In 597, King Jeconiah of Israel, and his court were exiled to Babylon.
Ten years later Nebuchadnezzar deported a second batch
and 6 years later another group of Israel's leaders.
The Bible exposes the internal conflict
between supporters of the Babylonians and of Egypt.
As usual Israel sat in the cross-fire between powers.
Archaeological studies show that not all of the population was deported,
and that, although Jerusalem and its Temple were utterly destroyed,
other parts continued as normal during the period of the exile.
Those remaining probably constituted 75% of the population.
After the fall of Babylon to the Persian King, Cyrus the Great,
the exiled Judeans were permitted to return to Judah (in 539).
Construction of the second temple in Jerusalem began in 537.
The return of the exiles was a gradual process
rather than a single event, as reported in the Bible,
and many of the deportees did not return at all,
becoming the ancestors of the Iraqi Jews.
As usual the Bibical account is that of the ruling priesthood
rather than an honest account of the national history.