Voices for Revival – Study of Minor Prophets (Post-Exilic Period)
– Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi
Appendix I to Political Background in the Holy Land
Rise & Fall of Super-Powers
United Kingdom (Solomon) – Egypt (Pharaoh’s daughter, 1 of his 700 wives)
Northern Kingdom – Assyria
Southern Kingdom – Babylon
Return From Exile – Media-Persia
Brief History of the Israelites
1) After Solomon’s death, divided into N and S Kingdom. Not suddenly, although there was a major revolt.
It was gradual: tribal jealousies even in the days of Judges.
2) Fall of N Kingdom: 2 Kings 15:19 – 17:41
– Assyrian Invasions in 740, 732, 722 BC (2 Kings 15:19, 29, 17:1-6).
– 1st inv: In 740 BC, Tiglath-Pileser III began his aggressive policy. He invaded Israel to warn them to be loyal, to pay tribute, and not to rebel.
– 2nd inv: In 732 BC, Tiglath-Pileser III deposed Pekah. (2 Kings 15:29)
– 3rd inv: In 722 BC, King Hoshea rebelled against King of Assyria (Shalmaneser V) by allying with King of Egypt, refused to pay heavy tribute. Samaria (capital city of N Kingdom) was besieged for 3 yrs. Captured & deported Jews to Halah, Gozan, Medes towns (2 Kings 17:6)
* Assyrian Policy: To move out people from their land and resettle foreigners from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hammath, Sepharvaim in Samaria (2 K 17:24). Treated the captives cruelly: tortured some, enslaved some, scattered them. Hoping this would wipe out the nation of Israel. Apparently, some fled to nearby countries.
3) Between Fall of N & S Kingdom: In 612 BC, under King Nebuchadnessar Babylon became new world power after overthrowing Assyria and defeating Egypt at the battle of Carchemish in 605 BC (2 Kings 24:1). After defeating Egypt, the Babylonians invaded Judah and won. The King died in 606 BC, and his son Nebuchadnessar II became the second and greatest king of Babylon. He made many conquests and his empire expanded.
4) Fall of S Kingdom: 2 Kings 23:31 – 25:30
– Babylonian Invasions in 605, 598, 586 BC (2 Kings 24:1, 10, 25:1) under King Neb II
– 1st inv: Babylon defeated Egypt, so Judah became vassal of Babylon. But King Jehoiakim rebelled, King Neb II crushed him, exiled him to Babylon (2 Chron 36:6)
– 2nd inv: Jehoiachin rebelled against Babylon and was taken captive to Babylon (2 Chron 36:4-8)
– 3rd inv: King Zedekiah was taken to captivity in Babylon. His sons were killed and they took out his eyes (2 Kings 25:7). King Neb II set fire to the temple, royal palace and all the houses in Jerusalem (v9). Temple articles were carried away to Babylon (v13-15)
*Babylonian Policy: Killed or took nobilities away to Babylon, enslaved some, exiled the strong & skilled in Babylon with a plan to train and use them e.g. Daniel. Left the poor and weak in behind in Judah: gave them some authority but expected loyalty. A shrewd policy. Apparently, some fled to nearby countries.
5) Between Fall of S Kingdom & Return from Exile: In 539 BC, Persia overthrew Babylon. King Cyrus further relaxed policy towards captives: they were allowed to return to their homeland. Hoping this would win their loyalty and they also became buffer zones for his empire. He unified with Media to form a very strong Medo-Persian empire.
Mix of Israelites from N and S Kingdom
Israelites from N and S Kingdom were exiled to different geographical area under the superpowers of Assyria and Babylon. But they were NOT exiled to opposite ends of the world but quite nearby geographically. This made it possible for the N and S Kingdom people to mix around during the overlapping 70 yrs in captivity. Also, the Assyrians deported their captives around to achieve their political purposes (like in Samaria).
This explains why when they returned from exile, both N and S Kingdom Israelites were represented (Ezra 2:3 “men of the people of Israel”). According to J MacArthur’s Study Bible (footnotes on Ezra 2:64, 65), approx 11,000 returnees of the 1st batch of 50,000 probably belonged to N Kingdom Israelites.
When they came to Jerusalem finally, they also found children of Ephraim and Manasseh of N Kingdom (1 Chron 9:3).
This conclusively debunked the theory of ‘Ten Lost Tribes’. We know for sure that there were at least descendents of Ephraim and Manasseh in Jerusalem. And the N Kingdom tribes were represented in the returnees from exile, although we don’t know in detail which of these tribes were and were not represented. For sure, both kingdoms were represented.
In 722 BC (N Kingdom) and 586 BC (S Kingdom). Some Jews were taken as slaves in what is commonly known as the Babylonian captivity of Judah. Some also fled to Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia.
Return From Exile
3 batches in 538, 458, 445 BC
The 4-mth journey was very difficult, people along the routes were hostile.
Only a very small minority returned with King Cyrus’ permission. Jews from the N and S Kingdom were represented (see above).
Jews were allowed to return with the Temple vessels taken from Jerusalem during the Babylonian invasion in 586 BC.
Jews returned to a home that was very different from King David (1011-971 BC) and King Solomon (971-931 BC).
1) No Hebrew king, but a Persian governor (Ezra 5:3, 6:6). Place was dominated by Gentiles.
2) No temple
3) No security for Jerusalem, had to rebuild wall (Neh 1-7)
4) No wealth
5) Only blessing: return from exile to their land
Bitter: Many who came back were at least 2nd or 3rd generation Israelites from the exile. They were bitter that they had to suffer so much for their forefathers’ sins. It’s not fair that they had to suffer for something they didn’t do. Now, they had no land, no wealth and very poor, strangers in their own land, under foreign rule, etc.
Sweet: At least, they were back in the land God promised to Abraham. And their ruler of Medo-Persian Empire treated them more decently now.