic history Languages Refugees Schisms
* Political movements
additional terms may apply. By using this site, you agree to the Terms
the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. , a non-profit organization.
* Cookie statement
* Mobile view