The Babylonian Exile was the period in Jewish history during which the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon - conventionally 586-538 BCE . 
According to the Hebrew Bible , there were three deportations of Jews to Babylon: in 597 BCE, involving King Jeconiah and his court and many others; in 587/6 BCE, of his successor King Zedekiah and the rest of the people; and a possible deportation after the assassination of Gedaliah , the Babylonian-appointed governor of Yehud Province , possibly in 582 BCE. The forced exile ended in 538 BCE after the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus the Great , who gave the Jews permission to return to Yehud province and to rebuild the Temple ;  but most Jews chose to remain in Babylon. 
The captivity and subsequent return to the Land of Israel and the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem are considered significant events in Jewish history and culture, which had a far-reaching impact on the development of Judaism.
Table based on Rainer Albertz, "Israel in exile: the history and literature of the sixth century BCE", p.xxi . Alternative dates are possible.
|609 BCE||Death of Josiah|
|609-598 BCE||Reign of Jehoiakim (succeeded Jehoahaz , who replaced Josiah but reigned only 3 months)|
|598/7 BCE||Reign of Jehoiachin (reigned 3 months). Siege and fall of Jerusalem .|
First deportation, 16 March 597
|597 BCE||Zedekiah made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon|
|594 BCE||Anti-Babylonian conspiracy|
|588 BCE||Siege and fall of Jerusalem .|
Second deportation July/August 587
|583 BCE||Gedaliah the Babylonian-appointed governor of Yehud Province assassinated.|
Many Jews flee to Egypt and a possible third deportation to Babylon
|562 BCE||Release of Jehoiachin after 37 years in a Babylonian prison.  He remains in Babylon|
|538 BCE||Persians conquer Babylon (October)|
|538 BCE||"Decree of Cyrus" allows Jews to return to Jerusalem|
|520-515 BCE||Return by many Jews to Yehud under Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest.|
Foundations of Second Temple laid
The biblical history of the Exile
In the late 7th century BCE, the kingdom of Judah was a client state of the powerful Assyrian empire. In the last decades of the century Assyria was overthrown by Babylon, an Assyrian province with a history of former glory in its own right. Egypt , fearing the sudden rise of the Neo-Babylonian empire , seized control of Assyrian territory up to the Euphrates river in Syria, but Babylon counter-attacked and in the process Josiah , the king of Judah, was killed, although the circumstances are obscure (609 BCE). Judah became a Babylonian client, but in the following years two parties formed at the court in Jerusalem: one pro-Egyptian and the other pro-Babylonian.
In 599 BCE, the pro-Egyptian party was in power and Judah revolted against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem ,  and Jehoiakim , the king of Judah, died in 598 BCE with the siege still under way.  He was succeeded by his son Jeconiah , aged either eight or eighteen.  The city fell about three months later,  on 2 Adar (March 16) 597 BCE, and Nebuchadnezzar pillaged Jerusalem and its Temple and took Jeconiah and his court and other prominent citizens (including the prophet Ezekiel ) back to Babylon.  Jehoiakim's brother Zedekiah was appointed king in his place, but the exiles in Babylon continued to consider Jeconiah as their Exilarch , or rightful ruler.
Despite the strong remonstrances of Jeremiah and others of the pro-Babylonian party, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon and entered into an alliance with PharaohHophra of Egypt . Nebuchadnezzar returned, defeated the Egyptians, and again besieged Jerusalem . The city fell in 587. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city wall and the Temple, together with the houses of the most important citizens, and Zedekiah was blinded, and taken to Babylon, together with many others. Judah became a Babylonian province, called Yehud Medinata (Yehud being the Babylonian equivalent of the Hebrew Yehuda, or "Judah", and "medinata" the word for province), putting an end to the independent Kingdom of Judah.
The first governor appointed by Babylon was Gedaliah, a native Judahite; he encouraged the many Jews who had fled to surrounding countries such as Moab , Ammon , Edom , to return, and took steps to return the country to prosperity. Some time afterwards, however - it is not clear when, but possibly 582 BCE - a surviving member of the royal family assassinated Gedaliah and his Babylonian advisors, prompting a rush of refugees seeking safety in Egypt. Thus by the end of the second decade of the 6th century, in addition to those who remained in Yehud (Judah), there were significant Jewish communities in Babylon and in Egypt; this was the beginning of the later numerous Jewish communities living permanently outside Judah in the Jewish Diaspora .
According to the book of Ezra-Nehemiah , the Persian Cyrus the Great ended the exile in 538 BCE, the year in which he captured Babylon.  The Exile ends with the return under Zerubbabel the Prince (so-called because he was a descendant of the royal line) of David and Joshua the Priest (a descendant of the line of the former High Priests of the Temple) and their construction of the Second Temple in the period 520-515 BCE.
The Babylonian captivity had a number of consequences on Judaism and Jewish culture, including changes to the Hebrew alphabet and calendar and changes in the fundamental practices and customs of the Jewish religion . This period saw the last high-point of Biblicalprophecy in the person of Ezekiel , followed by the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  This process coincided with the emergence of scribes and sages as Jewish leaders (see Ezra and the Pharisees ).