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Lands Of Captivity
Despite all of the warnings by God's prophets (see Prophecy), both Israel and Judah became grossly corrupt in His sight, thereby inviting their own destruction.
The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel
The northern kingdom of Israel was first, conquered by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. (see Ancient Empires - Assyria). They never returned, and are known today as the "Lost Ten Tribes" of Israel (although many thousands of their descendants are reading this!):
"The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against The Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt (see Rock Of Ages and The Logos) from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations The Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. The Israelites secretly did things against The Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom The Lord had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that provoked The Lord to anger. They worshiped idols [see Images and Idols], though The Lord had said, "You shall not do this." The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: "Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets." But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in The Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although The Lord had ordered them, "Do not do as they do," and they did the things The Lord had forbidden them to do. They forsook all the commands of The Lord their God [see The Ten Commandments - Your Keys To Life] and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery [see Witches And Sorcerers] and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of The Lord, provoking him to anger. So The Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from His presence." (2 Kings 17:5-18)
Next came Judah's turn. They were conquered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (see Why Babylon?). Unlike the northern kingdom however, Judah was permitted to return 70 years later by the Persians under Cyrus the Great (see Ancient Empires - Persia). Their descendants are the Jewish people of today.
"On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the Temple of The Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down [see Temple Mount Treasures]. The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had gone over to the king of Babylon." (2 Kings 25:8-11)
Fact Finder: What was the name of the exiled Jewish woman who became queen of Persia?