Ikna Shillingford

Religion
3/4/14
The Babylonian Exile was a Turning Point

There Babylonian Exile was a new beginning for the Jews to redefine
themselves. The Jews now had a chance to truly understand their faith. They Jews
transformed had to transform their belief that they needed a temple to worship and
learn that they could worship anywhere they want to. The Jews were able to hold
onto their faith even when they were separated and worshipping in many different
areas. Even though at first the Jews were confused and feeling lost, they soon found
their way. The Exile allowed their faith to spread and grow into a mighty Nation.
The First Temple, the Ark was the most important symbol of the Jewish faith,
and served as the only physical manifestation of God on earth. The Ark remained in
the Temple until its destruction at the hand of the Babylonian empire, led by
Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar wanted Babylon to prosper and believed the
only way to succeed was to bring the Jews to Babylon so that they could do it for
them. He decided that he would destroy their temple so that they would have to
build another one. He then planned to exile them to Babylon so that they would
build their new temple there. This idea backfired on him though because the Jews
realized that they do not need a temple to worship.
The Diaspora was the dispersion and scattering of the Jews. Nebuchadnezzar
deported the Jews but allowed them to remain in a unified community in Babylon.
While this group stayed in Babylon another group of Jews fled to Egypt, where they
settled in the Nile delta. There were three distinct groups of Hebrews: a group in
Babylon, a group in Jews, and another group in Egypt. All of these Jews retained
their religion, identity, and social customs. They were allowed to run their lives
under their own laws both under the Persians and the Greeks. Some converted to
other religions while others combined the Yahweh religion with local religions but
the majority clung to the Hebraic religion and its new-found core document, the
Torah.

The exile was unexplainable to the Jews. Hebrew history was built on the
promise of Yahweh to protect the Hebrews and use them for his purposes in human
history. “The Hebrew defeat and the loss of the land promised to them by Yahweh
implied that their faith in this promise was misplaced.”(3) Most Jews felt profound
despair. They felt that God had given up on them and it was their fault. Proof of this
profound despair can be found in most Hebrew literature written after the events of
the Exile. Texts such as Lamentations, Job, and the Psalms illustrate Hebrew
literature taking on a despairing quality. The subject of Job is human suffering itself
and how humans shouldn't question God's will. Many of the psalms written in this
period betray an equal hopelessness. The Jews in Babylon blame the disaster of the
Exile on their own impurity. This leads them to think about themselves and their
views on their religion.
They exile allowed the Jews to forge a new national identity and a new
religion. They believed that they had betrayed Yahweh and allowed the Mosaic laws
and cultic practices to become corrupt. The Babylonian Exiles believed that they
were proof of Yahweh's displeasure. Jewish leaders turned away from talks of
judgment, but instead embraced talks of salvation. In response to their belief that
their faith had become corrupt the Israelites started to change their ways. This
period is marked as the resurrection of Jewish tradition. The exiles now looked back
to their Mosaic origins in an effort to revive their original religion. Some historians
believe that the Torah most likely took its final shape during this period or shortly
afterward, and that it became the central text of the Jewish faith at this time as well.
The Jews used to be centered only in Jerusalem but now were spread to many
different areas. What was once a kingdom was now a nation of Yahweh.