By Josiah Blake Tidwell
The Captivity of Judah.
Eze., Dan., Lam.
The Ten Tribes Lost. After the fall of Samaria we hear but little of the ten tribes. They were carried off into the regions of Ninevah by the Assyrians. All effort to locate them has failed and no doubt will fail. Sargon, in an inscription found at Ninevah, said that he carried away into captivity 27,290. These were perhaps leaders of Israel whom he thought might lead a revolt. He sent others back to take their place and the Israelites seemed to have mingled with the races about them and to have lost their identity. No doubt some of them as individuals were faithful to the worship of Jehovah and may have found their way back to Palestine under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. But it was different with Judah who all the time kept true to her ideals and looked for the return that had been prophesied. This hope was realized through the work of Ezra and Nehemiah following the decree of Cyrus.
Judah Led into Captivity. The captivity of Judah was accomplished by three distinct invasions of the Babylonians and covered a period of twenty years. (1) The first invasion and captivity. This was in 607 B.C., at which time Daniel and his friends along with others were carried into captivity, 2 K. 24:1, Jer. 25:1, Dan. 1:1-7. (2) The second invasion and captivity. This was 597 B.C., at which time king Jehoiakim and 10.000 of the people were carried into captivity. Among these were Ezekiel and one of the ancestors of Mordicai, the cousin of Esther, 2 K. 24:10-16; Eze. 1:1-2; Est. 2:5-6. (3) The third invasion and captivity. In 587 B.C. Jerusalem was conquered and its walls and palaces as well as the temple were destroyed and the inhabitants carried away into exile, 2 K. 24:18; 24:1-27; 2 Chron. 36:11-21; Jer. 52:1-11. This is the end of the southern kingdom.
The Period of the Captivity. Jeremiah predicts that the captivity will last seventy years (Jer. 25:12; 29:10; see 2 Chron. 36:21; Dan. 9:2: Zech. 7:6). There are two ways of adjusting the dates to fulfill this prediction, (1) From the first invasion and the carrying into captivity of Daniel and others, 607 B. C. to 537 B. C., when the first company returned under Zerubbabel. (2) From the final fall of Jerusalem. 587 B. C. to the completion of the renewed temple and its dedication, 517 B. C. Either satisfies the scripture. In history it is customary to speak of this exile as covering only the fifty years from 587 B. C. when Jerusalem was destroyed and the last company carried away to 537 B. C. when the first company returned under Zerubbabel.
The Fugitives in Egypt. When Jerusalem fell the king of Babylon allowed many of the poorer people to remain in Palestine and Jedediah, a grandson of Josiah, was appointed to rule over them. 2 K. 25:22. His career was a very useful one, but through jealousy he was soon murdered, 2 K. 25:25. This led the people to fear lest Nebuchadnezzar would avenge his death, whereupon they fled into Egypt 2 K. 25:26. Jeremiah attempted to keep them from going to Egypt (Jer. 42:9-22.) but, when he failed, he went along with them and shared their destiny, Jer. 43:6-7. They settled at Tahpanhee (Jer. 44:1), a frontier town where many foreigners lived under the protection of Egypt. They seem to have built a temple there and did much to retain their racial ideals. Jeremiah seems to have continued his faithful prophecies and the people seem to have continued as faithfully to reject his counsel. We do not know how he ended his career but Jewish tradition says he was put to death by his own people.
The Exiles in Babylon. The state of the exiles in Babylon may not be fully known but from the contemporary writers very much may be known. (1) Their home. They were settled in a rich and fertile plain, intersected by many canals. It was on the river, or canal, Chebar (Ez. 1:1.3; 3:15, etc.) which ran southeast from Babylon to Nippur. It was a land of traffic and merchants and fruitful fields (Ez. 17:4-5). They were rather colonists than slaves and enjoyed great freedom and prosperity. (2) Their occupation. By reason of their intellectual and moral superiority the Jews, as they are called from this time forward, would secure rapid advancement. Some of them such as Daniel obtained high position. Others became skilled workmen. Following the advice of Jeremiah (Jer. 29:5), many of them no doubt gave themselves to agriculture and gardening. Probably most of them yielded to the opportunities of the "land of traffic and merchants" mentioned above and engaged in commercial instead of agricultural pursuits. (3) Their government. For a long time they were allowed to control their own affairs as their own laws provided. The elders of the families acted as judges and directed affairs in general. For a while they probably held the power of life and death over their own people, but the capital cases were punished later by authority of Babylon (Jer. 29:22.) (4) Their religion. Here also the information is meager and must be gathered from statements and inferences found in several books. Several things are certain: (a) For the most part they preserved their genealogies, thus making possible the identity of the Messiah as well as their proper place in worship when they were restored; (b) They gave up all idolatry and were never again led into its evil practices as they had been wont to do before. Indeed, there are, even to the present day, no idolatrous Jews; (c) They gave up the elaborate ceremonials and the public and private sacrifices and the great festivals. In their stead prayer and fasting and Sabbath observances constituted the main part of their religious life. The observance of the Sabbath became a ceremony and was robbed of its simple divine purpose; (d) They assembled the people together on the Sabbath for the purpose of prayer and the reading of the scripture. This custom probably formed the basis for synagogue worship so influential later; (e) All this private devotion and prayer such as was seen in the thrice-a-day worship of Daniel was opening the way for a purer and more spiritual religion; (f) The Canon was greatly enlarged and new spiritual teachings were announced or new light thrown on old teachings. The prophesies of Daniel and Ezekiel with many psalms were added. The book of Lamentations and chapters 40-44 of Jeremiah were also the products of this date but refer especially to the conditions of those in Egypt.
