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Jewish Treatment During the 70 Years in Captivity
Because of the Babylonian Captivity, Babylonia became the most important center of Jewish life during the Exile. We know a bit about Jewish thought and life because of some Jewish communities in Egypt, but virtually nothing from the Assyrian Captivity in 722 B.C. and of the 10 lost tribes.
The Jewish people survived in Babylon because the Babylonian policy allowed the Jews to settle in towns and villages along the Chebar River, which was an irrigation channel. The Jews were allowed to live together in communities, they were allowed to farm and perform other sorts of labor to earn income. Many Jews eventually became wealthy. This was probably because of the influence of certain Jews who ministered in the palace of Babylon, like Daniel and his friends. It is also likely that the Lord purposed that the Jews would settle down there and get comfortable. Then after the 70 years were complete it would be a test of faith to pick up and return to Jerusalem.
In any case the Jews were treated well, and tablets were found near the Ishtar Gate which indicate that even in captivity Jehoiachin was referred to as the "king of Judah" and he received abundant food supplies from the royal storehouse.
During captivity the Jews were encouraged by the prophet Jeremiah from Jerusalem to take wives, build houses, plant gardens and take wives and take advantage of their situation because they were going to be there for seventy years:
4 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:
5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.
6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters -- that you may be increased there, and not diminished.
7 And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.
8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed.
9 For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the LORD.
10 For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.
The Exile was truly God’s punishment to a rebellious people but they were to learn the lesson from His chastisement, and maintain hope for the coming redemption. But many were discouraged, as written in the Psalms:
1 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion.
2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it.
3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
4 How shall we sing the LORD's song In a foreign land?
They were to keep their hope alive and not be assimilated into the Babylonian way of life. To prevent this and to preserve their identity the religious leaders had Scribes copy the Scriptures. They also wrote much literature and taught the people to observe the Sabbath and to circumcise their male children.