FROM ALMOST INCIDENTAL references in the writings of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel all of whom lived during the period 700 to 500 B.C. we learn a number of facts about the development of Babylon into a most formidable fortress city. Jeremiah for example, speaks of “the broad walls of Babylon…and her high gates”. (Jeremiah 51:58) Isaiah prophesied of the overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian and makes reference to the ‘two-leaved gates’ of that city. (Isaiah 45:1-2) Daniel records an occasion when Nebuchadnezzar, walking upon the palace roof, boasted of his achievements – “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 R.S.V)
These may be just incidental references, but what is the picture? GREAT BABYLON, having broad walls, a broad city, with great and high gates. This is how the Bible spoke of that city nearly 2,600 years ago. Herodotus, who was born about a hundred years after the death of Daniel, visited the city and in his history describes what he saw. His description supports and amplifies that of the Bible.
It seems incredible that in time Babylon should so completely disappear, except for these two fragmentary sources of evidence. Yet this civilisation did disappear completely for over two thousand years – so completely that Herodotus was pronounced unreliable and the Bible legendary, because both spoke of this civilization of which there was no trace until the nineteenth century.
Incredible? Not to the student of the Bible! The Bible said that this great civilization would so disappear. This was something which Herodotus did not say and could not say. There could be no stronger evidence for the Divine authorship of the Bible than the remarkable discoveries in the ‘land between the rivers’ made by the archaeologist in the last century. It is a fascinating and exciting story, well documented – but carrying with it for those who can see and hear, the most solemn warning for the generation of today. This can easily be seen by placing some of the prophecies concerning the desolation of Babylon side by side with the facts as they have since been discovered. To the evidence of the historical accuracy of the Bible we can add that of the fulfilment of its prophecies.
We have the words pronounced against Babylon by the prophet Isaiah, before Nebuchadnezzar had come on the scene with all his remarkable feats of engineering!
“And it shall come to pass…that thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! ‘For I will rise up against them, saith the Lord of hosts, and cut of from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the Lord. ‘I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction.” (Isaiah 14:4,22-23)
Again the prophet writes:
“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…from generation to generation.” (Isaiah 13:19-20 See also Jeremiah Ch’s 50 & 51)
There are many similar prophecies. Babylon was to become like Sodom and Gomorrah! Few Bible lovers at the beginning of the nineteenth century suspected what dramatic demonstrations of the fulfilment of this prophecy were ahead. We believe the remains of Sodom and Gomorrah are buried under the waters of the southern tip of the Dead Sea, and they found Babylon buried under seventy feet of mud, sand and rubble! The city was surrounded by three separate walls 22 feet, 25 feet and 12 feet thick, running approximately fourteen miles long on all four sides. They found the tower. It was built in a form of terraces – the lowest one was 288 feet square and the total height of the building was also estimated to have been 288 feet.
Fifty eight million bricks went into the construction of it! The most splendid thoroughfare of the ancient world led in a straight line from the Ishtar gate of Babylon to the tower or temple. Nebuchadnezzar describes it:
‘Aibur-shabu, the street of Babylon, I filled with high fill for the procession of the great Lord Marduk, and with Turminabanda stones and Shadu stones I made this Aibur-shabu from the ‘holy gate’ to Ishtar-saki-patebisha, fit for the procession of his godliness.’
On each of the slabs with which the street was paved is inscribed:
‘Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon son of Nabopolassar king of Babylon, am I. The Babel street I paved with Shadu slabs for this procession of the great Lord Marduk. Marduk, Lord, grant eternal life.’
Several times our newspapers have reported from Baghdad on projects which aim at rebuilding Babylon as it was in the seventh century B.C. although these have never been completed. Yet before the nineteenth century A.D. no-one believed what the Bible said about Babylon.
What need for further evidence of the historical accuracy of the Bible and for the fulfilment of its prophecies? They have been fully vindicated in the case of Babylon after 2,600 years. But time is always on God’s side – never on man’s. And time is still on God’s side – for within fifty years of the discovery of its ruins, nature was already clawing Babylon back to her grave and steadily hiding it again under a shroud of sand from the deserts. Babylon was overthrown as God said it would be and the empire has vanished. There may be some who think they can restore this great Babylon, but time will tell whether their plans will succeed – the Word of God tells us – ‘it shall never be inhabited.’ (Isaiah 13:20)
THE ISHTAR GATE FROM BABYLON
Reconstructed at the Staatliche Museen, Berlin – Dept. of the Near East
Made of glazed brick, its total Height is 47 Feet and width 32 Feet
7th–6th Centuries BC
Dedicated by: Nebuchadnezzar II
Date of Excavation: 1899-1914
THE HANGING GARDENS
Babylon was famous for its three high, well-fortified walls and for the magnificence of its temples and palaces.
Its famous Hanging Gardens, built by King Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife Amytas, were one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Amytas was a Mede and her home country was mountainous. The King reputedly had the Hanging Gardens built to allay her homesickness.