28 October 2022

Babel Rises


In the Bible, Babylon is both a historical kingdom and a symbol for the recurring rise of the World Empire

Ziggarut2 - Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash
In the book of
Daniel, Babylon is called the “land of Shinar,” a link to the story of the Tower of Babel and the founding of the city of Babylon. That incident is echoed also in the third chapter of Daniel when Nebuchadnezzar gathers all the nations to pay homage to his great golden image - [Ziggarut Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash].

Biblically speaking, the Neo-Babylonian Empire was not a new political entity. It had an ancient pedigree. Moreover, in the New Testament, “Babylon” becomes a cipher for the latest incarnation of the Empire that is determined to acquire absolute power and even exalt itself to a divine status.

And in Daniel, the imperial city in which the prophet found himself was the latest version of the Empire that has periodically appeared on the earth since the beginning of civilization as recorded in the book of Genesis.

TOWER OF BABEL


And in Genesis, God thwarts the completion of a high tower in the “land of Shinar,” resulting in the diversity and distribution of languages, nations, and cultures across the earth. That story provides the reader of Daniel with the true origins of the Babylonian Empire.

  • (Daniel 1:1-2) – “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Jerusalem, and laid siege against it; and the Lord gave into his hand Jehoiakim king of Judah and a part of the vessels of the house of God, and he brought them into the land of Shinar into the house of his gods, and the vessels brought he into the treasure-house of his gods.”

The preceding paragraph builds on the story in Genesis, the time when the “whole earth was of one language and one speech.” Noah’s descendants migrated to Mesopotamia to dwell “in the land of Shinar.” The name ‘Shinar’ is the Hebrew equivalent of ‘Sumer,’ the first known civilization located in Mesopotamia.

And in Genesis, the people of Shinar begin to build a city with a high tower that will “reach the heavens and thus make us a name, lest we be scattered across the whole earth.” The description reflects the Sumerian culture in which cities feature temples built on ziggurats, tiered mounds that form the highest point in a city, dedicated to its chief deity, and the town’s civil, economic, and religious activities centered on the temple.

Originally, Yahweh commanded Adam to “multiply, replenish and subdue the earth.” That same command was reiterated to Noah after the flood.

But humanity chooses instead to move to Mesopotamia and build a new civilization, where humanity can make a name for itself. And in the Bible, consistently, Babylon is characterized by its arrogance and idolatry - (Genesis 1:28, 9:1, Isaiah 14:13-14, 63:12-14, Jeremiah 32:20).

If humanity unites under one language, the wickedness of mankind will know no bounds. By confounding their language, God causes the nations to spread throughout the earth, and He stops the first attempt to establish a centralized regional if not global government.

In this way, the idolatrous ambitions of Babylon are delayed, at least, until a more opportune time.  And in the book of Daniel, under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, the Kingdom of Shinar begins to rise once more.

The Bible calls the city ‘Babel,’ the place where “Yahweh confounded the language of all the earth.” The name may be related to the Hebrew word balal or “confusion,” although in the ancient Akkadian language of Mesopotamia bab-ili (‘Babel’) means the “gate of god.”

Thus, in Daniel, the king of contemporary “Babel” attempts to reverse God’s ancient judgment. Having conquered the kingdom of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar sets out to gather different ethnic groups, cultures, and nations to his rebuilt city, and there, the people are to be educated in the “language of Babylon,” the latest incarnation of the Empire.

NIMROD


The story of Nimrod is found in the so-called ‘Table of Nations’ in Genesis, the man the Bible links to the founding of Mesopotamian civilization, and the reported founder of several of its chief cities, including Babel, Asshur, and Nineveh.

Nimrod became “a mighty one in the earth,” a term that reflects the “mighty men of name,” the gibborim, who lived before the Great Flood, warriors who established fearsome reputations through violent exploits - (Genesis 6:4-13, 10:8-12).

Likewise, he was a “mighty hunter before the face of Yahweh.” The description denotes his opposition to Yahweh, not God’s approval of him or his activities. The name ‘Nimrod’ is derived from the Hebrew word mārăd - “We will revolt” – and is used elsewhere to typify despotic rulers that oppress Israel - (Micah 5:6).

PARALLELS IN DANIEL


In Genesis, the “whole earth spoke one language” as men began to dwell in “Shinar.” They built a city and tower of “great height” in the plain of Shinar to mark their achievements and prevent humanity’s dispersal.

Likewise, in Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar brings captives to Babylon, the great city that he has built. Exiles from other nations are educated in the “language of the Chaldeans.” Hence, what the original inhabitants of Babel began to do, Nebuchadnezzar attempted to complete.

And so, Nebuchadnezzar “sets up” a great golden image of exceptional “height” in the “plain of Dura,” then decrees that “all peoples, races, and tongues” must render homage to it.  He gathers representatives from every province and nation “to the dedication of the image” - (Daniel 3:1-8).

Thus, the whole earth is summoned to be united under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule and to render homage to his great and “high” image.

The verbal parallels are deliberate.  Just as the earlier inhabitants of Mesopotamia united to build a city and high tower for their own glory, so the king of Babylon now presumes to unite all humanity under his authority, and to “pay homage” to the image that he has “set up.”

END-TIME BABYLON


In the book of Revelation, “Babylon” takes on cosmic proportions in its war against the “Lamb” and his people, those who have the “testimony of Jesus.” And this final version of “Babylon” is the world “city” set in contrast to the coming “city of New Jerusalem.”

End-time city of Babylon is the “great whore” that is full of “abominations” and every “unclean thing,” and her hands are stained with the “blood of the prophets and saints that have been slain on the earth.” She is characterized by her cruelty, arrogance, plus self-glorification and worship – (Revelation 17:1-6, 18:24).

In contrast, in “New Jerusalem,” no “unclean or abominable thing” can enter the city, and the “curse” imposed on humanity because of Adam’s sin is no more. It is populated with the “saints,” and God Himself dwells with them and “wipes away every tear from their eyes” – (Revelation 21:1-8).


Dollar Sign - Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
[Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash]


Babylon’s influence and mischief impact the entire earth. The key to her power is the control of global commerce. Economic sanctions are her weapons of choice, along with deceit – (Revelation 18:1-24).

And this cosmic abomination spans history. She rides the “Beast from the sea” that has “seven heads and ten horns,” the monster that has “ascended” numerous times over the centuries to afflict the “saints,” the Empire that so often has been worshipped by the “inhabitants of the earth.”

And the “seven heads” of the “Beast” represent seven kingdoms, five of which had fallen by the time John recorded his vision. One existed in his time, which can only be Rome, the empire of Caesar. And the seventh, the final and most terrible incarnation of the “Beast,” is yet to come.

Regardless of the historical identities of the six kingdoms that are in the past, or the identity of the final beastly realm, “Babylon” had been an ever-present reality as she controls and corrupts the empires and nations of this age– (Revelation 17:7-12).

And so, it is today as we see another Empire imposing economic control and tyranny over nations and peoples, especially against those entities and individuals that refuse to pay the “Beast” the homage it expects and demands from all the “inhabitants of the earth.”



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