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C O U R S E 
The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future
Dr. Jacob L. Wright, Emory University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Factors Leading to the Depopulation Of Israel
Notes taken on October 16, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
how can we explain the demographic decline of Judah after the Babylonia conquest
where did everyone go?
were they all deported to Babylon?
wars in antiquity
death tolls were usually quite high, due to:
lack evacuation
lack medicine
lack of sanitation
siege warfare
in Judah, wars usually meant people in countryside taking refuge behind municipal fortifications in cities
waiting it out
contributed to death toll
long after enemy had returned home, the population was still struggling to survive
invading army sought to destroy the life support systems of their enemy city
cutting off or polluting the water sources
laying the fields to waste
cutting down fruit trees and orchards that took many years to grow
sowing salt in the ground
what an invading army did not intentionally destroy was often inadvertently ruined
if the fields were not regularly ploughed, locusts could hatch and become catastrophic plagues
years of siege interfered with the delicate balance of tilling, planting and harvesting
Rib-Adda, example from 14 century BCE
king of Byblos during the mid fourteenth century BCE, known from the Amarna Letters
Amarna letter to Egyptian rule
he is trapped in his city like a bird in a cage
enemy was at his doorstep, planting is impossible
for lack of cultivation, my field is like a woman without a husband
people had sold household objects and children to buy provisions
starvation during winter
once there is collapse of governmental administration
no police
safety is undermined
voluntary migrations to places where conditions were better
once city had capitulated
invading army would often perform public executions
usually elites and administrative officials
people in the palace
often indiscriminate
we have some attestations of such burials from the 8th century
Fall of Ashdod
successful Egyptian assault on the city of Ashdod in Palestine in around 635 BC
known of through Greek historian Herodotus
during wars with Assyria
2,444 remains of human beings unearthed
22% of them were less than 15 years of age when they died
other finds show that heads were separated from bodies
deportations may have led to depopulation
but are many other factors as above
Book of Jeremiah
Judahites fleeing across the Jordan after the Babylonian conquest
made their way to Egypt
a place that refugees fled in times of political turmoil and natural catastrophes
the reason that hear these stories in the Bible is that the Biblical authors regard the abandonment of the promised land is one of the worst things imaginable
deportations in the Assyrian empire
moved subjugated populations around their empire
moving them to regions which they wanted to develop
King chapter 17
Assyrians brought populations from the East and settled them in Israel's territories
likely did this in the northern regions of Israel
they may have done this in Judah as well when they went to war against Hezekiah (ruled 715-686 BC)
the reason the Biblical authors do not tell us whether the Assyrians brought in people into Judah
the Judahite authors were in competition with the people in Samaria
by claiming that people in the north were foreigners, they could deal an deal an ideological blow to their competitors in Samaria
Samaria: based on the borders of the biblical Northern Kingdom of Israel and especially the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh
the rivalry between Jerusalem and Samaria was one of the major communal challenges that Biblical authors face
it was useful for them to say that the population of Israel were actually foreigners
they can say that these were not true Israelites
this is just the Book of Kings
this view is also expressed a bit in Ezra and Nehemiah
even if the Assyrians practiced deportations on a much larger scale than the Babylonians
we should not image that they deports any more than 20% of the population
they kept families intact and moved ethnic groups together
this means:
1. we must imagine many communities that persisted in the former territory of the Kingdom of Israel who contributed substantially to the formation of the Biblical writings
2. the deported Israelite families and communities most likely maintained their identity over generations and came into contact with Judahites which had been deported into various places in Mesopotamia