In the beginning of the class we spent a couple of days focused on the back story of the Jewish Diaspora. The diaspora began around 586 BCE, with Nebuchadnezzar deporting all of the Jews in Jerusalem, to Babylon. Looking at a few biblical texts to get a more historical idea of what happened and how the Jews felt about being taken away from their homelands, the situation is pretty clear, meaning the Jews obviously were not happy about being forced out and having their temple destroyed, some of the historical accounts I’ve come across seem to be contradictory, or some may be a bit exaggerated. This may be expected because a lot of the historical data I have found on the diaspora is based on memory instead of history, and like with everything else, everyone’s experience or feelings on the situation may differ. Nevertheless, one thing that I did find to be quite interesting about the information I found was how the stories were told in comparison to some One of the texts we looked at in class Psalms Chapter 137 verse 1-9. This text is a hymn that recounts the Jews’ journey to Babylon. “1. By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea we wept, when we remembered Zion…3.For there they led us captive asked of us words of song, and our tormentors asked of us mirth: “Sing us one of the songs of Zion”” Words like “wept”, and “tormentors” paint a very horrific picture for us as readers and based on the words from this text, it is easy for us to assume that the Jews’ migration to Babylon as well as their time there was torture for them.
As I furthered my research I began to come across things that contradicted this idea that the diaspora was such a torturous experience for the Jewish people. According to “Bible History Online: Treatment of Jews”, “the Jews were allowed to live together in communities; they were allowed to farm and perform other sorts of labor to earn income. Many Jews eventually became wealthy… Jews were treated well, and tablets were found near the Ishtar Gate which indicate that even in captivity Jehoiachin was referred to as the “king of Judah” and he received abundant food supplies from the royal storehouse.”
In an article in the Jerusalem Post, Daniel K. Eisenbud writes about ancient tablets found that revealed daily life of exiled Jews in Babylon 2,500 years ago. Technically not slaves, Nebuchadnezzar allowed the Judeans in Babylonia to become merchants or assist administering his growing kingdom. ““They were free to go about their lives; they weren’t slaves,” Vukosavovic said. “Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t a brutal ruler in that respect. He knew he needed the Judeans to help revive the struggling Babylonian economy. The tablets shed light on the Judeans’ contributions, detailing taxes paid, debts owed, credits accumulated and trade in fruits and other commodities.”
The things I found during my research revealed to me how drastic the differences between memory and history. The two are very different and failing to keep that in mind can change the perception of the situation, and change history.