Many speculations have been indulged in with reference to these ten tribes. But we believe that all, except the number that probably allied themselves with Judah and shared in their restoration under Cyrus, are finally lost.
"Like the dew on the mountain, Like the foam on the river, Like the bubble on the fountain, They are gone, and for ever."
Mattaniah, the uncle of Jehoiachin, was now made king over what remained of the kingdom of Judah, under the name of Zedekiah ( 2 Kings 24:17 ; 2 Chr 36:10 ). After a troubled reign of eleven years his kingdom came to an end ( 2 Chronicles 36:11 ). Nebuchadnezzar, with a powerful army, besieged Jerusalem, and Zedekiah became a prisoner in Babylon. His eyes were put out, and he was kept in close confinement till his death ( 2 Kings 25:7 ). The city was spoiled of all that was of value, and then given up to the flames. The temple and palaces were consumed, and the walls of the city were levelled with the ground (B.C. 586), and all that remained of the people, except a number of the poorest class who were left to till the ground and dress the vineyards, were carried away captives to Babylon. This was the third and last deportation of Jewish captives. The land was now utterly desolate, and was abondoned to anarchy.
In the first year of his reign as king of Babylon (B.C. 536), Cyrus issued a decree liberating the Jewish captives, and permitting them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and the temple ( 2 Chronicles 36:22 2 Chronicles 36:23 ; Ezra 1; 2). The number of the people forming the first caravan, under Zerubbabel, amounted in all to 42,360 ( Ezra 2:64 Ezra 2:65 ), besides 7,337 men-servants and maid-servants. A considerable number, 12,000 probably, from the ten tribes who had been carried away into Assyria no doubt combined with this band of liberated captives.
At a later period other bands of the Jews returned (1) under ( Ezra 7:7 ) (B.C. 458), and (2) ( Nehemiah 7:66 ) (B.C. 445). But the great mass of the people remained still in the land to which they had been carried, and became a portion of the Jews of the "dispersion" ( John 7:35 ; 1 Peter 1:1 ). The whole number of the exiles that chose to remain was probably about six times the number of those who returned.
kap-tiv'-i-ti (galah, galuth, shebhuth, shibhyah; metoikesia):
$ I. OF THE NORTHERN KINGDOM (THE WORK OF ASSYRIA)$
1. Western Campaigns of Shalmaneser II, 860-825 BC
2. Of Rimmon-nirari III, 810-781 BC
3. Of Tiglath-pileser III, 745-727 BC
4. Of Shalmaneser IV, 727-722 BC--Siege of Samaria
5. Samaria Captured by Sargon, 722 BC
6. Depopulation and Repopulation of Samaria
7. The Ten Tribes in Captivity
$ II. OF JUDAH (THE WORK OF THE CHALDAEAN POWER)$
Southern Kingdom and House of David
1. Break-up of Assyria
2. Downfall of Nineveh, 606 BC
3. Pharaoh Necoh's Revolt
4. Defeat at Carchemish, 604 BC
5. The New Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadrezzar, 604-562 BC
The Mission of Jeremiah, 626-580 BC
6. Revolt and Punishment of Jehoiakim, 608-597 BC
7. Siege and Surrender of Jerusalem under Jehoiachin, 597 BC
8. First Deportation, 597 BC
The Baskets of Figs
9. The Ministry of Ezekiel, 592-570 BC
10. Jeremiah's Ministry in Jerusalem, 597-588 BC
11. Zedekiah's Rebellion and Siege of Jerusalem, 588-586 BC
Jeremiah "Falling Away to the Chaldeans"
12. Destruction of Jerusalem, 586 BC
Flight, Capture, and Punishment of Zedekiah
13. Second Deportation of Inhabitants, 586 BC
14. Third Deportation, 581 BC
(1) Number and Quality of Exiles
(2) The Residue Left
15. Gedaliah, Governor of Judah
(1) Jeremiah and the Flight to Egypt
(2) Descendants of the Fugitives, 471-411 BC
16. The Exiles in Babylon:
Their Social Condition, 464-405 BC
17. The Rise and Development of Judaism
18. The Return by Permission of Cyrus, 538 BC
19. Rebuilding of the Temple, 536 BC
Completed 515 BC
20. Reforms and Labors of Ezra and Nehemiah, 445 BC
21. Modern Theories of the Return
22. Importance of the Period of Ezra-Nehemiah
$ I. Of the Northern Kingdom (The Work of Assyria).$
1. Western Campaigns of Shalmaneser II, 860-825 BC:
The captivity of the Northern Kingdom was the work of the great Assyrian power having its seat at Nineveh on the Tigris. The empire of Assyria, rounded nearly 2000 BC, had a long history behind it when its annals begin to take notice of the kingdom of Israel and Judah. The reign of Shalmaneser II (860-825 BC) marks the first contact between these powers. This is not the Shalmaneser mentioned in 2 Kings 17 and 18, who is the fourth of the name and flourished more than a century later. Shalmaneser II was contemporary during his long reign with Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah and Joash, kings of Judah; with Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram and Jehu, kings of Israel; with Hazael and Benhadad II, kings of Syria at Damascus, and with Mesha, king of Moab. The Assyrian authorities for his reign are an inscription engraved by himself on the rocks of Armenia; the Black Obelisk brought by Layard from Nimroud, now in the British Museum; and the texts engraved on the bronze gates of Balawat, discovered by Hormuzd Rassam in 1878, and recognized as the swinging gates of Shalmaneser's palace. From these authorities we learn that in his 6th year he encountered the combined forces of Damascus, Hamath, Israel, and other states which had united to oppose his progress westward, and completely routed them in the battle of Karkar (854 BC). The danger which threatened the western states in common had brought Syria and Israel together; and this is in accord with the Scripture narrative which tells of a covenant, denounced by God's prophet, between Ahab and Benhadad (1 Kings 20:34), and mentions a period of three years when there was no war between Syria and Israel. The defeat of the allies seems, however, to have broken up the confederacy, for, soon after, Ahab is found, with the aid of Jehoshaphat of Judah, attempting unsuccessfully, and with fatal result to himself, to recover from the weakened power of Syria the city of Ramoth-gilead (1 Kings 22). In another campaign to the West, which likewise finds no record in Scripture, Shalmaneser received the tribute of Tyre and Sidon, and of "Yahua of Khumri," that is, of Jehu, of the land of Omri, as Israel is called on the monuments.
2. Of Rimmon-nirari III, 810-781 BC:
The next Assyrian monarch who turned his arms against the West was Rimmon-nirari III (810-781 BC), grandson of Shalmaneser II. Although he is not mentioned by name in Scripture, his presence and activity had their influence upon contemporary events recorded in 2 Ki. He caused Syria to let go her hold of Israel; and although he brought Israel into subjection, the people of the Northern Kingdom would rather have a ruler exercising a nominal sovereignty over them in distant Nineveh than a king oppressing them in Damascus. Hence, Rimmon-nirari has been taken for the saviour whom God gave to Israel, "so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians" (2 Kings 13:5; compare 2 Kings 13:23).
With the death of Rimmon-nirari in 781 BC, the power of Assyria received a temporary check, and on the other hand the kingdom of Judah under Uzziah and the kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam II reached the zenith of their political prosperity. In 745 BC, however, a usurper, Pul, or Pulu, ascended the throne of Assyria, and reigned as Tiglath- pileser III. It is by the former name that he is first mentioned in the Scripture narrative (2 Kings 15:19; 1 Chronicles 5:26), and by the latter that he is mentioned on the monuments. That the two names belong to one man is now held to be certain (Schrader, COT, I, 230 f).
3. Of Tiglath-pileser III, 745-727 BC:
Tiglath-pileser was one of the greatest monarchs of antiquity. He was the first to attempt to consolidate an empire in the manner to which the world has become accustomed since Roman times. He was not content to receive tribute from the kings and rulers of the states which he conquered. The countries which he conquered became subject provinces of his empire, governed by Assyrian satraps and contributing to the imperial treasury. Not long after he had seated himself on the throne, Tiglath-pileser, like his predecessors, turned his attention to the West. After the siege of Arpad, northward of Aleppo, the Assyrian forces made their way into Syria, and putting into operation the Assyrian method of deportation and repopulation, the conqueror annexed Hamath which had sought the alliance and assistance of Azariah, that is Uzziah, king of Judah. Whether he then refrained from molesting Judah, or whether her prestige was broken by this campaign of the Assyrian king, it is not easy to say. In another campaign he certainly subjected Menahem of Israel with other kings to tribute. What is stated in a word or two in the Annals of Tiglath-pileser is recorded at length in the Bible history (2 Kings 15:19):
"There came against the land Pul the king of Assyria; and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man 50 shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria tamed back, and stayed not there in the land." In the reign of Pekah, under his proper name of Tiglath-pileser, he is recorded to have raided the northern parts of Israel, and carried the inhabitants away into the land of Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). We next hear of Ahaz, king of Judah, appealing to the Assyrians for help against "these two tails of smoking firebrands," Rezin of Syria and Pekah, the son of Remaliah (Isaiah 7:4). To secure this help he took the silver and gold of the house of the Lord, and sent it as a present to the king of Assyria (2 Kings 16:8). Meanwhile Tiglath-pileser was setting out on a new campaign to the West. He carried fire and sword through Syria and the neighboring lands as far as Gaza, and on his return he captured Samaria, without, however, razing it to the ground. Pekah having been slain by his own people, the Assyrian monarch left Hoshea, the leader of the conspiracy, on the throne of Israel as the vassal of Assyria.
