Deportation (in the Bible)

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Although deportation of conquered people did not originate with Tiglath-Pileser III (745727 b.c.), he was the first to institute it as a fixed policy of state. This transplanting of influential citizens, their families, and transportable goods to far off areas in the Assyrian Empire eliminated the possibility of rallying points for intrigue and rebellion. The deportations were apparently effected not by one mass movement, but by a series of movements extending over a period of time. The land was then resettled by foreign colonists and incorporated into the system of Assyrian provinces. Authorities differ concerning the number of deportees given in the Biblical and Assyro-Babylonian sources. At most the figures given are rough estimates, perhaps including many who died on the journey. The tendency of scholars today is to admit lower figures than those listed. However, it must be noted that women and children were not usually counted. As depicted by Assyrian monuments, the deportees had their hands bound and were marched in columns. The women usually were not bound, and so could minister to the needs of the prisoners and care for their possessions. Those who could not bear up under the cruel, exhausting journey were left to perish. Deportations from both the Northern and Southern Hebrew kingdoms are treated below.

Deportations from the Northern Kingdom. The Northern kingdom of Israel, which in part was organized as the province of Samaria under an Assyrian governor after its fall in 721 b.c., was the first of the Hebrew kingdoms to experience deportation.

The first deportation of Israel took place in 732 b.c. Pekah, King of Israel (737732 b.c.), joined with Damascus in a coalition against assyria. Tiglath-Pileser utterly destroyed the coalition, striking Israel with full force. The Israelite lands in Galilee and Transjordan were overrun and numerous cities destroyed. A portion of the inhabitants of these areas was deported (2 Kgs 15.2930). At least the deportees from Transjordan were settled in northern Mesopotamia and in Media (see 1 Chr 5.26).

The second deportation of Israel occurred in 721 b.c. After the death of Tiglath-Pileser, hosea, who had succeeded Pekah on the throne, withheld the tribute due to salmanasar v. The Assyrians invaded Israel and captured Hosea. After a resistance of more than two years, the city of Samaria fell. Salmanasar's successor, Sargon II, gave 27,290 as the number deported. These were settled in the same regions as the deportees of 732, and if the geographical data of the book of Tobit are correct, some found their way to nineveh (see Tb 1.3, 10).

Deportations from the Southern Kingdom. With the rise of the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian Empire, Judah became a vassal of nebuchadnezzar who followed the policy of deportation instituted by the Assyrians.

The first deportation of Juda took place in 597 b.c. King Joakim of Judah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar but died before full retaliation could be effected (4 Kgs 24.12). Joakim's 18-year-old son Joachin was placed on the throne, and within three months the city surrendered. Joachin was deported to Babylon with the queen mother, many nobles, and leading artisans (2 Kgs 24.616). According to the prophet ezekiel, who was among the deportees (Ez 1.13; 3.15), one of the settlements of the exiles was at Tell-abib (probably near Nippur). Biblical records of their numbers differ: 10,000 in 2 Kgs 24.14; 8,000 in 2 Kgs 24.16; 3,023 in Jer 52.28. The last figure appears to have been taken from an official list.

The second deportation of Juda occurred in 587 b.c. Zedekiah, who succeeded Joachin, rebelled against Babylon in 589 b.c. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, and the city fell in 587 b.c. (2 Kgs 25.13; Jer 52.45). Some prisoners were put to death; Sedecia was blinded and with others taken to Babylon (4 Kgs 25.47, 1821; Jer 52.711, 2427). The torch was put to Jerusalem and its walls leveled. Jeremiah gives the number of deportees as 832 (Jer 52.29), probably referring to adult males.

The third deportation of Judah happened in 582 b.c. This deportation of 745 Jews is mentioned only by Jeremiah (Jer 52.30). It may have been a reprisal for the disturbances that arose during the governorship of Godolia.

Bibliography: j. bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia, PA 1959). p. heinisch, History of the Old Testament, tr. w. g. heidt (Collegeville, MN 1955). m. noth, The History of Israel, tr. s. godman (London 1958). e. r. thiele, "New Evidence on the Chronology of the Last Kings of Judah," The Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 143 2227. j. m. wilkie, "Nabonidus and the later Jewish Exiles," Journal of Theological Studies 2 3644. w. f. albright, "An Ostracon from Calah and the North-Israelite Diaspora," The Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (New Haven 1958) 149 3336.

[j. p. weisengoff]