Babylonian captivity


Babylonian captivity

The Babylonian captivity, Babylonian exile, is the name typically given to the deportation and exile of the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar during the 6th Century BCE. The Captivity and subsequent return to Israel are pivotal events in the history of the Jews and Judaism, and had far-reaching impacts on the development of modern Jewish culture and practice.

The Kingdom of Judah () notes three deportations: The first was in the time of Jehoiachin, in 597 BC, when the Temple of Jerusalem was partially despoiled and a number of the leading citizens were removed (2 Kings 24:10-16) following the Siege and Fall of Jerusalem.

After eleven years, in 586 BC, in the reign of Zedekiah, a fresh uprising of the Judaeans occurred. The city and temple of Jerusalem was razed and a further deportation ensued (2 Kings 25:1-21).

Finally, five years thereafter, in 581 BC, Jeremiah records a third deportation (Jeremiah 52:30).

Return

During the period of captivity, Jews continued to practice and develop their religious traditions, many of which became distinct from their origins, due to the influences of the local culture.

After the overthrow of Babylonia by the Persian Empire, in 537 BCE the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great gave the Jews permission to return to their native land, and more than 40,000 are said to have availed themselves of the privilege, as noted in the Biblical accounts of Ezra, and Nehemiah. The Persians had a different political philosophy of managing conquered territories than the Babylonians or Assyrians: under the Persians, local personages were put into power to govern the local populace.

The actual return of the exiles was consummated by Ezra, who assembled at the river Ahava all those desirous of returning. These consisted of about 1,800 men, or 5,500 to 6,000 souls (Ezra viii.), besides 38 Levites and 220 slaves of the Temple from Casiphia. With this body, which was invested with royal powers, Ezra and Nehemiah succeeded, after great difficulties, in establishing the post-exilic Jewish community. From the list given in Neh. vii. 6-73 (= Ezra ii.), which the chronicler erroneously supposed to be an enumeration of those who had returned under Cyrus, it appears that the whole Jewish community at this time comprised 42,360 men, or 125,000 to 130,000 souls. [Gottheil "et al.", cite web|title="Babylonian Captivity"|url=http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=135&letter=C&search=Babylonian%20captivity|accessdate=2007-11-08 "JewishEncyclopedia.com"]

Prior to the return, the northern Israelite tribes had been taken captive by Assyria and never returned, leaving the survivors of the Babylonian exile as the majority of the remaining Children of Israel. When the Israelites returned home, they found a mixture of peoples, the Samaritans, practicing a religion very similar, but not identical, to their own. Over time, hostility grew between the returning Jews and the Samaritans. According to the Bible, the Samaritans were foreign people settled into the area by the kings of Assyria and who had partially adopted the Israelite religion.

Although there are many other conflicting theories about the Samaritans' origins, many of them may have simply been Israelites who remained behind and thus had no part in the sweeping changes of the Israelite religion brought about among the captives. Alternatively, perhaps the fierce purity of the Jewish religion and cultural identity of the Babylonian Jews returning from exile, seventy years after their deportation, completely eclipsed the partial fate of the mixed group of Israelite survivors, who had practised paganism for hundreds of years in Israel (including the worship of a golden bull), and who had inter-married with the peoples sent into the territory by the Assyrians (a practice strictly forbidden by Mosaic laws, and punished by Nehemiah).

ignificance in Judaism

The Babylonian Captivity and the subsequent return to Israel were seen as one of the pivotal events in the drama between God and His people: Israel. Just as they had been predestined for, and saved from, slavery in Egypt, the Israelites were predestined to be punished by God through the Babylonians, and then saved once more. The Babylonian Captivity had a number of serious effects on Judaism and the Jewish culture. For example, the current Hebrew script was adopted during this period, replacing the traditional Israelite script.

This period saw the last high-point of Biblical prophecy in the person of Ezekiel, followed by the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life; according to many historical-critical scholars, it was edited and redacted during this time, and saw the beginning of the canonization of the Bible, which provided a central text for Jews.

This process coincided with the emergence of scribes and sages as Jewish leaders (see Ezra and the Pharisees). Prior to exile, the people of Israel had been organized according to tribe; afterwards, they were organized by clans, only the tribe of Levi continuing in its 'special role'. After this time, there were always sizable numbers of 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.

In Rabbinic literature, Babylon is a metaphor for the current Jewish diaspora.

References

Further reading

* Yohanan Aharoni & Michael Avi-Yonah, "The MacMillan Bible Atlas", Revised Edition, pp. 96-106 (1968 & 1977 by Carta Ltd).
* [http://www.aish.com/literacy/jewishhistory/Crash_Course_in_Jewish_History_Part_23_-_Babylonian_Exile.asp The Babylonian Exile] - Crash Course in Jewish History


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Babylonian Captivity — n. 1. BABYLONIAN EXILE 2. the period of forced residence of the popes at Avignon, France (1309 77): so called after the exile of the Jews …   English World dictionary

  • Babylonian captivity —    Term used to refer to the period from 1309 to 1377 when the seat of the papacy was in Avignon, France. Pope Clement V moved his court there to avoid the constant conflicts caused by the rivaling factions of Rome and intrusions from the Holy… …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

  • Babylonian captivity — 1. the period of the exile of the Jews in Babylonia, 597 538 B.C. 2. the exile of the popes at Avignon, 1309 77. * * * …   Universalium

  • Babylonian Captivity —    See Avignon …   Historical Dictionary of Renaissance

  • BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY —    the exile of JEWISH people from Jerusalem which began in 597 B.C. In CHRISTIAN thought it became a symbol of corruption in the CHURCH …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Babylonian captivity — banishment of the residents of Judea to Babylon during the 6th century BCE …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Babylonian Captivity — /bæbəloʊniən kæpˈtɪvəti/ (say babuhlohneeuhn kap tivuhtee) noun the period from 597 to about 538 BC when the Jewish people lived in exile in Babylonia …   Australian English dictionary

  • Babylonian Captivity — noun the deportation of the Jews to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC • Instance Hypernyms: ↑exile, ↑deportation, ↑expatriation, ↑transportation …   Useful english dictionary

  • Babylonian captivity (disambiguation) — Babylonian captivity may refer to various historical events: *The Babylonian captivity of the Jews, or Babylonian exile, is the name generally given to the deportation and exile of the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to Babylon by… …   Wikipedia

  • Babylonian Captivity of the Church, The —    The Babylonian Captivity of the Church was a pamphlet written by Martin Luther calling for reform of the church s sacramental system. It was one of three pamphlets he issued at the end of 1520 in response to the papal bull Exurge Domin. The… …   Encyclopedia of Protestantism


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.