WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 21, 2016)—The Babylonian Exile that resulted from King Nebuchadnezzar’s sixth-century B.C.E. capture of Jerusalem has historically been portrayed with the Judahites lamenting their circumstances.
The Babylonian Exile began in 597 B.C.E. with the deportation of Judahite king Jehoiachin, his family, skilled craftsmen, warriors and 10,000 additional captives (2 Kings 24:12–16). Two more deportations took place: one in 586 B.C.E., when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, and another in 582 B.C.E. Jeremiah 52:28–30 claims that a total of 4,600 Judahites were displaced in the Babylonian exile.
Psalm 137:1–2 poetically recounts the feelings of the deported Judahites: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Zion. There on the poplars we hung up our lyres.” But the textual remains left by the Babylonians and even some Judahites may reveal an entirely different story.
University of California, Berkeley, Lecturer in Akkadian Laurie E. Pearce explores the evidence in her article “How Bad Was the Babylonian Exile?” in the September/October 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. According to Pearce, life in Babylon was actually pretty good for many of the Judahite deportees.