The First Exile (586–538 b.c.e.)
The Babylonian conquest, with the destruction of the Temple, brought an end to the first Jewish commonwealth and marked the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora, in which Judaism as a unique system of ideas and a way of life outside the Land of Israel started to grow.
In exile there developed a cohesiveness in Jewish identity that seemed not to have existed while in Eretz Yisrael, and Jerusalem’s significance gained new centrality in Jewish thought.
The biblical Psalm 137 suggests this while foreshadowing the emergence of Zionism: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”
Hasmonean Dynasty (142–63 b.c.e.)
Following further Hasmonean victories, the Seleucids restored political and religious autonomy to Judea (as the area was now called) in 142, and with the collapse of the Seleucid kingdom in 129, complete independence was achieved.
Judah was succeeded by his brother Simon, and the Hasmonean rulers, who became hereditary kings, regained boundaries similar to those of Solomon’s kingdom.
During the period of the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted about 80 years, political consolidation under Jewish rule was attained, and Jewish life flourished again.