7.1 Exile and Return -- Nebuchadnezzar
The subjection of Judah began when Nebuchadnezzar, son of King Nabopolassar, marched west from Babylon to fight Pharaoh Necco and his Assyrian allies in 605 BC. Carchemish was the new capital of the Assyrian kingdom after the Babylonians captured Nineveh (612). It was located in the north of the Fertile Crescent, on the banks of the Euphrates, near the border between modern Turkey and Syria. Josiah of Judah attempted to stop Egypt from passing through Judah, and was killed in the battle (2 Chron 35:20-24). But Nebuchadnezzar’s forces crushed the Assyrian-Egyptian armies and extended Babylonian control far into the west and south, including the former Assyrian Empire and Judah.
The same year, 605, Nabopolassar died and Nebuchadnezzar become King of Babylon. He also laid siege to Jerusalem, during which time Daniel was deported to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar returned twice to Jerusalem, in 597 and 586, when Judah’s subject kings turned against him. The third time, the city was destroyed and her people taken into exile. This was the time of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The former saw the downfall of the city and then was forcibly taken to Egypt. Ezekiel was one of the exiles to Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar was the primary builder of the Babylonian empire. Jeremiah presented him as the Lord’s "servant," bringing judgment on Judah and other nations (Jer 25:9, Jer 27:6, Jer 43:10), while Eze 29:18-20 said that he deserved a reward for doing the Lord’s work. In Nebuchadnezzar's dream about the statue of 4 parts (Dan 2:31-45), he was represented as the head of gold. In Daniel's dream of 4 beasts (Dan 7:1-14), Nebuchadnezzar was the lion with eagle's wings (see also Eze 17:3). Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar for 40 years, and was promoted in his court (Dan 2:48).
Nebuchadnezzar’s policy of uprooting defeated peoples was consistent with what the Assyrians had previously done in Israel -- removing the inhabitants of Samaria, and importing people from the East. This was done to prevent local rebellions. Under Nebuchadnezzar, the Jews were relocated to several cities in Babylonia. Their period of exile lasted from 40 to 70 years, depending upon which of the 3 waves of emigration they were caught up in, and when they chose to return. Some settled permanently in Babylonia.