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Babylon, Babylonia. Land and people of southern Mesopotamia. Politically, Babylonia refers to the ancient kingdoms that flourished in southern Mesopotamia, especially in the 7th and 6th centuries BC, whose capital city was Babylon (or Bab-ilu, meaning “gate of god”). The term can also be used geographically to designate a whole region (in present-day SE Iraq). The adjective “Babylonian” has an even looser meaning; it may refer to the land or its inhabitants, to the kingdom or its subjects, or to a dialect of one of the principal ancient Mesopotamian languages.
Land. The two principal features of Babylonia’s geography are the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Rising in mountainous eastern Turkey, they initially flow in opposite directions but converge near Baghdad and join farther south to flow into the Persian Gulf. Archaeologists and historians often refer to the southern area of Babylon as Sumer and the northern part as Akkad, in recognition of the two principal civilizations that flourished in those regions before Babylonia’s rise.
Politically, Babylonia largely corresponded to geographic Babylonia; its centers, however, were not situated in the fertile alluvial plain between the two rivers, but rather on the banks along the main course and several side branches of the Euphrates. At times the kingdom reached eastward beyond the Tigris, into the flatlands and foothills of the Zagros Mountains, generally along the Tigris’s eastern tributaries. Its political and cultural influence extended upstream along both rivers, on the Euphrates as far as Mari and beyond, on the Tigris as far as Asshur.
Sumer and Akkad: 3200–2000 BC Babylonia emerged as a culture as the result of Sumerian influence on the diverse peoples who had migrated into the area. The Sumerian civilization began to flourish in Babylonia sometime between 3200 and 2900 BC. (Essentially all dates given in this article are approximate.) The two principal languages of the region were Akkadian, a Semitic language, and Sumerian, whose linguistic affiliation is still unknown. The Sumerian-speaking people lived predominantly between Nippur and the Persian Gulf, while the Akkadian speakers inhabited the region of Babylonia north of Nippur. At first, Sumerian manners and customs prevailed throughout Babylonia; non-Sumerian peoples evidently accommodated themselves to the Sumerian way of life. The earliest interpretable inscriptions from Babylonia, dated at 3100 BC, are in Sumerian, which was the written language throughout Mesopotamia for seven centuries. In fact, cuneiform, the wedge-shaped writing invented by the Sumerians, remained in use for almost 3,000 years.
Eventually, the Akkadian way of life began to compete with the Sumerian. Political and cultural leadership was effectively wrested away from the south by Sargon I (Sharru-kin, meaning “true king”; 2339–2279 BC), who founded the capital Akkad (or Agade). The site of that city is not presently known, but its name has since been attached to Sargon’s kingdom, to the Semitic language he spoke, and to northern Babylonia. Sargon was an empire-builder: he subjugated the cities of Sumer as well as those in the region of Akkad, then the cities in northern Mesopotamia, and finally he marched up the Euphrates to become the master of Syria.
The Akkadian empire, which lasted for nearly two centuries under Sargon and his successors (2334–2154 BC), was disrupted by the invasion of the Guti people, mountaineers from the east, who in turn were defeated by the Sumerian king Utuhegal of the city of Uruk. That event marked a period of revival of Sumerian power and culture in Babylonia, led by a dynasty of kings which established itself in the once-prominent Sumerian city of Ur. That reflowering of Sumerian influence is referred to as the “Neo-Sumerian empire of Ur,” or as the “Ur III period” (2112–2006 BC). The Sumerians’ fortunes soon waned, however. Many of the kings who reigned in Sumer and Akkad in the last quarter of the Ur III period had Semitic names.
First Babylonian Kingdom: 1900–1600 BC. At the same time, Semitic-speaking people from the west—the Amurru (or Martu), nomads from Syria—were exerting migratory and military pressures on Babylonia.
Amorite Invasion. The Amurru, called by modern researchers “Amorites” after their language, were known in the pre-Sargonid period (before 2340 bc) and were looked upon as barbarians by native Babylonians who scorned their manner of life. The nomads were of mixed ancestry, partly related to the Akkadians, who differed from them principally in certain features of language and culture. During the reign of Shar-kali-sharri (2254–2230 BC), fifth king of the dynasty of Akkad, the Amorites began to appear as a menace. A century later, during the early part of the Ur III period, the first major wave of Amorites moved into Babylonia; the second wave came during the reigns of the last two kings of the Ur III dynasty. That second migration coincided with a complex political situation in Babylonia. The undermining of Sumerian political power gave rise to the kingdom of Babylon under Amorite control.
Fall of Ur. The last Neo-Sumerian king, Ibbi-Sin, was faced with military threats to his kingdom from both east and west. He also had to deal with internal rebellion. Ishbi-Erra, vassal-governor of the city of Mari, 500 miles up the Euphrates, took advantage of the Amorite incursions to revolt against the king and establish a rival kingdom with its capital at Isin, 50 miles from Ur. At the same time, in Larsa, less than 20 miles across the Euphrates from Ur, another new dynasty was established by a ruler with an Amorite name. Meanwhile, local rulers, nominally vassals of Ibbi-Sin, as well as several newcomers, were setting up “kingdoms” for themselves in their own cities and over as much of their neighboring territories as they could control. Unable to resist those developments, the Ur III dynasty collapsed, and its capital was plundered with unusual savagery. Isin and Larsa also suffered at the fall of Ur but survived; neither kingdom, however, became the regnant power in Babylonia.
Rise of Babylon. After seven kings each had reigned at Isin and Larsa, yet a second Amorite dynasty was established, this time in the region of Akkad, at the city of Babylon. Babylon’s earliest known mention was in the Ur III period; it now emerged for the first time as a capital. Three major dynasties now divided Sumer and Akkad, although numerous petty kingdoms continued to exist; some, such as Sippar, Uruk, and Kish, were ruled by Amorite chiefs.
The founder of the “first dynasty of the Kingdom of Babylon” was Sumuabum (1894–1881 BC). Little is known about him. He and his next four successors, all legitimate descendants—Sumulael (1880–1845 bc), Sabium (1844–1831 BC), Apil-Sin (1830–1813 bc), and Sin-Muballit (1812–1793 BC)—ruled peacefully and uneventfully for a century. They appear to have devoted themselves mainly to religious and defensive construction and to maintenance of an irrigation canal system, though there is some evidence of conquest and territorial acquisition. Still, the territory of the kingdom of Babylon probably extended no more than 50 miles in any direction from the capital. Hammurabi, the sixth king of that line (1792–1750 BC), enlarged the kingdom toward the dimensions of an empire. At its greatest extent it reached from the Persian Gulf up the Tigris to include some of the cities of Assyria and up the Euphrates to Mari. Babylonia’s glory, however, was short-lived; under the reign of Hammurabi’s son, Samsu-iluna (1749–1712 BC), the realm shriveled. It lasted for another century, but within borders narrower than those established by Sumuabum.
Minor Dynasties: 1600–900 BC The first dynasty of Babylon was brought to an end by an attack of the Hittites who sacked Babylon about 1595 BC. With that event a Babylonian dark age—that is, a period for whose events we have no contemporaneous records—set in, lasting for over 200 years (until about 1377 BC).
First Dark Age. During this period, control of Babylon fell briefly to the dynasty of the Sealand, later called the 2nd dynasty of Babylon. Almost nothing is known of that dynasty, which had emerged from the extreme SE part of Babylonia. In about two years’ time it disappeared again into obscurity, when power passed into the hands of the Kassites.
Kassites. For several centuries the Kassites had been gradually infiltrating Babylonia from the Zagros Mountains in the east. They were first mentioned in a military context by Hammurabi’s successor, Samsu-iluna. During his reign and that of his successor, Abieshuh (1711–1684 BC), the Kassites settled in the Euphrates valley in the vicinity of Terqa; there they established a dynasty of kings as early as 1740 BC. Eventually the Kassites seized Babylon, established the 3rd dynasty, and ruled for approximately four and a half centuries.
Elamites. Kassite power was challenged by the rising Aramaeans and Assyrians in the northwest, but the Kassites were ultimately brought down by the Elamites, a people from east of the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (called the Shatt al-Arab). In turn, the Elamites withdrew or were driven out of Babylon, and princes native to the city of Isin founded the fourth dynasty of Babylon (also called the 2nd dynasty of Isin), which lasted for over a century (1156–1025 BC).
