What happened to the Jewish people when they reached Babylon? And what happened there to the tens of thousands of others who joined them in exile when the First Temple was destroyed a decade later? The Bible tells us of the return to Judah half a century later but virtually nothing of what the expellees experienced in Babylon itself. It tells us even less about the fate of the northern tribes of Israel - the '10 lost tribes' - which had been marched out of history by the Assyrians a century earlier.
Scholars have been able to gain a measure of access to these missing years from cuneiform documents unearthed in Iraq in the last century, including a trove illicitly dug up in the final years of Saddam Hussein's regime and only now nearing publication. The documents are innocuous - business records, land deeds, tax accounts - but together are able to shed light, feeble but suggestive, on this central period in Jewish history.
See more at the Jerusalem Post Online.