A Question I Was Asked:

What is "Diaspora"?

The Question:

What is "Diaspora" of the Jews/Israelites? Can you please explain?

UK Apologetics Reply:

'Diaspora' is a Greek noun meaning 'sowing,' or 'scattering.' The term mostly (but not always) refers to the spreading/scattering of the people of Israel among many nations, mainly as the result of some conquest/judgment of God/unwise alliance, or some other catastrophic occurrence. Of course, if one goes back to antiquity, many ancient peoples became scattered acoss the world - nothing odd about this. In the case of the people of Israel we take more notice in the light of various biblical texts.

The major dispersions of the Jews/Israel:

1. Diaspora of the northern kingdom of Israel.
After the death of Solomon his kingdom split into two, a northern section and a southern section. The 'northerners' quickly descended into idolatry. See 2 Kings 17:14-18,23. Eventually (as the people had been warned), these people went into captivity at the hands of Assyria, a populous people who already lived far too close for comfort. This started to occur around 722 BC. It is believed that the Assyrians took something like 27,000 Israelites into captivity.

2. Diaspora of the southern kingdom.

This was primarily Judah but with elements of Levi and Benjamin thrown in. The 'southerners' had remained faithful to God for much longer but they too eventually succombed to idolatry. Many were taken to Babylonia but some were also taken to Egypt.

Nebuchadnezzar captured the Judeans in several spells from something like 605 BC to 586 BC when Jerusalem itself finally fell. It would be wise to consult 2 Kings 24:12-14; 2 Chronicles 36:10; Jeremiah 52:29-30. In approximately the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonians struck Judah in a third major attack; now they destroyed the temple and broke down the city walls. Many more thousands were carried away in captivity although it seems that some of the poorest of the land were left behind. See 2 Kings 25:8-21; Jeremiah 52:12-16. After the Persian Empire overcame the Babylonians (at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah), thousands of Jews started returning to Judah but - without question - many thousands did not.

3. Diaspora of the Jewish/Roman War.

A war was fought between the Jews and Rome from AD 66 to AD 70, although other skirmishes went on beyond that, Masada occurring in AD 73. Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70, of course. This war led to a further diaspora of Jews (I use the term 'Jews' but it should be understood that I refer to all the people of Israel who had resettled in the area of Judea, this will have gone beyond those purely from the tribe of Judah). However, the numbers who had resettled in Judea since the days of Ezra and Nehemiah were not equal to the numbers who had been living there prior to the Babylonian captivity. Nevertheless, many more thousands of Jews unquestionably fled the area and this amounts to another major diaspora.

4. Other B.C. Dispersions.

But there were still other smaller dispersions, both B.C. and A.D. - these would include those Jews who fled the Russian pogroms of both the 19th and 20th centuries.

Then in the 20th century, Hitler contributed to this, uprooting thousands of Jews who had been living in Europe and sending some of them to the horrific extermination camps. Yet thousands more - without question - fled Hitler in good time, many of these turning up in countries like the United States.

Robin A. Brace. April 2nd, 2012.