HOUSMAIL HM#068 - THE FALL OF BABYLON 2 December 2000
“The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah
the son of Amoz saw .....
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pride of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. It will never be inhabited or dwelt in for all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there. But wild beasts will lie down there, and its houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will dwell, and there satyrs will dance. Hyenas will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces; its time is close at hand and its days will not be prolonged.(Isaiah 13:1;19-22)
“When the LORD has given you rest from your
pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve,
you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: "How the oppressor
has ceased, the insolent fury ceased!.....
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.' But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.” (Isaiah 14:3-4;12-15)
Noted in passing -- the common “Christian MYTH” that this chapter is about the Devil, is simply NOT true! It is ALL about Babylon! Read it carefully. The Devil is not mentioned at all!
The prophet Jeremiah also wrote in similar vein when he predicted the
spectacular rise of Babylon as a World Empire under Nebuchanezzar. He spoke
of its conquest of many nations, including the kingdom of Judah, and he
predicted its judgement and destruction 70 years later.
“Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, says the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste. I will bring upon that land all the words which I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations.” (Jer 25:12-13) (Read also Jeremiah 50 ? 51)
THE ANCIENT CITY
Babylon is very ancient. It was the capital of southern Mesopotamia from the early second millennium BC. It became the capital of the Chaldean/Babylonian Empire during the 7th and 6th centuries BC, when it reached the heights of its splendor during the reign of Nebuchanezzar.
In its day Nebuchadnezzar's city was the largest in the world, covering about 2,500 acres. The Euphrates River (which has since shifted its course) flowed through it. There were a large number of idol temples. Along the Euphrates, were warehouses, and quays for trading vessels. History tells us that Babylon was an important centre for trade. The streets were laid out on a grid, with the main axis parallel to the river. A central feature was the paved Processional Way, leading to the Ishtar Gate, which was adorned with enamelled bulls and dragons. To the West of the Ishtar Gate, were two palace complexes covering about 40 acres. The city was enclosed on both sides of the Euphrates, by thick double wall, reinforced by a ditch. An outer triple rampart, 18km long, met the Euphrates south and north of the city. The inner and outer defenses enclosed irrigated land and a network of canals. The Hanging Gardens, a huge man-made terraced garden, was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. [Source - http://members.nbci.com/ashurbanipal/BabylonianArticle_1.htm]
THE PROPHECIES FULFILLED
The beginning of the fulfilment of these remarkable prophecies is recorded in Daniel Ch. 5.
Belshazzar made a great feast, during which he sent for the vessels captured from the temple in Jerusalem. He and the nobles of Babylon drank from the vessels, praising their own idol “gods” and mocking the God of Israel. (Cf. Isaiah 14:12-14 above) Then a hand appeared out of nowhere, writing on the wall in a language unknown to the Babylonians. The prophet Daniel gave the dreaded interpretation -- “Because you have lifted up yourself against the God of Heaven ..... God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." (Dan 5:26-28)
And the story goes on to say -- “THAT VERY NIGHT Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom.” (Verses 30-31)
From that night on, the mighty BABYLONIAN EMPIRE was gone for ever, NEVER TO RISE AGAIN. (although the city itself still existed for many centuries after that, under the dominion of successive captors.) However, eventually it also disappeared completely beneath the desert sands. In the 19th century, the site of the "lost city" was known to some pioneer archaeologists, but it had not been excavated and verified. All that remained visible were a number of mounds, indicating the presence of “something” beneath the surface.
The disappearance of the city was so complete that it became popular for Bible Critics to claim that the lack of visible evidence supporting the Bible stories about Babylon, meant that the Bible was unreliable! And that Isaiah and Jeremiah could not be believed!
Then at the end of the 19th century and early in the 20th, Babylon was excavated by the German archaeologist, Robert Koldewey, and discovered to be all that the Bible said. Christians were greatly excited. They were still talking about it 40 years later! Yes the Bible was true! Fulfilled prophecy about Babylon was part of the “proof”! The critics were put to flight! Isaiah and Jeremiah were reliable after all, when they said Babylon would be TOTALLY destroyed! The archaeologists had provided the visible “evidence”.
In the 1980s some quite extensive restoration of several important archaeological features of the city was undertaken by Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the site is still no more than a gigantic field of ruins bearing silent testimony to the accuracy and finality of the words of the OT prophets.
Ancient Babylon is gone for ever, and will never rise again! "When you come to Babylon, see that you read all these words, and say, 'O LORD, thou hast said concerning this place that thou wilt cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it, neither man nor beast, and it shall be desolate for ever.' When you finish reading this book, bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates, and say, 'Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the evil that I am bringing upon her.'" (Jer 51:61-63)
But the present condition of the ruins of Babylon is much, much more than evidence of the past existence and ultimate fall of a once mighty empire.
It also stands as a visible witness to the
reliability of Isaiah and Jeremiah when they speak
f the identity of the Messiah, and the certainty of the still future kingdom of God.
Quotations from the historians and archaeologists.
I can remember, when I was a teenager back in the 1940s, that preachers would deliver lectures on the reliability of Bible Prophecy. Prime examples were taken from the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, quoting the complete destruction of Babylon as a PROOF of the truth of the Bible. I can remember reading books on the subject of archaeology which said the same thing.
Just lately books and articles on Biblical archaeology, which contain the information shown in this appendix, seem to be hard to find. I have been searching for books and articles which haven't lost sight of the Biblical emphasis, described above, but they appear to be few and far between! Almost everything I have found so far, is INFECTED with the popular futurist philosophy which predicts that ancient Babylon is about to rise again as a world Empire. Alas ..... I think it most likely that we are seeing another variation on the theme of "The Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome"! (AKA Hans Christian Andersen!)
I am indebted to Russell Rankin (1) for the quotes below, which describe just a few of the things you could, once upon a time, hear and/or read EVERYWHERE!
can ask Russell to E-mail a copy of his booklet in MS WORD format -
”A CONDENSED HISTORY OF BABYLON” - E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org
1903 - H. V. Hilprecht [Clark Research Professor of Assyriology
and Scientific Director of the Babylonian Expedition, University of Pennsylvania]:
"Nothing reminds the traveller of the old Assyrian civilisation but formless heaps and conical mounds. The solitude and utter devastation which characterize Babylonia in her present aspect are even more impressive and appalling..... The whole country from 'Aqarquf to Qorna looks like 'as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah' (Is. 13:19; Jer. 50:40).....
The innumerable canals ...... are completely 'dried up'--'a drought is upon the waters of Babylon' (Jer. 50:38)..... 'Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness' (Jer. 51:43). The soil is parched and the ground is covered with fine sand, sometimes sparingly clad with 'arid and serim, qubbar, and tarfa, and other low shrubs and plants of the desert..... 'The sea is come up upon Babylon: she is covered with the multitudes of the waves thereof' (Jer. 51:42), says the Old Testament seer, in his terse and graphic description of the future state of the unfortunate country. In the autumn and winter Babylonia is a 'desert of sand,' but during the spring and summer she is almost a continuous marsh, a veritable 'desert of the sea' (Is. 21:1).....
"Restlessly shifting nomads in the north and ignorant dwellers in the south have become the legitimate heirs of Asshur and Babel. What contrast between ancient civilisation and modern degradation! Nineveh and Babylon
seemed completely to have vanished from the earth. Hundreds of years were necessary to revive the interest in their history and to determine merely their sites, while the exploration of their principal ruins, the deciphering of their inscriptions, and the restoration of their literature and art were achieved only in the course of the nineteenth century. The road was long, the process slow, and many persons and circumstances combined to bring about the final result."
[Explorations In Bible Lands During The 19th Century, 1903, Hermann V. Hilprecht, A. J. Holman and Company]
1883 - Hormuzd Rassam [companion of Layard and excavator of Babylon
a paper read before the American Institute of Christian Philosophy, October 25, 1883]:
"Babylon ..... is now a heap of rubbish, where the wild beast of the desert still lie and the owl makes his abode! .... In Babylon itself there was no regular structure discovered, as the whole place was so thoroughly destroyed that if it was not from the account we read of it in the Bible and ancient history, no one could credit the possibility of such a magnificent city ever existed there. The whole place seems to have been destroyed by an earthquake or some other overthrow.....
Whenever I visit the ruins of Babylon
I always wonder whether the grand description given to us by ancient historians
of the size and magnificence of the capital of Chaldee was not mostly fabricated,
or, at all events, greatly exaggerated; but when I remember the Prophets
have foretold about the utter annihilation of the Babylonian monarchy,
it makes me realize the awful visitation of God's wrath upon the wicked
and rebellious nations who follow their evil devices and forget their heavenly
[NOTE - Rassam's report was of what he saw in 1850-51. The city of Babylon was not unearthed until 1899. Rassam did not realize he was standing on 15 to 70 feet of desert sand which had hidden the entire city from his view. He only saw mounds and depressions on which were scattered debris indicating a once existing city. Most of that debris was from a later period than Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon, even later than any period of an inhabited Babylon. Only a few tantalizing remains convinced him he was at the site of Babylon.]
1914 - Robert Koldewey [German architect; excavator of the city
of Babylon sponsored by the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft]:
"....When we gaze to-day over the wide area of ruins we are involuntarily reminded of the words of the prophet Jeremiah (l. 39): 'Therefore the wild beasts of the desert, with the wild beasts of the islands, shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein; and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.'"
[The Excavations At Babylon, Robert Koldewey, 1914, translated from Germanby Agnes S. James, pub. by Macmillan and Co., Limited, St. Martin's Street, London, UK.]
1979 - Dr. Joan Oates, - Fellow and Tutor and Director of Studies
in Archeology and Oriental Studies at Girton College.
"Today, despite the restoration of its major buildings, its desolation remains complete; once the centre of the world it now serves as a moving reminder of the impermanence of life, along its once busy river, a quiet picnicker's haven."
[Babylon, Dr. Joan Oates, 1979, pub. by Thames and Hudson, Ltd., London,
UK., Library of Congress card number 78-557197 ]
"How did Isaiah know that the Arabs
would not make use of the ruins of Babylon for shelter? Many explorers
and excavators of recent years report that it is impossible to get Arabs
to remain on the site of this ancient city overnight. Captain Mignan was
accompanied by six Arabs completely armed, but he 'could not induce them
to remain toward night, from apprehension of evil spirits. It is impossible
to eradicate this idea from the minds of these people." [Refer Isaiah 13:20]
[Prophecy Speaks - Page 49 - a Seventh day Adventist Publication]