Cuneiform tablets reveal life of Jews exiled to Babylon

An Illustration from the Nuremberg Chronicle of the destruction of Jerusalem under Babylonian rule. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

( A new Jerusalem exhibit that opened on Feb. 2 is displaying ancient clay tablets found in Iraq that reveal what life was like for Jews exiled from Judea to Babylon more than two millennia ago. The 100 cuneiform tablets show transactions and contracts between Jews who were forced into exile by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar around the year 600 BC. 

The tablets belong to the Al-Yahudu archive, named after the city that the exiled Jews settled in southern Iraq. Purchased by an Israeli collector in London two years ago, each tablet is no bigger than a hand palm and focuses on one Judean family over four generations, all of whom had biblical names.  

"It was like hitting the jackpot," said Filip Vukosavovic, an expert in ancient Babylonia, Sumeria, and Assyria who curated the exhibition at Jerusalem's Bible Lands Museum, according to Reuters. "We started reading the tablets and within minutes we were absolutely stunned. It fills in a critical gap in understanding of what was going on in the life of Judeans in Babylonia more than 2,500 years ago."

"They were free to go about their lives, they weren't slaves," Vukosavovic added. "Nebuchadnezzar wasn't a brutal ruler in that respect. He knew he needed the Judeans to help revive the struggling Babylonian economy."

Posted on February 5, 2015 .