Babylonian Exile


Babylonian Exile
n.
the exile of the Jews, deported by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylonia in 597 B.C. and permitted to return by Cyrus in 538 B.C.

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Forced detention of Jews in Babylonia following Babylonian conquest of Judah in 598/597 and 587/586 BC.

The first deportation may have occurred after King Jehoiachin was deposed in 597 BC or after Nebuchadrezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586. In 538 BC the Persian Cyrus II conquered Babylonia and allowed the Jews to return to Palestine. Some Jews chose to remain in Babylonia, initiating the Jewish Diaspora. During the Babylonian Exile the Jews maintained their national spirit and religious identity despite cultural pressures in a foreign land, with Ezekiel and other prophets keeping hope alive. Petrarch and other writers designated the Avignon papacy as the Babylonian Captivity in the 14th century, and Martin Luther used the term in the title of one of his works attacking the papacy and the Roman Catholic church in the 16th century.

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▪ Jewish history
also called  Babylonian Captivity,  

      the forced detention of Jews in Babylonia following the latter's conquest of the kingdom of Judah in 598/7 and 587/6 BC. The exile formally ended in 538 BC, when the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II), gave the Jews permission to return to Palestine. Historians agree that several deportations took place (each the result of uprisings in Palestine), that not all Jews were forced to leave their homeland, that returning Jews left Babylonia at various times, and that some Jews chose to remain in Babylonia—thus constituting the first of numerous Jewish communities living permanently in the Diaspora (q.v.).

      Many scholars cite 597 BC as the date of the first deportation, for in that year King Jehoiachin was deposed and apparently sent into exile with his family, his court, and thousands of workers. Others say the first deportation followed the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar in 586; if so, the Jews were held in Babylonian captivity for 48 years. Among those who accept a tradition (Jeremiah 29:10) that the exile lasted 70 years, some choose the dates 608 to 538, others 586 to about 516 (the year when the rebuilt Temple was dedicated in Jerusalem).

      Although the Jews suffered greatly and faced powerful cultural pressures in a foreign land, they maintained their national spirit and religious identity. Elders supervised the Jewish communities, and Ezekiel was one of several prophets who kept alive the hope of one day returning home. This was possibly also the period when synagogues were first established, for the Jews observed the Sabbath and religious holidays, practiced circumcision, and substituted prayers for former ritual sacrifices in the Temple. The degree to which the Jews looked upon Cyrus the Great as their benefactor and a servant of their God is reflected at several points in the Hebrew Bible, e.g., at Isaiah 45:1–3, where he is actually called God's anointed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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