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According to the Hebrew Bible, there were three deportations of Jews to Babylon: the exile of King Jeconiah, his court and many others in Nebuchadnezzar's eighth year; Jeconiah's successor Zedekiah and the rest of the people in Nebuchadnezzar's eighteenth year; and a later deportation in Nebuchadnezzar's twenty-third year. These are attributed to c. 597 BCE, c. 587 BCE, and c. 582 BCE, respectively.
The captivity and subsequent return to Judea, and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem are considered significant events in Jewish history and culture, which had a far-reaching impact on the development of Judaism.
Table based on Rainer Albertz, "Israel in exile: the history and literature of the sixth century BCE", p.xxi. Alternative dates are possible.
|609 BCE||Death of Josiah|
|609–598 BCE||Reign of Jehoiakim (succeeded Jehoahaz, who replaced Josiah but reigned only 3 months)|
|598/7 BCE||Reign of Jehoiachin (reigned 3 months). Siege and fall of Jerusalem.
First deportation, 16 March 597
|597 BCE||Zedekiah made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon|
|594 BCE||Anti-Babylonian conspiracy|
|588 BCE||Siege and fall of Jerusalem.
Second deportation July/August 587
|583 BCE||Gedaliah the Babylonian-appointed governor of Yehud Province assassinated.
Many Jews flee to Egypt and a possible third deportation to Babylon
|562 BCE||Release of Jehoiachin after 37 years in a Babylonian prison. He remains in Babylon|
|538 BCE||Persians conquer Babylon (October)|
|538 BCE||Decree of Cyrus allows Jews to return to Jerusalem|
|520–515 BCE||Return by many Jews to Yehud under Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest.
Foundations of Second Temple laid
The Biblical history of the Exile 
In the late 7th century BCE, the kingdom of Judah was a client state of the powerful Assyrian empire. In the last decades of the century Assyria was overthrown by Babylon, an Assyrian province with a history of former glory in its own right. 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 and in the process Josiah, the king of Judah, was killed in a battle at Megiddo, although the circumstances are obscure (609 BCE). Judah became a Babylonian client, but in the following years two parties formed at the court in Jerusalem: one pro-Egyptian and the other pro-Babylonian.
In 599 BCE, the pro-Egyptian party was in power and Judah revolted against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem, and Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, died in 598 BCE with the siege still under way. He was succeeded by his son Jeconiah, aged either eight or eighteen. The city fell about three months later, on 2 Adar (March 16) 597 BCE, and Nebuchadnezzar pillaged Jerusalem and its Temple and took Jeconiah and his court and other prominent citizens (including the prophet Ezekiel) back to Babylon. Jehoiakim's brother Zedekiah was appointed king in his place, but the exiles in Babylon continued to consider Jeconiah as their Exilarch, or rightful ruler.
Despite the strong remonstrances of Jeremiah and others of the pro-Babylonian party, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar returned, defeated the Egyptians, and again besieged Jerusalem. The city fell in 587. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city wall and the Temple, together with the houses of the most important citizens, and Zedekiah was blinded, and taken to Babylon, together with many others. Judah became a Babylonian province, called Yehud Medinata (Yehud being the Babylonian equivalent of the Hebrew Yehuda, or "Judah", and "medinata" the word for province), putting an end to the independent Kingdom of Judah. Rabbinic sources place the date of the destruction of the First Temple to be 3338 HC (423 BCE) or 3358 HC (403 BCE), while modern historical dating is c. 587 BCE.
The first governor appointed by Babylon was Gedaliah, a native Judahite; he encouraged the many Jews who had fled to surrounding countries such as Moab, Ammon, Edom, to return, and took steps to return the country to prosperity. Some time afterwards, however – it is not clear when, but possibly 582 BCE – a surviving member of the royal family assassinated Gedaliah and his Babylonian advisors, prompting a rush of refugees seeking safety in Egypt. Thus by the end of the second decade of the 6th century, in addition to those who remained in Yehud (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 Diaspora.
According to the book of Ezra-Nehemiah, the Persian Cyrus the Great ended the exile in 538 BCE, the year in which he captured Babylon. The Exile ends 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 520–515 BCE.
Exilic literature 
The Exilic period was a rich one for Hebrew literature. The Hebrew historians of the Exile include 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 Tobit and Book of Judith.
Significance in Jewish history 
The Babylonian captivity and the subsequent return to Judea were seen as one of the pivotal events in the biblical drama between Yahweh and his people of Israel. According to the Hebrew Bible, the captivity in Babylon is presented as a prophecy, as a punishment for their idolatry and disobedience to Yahweh—similar to the Bible's presentation of Israelite slavery in Egypt—and then be delivered 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). 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 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 "Edom".
Authenticity of Cyrus's decree 
The historical nature of this decree has been challenged. Professor Lester L Grabbe argues that there was no decree, but that there was a policy that allowed exiles to return to their homelands and rebuild their temples. He also argues that the archaeology suggests that the return was a "trickle" taking place over decades, resulting in a maximum population of perhaps 30,000.
- 2 Kings 25:27
- 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
- Daniel and the Captivity of Israel Bible Studies website
- 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
- Rashi to Talmud Bavli, avodah zara p. 9a. Josephus, seder hadoroth year 3338
- malbim to ezekiel 24:1, abarbanel et. al.
- Second Temple Period (538 B.C.E. to 70 C.E.) Persian Rule.
- Rainer Albertz, "Israel in exile: the history and literature of the sixth century BCE" (Society for Biblical Literature, 2003) pp.4–38
- Grabbe, Lester L. (2004). A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period: Yehud - A History of the Persian Province of Judah v. 1. T & T Clark. p. 355. ISBN 978-0567089984.
Further reading 
- Yehud Medinata map, CET – Center For Educational technology
- Yehud Medinata Border map, CET – Center For Educational technology
- 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, 2003)
- 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 Jews and 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, 2005)
- Lipschitz, Oded, and Oeming, Manfred (eds), "Judah and the Judeans in the Persian period" (Eisenbrauns, 2006)
- Lipschitz, Oded, and Oeming, Manfred (eds), "Judah and the Judeans in the fourth century B.C.E." (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, 2001)
- "Babylonian Captivity". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.
- "Babylonish Captivity". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.