4. Of Shalmaneser IV, 727-722 BC--Seige of Samaria:
In 727 BC Tiglath-pileser III died and was succeeded by Shalmaneser IV. His reign was short and no annals of it have come to light. In 2 Kings 17 and 18, however, we read that Hoshea, relying upon help from the king of Egypt, thought the death of Tiglath-pileser a good opportunity for striking a blow for independence. It was a vain endeavor, for the end of the kingdom of Israel was at hand. The people were grievously given over to oppression and wickedness, which the prophets Amos and Hosea vigorously denounced. Hosea, in particular, was "the prophet of Israel's decline and fall." Prophesying at this very time he says:
"As for Samaria, her king is cut off, as foam upon the water. The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us" (Hosea 10:7,8; compare Hosea 10:14,15). No less stern are the predictions by Isaiah and Micah of the doom that is to overtake Samaria: "Woe to the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the fading flower of his glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley of them that are overcome with wine" (Isaiah 28:1). "For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? .... Therefore I will make Samaria as a heap of the field, and as places for planting vineyards" (Micah 1:5,6). No help came from Egypt. With the unaided and enfeebled resources of his kingdom Hoshea had to face the chastising forces of his sovereign. He was made prisoner outside Samaria and was most likely carried away to Nineveh. Meanwhile the land was over-run and the capital doomed to destruction, as the prophets had declared.
5. Samaria Captured by Sargon, 722 BC:
Not without a stubborn resistance on the part of her defenders did "the fortress cease from Ephraim" (Isaiah 17:3). It was only after a three years' siege that the Assyrians captured the city (2 Kings 17:5). If we had only the record of the Hebrew historian we should suppose that Shalmaneser was the monarch to whom fell the rewards and honors of the capture. Before the surrender of the city Shalmaneser had abdicated or died, and Sargon, only once mentioned in Scripture (Isaiah 20:1), but one of the greatest of Assyrian monarchs, had ascended the throne. From his numerous inscriptions, recovered from the ruins of Khorsabad, we learn that he, and not Shalmaneser, was the king who completed the conquest of the revolted kingdom and deported the inhabitants to Assyria. "In the beginning (of my reign)," says Sargon in his Annals, "the city Samaria (I took) with the help of Shamash, who secures victory to me (.... 27,290 people inhabiters of it) I took away captive; 50 chariots the property of my royalty, which were in it I appropriated. (.... the city) I restored, and more than before I caused it to be inhabited; people of the lands conquered by my hand in it (I caused to dwell. My governor over them I appointed, and tribute) and imposts just as upon the Assyrians I laid upon them." The Assyrian Annals and the Scripture history support and supplement each other at this point. The sacred historian describes the deportation as follows:
"The king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes .... because they obeyed not the voice of Yahweh their God, but transgressed his covenant, even all that Moses, the servant of Yahweh, commanded, and would not hear it, nor do it" (2 Kings 17:6,7; 18:11,12).
6. Depopulation and Repopulation of Samaria:
The repopulation of the conquered territory is also described by the sacred historian:
"And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Avva, and from Hamath and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof" (2 Kings 17:24). The fact that Sargon introduced foreign settlers taken in war into Samaria is attested by inscriptions. That there were various episodes of deportation and repopulation in connection with the captivity of the Northern Kingdom appears to be certain. We have seen already that Tiglath-pileser III deported the population of the northern tribes to Assyria and placed over the depopulated country governors of his own. And at a time considerably later, we learn that Sargon's grandson Esarhaddon, and his great-grandson Ashur-bani-pal, "the great and noble Osnappar," imported to the region of Samaria settlers of nations conquered by them in the East (Ezra 4:2,10). Of the original settlers, whom a priest, carried away by the king of Assyria but brought back to Bethel, taught "the law of the god of the land," it is said that "they feared Yahweh, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away" (2 Kings 17:33). The hybrid stock descended from those settlers is known to us in later history and in the Gospels as the Samaritans.
7. The Ten Tribes in Captivity:
We must not suppose that a clean sweep was made Of the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom. No doubt, as in the Babylonian captivity, "the poorest of the land were left to be vinedressers and husbandmen" (2 Kings 25:12). The numbers actually deported were but a moiety of the whole population. But the kingdom of the Ten Tribes was now at an end. Israel had become an Assyrian province, with a governor established in Samaria. As regards the Golah--the captives of Israel in the cities of the Medes--it must not be supposed that they became wholly absorbed in the population among whom they were settled. We can well believe that they preserved their Israelite traditions and usages with sufficient clearness and tenacity, and that they became part of the Jewish dispersion so widespread throughout the East. It is quite possible that at length they blended with the exiles of Judah carried off by Nebuchadrezzar, and that then Judah and Ephraim became one nation as never before. The name Jew, therefore, naturally came to include members of what had earlier been the Northern Confederacy of Israel as well as those of the Southern Kingdom to which it properly belonged, so that in the post-exilic period, Jehudi, or Jew, means an adherent of Judaism without regard to local nationality.
$ II. Of Judah (The Work of the Chaldean Power).$
Southern Kingdom and House of David
The captivity of Judah was the work of the great Chaldean power seated at Babylon on the Euphrates. While the Northern Kingdom had new dynasties to rule it in quick succession, Judah and Jerusalem remained true to the House of David to the end. The Southern Kingdom rested on a firmer foundation, and Jerusalem with its temple and priesthood secured the throne against the enemies who overthrew Samaria for nearly a century and a half longer.
