What was the Babylonian Captivity?
The Babylonian Captivity was judgment upon Israel for the sin of King Hezekiah. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, conquered the ten northern tribes of Israel in 701 B.C. He then set his eyes on Judah but King Hezekiah defied him and prayed to God. Isaiah gave Hezekiah the answer that Judah would be spared (2 Kings 19:21-28). Just one angel slaughtered 185,00 soldiers of the mighty Assyrian army in only one night (2 Kings 19:25). Sennacherib went home to Ninevah since he had no army. While he was worshipping in the house of his god, Nisroch, a few years later two of his sons, Adrammelech and Scharezer, murdered him (2 Kings 19:36-37).
Soon after the death of Sennacherib, Babylon conquered Assyria. King Hezzeiah fell ill and Beridach-baldan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon sent dignitaries to Hezekiah with a present. Hezzekiah was flattered by this demonstration of concern and showed the dignitaries all the riches of Israel. This was the worst thing he had done in his reign and resulted in great suffering for his people.
God sent Isaiah to Hezekiah to explain to him that what he did was incredibly stupid and that the nation of Judah would be punished for his lack of common sense. Isaiah told him that all of the wealth of Judah would be taken to Babylon and also some of his descendents would be taken captive (2 Kings 20:16-18).
The Babylonian captivity of Judah was punishment for the mistake Hezekiah made in showing the dignitaries from Babylon all of the riches of his kingdom. This may seem harsh but it was nothing new. God sent all of Israel into Egyptian captivity simply because Abraham failed to believe a promise made to him. Punishing the people for the sins or mistakes of their leaders was a practice God carried out beginning with Abraham.
God promised to make the descendents of Abraham (who was without child at the time and his wife was barren) as numerous as the stars of heaven (Genesis 15:5). Abraham believed the promise. His faith was rewarded with good standing and righteousness (Genesis 15:6). God also promised to give Abraham and his descendents the land of Canaan (Genesis 1:7). Unfortunately, Abraham questioned this promise and asked, "Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?" (Genesis 15:8). That mistake cost the Hebrew people 440 years of captivity in Egypt (Genesis 15:12-16).
King David got it in his head that he would number the people of Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1-5). God sent a plague on Israel and David quickly repented of his sin (1 Chronicles 21:7-8). God sent Gad to tell David he had three choices of punishment – three years of famine, three years of defeat by Israel's enemies or three years of pestilence (1 Chronicles 21:12). David chose pestilence and 70,000 men died (1 Chronicles 21:4).
Men of God must remember that because they are in positions of leadership they must be extremely careful to obey God in all things for those under them may be punished for their sins.