What is the issue?
Scholars remain divided regarding consensus of what, based on biblical and non-biblical historical evidence (or lack thereof) happened after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE and following Cyrus' conquest of Babylon in 539 BCE.
Why is it important to historical and biblical studies?
Addressing what happened in and around what some scholars classify as "biblical Israel" confronts assumptions, misconceptions, and historicity surrounding the Israelite exilic event.
What main issues are at stake?
Risking over simplification, we want to investigate whether or not the Israelite exile happened.
What are this endeavor's parameters?
One must first develop a working definition of certain terms: biblical Israel, historical Israel, exile, and Israelite exile. The notion of biblical Israel comes from a collective scholarly understanding of the nation of Israel as scripture portrays; this deals with issues surrounding the nation's origins, inception, rise to prominence, and ultimate decline.
For the purposes of narrowing the answer's scope, I will follow an approach similar to Rainer Albertz's, specifically the methods he employs in two works: A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period and Israel in Exile: the History and Literature of the Six Century BCE. Pairing Albertz's History and Israel in Exile blends modern scholarly notions of both the religion and history of Israel as presented by biblical literature.
To summarize the core of Albertz's two works, biblical writings present a particular history of a group of people known as "Israel." Israel created a collective history through a combination of cultic writings, narrative literature, romanticized poetic aphorisms, and idealized legal axioms. However, I differ from Albertz's ideological center because, unlike Albertz, I interpret his work to present a minimally historical biblical Israel. Albertz builds his chronology around and in line with the Hebrew Bible; deviations and disagreements with this timeline are rare.
Beginning in Genesis, Albertz understands the majority of the Pentateuch as a heavily revised product of post-exilic Israel. In so doing, Albertz operates off two assumptions: first, Albertz assumes the exilic event occurred; second, Albertz accepts Israel existed in some form or fashion before the exile. Read in context of non-biblical historical findings, Albertz's reconstruction of Israel is cloaked in religiousity. One must step back further than the exilic event itself in order to address issues of historicity and historiography
Basic Models for Israelite Settlement
Many theories abound regrading the inception of ancient Israel. The nation of Israel did not materialize out of thin air, so one much ask: from where did the Israelites come? How did they begin, and what did the beginning look? Archeologist W.F. Albright and his most prominent student, John Bright, argue the Israelites settled into the biblically prescribed "promised land" according to the conquest recorded in the biblical book of Joshua.
Neils Lemche and Peter Ackroyd
Gradual Infiltration – Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth
Conquest Theory – W.F. Albright and John Bright
Peasant Revolt Theory – Mendenhall and Norman Gottwald