1. Break-up of Assyria:
Sargon, who captured Samaria in 722 BC, was followed by monarchs with a great name as conquerors and builders and patrons of literature, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, Ashurbanipal. When Ashurbanipal died in 625 BC, the dissolution of the Assyrian Empire was not far off. Its hold over the West had greatly slackened, and the tributary peoples were breaking out into revolt. Bands of Scythians, a nomad Aryan race, from the region between the Caucasus and the Caspian, were sweeping through the Assyrian Empire as far as Palestine and Egypt, and the prophecies of Jeremiah and Zephaniah reflect their methods of warfare and fierce characteristics. They were driven back, however, at the frontier of Egypt, and appear to have returned to the North without invading Judah.
2. Downfall of Nineveh, 606 BC:
From the North these hordes were closing in upon Nineveh, and on all sides the Assyrian power was being weakened. In the "Burden of Nineveh," the prophet Nahum foreshadows the joy of the kingdom of Judah at the tidings of its approaching downfall:
"Behold, upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! Keep thy feasts, O Judah, perform thy vows; for the wicked one shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off" (Nahum 1:15; compare Nahum 3:8-11). The Medes regained their independence and under their king, Cyaxares, formed an alliance with the Chaldeans, who soon afterward revolted under the leadership of Nabopolassar, viceroy of Babylon. Rallying these various elements to his standard Nabopolassar laid siege to the Assyrian capital, and in 606 BC, Nineveh, which had been the capital city of great conquerors, and had "multiplied (her) merchants above the stars of heaven" (Nahum 3:16), fell before the combined forces of the Medes and Chaldeans, fell suddenly and finally, to rise no more. Of the new Babylonian Empire upon which the Chaldeans now entered, Nebuchadrezzar, whose father Nabopolassar had associated him with him on the throne, was the first and most eminent ruler.
3. Pharaoh Necoh's Revolt:
That the people of Judah should exult in the overthrow of Nineveh and the empire for which it stood we can well understand. Jerusalem herself had by God's mercy remained unconquered when Sennacherib nearly a century before had carried off from the surrounding country 200,150 people and had devastated the towns and fortresses near. But the hateful Assyrian yoke had rested upon Judah to the end, and not upon Judah only but even upon Egypt and the valley of the Nile. In 608 BC Pharaoh Necoh revolted from his Assyrian suzerain and resolved upon an eastern campaign. He had no desire to quarrel with Josiah of Judah, through whose territory he must pass; but in loyalty to his Assyrian suzerain Josiah threw himself across the path of the Egyptian invader and perished in the battle of Megiddo. The Pharaoh seems to have returned to Egypt, taking Jehoahaz the son of Josiah with him, and to have appointed his brother Jehoiakim king of Judah, and to have exacted a heavy tribute from the land.
4. Defeat at Carchemish, 604 BC:
But he did not desist from his purpose to win an eastern empire. Accordingly he pressed forward till he reached the Euphrates, where he was completely routed by the Babylonian army under Nebuchadrezzar in the decisive battle of Carchemish, 604 BC. The battle left the Chaldeans undisputed masters of Western Asia, and Judah exchanged the yoke of Assyria for that of Babylon.
5. The New Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadrezzar, 604-562 BC:
So far as cruelty was concerned, there was little to choose between the new tyrants and the old oppressors. Of the Chaldeans Habakkuk, who flourished at the commencement of the new Empire, says:
"They are terrible and dreadful. .... Their horses also are swifter than leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves; and their horsemen spread themselves: yea, their horsemen come from far; they fly as an eagle that hasteth to devour" (Habakkuk 1:7,8 the American Revised Version, margin). Over Western Asia, including Judah, Nebuchadrezzar since the battle of Carchemish was supreme. It was vain for Judah to coquet with Egypt when Nebuchadrezzar had a long and powerful arm with which to inflict chastisement upon his disloyal subjects.
The Mission of Jeremiah, 626-580 BC.
The mission of Jeremiah the prophet in this crisis of the history of Judah was to preach obedience and loyalty to the king of Babylon, and moral reformation as the only means of escaping the Divine vengeance impending upon land and people. He tells them in the name of God of the great judgment that was to come at the hand of the Chaldeans on Jerusalem and surrounding peoples. He even predicts the period of their subjection to Chaldean domination:
"And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years" (Jeremiah 25:11). This preaching was unpalatable to the partisans of Egypt and to those who believed in the inviolability of Jerusalem. But with stern rebuke and with symbolic action he proclaims the doom of Jerusalem, and in the face of persecution and at the risk of his life, the prophet fulfills his ministry.
