587 BC (continued)

As a sequel to pillaging the Treasury, Nebuchadnezzar ordered some 5,000 of the most important and skilled Jews to be taken into exile at Babylon. This was done in four phases, spread over a number of years; the remaining Jews being left to 'till the land' (30). The Old Testament records that King Jehoiachin was taken along with them and subsequently released by the new Babylonish King Evilmoradach after 37 years in a prison (31).

This has been questioned, as some now believe that Jehoiachin, aged 18, died in 597 BC after a brief reign of only three months, and well before the Babylonian invasion. Moreover, Jehoiachin had been succeeded by Zedekiah (TsidkiyƔhu), although eventually the latter was left without authority over Jerusalem and its puppet kings.

Following the abortive revolt later that summer, Nebuchadnezzar, angered by Zedekiah's alleged treachery and ingratitude for past favours, forced the latter to witness the execution of his three sons before his own eyes were gouged out. Zedekiah was then taken into captivity in Babylon where he died soon afterwards in early 586 BC.

539 BC

There was little love lost between the Persians and the Babylonians, any more than there is today between the Iranians and the Iraqis. Cyrus, Emperor of Persia, succeeded in conquering Babylonia and then went on to take Syria, the whole of Israel and Trans-Jordan.

538 BC

With the retaking of Jerusalem, and after almost 50 years in exile, Cyrus allowed the banished Jews to return to rebuild their Temple (32). Moreover, and most handsomely, he ordered the return to the Jews of all the treasures originally plundered by Nebuchadnezzar (33). Again, there was no mention of the Ark.