CAPTIVITY. When used of Israel, this term does not refer to the long series of oppressions and captivities of the Israelites by hostile peoples, beginning with the bondage in Egypt and ending with the domination of Rome, but to the captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel or Ephraim in 722 b.c. and the captivity of Judah in 586 b.c. The practice of making large-scale deportations of people as a punishment for rebellion was introduced by Assyria, but other nations adopted it.
I. The Captivity of the Northern Kingdom. Assyria first made contact with the northern kingdom when Shalmaneser II (860-825 b.c.) routed, in the battle of Karkar (854), the combined forces of Damascus, Hamath, Israel, and other states who had united to stop his westward progress. In another campaign Shalmaneser received tribute from Jehu, king of Israel. Not many years later, Rimmon-nirari III (810-781) compelled Syria to let go her hold of Israel. Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727), one of the greatest monarchs of antiquity, after capturing Samaria, put on the throne his vassal Hoshea, who had assassinated Pekah, king of Israel. With the death of Tiglath-Pileser III, Hoshea decided to strike a blow for independence. Help was promised by the king of Egypt, but it did not come. Hoshea was made a prisoner, and the capital was doomed to destruction, as the prophets had foretold (
II. The Captivity of the Southern Kingdom. The Captivity of Judah was predicted 150 years before it occurred (
Sargon was followed by a number of brilliant rulers, but by 625 b.c. the hold of Assyria over its tributary peoples had greatly slackened. Revolts broke out everywhere, and bands of Scythians swept through the empire as far as Egypt. Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 606, never to rise again. A great new Babylonian empire was built up by Nebuchadnezzar (604-562). Judah became a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar, but Jehoiakim the king, though warned by Jeremiah, rebelled. Nebuchadnezzar therefore came into Jerusalem in 605 and carried off to Babylon the vessels of the house of God and members of the nobility of Judah, among them Daniel the prophet (
CAPTIVITY. See Diaspora; Exile.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(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. 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" (
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
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 (
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
5. Samaria Captured by Sargon, 722 BC:
Not without a stubborn resistance on the part of her defenders did "the fortress cease from Ephraim" (
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" (
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" (
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" (
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" (
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" (
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 (
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 (
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’ (
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 (
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’ (
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 "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 (
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 (
"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" (
14. Third Deportation, 581 BC:
(1) Number and Quality of Exiles:
(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" (
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 ff) 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 (
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 (
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 (
19. Rebuilding of the Temple, 536 BC:
Within a year of the entry of Cyrus into Babylon an edict was issued (
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 (
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 (
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-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 ff, II, 249 ff, 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,Hist, 219-412; Kittel, History of the Hebrews, II, 329 ff.