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Babylon goes down in Biblical history as the great harlot of lust, pride, and vain glory (see Revelation 17:5).  A study of her rise to power, sin, and fall yields great lessons for the Christian of every generation.  Babylon was a fortified city within the region of southern Mesopotamia (modern south Iraq) known as Babylonia and later identified as Chaldea.  Babylon is identified by Jeremiah as an “ancient” city of world renown (see Jeremiah 5:14-17).  The city was widely known for its deities Bel, Nebo, and Merodach. The city of Babylon was encircled by double walls.  The inner wall was known as “Imgur-Enlil” and was constructed of mud brick.  The inner wall was 21 feet thick and had 100 towers along it at intervals of sixty feet.  Twenty three feet outside the inner wall was the outer wall known as the “Nimit-Enlil.”  This outer wall was 12′ thick making the total defensive wall a whopping 57 feet.  Sixty five feet outside the outer wall was a moat that was linked to the Euphrates on the North and South sides of the city (ISBE Volume 1 page 386). Babylon was also known for its hanging gardens.  Nebuchadnezzar reportedly built one of the Seven Wonders of the World for a wife who was homesick for her native land’s vegetation.
The historical development of Babylonia involves the demise of Judah at the providential hands of Jehovah God.  Babylon would be God’s battle axe against the rebellious people of Judah (Jeremiah 51:20).  Jeremiah tells us that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was God’s servant providentially brought to power to bring down Jerusalem (Jeremiah 25:8-9; 51:20).  Like fishermen with nets and hunters with bows they would come after those of Judah and none would escape (Jeremiah 16:16-17).  Though Babylon was God’s servant they were not above his divine laws.  Eventually, their reign of terror would end at the hands of the Almighty (Jeremiah 25:12; 50:14).  Daniel interpreted the dream of Nebuchadnezzar that divinely depicted the rise and fall of the Neo Babylonian Empire (Daniel 2).

Babylon Becomes a World Power

The Assyrian Empire had reached a level of world dominance during the days of Isaiah under Tiglath-pileser.  Their world dominance, however, was soon to falter.  Secular history records the fall of Assyria during the days of Josiah.  The Medes were gaining world supremacy at the weakening of Assyria under the King Cyaxares.  Their dominance stretched over parts of Assyria, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Cilicia.  During the year 605 BC Saracus was pronounced king in place of his father Cyaxares over the Medes.  Saracus appointed Nabopolassar (father of Nebuchadnezzar) to be governor of the province of Babylon.  Twenty years later, 565 BC, the Medes and Babylonians marched on the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and defeated them.  The treasures and land of Assyria was shared between the Medes and Babylonians.  All the land lying on the western bank of the Tigris fell to the share of Nabopolassar of Babylon.  The land lying west of the Euphrates was occupied by Egypt. 

Pharaoh Necho of Egypt was at war with Assyria during the Medes and Babylonians’ conflict with Assyria.  Necho had marched through Palestine and killed Josiah as he went out in an attempt to stop the Egyptians (2 Kings 23:29ff; 2 Chronicles 35:20ff).  The Egyptian king made Eliakim, son of Josiah, king in his father’s stead and changed his name to Jehoiakim.  Necho continued his quest through Syria.  Necho made it as far as Carchemish when the Babylonians and Medes defeated Nineveh.

Nabopolassar entrusted the command of his army to his son Nebuchadnezzar after he defeated and divided the territory of Assyria.  Nebuchadnezzar immediately marched on Egypt at Carchemish and defeated the Egyptians and Necho on the Euphrates.  Nebuchadnezzar pursued the Egyptians through Syria and Palestine and at the same time overtook Judah, making Jehoiakim a vassal king in 565 BC.  He carried away much of the temple’s treasures and many Jewish youths, including Daniel (see 2 Kings 24:1; 2 Chronicles 36:6ff).  Jeremiah’s prophetic proclamation of Judah spending 70 years in Babylonian captivity began (see Jeremiah 25:8ff).  Over the next twenty years, Judah would live in subjection to Babylon with two more major attacks and deportation of its citizens at 555 BC and 544 BC.  The final attack decimated Jerusalem.  Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem for one and a half years.  The people died gruesome deaths of sword, pestilence, and starvation.  Zedekiah, king of Judah, could stand the siege no longer and made a run out of the city.  The Judean king was captured, his sons killed before his eyes, and then his own eyes were gouged out.  The Babylonians then crushed Judah and Jerusalem.  They destroyed the temple of Jehovah and burned the entire city with its walls down to the ground (2 Kings 25:8-12).  Babylon had done their God ordained work yet remained subject to the same wrath of God that they released upon Judah (Jeremiah 6:6).

Babylon‘s Sin (Jeremiah 50:14)

Babylon goes down in history as a nation that personifies evil (see Revelation 17:5).  The vile nation considered herself to be deity (Isaiah 47:8-10).  Babylon’s sins included pride (Jeremiah 50:29), covetousness (Jeremiah 51:13), and she was given to pleasure (Isaiah 47:8).  Babylon stove against the Lord (Jeremiah 50:24), destroyed his holy temple (Jeremiah 50:28; 51:11), and served their vain idols (Jeremiah 50:1-3).

Babylon believed that they were innocent seeing that Judah had sinned against God’s righteousness and were deserving of their demise (Jeremiah 50:7).  Babylon rejoiced over the fall of Judah (Jeremiah 50:11).  The sins of Babylon brought the punishing arm of God upon them (Jeremiah 50:18).  The Lord rendered to Babylon her just reward (Jeremiah 51:6).

Babylon’s lack of faith in God put her in a position to be punished.  The Chaldeans put their confidence and trust in many things other than God.  Isaiah summarizes Babylon’s trust issues in that they put confidence in their wickedness (Isaiah 47:10).  Babylon looked for help from enchanters, sorcerers, astrologers, stargazers, and prognosticators (fortune tellers who told people’s future during the new moon – each month) (Isaiah 47:12-13).  Babylon trusted in her treasures and position on the Euphrates River (Jeremiah 51:13).  Babylon trusted in her idols (Jeremiah 51:40).  They worshiped Bel, Nebo, and Marduk.  The influences of these gods are easily detected in the names of many Babylonian kings such as Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus; Merodach-baladan and Evil-merodach.

Babylon also trusted in her walled city.  Jeremiah mentions the walls of Babylon three times in the oracle against the Chaldeans at chapter 51 (see Jeremiah 51:12, 44, and 58).  None of the things Babylon trusted in would save them.  Jeremiah writes, “The wall of Babylon shall fall.”  There was no nation, deity, or structure of man that had the power to keep Jehovah from his objectives.  The Lord said, “Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet from me shall destroyers come unto her, saith Jehovah” (Jeremiah 51:53).  Babylon’s deities would be put to shame (Jeremiah 51:44, 47).  Isaiah writes of her idolatry saying, “1 Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth; their idols are upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: the things that ye carried about are made a load, a burden to the weary beast. 2 They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity” (Isaiah 46:1-2).

Babylon Falls at the Hands of the Medes and Persians

The Lord determined to punish Babylon as all other nations who walked in wickedness (Jeremiah 25:12; 50-51; 50:14).  God purposed to bring the Medes and Persians against Babylon and they would be conquered (Jeremiah 51:11; Daniel 5:24-28).  Isaiah writes, “17 Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who shall not regard silver, and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. 18 And their bows shall dash the young men in pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children. 19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isaiah 13:17-19).

Cyrus, a Persian military leader, defeated the Medes and brought the Medo-Persian Empire together at 509 BC.  Cyrus took the city of Babylon in 500 – 495 BC giving it to Darius the Mede (see Daniel 5:31).  Jehovah had made known the fall of Babylon approximately one hundred and fifty years before it would actually happen.  Isaiah went as far as even naming Cyrus over a hundred years before he would be born (Isaiah 44:28).

Cyrus defeated Babylon in what is known in history as the Battle of Opis.  The famed walls of Babylon were indeed impenetrable with the only way into the city through one of its many gates or through the Euphrates which ebbed beneath its thick walls.  Metal gates at the river’s in-flow and out-flow prevented underwater intruders.  Cyrus (or his generals) devised a plan to use the Euphrates as the mode of entry to the city ordering large camps of troops at each point and instructed them to wait for the signal. Awaiting an evening of a national feast among Babylonians Cyrus’ troops diverted the Euphrates river upstream, causing the Euphrates to drop to about mid thigh level on a man or to dry up altogether (see Daniel 5). The soldiers marched under the walls through the lowered water. The Persian Army conquered the outlying areas of the city’s interior while a majority of Babylonians at the city center were oblivious to the breach (see Wikipedia on the Battle of Opis).

God’s Purpose Acomplished with Babylon

The “purpose” of God was accomplished against Babylon (Jeremiah 51:29).  The Neo Babylonian Empire fell beneath the mighty arm of Jehovah God just as the prophets had foretold because they violated his standards of righteousness and justice.  There are three lessons that we may learn from a study of Babylon.  First, like Judah and all sinful nations before and after, Babylon had to be moved to recognize and fear the universal sovereignty of God.  All must acknowledge that Jehovah of hosts is his namebefore any changes can be made in their hearts (Jeremiah 51:19).  God is “He who made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding hath he stretched out the heavens.  When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he makes lightnings for the rain, and brings forth the wind out of his treasuries” (Jeremiah 51:15-16).  Isaiah tells of the coming of Cyrus as he writes, “12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called: I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. 13 Yea, my hand hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spread out the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together. 14 Assemble yourselves, all ye, and hear; who among them hath declared these things?  He whom Jehovah loveth shall perform his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans. 15 I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him; I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous” (Isaiah 48:12-15).

Sinful man is moved to acknowledge God and repent of their sins by recognizing his glorious, powerful, and fearful place in this universe.  God presses man forcing him to either repent or suffer and die in their sins.  The book of Jeremiah records God’s pressing of Judah and Babylon.  Similarly, the book of Revelation records God’s pressing of the world to repent (see Revelation 9, 16).  The Apostle Paul writes, “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap.  For he that sows to his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows unto the Sprit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).  No man who rejects God will have a valid excuse on the Day of Judgment (see Romans 1:20).  God reveals himself to man through Creation (Genesis 1:1ff; Psalms 19:1; 33:6-9; Romans 1:18ff; Hebrews 11:3), divine revelation (John 4:39ff; 20:30-31; Romans 10:17; Ephesians 3:1-6 etc.), fulfilled prophecy (Isaiah 46:9-10), witnesses of Christ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), and man’s natural understanding of moral issues (Romans 1:19-20, 26; 2:14, 27; 1 Corinthians 11:14), and God’s plagues upon the disobedient as he beats them into submission of faith and repentance (Revelation 9:20-21; 15:1; 16:8-11).

Isaiah writes, “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou would come down, that the mountains might quake at thy presence, 2 as when fire kindles the brushwood, and the fire causes the waters to boil; to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!” (Isaiah 64:1-2).  Again, Isaiah writes, “Thus saith Jehovah, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what manner of house will ye build unto me?  And what place shall be my rest? 2 For all these things hath my hand made, and so all these things came to be, saith Jehovah: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:1-2).  Those who recognize the glory of God and fear him will reverentially serve him.  God used Babylon to squeeze his people that they may repent and then applied to same standard to the Chaldeans.  Repentance in man’s life only occurs as one fearfully acknowledges the Almighty Power state of Jehovah God.

Another lesson learned from Babylon is that man’s confidence must be put in the right place.  Babylon trusted in her deities, treasures, and fortified city.  None of these things had the power to change God’s purpose against this sinful nation (see Isaiah 14:11-17).  The apostle Paul commands “Have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).  The Psalmist wrote, “It is better to take refuge in Jehovah than to put confidence in man.  It is better to take refuge in Jehovah than to put confidence in princes” (Psalms 118:8-9).  The scriptures also teach us that there is no amount of money that saves either (see Job 31:24-25; Zephaniah 1:18; Luke 18:18-30).  Solomon wrote, “The fear of man brings a snare; But whoso puts his trust in Jehovah shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).  There is no where else to turn (John 6:60-68).  To put one’s trust in the Rome and Babylon of lust, vainglory, and fleshly thinking is to make a foolish decision.  Babylon and all like her shall fall (Revelation 14:8).  Jonah once said, “They that regard lying vanities forsake their own mercy” (Jonah 2:8).

Lastly, we learn that there is no nation or man that is above God’s laws.  Babylon believed that they were innocent seeing that they were doing the work of God (Jeremiah 6:6).  If God did not spare his own people what made Babylon think that they could be above the laws of God (see Jeremiah 15:1)?  If God does not spare angels that sin what makes sinful man believe they can escape the judgment of God (2 Peter 2:4-6)?  Truth is truth, justice is justice, and God’s standard of right and wrong has been eternally established (Proverbs 8:22-26; Isaiah 28:17; Ephesians 1:3ff).  God is no respecter of persons.  Whether one be yellow, brown, black, or white we must all stand before the judgment seat of God and give account for the works of our lives (see Revelation 20:12).  Jehovah God has set the bar high for man.  All must be blameless and without reproach in this life (see Psalms 15:1-2; Matthew 5:48; 1 Corinthians 1:8; Colossians 1:22-23; 1 John 4:17 to name only a few of the many verses that command man’s perfection).  We thank our God for the sacrificial blood of Jesus that enables us to be justified and perfected (Ephesians 1:7).