Just a post script to our last bit of sharing about biblical prophecy and the downfall of Babylon. I was in a state of awe, and attempting to rouse my readers to enter into the same degree of “Wow Factor Appreciation” at the fact that Isaiah and Micah saw Babylon’s rise and fall when the Babylonians were still “neighbour friendly” and comparatively peaceful and small. A prophetic view that anticipates over a century of history is astonishing as a stand-alone fact (bypassing the fact that that both Isaiah and Micah saw in advance the birth and birthplace of Christ 700 plus years in advance before it occurred, with Isaiah even seeing the actual locations where He would minister, how He would die and even the resurrection, as well as His Second Advent which could take place before you have finished reading this article or even in another thousand years’ time). I don’t want any first time Bible readers out there to be thinking that it was only Isaiah and Micah that had the prophetic goods in this department, for that would not be true. There were those prophets who saw ahead in an equally miraculous manner the fall of Babylon and they saw it while Babylon had burgeoned – and was still burgeoning into a monster Empire of horror and cruelty. It may be argued that the Babylonian empire was not quite as inhumane or torturous as the Assyrians – but they were not exactly pacifists or non-violent by any means. (That’s supposed to be a joke!)
Even if only Isaiah and Micah saw the rise and fall of Babylon a century or more before it started to even build empire, once Babylon was present and violently attempting to rule all the known Middle East, Hebrew prophets saw clearly that no matter how huge and powerful the empire had become, it was surely to fall – simply because Yahweh said so. History tells us that the fall of Babylon was as spectacularly dramatic as its rise was meteoric. Apart from a reference to a “Babylonish garment” in Joshua 7:21, there is no Biblical reference to Babylon after Genesis 11 until the great prophecies of Isaiah, Micah, and then Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel who each unfolded God’s plan for the ancient city as well as the rest of the world. This prophetic fellowship of Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel, as well as the earlier duo of course saw the “vision extraordinaire” well beforehand. Most of the Biblical prophecies relating to Babylon are in relation to the captivity of the Judah i.e.: the 70 year exile in Babylon. God’s revelation to Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel concerning the ultimate end of the captivity is plain to see in the text of them all.
We have the apocalyptic statements of Daniel concerning Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams that tell us as plainly as a child’s picture book that Medo Persia
The northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians in 722-721 BC. (We shall see more about Assyria’s fall in another thought soon.) The southern kingdom (Judah) had been spared that catastrophe (see Isaiah 37) but, due to her ever degenerating and festering apostasy, was on a clear course to a fender-bender exile creating pile-up with Babylon in a generation or two after Isaiah’s departure to Sheol. The prophets warned that if Judah persisted with national mass rebellion, Yahweh would raise up Nebuchadnezzar as His “servant” and instrument of discipline to punish the errant Hebrews. Many of them would be killed; others would be captured and taken away as prisoners by the marauding Babylonians, as per Jeremiah 25:9. The Chaldean monarch, however, would not be divinely commended or rewarded for this endeavour; rather, after his subjugation and almost his annihilation of Judah, the Lord would punish him. By that divine judgement the Babylonian empire would inaugurate a self-initiated excursion of death enroute for obliviousness and extinction. Jeremiah summed up the history of this affair in the following way:
Israel is a hunted sheep; the lions have driven him away: first, the king of Assyria devoured him; and now at last Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones. Therefore thus says Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria (Jeremiah 50:17-18).
It would seem that “Old King Neb,” went beyond the purpose for which God had raised him up. Babylon itself and Babylonian culture, it has to be said, by all extra biblical and archaeological accounts was the quintessence of arrogance, superiority and pride. Daniel’s recorded interactions with both Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar vindicate this observation. Nebuchadnezzar’s boast virtually sounds like he had the delusion of having actually created the earth upon which his empire stood. Writings from the Chaldean libraries have exemplified the proud, arrogant and conceited temperament and disposition that characterized nearly all the Babylonian rulers. Babylonians in general felt absolutely secure within their mighty fortress, and believed that the capital city simply could never be conquered.
The city of Babylon straddled the Euphrates River about fifty miles south of what is now modern Baghdad in Iraq. It was the most remarkable, as well as the largest city of its day. The father of all historians Herodotus, who lived between 484 and 425 BC, tells us that he once visited the Babylon and said that “in magnificence there is no other city that approaches to it” He also claimed the incredible. The huge Metropolis was laid out in an exact square, fifteen miles on each side, he said. He wrote that the city was surrounded by a moat more than 260 feet wide. He stated that the walls were 75 feet thick and 300 feet high, with 15 large gates of brass on each side. Sounds like a wonder of the world to me. Some of the greatest of the Hebrew prophets said that Babylon was the “glory of all the kingdoms” (Isaiah 13:19), the “golden city” (Isaiah 14:4), the “lady of the kingdoms” (Isaiah 47:5) who was “abundant in treasures” (Jeremiah 51:13), the “praise of the whole earth” (Jeremiah 51:41), and “great” (Daniel 4:30). However, if Yahweh tells His prophets that Babylon is going to fall, one needs to merely sit back and wait to see how such a feat could be done.
It is understandable how that many people who lived in its day, sympathetic with Babylon or not, must have believed the wisdom of the age that a city in an Empire of this nature would last “forever” and was unable to fall.
(1) Babylon’s fall was announced unequivocally.
Isaiah 21:9. Chapter 46. 47:1-2
Micah 4:10 (implied)
Daniel Chapter 2.
Jeremiah 50:2. 50:17-18 (Chapters 50 and 51 generally) (2 Chronicles 36:19-21)
(2) The time of the beginning of her end was declared.
Jeremiah 25:11-12 (2 Chronicles 36:19-21)
(3) The invading forces were specified.
Daniel Chapter 2
Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 36:19-21)
(5) The final result—Babylon’s utter dissipation—was portrayed quite graphically.
Daniel Chapter 2
Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 36:19-21)
(6) The rise of the Medo-Persian Empire in the fall of Babylon.
Isaiah 21:2. 45:1.
Daniel chapter 2.
Jeremiah 51:11 (2 Chronicles 36:19-21)
What actually happened? The historical facts are not disputed. The story goes like this.
- The Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.), was succeeded by his son, Evil-Merodach (562-560 B.C.), who is mentioned in 2 Kings 25:27-30 and in Jeremiah 52:31-34.
- Next came Neriglissar (560-556 B.C.), an evil conspirator who was defeated and slain in battle by the Medes and Persians.
- Labashi-Marduk subsequently came to the Chaldean throne in 556 BC, but was assassinated after a few months.
- Finally, there was Nabonidus, who ruled from 556-539 B.C. His son, Belshazzar, was co-regent with his father. Belshazzar was occupying the city of Babylon when it fell (see Daniel 5). Inscriptions have been discovered which make it clear that Nabonidus had entrusted the “kingship” of the capital city to his son while he campaigned in Arabia for about a decade.
- When Cyrus advanced against Babylon, Nabonidus marched east to meet him, but fled before the Persian general’s army.
- Later, after Cyrus had captured the city (539 BC), Nabonidus surrendered to the Persians. And so, the biblical prophecies regarding the conquerors of the city of Babylon were fulfilled exactly.
Without doubt, whether one is a believer or not, whether one is Jewish or Christian, and whether or not one has an interest in biblical prophecy, it has to be said that the entire mystery and depth of God’s revelation to mankind is seen in the multiple strands of character, personality and humanity that are the Hebrew writing prophets. They are glorious. They are the bottom line of the wonderful truth that the unknown and presently unresolved mysteries of God’s purposes are even more exciting than the stuff we know and understand.