The survival of the religious community of exiles in Babylonia demonstrates how rooted and widespread the religion of YHWH was. Abandonment of the national religion as an outcome of the disaster is recorded of only a minority. There were some cries of despair, but the persistence of prophecy among the exiles shows that their religious vitality had not flagged. The Babylonian Jewish community, in which the cream of Judah lived, had no sanctuary or altar in contrast to the Jewish garrison of Elephantine in Egypt ; what developed in their place can be surmised from new postexilic religious forms: The absence of a local or territorial focus must also have spurred the formation of a literary centre of communal lifeвthe sacred canon of covenant documents that came to be the core of the present Pentateuch.
Observance of the Sabbath вa peculiarly public feature of communal lifeвachieved a significance among the exiles virtually equivalent to all the rest of the covenant rules together.
Notwithstanding its political impotence, the exile community possessed such high spirits that foreigners were attracted to its ranks, hopeful of sharing in its future glory. This moment marks the origin of conversion to Judaism for distinctly religious reasons rather than for reasons of politics, culture, or nationalism. The idea was destined to play a decisive role in the self-understanding of the Jewish martyrs persecuted by the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes reigned simple dating site description bce вas recounted in the Book of Daniel вand later again in the Christian appreciation of the death of Jesus.
After conquering Babylonia, Cyrus allowed those Jews who wished to do so to return and rebuild their Temple. Although some 40, eventually made their way back, they were soon disillusioned and ceased their rebuilding as the glories of the restoration failed to materialize and as controversy arose with the Samaritanswho opposed the reconstruction.
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