The deportation of leaders was a common feature of both Assyrian and Babylonian imperial policy. In biblical studies the term "the exile" or "captivity" refers to the deportation of Judah's leaders from Jerusalem in the 6th century. Earlier the leaders of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) had been deported by the Assyrians, following the fall of Samaria in 722BC.

The estimates of numbers deported vary (Jer 52:28-30 lists three deportations and gives 4,600 as the total exiled from Judah; while 2 Kgs 24:14 claims 10,000 in the first deportation alone). Whatever the exact figure, only a proportion of the population was directly affected. Yet since these were the leaders and skilled craft workers (2 Kgs 24:14,16) and since, at the same time, the Lord's temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed, the effect on the nation was traumatic. Psalms like 137 and the quotations from exiles in the prophets (e.g. Is 49:14) give a feel of the extent to which the foundations of faith and nation were shaken.

Thus "the exile" in this sense is a watershed in the history of the Old Testament. Literature after the exile (post-exilic) is very different from that addressed to the period of the monarchy (pre-exilic).

While it was the deportation of Judah's leaders which marked the Old Testament texts most, when Amos speaks of exile it is deportation from the North by Assyria of which he warns. Amos fears that the coming punishment may be final, for God's patience is near its end. Amos 5:3 warns of military decimation, while in 5:14-15 (one of the few places where the disaster is not spoken of as total) notice that the possibility of "grace" is opened only for the "remnant" of Joseph, thus after the destruction. ("Joseph" is here Northern Israel personified.) In fact, although we know of Judean exiles who returned (see 2 Chronicles 36:22f.; Ezra, Nehemiah etc.) there is no indication in the Bible or other sources of the fate of the Northern exiles.

This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,

© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.