Historical Account of Babylon

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 13
The Chaldean kingdom, the oldest on record, of which Babylon was the capital, lay between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, and was about 400 miles in length and about 100 in breadth.
Babylon was undoubtedly the grandest city ever built by man. "Of all the seats of empire—of all the cities that the pride or power of man has built on the surface of the globe—Babylon was the greatest. Its greatness, as it was originated so, in large measure was secured by its natural position. Its founders took advantage of the huge spur of tertiary rock, which projects itself from the long inclined plain of the Syrian desert into the alluvial basin of Mesopotamia, thus furnishing a dry and solid platform on which a flourishing city might rest, whilst it was defended on the south by the vast morass or lake, if not estuary, extending in that remote period from the Persian Gulf. On this vantage-ground it stood, exactly crossing the line of traffic between the Mediterranean coast and the Iranian mountains; just, also, on that point where the Euphrates, sinking into a deep bed, changes from a vast expanse into a navigable river, not wider than the Thames at London; where also out of the deep rich alluvial clay it was easy to dig the bricks, which from its earliest date came floating down the rivers from the springs in its upper course."
The founder of Babylon was Nimrod, also the founder of the Assyrian monarchy (Gen. 10), and the original strength of both kingdoms consisted of four cities each (Gen. 10:10-1210And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, 12And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city. (Genesis 10:10‑12)). Babylon, the first and ancient of all cities, occupies a large place in the Word of God, and is there viewed as the representative of man in his pride, glory, power, and idolatry, and we might add wickedness. It was out of Egypt that Israel was redeemed, but it was into Babylon the people, were sent for their sins; they were slaves in the one and captives in the other. The historical connection of Babylon with the national history of Israel, and of the mystical city with the professing church (Rev. 1710And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. 11And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. 12And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. (Revelation 17:10‑12); 18), are subjects of very great importance, the former of which is largely developed in the Old Testament Scriptures. "The times of the Gentiles" took their rise from the downfall of Judah and the ascendancy of Babylon. Soon all that now represents Babylon historically and figuratively, which is ever viewed as the dominant power on the earth, acting in proud independence of and in opposition to God and His people, will crumble into dust: "For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel and set them in their own land, and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob: and the people shall take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids, and they shall take them captives whose captives they were, and they shall rule over their oppressors. And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve, that thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers" (Isa. 1410All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? 11Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. 12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (Isaiah 14:10‑12)). Thus restored, Israel in the day of her gladness, celebrates the doom of Babylon. The mystical city is no less doomed to full and final judgment, and the Church thus celebrates the event: "Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are His judgments: for He hath judged the great whore which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of His servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia! And her smoke rose up forever and ever" (Rev. 19:1-31And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God: 2For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. 3And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. (Revelation 19:1‑3)).
Babylon was founded by Nimrod in self-will and independence of God; the love of power and conquest characterized its sad origin, and stamped their features on its after history. All this culminated in Nebuchadnezzar, "the head of gold," who, proudly surveying the magnificent city, exclaimed, "Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty" (Dan. 4:3030The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty? (Daniel 4:30)). Alas! Alas! God has doomed all flesh, and the glory of man to wither as the grass. When the star of Israel sank behind the clouds of wickedness and idolatry, there arose in splendor the day star—Lucifer (Isa. 1430And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant. (Isaiah 14:30)), and on the ruins of Judah and Jerusalem—Babylon the "golden city;" when the Church ceased to be a reflector of Christ's glory and God's grace in this dark scene, then the mystical Babylon arose surely on a ruined corporate testimony, but Israel will rise and shine, and Babylon will sink to rise no more, and the Church in the glory of God (Rev. 213And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: (Revelation 22:3)), will shine through the everlasting ages of a bright millennial and eternal day—a day without an evening, while the false and corrupting system—the mystical Babylon will sink into gloom and darkness, settled and eternal—a night which will never know a morning.
Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar attained its highest degree of splendor and magnificence, of size and strength. For long it was a mere city of no great pretension, and belonged to the Assyrian empire, of which Nineveh was the capital. But the Babylonians, aided by the Medes, threw off the yoke of Assyria, and reduced Nineveh almost to ashes. Rapidly the new and vigorous kingdom spread her wings, and extended her power over the known kingdoms of the east. Egypt, her southern rival, was completely overthrown, followed by the subjugation of Judah. Then, on the destruction of Jerusalem, the Divine center of earthly government, Babylon found her power all victorious, and an absolute monarchy founded on the plains of Shinar. Herodotus, the earliest historian extant, and who saw Babylon soon after the zenith of her glory, gives a glowing description of the size and magnificence of the city and her buildings. There has been considerable discussion in reference to some of the details, especially as to the height and breadth of the city walls. Probably the description Herodotus gives may be somewhat exaggerated, but certainly Scripture, which is always reliable, and history, which in a measure may be depended upon, would warrant us in saying that Babylon must have been the grandest and largest city built or witnessed by man; to be exceeded in magnificence surely by the future Jerusalem, the metropolitan city of the millennial earth; as the Temple of Belus, in Babylon (said to have been the grandest structure of the kind ever erected) will as certainly be as nothing compared to the New Temple in Jerusalem, which will be built according to Divine plan and measurement.
Babylon stood in a large plain, and formed a square of about fifty-six miles. The Euphrates flowed through the center of the city from north to south, spanned by a wonderfully built bridge, on one side of which stood the magnificent Temple of Belus, of enormous dimensions, containing numerous images of pure gold, and which was plundered by the famous Xerxes; and on the other side of the bridge stood the grand palace of Nebuchadnezzar—the largest and most magnificent, probably, ever built. The hanging gardens, one of "the seven wonders of the world," were truly wonderful as a work of art. They were constructed as terraces, and rose to the height of the walls. Every kind of fruit, flower tree, and vegetable, were grown to perfection in these gardens, and must have immensely delighted Nebuchadnezzar's Median Consort Amyte, on whose account they were built, in order to remind her of her own country's beautiful gardens and forests. The walls of the city are said to have been about 335 feet high, and about 87 feet broad, thus allowing abundant space for chariots to run on the top of the walls, and even to turn at any point they choose. There were also 100 gates of solid brass, and enormously strong, twenty-five on each side of the city, besides numerous other gates inside, and all of brass and of great strength. From each gate to the other opposite there was a straight street the whole length or breadth of the city, these in turn were intersected, until, in all, there were formed 676 squares.
The capture of the city by Cyrus is detailed at length in the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah. The ancient historians who so graphically and circumstantially describe the overthrow of Babylon—the "praise of the whole earth"—are not more minute, and certainly neither so exact nor reliable as the Hebrew prophets already named. The cities Babylon and Nineveh—the respective capitals of the Chaldean and Assyrian monarchies—are doomed in the prophetic word to perpetual desolation.
How blessed, beloved reader, to turn from the wreck and ruin of human greatness, to that which cannot be moved; "let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear."