the Greek form of BABEL; Semitic form Babilu, meaning "The Gate of God." In the Assyrian tablets it means "The city of the dispersion of the tribes." The monumental list of its kings reaches back to B.C. 2300, and includes Khammurabi, or Amraphel (q.v.), the contemporary of Abraham. It stood on the Euphrates, about 200 miles above its junction with the Tigris, which flowed through its midst and divided it into two almost equal parts. The Elamites invaded Chaldea (i.e., Lower Mesopotamia, or Shinar, and Upper Mesopotamia, or Accad, now combined into one) and held it in subjection. At length Khammu-rabi delivered it from the foreign yoke, and founded the new empire of Chaldea (q.v.), making Babylon the capital of the united kingdom. This city gradually grew in extent and grandeur, but in process of time it became subject to Assyria. On the fall of Nineveh (B.C. 606) it threw off the Assyrian yoke, and became the capital of the growing Babylonian empire. Under Nebuchadnezzar it became one of the most splendid cities of the ancient world.
After passing through various vicissitudes the city was occupied by Cyrus, "king of Elam," B.C. 538, who issued a decree permitting the Jews to return to their own land (Ezr 1). It then ceased to be the capital of an empire. It was again and again visited by hostile armies, till its inhabitants were all driven from their homes, and the city became a complete desolation, its very site being forgotten from among men.
On the west bank of the Euphrates, about 50 miles south of Bagdad, there is found a series of artificial mounds of vast extent. These are the ruins of this once famous proud city. These ruins are principally (1) the great mound called Babil by the Arabs. This was probably the noted Temple of Belus, which was a pyramid about 480 feet high. (2) The Kasr (i.e., "the palace"). This was the great palace of Nebuchadnezzar. It is almost a square, each side of which is about 700 feet long. The little town of Hillah, near the site of Babylon, is built almost wholly of bricks taken from this single mound. (3) A lofty mound, on the summit of which stands a modern tomb called Amran ibn-Ali. This is probably the most ancient portion of the remains of the city, and represents the ruins of the famous hanging-gardens, or perhaps of some royal palace. The utter desolation of the city once called "The glory of kingdoms" (Isa 13:19) was foretold by the prophets (Isa 13:4-22; Jer 25:12; 50:2-3; Da 2:31-38).
The Babylon mentioned in 1Pe 5:13 was not Rome, as some have thought, but the literal city of Babylon, which was inhabited by many Jews at the time Peter wrote.
In Re 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, "Babylon" is supposed to mean Rome, not considered as pagan, but as the prolongation of the ancient power in the papal form. Rome, pagan and papal, is regarded as one power. "The literal Babylon was the beginner and supporter of tyranny and idolatry...This city and its whole empire were taken by the Persians under Cyrus; the Persians were subdued by the Macedonians, and the Macedonians by the Romans; so that Rome succeeded to the power of old Babylon. And it was her method to adopt the worship of the false deities she had conquered; so that by her own act she became the heiress and successor of all the Babylonian idolatry, and of all that was introduced into it by the immediate successors of Babylon, and consequently of all the idolatry of the earth." Rome, or "mystical Babylon," is "that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth" (Re 17:18).
Nimrod's BABEL was doubtless in some way connected with the renowned city of Babylon and of the kingdom of which it was the capital. The Hebrew is Babel, the same for Babel and Babylon. In Ge 11:2, it speaks of Babel being built in a plain in the land of Shinar, which they reached by travelling from the east; this reads in the margin travelling 'eastward,' a reading preferred by many and by the Revisers. This direction agrees well with the locality of Babylon on the river Euphrates.
Historians speak of the great size of the city, though they are not agreed as to its dimensions. It had 25 gates on each side, and from the gates were streets which crossed one another at right angles. The houses were not built close together, so that there was ample room inside the city for gardens and even fields and vineyards. The walls were said to be 75 feet thick and 300 feet in height; and the gates were of brass. The river Euphrates ran through the city; but on the banks of the river strong walls were built with gates of brass; there was also a bridge from side to side near the centre of the city. A lake was formed outside the city into which the waters of the river could be turned when the water rose too high, and deep ditches filled with water surrounded the walls of the city.
We also read of 'hanging gardens' which Nebuchadnezzar built for his wife Amyitis, or Amyhia, daughter of a Median king, to give the place a measure of resemblance to the mountains and wooded hills of her native country. These gardens are supposed to have been built in terraces of different heights.
In several particulars scripture corroborates the statements of the historians. In Jer 50:11 of Babylon it is said, 'O ye destroyers of mine heritage, because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls;' its broad walls are mentioned, Jer 51:12,58; its gates of brass and bars of iron, Isa 45:2; and Nebuchadnezzar boasted of the 'great Babylon' which he had built by the might of his power and for the honour of his majesty. Da 4:30.
Among the relies recovered from the various mounds of ruins are some bricks with the names of the kings Neriglissar and Labynetus stamped upon them, but the great majority of those found bear the name of Nebuchadnezzar. Babylon was built with bricks, there being no stone at all near, and in later years the mounds were ransacked for bricks for other cities.
Of the early governments in Babylon but little is known with certainty. Berosus, as arranged by Rawlinson, gives from B.C. 2458 to 625 various dynasties of Medes, Chaldaeans, Arabs, and Assyrians; and lastly Babylonians from B.C. 625 to 538.
Babylon and Assyria are much blended together in history, sometimes being independent one of the other, and at other times being tributary to one another. In B.C. 745 Tiglath-pileser may be said to have founded the later kingdom of Assyria, and among his victories he became master of Babylonia, as the kingdom of Babylon was called. About 721 Merodachbaladan became king of Babylon, and in 712 he sent ambassadors to Hezekiah on hearing of his sickness. This is recorded in 2Ki 20:12, where he is called Berodach-baladan. In B.C. 702 Sennacherib king of Assyria expelled Merodach, and Babylon was governed by viceroys from Assyria. In B.C. 681 Esar-haddon became king of Assyria but held his court at Babylon, to which place Manasseh king of Judah was carried prisoner about B.C. 677. 2Ch 33:11. About B.C. 625 Nabo-polassar revolted from the king of Assyria and established the later kingdom of Babylon. He with Cyaxares (the Ahasuerus of Da 9:1) founder of the Median kingdom, attacked and took Nineveh, and put an end to the Assyrian rule. Nebuchadnezzar, co-regent with Nabo-polassar, took Jerusalem, and carried many captives and the holy vessels to Babylon, about B.C. 606. In B.C. 604 Nabo-polassar died and Nebuchadnezzar reigned alone. In B.C. 603 Jehoiakim revolted and in 599 Nebuchadnezzar again took Jerusalem, and Ezekiel was carried to Babylon: this is called the great captivity. 2Ki 24:1-16. Mattaniah was left as king in Jerusalem, his name being changed to Zedekiah: he reigned 11 years. 2Ki 24:17-20. Having rebelled against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, after a siege of eighteen months, once more took Jerusalem, destroyed the city and burnt the house of the Lord, bringing the kingdom of Judah to an end: B.C. 588. 2Ki 25:1-26. For the personal history of the king see NEBUCHADNEZZAR. In B.C. 561 Nebuchadnezzar died. He was the 'head of gold' in Daniel's great image. The glory of the later Babylonian Empire virtually began and ended with him. The succession of kings was somewhat as follows:
KINGS OF BABYLON.
606 Nebuchadnezzar, co-regent.
604 Nabo-polassar dies. Nebuchadnezzar reigns alone.
561 Evil-Merodach succeeds. He raises up Jehoiachin in the 37th year of his captivity.
559 Neriglissar succeeds. Perhaps the same as one of the princes called Nergal-sharezer in
556 Laborosoarchod succeeds. Reigned 9 months and is slain.
555 Nabonidus or Nabonadius (also called Labynetus), a usurper : Belshazzar his son
afterwards reigning with him.
