03.02.08 605 B.C. Judah Falls to the Babylonians; First Deportation of Jews to Babylon
King Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.), the oldest son and successor of King Nabopolassar, destroyed the Egyptian army at the Battle of Carchemish and invaded Syria and Judah. As news spread that he was coming toward Jerusalem, some of the wealthy aristocratic Jews fled to Egypt and Spain.
At this point historians disagree on the dates of the deportation of leading Jews. Some scholars believe that Daniel and others were deported to Babylon in 605 B.C. (cf. Dan. 1:1-7), while others believe he and other prophets, like Ezekiel, were deported later in 597 or 586 B.C. The bulk of the people were taken in 586 B.C. Cyrus permitted them to return in 536, meaning that the vast majority of people were in captivity for only 50 years, but the leadership was in captivity for 70 years.
In weeping and deep mourning, the captive Jews were led to the Babylon where they resettled along the banks of the Euphrates River. It was there where they hung their harps on the willow trees and cried – and it is from those trees that the name “weeping willow,” received its name (Ps. 137).  Yet it was in Babylon where they prospered and continued to grow in numbers, clear evidence that God had not forgotten them.
Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of Jerusalem was without difficulty. As the Assyrians had done previously, he directed influential Jewish families of the priesthood and government, including the prophet Daniel, as well as artisans, craftsmen, and skilled farmers, to be deported to the east (Babylon). This was done because he believed that without their leaders, the captive people would not have the ability to revolt and would therefore, remain faithful. They mourned the loss of their holy city and wrote Psalms 137.
The captive Jews took with them the Torah and other prophetic scrolls of the coming messiah whom they expected would deliver them from political bondage and slavery. By the time of Jesus, all people groups in the Middle East were anticipating a messiah who would deliver them from oppressive rulers. Some heard it from Assyrian captives, others from Babylonian captives, and others from those who chose to relocate in foreign countries for other reasons. So anticipatory were the eastern ancients, that magi searched the heavens for any possible clue of a coming king. Tradition says that the three eastern magi and their caravan came as the result of the Jews having been dispersed to that region centuries earlier.
. The Babylonian kings Merodach-baladan II, Nebuchadnezzar II, Evil-merodach, Belshazzar, as well as an official of Nebuchadnezzar II, Nebo-sarsekim, are among fifty biblical names whose existence has been verified by archaeological studies in a published article by Lawrence Mykytiuk titled, “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.” Biblical Archaeology Review. March/April, 2014 (40:2), pages 42-50, 68. This archaeological evidence confirms the historical accuracy of the biblical timeline. For further study, see the website for Associates for Biblical Research, as well as Grisanti, “Recent Archaeological Discoveries that Lend Credence to the Historicity of the Scriptures.” 475-98.
. The terms “Jew” and “Jewish people” did not exist prior to the return of the Israelite people from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem. It is used herein only for clarification.
. Scott, Jr. Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. 108.
. Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 3, Session 2.
. Geikie, The Life and Words of Christ. 1:203. The same tree found in the Middle East is also found in various sections of the United States.