Babylonia is a region in southern Mesopotamia. Its name is taken from the capital city of Babylon, which was located on the Euphrates River. The height of the Babylonian Empire extended from its victory over the Assyrians in 609 B.C.E. until it was defeated by the Persians in 539 B.C.E.
The story of the tower of Babel, where God confused people's speech, is set in Babylonia (Genesis 11:1-9). Abraham migrated from Ur in this region to Haran and later to Canaan (Genesis 11:31). In the eighth century B.C.E., King Hezekiah of Judah began to establish friendly relations with Babylonia in the hope of gaining support against the threat of Assyrian expansion. In 609 B.C.E., King Josiah of Judah joined the Babylonians in rebelling against Assyria. Josiah was killed, but the Babylonians prevailed and made Assyria a part of their empire. Judah was a vassal of the Babylonians for a time. Some Judeans were deported in 597, then in 587 the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and exiled many of the people to Babylonia. After the Persians conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.E., the Persian king Cyrus allowed Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem, although a significant Jewish population remained in Babylonia for centuries.