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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, February 15 2024

A prophecy about Babylon confirms the accuracy of The Bible

Isaiah was a prophet who began to prophesy in the year King Uzziah of Judah died, which was around 740 B.C. (Isaiah 6:1 and 8). One of his predictions was about the city Babylon (Isaiah 13:1).

A prophecy about Babylon confirms the accuracy of The Bible
The ruins of ancient Babylon. (Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson. [Public domain])

At the time of Isaiah’s prophecy Babylon was one of the largest and most important cities in the world, but God said it would be utterly destroyed: “…I will stir up the Medes against them… And Babylon…the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there” (Isaiah 13:17-20).

During Isaiah’s lifetime, the Assyrian Empire ruled most of the Middle East, and controlled Babylon. After Isaiah made his prediction, Babylon rebelled against the Assyrians several times, and when Sennacherib, king of the Assyrians, captured the city in 689 B.C., he decided to destroy it so it could never rebel again. “I made its destruction more complete than by a flood. That in days to come the site of that city, and (its) temples and gods, might not be remembered, I completely blotted it out with (floods) of water and made it like a meadow” (Daniel D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 1926-1927, Vol. 2, p. 152).

Isaiah’s prophecy was not fulfilled when Sennacherib destroyed Babylon, because he had predicted the Medes would attack Babylon. When Isaiah wrote his prophecy, the Medes were weak and were not unified (The Cambridge History of Iran, 1985, Vol. 2, p. 80). Isaiah’s prediction appeared to be wrong.

After Sennacherib died, his son Esarhaddon rebuilt Babylon, and it became an important city in the Assyrian Empire like it had been before. But in 626 B.C. Babylon rebelled against Assyria again, and this time the Babylonians were successful. Nabopolassar became the king and established Babylonia as a separate kingdom that grew in strength.

The Medes were also growing in strength, and in 612 B.C. the king of Media and the king of Babylon formed an alliance and captured and burned Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria. Within a few years the Babylonians and Medes had completely destroyed the Assyrian Empire.

By 605 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar became king, the Babylonian Empire had become the leading empire in the world. Isaiah had predicted God would destroy Babylon—but now Babylon was greater than it had been in Isaiah’s lifetime.

A few years later, in 559 B.C. Cyrus the Great became king of Persia, a tribe of people closely related to the Medes. Cyrus quickly began to build an empire, conquering the Greek kingdom of Lydia (in western Turkey) in 547 B.C., and in 539 B.C.Cyrus set his sights on conquering Babylon. Herodotus, who wrote about Babylon about 100 years later, described how Cyrus’ army captured the city. While the Babylonians were celebrating a feast, the Medes and Persians constructed a trench, draining the protecting waters of the Euphrates river into a marsh, enabling them to enter the city and capture it without a battle (Herodotus 1.191).

Nearly 200 years after Isaiah wrote about Babylon his prophecy was fulfilled, when Darius the Mede subsequently became the ruler of Babylon (Daniel 5:31). Isaiah also prophesied the Medes would kill many people (Isaiah 13:18), and this prediction was fulfilled several years later, when the city rebelled and appointed their own king. Darius’ army defeated them, and the rebel king and his followers were impaled.

Then around 482 B.C. Babylon rebelled against their Persian and Median rulers again, and. Xerxes sent his army to capture and subdue the city. (Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander, 7.17.2; Herodotus 1.183). After this the city began to decline in importance, and when Alexander the Great defeated the Persians 150 years later, much of Babylon was still destroyed (Arrian 3.16.4). Alexander the Great had planned to rebuild Babylon, but died before he could accomplish this.

After Alexander’s death, Seleucus I gained control of a large part of the Middle East, including Babylonia. He did not share Alexander’s grand vision for Babylon and, instead, built a new city called Seleucia, nearby on the Tigris River. An ancient clay tablet shows Seleucus’ son ordered most of the population of Babylon to move to Seleucia in 275 B.C. (M.M. Austin, The Hellenistic World From Alexander to the Roman Conquest, 1981, p. 241).

Before long Babylon was completely empty. About 250 years later the Roman writer Strabo wrote, “Seleucia at the present time has become larger than Babylon, whereas the greater part of Babylon is so deserted that one would not hesitate to say…‘The Great City is a desert’” (Geography, 16.1.5, Loeb Classical Library).

In 1978, the then president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, began to rebuild some of the ancient buildings of Babylon, including some of the temples, a palace, some walls and an amphitheater (Amatzia Baram, Culture, History, and Ideology in the Formation of Ba‘thist Iraq, 1968-89, 1991, p. 47), but today, Babylon is still an empty city, exactly as Isaiah predicted: “It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation(Isaiah 13:20).

The events of history show that the prophecies in the Bible are accurate and inspired by God.