2,500 Year Old Evidence of Jewish Life in Babylonian Exile Found

One of the clay tablets on display in the Bible Lands Museum exhibit - Photo credit to Olivier Fitoussi

One of the clay tablets on display in the Bible Lands Museum exhibit – Photo credit to Olivier Fitoussi

Just this week, a collection of ancient tablets dating back to 572-477 B.C.E. were revealed in Jerusalem at the Bible Lands Museum. This fraction of Babylonian history, with each tablet dated meticulously by their scribes, reveals a village once located between the Tigris and Euphrates called “Al-Yahudu,” a Babylonian term oft used to describe Jerusalem. The earliest tablet within this collection dates to about 15 years after Chaldean king Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the First Temple. Consequently, the Jews were exiled to Babylon, only for a portion of them to return to Zion upon permission of King Cyrus of Persia in 538 B.C.E. The latest tablet in the collection was written about 60 years after the partial return of God’s people.

“This is ‘Babylon’s Jerusalem,’ just as New York is the new York,” says Professor Wayne Horowitz, one of the participating archaeologists undergoing study of the tablets. He says that those that lived in Al-Yahudu are Jewish, and bear Jewish names: Gedalyahu, Hanan, Dana, Shaltiel and Netanyahu. The “theophoric” endings of “Gedalyahu,” “Netanyahu,” and “Al-Yahudu” suggest a belief in the God of the Torah. The Lord’s name was part of these personal names.

So what does this mean for believers today or even those searching for truth?

Location, location, location. There are many places in the Bible whose existences have been proved by archaeological discovery, but this leaves the rest of the cities, villages, and countries to be found. These tablets are further proof that Scripture bears accurate representations of country borders as they once were. This archival collection carries parallels with Scripture: for example, portions of the tablets correspond with references written by the prophet Ezekiel, bearing witness to the existence of the “river Chebar.”

Moreover, the tablets bear records of transactions made by the exiled Jewish people: trades of barley, property, livestock, and so forth. These archaeological finds are giving us better glimpses into everyday lives of the Jews in Babylonian captivity, painting a more realistic and evidential picture than ever before.

Let’s look at another fascinating, big-picture aspect… It is estimated that around 80,000 Jews that remained in Babylon – or modern day Iraq (after the remnant’s return to Zion with King Cyrus’ admittance). Until 1948, Jewish exile lasted approximately 2,500 years! These tablets are further evidence of Jewish displacement, making this ancient exile community one of the oldest in history.

Want to learn more? Check out the Jerusalem Time Line pamphlet by Rose Publishing to get a broad history.

 

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