EXILES RETURN FROM BABYLON
IN 607 B.C.E. the once-prosperous land of Judah was made “a desolate waste, without an inhabitant,” as Jewish captives were led away to exile in Babylon and a remnant fled to Egypt. (Jer 9:11) The God of loving-kindness, though, would not leave his people in exile forever. He foretold that they would “have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years,” after which he would deliver a faithful remnant. (Jer 25:11, 12; 29:10-14) And not even the seemingly impregnable world power of Babylon could thwart God’s stated purpose. The return of the Jewish exiles demonstrates the unerring accuracy with which Jehovah’s prophecies are fulfilled.
Even before the end of the 70 years of exile, Babylon fell, in 539 B.C.E., to the invading armies of Persian King Cyrus. Then, during his first year as ruler of Babylon, Cyrus issued a decree opening the way for the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem. (Ezr 1:1-4) A remnant that may have numbered 200,000 (including men, women, and children) made the journey, arriving in Judah in 537 B.C.E. (Ezr 1:5–3:1; 4:1) Thus the 70 years’ desolation ended exactly on time!
Not all the exiles returned at that time, however. In 468 B.C.E., another group of returnees accompanied the priest Ezra, who brought to Jerusalem gifts for the temple. (Ezr 7:1–8:32) Then in 455 B.C.E., Nehemiah traveled from Shushan to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. (Ne 2:5, 6, 11) As to the exact route followed by the returnees, the Scriptures are silent. Some reasonable possibilities are shown on the map.
[Map on page 332]
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Possible Routes of Returning Exiles
[Picture on page 332]
Cyrus Cylinder, which states the policy of Cyrus to return captives to their homelands and to aid in restoration of their temples