Babylon, Its Destiny and Destruction

by Joseph Hunting

Babylon 's antiquity dates back to the great grandson of Noah whose descendants repopulated the earth after the Flood. This great grandson was Nimrod, who built Babel in the land of Shinar, present-day Iraq. It is interesting to note in Genesis chapter ten that Nimrod's uncle, Mizraim, was the founder of the great Egyptian empire.

Babel is remembered as the city whose inhabitants thought to build a tower "whose top may reach unto heaven" until God confounded their language and scattered them abroad on the face of the earth.

Little is known of Babel, or as it is later called Babylon, until Hammurabi reigned and instituted his famous code of civil law about the time Abraham left on his epic journey to Canaan. Its real prominence as the great city-state was during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.

Even judged by the size of large cities today, ancient Babylon was enormous. The historian Herodotus states that it was built four square, each side measuring fourteen miles, or fifty-six miles of walls encircling a city of one hundred and ninety-six square miles. The city straddled the Euphrates River. Its temples, hanging gardens, Processional Way and the magnificent Ishtar Gate made Babylon one of the wonders of the ancient world. Well could Nebuchadnezzar boast: "Is 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?" (Daniel 4:30).

Within fifty years following the death of Nebuchadnezzar Babylon fell to Cyrus, king of Persia, and in the following centuries its power and importance steadily declined. During the period of Greek supremacy in the area parts of the once-glorious city-state reverted back to desert. During the first century A.D. the Apostle Peter makes reference to a fellowship of believers in Babylon, whilst the Apostle John mentions the destruction of a future Babylon.

It is this last reference to Babylon that has caused some confusion among Bible scholars who refer to Isaiah's prophecy: "And 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" (13:19-20ff). Indeed, Isaiah's prophecy that Babylon "shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation" seems to have come true, at least for the past fifteen hundred years.

But was Babylon ever destroyed "as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah" ? Certainly archaeologists who have excavated Babylon have found no trace of a fiery destruction of the city. History indicates that Babylon died a slow death and even the remaining mounds covering what is left of the ancient city have been in danger of being destroyed completely due to the rising damp from the Euphrates River.

Babylon Rebuilt

I have been intrigued by press reports in recent months of the rebuilding of ancient Babylon on the banks of the Euphrates River in present-day Iraq. In 1977 President Saddam Hussein ordered the construction of modern Babylon and to date more than fourteen million bricks have been laid, and already walls have been built along the Processional Way that leads to the Ishtar Gate. The completed Babylon will include a reconstructed ziggurat, a replica of the one built by Nebuchadnezzar for the worship of Marduk.

The End-time Babylon

It is not without significance that Babylon is mentioned in the New Testament. The first mention is by the Apostle Peter and reveals that the city was in existence in the first century. (Also the Babylonian Talmud is dated about the fifth century). And the book of Revelation gives a vivid description of the destruction of Babylon at the battle of Armageddon when the river Euphrates is dried up. (See Revelation 16).

Is this modern rebuilt Babylon the answer to a problem that has perplexed Bible students for centuries? The city hasn't existed for more than a thousand years, and yet the New Testament plainly speaks of Babylon being destroyed in a cataclysmic judgment: "She shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judges her. And the kings of the earth who have committed fornication and lived immorally with her shall bewail her, and lament for her. WHEN THEY SHALL SEE THE SMOKE OF HER BURNING, standing afar off for the fear of her torment saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come" (Revelation 18:8-10).

God's Word holds the key to the problem. In Isaiah's prophecy of Babylon's destruction the city was to have a violent end, not just decline until the desert sand reclaimed it as has happened. Furthermore it was to be destroyed by fire "AS WHEN GOD OVERTHREW SODOM AND GOMORRAH"!

Surely the rebuilding and restoration of Babylon today is setting the stage for the future fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy of Divine fiery judgment and sudden destruction.

Until the energy crisis of the early seventies the most congested shipping lane in the world was thought to be the English Channel. Whilst this may still be so, the world's demand for oil has made the Persian Gulf one of the world's most congested and busy waterways. In the light of this consider the prophecy in Revelation: "And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, and cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city ... for in one hour is she made desolate" (18:17-19).

Surely the restoration and rebuilding of Babylon today is just one more piece of the end-time jig-saw puzzle fitting into its place, and highlights the faithfulness of God's Word.