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Babylon

Babylon


Babylon [Bab’ylon] Nimrod’s Babel was doubtless in some way connected with the renowned city of Babylon and of the Kingdom of which it was the capital. The Hebrew is Babel, the same for Babel and Babylon. In Genesis 11: 2, it speaks of Babel being built in a plain in the land of Shinar, which they reached by travelling from the east; this reads in the margin travelling ‘eastward,’ a reading preferred by many and by the Revisers. This direction agrees well with the locality of Babylon on the river Euphrates.

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District of Assyria and Babylon

Historians speak of the great size of the city, though they are not agreed as to its dimensions. It had 25 gates on each side, and from the gates were streets which crossed one another at right angles. The houses were not built close together, so that there was ample room inside the city for gardens and even fields and vineyards. The walls were said to be 75 feet thick and 300 feet in height; and the gates were of brass. The river Euphrates ran through the city; but on the banks of the river strong walls were built with gates of brass; there was also a bridge from side to side near the centre of the city. A lake was formed outside the city into which the waters of the river could be turned when the water rose too high, and deep ditches filled with water surrounded the walls of the city.

We also read of ‘Hanging gardens’ which Nebuchadnezzar built for his wife Amyitis, or Amyhia, Daughter of a Median king, to give the place a measure of resemblance to the mountains and wooded hills of her native country. These gardens are supposed to have been built in terraces of different heights.

In several particulars Scripture corroborates the statements of the historians. In Jeremiah 50: 11 of Babylon it is said, ‘O ye destroyers of mine heritage, because ye are grown fat as the Heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls;’ its broad walls are mentioned, Jeremiah 51: 12, 58; its gates of brass and bars of iron, Isaiah 45: 2; and Nebuchadnezzar boasted of the ‘great Babylon’ which he had built by the might of his power and for the honour of his majesty. Daniel 4: 30.

Among the relies recovered from the Various mounds of ruins are some Bricks with the names of the kings Neriglissar and Labynetus stamped upon them, but the great majority of those found bear the name of Nebuchadnezzar. Babylon was built with Bricks, there being no stone at all near, and in later years the mounds were ransacked for Bricks for other Cities.

Of the early governments in Babylon but little is known with certainty. Berosus, as arranged by Rawlinson, gives from B.C. 2458 to 625 Various dynasties of Medes, Chaldaeans, Arabs, and Assyrians; and lastly Babylonians from B.C. 625 to 538.

Babylon and Assyria are much blended together in history, sometimes being independent one of the other, and at other times being tributary to one another. In B.C. 745 Tiglath-pileser may be said to have founded the later Kingdom of Assyria, and among his victories he became Master of Babylonia, as the Kingdom of Babylon was called. About 721 Merodachbaladan became king of Babylon, and in 712 he sent ambassadors to Hezekiah on hearing of his sickness. This is recorded in 2 Kings 20: 12, where he is called Berodach-baladan. In B.C. 702 Sennacherib king of Assyria expelled Merodach, and Babylon was governed by viceroys from Assyria. In B.C. 681 Esar-haddon became king of Assyria but held his court at Babylon, to which place Manasseh king of Judah was carried prisoner about B.C. 677. 2 Chronicles 33: 11. About B.C. 625 Nabo-polassar revolted from the king of Assyria and established the later Kingdom of Babylon. He with Cyaxares (the Ahasuerus of Daniel 9: 1) founder of the Median Kingdom, attacked and took Nineveh, and put an end to the Assyrian rule. Nebuchadnezzar, co-regent with Nabo-polassar, took Jerusalem, and carried many captives and the holy vessels to Babylon, about B.C. 606. In B.C. 604 Nabo-polassar died and Nebuchadnezzar reigned alone. In B.C. 603 Jehoiakim revolted and in 599 Nebuchadnezzar again took Jerusalem, and Ezekiel was carried to Babylon: this is called the great Captivity. 2 Kings 24: 1-16. Mattaniah was left as king in Jerusalem, his name being changed to Zedekiah: he reigned 11 years. 2 Kings 24: 17-20. Having rebelled against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, after a siege of eighteen Months, once more took Jerusalem, destroyed the city and burnt the house of the Lord, bringing the Kingdom of Judah to an end: B.C. 588. 2 Kings 25: 1-26. For the personal history of the king see NEBUCHADNEZZAR. In B.C. 561 Nebuchadnezzar died. He was the ‘head of gold’ in Daniel’s great image. The glory of the later Babylonian Empire virtually began and ended with him. The succession of kings was somewhat as follows:

Kings OF Babylon.

B.C.

