After the destruction of Samaria (B.C. 720) by Shalmaneser and Sargon (q.v.), there was a general deportation of the Israelites into Mesopotamia and Media ( 2 Kings 17:6 ; 18:9 ; 1 Chronicles 5:26 ). (See ISRAEL, KINGDOM OF .)
In B.C. 588, after the revolt of Zedekiah (q.v.), there was a second general deportation of Jews by Nebuchadnezzar ( Jeremiah 52:29 ; 2 Kings 25:8 ), including 832 more of the principal men of the kingdom. He carried away also the rest of the sacred vessels ( 2 Chronicles 36:18 ). From this period, when the temple was destroyed ( 2 Kings 25:9 ), to the complete restoration, B.C. 517 ( Ezra 6:15 ), is the period of the "seventy years."
In B.C. 582 occurred the last and final deportation. The entire number Nebuchadnezzar carried captive was 4,600 heads of families with their wives and children and dependants ( Jeremiah 52:30 ; 43:5-7 ; 2 Chr 36:20 , etc.). Thus the exiles formed a very considerable community in Babylon.
When Cyrus granted permission to the Jews to return to their own land ( Ezra 1:5 ; 7:13 ), only a comparatively small number at first availed themselves of the privilege. It cannot be questioned that many belonging to the kingdom of Israel ultimately joined the Jews under Ezra, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah, and returned along with them to Jerusalem ( Jeremiah 50:4 Jeremiah 50:5 Jeremiah 50:17-20 Jeremiah 50:33-35 ).
Large numbers had, however, settled in the land of Babylon, and formed numerous colonies in different parts of the kingdom. Their descendants very probably have spread far into Eastern lands and become absorbed in the general population. (See JUDAH, KINGDOM OF; CAPTIVITY .)