Second Dark Age. Over the next 50 years Babylon had seven kings divided between the 5th, 6th, and 7th dynasties. The 5th dynasty of Babylon (1024–1004 BC) was founded by a Kassite from the Sealand (and so was also called the 2nd dynasty of the Sealand). The 6th dynasty of Babylon (1003–984 bc) was the dynasty of Bazi, or Bit Bazi (bit, meaning “tribe”), which was founded by an Aramaean. The 7th dynasty of Babylon (983–978 BC) was Elamite and had only one ruler, who survived for six years. The history of those three dynasties and of the longer-lasting 8th dynasty of Babylon (977–732 bc) was obscured by another Mesopotamian dark age. Assyria, Egypt, and the Hittite kingdom all suffered a simultaneous decline in power between the 12th and 9th centuries, creating a power vacuum and a long period of political uncertainty and confusion. (During that time the Hebrew empire, without political hindrance, reached its height under kings David and Solomon.)
Assyrian Domination: 900–614 BC. By the end of that period of obscurity many changes had taken place, mainly in the position and role of the Aramaeans. Assyria was reasserting its power under able but ruthless kings. Four of them—Adad-nirari II (911–891 BC), Tukulti-ninurta II (890–884 BC), Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 bc), and Shalmaneser III (858–824 BC)—aggressively extended Assyrian influence north, east, and west. They also threw back the Aramaean tribes, many of which pushed their way south into Babylonia and settled between the lower Tigris and the frontier of Elam. Although the kings of the eighth dynasty of Babylon managed to remain free from Assyrian domination, the balance of power was poised delicately.
Rise of the Chaldeans. Kaldu, a country and people first mentioned in Assyrian annals in the 9th century BC, began a steady bid for power. That bid culminated 250 years later in a restoration of Babylonia’s glory and empire. Originally the Kaldu, or Chaldean, tribes were situated along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers between the Persian Gulf and the southernmost cities of Babylonia, a region of swamps, lakes, and cane thickets. The Chaldeans were not Aramaeans, although they had similar economic and social structures and, at a later time, adopted the Aramaic language and writing system. For their livelihood the Chaldeans evidently relied upon fishing, hunting, small-scale agriculture, and some cattle breeding. Eventually they advanced from Kaldu and occupied lands along the two rivers. Supplied with arms and money by neighboring Elam, the aggressive Yakin tribe, one of several tribes in the area, was able to make trouble for the government in Babylon.
Fiercely independent and rural, the Chaldeans were unwilling to pay taxes or to render services to Babylonia. They recognized no loyalty beyond their clan, regularly plundering the riches of neighboring cities and waylaying their caravans. Whatever delicate balance may have been struck between the Chaldeans and the urban-dwelling Babylonians was upset when the Assyrians and Elamites intruded into Babylonian affairs.
Vassal Kingdom. The earliest incursions of Assyria into Babylonia were by Shalmaneser III. In 851 bc, the brother of Marduk-zakirshumi, reigning king of the 8th dynasty of Babylon, made a bid for the throne with the backing of the Aramaeans. Marduk-zakirshumi called on the Assyrians for aid. Shalmaneser defeated the rebels and entered Babylon, treating the ancient city and its inhabitants with great respect. Thereafter, advancing southward, he came to Sumer, inhabited by the Chaldeans, and pressed them back against the gulf. For whatever reasons, Shalmaneser did not annex Babylonia. Mardukzakir-shumi remained on the throne, though he swore allegiance to the Assyrian king.
The final years of Shalmaneser III were darkened by revolts all over the Assyrian empire. His son and successor, Shamshi-adad V, spent most of his reign (823–811 BC) putting down the rebellions. He twice defeated Babylonia in battle, but the kingdom still remained independent. After his successor, Adad-nirari III (810–783 BC), the next four Assyrian administrations (782–745 BC) were ineffectual. Babylonia failed to capitalize on the situation, however, because its own government fell into anarchy.
Two strong rulers emerged from the political confusion. In Assyria Tiglath-pileser III (745–727 bc) usurped the throne. In Babylonia three years earlier a Chaldean, Nabonassar (747–734 BC), took the throne of Babylon as a successor king in the 8th dynasty. An expedition into Babylonia by Tiglath-pileser was necessary, however, to secure Nabonassar’s throne against the Aramaeans.