625 Nabo-polassar.
606 Nebuchadnezzar, co-regent.
604 Nabo-polassar dies. Nebuchadnezzar reigns alone.
561 Evil-Merodach succeeds. He raises up Jehoiachin in the 37th year of his Captivity. 2 Kings 25: 27.
559 Neriglissar succeeds. Perhaps the same as one of the princes called Nergal-Sharezer in Jeremiah 39: 3, 13.
556 Laborosoarchod succeeds. Reigned 9 Months and is slain.
555 Nabonidus or Nabonadius (also called Labynetus), a usurper : Belshazzar his son afterwards reigning with him.
538 Babylon taken, and Belshazzar slain. End of the Empire of Babylon.

Babylon has a large place in the O.T. with reference to its intercourse with Israel, in nearly every chapter of Jeremiah, from 20 – 52, Babylon is mentioned. Babylon is also of note as being the first of the four great empires prophesied of by Daniel. The Kingdom of the Lord, established in the house of David, and maintained in Judah, had for the time come to an end because of iniquity, and the ‘times of the Gentiles’ had begun.* Of Nebuchadnezzar it was said, “Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of Heaven hath given thee a Kingdom, power, and strength and glory . . . . Thou art this head of gold.” Daniel 2: 37, 38. Babylon was God’s instrument by which Judah was punished; and then because of the pride and wickedness of the king of Babylon he also was brought under the rod of the Almighty.

* The times of the Gentiles will end when the power returns to Judah, the house of David, in the person of the Lord Jesus.

The Destruction of Babylon was fully foretold in Scripture, though some of these prophecies may refer also to still future events, namely, the overthrow by the Lord (typified by Cyrus) of the last holder of Nebuchadnezzar-like Authority, namely, the beast, the last head of the revived Roman empire. Isaiah 13: 6-22; Isaiah 14: 4-23; Isaiah 21: 2-9; Isaiah 47: 1-11; Jeremiah 25: 12-14 and Jeremiah 50, 51. Its downfall was unexpected. For 24 years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar Babylon continued the seat of the imperial court. In B.C. 538 the city was taken in a remarkable way. A night was chosen when the inhabitants were about to hold a festival, when the whole city would be given up to Drunkenness and debauchery. The water of the river was diverted from its bed so as to render it shallow enough to let the troops pass along. The gates were found open, and the city was taken.

This also was prophesied of in Scripture: it specifies that Cyrus was God’s Shepherd, and He had holden him to subdue nations: God would loose the loins of kings to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates should not be shut: the gates of brass should be broken, and the bars of iron be cut asunder. Isaiah 45: 1, 2. Again the suddenness and unexpectedness of the attack is also mentioned: “evil shall come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.” Isaiah 47: 11. We also find that it was on the night of the revelry of Belshazzar’s feast that the king was slain. Daniel 5: 30.

The Monuments show that Babylon was taken by Gobryas the general of Cyrus, and that the capture of the city was, as some think, aided by treachery among its inhabitants. Daniel 5: 31 says, “Darius the Median took the Kingdom.” This king has not been found mentioned by name on the Monuments, but he is well accredited as king in Daniel. He was probably ASTYAGES, who was a Median king. He had been conquered by Cyrus, who may have found it to his advantage to let him reign at Babylon as long as he lived. Astyages being a Mede and Cyrus a Persian agree with the second great empire being called by the two names. Persia gained the ascendancy, and Babylon was a royal residence during part of the year. There were occasional revolts, in the putting down of which the city was more and more destroyed. In the year B.C. 478 Xerxes returning from his inglorious invasion of Greece passed through the city, robbed the Temple of Belus of its wealth and left its lofty towers a heap of ruins. In B.C. 324 Alexander the Great attempted to rebuild that edifice, and employed 10,000 men; but his sudden death, before the ruins had been cleared away, left it still in desolation.

Scripture is very decisive as to the utter Destruction of the city: “Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from Generation to Generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there: but wild beasts of the Desert shall lie there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the Islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces.” Isaiah 13: 19-22.

Now vast mounds extend for miles. If Hillah (about 32 27′ N, 44 25′ E) be taken as a centre, the mounds extend northward about 3 miles. About 6 miles S.W. of Hillah stands the celebrated heap known as Birs Nimrood, supposed to be the site of the Ancient Temple of Belus. There are three large piles on the east of the river: the Mujelibe or Mukallibe, the Kasr or Palace, and the Amran.

The moral features of Babylon were idolatrous corruption and worldliness, which will be seen in full manifestation in Babylon the Great. It is the place where the people of God get into Captivity through dalliance with the world.

In the N.T. Babylon is mentioned in 1 Peter 5: 13. There is evidence in Josephus that there were many Jews in the district forty years after Christ. On the occasion of the gathering at Jerusalem in Acts 2: 9-11 mention is made of the Parthians, Medes and Elamites; and when Peter commences his epistle, supposing he was in the district of Babylon, he naturally puts Pontus first and then passes on to Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. There can be no reason therefore to doubt that the Ancient district of Babylon is alluded to by Peter, where, through God’s grace, there were some of the ‘elect.’


Original text taken from the New and Concise Bible Dictionary published by G. Morish, London

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