Saturday, July 18, 2015

43,000 Judean Returnees From Babylonia and Who They Were: A Genealogy Treasure

Nadene Goldfoot                                                               

Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BCE), King of Babylonia,  had conquered all the lands from the Euphrates to the Egyptian frontier including Judah and in 597 BCE had captured Jerusalem and exiled 8,000 of the local aristocracy to Babylon.  8 years later, Mattaniah, son of King Josiah, who took on the name, Zedekiah, , when Nebuchadnezzar picked him to replace Jehoiachin who had been exiled.   Zedekiah (597-586 BCE) , had rebelled and Judah was again invaded in 586 BCE  and the Temple this time was destroyed as well as other cities of Judah.  Again, many of the population were exiled.  The remainder of the people tried to perpetuate a subject state under Gedaliah, who was a member of the former royal house, but it ended with his assassination in 582 BCE by Ishmael ben Nethaniah and his followers who were planning a revolt against Babylon in connection with a neighboring power.  Gedaliah's supporters then fled to Egypt.  .
Cyrus II of Persia (today's Iran)

Cyrus of Persia II overran the Babylonian Empire, which included Israel and  Judah, and pursued an enlightened policy towards his subject people.  The great King Cyrus of Persia signed his royal edict saying that the Jews were to return to Judah and 43,000 accepted the offer.  " The Babylonian exile ended after 70 years with Cyrus' declaration that the exiled Jews would be allowed to return to Jerusalem and build the Second Temple in Yehud Medinata, an autonomous province of the Achaemenid Empire."  Due to the king's kindness and generosity, he told them to rebuild their Temple. He died in 529 BCE.   It must have been very disappointing to Ezra that many had opted to remain in Persia.
Ezra reading to crowd from Torah
Ezra, a member of the priestly family of Zadok and former scribe for the Persian government,  and
Nehemiah governing and directing the men
Nehemiah  who will become the governor of Judah and had served as the cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes I, were leaders of the people who returned to Judah.  They were members of  the Anshel Knesses HaGedolah, The Men of the Great Assembly, which was a council of 120 men, many who were prophets, which functioned over several generations and helped to rejuvenate the nation again.  The biggest hurdle they had to fight in those days was the idoltary that their people had picked up by living in a foreign nation.  People seemed to have a craving for it.
2nd Temple with Ezra reading from the 5 Books of Moses
The 2nd Temple was rebuilt from 538 to 515 BCE or 349 BCE from another source  after being destroyed in 586 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar.  It had been done by the heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin and the Cohens and Levites with all the others.  Service in the Temple was performed by the Priests, Levites, and certain Nethinim.
It had been Nebuchadnezzer earlier who had stolen everything out of the 1st Temple and had placed them in his temple for his gods, and Cyrus gave them all back for the 2nd Temple;  Mithredath, the treasurer of King Cyrus,  counted them from his inventory and gave them to Sheshbazzar, the leader of Judah.  They had returned 30 golden utensils, 1,000 silver utensils, 29 slaughtering knives, 30 golden bowls, 410 secondary silver bowls and 1,000 other vessels of gold and silver, 5,400 vessals of gold and silver totaled.
The families that returned, and it wasn't easy to leave the opulence of Babylon for a wasted landscape that had lost the best of the inhabitants, were the dignitaries:   Zerubbabel,  Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordechai-bilshan, Mispar-bigvai, Rehum and Baanah.    It was Zerubbabel and Ezra that led them back to Judah.  

Then tribes came.  The 2,172 children of Parosh, 372 children of Shephatiah, 775 children of Arah, the 2,812 children of the Governor of Moab who were descended from King David or from his general and nephew, Joab.  Both David and Joab were descendants of the Moabite princess Ruth, so their surname was GovernorofMoab; 1,254 children of Elam, 945 children of Zattu, 760 children of Zaccai, 642 children of Bani, 623 children of Bebai, 1,222 children of Azgad, 666 children of Adonikam, 2,056 children of Bigvai, 454 children of Adin, the children of Ater, 98 of Hekah, 323 children of Bezai, 112 children of Orah, 223 children of Hashun, 95 children of Gibbar.

Then they came by city, possibly having lost track of their tribe.  Bethlehem had 123, Netophah had 56, Anathoth had 128, Azmaveth had 42, Kiriath-Arim, Chephirah and Beeroth had 743, Ramah and Geba had 621, Michmas had 122, Bethel and Ai had 223, Nebo had 52, Magbish had 156, Elam  had 1,254, Harim had 320, Lod, Hadid and Ono had 725,  Jericho had 345, Senaah had 3,630.   Notice that some of these towns have become Arab populated towns today.  (Ai was an ancient town north of Jerusalem in the vicinity of Bethel, known in the days of Abraham.  The city was destroyed by Joshua and was later rebuilt. and was inhabited at the time of the return from Babylon.)  

The people who we figure had the J1 haplogroup or Cohens, descended from Aaron, brother of Moses,  were listed separately:  The 973 children of Jedaiah of the house of Jeshua, 1,052 children of Immer, 1,247 children of Pashhur, 1,017 children of Harim.

Then the Levites were listed.  74 children of Jeshua and Kadmiel of the children of Hodaviah,  The 128 singers were the children of Asaph,  The rest of 139 were the children of gatekeepers, the children of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita and Shobai.

