For some reason, Babylon has become of great interest to both religious and secular journalists the past few weeks. The American military has destroyed some of its buildings and monuments and offered an apology to the Iraqi government this week. For Bible students, the subject of Babylon remains of great interest due to its prevalence in Biblical history and prophecy. Here is an outline for you to ponder.
Subject: â€œTHE HISTORY OF BABYLONâ€
Scripture: Genesis 10:8-10; 11:1-9
Babylon is mentioned 286 times in the Bible of which 12 usages are found in the NT, six of those in the book of Revelation. The word â€œBabelâ€ is used twice â€“ Genesis 10:10 and 11:9. Most of these references are referring to the massive and beautiful city of the Neo-Babylonian period (625-539 BC). With its â€œHanging Gardensâ€ and massive walls it has been regarded as one of the â€œSeven Wonders of the Ancient World.â€ The Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 BC) reported upon visiting the site that its splendor surpassed any city of the known world.
It was also the capital of the 18th century BC King Hammurabi, and was known throughout history as a great center of culture and religion. It was Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BC) who brought Babylon to its glory as it was called â€œThe Palace of Heaven and Earth, the Seat of Kingship.â€ In Daniel 4:30 Nebuchadnezzar boasted â€œIs not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?â€
Ancient Babylon covered an area of 1000 acres making it the largest city of the ancient world, some 15% larger than Ninevah. It had 1179 temples and a population of over 100,000 but could easily have handled over 250,000 people. The famous â€œIshtar Gateâ€ was 70 feet high and its arched opening 15 feet wide. Babylonâ€™s most significant temple was Esagila (â€œthe temple that raises its headâ€) and was supposedly the home of the god Marduk. According to cuneiform documents the temple was surrounded by an enclosure of about 1410 feet by 720 feet and housed over 50 other temples and shrines. Interesting comment by Jeremiah (50:38): â€œit is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.â€ Over 6000 figures (idols) were uncovered in the excavations of ancient Babylon and over 10 major altars. There were 180 open-air shrines for Ishtar and 200 identifiable places for other deities.
Adjacent to the temple of Esagila was the tower or ziggurat named Etemenanki called â€œthe foundation house of heaven and earth.â€ It measured about 300 feet square at the base and rose in seven stages to a height of 300 feet. It could very well have been reconstructed and restored from the original â€œTower of Babelâ€ mentioned in Genesis 11. The Babylonians believed it was built by the gods.
NOTICE SEVEN THINGS ABOUT THE BIBLICAL ORIGIN OF THIS CITY:
1A. IT WAS A RESULT OF AN ATTEMPT TO ESTABLISH A KINGDOM THAT WOULD REBEL AGAINST GODâ€™S AUTHORITY â€“ Genesis 10:8-10
1B. The PERSON behind this effort â€“ â€œNimrodâ€
His name means â€œto revoltâ€ or â€œto rebelâ€
His wife:â€Semiramisâ€ â€“ the first high priestess
of the Babylonian mystery religion.
2B. The POWER which he exercised â€“ â€œmighty
one in the earthâ€ and â€œa mighty hunter before
(or against) the LORD.â€
3B. The PROJECT he undertook â€“ â€œand the
beginning of his kingdom was Babelâ€
2A. IT WAS A REBELLION AGAINST THE COMMAND OF THE LORD â€“ Genesis 9:1; 11:4 cf. Deut. 1:26 â€“ â€œbut rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your Godâ€
3A. IT WAS A REVOLT AGAINST THE WORSHIP OF THE LORD â€“ Genesis 11:4 â€“
â€œlet us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heavenâ€ â€“ cf. Genesis 4:3-5; 8:20-21
The Lord wants altars of sacrifice, not towers of
human achievement! (Note: 24 ziggurats have
remains still standing in the Mesopotamian
4A. IT WAS A RESPONSE ROOTED IN PRIDE AND THE GLORIFICATION OF MAN â€“ v. 4 â€“ â€œlet us make us a nameâ€
5A. IT WAS A REMINDER OF GODâ€™S CONTROL AND SOVEREIGNTY OVER ALL THE EVENTS OF HUMAN HISTORY â€“ Genesis 11:5-8 cf. Psalm 103:19; 135:6; Daniel 2:21
1B. It reminds us of Godâ€™s knowledge of all that
humanity does â€“ v. 5 â€“ â€œthe LORD came down
to see the city and the tower, which the children
of men builded.â€
2B. It reminds us of Godâ€™s majesty â€“ â€œlet US go
downâ€ â€“ the tri-unity of God!
3B. It reminds us of Godâ€™s power â€“ v. 7 â€“
â€œconfound their language that they may not
understand one anotherâ€™s speechâ€
NOTE: In mythology (Sumerian 3rd dynasty of UR) â€“ it says that people once spoke one language until ENKI, the Sumerian god of wisdom, confounded their speech!
4B. It reminds us of Godâ€™s purposes â€“ vv. 8-9
â€œso the LORD scattered them abroad from
thence upon the face of all the earthâ€
6A. IT WAS A REASON FOR BELIEVERS TO RESIST ALL ATTEMPTS TO ESTABLISH A WORLD GOVERNMENT AND RELIGION WITHOUT THE MESSIAH â€“ cf. Isaiah 13:1, 6-13, 19
7A. IT IS A REALIZATION THAT SALVATION IS BASED ON FAITH IN THE MESSIAH, NOT UPON MAN-MADE RELIGION AND HUMAN WORKS â€“ Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5