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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

The End of the Kingdom of Judah (Late 7th–Early 6th Centuries bce)

By the late 7th century the Assyrian empire was overextended, and was unable to prevent first independence and eventually overthrow by a resurgent Babylonia to its south. The Babylonians captured the Assyrian capital of Nineveh in 612, and in effect took over the Assyrian empire. In the initial years, Egypt and Judah attempted to take advantage of the transfer of power by reasserting their independence. This was the time of the reign of the Judean king Josiah (640–609), whom Kings compares to David and whose accomplishments are magnified like those of his illustrious predecessor. It seems likely thatJudah was able to reestablish control over some of the territory to the north and west that had been under direct Assyrian rule; Josiah's religious reforms of 621 (see 2 Kings chs 22–23 ) should be understood in this context. This autonomy, such as it was, was short‐lived. After Josiah's death in battle at Megiddo in 609, in a failed attempt to prevent the Egyptians from moving north to reinforce the tottering Assyrians, Judah was again reduced to the status of a vassal, first to Egypt, and then, by the end of the 7th century, to Babylonia. Caught between two greater powers, the Judean kings Jehoiakim and Zedekiah successively allied themselves with Egypt, which proved to be the weaker partner. Under Nebuchadrezzar (also called Nebuchadnezzar) II, the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem in 597 and 586, in the second instance destroying the city, burning down the Temple, and ending the Davidic dynasty. Thus came the demise of the kingdom of Judah.

It was the end of an era. Despite the extravagant propaganda of the royal establishment, neither the Davidic dynasty nor its capital city were impregnable. Jerusalem was destroyed, its Temple burned, and its population decimated by death and exile. Although a significant number of Judeans remained in Judah, autonomous control of the promised land became only a memory. And despite partial restoration later in the 6th century, exile in Babylonia transformed the religion of Judah into what would later be called Judaism. From this point on, a significant proportion of Jews would be living outside of the land of Israel, without king, Temple, or priesthood. The Torah and other texts that would eventually comprise the Bible gained new importance in this period, filling the vacuum left by the destruction of these core institutions. The preservation and compilation of older texts, and the creation of new ones during and after the exilic period, preserved and developed the national identity of the Jews. It may not be putting it too strongly to say that had it not been for the cataclysmic event of the destruction of Judah, there would be no Bible.

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