392  Nethinim ( Hebrew: הַנְּתִינִים‎, "the given ones") was the name given to the Temple assistants in ancient Jerusalem.  They were originally conquered Canaanites who were said to have been allotted by David to the Levites for menial service in the Temple.  After they had returned with the others, they were given a special quarter of Jerusalem.  They had accepted Ezra's covenant but were still debarred from the Jewish community.  They maintained their identity down in the amoraic times.  The Amora were the Jewish scholars in Judah and Babylonia in the 3rd to 6th centuries.  He would have been a lecturer explaining Judaism, the Mishnah and use.) All the Nethinim  and the children of Solomon's slaves were listed such as the children of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth, Keros, Siaha, Padon,  Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub, Hagab, Salmai, Hanan, Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah, Besai, Asnah, Meunim, Nephusim, Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur, Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha, Barkos, Sisera, Tamah, Neziah,  and the children of Hatipha.  Solomon's slaves were the children of Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda, Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel, Shephatiah, Hattil, Pocherethhazzebaim and Ami.  

Those of dubious descent were people who came out of Telmelah, Telharsha, Cherub, Addan and Immer.  They were not even sure they had come from Israel or not.  652 were the children of Delaiah, Tobiah and Nekoda.

There were Kohanim who could not find their genealogical records who had taken wives from the daughters of Barzillai of Giliad so they were disqualified from the priesthood.  Barzillai had been a wealthy Gileadite who supplied King David and his army during Absalom's rebellion.  After its suppression, David had invited him to his court at Jerusalem, But Barzillai refused on account of his age and sent his son, Chimham, in his stead. Gilead was the region of Transjordania, settled by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the other tribe of Manasseh.  After King Solomon's reign, Gilead was part of the northern kingdom and in 732 BCE, was captured by Assyria, its inhabitant being sent into exile.  Its boundaries were not stable and the area has not been precisely determined.   That's how important it was to keep records up to date and marry into the right families!
Nehemiah guiding the builders of the 2nd Temple
 The descendants of the Gibeonites had been assigned menial tasks such as woodcutting and water drawing for the Temple.  They were permitted to live among the Jews but not to intermarry with them. Gibeon was an ancient priestly city north of Jerusalem in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin.  Before the Israelite conquest, the city had been occupied by Hivites who tricked Joshua into making a  treaty with them.  When their duplicity was discovered, they were condemned to be slaves of the sanctuary and were the ancestors of the Nethinim.  Hattirshatha told them that they shouldn't eat the most holy offerings until there would arise a Kohen to ask about the Urim and the Turnim.

The entire group numbered 42,360, besides their male and female slaves, of which there were 7,337.  They also had 200 male and female singers.

They returned with 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.

When they reached their destination and arrived at the former site of the 1st Temple, some of the heads of the families made contributions to establish it on its foundation.  They gave according to their means to the work fund.  They gave 61,000 darkemons of gold, 5,000 manehs of silver and 100 priestly tunics.  The Kohanim, Levites, the singers, gatekeepers and Nethinim and some of the other people settled in their cities.

The descendants of the exiles in Babylonia had continued to love their national and religious ideas so tried to renew Jewish life after 539 BCE when then had returned.  The Jewish exiles regarded Cyrus as a Divine agent.  Their intellectual and spiritual life was extraordinarily rich.  It was there that most of the canonical prophets carried on their activity, great parts of the Bible were composed and the essential traditions of Judaism were developed and preserved.   They were able to live in a relative political obscurity during this period.

In my state of Oregon, USA, the closest cities with a population of 43,000 are Aloha with 49,425 and Lake Oswego with 37,999 as of 2014.  The returnees would fit somewhere between to make up a nice small city of 2014.
Romans 70 CE carrying away temple treasure 
From there they multiplied into the population that saw the downfall of the 2nd Temple, destroyed by the invading Romans in 70 CE.  They are the ones who stole all the silver and gold out of the temple once again, just like Nebuchadnezzar had done.

Resource: Tanakh (Bible), the Stone Edition,   Ezra, 1:1-44;  II chron. 36:22-3  You have to be into genealogy to appreciate this treasure of information.  What behooves me is that some people think our history has been nothing but nonsense, tales without merit, and here we sit with the Tanakh so full of genealogy in many sections.  People who bothered to keep records such as this, a religion whose genealogy was part of the importance of it, an  amazing resource.  Here we are today with science of genetics and yet how many have discarded this history?
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Update:7/22/15  Not 45 years of living in exile but 70 years...from Wikipedia


  1. genealogy was important then and will prove important in the future, when the whole world will know that GOD brought all the tribes of jacob back to their homeland-the land of Promise-miraculously-no tribe missing-to where He intended them all along.


  2. Isn't it interesting that amid all the horror going on today, the study of genetics by scientists has reached the level of knowing so much about haplogroups of people? We can find out so much, like who we came from-at least as known scientifically pretty much. Those people who had lost their family trees-I wanted to reach out and have them take a DNA Y haplogroup test so badly. I am amazed as to how hard they worked at keeping the line pure, like the Canaanites who were helpers in the Temple not allowed to cohabit with the others-mostly out of fear of producing mixed people. All this ultimately with a purpose that most would find hard to understand. You are quite right, Andre.