At Nabonassar’s death, an Aramaean chieftain, Nabu-mukin-zeri (731–729 BC), seized the Babylonian throne and established the 9th dynasty of Babylon. Tiglath-pileser defeated the usurper, ravaged the territory of his tribe, and had himself proclaimed king of Babylon—and thus, of Babylonia—under the name of Pulu (729–727 BC), and as the second king of the 9th dynasty. Little is known of his short-lived successor, Shalmaneser V (727–722 BC). He too was proclaimed king of Babylon as well as of Assyria. Under Shalmaneser a siege against the kingdom of Israel began, after its king, Hoshea (732–723 bc), rebelled against Assyria (2 Kgs 17:1–6).
Merodach-baladan. Sargon II (722–705 BC) succeeded Shalmaneser. His rise to power is obscure; he was probably a usurper, which is why he chose the name Sargon (“true king”) like his Akkadian namesake 1,500 years earlier. Shortly before Sargon II came to the throne, Elam in the east had begun to take an active part in the affairs of Babylonia by instigating rebellions against Assyria. Whenever the Aramaean sheiks of Babylonia found themselves hard pressed by the Assyrian army, Elam would support them with men and weapons. In the same year that Sargon II came to the throne, a Chaldean ruler from the Yakin tribe, Merodach-baladan II, supported by Elam, entered Babylon and proclaimed himself king. Sargon’s assault against him (720 BC) was unsuccessful; Merodach-baladan ruled Babylonia for 11 years (721–710 v).
After the brilliant successes of his other campaigns, Sargon attacked Babylon again in 710 BC, and this time succeeded in taking it. Although he had himself proclaimed king of Babylon, he acknowledged Merodach-baladan as king of the Yakin tribe. Merodach-baladan evidently took up residence in Elam at that time. In the year that Sargon’s son, Sennacherib (705–681 BC), succeeded to the Assyrian throne, Merodach-baladan, assisted by Elamite officers and troops, reappeared. He raised the whole Aramaean and Chaldean population of Babylonia against the Assyrians, took Babylon, and had himself proclaimed king again (705 BC).
During that brief period, Merodach-baladan sent an embassy to King Hezekiah of Judah (715–686 BC) “with letters and a present,” ostensibly to show sympathy for Hezekiah because of the king’s illness (2 Kgs 20:12). More likely, Merodach-baladan’s purpose was to secure another ally against Assyrian hegemony; the account of Hezekiah’s cordial reception of the Babylonian envoys shows his willingness to join the alliance. Evidently the king’s vanity overruled his political sense, and he treated the Babylonians to an extensive tour of his treasury. The proud gesture was rebuked by the prophet Isaiah, who predicted Babylonia’s later conquest of Judah, when the king’s storehouse would be sacked and his family carried off captive (2 Kgs 20:13–19; Is 39).
At any rate, Sennacherib was able quickly to dislodge Merodach-baladan from the Babylonian throne, force him into exile, and replace him with a king of his own choice, Belibni. There is some indication that within three years Merodach-baladan was back, stirring up another rebellion (possibly with the collusion of Bel-ibni), and thus precipitating another Assyrian punitive expedition. Nevertheless, by then the fires of a Babylonian independence movement had been ignited. In 689 bc the Babylonians again revolted with the support of the king of Elam. Sennacherib’s expedition was nearly defeated. To vent his fury he attacked the city of Babylon, destroyed it, and “captured” its gods.
War and Peace. Sennacherib’s successor and youngest son, Esar-haddon (681–669 BC), came to the throne of Assyria after a bloody war of succession with his brothers. One of his first acts was to rebuild and enlarge the city of Babylon. Esar-haddon thus won the friendship of many of his Babylonian subjects, who enabled him to enjoy a peaceful reign in that part of his empire. Three years before his death Esar-haddon named his son Ashurbanipal as his successor (669–627 BC) and another son, Shamash-shum-ukin (668–648 bc), as viceroy in Babylonia.
At Esar-haddon’s death, the transition took place smoothly. The empire was not divided by having two sons on two thrones. Ashurbanipal had precedence over his brother, bearing responsibility for the whole empire. Shamash-shum-ukin and his Babylonian subjects, on the other hand, enjoyed sovereignty; as viceroy, he was granted full authority within his realm. That arrangement lasted for 17 years until Shamash-shum-ukin, backed by the Elamites and numerous Arab tribes, rebelled against Ashurbanipal. The revolt was brutally suppressed by 648 bc, and a Chaldean noble Kandalanu was appointed Babylonian viceroy. Shortly afterward, Ashurbanipal launched a punitive expedition, devastating Babylonia and completely destroying Elam in the process. The last eight years of his reign are obscure; Assyrian records for the period cease.
