Judah Is Exiled to Babylon

Daniel 1; 2 Kings 24-25; 2 Chronicles 36; Jeremiah 39; 52

One of the most significant events in the story of the Old Testament is the exile of Judah to Babylon in 586 B.C. This event–actually the third in a series of exiles to Babylon (the others occurring in 605 B.C. and 597 B.C.)–precipitated several crises in the nation and in Judaism. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been exiled to Assyria over a century earlier in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 15:29; 17:1-6; 1 Chronicles 5:26; see also “Israelites Are Exiled to Assyria” map), and in some ways that exile was even more devastating. Nevertheless, the Temple of the Lord remained intact in Jerusalem as a place where the faithful could continue to offer their sacrifices. With the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of the Lord at the hands of the Babylonians, however, sacrifices could no longer be offered at the Tabernacle or Temple of the Lord (Leviticus 17:2-4; Deuteronomy 12:5-7), and the Lord’s promise to provide a land for his people and a descendant on the throne of David no doubt seemed abandoned. At the same time, however, the Judean exiles were allowed to maintain their religious traditions in Babylon, and many even began to thrive there, including Daniel and his friends, who served at the royal court (Daniel 1; see also “The Land of Exile” map). One of the last kings of Babylon expanded Babylonia further by capturing the desert oases of Dumah, Tema, Dedan, and Yathrib (see “Oases of the Arabian Desert” map), but eventually the Median Empire to the north merged with the Persian Empire to the southeast and conquered the Babylonian Empire. King Cyrus of Persia then decreed that the exiled Judeans, now called “Jews,” could return to their homeland if they desired (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1-2; see also “Jews Return from Exile” map).

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