Babylon (Babylonian, Bab-ilim or Babil, 'Gate of God'), one of the most important cities of the ancient world, whose location today is marked by a
broad area of ruins just east of the Euphrates River, 90 km (56 mi) south of Baghdad, Iraq.Babylonia was located in what is now southern Iraq.
Babylonian literature was well developed in the 3rd millennium B.C. Records have been found of highly developed religion, history and science,
including medicine, chemistry, alchemy, botany, zoology, math and astronomy.In the Old Testament it is called 'Shinar' - Akkadia and Sumer as well
as 'the land of the Chaldeans.The Babylonians lived in Mesopotamia, a fertile plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.Nimrod, a descendant of
Noah, established the city and a common religion. It was here where the Tower of Babel was located and where God confused the speech of the
The Babylonian civilization, which endured from the 18th until the 6th century BC, was, like the Sumerian that preceded it, urban in character,
although based on agriculture rather than industry. The country consisted of a dozen or so cities, surrounded by villages and hamlets. At the head of
the political structure was the king, a more or less absolute monarch who exercised legislative and judicial as well as executive powers. Under him
was a group of appointed governors and administrators. Mayors and councils of city elders were in charge of local administration.
Sumerian culture was the basis of the high level of civilization of Babylonia. A system of gods was established, with a temple in each city of the
land. The temple-centered culture often held huge festivals; many different types of priests lead the people in worship, especially the exorcist and
the diviner who were trained to drive away evil spirits. Literature was dominated by mythology and legends, including a creation story and a flood
story, which glorified the gods of Babylon. The Babylonians modified and transformed their Sumerian heritage in accordance with their own culture and
ethos. The resulting way of life proved to be so effective that it underwent relatively little change for some 1200 years. It exerted influence on all
the neighboring countries, especially the kingdom of Assyria, which adopted Babylonian culture almost in its entirety. Fortunately, many written
documents from this period have been excavated and made available to scholars. One of the most important is the remarkable collection of laws often
designated as the 'Code of Hammurabi', which, together with other documents and letters belonging to different periods, provides a comprehensive
picture of Babylonian social structure and economic organization.
During the reigns of Hammurabi and his son Samsu-iluna (r. about 1750-1712 BC), who succeeded him, Babylonian civilization reached the zenith of its
cultural development and political power. Some of the more important cities of Babylonia began to seek independence, however, and in the reign of
Samsu-iluna, the Kassites first invaded the country. Although Samsu-iluna succeeded in beating them off, the Kassites continued to infiltrate
Babylonia in the centuries that followed. Samsu-iluna suffered another serious setback when a rebel leader, Iluma-ilum, founded a dynasty in the
southern Babylonian district, bordering on the Persian Gulf, commonly known as the Sea-land.
Under Samsu-iluna's successors Babylonia suffered a serious decline in power and territory. When, about 1595 BC, a Hittite army penetrated as far
south as Babylon and carried off Babylonian prisoners and wealth to far-off Anatolia, the kingdom became badly disorganized. Babylonia later fell
under the rule of the dynasty of the Sealand, at least for a brief period. Finally, toward the middle of the 16th century BC, a Kassite ruler named
Agum (r. about 1570 BC) became master of Babylonia and extended its territory from the Euphrates River to the Zagros Mountains.
Under Kassite rule, Babylonia once again became a power of considerable importance. At the beginning of the 15th century BC, for example, it was one
of the four major powers of the Orient, the other three being the Egyptian, Mitanni, and Hittite empires.
After Assyria freed itself of Mitanni domination early in the 14th century BC, its rulers began to interfere in the affairs of Babylonia and sought to
control it politically. They were eventually successful, and a weakened Babylonia fell prey to the Elamites, who invaded it from the east, deposed its
Kassite king, and practically reduced it to a state of vassalage.
A revolt then broke out in southern and central Babylonia, and a new dynasty, known usually as the 2d Dynasty of Isin, was founded. Toward the end of
the 12th century BC, Nebuchadnezzar I (r. about 1125-1103 BC), one of the Isin kings, defeated the Elamites and even attacked Assyria. Soon after,
Aramaean nomads began swarming into Babylonia. For about two centuries thereafter the country was in a state of political chaos.
The Chaldean Peroid
Among the surrounding tribes was one powerful group known as the Chaldeans. They settled in and dominated the district along the Persian Gulf.
Beginning in the 9th century BC, the Chaldeans were destined to play an important political role in the history of the Orient; their rulers helped
destroy the Assyrian Empire and, at least for a brief period, made Babylonia, or, as it gradually came to be known, Chaldea, the dominant power of
Mesopotamia.One of the outstanding Chaldean kings was Merodach-baladan II (r. 722-710 bc), who fought bitterly and bravely, if unsuccessfully, against
four mighty Assyrian monarchs: Tiglath-pileser III (r. 745-727 bc), Shalmaneser V (r. 727-722 bc), Sargon II (r. 722-705 bc), and Sennacherib (r.
