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Ishtar Gate, Babylon

Babylon (See also wiki article Babylon.)

BABYLON - Babel is the Hebrew form of the native name Bab-ilim, 'Gale of God,' a popular etymology of a pre-Semitic name. It was also Tin-tir, 'Grove of life.' According to the Hebrew tradition (Gn.10.10), it was as old as Erech, Akkad, and Calneh. Excavations show that there was a prehistoric settlement here. The first historical reference to Babylon occurs in a year formula of the Agade dynasty, c 2200 BC. It lay on the E. bank of the Euphrates, part of its site being now occupied by Hillah, about 50 miles S. of Baghdad. The ruins extend for 5 miles N. to S. Babil, the N. ruin, covers 120,000 sq. ft. and is still 90 ft. high. It covers the remains of the celebrated Esagila temple. The shape and form of Babylon as revealed by fourteen years' excavation is that of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadrezzar. The description given by Herodotus and Ctesias is that of Persian times. The Kasr contains the ruins of Nebuchadrezzar's palace, along whose E. side ran the sacred procession street, decorated with enamelled tiles representing the dragon and the bull, to the Ishtar-gate at the SE. corner. The whole was enclosed within an irregular triangle, formed by two lines of ramparts and the river, an area of about 8 sq. miles. The city crossed the river to the W., where are remains of a palace of Neriglissar. In later times it became coterminous with many other large cities, and Herodotus ascribes to it a circuit of 55 miles.

From the very earliest times the kings and rulers of Babylonia worked at the building of its temples, palaces, walls, bridges, quays, etc. Hammurabi first raised it to be the capital of all Babylonia. It was sacked by Sennacherib in 689 BC, the chief palaces, temples, and city walls levelled with the ground, and the waters of the Euphrates turned over it. Esarhaddon began to rebuild it, and it stood another long siege under his son, Ashurbanipal. Nabopolassar began its restoration; Nebuchadrezzar raised it to its height of glory. Cyrus took it without resistance, and held his court there. Darius Hystaspis besieged, took it, and destroyed its walls. Xerxes plundered it. Alexander the Great planned to restore it. Antiochus Soter actually began the restoration of its great temple. The foundation of Seleucia robbed it of its population, but the temple services continued to 29 BC, at least. See, further, ASSYRIA AND BABYLONIA. [Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963. - C.H.W.J. - T.F.]

BABYLON (in NT) - Babylon was apparently used by the early Church as a symbol for Rome.

1. In Rev (14.8, 16.19, 17.5, 18.2, 10, 21) its destruction is foretold, because of its sins, and particularly because of its persecution of the Christians. Such identification is, however, somewhat uncertain, and rests ultimately on the improbability that the word in the connexion in which it appears can refer to the city of Mesopotamia (the word is so used in Mt.1.11, 12.17, Ac.7.43). This probability is supported by the fact that Babylon is called 'mystery' in Rev.17.5, is said to be seated on seven mountains (v.9), and to be a centre of commerce and authority (18.3-19, 17.5, 14.8). Rome is apparently called Babylon in Sib. Or. v. 143, 158; 2 Es; Apoc. Baruch.

This identification of Babylon in Revelation with Rome dates at least from the time of Jerome. The attempt has been made to identify it with Jerusalem; but this conflicts with Rev.11.8. The fact that Revelation utilized Jewish apocalyptic material makes it imperative that the term symbolize a power which stood related both to Christians and Jews, in a way parallel with the relation of Babylon to the ancient Hebrew nation.

2. The reference to Babylon in 1 P.5.13 has had three interpretations: (a) Babylon in Egypt, mentioned by Strabo and Epiphanius; (b) Babylon on the Euphrates; and (c) Rome. In view of the symbolic use of the word 'Babylon,' as mentioned above, the last seems the most probable. Eusebius (HE ii. 15) so interprets the reference, and, in view of the ancient and persistent tradition, partly literary, partly archaeological, there is nothing improbable in St. Peter's having been in Rome. This probability is strengthened by the reference to the persecution to which Christians were being subjected. Assyrian Babylon in the second half of the 1st cent. was in decay. Even if pseudonymous, the presumed authorship of 1 P would be most appropriate if the epistle was written from Rome, where persecution took place under Nero and Domitian.

[Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963. - S.M. - F.C.G.]