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Exile of the Hebrew people is an important part of the Old Testament. To fully understand the comprehensive meaning one must understand that the term include more than one exile. Included is the exile of the Jews in Babylonia in the sixth century BC, the conquering of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in the eighth century BC, which resulted in many of the ten tribes being deported to various parts of the Assyrian Empire. Along with this, various foreign populations were brought to Samarta and intermarried with the existing population. The Judah kingdom was part of the Babylonian Empire and inspired revolutions in 597, and again in 586 BC, resulting in all but the poorest in that land were transported to Babylon.
It is important to note, although the Temple had been destroyed the religious life continued as described in the books of Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Haggai, and Zechariah. Following the Persian conquest of Babylon, the Hebrew exiles were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their Temple (Ezra 1-4). However, many chose to remain in Babylon and many Jewish communities sprung up in every major city surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
(For a description of the treatment of exiles see Captivity, Hebrew) A.G.H.
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 350