6. Revolt and Punishment of Jehoiakim, 608-597 BC:
Jehoiakim, who was first the vassal of Pharaoh Necoh, and then of Nebuchadrezzar, was in corruption and wickedness too faithful a representative of the people. Jeremiah charges him with covetousness, the shedding of innocent blood, oppression and violence (Jeremiah 22:13-19). The fourth year of Jehoiakim was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar, who, fresh from the victory of Carchemish, was making his sovereignty felt in the western world. The despicable king of Judah became Nebuchadrezzar's vassal and continued in his allegiance three years, after which he turned and rebelled against him. But he received neither encouragement nor help from the neighboring peoples. "Yahweh sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of Yahweh, which he spake by his servants the prophets" (2 Kings 24:2). The history of the latter part of Jehoiakim's reign is obscure. The Hebrew historian says that after a reign of eleven years he slept with his fathers, from which we infer that he died a natural death. From Daniel we learn that in the third year of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadrezzar came up against Jerusalem and besieged it, and carried off, along with vessels of the house of God, members of the seed royal, and of the nobility of Judah, among whom was Daniel the prophet. That Jehoiakim was included in what seems to be a first installment of the captivity of Judah is expressly affirmed by the Chronicler who says:
"Against him (Jehoiakim) came up Nebuchadnezzar .... and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon" (2 Chronicles 36:6). However the facts really stand, the historian adds to the record of the death of Jehoiakim and of the succession of Jehoiachin the significant comment: "And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of this land; for the king of Babylon had taken, from the brook of Egypt unto the river Euphrates, all that pertained to the king of Egypt" (2 Kings 24:7).
7. Siege and Surrender of Jerusalem under Jehoiachin, 597 BC:
Jehoiachin who succeeded Jehoiakim reigned only three months, the same length of time as his unfortunate predecessor Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31). The captivity of Jehoahaz in Egypt and the captivity of Jehoiachin in Babylon are lamented in a striking elegy by Ezekiel, who compares them to young lions, the offspring of the mother lioness Israel, which learned to catch and their prey and devoured men, but were taken in the pit of the nations and put in rings, so that their roar was no more heard in the mountains of Israel (Ezekiel 19:1-9). Nebuchadrezzar came in person while his servants were besieging Jerusalem, and Jehoiachin surrendered at discretion. So the king and his mother and his servants and his princes and his officers were carried off with the mighty men of valor, even ten thousand captives. `None remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. He carried out thence all the treasures of the house of Yahweh, and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold, which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of Yahweh, as Yahweh had said.
8. First Deportation, 597 BC:
And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and the craftsmen and the smiths a thousand, all of them strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon. And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's father's brother, king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah' (2 Kings 24:10-17). From Jehoiachin dates the carrying away into Babylon, the year being 597 BC. The unfortunate monarch lived in exile in Babylon 38 years, and seems to have retained the respect and loyalty of the exiles among whom he dwelt.
The Baskets of Figs:
It was with reference to the deportation of the princes and craftsmen and smiths that Jeremiah had his vision of the baskets of figs--one containing figs very good, like the first ripe figs; the other very bad, so bad they could not be eaten (Jeremiah 24:1-3). The good figs were the captives of Judah carried away into the land of the Chaldeans for good; the bad figs were the king Zedekiah and his princes and the residue of Jerusalem, upon whom severe judgments were yet to fall till they were consumed from off the land (Jeremiah 24:4-10).
9. The Ministry of Ezekiel, 592-570 BC:
Among the captives thus carried to Babylon and placed on the banks of the Chebar was the priest-prophet Ezekiel. Five years after the captivity he began to have his wonderful "visions" of God, and to declare their import to the exiles by the rivers of Babylon. To the desponding captives who were engrossed with thoughts of the kingdom of Judah, not yet dissolved, and of the Holy City, not yet burned up with fire, Ezekiel could only proclaim by symbol and allegory the destruction of city and nation, till the day when the distressing tidings reached them of its complete overthrow. Then to the crushed and despairing captives he utters no lamentations like those of Jeremiah, but rather joyful predictions of a rebuilt city, of a reconstituted kingdom, and of a renovated and glorious temple.
10. Jeremiah's Ministry in Jerusalem, 597-588 BC:
Although the flower of the population had been carried away into Babylon and the Temple had been despoiled of its treasures, Jerusalem and the Temple still stood. To the inhabitants who were left behind, and to the captives in Babylon, Jeremiah had a message. To the latter he offered counsels of submission and contentment, assured that the hateful and repulsive idolatries around them would throw them back upon the law of their God, and thus promote the work of moral and spiritual regeneration within them. `Thus saith Yahweh, I will give them a heart to know me, that I am Yahweh:
and they shall be my people, and I will be their God; for they shall return unto me with their whole heart' (Jeremiah 24:5,7). To "the residue of Jerus" his counsels and predictions were distasteful, and exposed him to the suspicion of disloyalty to his people and his God. None of his warnings was more impressive than that symbolically proclaimed by the bands and bars which the prophet was to put upon his neck to send to the kings of Edom and Moab and Ammon and Tyre and Sidon, who seem to have had ideas of forming an alliance against Nebuchadrezzar. Zedekiah was also urged to submit, but still entertained hopes that the king of Babylon would allow the captives of Judah to return. He even himself went to Babylon, perhaps summoned thither by his suzerain (Jeremiah 51:59). With an Egyptian party in Jerusalem urging an alliance with Egypt, and with a young and warlike Pharaoh on the throne, Hophra (Apries), Zedekiah deemed the opportunity favorable for achieving independence, and entered into an intrigue with the Egyptian king. So Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:20).