Neo-Babylonian Empire: 614–539 bc. Both Ashurbanipal and Kandalanu, his viceroy in Babylon, died in 627 bc. For a year Babylonia had no recognized ruler. Then the throne was seized by the Chaldean prince Nabopolassar (625–605 BC) who established the 10th dynasty of Babylon, which has come to be called the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian dynasty. With the accession of the 10th dynasty the Babylonian independence movement gained its long-sought goal: freedom from Assyrian domination. Yet history depreciated the triumph; the Chaldean dynasty was Babylonia’s last.
Aided by Media, the kingdom of the Iranian plateau, Nabopolassar put an end to the Assyrian empire. By 612 BC Assyria’s chief cities had fallen: Asshur, then the religious center; Nineveh, the administrative center; and Nimrod, the military headquarters. The last light of Assyria was snuffed out by Nabopolassar in 609 BC. Under his son Nebuchadnezzar II (604–562 bc), Babylonia fell heir to the Assyrian empire. For a moment in history, Babylonia was master of the whole Near East. Nebuchadnezzar brought about the end of the Hebrew kingdom of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, deporting part of its population to Babylonia in the event referred to as the exile (2 Kgs 24:1–25:21).
Under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon became the fabled city of luxury and splendor with which its name is commonly associated. Partly because of the king’s haughty belief that he alone was responsible for his kingdom’s glory, partly because of his tyrannical oppression of the poor, God struck Nebuchadnezzar with a fit of temporary insanity. For a period of time, according to the Book of Daniel, the great Babylonian monarch believed himself an animal, lived out-of-doors “with the beasts of the field,” and “ate grass like an ox,” until “his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” When his reason finally returned, Nebuchadnezzar was a humbler king (Dn 4).
Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son, son-in-law, and grandson within the space of six years. Thereafter, one of his high diplomatic officials, Nabonidus, one of history’s most enigmatic personalities, took the throne (555–539 BC). During his reign, the Medes, formerly allies of the Chaldeans, came under a new ruler, Cyrus II of Persia (559 BC), who over the next 10 years conquered an empire nearly 3,000 miles in extent, from the Aegean Sea to the Pamirs (mountains in central Asia).
During Cyrus’s decade of conquest, Nabonidus was strangely absent from Babylon, residing in Arabia. Although the Book of Daniel relates events occurring in the court of Babylon during Nabonidus’s reign, his name is never mentioned. Instead Belshazzar, whom Nabonidus appointed regent in Babylon during his absence, is described as king (Dn 5:1). Perhaps because of his extended absence or perhaps because of his attachment to the moon god Sin and Sin’s city, Harran, rather than to the Babylonian national god Marduk and Marduk’s city, Babylon, Nabonidus lost the support of the Babylonians. When he finally returned to Babylon it was on the eve of Cyrus’s attack on the city (Dn 5:30, 31). Instead of offering resistance, however, the Babylonian army defected to Cyrus and the city gave itself up without a battle (12 October 539 bc at 3:20 am). That surrender ended the Chaldean dynasty and the history of an independent Babylonia.
Modern Exploration. The site of Babylon was described by travelers such as Benjamin of Tudela (12th century ad) and the physician-naturalist Leonhart Rauwolff, who visited Babylon from 1573 to 1576. The modern era of exploration, however, began with a more serious scholar, Carsten Niebuhr. He visited the ruins of Babylon in 1765 and attempted to identify the hanging gardens and the “temple of Belus” (Marduk) about which he had read in the writings of Herodotus. Abbé de Beauchamp, the pope’s vicar-general of Babylonia, lived in Baghdad between 1782 and 1789. During those years he made two visits to Babylon and published his observations. Claudius James Rich, a young man of scholarly interests employed by the East India Company in Baghdad, spent 10 days at Babylon in 1811, after which he wrote a description augmented by maps, drawings, and plans. In 1851 the French government sent an archaeological expedition to the Near East. From 1852 to 1854 Fulgence Fresnel directed an archaeological dig at Babylon, assisted by Jules Oppert, an Assyriologist, and Felix Thomas, an architect. Results were minimal.
