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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Babylon

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2 Kings 24:1 . The capital of Chaldea, built by Nimrod, Genesis 10:10 . It was under Nebuchadnezzar that Babylon, then become the seat of universal empire, is supposed to have acquired that extent and magnificence, and that those stupendous works were completed which rendered it the wonder of the world and of posterity: and accordingly, this prince, then the most potent on the earth, arrogated to himself the whole glory of its erection; and in the pride of his heart exclaimed, "Is not this great Babylon that I have built?" The city at this period stood on both sides of the river, which intersected it in the middle. It was, according to the least computation, that of Diodorus Siculus, 45 miles in circumference; and according to Herodotus, the older author of the two, 60 miles. Its shape was that of a square, traversed each way by 25 principal streets; which of course intersected each other, dividing the city into 626 squares. These streets were terminated at each end by gates of brass, of prodigious size and strength, with a smaller one opening toward the river. The walls, from the most moderate accounts, were 75 feet in height and 32 in breadth; while Herodotus makes them 300 in height and 75 in breadth: which last measurement, incredible as it may seem, is worthy of credit, as Herodotus is much the oldest author who describes them, and who gives their original height; whereas, those who follow him in their accounts of these stupendous walls, describe them as they were after they had been taken down to the less elevation by Darius Hystaspes. They were built of brick, cemented with bitumen instead of mortar; and were encompassed by a broad and deep ditch, lined with the same materials, as were also the banks of the river in its course through the city: the inhabitants descending to the water by steps through the smaller brazen gates before mentioned. The houses were three or four stories high, separated from each other by small courts or gardens, with open spaces and even fields interspersed over the immense area enclosed within the walls. Over the river was a bridge, connecting the two halves of the city, which stood, the one on its eastern, and the other on its western, bank; the river running nearly north and south. The bridge was 5 furlongs in length, and 30 feet in breadth, and had a palace at each end, with, it is said, a subterraneous passage beneath the river, from one to the other: the work of Semiramis. Within the city was the temple of Belus, or Jupiter, which Herodotus describes as a square of two stadia, or a quarter of a mile: in the midst of which arose the celebrated tower, to which both the same writer, and Strabo, give an elevation of one stadium, or 660 feet; and the same measure at its base; the whole being divided into eight separate towers, one above another, of decreasing dimensions to the summit; where stood a chapel, containing a couch, table, and other things of gold. Here the principal devotions were performed; and over this, on the highest platform of all, was the observatory, by the help of which the Babylonians arrived to such perfection in astronomy, that Calisthenes the philosopher, who accompanied, Alexander to Babylon, found astronomical observations for 1903 years backwards from that time; which reach as high as the 115th year after the flood. On either side of the river, according to Diodorus, adjoining to the bridge, was a palace; that on the western bank being by much the larger. This palace was eight miles in circumference, and strongly fortified with three walls one within another. Within it were the celebrated pensile or hanging gardens, enclosed in a square of 400 feet. These gardens were raised on terraces, supported by arches, or rather by piers, laid over with broad flat stones; the arch appearing to be unknown to the Babylonians: which courses of piers rose above one another, till they reached the level of the top of the city walls. On each terrace or platform, a deep layer of mould was laid, in which flowers, shrubs and trees were planted; some of which are said to have reached the height of 50 feet. On the highest level was a reservoir, with an engine to draw water up from the river by which the whole was watered. This novel and astonishing structure, the work of a monarch who knew not how to create food for his own pampered fancy, or labour for his debased subjects or unhappy captives, was undertaken to please his wife Amyitis; that she might see an imitation of the hills and woods of her native country, Media.

Yet, while in the plenitude of its power, and, according to the most accurate chronologers, 160 years before the foot of an enemy had entered it, the voice of an enemy had entered it, the voice of prophecy pronounced the doom of the mighty and unconquered Babylon. A succession of ages brought it gradually to the dust; and the gradation of its fall is marked till it sinks at last into utter desolation. At a time when nothing but magnificence was around this city, emphatically called the great, fallen Babylon was delineated by the pencil of inspiration exactly as every traveller now describes its ruins.