11. Zedekiah's Rebellion and the Siege of Jerusalem, 588-586 BC:
It was a bold throw, but Nebuchadrezzar would brook no such disloyalty from his vassals. He marched at once to the West, and committed to Nebuzaradan the task of capturing Jerusalem, while he himself established his headquarters at Riblah, in Syria, on the Orontes. Meanwhile the Pharaoh with his army crossed the frontier to the help of his allies, and compelled the Chaldeans to raise the siege of Jerusalem and meet him in the field (Jeremiah 37:5). But here his courage failed him, and he retired in haste without offering battle. Nebuzaradan now led back his army and the siege became closer than before.
Jeremiah "Falling Away to the Chaldeans"
During the breathing-space afforded by the withdrawal of the Chaldeans, Jeremiah was going out of the city to his native Anathoth, some 4 miles to the Northeast across the ridge, on family business (Jeremiah 37:11-15). His departure was observed, and he was charged with falling away to the Chaldeans, and cast into an improvised dungeon in the house of Jonathan the scribe. While there the king sent for him and asked, "Is there any word from Yahweh?" And Jeremiah answered fearlessly, "There is. Thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon." For a time Jeremiah, by the favor of Zedekiah, enjoyed after this a greater measure of freedom; but as he continued to urge in hearing of all the people the duty of surrender, his enemies vowed that he should be put to death, and had him cast into a foul empty cistern, where he ran the risk of being choked or starved to death. Once again the king sought an interview with the prophet, giving him private assurance that he would not put him to death nor allow his enemies to do so. Again the prophet counseled surrender, and again he was allowed a measure of freedom.
12. Destruction of Jerusalem, 586 BC:
Flight, Capture, and Punishment of Zedekiah
But the end of the doomed city was at hand. In the 11th year of Zedekiah, 586 BC, in the 4th month, the 9th day of the month, a breach was made in the city (Jeremiah 39:1,2), and the final assault completed the work that had been done by months of famine and want. Zedekiah and his men of war do not seem to have waited for the delivery of the last assault. They fled from the city by night "by the way of the king's garden, through the gate betwixt the two walls," and made eastward for the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. They took him prisoner and brought him to Nebuchadrezzar at Riblah, where the king of Babylon first slew the son of Zedekiah, and then put out his eyes. With the sons of the captured monarch were slain all the nobles of Judah. This time neither city nor temple nor palace was spared. Nebuzaradan "burnt the house of Yahweh, and the king's house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, even every great house, burnt he with fire" (2 Kings 25:9). His soldiers, too, broke down the walls of Jerusalem round about. The treasure and the costly furnishings of the Temple, in so far as they had escaped the former spoliation, were carried away to Babylon. The ruin of Jerusalem was complete. The Book of Lamentations utters the grief and shame and penitence of an eyewitness of the captures and desolation of the Holy City:
"Yahweh hath accomplished his wrath, he hath poured out his fierce anger; and he hath kindled a fire in Zion, which hath devoured the foundations thereof. The kings of the earth believed not, neither all the inhabitants of the world, that the adversary and the enemy would enter into the gates of Jerusalem. Woe unto us! for we have sinned. For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim; for the mountain of Zion, which is desolate: the foxes walk upon it" (Lamentations 4:11,12; 5:16,18). 13. Second Deportation of Inhabitants, 586 BC:
"So Judah," says the prophet who had been through the siege and the capture (if not rather the editor of his prophecies), "was carried away captive out of his land" (Jeremiah 52:27). The statements of the numbers carried away are, however, conflicting. In Jeremiah 52:28-30 we read of three deportations:
that of 597 BC when 3,023 Jews were carried off; that of 586 BC when Nebuchadrezzar carried off 832 persons; and one later than both in 581 BC, when Nebuzaradan carried away captive of the Jews 745 persons--a total of 4,600.
14. Third Deportation, 581 BC:
(1) Number and Quality of Exiles:
In 2 Kings 24:15,16 it is said that in 597 Nebuchadrezzar carried to Babylon 8,000 men. Dr. George Adam Smith taking all the data together estimates that the very highest figures possible are 62,000 or 70,000 men, women and children, less than half of the whole nation (Jerusalem, II, 268-70). In 597 BC, Nebuchadrezzar carried off the princes and nobles and craftsmen and smiths, leaving behind the poorest sort of the people of the land (2 Kings 24:14).
(2) The Residue Left:
In 586 BC Nebuzaradan carried off the residue of the people that were left in the city, but he "left of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen" (2 Kings 25:12). "They were, as the Biblical narratives testify, the poorest of the land, from whom every man of substance and energy had been sifted; mere groups of peasants, without a leader and without a center; disorganized and depressed; bitten by hunger and compassed by enemies; uneducated and an easy prey to the heathenism by which they were surrounded. We can appreciate the silence which reigns in the Bible regarding them, and which has misled us as to their numbers. They were a negligible quantity in the religious future of Israel:
without initiative or any influence except that of a dead weight upon the efforts of the rebuilders of the nation, when these at last returned from Babylonia" (Jerusalem, II, 269-70).
15. Gedaliah, Governor of Judah:
Over those who were left behind, Gedaliah was appointed governor, with his residence at Mizpah, where also a Babylonian contingent remained on guard. Jeremiah had the choice of being taken to Babylon or of remaining in Judah. He preferred to remain with the residue of the people under the care of Gedaliah. With the murder of Gedaliah by Ishmael, a traitorous scion of the royal house, who in turn had to flee and made good his escape, it looked as if the last trace of the former kingdom of Judah was wiped out.
(1) Jeremiah and the Flight to Egypt:
Against the counsel of Jeremiah, the remnant, led by Johanan the son of Kareah, resolved to take refuge in Egypt and insisted that Jeremiah and his friend Baruch should accompany them. It is in Egypt, amid disappointment and misrepresentation which he had to endure, that we have our last glimpse of the prophet of the downfall of Judah.
(2) Descendants of the Fugitives, 471-411 BC:
Of the descendants of those settlers in Egypt remarkable remains have been discovered within the last few years. They consist of Aramaic papyri which were found at Assouan, the ancient Syene, and which belong to a time not more than a century after the death of Jeremiah. The documents are accounts and contracts and deeds of various kinds, from which we gather that in the 5th century BC there were Jews keeping themselves apart as they do still, worshipping Yahweh, and no other God, and even having a temple and an altar of sacrifice to which they brought offerings as their fathers did at Jerusalem before the destruction of the Temple. These papyri give us valuable glimpses of the social condition and religious interest of the settlers.
16. The Exiles in Babylon:
Their Social Condition, 464-405 BC:
Of the Jewish captives carried off by Nebuchadrezzar and settled by the rivers of Babylon, we learn something from the prophecies of Daniel which are now generally believed to belong to the Maccabean period, and much from the prophecies of Ezekiel, from the Psalms of the Captivity, and from the Second Isaiah, whose glowing messages of encouragement and comfort were inspired by the thought of the Return. From Haggai and Zechariah we see how the work of rebuilding the Temple was conceived and carried out. Of the social condition of the Exiles an interesting revelation is given by the excavations at Nippur. From cuneiform tablets, now in the Imperial Ottoman Museum at Constantinople, preserved among the business archives of the wealthy firm of Murashu, sons of Nippur, in the reign of Artaxerxes I and Darius II (464- 405 BC), there can be read quite a number of Jewish names. And the remarkable thing is that many of the names are those known to us from the genealogical and other lists of the Books of Ki and Ch and Ezr and Neh. Professor Hilprecht (The Babylonian Expedition, IX, 13) infers from an examination of these that a considerable number of the Jewish exiles, carried away by Nebuchadrezzar after the destruction of Jerusalem, were settled in Nippur and its neighborhood. Of this fact there are various proofs. The Talmudic tradition which identifies Nippur with Calneh (Genesis 10:10) gains new force in the light of these facts. And "the river Khebar in the land of the Chaldeans," by which Ezekiel saw his vision, is now known from inscriptions to be a large navigable canal not far from Nippur (ibid., 27,28).
17. The Rise and Development of Judaism:
The influence of the Captivity as a factor in the development of Judaism can hardly be overestimated. "The captivity of Judah," says Dr. Foakes-Jackson (Biblical History of the Hebrews, 316) "is one of the greatest events in the history of religion. .... With the captivity the history of Israel ends, and the history of the Jews commences." Placed in the midst of heathen and idolatrous surroundings the Golah recoiled from the abominations of their neighbors and clung to the faith of their fathers in the God of Abraham. Exposed to the taunts and the scorn of nations that despised them, they formed an inner circle of their own, and cultivated that exclusiveness which has marked them ever since. Being without a country, without a ritual system, without any material basis for their life as a people, they learned as never before to prize those spiritual possessions which had come down to them from the past. They built up their nationality in their new surroundings upon the foundation of their religion. Their prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, had encouraged and stimulated them with the assurance of spiritual blessings, and the promise of restoration. For their whole social and domestic and spiritual life there was needed some steady and continuous regulative principle or scheme. The need of this threw their leaders and thinkers back upon the Law of Moses. The rabbi and the scribe took the place of the sacrificing priest. The synagogue and the Sabbath came to occupy a new place in the religious practice of the people. These and other institutions of Judaism only attained to maturity after the Return, but the Captivity and the Exile created the needs they were meant to supply. While the prophets were clear and explicit in setting forth the Captivity, they were not less so in predicting the Return. Isaiah with his doctrine of the Remnant, Micah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others gifted with the vision of God, cheered the nation, each in their day, with the hope of restoration and return, not for Judah only but for Israel as well. Vineyards were to be planted again upon the mountains of Samaria as well as in the valleys of Judah. Jeremiah had even predicted the length of the period of the Exile, when he declared that the inhabitants of the land should serve the king of Babylon for seventy years (Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10).
18. The Return by Permission of Cyrus, 538 BC:
It was in Cyrus, who brought about the fall of Babylon and ended the New Babylonian Empire in 539 BC, that the hopes of the exiles came to be centered. He was "the battle- axe" with which Yahweh was to shatter Babylon (Jeremiah 51:20), and as he proceeded on his path of victory the unknown Seer whom we call the Second Isaiah welcomed him as the liberator of his people. "Thus saith Yahweh .... of Jerusalem, She shall be inhabited; and of the cities of Judah, They shall be built, and I will raise up the waste places thereof; that saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers; that saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying of Jerusalem, She shall be built; and of the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid" (Isaiah 44:26-28).