Much of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was excavated by Robert Koldewey for the German Oriental Society in a series of campaigns beginning in 1899. Koldewey discovered that Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was the largest city in antiquity, with an area of about 2500 acres. The older part of the city was completely enclosed by two walls made of unbaked mud bricks. The inner and higher wall, which was more than 21 feet thick, was separated from the outer wall by a military road 23 feet wide. The outer wall, though thinner, was more than 12 feet thick. Both walls were buttressed by massive fortified towers at intervals of about 65 feet. Outside the wall was a moat which reached a width of more than 200 feet in places.
During the reigns of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar another wall was built to enclose an area southeast and northeast of the older city. The remains of that 80-foot thick wall buttressed by towers at 130-foot intervals were found to be much like those described by Herodotus. The wall was actually a composite structure made up of an inner unbaked brick wall and an outer baked brick wall with a rubble filling in between. A moat 300 feet wide was fed by water from the Euphrates River and ran along the outside of this wall.
One of the most magnificent finds was the Ishtar Gate, a double gateway 40 feet high covered with enameled brick reliefs of 575 bulls and dragons in vivid colors. (Ishtar was a goddess of love and fertility.) Through that gate ran the Procession Way, a road covered with limestone slabs three feet square. An inscription credited the road to Nebuchadnezzar. The walls along the Procession Way were overlaid with enameled bricks decorated with 120 lions representing Ishtar. The road led to the temple of Marduk and its adjacent ziggurat.
Koldewey’s excavations also located the citadel, the market area, and Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. Two additional seasons of work at Babylon were conducted by the German Archaeological Institute beginning in 1956.
Babylon in the Bible. The OT contains many references to Babylon. A few historical references, beginning in Genesis 10, have already been cited. The Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar’s time appears frequently at the end of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles and in the early part of Daniel. Ezra and Nehemiah record the subsequent return of the remnant of Judah from their Babylonian exile.
Among the prophetic books, Isaiah speaks of Babylon during the period of Assyrian dominance. A century later Jeremiah warns of the threat of Nebuchadnezzar, and Ezekiel and Daniel speak of Babylon from the later viewpoint of those exiled. There are as many references to Babylon in the last half of Jeremiah as in all the rest of the Bible.
Several times in the NT, reference is made to the capital city of Nebuchadnezzar to which the Jews had been deported in 586 BC (Mt 1:11, 12, 17); in 1 Peter 5:13 and the Book of Revelation, Babylon is used symbolically. “She who is at Babylon” was the apostle Peter’s way of referring to the church in Rome, a city which had become as immoral and idolatrous as ancient Babylon. Just as that ancient cultural center had oppressed the Judean exiles, so Rome was now persecuting the Christians living there.
In Revelation 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; and 18:2, 10, 21, Babylon was again used as a symbol for first-century Rome. It was pictured as “the Notorious Prostitute, who sits upon the many waters.” She was gorgeously arrayed like a queen, sitting on a scarlet beast with 7 heads and 10 horns. She was “drunk with the blood of the saints,” and on her forehead was written: “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations” (17:1–6).
An angel helped to interpret the apocalyptic symbolism for John (Rv 17:1–18). The “many waters” symbolize nations and peoples. The “seven heads” are seven mountains, which most commentators view as representing the seven hills of Rome. Seven times Babylon is called “the great city” and is described as a dreadfully immoral center of wealth and commerce, ruling over the kings of the earth, and especially persecuting the saints of God. The wickedness personified in Babylon clearly symbolizes the historic manifestation of iniquity in 1st-century Rome.
Revelation 18 completes the picture. “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” (v 2). God’s final judgment upon her will be severe, repaying her “double for her deeds” (v 6). The main reason for her destruction is her immorality and persecution of the saints (19:2). The kings and merchants of the earth will mourn her demise (18:9–19), but the pronouncement is made in order that the saints might rejoice and worship God (v 20; 19:1–10).
Bibliography. E.A.T.W. Bridge, Babylonian Life and History; E. Chiera, They Wrote on Clay; B.M. Fagan, Return to Babylon; L.W. King, A History of Babylon; S. Mascoti, Ancient Semitic Civilizations; J. Neusner, History of the Jews in Babylonia, 5 vols; A. Parrot, Babylon and the OT; H. Ringgren, Religions of the Ancient Near East; H.W.F. Saggs, Every Day Life in Babylonia and Assyria and The Greatness that Was Babylon.
Babylonian Captivity. Period when many inhabitants of Judah, the southern kingdom, were exiled in Babylonia after Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem (6th century BC).
by Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel
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 Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Babylon, Babylonia,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 243–250.