Today’s reading: Jeremiah 46-50.
The historian Herodotus claimed that the walls around ancient Babylon were 300 feet high and 80 feet thick, wide enough for two chariot teams of four horses each to pass one another. Another less impressive wall ran inside the great outer wall. Herodotus may have exaggerated, but he accurately represented the awe with which outsiders viewed the strength of Babylon. Yet what is Babylon today but a pile of rubble in the desert south of Baghdad? Jeremiah prophesied the fall of Babylon’s walls many years in advance, even before the fall of Jerusalem’s walls.
“Take up your positions around Babylon, all you who draw the bow. Shoot at her! Spare no arrows, for she has sinned against the LORD. Shout against her on every side! She surrenders, her towers fall, her walls are torn down. Since this is the vengeance of the LORD, take vengeance on her; do to her as she has done to others.” Jeremiah 50:14-15
God condemns Babylon chiefly for its cruel treatment of Israel, but goes on to list a number of other sins:
- She rejoiced while pillaging God’s people.
- She opposed the LORD.
- She defied the LORD.
- She was arrogant.
- She was full of idols.
Jeremiah summed up Babylon’s fate by declaring that God was doing to her what she had done to the nations around her. The Babylonian empire ended about fifty years after the destruction of Jerusalem when Cyrus conquered the city. The city itself lay ruined and abandoned within another 400 years. So it remains today. A good candidate for the dustbin of history, right?
Unfortunately, Babylon rises out of its ashes before the end of time. I don’t know if it will be the same city on the same river Euphrates, or if it is another city or a world system that embodies all the worst of ancient Babylon. The apostle John saw it in his Revelation, and also saw its final destruction.
“Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. Revelation 17:1-6
Ancient Babylon was built in the same area and on the same principles as the tower of Babel. Babylon of the end times will mirror the sins of the ancient city: opposing and defying God, exalting itself in pride, filling itself with idolatry, and seeking the destruction of God’s people. One new element in John’s Babylon is the power of her commerce, which draws in the entire world. Yet for all its power and strength, the future Babylon will fall utterly and completely never to rise again. Let that be your encouragement as you face walls of opposition to your Christian faith. Those walls are bound to fall. Your eternal safety is secure in God’s hands.
Image by Tim Lucas on Flickr, CC by 2.0