The immense fertility of Chaldea, which retained also the name of Babylonia till after the Christian aera, corresponded with the greatness of Babylon. It was the most fertile region of the whole east. Babylonia was one vast plain, adorned and enriched by the Euphrates and the Tigris, from which, and from the numerous canals that intersected the country from the one river to the other, water was distributed over the fields by manual labour and by hydraulic machines, giving rise, in that warm climate and rich exhaustless soil, to an exuberance of produce without a known parallel, over so extensive a region, either in ancient or modern times. Herodotus states, that he knew not how to speak of its wonderful fertility, which none but eye witnesses would credit; and, though writing in the language of Greece, itself a fertile country, he expresses his own consciousness that his description of what he actually saw would appear to be improbable, and to exceed belief. Such was the "Chaldees' excellency," that it departed not on the first conquest, nor on the final extinction of its capital, but one metropolis of Assyria arose after another in the land of Chaldea, when Babylon had ceased to be "the glory of kingdoms."

2. Manifold are the prophecies respecting Babylon and the land of the Chaldeans; and the long lapse of ages has served to confirm their fulfilment in every particular, and to tender it at last complete. The judgments of Heaven are not casual, but sure; they are not arbitrary, but righteous. And they were denounced against the Babylonians, and the inhabitants of Chaldea, expressly because of their idolatry, tyranny, oppression, pride, covetousness, drunkenness, falsehood, and other wickedness. The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amos did see: "The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people: a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the Lord of Hosts mustereth the host of the battle. They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there: neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there: and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces." "Thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. Thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. Thou art cast out of the grave like an abominable branch.—I will cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, the son, and nephew, saith the Lord. I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of Hosts." "Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground." "Thus saith the Lord, that saith unto the deep, Be dry; and I will dry up thy rivers: that saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure,—and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut." "Bel boweth down," &c. "Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon: sit on the ground, there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans. Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans; for thou shalt no more be called the lady of kingdoms."

Many other prophecies against Babylon, and the whole land of Chaldea, are found in the Old Testament; and though the limits of this article will only allow a reference to be made to the exact fulfilment of a few, there is not one of the great number of predictions on record, the accomplishment of which has not been remarked by numerous writers, and more especially by those who have visited the spot. For, though for many centuries the site of Babylon was unknown, or the ruins of other Chaldean cities mistaken for its remains, its true situation and present condition have been, within a few years, satisfactorily ascertained, and accurately described, by several most intelligent and enterprising travellers.