538 Babylon taken, and Belshazzar slain. End of the Empire of Babylon.
Babylon has a large place in the O.T. with reference to its intercourse with Israel, in nearly every chapter of Jeremiah, from 20 - 52, Babylon is mentioned. Babylon is also of note as being the first of the four great empires prophesied of by Daniel. The kingdom of the Lord, established in the house of David, and maintained in Judah, had for the time come to an end because of iniquity, and the 'times of the Gentiles' had begun.* Of Nebuchadnezzar it was said, "Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength and glory . . . . Thou art this head of gold." Da 2:37-38. Babylon was God's instrument by which Judah was punished; and then because of the pride and wickedness of the king of Babylon he also was brought under the rod of the Almighty.
* The times of the Gentiles will end when the power returns to Judah, the house of David, in the person of the Lord Jesus.
The destruction of Babylon was fully foretold in scripture, though some of these prophecies may refer also to still future events, namely, the overthrow by the Lord (typified by Cyrus) of the last holder of Nebuchadnezzar-like authority, namely, the beast, the last head of the revived Roman empire. Isa 13:6-22; 14:4-23; 21:2-9; 47:1-11; Jer 25:12-14 and Jer 50:1; 51:1. Its downfall was unexpected. For 24 years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar Babylon continued the seat of the imperial court. In B.C. 538 the city was taken in a remarkable way. A night was chosen when the inhabitants were about to hold a festival, when the whole city would be given up to drunkenness and debauchery. The water of the river was diverted from its bed so as to render it shallow enough to let the troops pass along. The gates were found open, and the city was taken.
This also was prophesied of in scripture: it specifies that Cyrus was God's shepherd, and He had holden him to subdue nations: God would loose the loins of kings to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates should not be shut: the gates of brass should be broken, and the bars of iron be cut asunder. Isa 45:1-2. Again the suddenness and unexpectedness of the attack is also mentioned: "evil shall come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know." Isa 47:11. We also find that it was on the night of the revelry of Belshazzar's feast that the king was slain. Da 5:30.
The monuments show that Babylon was taken by Gobryas the general of Cyrus, and that the capture of the city was, as some think, aided by treachery among its inhabitants. Da 5:31 says, "Darius the Median took the kingdom." This king has not been found mentioned by name on the monuments, but he is well accredited as king in Daniel. He was probably ASTYAGES, who was a Median king. He had been conquered by Cyrus, who may have found it to his
in the Apocalypse, is the symbolical name by which Rome is denoted.
The power of Rome was regarded by the later Jews as was that of Babylon by their forefathers. Comp.
with Reve 14:8 The occurrence of this name in
has given rise to a variety of conjectures, many giving it the same meaning as in the Apocalypse; others refer it to Babylon in Asia, and others still to Babylon in Egypt. The most natural supposition of all is that by Babylon is intended the old Babylon of Assyria, which was largely inhabited by Jews at the time in question.
BABYLON, 2Ki 24:1. The capital of Chaldea, built by Nimrod, Ge 10:10. It was under Nebuchadnezzar that Babylon, then become the seat of universal empire, is supposed to have acquired that extent and magnificence, and that those stupendous works were completed which rendered it the wonder of the world and of posterity: and accordingly, this prince, then the most potent on the earth, arrogated to himself the whole glory of its erection; and in the pride of his heart exclaimed, "Is not this great Babylon that I have built?" The city at this period stood on both sides of the river, which intersected it in the middle. It was, according to the least computation, that of Diodorus Siculus, 45 miles in circumference; and according to Herodotus, the older author of the two, 60 miles. Its shape was that of a square, traversed each way by 25 principal streets; which of course intersected each other, dividing the city into 626 squares. These streets were terminated at each end by gates of brass, of prodigious size and strength, with a smaller one opening toward the river. The walls, from the most moderate accounts, were 75 feet in height and 32 in breadth; while Herodotus makes them 300 in height and 75 in breadth: which last measurement, incredible as it may seem, is worthy of credit, as Herodotus is much the oldest author who describes them, and who gives their original height; whereas, those who follow him in their accounts of these stupendous walls, describe them as they were after they had been taken down to the less elevation by Darius Hystaspes. They were built of brick, cemented with bitumen instead of mortar; and were encompassed by a broad and deep ditch, lined with the same materials, as were also the banks of the river in its course through the city: the inhabitants descending to the water by steps through the smaller brazen gates before mentioned. The houses were three or four stories high, separated from each other by small courts or gardens, with open spaces and even fields interspersed over the