CAPTIVITY, or EXILE, BABYLONIAN:
- The Deportation of Israel.
- Deportation of Judah.
- Number of Babylonian Exiles.
- Condition of the Exiles.
- Religious Conditions.
- Religious Observances.
- The Sabbath.
- Cultivation of Literature.
- Termination of the Exile.
- —Traditional Data:
- Causes of Exile.
- Incidents Connected with the Exile.
- God's Attitude to Exiles.
- Duration of Exile.
- Return from Exile.
By "exile" is meant any form of forced emigration in which the selection of his new habitation is left to the choice of the person banished. In a particular sense the word is used to designate the enforced emigration of larger communities, such as tribes and nations; in which case, however, any choice of domicile seems to be withheld. The specific term for this species of exile is "deportation." In antiquity, deportation was employed on an extensive scale for political purposes, either to annihilate the power of a conquered people, or to cultivate new and unsettled districts by populating them, or to fuse together various nationalities—more widely separated in ancient times than they are to-day—and occasionally to subserve several of these various ends at once.The Deportation of Israel.
The earliest deportation of Israelites mentioned in the Old Testament was that of Tiglath-pileser III. This king, either in 734
The inhabitants of the southern kingdom, Judea, were in their turn subjected to two deportations. The first of these took place in the year 597 in connection with the first conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. On that occasion Nebuchadnezzar appeared before the walls of Jerusalem with his army for the purpose of punishing Josiah's son Jehoiakim, because the latter, relying upon the assistance of Egypt, had renounced his allegiance to Babylonia. As soon as Jehoiachin or Jaconiah, who had meanwhile succeeded his father, Jehoiakim, as king, had, after a short defense, surrendered to the leaders of the Babylonian army, Nebuchadnezzar ordered him, together with the most distinguished men of the land, and the most valuable treasures of the Temple and the palace, to be sent to Babylonia (II Kings xxiv. 1-16). Thus began the Babylonian Exile (597), from which year the prophet Ezekiel, who was among the captives, dates his calculations. Another deportation took place upon the downfall of the kingdom of Judah (586
As regards the number of Jews deported by Nebuchadnezzar, there are two divergent reports. According to the statements in Jer. lii. 28-30, which must be accepted as the more reliable, as they certainly are the more complete, 3,023 Jews were deported in 597
The Israelites who were deported in 597 at first hoped for a speedy return to their homes. As they belonged without exception to the leading families, they had given credence to the sayings of the false prophets who had flattered them (Jer. xxvii.-xxix.; Ezek. xii. 21, xiii. 23); and in contradistinction to those who had remained at home, they came to regard themselves as the true Israel, although they themselves by no means conformed to the standard which the true prophets had pictured of an ideal Israel (Jer. xxiv.; Ezek. xi. 1-21), nor did they betray any evidence of a "new heart." When, therefore, contrary to their expectations, Jerusalem was destroyed in 586, they were, after all, compelled to follow the advice of Jeremiah (xxix. 4-9) and accommodate themselves to the conditions of a protracted exile.
As exiles, under royal protection, and consequently enjoying special prerogatives in their new home, their personal lot was undoubtedly a happier one than that of their brethren who had remained behind. Their habitation was in the province of Babylon. It is not known, however, whether they lived together in considerable numbers or were scattered throughout the country. The places where they dwelt were known by various names; thus, "Tel Abib," according to the Hebrew etymology, signified "hill of corn-ears," whereas its Babylonian signification was "the deluge," or "hill of the stream"—the valley of the rivers Chebar (one of the numerous canals of the Euphrates), Casiphia, and Ahava (Ezek. i. 3; Ezra viii. 15, 17). A number of western Semitic proper names, discovered upon inscriptions found in Nippur, have led Hilprecht to believe that many of the exiles were settled in that place (see, for example, "Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statement," Jan., 1898, p. 54; April, 1898, p. 137). They not only preserved their old tribal distinction, but kept special genealogicalrecords (Ezra viii. 17; Ezek. xiii. 9); and the heads of the tribes or elders were the leaders of the separate communities (Ezra viii. 1 et seq., 16 et seq.; Ezek. viii. 1, xiv. 1, xx. 1).
Their outward condition was also by no means unsatisfactory. Jeremiah, in his exhortations (xxix. 5-7; compare Ezek. xiii. 2 et seq., xiv. 9-11), states that the Israelites were permitted to till the soil, to cultivate the family life, and, by thrift and diligence, to accumulate wealth. Perhaps, being permitted to administer their internal affairs through their elders, they were allowed the undisturbed exercise of their religion; and nowhere are bloody persecutions heard of, designed to alienate forcibly the people from their ancestral religion, and to coerce them into accepting that of the conquerors. All the misery, want, imprisonment, and ill-treatment, frequently described as suffered in Babylonia, must be explained by the fact that the Prophets, whenever they gazed back upon the national catastrophe, felt anew all the pangs of homelessness and servitude. Consequently, the description of the people as a helpless worm (Isa. xli. 14), and of the violence and spoliation which had reduced Israel to the condition of those who suffer in chains and bondage (ib. xlii. 20-24), is not ascribable to actual sufferings inflicted in the land of exile. The chains and bonds are not such as have been forged for them in the land of their exile: they are figurative of the condition of homelessness and servitude into which the exiled Israelites have fallen; and they have lost their home, they have been despoiled, and the fetters of the foreign rule weigh heavily upon them. The Prophets also deplore the deep humiliation to which God has subjected His people by consigning them to ruin, and they bewail the circumstance that even the religious leaders, the priests and the Prophets themselves, have been delivered up to the profanation of a pagan people, instead of being permitted to serve the Lord in His holy Temple according to the divine mission appointed to them (Isa. xliii. 28, xlvii. 6). The source of the most poignant grief on the part of the pious devotees of
In consequence of the favorable external circumstances of the exiles, and particularly of such of them as were engaged in the diversified commerce in the Babylonian metropolis, the longing for home gradually disappeared, and they learned to content themselves with material prosperity. Most of these indifferent persons were lost to their people; for, in their anxiety to retain the wealth they had acquired, they learned to conform to the manners and customs of the country, thus sacrificing not only their national but also their religious independence and individuality. Hence the denunciation by the Prophets of the various forms of idolatry practised among the people. Even if the description of the idolatry mentioned in Isa. lvi. 9-lvii. 13a belongs to pre-exilic times, many other passages so graphically describe the idolatrous practises of the exiles that the relation between these and the Babylonian cult can not be mistaken (Isa. lxv. 3 et seq.; compare ib. lxvi. 17). Despite all this indifference and impiety on the part of the masses, there was nevertheless an element that remained true to the service of
What they had re-established almost immediately of the religion of their fathers was the sacred observances. True, a festive celebration of the high festivals was out of the question, in view of the unfavorable conditions and of the mood of the people. Such a celebration was, therefore, supplanted by solemn days of penance and prayer to commemorate the catastrophe which had befallen the people (Zech. vii. 3, viii. 19). The fasts of the fathers were also observed, although in so superficial and thoughtless a manner that the prophet was compelledto condemn the mode of observance, and to censure fasting when accompanied by the ordinary business pursuits of every-day (Isa. lviii. 3).The Sabbath.
As the faithful could not honor
At the same time the idea found acceptance that the submission of the personal will to that of the Lord would prove the most acceptable sacrifice in His sight (Ezek. xi. 19, xviii. 31, xxxvi. 26; Isa. lxi. 1-3). Ezekiel also establishes the new principle that the essence of religion must be sought in individual morality: "The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezek. xviii. 20-32; compare Deut. xxiv. 16; Num. xxvi. 11); wherefore he, also, in contrast with the present disposition of the exiles, predicts a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek. xxxvi. 26). The new religious conviction was confirmed by the contemplation of the pagan idols with the attendant immoral cult, which reacted to strengthen and to purify the conception of the monotheistic idea, so that in the Deutero-Isaiah the certain conviction is already expressed of the ultimate recognition of
Particular attention was now paid to the ancestral literature; and thus there arose during the Babylonian Exile the profession of the "scribes," those learned in the Law who set the standard of piety and devotion, and who transmitted their precepts both to their successors and to the people at large, while at the same time extending the body of the laws by means of revision and amplification (see Pentateuch). Historical writings also were now revised in accordance with the standard of the Law, establishing as a basis the historical conception of Deuteronomy. All the calamities which had befallen Israel were accepted by these exiles as a punishment for transgressions, and particularly for idol-worship. The sin of Jeroboam had ruined Israel, and the transgressions of Manasseh, despite his subsequent thorough reformation, were only atoned for by the downfall of Judah. Therefore the history of the past was to serve both as a warning and as a guide for the future. This explains the purpose of the compilation of the various older historical works into a historical entity: the new Israel, risen from the grave of exile, must avoid the sins and errors which caused the ruin of its fathers. And indeed the Psalms which were composed after the Exile reveal a keener introspection, a deeper sense of contrition, and a more frank avowal of sin than the earlier ones.Termination of the Exile.
The first indication of a change for the better was the liberation of King Jehoiachin from his captivity, with regal honors which distinguished him above all other kings at the court of Babylon. According to II Kings xxv. 27-30, he was liberated by Evil-Merodach (562-560
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.
- On the general history of Israel: B. Stade, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, i. 671-703 (Berlin, 1887), ii. 1-67 (ib. 1889);
- R. Kittel, Gesch. der Hebräer, 2d half vol., pp. 325-333, Gotha, 1892;
- A. Köhler, Lehrbuch der Biblischen Gesch. (Altes Testament), 2d half, 2d part, pp. 479-535, Erlangen, 1893;
- J. Wellhausen, Israelitische und Jüdische Gesch. 3d ed., pp. 135-157, Berlin, 1897;
- G. Klostermann, Gesch. des Volkes Israel bis zur Restauration Unter Esra und Nehemia, pp. 222-228, Munich, 1896;
- H. Guthe, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, pp. 221-242, Freiburg-in-Baden, 1899.
- Of special monographs: B. Stade, Wie Hoch Belief Sich die Zahl der Unter Nebukadnezar nach Babylonien Deportierten Juden? in Zeitschr. für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 1884, pp. 271-277;
- V. Ryssel, Die Anfänge der Jüdischen Schriftgelehrsamkeit, in Theologische Studien und Kritiken, 1887, pp. 149-182.
Various causes are assigned in the Haggadah for the Babylonian Exile. Some authorities mention general unworthiness (Lam. R. proem 19); others give specific sins, as idolatry, licentiousness, and bloodshed (Tosef., Men. xiii. 22), incontinency in the drinking of wine (Gen. R. xxxvi. 4), too great indulgence to one another and failure to reprove those who sinned (Shab. 119b), and non-observance of the year of release and of the Sabbath, and neglecting the study of the Torah (Yer. Ta'an. iv. 69b).Causes of Exile.
Israel was exiled to Babylonia because the language of the Babylonians is akin to that of the Torah. According to another opinion, God had therefore exiled Israel to Babylonia because the latter is a low-lying country, like the nether world; as it is said (Hosea xiii. 14): "From the power of the nether world I will ransom them." Anotherauthority says that God exiled Israel to Babylonia, because it was the land from which they had come, as a husband that is angry with his wife sends her home to her mother (Pes. 87b). Babylonia was Israel's home. Israel and Judah were exiled to different places in order that each might find consolation in the other's misery (Pesiḳ. R. xxxiii.).Incidents Connected with the Exile.
Forty years before Israel went into exile date-palms were planted in Babylonia, because Israel was eager for the sweetness of the date, by which the tongue gets accustomed to the sweetness of the Torah (Yer. Ta'an. l.c.). According to one opinion the Ark was carried to Babylonia. With the destruction of the First Temple ceased the Davidic dynasty, the Urim and Tummim, and the Levitical cities (Tosef., Soṭah, xiii. 1, 2). For fifty-two years after the destruction of the Temple no bird was seen to fly in Palestine. This is inferred from Jer. ix. 9, having the numerical value of 52. Seven hundred kinds of clean fishes, 800 kinds of clean locusts, and innumerable fowl followed the exiles to Babylonia (Yer. Ta'an. l.c.; Lam. R. proem 34). As Nebuzaradan entered the Temple court he found the blood of the prophet Zechariah boiling. To his question, "Whose blood is that?" the people answered that it was the blood of sacrificial animals. He slaughtered a multitude of animals, but the prophet's blood did not cease boiling. Threatened with execution, the people admitted that it was the blood of the murdered prophet. Nebuzaradan thereupon slaughtered 80,000 priestly youths, but the blood still would not cease boiling. Turning in anger to it, he said, "Dost thou want me to kill thy whole people?" Then God felt mercy with His children and caused the blood to cease boiling (Yer. Ta'an. l.c.; Giṭ. 57b). Eighty thousand priestly youths hid themselves in the cells of the Temple, where they were all burned, with the exception of Joshua b. Jehozadak, the high priest, the "brand plucked out of the fire" (Yer. Ta'an. l.c.). Eighty thousand priestly youths fled to the Ishmaelites. When they asked the latter for a drink, they gave them various salted foods, and leather bottles filled with air, and invited them to eat and drink. When one attempted to drink, the air from the bottle entered his lungs and choked him to death (ib.).
Nebuzaradan is identical with Arioch (Dan. ii. 14). This name suggests that Nebuzaradan, when leading the Jewish exiles, raged against them like a lion () until they had reached the Euphrates. On arriving there he said to his troops: "Let them rest here, for from this time forward their God will not care for them." Therefore it is said, "By the rivers of Babylon we sat" (Ps. cxxxvii. 1), only then, not before (Lam. R. v. 5). By the rivers of Babylon they sat and wept over the dead who had fallen by the sword of Nebuchadnezzar and by the waters of the Euphrates, which had proved fatal to those used to the rain-water and the spring-water of Palestine. But the tyrant sat in a ship, surrounded by all his nobles in the midst of all kinds of music (Isa. xliii. 14), while on the bank passed the princes of Judah naked and in iron chains. "Why do these people go without burdens on their shoulders?" he asked as he caught sight of them. Then heavy burdens were put upon them.
