God often punished the sins of the Jews be captivities or servitudes, according to his threatenings, Deuteronomy 28:1-68. Their first captivity, however, from which Moses delivered them, should be considered rather as a permission of Providence, than as a punishment for sin. There were six subjugations of the twelve tribes during the period of the judges. But the most remarkable captivities, or rather expatriations of the Hebrews, were whose of Israel and Judah under the regal government. Israel was first carried away in part about B. C. 740, by Tiglath-pileser, 2 Kings 15:29. The tribes east of the Jordan, with parts of Zebulun and Naphtali, Isaiah 9:1, were the first sufferers. Twenty years later, Shalmanezer carried away the remainder, 2 Kings 17:6-24. Aside from certain prophecies, Isaiah 11:12,13 Jeremiah 31:7-9,16-20 49:2 Ezekiel 37:16 Hosea 11:11 Amos 9:14 Obadiah 1:18,19, etc., which are variously interpreter to mean a past or a future return, a physical or a spiritual restoration, there is no evidence that the ten tribes as a body ever returned to Palestine.
To Judah are generally reckoned three captivities: 1. Under Jehoiakim, in his third year, B. C. 606, when Daniel and others were carried to Babylon, 2 Kings 24:1,2 Daniel 1:1 2. In the last year of Jehoiakim, when Nebuchadnezzar carried 3,023 Jews to Babylon; or rather, under Jehoiachin, when this prince also was sent to Babylon, that is, in the seventh and eighth years of Nebuchadnezzar, B. C. 598, 2 Kings 24:2,12 2 Chronicles 36:8,10 Jeremiah 52:34 3. Under Zedekiah, B. C. 588, when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, and most that was valuable among the people and their treasures was carried to Babylon, 2 Kings 25:1-30 2 Chronicles 36:1-23. The seventy years during which they were to remain in captivity, Jeremiah 25:11 29:10, are reckoned probably from the date of the first captivity, B. C. 606. While at Babylon the Jews had judges and elders who governed them, and decided matters in dispute juridically according to their laws. The book of Daniel shows us a Jew in a high position at court, and the book of Esther celebrates their numbers and power in the Persian empire. The prophets labored, not in vain, to keep alive the flame of the true religion.
At length the seventy years were fulfilled, and Cyrus, in the first year of his reign at Babylon, B. C. 536, made a proclamation throughout his empire permitting the people of God to return to their country, and rebuild the temple, Ezra 1:11. Nearly 50,000 accepted the invitation, Ezra 2:2 Nehemiah 7:7. This company laid the foundation of the second temple, which was completed in the sixth year of Darius, B. C. 516. Fifty-eight years after, Ezra led a small company of 7,000 from Babylon to Judea. He was succeeded as governor by Nehemiah, who labored faithfully and successfully to reform the people, and many of the good fruits of his labors remained until the time of Christ.
Probably none among the posterity of Jacob can now prove from which of his twelve sons they are descended. Both Judah and Israel being removed from "the lot of their inheritance" in Canaan, and dispersed among strangers, the various tribes would naturally amalgamate with each other, the envy of Judah and Ephraim would depart, and the memory of Abraham, Moses, and David would revive, Ezra 6:16,17 8:35 Ezekiel 37:26-28.
The last captivity of the Jews, A. D. 71, after they had filled up the measure of their iniquity by rejecting Christ and the gospel, was a terrible one. According to Josephus, 1,100,000 perished at the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, and nearly 100,000 captives were scattered among the provinces to perish in gladiatorial shows, doomed to toil as public slaves, or sold into private bondage. The cut represents the medal of the emperor Vespasian, A. D. 71, in memory of the capture of Jerusalem. Under the emperor Hadrian, A. D. 133, a similar crushing blow fell on the Jews who had again assembled in Judea; and at this day they are scattered all over the world, yet distinct from the people among whom they dwell, suffering under the woe which unbelief has brought upon their fathers and themselves, and awaiting the time when Christ "shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob," Romans 11:25,26.
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.
Rand, W. W. "Entry for 'CAPTIVITY'". "American Tract Society Bible Dictionary".