The Babylonian Exile: Fitting the Pieces Together

You are probably familiar with the stories of Queen Esther, Nehemiah rebuilding the wall, Daniel in the lions’ den, King Nebuchadnezzar, and other Old Testament figures. But how do these stories relate to each other?

The story of the Jews who were exiled to Babylon and then returned to Jerusalem can be confusing. At least it was to me. I had a lot of pieces to the puzzle, but I didn’t know how they fit together. So I did a little research and came up with a timeline and a summary that can help us fit the pieces together.

In order to get a better grasp of the timeline, I have renamed the years. I have called 606 BC (the date the first exiles were taken to Babylon) Year 1. You will see that 161 years will pass before the third wave of exiles returns to Jerusalem.

Babylonian Exile Timeline

606 BC (Year 1)   Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, besieges Jerusalem. Daniel and Judean nobles are exiled to Babylon.

586 BC (Year 20) Jerusalem is destroyed by the Babylonians. Solomon’s Temple is destroyed.

539 BC (Year 67) Cyrus, King of Persia, conquers the Babylonian Empire

537 BC (Year 69) The 1st group of exiles returns to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. 42,360 exiles return (plus slaves and singers) – a small remnant.

520 BC (Year 86) The Temple is completed.

486-465 BC (Years 120-141) Xerxes is King of Persia. He makes Esther the new queen.

458 BC (Year 148) The 2nd group of exiles returns to Jerusalem with Ezra. Artaxerxes is the King of Persia. Only 1,754 exiles return.

445 BC (Year 161) The 3rd group of exiles returns with Nehemiah to restore the walls. The walls were restored in 52 days.


In 606 BC, the deportation of Judean nobles to Babylon begins. This group included Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The people of Judah were not exiled all at once but were taken captive over a period of several years. Twenty years after the first captives were taken, Jerusalem and the Temple were completely destroyed by the Babylonians.

Sixty-seven years after the first exiles were taken to Babylon, Cyrus, King of Persia conquered the Babylonian empire. Only two years after he became king, he allowed the exiles to return to Jerusalem. A small remnant of 42,360 people returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel to rebuild the Temple.

First, they rebuilt the altar. Then they began to rebuild the temple, but opposition stopped the building for about 16 years. Rebuked and encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the people finally completed the construction of the Temple.

About 79 years after the first group of exiles returned to Jerusalem, a second group returned with Ezra, the priest. Only 1,754 returned this time. The new Persian King is Artaxerxes, son of Xerxes and Vashti. Vashti was the queen before Esther.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, the Israelites have taken foreign wives. Ezra leads the people to cry out for forgiveness and mercy. They turned from their wicked ways.

Thirteen years after the second wave of exiles returned, the third wave of exiles returned with Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s mission was to restore the walls and gates. They accomplished this in 52 days. It had been 161 years since the first group of captives was taken to Babylon!


Jeremiah Study Bible

Old Testament books of 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah

The Babylonian Captivity

Photos from Google Images

Love, Cindy

Do you want to know more about Jesus? See my page Who Is Jesus?  

10 thoughts on “The Babylonian Exile: Fitting the Pieces Together”

    1. It was an interesting study. I love Biblical timelines. I like to know when different events happened in relation to other events. We tend to study Biblical events in isolation. Thanks for commenting. Blessings, CAM!


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