03.02.11 587 – 516 B.C. The Exilic Period
The Exilic Period is the seventy year period of captivity when the majority of Jewish people lived in Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar treated them well. He did not break up families or force them into slavery. He settled them along the Chebar River where the soil was more fertile than back home. Consequently, their farming skills produced more food with less labor. When they were granted freedom, many chose to remain in Babylon because they had established businesses and become prosperous. Within twenty years, many became wealthy and held positions in government.
Babylon was the greatest city in Asia, a cultural crossroad where men and merchandise from all known nations could be found. It was known for the famous “hanging gardens” and other wonders of the ancient world. The Babylonians developed systems of bookkeeping, commercial law, weights and measures which developed into the foundations of modern western civilization.
However, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were discouraged by the pagan religious practices of Babylon. The gods were worshipped with sexual orgies in temples, drinking festivals, and child sacrifice. While some Jews were assimilated into the Babylonian culture, many others opposed the pagan religions. Since they were given religious freedom, it is believed that the synagogue was developed in Babylon. It was also at this time that a theology was established that stated that sins could be forgiven without temple sacrifices (since it had been destroyed).
Paganism forced the Jewish people to reflect upon their faith, and as they did, they developed a new perspective of God. It was commonly believed that gods were territorial, meaning that each deity was the supreme god of a particular geographical location. If a man left his country to settle in another land, he also left his god and accepted the god of his new home in the same manner that he accepted the governmental authority of the new land. They soon realized that God was One who was with them no matter where they were. He controls the universe and is involved in the affairs of men.
. Golub, In the Days. 5-7.
. See also 02.03.11 “Religious Institutions.”