705-681 bc), the destroyer of Babylon. Sennacherib's successors, Esarhaddon (r. 681-699 bc) and Ashurbanipal, retained political control of Babylonia
in spite of numerous rebellions and defections. In 626, however, when Assyria was in turmoil and menaced by the Medes, the Scythians, and the
Cimmerians, a Chaldean named Nabopolassarbc proclaimed himself king of Babylonia. Acknowledged as king in 625, Nabopolassar allied himself with the
Medes and helped to destroy Assyrian might.
With Assyria no longer to be feared, Egypt began to menace Palestine and Syria. Nabopolassar's son Nebuchadnezzar II marched against the Egyptians
and defeated them at Carchemish. Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned for 43 years, extended Babylonian political control over practically all of Mesopotamia.
To students of the Bible he is known as the destroyer of Jerusalem and as the king who took the captive Jews to Babylonia. To archaeologists and
historians he is known as the great builder and restorer. He reconstructed Babylon, his capital, in elaborate style and restored many temples
The Babylonian revival did not long endure. After Nebuchadnezzar's death (562 bc), a struggle for power apparently went on among various parties and
individuals for several years. In 556 bc Nabonidus, one of Nebuchadnezzar's governors, became king of Babylonia (r. 556-539 bc). A somewhat enigmatic
figure, he in some way antagonized the influential priestly class of Babylon. Nabonidus left the city of Babylon under control of his son Belshazzar
and lived for a while in the city of Harran and later in the oasis of Teima, in the Arabian Desert. In 539 bc the Babylonians were defeated by the
Persian king Cyrus the Great, who had defeated Media. Nabonidus was captured at Sippar (near modern Baghdād, Iraq), and the Persians entered Babylon
without resistance. Babylonia was then annexed to Persia and lost its independence for all time.
THE Hanging gardens of Babylon
The ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The greatness of this
achievement serves as an indication of the level of ancient Babylonian art and architecture.
The Hanging Gardens were built on top of stone arches 23 metres above ground and watered from the Euphrates by a complicated mechanical system. The
Hanging Gardens of Babylon, built by King Nebuchadnezzar II about 600 BC, were a mountainlike series of planted terraces.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were a series of terraces filled with plants. Excavations have found an elaborate tunnel and pulley system that
apparently brought water from the ground level to the top terrace.
In the ninth chapter of Genesis, God commands Noah and his sons to "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" (9:1 NAS). On the fifth day of the
creation of the Earth, God gave this command to the birds and fishes (Gen. 1:20-23). On the sixth day, God reiterated this command to the pinnacles of
creation, man and woman (Gen. 1:26-28). Humanity was to subjugate the untamed Earth by dispersing themselves.
The builders in Shinar banded together for a common ecumenical purpose. Genesis 11:6 suggests that this assembly would have given rise to projects of
a purely secular nature. The people did not consider that their misguided enthusiasm may have been just a bit shortsighted. Considering the
benevolent, omniscient knowledge of God it appears that the long-term consequences of the Tower of Babel might have resulted in a plight similar to
the apostate state of humanity (Gen. 6:1-5) prior to the sanctifying flood of the entire Earth (Gen. 6:6-24).
Genesis 9:18-19 and the entire tenth chapter of Genesis contain the Table of the Nations. All of the people alive at the time of Babel were descended
solely from the three sons of Noah. Consequently, Shem, Ham and Japheth are the fathers of modern civilization. Hayes remarks that Genesis 10 is
specifically written to demonstrate that all humanity descended from these three men (146). As Noah was a virtuous man in the eyes of God (Gen.
6:8-9), it is reasonable to presume that the commandments of God were passed on to his sons.
Genesis chapter 10, verses 5, 20 and 32 also suggest that the land of the Earth was physically divided at this time in response to Babel. Genesis
specifies: ". . . the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided . . ." (10:25). Willmington comments that "Peleg" means
"division" (53). The coastal outlines of the Earth's continents suggest the likely prior unification of the various land masses. The terra firma
can be viewed as a once-unified puzzle now separated into its various fragments.
It is important to note that although chapter 10 precedes the account of Babel in chapter 11, the events described in both chapters are not rendered
in a chronologically consecutive fashion. Accordingly, it must be understood that the tenth chapter of Genesis details events prior, during and after
those described in chapter 11. Chapter 12 of Genesis portrays the beginning of God's redemptive plan commencing with the call of Abram.
