Babylonian captivity is the name generally given to the deportation of the Jews to Babylon by Nebuchadrezzar. Three separate occasions are mentioned (Jeremiah 52:28-30). The first was in the time of Jehoiachin in 597 BCE, when the temple of Jerusalem was partially despoiled and a number of the leading citizens removed. After eleven years (in the reign of Zedekiah) a fresh rising of the Judaeans occurred; the city was razed to the ground, and a further deportation ensued. Finally, five years later, Jeremiah records a third captivity. After the overthrow of Babylonia by the Persians, Cyrus gave the Jews permission to return to their native land (537 BCE), and more then forty thousand are said to have availed themselves of the privilege. (See Jehoiakim; Ezra; Nehemiah and Jews.)
The Babylonian Captivity and the resulting return from captivity back to Israel was seen as one of the great pivotal acts in the drama between God and his people Israel. Just as they had been saved from Egypt, now they were being saved from annihilation once again. The northern tribes, which had been taken captive by Assyria never returned. However, the southern kingdom of Judah was released to return home once Babylon was conquered by the Persian Cyrus the Great. The Persians had a different political philosophy of managing conquered territories than the Babylonians or Assyrians. Under the Persians, local personages were put into power to govern the local populace. These local rulers owed allegiance to the Persian king and were closely watched by a system of spies.
When the Israelites returned home, they found a mixture of peoples practicing a religion very similar to their own but not identical to it. Hostility grew up between the returning Jews and the Samaritans. This hostility was still extant at the time of Jesus.
The term Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy, or of the Church, is also used to refer to the Papacy's sojourn in Avignon between 1309 and 1378, when the Popes were seen by some as "captives" of the French Kings. See Avignon Papacy.
The term Babylonian Slavery or Egyptian Slavery was also used by the slave workforce working in the Stalin era concentration camps, but deported from central Europe following the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939.
Some groups were freed, like the Poles in 1942, thanks to Wladyslaw Sikorski's agreement with Stalin and led by Wladyslaw Anders to Persia. (Anders was later referred to as the Polish Moses. Most of the people had to wait until the 1945 repatriation agreement, or the 1956 Khrushchev amnesty.