The Prophets of the Exile. This period is calculated to bring great discouragement to the Jews. They so far failed of their expectations that there is danger that they will give up their proper regard for Jehovah. They have great need that some one tell them the significance of their suffering and point out for them some word of hope for the future. This service was rendered by the prophets. There was great activity on the part of false prophets (Jer. 39:4-8, 21-23; Ez. 13:1-7, 14:8-10), but they were blessed by the following true prophets: (1) Ezekiel. These prophecies began by recounting the incidents of the prophet's call and the incidents between the first and the second captivities; they then denounce those nations that had part in the destruction of Jerusalem and those that had been bitter and oppressive in their dealings with Israel and Judah; they close with messages of comfort and cheer for the exiled people; (2) Daniel. (3) Lamentations. Besides a portion of the book of Jeremiah and probably of Isaiah which, as suggested above, belongs to this period, the book of Lamentations, written while in exile in Egypt, should be placed here. All three of these books should be read by following the outline given in "The Bible Book by Book."
The Benefits of the Captivity, Dr. Burroughs gives as benefits that the Jews derived from the captivity the following four things: (1) the destruction of idolatry; (2) the rise of the synagogue; (3) a deepened respect for the law of Moses; (4) a longing for the Messiah. To these might be added or emphasized as being included in them: (1) a vital sense of repentance was created; (2) the change from the national, festal and ceremonial worship to a spiritual and individual religion; (3) a belief that Israel had been chosen and trained in order that through her Jehovah might bless the whole world.
Lessons of the Period. The experiences of Judah as recorded in this period bring us several important truths. (1) That sin will tear down both men and nations. (2) Men are responsible and suffer for their own sins but not for the sins of others, Ez. 18:2-3; 33:10-11. (3) God controls all circumstances toward the ultimate accomplishment of his purposes. (4) He makes free use of all "world rulers as his tools to execute his will" (5) God sets up and destroys nations. (6) God cares for his people and overrules all for their good. See Dan., etc. (7) One can live right in spite of one's surroundings (see Daniel) and such living will lead men to know God. (8) Evil grows more and more determined while good grows more and more distinct and hence the question "Is the world growing better?" (9) God rejoices in the opportunity to forgive his erring people and in restoring them again into his partnership.
For Study and Discussion, (1) When, to whom and by whom the exile was predicted: (a) 2 K. 20:17-18; (b) 2 K. 21:10-16; (c) 2 K. 22:16-17, Dt. 28:25, 52-68; (d) Jer. 25:9-11; (e) Jer. 34:2-3; (f) Mic. 3:12; (g) Zeph. 1:2-6. (2) The different classes of exiles: (a) Those in favor with the court, Dan. 1:19-21, 2:45-49; (b) Common laborers-lower classes, Jer. ch. 29, Eze. ch. 13; (c) Pretentious prophets, Eze. ch. 13, Jer. ch. 29. (3) The social condition of the exiles, 2 K. 25:27; Dan. 1:19-21; Is. 60:1; Jer. 29:4-7, Esth., and passages in Eze. (4) The details of each of the three invasions and the captivities as outlined above. See scriptures. (5) The exiles in Egypt: (a) Who they were, (b) How they fared. (6) The activity and influence of false prophets of this age. (7) The story of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams and their interpretation: (a) the image dream, (b) the tree dream. (8) The stories of (a) The fiery furnace; (b) of the lion's den. (9) The feast of Belshazzar. (10) The visions of Daniel 7:1-14, 8:1-12, 10:4-6. (11) The four beasts of Daniel and their significance. (12) The oracles against foreign nations, Eze. chs. 25-32. (13) The benefits mentioned above. (14) The lessons mentioned above. Find scripture basis for them.