Despite the bleak future of Babel, God had promised Himself never to destroy the Earth with a flood again due to the disobedience of mankind (Gen.
8:20-22). God also made a covenant with Noah, his descendents and "every living creature," that He would never again destroy the Earth with a flood.
Genesis 9:8-17 affirms that the rainbow serves as a personal reminder to God of His covenant.
Accordingly, God separated the people to different lands and languages to frustrate their self-destructive plans. Determined to stay faithful to His
covenant, this was God's only merciful alternative in response to the tower. If the people were punished, it was a light affliction administered. The
reproof was quite mild compared to the prior worldwide flood (Gen. 7:21-23). Similarly, the rebuke of God at Babel hardly parallels the subsequent
fiery obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24-30).
Although at a casual glance this rebellion appears benign, it has been demonstrated that this autonomous or self-governing spirit would likely prove
to be self-destructive. Willmington points out that the first person plural pronouns "us" and "we" occur no less than 5 times in this King James
Version rendering of one sentence:
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad
upon the face of the whole earth (Gen. 11:4) (50).
Nowhere in the entire passage referring to the Tower of Babel is there found the slightest indication that the builders considered God's will in
their plans. The Bible goes to great lengths to confirm God's disdain for society's self-ruling ecumenical pursuits. The Psalmist writes of God's
intervention into the affairs of humanity:
The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples (Psalm 33:10 NAS).
Archaeologists have long desired to locate the Tower of Babel. They have been unfruitful in their efforts. There may be Scriptural evidence for why
the ruins have not been found. The land of Shinar is shown in Zechariah 5:11 as a site for the city of Babylon. The ancient city of Babylon was
located some 80 kilometers south of modern-day Baghdad, Iraq (Douglas 111). The Bible confirms that Babel and Babylon were both located in Shinar. Of
the history of the Tower of Babel, Hayes states:
This episode (Gen. 11:1-9) was included . . . as the capstone of . . . primeval history. . . . The original story was . . . to explain the existence
of multiple language groups with its play on the words Babel (Babylon) and babal ("confuse") (146).
Babylon is an apostate city frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. From 2nd Kings 17:24 through Zechariah 6:10 there are at least 257 direct
references to Babylon (Strong's 94-95). Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines ancient Babylon as: ". . . a city devoted to materialism
and the pursuit of sensual pleasure" (122). In the 18th chapter of the Book of Revelation, Babylon epitomizes mankind's final organized rebellion
against the sovereignty of God and is utterly destroyed. This parallels the destruction of ancient Babylon, overthrown pursuant to the prophecy of the
13th chapter of Isaiah.
Babel's founder was Nimrod the Hunter (Gen. 10:8-12), who also was a "king of Shinar" (Webster's 798). Nimrod was a ruthless conqueror of the
ancient day with ambitious political aspirations (Willmington 53). Willmington states: "Nimrod's name means 'let us revolt'" (53). Genesis
10:9-12 shows that Babel was the first of many cities that Nimrod established.
The Assyrian capital of Nineveh is enumerated (Gen. 10:11) as one of the many cities built by Nimrod. The prophecy of the Book of Jonah records God's
solemn warning to the city to repent of its evil ways. God sent the reluctant prophet Jonah to deliver the admonition. Nineveh immediately repented.
However, the prophecy of the Book of Nahum declares that God's judgment would fall on the subsequently backsliding and unrepentant Nineveh and that
they would be pillaged by the Babylonians, Scythians and the Medes.
In Genesis 11:5-7 an exceptionally rare and uncommon event occurred. God personally visited the Tower of Babel to see what was going on. Later, God
paid a visit to the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ascertain the degree of depravity of their inhabitants. These cities were completely
disintegrated by a fiery earthquake metaphorically referred to as a "furnace" (Gen. 19:24-29).
The Tower of Babel is extremely significant to the epic of the Bible. The story is much more than God indiscriminately interrupting an insignificant
building project. The Tower of Babel marks the origins of the nations of the Earth.
The Babylonian Legacy
More than 1200 years had elapsed from the glorious reign of Hammurabi to the subjugation of Babylonia by the Persians. During this long span of time
the Babylonian social structure, economic organization, arts and crafts, science and literature, judicial system, and religious beliefs underwent
considerable modification, but generally only in details, not in essence. Grounded almost wholly on the culture of Sumer, Babylonian cultural
achievements left a deep impression on the entire ancient world, and particularly on the Hebrews and the Greeks. Even present-day civilization is
indebted culturally to Babylonian civilization to some extent. For instance, Babylonian influence is pervasive throughout the Bible and in the works
of such Greek poets as Homer and Hesiod, in the geometry of the Greek mathematician Euclid, in astronomy, in astrology, and in heraldry.
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