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Reasons Many Israelites Refused to Return Home After They Were Freed from Babylon

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.



When the Jews were captured and taken to Babylon, God commanded Jeremiah to stay behind and buy a field. That was so the slaves would have something to return to when the time would come.

After seventy years, Cyrus' decreed that the Jews were free and could return home to Jerusalem. You would think that all the Jews would be happy now that they were free to leave. While some Jews took advantage of the offer, just as many stayed in Babylon for what they considered valid reasons. According to the books Ezra and Nehemiah, around 50,000 Jews followed the decree of Cyrus and left Babylon. However, not all of the Jews returned home to Jerusalem even though they could have.

Why would they not go home after they were free to go? There are many reasons some Jews decided to stay where there were instead of making the 900-mile trip on foot from Babylon to Jerusalem.

Reasons Many Jews Refused to Leave Babylon

  • Many of the Jews were very old and unable to walk 900 miles.
  • Some of them were too sick and disabled and not strong enough to leave where they were.
  • Families with young children thought it was too dangerous to take the long trip.
  • Many considered Babylon their home because they were born there, and that was all the only place they knew. Therefore, they did not want to go to a place they had only heard of.
  • Some of the Jews had become successful in Babylon during the reign of Cyrus. They didn't want to leave their high positions and have to start over in another place.
  • Some of the people were not up to the hard labor of rebuilding Jerusalem if they returned to the desolate place. They would have to rebuild an entire city, including the city wall.
  • Some were concerned about their personal safety. So, they decided to stay put.
  • Some had grown accustomed to living in disobedience in Babylon. Going back to Jerusalem meant they would have to change their lifestyle and live in obedience.
  • The returning Jews had a heavy load to carry back to Jerusalem. They had to carry the gold, silver, and other heavy things they had accumulated over 70 years. Besides, Cyrus sent back the things King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the city years earlier.
  • Many of the Jews were comfortable where they were and found it unnecessary to go to an unknown place. They didn't consider it home because they had never been there. Those who had lived there long ago had forgotten about Jerusalem.

The Journey

After walking for four months and 900 miles from Babylon, the returning Jews were home at last in the desolate city of Jerusalem that was much different than it was when they left seven decades ago.

Staying or Leaving?

As you have read, the Jews had valid reasons for making their decision to stay where they were or to leave.

There are other encounters in the Bible where people had to make that same decision to either stay where they were or to leave even though their reasons were different from the Jews who had been set free.

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In Genesis 12:1-4, God commanded Abram to do something. He was a pagan at the time, but he obeyed God.

"Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him."

Abram did not hesitate or question God. He immediately left without knowing where he was going. Because Abram was faithful and obedient to God, he is known as the "Father of Many Nations." God kept His promise and rewarded Abram with many blessings, including wealth, land, and descendants.


Another story about leaving is about one daughter-in-law named Ruth who chose to go with Naomi to Bethlehem while Orpah, the other daughter-in-law chose to stay in Moab. Ruth has an entire book bearing her name in the Bible. However, Orpah was never mentioned again.

Some Egyptians

Another narrative is in Exodus 12:37-38 about some Egyptians who left with the Israelites when Moses led them out of the country after Pharaoh had set the people free. Many blame the "mixed multitude" for some of the trouble the Israelites experienced in the wilderness.

Can you give reasons why you are staying where you are? Can you give reasons why you should leave a certain place?


Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on August 15, 2021:

Cheryl, thanks for reading and commenting on my article. I thought the reasons the Jews didn't return were quite interesting.

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on August 15, 2021:

I recall reading this in a Bible story book as a child. You brought back a fond memory.

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