Author: Ron Graham
The Fall of Babylon
—And the handwriting on the wall
Time ~ 7. Exile and Scattering
Span ~ 200 years
Books ~ Jer, Lam, Eze, Dan, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Obadiah, [Joel]
Figures ~ Jeremiah, Daniel
Begins with ~ Wars upon Israel and Judah
Ascendant empire ~ Babylon
Jeremiah had predicted seventy years of captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11-12, Jeremiah 29:10) . Both Jeremiah and Isaiah foretold the destruction of Babylon to end the captivity (Jeremiah 50 and 51, Isaiah 13 and 14). After Nebuchadnezzar's reign in Babylon, five kings reigned in succession over about 23 years. The last was Belshazzar son of Nebuchadnezzar.
1 Why God Destroys
God raised and destroyed kingdoms like Babylon to bring about his unfailing plan in Christ, as prophecy foretold. God has always had a plan, and it has come to pass just as he willed. God sometimes let people know details of his plan well in advance.
For example there's Jeremiah's prophecy that the Babylonian exile would last seventy years, and Isiaiah's giving the name Cyrus (200 years in advance) to the man who would set the exiles free. God raised up kingdoms and destroyed kingdoms, as he did Babylon. God also preserved the remnant of his people Israel. He did all these things to achieve his plan regarding Christ.
2 Belshazzar son of Nebuchadnezzar
The Bible here is using the term "son" as it often does, to mean "descendant". Balshazzar was actually the son of Nebuchadnezzar's daughter. His immediate father was king Nabonidus. Balshazzar ruled under him —hence Balshazzar could promote Daniel no higher than "third ruler" of the kingdom, since Balshazzar himself was on the second rung from the top of the ladder.]
It was at one of Balshazzar's feasts that the handwriting appeared on the wall. That same night, he was slain and his kingdom was taken over by Darius the Mede and Cyrus king of Persia. Cyrus decreed the return of the exiles to Jerusalem to rebuild it (Isaiah 44:28; 45:13) and Cyrus later destroyed Babylon.
3 Babylon has fallen, fallen!
In the chapters already mentioned (Jeremiah 50 and 51, Isaiah 13 and 14) many details of Babylon's demise are foreseen. For example take these points in Jeremiah chapter 51.
- The kings of the Medes to attack Babylon. This would be God's "vengeance for his temple" (v.11)
- The Babylonian army would surrender without a fight (v.30)
- Couriers would tell the king that his city had been taken at one end (v.31).
- The city's river would be dried up (v.36)
- Babylon would never again be inhabited except by wild animals (v.37)
- The princes of Babylon would be drunk (v.57) —as they were in Balshazzar's feast (Daniel 5) .
- Babylon's walls would be destroyed and her gates burned (v.58).
4 Gold Gives Way to Silver
The city of Babylon (or Babel) was built by Nimrod the grandson of Ham (Genesis 10:8-10).
Founded more than 2000 years before Christ, the city was the wonder of the ancient world for more than a millennium. It was here that an attempt was made to build a tower to reach into heaven (Genesis 11:4).
The head of gold in Nebuchadnezzar's dream image (Daniel 2), Babylon was a royal city, located on the lower Euprates River. Its fortified brick wall was 100km long, extending more than 10m underground, over 100m high, and nearly 30m thick.
Magnificent buildings adorned Babylon, among them Nebuchadnezzar's palace, the Temple of Marduk, and the hanging gardens which Nebuchadnezzar made to please Amytis his wife. The city of Babylon had an amazing system of reservoirs and canals.
Babylon was an idolatrous city. Archeologists have uncovered many temples and altars to false gods. Some believe that Nimrod was one of the founders of paganism, so the city may have been a seat of false religion since long, long ago.
It was mainly because of this idolatry that God decreed its destruction. It fell to the Medes and the Persians, the breast of silver in the image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream(Daniel 2).
When Cyrus king of Persia conquered Babylon, Darius the Mede was given rule over it (Daniel 9) .
Cyrus (as Isaiah had predicted 200 years earlier) decreed that the exiles should be allowed to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem to rebuild it. Ezra and Nehemiah record this matter, (they cover the reigns of five Medo-Persian kings namely Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes).
As for Babylon, it remained rebellious and history tells us that, not many years later, the ancient and glorious city was beseiged, attacked, and completely destroyed.
5 Babylon Destroyed
Babylon is one of the most often named cities in the Bible. As the capital of the mighty Chaldean empire, it was certainly one of the most glorious cities in the world's history.
However, because of its arrogance and evil, so strongly denounced by the Old Testament prophets, it was to be destroyed completely and permanently.
This was "the plan of the Lord which he has planned against Babylon, and his purposes which he has purposed against the land of the Chaldeans" (Jeremiah 50:45) .
Of course, Babylon is not the only city and kingdom to be destroyed by God.
The prophets compare the destruction of Babylon "as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah" (Jeremiah 50:40) .
In the book of Revelation, Rome is called Babylon, and the fall of Rome is predicted just as was the fall of Babylon.