The Babylonian Exile Might Not Have Been So Bad, After All

April 2 2020

After destroying Jerusalem in 586 BCE, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar sent a large portion of the Judean population into exile in Mesopotamia. The Bible provides little detail about what life was like in this original Diaspora, but ancient cuneiform tablets provide a wealth of information, analyzed in full in a recent book titled Judeans in Babylonia. Tero Alstola writes in his review:

The majority of Judeans and other deportees were settled in the Babylonian countryside and given a plot of royal land to cultivate. In exchange, they had to pay taxes and perform work and military service. These people often lived in villages which were named after their geographic origin, the village of Yahudu—or “Judah”—being a prime example of this phenomenon. Some deportees found ways to benefit from the structures of local agriculture, and socioeconomic differences emerged over time. A number of Judeans were also settled in cities where they often worked as skilled professionals such as craftsmen, merchants, or officials. The state administration was open for people of foreign origin, partially because of the widespread use of Aramaic as a spoken and written language.

Deportees were not enslaved, and they could own property, engage in business activities, and travel at least locally. The practice of settling deportees in village communities according to their place of origin helped migrants to preserve their traditional culture in the countryside. Judean farmers had little interaction with the native population whereas the deportees living in cities met Babylonians on a regular basis. As a result, Judean farmers were less integrated into Babylonian society than their fellow deportees living in cities.

Why, then, does Psalm 137 say that the exiles “sat down and wept” and hung their harps upon the willows? Perhaps not because they suffered, but because they remembered Zion. Indeed, relatively benign conditions might have motivated them to feel it necessary to take oaths that they would not to forget Jerusalem.

Read more at Academy of Finland

More about: Babylonian Jewry, Exile, Hebrew Bible, Psalms

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy