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A Book You Can Trust—Part 3

Babylon in Bible History

A Book You Can Trust—Part 3

This is the third in a series of seven articles in consecutive issues of “Awake!” that discuss the seven world powers of Bible history. The objective is to show that the Bible is trustworthy and inspired of God and that its message is one of hope for an end to the suffering caused by man’s cruel domination of his fellow man.

Artist’s rendition of the ancient city of Babylon

SITUATED on a fertile plain some 50 miles (80 km) south of modern-day Baghdad, the ancient city of Babylon was truly magnificent. With massive double walls and a surrounding moat, Babylon seemed impregnable. The city was renowned for its majestic temples, hanging gardens, and temple towers. As one of the greatest cities of the ancient world, Babylon has recently been dubbed the city of wonders.

In the Bible, it was named “Mistress of Kingdoms” and was the capital of the third world power of Bible history. (Isaiah 47:5) Like the Egyptian and the Assyrian empires before it, the Babylonian Empire played a prominent role in Bible history, enabling us to compare what the Bible says about it with what secular sources say.

Trustworthy History

The Bible book of Daniel tells us that a man by the name of Belshazzar once ruled as king in Babylon. (Daniel 5:1) However, some secular sources have stated in the past that Belshazzar, though powerful, was never king. Was the Bible wrong? Archaeologists have uncovered a number of clay cylinders in the ruins of Ur in Mesopotamia. The cuneiform inscription on one cylinder included a prayer by Babylonian King Nabonidus for “Bel-sar-ussur, my eldest son.” Later findings confirmed that Belshazzar had “acted as regent for more than half his father’s reign,” states the New Bible Dictionary, “during which time he was to all intents and purposes king.”

History also shows that ancient Babylon was an extremely religious city, rife with astrology and divination. For example, at Ezekiel 21:21, we read that the king of Babylon resorted to divination in order to determine whether to attack Jerusalem. The king “looked into the liver,” the Bible says. Why the liver? The Babylonians used this organ in quest of omens. The book Mesopotamian Astrology tells us that at just one site in ancient Babylon, archaeologists found “32 [clay] liver models, all inscribed” with omens.

Noted archaeologist Nelson Glueck once said: “I have excavated for thirty years with a Bible in one hand and a trowel in the other, and in matters of historical perspective I have never found the Bible to be in error.”

“I have excavated for thirty years . . . , and in matters of historical perspective I have never found the Bible to be in error.”​—Nelson Glueck

Trustworthy Prophecy

How would you respond if someone told you that a major capital​—such as Beijing, Moscow, or Washington, D.C.​—would become an uninhabited ruin? You would rightly be skeptical. Yet, that is what happened with ancient Babylon. Some 200 years in advance, about the year 732 B.C.E., Jehovah God inspired the Hebrew prophet Isaiah to put in writing a prophecy about the demise of mighty Babylon. He wrote: “Babylon, the decoration of kingdoms, . . . must become as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited, nor will she reside for generation after generation.”​—Isaiah 13:19, 20.

But why would God foretell Babylon’s destruction? In 607 B.C.E., Babylonian armies destroyed Jerusalem and took the survivors off to Babylon, where they were treated cruelly. (Psalm 137:8, 9) God foretold that his people would have to endure this bitter treatment for 70 years because of their own wicked deeds. Then God would deliver them and let them return to their homeland.​—Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10.

True to God’s prophetic Word, in 539 B.C.E.​—just as Judah’s 70-year exile was about to end—​the seemingly invincible city of Babylon was overthrown by Medo-Persian armies. In time, the city became a heap of ruins​—just as predicted. No human could foretell such a striking achievement. Without a doubt, the act of prophesying, or foretelling events in advance, sets the Author of the Bible​—the true God, Jehovah—​apart from any other god.​—Isaiah 46:9, 10.

A Hope You Can Trust

Yet another prophecy is having a remarkable fulfillment in our day. The prophecy involves King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and a dream that he had about an immense image. The body was divided into five parts​—the head, the breasts and arms, the belly and thighs, the legs, and the feet—​each one with a different metal composition. (Daniel 2:31-33) These metal parts stood for a succession of governments, or kingdoms, that started with Babylon and continues down to the Anglo-American World Power, the seventh of Bible history.​—Daniel 2:36-41.

Daniel discloses that in the feet and toes of the image, there was a noteworthy change of materials. How so? Pure metal was replaced with a mixture of iron and moist clay. By way of explanation, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar: “Whereas you beheld iron mixed with moist clay, they will come to be mixed with the offspring of mankind; but they will not prove to be sticking together, this one to that one, just as iron is not mixing with molded clay.” (Daniel 2:43) Yes, mixing iron and clay results in a fragile union; there is no “sticking together.” How accurately this describes the politically divided world in which we live today!

Daniel also reveals another significant development. In his dream, King Nebuchadnezzar saw a stone that was cut out of a large mountain. This stone was lifted up, and “it struck the image on its feet of iron and of molded clay and crushed them.” (Daniel 2:34) What does that mean? Daniel himself answers: “In the days of those kings [during the time of the final world power] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Daniel 2:44) That prophecy pointed forward to a Kingdom unlike any other government known to mankind. Its King is Jesus Christ, the Messiah. As mentioned in previous articles of this series, Jesus will crush Satan and all his followers, human and spirit, thus bringing about universal peace and harmony.​—1 Corinthians 15:25.