19. Rebuilding of the Temple, 536 BC:
Within a year of the entry of Cyrus into Babylon an edict was issued (2 Chronicles 36:22,23; Ezra 1:1), granting permission to the exiles to return and build a house for the Lord in Jerusalem. He also brought forth the vessels of the Temple which Nebuchadrezzar had carried away and handed them over to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah; and Sheshbazzar brought them with him when they of the Captivity were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.
Particulars of the Return are given in the Books of Ezr and Neh, and in the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah. Of the exiles 42,360 returned under Sheshbazzar, besides slaves; and under Jeshua the son of Jozadak the priest, and Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, first an altar was built and then the foundations of the Temple were laid. In consequence of the opposition of the Samaritans, who were refused any share in the restoration of the Temple, the work of rebuilding was greatly hindered, and came to a stop. It was then that Haggai and Zechariah urged the resumption of the work and partly by denouncing the niggardliness of the people and partly by foreshadowing the glorious future in store for the Temple, hastened forward the enterprise.
Completed 515 BC:
At length in the month Adar, in the 6th year of Darius (515 BC) the work was completed and the Passover celebrated within the courts of the restored Sanctuary (Ezra 6:15-).
20. Reforms and Labors of Ezra and Nehemiah, 445 BC:
For some decades the history is silent, and it was in 458 BC that Ezra set out for Jerusalem taking 1,800 Jews along with him. He found that the returned Jews had become allied in marriage with the people of the land and were in danger of losing their racial characteristics by absorption among the heathen (Ezra 9). It was due no doubt to his efforts and those of Nehemiah, supported by the searching and powerful utterances of Malachi, that this peril was averted. Thirteen years later (445 BC) Nehemiah, the cupbearer of Artaxerxes, having heard of the desolate condition of the Holy City, the place of his fathers' sepulchers, obtained leave of his master to visit Jerusalem. With letters to the governors on the route and to the keeper of the king's forest, he set out, and came safely to Jerusalem. Having himself inspected the walls he called the people to the work of repairing the ruins, and despite the taunts and calumny and active hostility of the Samaritan opposition he had the satisfaction of seeing the work completed, the gates set up and the city repopulated. Nehemiah and Ezra then gathered the people together to hear the words of the Law, and at a solemn convocation the Law was read and explained to the assembly. Thereafter a covenant was entered into by the people that they would observe the Law of Moses and not intermarry with the heathen nor traffic on the Sabbath, but would pay a third of a shekel annually for the services of the Temple and would bring first-fruits and tithes (Nehemiah 10:28).
21. Modern Theories of the Return:
The course of the history as here set forth has been disputed by some modern scholars, who hold that there was no return of the exiles under Cyrus and that the rebuilding of the Temple was the work of the Jews who remained behind in Judah and Jerusalem (EB, article "Ezra-Nehemiah"). This view, held by the late Professor Kosters of Leyden and supported by Professor H. P. Smith and other scholars, proceeds largely upon the rejection of the historical character of the Book of Ezra-Nehemiah. The historical difficulties which are found in the book are by no means such as to warrant us in denying the fact of the Return and the work of Ezra in connection with Nehemiah. As regards the Return, the course of the narrative is too well supported by documents which bear upon them the stamp of historical truth to be rashly disputed. Moreover, it seems highly improbable that an enterprise requiring such energy and skill and faith should have been undertaken, without stimulus from without, by the residue of the people. We have already seen how little initiative was to be expected of the poorest of the people; and the silence of Haggai, on the subject of the Return, is no argument against it. That the Judaism of Palestine required invigoration by an infusion of the zeal and enthusiasm which grew up in the Judaism of Babylonian, is manifest from the story of the Captivity.
22. Importance of the Period Ezra-Nehemiah:
From the age of Nehemiah and the period immediately preceding it came influences of the utmost moment for the future. "Within these hundred years," says the late Dr. P. Hay Hunter in After the Exile (I, xvi), "the teaching of Moses was established as the basis of the national life, the first steps were taken toward the formation of a canon of Scripture. Jewish society was moulded into a shape which succeeding centuries modified, but did not essentially change. During this period the Judea of the days of our Lord came into being. Within this period the forces which opposed Christ, the forces which rallied to His side, had their origin. This century saw the rise of parties, which afterward became sects under the names of Pharisees and Sadducees. It laid the foundation of Rabbinism. It fixed the attitude of the Jews toward the Gentiles. It put the priesthood in the way to supreme authority. It gave birth to the Samaritan schism."
Schrader, COT, I; McCurdy, HPM, I, 281, II, 249, III; C. F. Barney, Notes on Heb Text of Bks of Kings; Foakes-Jackson, Biblical Hist of the Hebrews, 260-412; G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, II, 223-349; Cambridge Biblical Essays, 93-135; P. Hay Hunter, The Story of Daniel and After the Exile; EB, article "Ezra-Nehemiah"; Nicol, Recent Archaeology and the Bible, 239-78; H. P. Smith, Old Testament Hist, 219-412; Kittel, History of the Hebrews, II, 329.
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