Many Jews Thrived in Babylonian Captivity

September 27, 2016 | Bible History Daily
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While the 6th-century-BCE capture and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was undoubtedly a national catastrophe—bringing with it the loss of sovereignty and of the main center of religious worship, as well as great deal of human suffering—a recent study suggests that many of the large numbers of Jews who found themselves exiled to Babylonia managed to flourish there. This account does not, in fact, conflict with the biblical narrative:

According to the Bible . . . [Judah’s last monarch], King Jehoiachin, was given special treatment—even over other imprisoned kings (2 Kings 25:30; Jeremiah 52:31-34). Moreover, cuneiform ration lists discovered in Nebuchadnezzar’s South Palace in Babylon show that captive kings and high officials received monthly rations of grain and oil.

The lives of non-royal Judahites, too, are preserved in Babylonian records. Texts from Nippur contain the names of Judahites who served as witnesses in land contracts. The Judahite identity of the witnesses is revealed by their names, [which are formed using elements of the Tetragrammaton]. . . .

Records from the city of Susa (the biblical Shushan, where the book of Esther is set) refer to Judahites . . . serving as royal courtiers, and in Sippar, a few [presumably Jewish] names appear under the designation “royal merchant.” However, the majority of [the] evidence that the Babylonian exile wasn’t so bad [stems from] cuneiform texts from in and around a settlement called “Judahtown” (Babylonian āl-Yāḫūdu).

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