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Disappearance of the Kingdom of Judah and Exile to Babylon

This map is part of a series of 12 animated maps showing the history of The Bible and History.

The gradual collapse of the Neo-Assyrian Empire at the end of the 7th century BCE made possible the emergence of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. This new empire did not last long, less than a century [from 626 to 539], but it was to leave an indelible mark on the history of the people of Israel.

In 605 BCE, King Nebuchadnezzar II [who reigned from 605 to 562] defeated the Pharaoh Necho at the Battle of Karkemish, on the Turkish/Syrian border today and extended the Babylonian realm across the Levant and as far as Egypt.

In this situation, the kingdom of Judah, until now an Assyrian vassal, came under the control of Babylon. These facts were recorded in Babylonian chronicles etched on clay tablets and are also known from the second Book of Kings and the Book of Jeremiah.

After this, however, Nebuchadnezzar suffered a number of military setbacks. King Jekoiakim of Judah, in alliance with Egypt, revolted against his rule. Retaliation soon followed: on 16 March 597 BCE, King Nebuchadnezzar took the city of Jerusalem and sent Jekoiakim’s son, who had recently become king, into exile together with other members of the Judean elite. He then placed Zedekiah on the throne of Judah.

But the revolt continued, perhaps because there were rumours about political troubles in Babylon. In 589 BCE, the Babylonian armies again marched against the Kingdom of Judah and, after a long siege, took Jerusalem in 586 BCE. The city and the sanctuary were burned down and religious objects inside the Temple were carried away to Babylon. Zedekiah was exiled with the remaining members of the elite and Gedaliah was appointed Governor [2 Kings 25.1-22]. But he was assassinated soon afterwards by a member of the royal family and it seems that, in response to this act, the Babylonians launched a third wave of deportations in 582 BCE [Jer. 52.30].

In order to escape further reprisals, some inhabitants of Judah probably chose to take refuge in Egypt. Over a 15-year period, the country lost a large number of its inhabitants but was not completely depopulated, as most of the rural population remained.

Nevertheless, the Kingdom of Judah disappeared from the map and the region of Judea (Yehud in Aramaic) was now a province of the Babylonian Empire.