The Babylonian exile was the period in Jewish history during which the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon.
According to the Hebrew Bible, there were three deportations of Jews to Babylon. The first, in 597 BCE, involving king Jeconiah and his court and many others, a second in 587 BCE of the next king, Zedekiah, and the rest of the people, and a possible deportation after the assassination of Gedaliah, the Babylonian-appointed governor of Yehud Province, possibly in 582 BCE. The forced exile ended in 538 BCE after the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus the Great, who gave the Jews permission to return to Yehud province and to rebuild the Temple; but most Jews chose to remain in Babylon.
The captivity and subsequent return to the Land of Israel and the rebuilding of the Second Temple in the Jerusalem are considered significant events in Jewish history and culture, which had a far-reaching impact on the development of Judaism.
The term "Babylonian captivity" is sometimes used when referring to the Avignon Papacy, a period of Medieval Catholic history, because of perceived parallels between the two.
Table based on Rainer Albertz, "Israel in exile: the history and literature of the sixth century BCE", p.xxi. Alternative dates are possible.
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, 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.
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