The longing after the soil of the Holy Land turned the heart of Israel to repentance. As long as they were in their own land Jeremiah exhorted them in vain to repentance; but when led into exile they regarded even the sacred vessels as holy, and hung up their harps on the willows (Pesiḳ. R. xxviii.).God's Attitude to Exiles.
God regretted having exiled Israel (Suk. 52b). He hastened the Exile two years, otherwise the people would have been utterly destroyed (Sanh. 38a). God's anger subsided after they had gone into exile (Lam. R. ii. 16). The divine glory did not leave the Sanctuary even after its destruction, according to the assurance given in I Kings ix. 3; and so we read (Ps. iii. 5) "from His holy mount," holy even when a bare mount. Cyrus speaks (Ezra i. 3)—while the Temple was destroyed—of "the God who is in Jerusalem" (Tan., ed. Buber, Shemot, 10). God's attitude is illustrated by the following two parables: A king had two sons. He grew angry with the first, punished him, and sent him into exile, exclaiming, "Wo unto him; from what happy state must he be banished!" But having also grown angry with the second, and sent him likewise into exile, he exclaimed, "It is I whose method of education was wrong." Likewise, when God sent the Ten Tribes into exile, He exclaimed, "Wo unto them! for they have wandered from me" (Hosea vii. 13); but when Benjamin and Judah also went into exile, He said, "Wo unto me for my hurt" (Jer. x. 19). Again, a king had two sons. Angered by the first, he smote him so that he died; then he mourned for him. When also the second one died of his punishment, the king said, "I have no more strength to mourn; call the mourning women that they bewail him." Similarly, God, when the Ten Tribes went into exile, bewailed them (Amos v. 1); but when also Judah and Benjamin were exiled, He said (Jer. ix. 16), "Call the mourning women" (Pesiḳ. xv. 120a, b).
In three passages of Scripture God complains of Nebuchadnezzar the Wicked: in Jeremiah, Kings, and Chronicles. Just as one complains to his neighbor, saying, "Behold what that cursed N. N. has done me!" so speaks God, "Behold what that Babylonian dwarf has done: he has exiled My children, destroyed My house, and burned My Temple" (ib. xiii. 112a, b).Duration of Exile.
The expression "because, even because" (Lev. xxvi. 43) has the same sense as the saying "measure for measure," and points to the fact that the duration of the Exile was commensurate with the duration of Israel's sinfulness (Lam. R. proem 21). Hananiah b. Azzur was a true prophet, but a plagiarist. Whatever he heard Jeremiah proclaim in the upper market-place he proclaimed in the lower market-place. Also his announcement that within two years the sacred vessels would be brought back (Jer. xxviii. 3) rests upon Jeremiah's prophecy of the seventy years (ib. xxxv. 12), which, however, Hananiah had miscalculated, assuming a wrong period for its beginning, and therefore an incorrect period for its end (Yer. Sanh. xi. 30b).Return from Exile.
"The lion went up" (Jer. iv. 7)—this is Nebuchadnezzar in the constellation of the lion ("the fifth month," Jer. i. 3)—and destroyed the lion of God ("Jerusalem," Isa. xxix. 1). Accordingly will also come the lion ("God," Amos iii. 8) in the constellation of the lion, in the same month in which Jerusalem was destroyed (compare Jer. xxxi. 12: "I shall change her mourning into joy"), and He will rebuild the lion of God (Ps. cxlvii. 2; Pesiḳ. xiii. 116a). That Israel had found no rest (Lam. i. 3) as he went into exile assured his return home; for Noah's dove returned also because she had found no rest for her feet (Gen. viii. 9); and with the same words is also predicted Israel's restlessness in exile (Deut. xxviii. 65; Lam. R. i. 3). When in consequence of the sins of Israel the enemy had entered Jerusalem, captured his heroes and tied their hands behind them, God said: "With him am I in distress" (Ps. xci. 15); "My children are in distress, shall I be in freedom?" Then He drew His right hand back from before the enemy (Lam. ii. 3). This was revealed to Daniel by the expression (Dan. xii. 13, the real meaning "at the end of days"), "till the end of the right hand," that right hand which was in subjection. "With the redemption of My sons have I also redeemed My right hand" (Pesiḳ. xvii. 131b).