When in the plenitude of its greatness, splendour and strength, Babylon first yielded to the arms of Cyrus, whose name, and the manoeuvre by which the city was taken, were mentioned by Isaiah nearly two hundred years before the event; which was also predicted by Jeremiah: "Go up, O Elam, (or Persia,) besiege, O Media. The Lord hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it." The kings of Persia and Media, prompted by a common interest, freely entered into a league against Babylon, and with one accord entrusted the command of their united armies to Cyrus, the relative and eventually the successor of them both.—But the taking of Babylon was not reserved for these kingdoms alone: other nations had to be "prepared against her." "Set up a standard in the land; blow the trumpet among the nations, prepare the nations against her, call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Aschenaz: Lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country" &c. Cyrus subdued the Armenians, who had revolted against Media, spared their king, bound them over anew to their allegiance, by kindness rather than by force, and incorporated their army with his own.—"The mighty men of Babylon have foreborne to fight. They have remained in their holds; their might hath failed, they became as women." So dispirited became its people, that Babylon, which had made the world to tremble, was long besieged, without making any effort to drive off the enemy. But, possessed of provisions for twenty years which in their timid caution they had plentifully stored, they derided Cyrus from their impregnable walls, within which they remained. Their profligacy, their wickedness and false confidence were unabated; they continued to live carelessly in pleasures: and Babylon the great, unlike to many a small fortress and un-walled town, made not one struggle to regain its freedom or to be rid of the foe.—Much time having been lost, and no progress being made in the siege, the anxiety of Cyrus was strongly excited, and he was reduced to great perplexity, when at last it was suggested and immediately determined to divert the course of the Euphrates. And while the unconscious and reckless citizens were engaged in dancing and merriment, the river was suddenly turned into the lake, the trench, and the canals; and the Persians, both foot and horse, so soon as the subsiding of the water permitted, entered by its channel, and were followed by the allies in array, along the dry part of the river. "I will dry up thy sea, and make thy springs dry. That saith to the deep, Be dry, I will dry up thy rivers."—One detachment was placed where the river first enters the city, and another where it leaves it. And "one post did run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to show the king of Babylon that his city is taken at the end, and that the passages are shut." "They were taken," says Herodotus, "by surprise; and such is the extent of the city, that, as the inhabitants themselves affirm, they who lived in the extremities were made prisoners before any alarm was communicated to the centre of the place," where the palace stood. Thus a "snare was laid for Babylon, it was taken, and it was not aware; it was found and also caught; for it had sinned against the Lord. How is the praise of the whole earth surprised!"—

"In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not awake, saith the Lord. I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter," &c. "I will make drunken her princes and her wise men, her captains and her rulers, and her mighty men, and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep," &c. Cyrus, as the night drew on, stimulated his assembled troops to enter the city, because in that night of general revel within the walls, many of them were asleep, many drunk, and confusion universally prevailed. On passing, without obstruction or hinderance, into the city, the Persians, slaying some, putting others to flight, and joining with the revellers, as if slaughter had been merriment, hastened by the shortest way to the palace, and reached it ere yet a messenger had told the king that his city was taken. The gates of the palace, which was strongly fortified, were shut. The guards stationed before them, were drinking beside a blazing light, when the Persians rushed impetuously upon them. A louder and altered clamour, no longer joyous, caught the ear of the inmates of the palace, and the bright light showed them the work of destruction, without revealing its cause. And not aware of the presence of an enemy in the midst of Babylon, the king himself, (who had been roused from his revelry by the hand writing on the wall,) excited by the warlike tumult at the gates, commanded those within to examine from whence it arose; and according to the same word, by which "the gates" (leading from the river to the city) "were not shut, the loins of kings were loosed to open before Cyrus the two-leaved gates" of the palace. The eager Persians sprang in. "The king of Babylon heard the report of them; anguish took hold of him;" he and all who were about him perished; God had "numbered" his kingdom and finished it; it was "divided," and given to the Medes and Persians; the lives of the Babylonian princes, and lords, and rulers, and captains, closed with that night's festival; the drunken slept "a perpetual sleep, and did not wake."— "I will fill thee with men as with caterpillars." Not only did the Persian army enter with ease as caterpillars, together with all the nations that had come up against Babylon, but they seemed also as numerous. Cyrus, after the capture of the city, made a great display of his cavalry in the presence of the Babylonians, and in the midst of Babylon. Four thousand guards stood before the palace gates, and two thousand on each side. These advanced as Cyrus approached; two thousand spearmen followed them. These were succeeded by four square masses of Persian cavalry, each consisting of ten thousand men: and to these again were added, in their order, the Median, Armenian, Hyrcanian, Caducian, and Sacian horsemen,—all, as before, "riding upon horses, every man in array,"—with lines of chariots, four abreast, concluding the train of the numerous hosts. Cyrus afterward reviewed, at Babylon, the whole of his army, consisting of one hundred and twenty thousand horse, two thousand chariots, and six hundred thousand foot. Babylon, which was taken when not aware, and within whose walls no enemy, except a captive, had been ever seen, was thus "filled with men as with caterpillars," as if there had not been a wall around it. The Scriptures do not relate the manner in which Babylon was taken, nor do they ever allude to the exact fulfilment of the prophecies. But there is, in every particular, a strict coincidence between the predictions of the prophets and the historical narratives, both of Herodotus and Xenophon.

3. Every step in the progress of the decline of Babylon was the accomplishment of a prophecy. Conquered, for the first time, by Cyrus, it was afterward reduced from an imperial to a tributary city. "Come down and sit in the dust, O daughter of Babylon: sit on the ground, there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans." After the Babylonians rebelled against Darius, the walls were reduced in height, and all the gates destroyed. "The wall of Babylon shall fall, her walls are thrown down."— Xerxes, after his ignominious retreat from Greece, rifled the temples of Babylon, the golden images alone of which were estimated at 20,000,000 l. beside treasures of vast amount. "I will punish Bel in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he has swallowed up; I will do judgment upon the graven images of Babylon."—Alexander the Great attempted to restore it to its former glory, and designed to make it the metropolis of a universal empire. But while the building of the temple of Belus, and the reparation of the embankments of the Euphrates, were actually carrying on, the conqueror of the world died, at the commencement of this his last undertaking, in the height of his power, and in the flower of his age. "Take balm for her pain, if so be that she may be healed. We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed." The building of the neighbouring city of Seleucia was the chief cause of the decline or Babylon, and drained it of a great part of its population. And at a later period, or about 130 years before the birth of Christ, Humerus, a Parthian governor, who was noted as excelling all tyrants in cruelty, exercised great severities on the Babylonians; and having burned the forum and some of the temples, and destroyed the fairest parts of the city, reduced many of the inhabitants to slavery on the slightest pretexts, and caused them, together with all their households, to be sent into Media. "They shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast." The "golden city" thus gradually verged, for centuries, toward poverty and desolation. Notwithstanding that Cyrus resided chiefly at Babylon, and sought to reform the government, and remodel the manners of the Babylonians, the succeeding kings of Persia preferred, as the seat of empire, Susa, Persepolis, or Ecbatana, situated in their own country: and in like manner the successors of Alexander did not attempt to complete his purpose of restoring Babylon to its preeminence and glory; but, after the subdivision of his mighty empire, the very kings of Assyria. during their temporary residence even in Chaldea, deserted Babylon, and dwelt in Seleucia. And thus the foreign inhabitants, first Persians and afterward Greeks, imitating their sovereigns by deserting Babylon, acted as if they verily had said, "Forsake her, and let us go every man unto his own country; for her judgment is reached unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies."

4. But kindred judgments, the issue of common crimes, rested on the land of Chaldea, as well as on its doomed metropolis. "They come from a far country, from the end of the earth, to destroy the whole land. Many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of thee also," &c. The Persians, the Macedonians, the Parthians, the Romans, the Saracens, and the Turks, are the chief of the many nations who have unscrupulously and unsparingly "served themselves" of the land of the Chaldeans: and Cyrus and Darius, kings of Persia; Alexander the Great; and Seleucus, king of Assyria; Demetrius and Antiochus the Great; Trajan, Severus, Julian, and Heraclius, emperors of Rome; the victorious Omar, the successor of Mohammed; Holagou, and Tamerlane, are "great kings" who successively subdued or desolated Chaldea, or exacted from it tribute to such an extent, as scarcely any other country ever paid to a single conqueror. And though the names of some of these nations were unknown to the Babylonians, and unheard of in the world at the time of the prophecy, most of these "many nations and great kings" need now but to be named, to show that, in local relation to Chaldea, "they came from the utmost border, from the coasts of the earth."

— "I will punish the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations; cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest. A drought is on her waters, and they shall be dried up. Behold the hinder-most of the nations, a dry land and a desert." The land of the Chaldeans was indeed made—perpetual, or long continued, desolation. Ravaged and spoiled for ages, the Chaldees' excellency finally disappeared, and the land became desolate, as still it remains. Rauwolff, who passed through it in 1574, describes the country as bare, and "so dry and barren that it cannot be tilled." And the most recent travellers all concur in describing it in similar terms. On the one side, near to the site of Opis, "the country all around," says Mr. Buckingham, "appears to be one wide desert, of sandy, and barren sod, thinly scattered over with brushwood and tufts of reedy grass." On the other, between Bussorah and. Bagdad, "immediately on either bank of the Tigris, observes Mignan, "is the untrodden desert. The absence of all cultivation, the sterile, arid, and wild character of the whole scene, formed a contrast to the rich and delightful accounts delineated in Scripture. The natives, in travelling over these pathless deserts, are compelled to explore their way by the stars."

"The whole country between Bagdad and Hillah is a perfectly flat and (with the exception of a few spots as you approach the latter place) uncultivated waste. That it was at some former period in a far different state, is evident from the number of canals by which it is traversed, now dry and neglected; and the quantity of heaps of earth covered with fragments of brick and broken tiles, which are seen in every direction, the indisputable traces of former population. At present the only inhabitants of the tract are the Sobeide Arabs. Around, as far as the eye can reach is a trackless desert." — "Her cities are desolations." The course of the Tigris through Babylonia, instead of being adorned with cities, is marked with the sites of "ancient ruins." Sitace, Sabata, Narisa, Fuchera, Sendia, "no longer exist." A succession of longitudinal mounds, crossed at right angles by others, mark the supposed site of Artemita, or Destagered. Its once luxuriant gardens are covered with grass; and a higher mound distinguishes "the royal residence" from the ancient streets. "Extensive ridges and mountains, (near to Houmania,) varying in height and extent, are seen branching in every direction." A wall, with sixteen bastions, is the only memorial of Apollonia. The once magnificent Seleucia is now a scene of desolation. There is not a single entire edifice, but the country is strewed for miles with fragments of decayed buildings. "As far," says Major Keppel, "as the eye could reach, the horizon presented a broken line of mounds; the whole of this place was a desert flat." On the opposite bank of the Tigris, where Ctesiphon its rival stood, beside fragments of walls and broken masses of brick work, and remains of vast structures encumbered with heaps of earth, there is one magnificent monument of antiquity "in a remarkably perfect state of preservation," "a large and noble pile of building, the front of which presents to view a wall three hundred feet in length, adorned with four rows of arched recesses, with a central arch, in span eighty-six feet, and above a hundred feet high, supported by walls sixteen feet thick, and leading to a hall which extends to the depth of a hundred and fifty-six feet," the width of the building. A great part of the back wall, and of the roof, is broken down; but that which remains "still appears much larger than Westminster Abbey. It is supposed to have been the lofty palace of Chosroes; but there desolation now reigns. "On the site of Ctesiphon." says Mignan, the smallest insect under heaven would not find a single blade of grass wherein to hide itself, nor one drop of water to allay its thirst." In the rear of the palace, and attached to it, are mounds two miles in circumference, indicating the utter desolation of buildings, formed to minister to luxury.

5. But let us come to the fulfilment of these wonderful prophecies in the present condition of Babylon itself, as described by those who have most recently visited it.

"Babylon shall become heaps." Babylon the glory of kingdoms is now the greatest of ruins. "Immense tumuli of temples, palaces, and habitations of every description," are every where seen, and form "long and varied lines of ruins," which in some places, says Sir R. K. Porter, "rather resemble natural hills than mounds which cover the remains of great and splendid edifices." These buildings, which were once the labour of slaves and the pride of kings, are now misshapen heaps of rubbish. "The whole face of the country," observes Rich, "is covered with vestiges of building, in some places consisting of brick walls surprisingly fresh, in others, merely a vast succession of mounds of rubbish, of such indeterminate figures, variety, and extent, as to involve the person who should have formed any theory in inextricable confusion."— "Let nothing of her be left." "Vast heaps constitute all that now remains of Ancient Babylon," says Rich. All its grandeur is departed; all its treasures have been spoiled; all its excellence has utterly vanished; the very heaps are searched for bricks, when nothing else can be found; even these are not left, wherever they can be taken away; and Babylon has for ages been "a quarry above ground," ready to the hand of every successive despoiler. Without the most remote allusion to this prophecy, Captain Mignan describes a mound attached to the palace, ninety yards in breadth by half that height, the whole of which is deeply furrowed, in the same manner as the generality of the mounds. "The ground is extremely soft, and tiresome to walk over, and appears completely exhausted of all its building materials; nothing now is left, save one towering hill, the earth of which is mixed with fragments of broken brick, red varnished pottery, tile, bitumen, mortar, glass, shells, and pieces of mother of pearl,"—worthless fragments, of no value to the poorest. "From thence shall she be taken, let nothing of her be left." While the workmen "cast her up as heaps" while excavating for bricks, that they may "take" them "from thence," and that "nothing may be left;" they labour more than trebly in the fulfilment of prophecy: for the numerous and deep excavations form pools of water, on the overflowing of the Euphrates, and, annually filled, they are not dried up throughout the year. "Deep cavities are also formed by the Arabs, when digging for hidden treasure." Thus "the ground," says Buckingham, "is sometimes covered with pools of water in the hollows."

"Sit in the dust, sit on the ground, O daughter of the Chaldeans." The surface of the mounds which form all that remains of Babylon, consists of decomposed buildings, reduced to dust; and over all the ancient streets and habitations, there is literally nothing but the dust of the ground on which to sit.— "Thy nakedness shall be uncovered." "Our path," says Captain Mignan, "lay through the great mass of ruined heaps on the site of ‘shrunken Babylon;' and I am perfectly incapable of conveying an adequate idea of the dreary, lonely nakedness that appeared before me."—"Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness." "There reigns throughout the ruins," says Sir R. K. Porter, "a silence profound as the grave." "Babylon is now a silent scene, a sublime solitude."— "It shall never be inhabited, nor dwelt in from generation to generation." From Rauwolff's testimony it appears that, in the sixteenth century, "there was not a house to be seen." And now "the eye wanders over a barren desert, in which the ruins are nearly the only indication that it had ever been inhabited." "It is impossible," adds Major Keppel, "to behold this scene and not to be reminded how exactly the predictions of Isaiah and Jeremiah have been fulfilled, even in the appearance Babylon was doomed to present, that ‘she should never be inhabited;' that ‘the Arabian should not pitch his tent there;' that she should ‘become heaps;' that her cities should be ‘a desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness.'" "Babylon is spurned alike by the heel of the Ottomans, the Israelites, and the sons of Ishmael." It is "a tenantless and desolate metropolis," remarks Mignan. "It shall not be inhabited, but be wholly desolate. Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there, neither shall the shepherds make their folds there." It was prophesied of Ammon that it should be a stable for camels and a couching place for flocks; and of Philistia, that it should be cottages for shepherds, and a pasture of flocks.

But Babylon was to be visited with a far greater desolation, and to become unfit or unsuited even for such a purpose; and that neither a tent would be pitched there, even by an Arab, nor a fold made by a shepherd, implies the last degree of solitude and desolation. "It is common in these parts for shepherds to make use of ruined edifices to shelter their flocks in." But Babylon is an exception. Instead of taking the bricks from thence, the shepherd might very readily erect a defence from wild beasts, and make a fold for his flock amidst the heaps of Babylon; and the Arab who fearlessly traverses it by day, might pitch his tent by night. But neither the one nor the other could now be persuaded to remain a single night among the ruins. The superstitious dread of evil spirits, far more than the natural terror of the wild beasts, effectually prevents them. Captain Mignan was accompanied by six Arabs, completely armed; but he "could not induce them to remain toward night, from the apprehension of evil spirits. It is impossible to eradicate this idea from the minds of this people, who are very deeply imbued with superstition." "Wild beasts of the deserts shall lie there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs (goats) shall dance there," &c. "There are many dens of wild beasts in various parts. And while the lower excavations are often pools of water, in most of the cavities are numbers of bats and owls." The king of the forest now ranges over the site of that Babylon which Nebuchadnezzar built for his own glory. And the temple of Belus, the greatest work of man, is now like unto a natural den of lions. Two or three majestic lions were seen upon its heights by Sir Robert Ker Porter, as he was approaching it; and "the broad prints of their feet were left plain in the clayey soil." Major Keppel saw there a similar footprint of a lion. It is also the unmolested retreat of jackals, hyenas, and other noxious animals. Wild beasts are numerous at the Mujelibe, as well as on Birs Nimrood. "The mound," says Kinneir, "was full of large holes: we entered some of them, and found them strewed with the carcasses and skeletons of animals recently killed. The ordure of wild beasts was so strong, that prudence got the better of curiosity; for we had no doubt as to the savage nature of the inhabitants. Our guides, indeed, told us, that all the ruins abounded in lions, and other wild beasts: so literally has the divine prediction been fulfilled, that wild beasts of the deserts should lie there, and their houses be full of doleful creatures; that the wild beasts of the island should cry in their desolate houses."

"The sea is come upon Babylon. She is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof." The traces of the western bank of the Euphrates are now no longer discernible. The river overflows unrestrained; and the very ruins, with "every appearance of the embankment," have been swept away. "The ground there is low and marshy, and, presents, not the slightest vestige of former buildings, of any description whatever." "Morasses and ponds," says Porter, "tracked the ground in various parts. For a long time after the general subsiding of the Euphrates, great part of this plain is little better than a swamp," &c. "The ruins of Babylon are then inundated, so as to render many parts of them inaccessible, by converting the valleys among them into morasses." But while Babylon is thus "covered with the multitude of waves, and the waters come upon it;" yet, in striking contrast and seeming contradiction to such a feature of desolation, (like the formation of "pools of water," from the "casting up of heaps,") are the elevated sunburnt ruins, which the waters do not overflow, are the "dry waste" and "parched and burning plain," on which the heaps of Babylon lie, equally prove that it is "a desert, a dry land, and a wilderness." One part, even on the western side of the river, is "low and marshy, and another," says Mignan, "an arid desert."

Many other striking particulars might be collected; and we may conclude in the words of Mr. Keith, from whose work on the prophecies several of the above particulars have been extracted:— "Is it possible that there can be any attestation of the truth of prophecy, if it be not witnessed here? Is there any spot on earth which has undergone a more complete transformation?

‘The records of the human race,' it has been said with truth, ‘do not present a contrast more striking than that between the primeval magnificence of Babylon and its long desolation.' Its ruins have of late been carefully and scrupulously examined by different natives of Britain, of unimpeached veracity; and the result of every research is a more striking demonstration of the literal accomplishment of every prediction. How few spots are there on earth of which we have so clear and faithful a picture as prophecy gave to fallen Babylon at a time when no spot on earth resembled it less than its present desolate solitary site! or could any prophecies respecting any single place have been more precise, or wonderful, or numerous, or true, or more gradually accomplished throughout many generations? And when they look at what Babylon was, and what it is, and perceive the minute realization of them all, may not nations learn wisdom, may not tyrants tremble, and may not skeptics think?"

The reasons why prophecies so numerous and particular were recorded concerning Babylon, appear to have been,

1. That Babylon was the great oppressor of the Jews.

2. That it was the type of all the powerful persecuting enemies of the church of God, especially of Rome; and in its fate they may read their own.

3. That the accomplishment of prophecy in the destruction of so eminent an empire might give a solemn testimony to the truth of the Scriptures to the whole earth, and to all ages.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Babylon'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/b/babylon.html. 1831-2.

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