Editor, H. S. (2002;2002). BAS Ancient Israel. Biblical Archaeology Society.
Exile and Return:
From the Babylonian Destruction to the Reconstruction of the Jewish State
By James D. Purvis, revised by Eric M. Meyers
The Exile to Babylonia
The rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, were carried into exile by Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard. But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.
( 2 Kings 25:1112 )
The calamities that befell Judah when king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon crushed Zedekiah's rebellion and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. are stated concisely but poignantly in the narrative prose accounts in the books of Kings and Jeremiah. The king's sons were executed before his eyes; then Zedekiah himself was blinded and imprisoned. The Temple was burned; the Temple officials, military commanders and noblemen were executed; and, finally, the survivors were exiled ( 2 Kings 25:721 ; Jeremiah 39:110 and 52:116 ).
Following this, Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah as governor. Gedaliah established his administrative center at Mizpah. Although the biblical account does not indicate the extent of Gedaliah's authority, there was apparently some hope for peace and economic recovery under his leadership.1 This hope was thwarted, however, by the assassination of Gedaliah and the flight of his supporters and others to Egypt. Thus, in addition to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of its leaders to Babylonia, this dispersion to Egypt further weakened the nation ( 2 Kings 25:2226 ; Jeremiah 40:144:30 ). All these developments profoundly affected the course of Jewish life in Palestine and abroad, that is, in the Diaspora.
1On the economic dimensions of Gedaliah's governorship, note Jeremiah 40:10 , "As for me I will dwell at Mizpah, to stand for you before the Chaldeans who will come to us; but as for you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that you have taken." A recent study by J. N. Graham using seal impressions (including a seal of "Gedaliah who is over the household") and other archaeological data argues that Gedaliah was established as governor to oversee a state-managed agrarian system intended to generate tribute for the Babylonians and also contribute to the local welfare. It is further argued that the "vinedressers and plowmen" (2 Kings 25:12 and Jeremiah 52:16) were technical terms for those in compulsory service in state industries. See Graham, "Vinedressers and Plowmen," BA 47 (1984), pp. 5558.
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