immense area enclosed within the walls. Over the river was a bridge, connecting the two halves of the city, which stood, the one on its eastern, and the other on its western, bank; the river running nearly north and south. The bridge was 5 furlongs in length, and 30 feet in breadth, and had a palace at each end, with, it is said, a subterraneous passage beneath the river, from one to the other: the work of Semiramis. Within the city was the temple of Belus, or Jupiter, which Herodotus describes as a square of two stadia, or a quarter of a mile: in the midst of which arose the celebrated tower, to which both the same writer, and Strabo, give an elevation of one stadium, or 660 feet; and the same measure at its base; the whole being divided into eight separate towers, one above another, of decreasing dimensions to the summit; where stood a chapel, containing a couch, table, and other things of gold. Here the principal devotions were performed; and over this, on the highest platform of all, was the observatory, by the help of which the Babylonians arrived to such perfection in astronomy, that Calisthenes the philosopher, who accompanied, Alexander to Babylon, found astronomical observations for 1903 years backwards from that time; which reach as high as the 115th year after the flood. On either side of the river, according to Diodorus, adjoining to the bridge, was a palace; that on the western bank being by much the larger. This palace was eight miles in circumference, and strongly fortified with three walls one within another. Within it were the celebrated pensile or hanging gardens, enclosed in a square of 400 feet. These gardens were raised on terraces, supported by arches, or rather by piers, laid over with broad flat stones; the arch appearing to be unknown to the Babylonians: which courses of piers rose above one another, till they reached the level of the top of the city walls. On each terrace or platform, a deep layer of mould was laid, in which flowers, shrubs and trees were planted; some of which are said to have reached the height of 50 feet. On the highest level was a reservoir, with an engine to draw water up from the river by which the whole was watered. This novel and astonishing structure, the work of a monarch who knew not how to create food for his own pampered fancy, or labour for his debased subjects or unhappy captives, was undertaken to please his wife Amyitis; that she might see an imitation of the hills and woods of her native country, Media.
Yet, while in the plenitude of its power, and, according to the most accurate chronologers, 160 years before the foot of an enemy had entered it, the voice of an enemy had entered it, the voice of prophecy pronounced the doom of the mighty and unconquered Babylon. A succession of ages brought it gradually to the dust; and the gradation of its fall is marked till it sinks at last into utter desolation. At a time when nothing but magnificence was around this city, emphatically called the great, fallen Babylon was delineated by the pencil of inspiration exactly as every traveller now describes its ruins.
The immense fertility of Chaldea, which retained also the name of Babylonia till after the Christian aera, corresponded with the greatness of Babylon. It was the most fertile region of the whole east. Babylonia was one vast plain, adorned and enriched by the Euphrates and the Tigris, from which, and from the numerous canals that intersected the country from the one river to the other, water was distributed over the fields by manual labour and by hydraulic machines, giving rise, in that warm climate and rich exhaustless soil, to an exuberance of produce without a known parallel, over so extensive a region, either in ancient or modern times. Herodotus states, that he knew not how to speak of its wonderful fertility, which none but eye witnesses would credit; and, though writing in the language of Greece, itself a fertile country, he expresses his own consciousness that his description of what he actually saw would appear to be improbable, and to exceed belief. Such was the "Chaldees' excellency," that it departed not on the first conquest, nor on the final extinction of its capital, but one metropolis of Assyria arose after another in the land of Chaldea, when Babylon had ceased to be "the glory of kingdoms."
2. Manifold are the prophecies respecting Babylon and the land of the Chaldeans; and the long lapse of ages has served to confirm their fulfilment in every particular, and to tender it at last complete. The judgments of Heaven are not casual, but sure; they are not arbitrary, but righteous. And they were denounced against the Babylonians, and the inhabitants of Chaldea, expressly because of their idolatry, tyranny, oppression, pride, covetousness, drunkenness, falsehood, and other wickedness. The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amos did see: "The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people: a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the Lord of Hosts mustereth the host of the battle. They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. 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: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there: neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there: and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces." "Thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and th