Number of exiles to and from Babylon

I have a question about the Babylonian Captivity.

Jeremiah 52:29-30 labels the number of captives brought to Babylon at 4,600.

Then 1 Esdras 2:64 mentions the number of people returning to Judah from Babylon was 42,360

Surely the Jewish population didn’t increase 10 fold by the time they left!

As a side question, what should we think of differing numbers in the Bible? (In 4 Kings 24:14, then number of captives brought to Babylon is 10,000)

Modern society thinks about numbers in a very specific and literal way. Ancient societies did not.

Assuming the numbers reflect reality, there is also the fact that a lot of the exiled Jews had become very comfortable in Babylon. They had been there for two generations, and most of them probably didn’t want to return to a ruined Judea.

I had a longer reply that seems to have vanished without trace… :confused:

Basically, 2 Kings 24 indicates that 8,000-10,000 were exiled, along with additional exiles 11 years later when Zedekiah was captured. Thus the number might have been higher than Jeremiah gives.

Others, we know, went to Egypt; they could have later moved to Babylon, or others might have voluntarily joined the Babylon colony.

There were 70 years to prosper and grow–in three generations, a 2% annual growth rate would multiply the original numbers fourfold; 3% would be eightfold. If there were 10,000 exiled, there could easily be 80,000 or more by the time the return was allowed.

Jerimiah is talking about only “Jews”, those from the tribe of Judah who lived in Judea. It doesn’t include those from the 10 northern tribes of the nation of Israel.

Most people don’t realize that when Solomon’s son took the throne, his rule was so harsh that the ten northern tribes actually seceded. They formed their own nation with their own king, own religion(s) and own armies. It is in 1 Kings 12.

And when all Israel heard that Jerobo’am had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only. (1 Kings 12:20)

The ten northern tribes were called Israel and they lived in the land that eventually became known as Samaria. Bethel and Dan were the two centers of worship. The two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin were named Judah and they lived in the land of Judea with Jerusalem as the political capitol and center of worship. So we have to be careful about whether scripture is talking about the southern nation of Judah made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, or whether they are talking about the northern nation of Israel which was made up of the ten northern tribes.

The Assyrians took some of the Israelites including the tribe of Naphtali from the north into captivity in 740 BC.

***In the days of Pekah king of Israel Tig’lath-pile’ser king of Assyria came and captured I’jon, A’bel-beth-ma’acah, Jan-o’ah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naph’tali; and he carried the people captive to Assyria. **(2 Kings 15:29) *

Notice that they took Galilee captive. Galilee was way in the north, Jesus’ home base and where Peter was from. Again, another wave of captives was taken in 722 BC, this time further south in Samaria.

Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Sama’ria, and for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshe’a the king of Assyria captured Sama’ria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. (2 Kings 17:5-6)

Judah had not been taken into captivity yet. Temple worship still took place in Jerusalem.

A long time passed and Assyria was conquered by Babylon. Babylon eventually came into Judea and took the Jews into captivity in three waves in the years 597 BC, 587 BC and 58 2BC respectively. Then Persia conquered Babylon and and the Persian King Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Judea and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

It gets even more confusing because some of the numbers in the various accounts in the Bible don’t agree exactly. The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles are a recounting of the same stories as 1 and 2 Kings but from a little different perspective and the numbers don’t line up exactly between the two versions of the story.

Jerimiah is referencing only the Jews. That means Judah only. is a good site which has an overview timeline of the history of Jedah and Israel.


If you read through the sections of scripture, they often number by fighting adult age males. Leaving out women, children, older members of the society. THis might explain any number differences.:thumbsup:

There were at least three successive exiles to Babylon. 3023 were taken in the second one Jeremiah 52:28.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit