Babel (Hebrew) means Babylon; so that "the tower" should be designated "the tower of Babel." Capital of the country Shinar (Genesis), Chaldea (later Scriptures). The name as given by Nimrod (Genesis 10:10), the founder, means (Bab-il), "the gate of the god Il," or simply "of God." Afterward the name was attached to it in another sense (Providence having ordered it so that a name should be given originally, susceptible of another sense, signifying the subsequent divine judgment), Genesis 11:9; Babel from baalal, "to confound; .... because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth," in order to counteract their attempt by a central city and tower to defeat God's purpose of the several tribes of mankind being "scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth," and to constrain them, as no longer "understand one another's speech," to dispel The Talmud says, the site of tower of Babel is Borsippa, the Bits Nimrud, 7 1/2 miles from Hillah, and 11 from the northern ruins of Babylon.
The French expedition found at Borsippa a clay cake, dated the 30th day of the 6th month of the 16th year of Nabonid. Borsippa (the Tongue Tower) was a suburb of Babylon, when the old Babel was restricted to the northern ruins. Nebuchadnezzar included it in the great circumvallation of 480 stadia. When the outer wall was destroyed by Darius Borsippa became independent of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar's temple or tower of Nebo stood on the basement of the old tower of Babel. He says in the inscription, "the house of the earth's base (the basement substructure), the most ancient monument of Babylon I built and finished; I exalted its head with bricks covered with copper ... the house of the seven lights (the seven planets); a former king 42 ages ago built, but did not complete its head. Since a remote time people had abandoned it, without order expressing their words; the earthquake and thunder had split and dispersed its sun-dried clay."
The substructure had a temple sacred to Sin, god of the mouth (Oppert). The substructure is 600 Babylonian ft. broad, 75 high; on it Nebuchadnezzar built seven other stages. God had infatuated His will that "the earth should be divided," the several tribes taking different routes, in the days of Peleg ("division"), born 100 years after the flood (Genesis 10:25; Genesis 10:32; Deuteronomy 32:8). Another object the Babel builders sought was to "make themselves a name"; self-relying pride setting up its own will against the will of God, and dreaming of ability to defeat God's purpose, was their snare. Also their "tower, whose top (pointed toward, or else reached) unto heaven," was designed as a self-deifying, God-defying boast. Compare Isaiah 14:13; God alone has the right to "make Himself a name" (Isaiah 63:12; Isaiah 63:14; Jeremiah 32:20).
They desired to establish a grand central point of unity. They tacitly acknowledge they have lost the inward spiritual bond of unity, love to God uniting them in love to one another. They will make up for it by an outward forced unity; the true unity by loving obedience to God they might have had, though dispersed. Their tower toward heaven may have marked its religious dedication to the heavens (sabeanism, worship of the tsaba, the hosts of heaven), the first era in idolatry; as also the first effort after that universal united empire on earth which is to be realized not by man's ambition, but by the manifestation of Messiah, whose right the kingdom is (Ezekiel 21:27). "The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded," i.e. (in condescension to human language), Jehovah took judicial cognizance of their act: their "go to, let us," etc. (Genesis 11:3-4), Jehovah with stern irony meets with His "Go to, let us," etc.
The cause of the division of languages lies in an operation performed upon the human mind, by which the original unity of feeling, thought, and will was broken up. The one primitive language is now lost, dispersed amidst the various tongues which have severally appropriated its fragments, about to rise again with reunited parts in a new and heavenly form when Jehovah will "turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve Him with one consent" (Zephaniah 3:9). "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one" (Zechariah 14:9). The fact that the Bible names in Genesis 1-10 are Hebrew does not prove it the primitive tongue, for with the change of language the traditional names were adapted to the existing dialect, without any sacrifice of truth.
The earnest of the coming restoration was given in the gift of tongues at Pentecost, when the apostles spoke with other tongues, so that "devout men out of every nation under heaven" heard them speak in their own tongues "the wonderful works of God." The confusion of tongues was not at random, but a systematic distribution of languages for the purpose of a systematic distribution of man in emigration. The dispersion was orderly, the differences of tongue corresponding to the differences of race: as Genesis 10:5; Genesis 10:20; Genesis 10:31, "By these were ... Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families in their nations."
ORIGIN. Genesis (Genesis 10:8-10) represents Nimrod as the son of Cush (Ethiopia), and that "the beginning of his kingdom was Babel (Babylon)" Bunsen held that there were no Cushites out of Africa, and that an "Asiatic Cush existed only in the imagination of Biblical interpreters," and was "the child of their despair."
But the earliest Babylonian monuments show that the primitive Babylonians whose structures by Nebuchadnezzar's time were in ruins, had a vocabulary undoubtedly Cushite or Ethiopian, analogous to the Galla tongue in Abyssinia. Sir H. Rawlinson was able to decipher the inscriptions chiefly by the help of the Galla (Abyssinian) and Mahra (S. Arabian) dialects. The system of writing resembled the Egyptian, being pictorial and symbolic, often both using the same symbols. Several words of the Babylonians and their kinsmen the Susianians are identical with ancient Egyptian or Ethiopic roots: thus, hyk or hak, found in the Egyptian name hyksos or shepherd kings, appears in Babylonian and Susianian names as khak. Tirkhak is common to the royal lists of Susiana and Ethiopia, as Nimrod appears in those of both Babylon and Egypt.
As Ra was the Egyptian sun god, so was Ra the Cushite name of the supreme god of the Babylonians. Traces appear in the Babylonian inscriptions of all the four great dialects, Hamitic, Semitic, Aryan, and Turanian, which show that here the original one language existed before the confusion of tongues. The Babylonian and Assyrian traditions point to an early connection between Ethiopia, S. Arabia, and the cities on the lower Euphrates near its mouth. A first Cushite empire (Lenormant quoted by G. Rawlinson) ruled in Babylonia centuries before the earliest Semitic empire arose. Chedorlaomer (or Lagomer, an idol), king of Elam, is represented in Genesis 14 as leader of the other kings including the king of Shinar (Babylonia). Now Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions show that Elam (Elymais or Susiana, between Babylonia and Persia) maintained its independence through the whole Assyrian period, and that at a date earlier than that commonly assigned to Abraham (2286 B.C.) an Elamite king plundered Babylonia.
About this date a Babylonian king is designated in the inscriptions "ravager of Syria." Originally "the gate of the god's" temple, whereat justice used to be ministered, Babel or Babylon was secondary in importance at first to the other cities, Erech, Ur, and Ellasar. The earliest seat of the Chaldaeans' power was close on the Persian gulf; as Berosus, their historian, intimates by attributing their civilization to Oannes the fish god, "who brought it out of the sea." Naturally the rich alluvial soil near the mouth of great rivers would be the first occupied. Thence they went higher up the river, and finally fixed at Babylon, 300 miles above the Persian gulf, and 200 above the junction of the Tigris with the Euphrates.
SIZE AND GENERAL FEATURES. So extensive was it that those in the center knew not when the extremities were captured (Jeremiah 51:31). Herodotus gives the circumference as 60 miles, the whole forming a quadrangle, of which each side was 15 miles. M. Oppert confirms this by examinations on the spot, which show an area within the wall of 200 square miles. The arable and pasture land within was enough to supply all its inhabitants' requirements. The population has been conjectured at 1,200,000. The wall was pierced with 100 gates of brass, 25 gates on each side (Isaiah 45:2). The breadth and height of the walls (the latter almost as great as that of the dome of Paul's Cathedral; 350 ft. high, 87 broad) are alluded to in Jeremiah 51:58; Jeremiah 51:53. A deep wide moat of water surrounded the wall, the 30 lower courses of bricks were wattled with reeds, and the whole cemented with hot asphalt from Is (Hit). The streets crossed at right a angles, the cross streets to the Euphrates being closed at the river end by brazen gates.
The temple of Belus was a kind of pyramid, of eight square towers, one above the other, the basement tower being 200 yards each way, and a winding ascent round the tower leading to the summit, on which was a chapel sacred to the god but containing no statue. (Does not this favor the view that the words "whose top ... unto heaven" mean that it was dedicated to the visible heavens, to which it pointed, and of which therefore it needed no symbol or image?) The "hanging gardens" were a square of 400 ft. each way, which rose in terraces, the topmost being planted with large trees. So the monuments of Nineveh speak of the mounds of the palaces being planted with rows of fir trees. Compare Nahum 2:3, "the fir trees shall be terribly shaken." Oppert thinks that the lesser measurement of the interior of Babylon given by Strabo, Ctesias, etc., is due to their giving the measurement of Herodotus' inner wall, which alone remained in their day; Herodotus speaks of the outer wall which could be traced in his time. Movable platforms of wood, stretching from stone pier to stone pier, formed a bridge uniting the two parts of the city. Ctesias says there were 250 towers on the walls to guard the weakest parts. In the midst of each half of the city were fortifications, in one the palace, in the other the temple, of Belus.
On the W. of the city was an artificial lake, into which the river was turned during the erection of the bridge; when the river was brought back the lake as a marsh defended the city. Herodotus says the Greeks learned from Babylon the pole, the sundial, and the division of the day into twelve parts. The first eclipse on record, a lunar one, was accurately observed at Babylon, March 19th, 721 B.C. Ptolemy has preserved an account of lunar eclipses as far back as this date. Numerous canals intersected the country for drainage and irrigation. Psalm 137:1, "By the waters of Babylon ... we hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof." The largest, the royal canal, navigable to merchant vessels, connected the Euphrates and Tigris.
SITES AND PRESENT STATE. Five miles above Hillah, on the left bank of the Euphrates, enormous mounds mark the site of the capital of S. Babylonia. The principal are three of unbaked brickwork; Babil, the Kasr or palace, and a high mound now surmounted by the tomb of Amram ibn Alb; two parallel lines of rampart, on the E. and parallel to the river, and enclosing between them and it the chief ruins; lower lines immediately on the river (which runs from N. to S.) and W. of the ruins, also a line on the N.; a separate heap in a long valley (perhaps the river's ancient bed); two lines of rampart meeting at a right angle, and forming with the river a triangle enclosing all the ruins except Babil. On the W. or right bank of the river the remains are few. Opposite the Amram mound there is a kind of enclosed building. Scattered mounds of the same date with the general mass upon the river exist throughout the region.
The Birs Nimrud (by G. Smith regarded as the tower of Babel) six miles S.W. of Hillah, and six from the Euphrates, is the most remarkable, 153 1/2 ft. high and 2,000 ft. around the base; surmounted by a tower. It is torn in two nearly the whole way down, and bears traces of fire. G. Smith reads an Assyrian fragment of writing in columns to the effect that "wickedness of men caused the gods to overthrow Babel; what they built in the day the god overthrew in the night; in his anger he scattered them abroad; their counsel was confused."
Sir H. Rawlinson found by excavation the tower consisted of seven stages of brickwork on an earthen platform three feet high, each stage of different color. The temple was devoted to the seven planets: the first stage, an exact square, was 272 ft. each way, and 26 ft. high, the bricks black with bitumen, probably devoted to Saturn; the second stage 230 ft. square, 26 ft. high, orange bricks, devoted probably to Jupiter; the third, 188 ft. square by 26 ft. high, red bricks, probably devoted to Mars; the fourth, 146 ft. square by 15 ft. high, probably plated with gold and devoted to the sun; the fifth, guessed to be 104 ft. square; the sixth 62 ft. ; the seventh 20 ft.; but these three, probably dedicated to Venus, Mercury, and the Moon, are too ruinous for measurement. The whole was probably 156 ft. high. The slope with the grand entrance faced N.E.; the steeper was S.W. It was called "the temple of the seven spheres." It is thought from the inscriptions to mark the site of Borsippa, beyond the bounds of Babylon.
The palace of Nebuchadnezzar, E. of the river Sippara, the ancient course of the Euphrates, and that of Neriglissar on the W. of the river, are still distinguishable. The Shebil canal anciently interposed between the Kasr and Babil. Babil is probably the ancient temple of Belus; 140 ft. high, flat at the top, 200 yards long, 140 yards broad (the temple towers of lower Babylonia had all this oblong shape). It was originally coated with fine burnt brick; all the inscribed bricks bear the name of Nebuchadnezzar, who rebuilt it. The shrine, altars, and priests' houses were at the foot within a sacred enclosure. Kasr is Nebuchadnezzar's great palace, a square of 700 yards each way. The pale yellow burnt bricks are stamped with Nebuchadnezzar's name and titles; "Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon." The enameled bricks found bear traces of figures, confirming Ctesias' statement that the walls represented hunting scenes in bright colors.
The Amram mound is the ancient palace, as old as Babylon itself; its bricks containing the names of kings before Nebuchadnezzar; that king mentions it in his inscriptions. The separate heaps close upon and W. of the river's ancient bed answer to the lesser palace, connected with the greater by a bridge across and a tunnel beneath the river (Ctesias). A mound in the middle of the ancient channel marks the site of the piers of the bridge. The inscription of the bricks with Neriglissar's name marks him as the founder of the lesser palace. The two lines of rampart parallel to the river are probably embankments of the great reservoir mentioned by Nebuchadnezzar in the monuments, and lying E. of his palace. With only "brick for stone," and at first only "slime for mortar," the Babylonians by the forced labor of multitudes erected monuments of genius so vast as to be still among the wonders of the world.
HISTORY. For the last 3,000 years the world has owed its progress manly to the Semitic and the Indo-European races. But originally the Hamitic races (Egypt and Babylon), now so depressed, took the lead the arts, sciences, and power. The first steps in alphabetical writing, sculpture, painting, astronomy, history, navigation, agriculture, weaving, were taken by them. Berosus, their historian's account of their traditions of the flood, and of the confusion of tongues at Babel, accords with Scripture in most points. Nimrod the son of Cash carne over in ships to lower Mesopotamia, and built Ur on the right of the Euphrates near the mouth. Its inhabitants were Chaldi, i.e. moon worshippers. Hur means "the moon goddess." Its vocabulary is Cashite or Ethiopian. A dynasty of 11 monarchs followed. One Orchamar Urkhur, in the inscriptions, was the builder of gigantic works. Chedorlaomer of Elam established a short-lived empire, extending to the mountains of Elam and to Israel and Syria.
This early Babylonian empire, which subsequently to Chedorlaomer's reign in Elam lasted 458 years, fell by the revision of barbarian hordes, probably Arabs. For seven and a half centuries it was depressed, during which time it became gradually assimilated to the Semitic stock. Nimrod is not mentioned in the Babylonian remains; he probably answers to their god Bel. He united tribes previously independent. The cuneiform inscriptions often designate the people of the lower Euphrates region Kiriath Arbol, "the four nations;" such a confederacy appears in Genesis 14, of which the king of Shinar was one. The southern tetrarchy (arba lisun, "the four tongues," or kiprat 'arbat, "the four nations") consisted of Ur, Huruk, Nipur, and Larsa or Laruncha, answering to the scriptural Ur of the Chaldees, Erech, Calneh, and Ellasar. The northern tetrarchy consisted of Babylon, Borsippa, and Sippara (Sepharvaim): Genesis 10:10-12.
The Assyrians adopted the Babylonian number on their emigration to the N. The "four tongues" and the fourfold league of Chedorlaomer answer to the fourfold ethnic division, Cushite, Turanian, Semitic, and Aryan. Erech (Warka) and Ur (Mugheir) were then the capitals; the land was Shinar, and the people (according to the monuments) Akkadim (Accad, Genesis 10:10). The remains from these two cities date about 2000 B.C. Writing had begun, for the bricks are stamped with their kings' names. The bricks, rudely molded and of various sizes, are some kiln-burned, others sun-dried; buttresses support their buildings: mortar is unknown, clay and bitumen being substituted. Reed matting compacts the mass, that it may not crumble away.
The first dynasty of 11 kings probably lasted from 2234 B.C. to 1976 B.C.; the dynasty succeeding Chedorlaomer's short lived Elamitic empire from 1976 B.C. to 1518 B.C., 458 years. Then it fell under Semitic influence, Arabia for two and a half centuries, and then (about 1270 B.C.) under Assyria for five. At the close of the earlier and the beginning of the later Assyrian dynasties it again rose to the importance which it had when it colonized and gave letters and the arts to Assyria, and had the supremacy during the second or great Chaldean dynasty. Rawlinson completes Berosus' chronological scheme.
DYNASTY - YEARS OF CONTINUANCE - B.C.
I. of Chaldean kings 2286
II. of 8 Median kings 234 - 2052
III. of 11 Median kings 48 - 2004
IV. of 49 Chaldean kings 458 - 1546
V. of 9 Arabian kings 245 - 1301
VI. of 45 Arabian kings 526 - 775 Pul, a Chaldean 28 - 747
VII. of 13 kings 122 - 625
VIII. of 6 Babylonian kings 87 - 538 Urukh is mentioned earliest on the monuments after Nimrod; his bricks are the lowest down and the rudest in make. Next comes Elgi, "king of Ur." Kudur Nakhunta of Elam, whose court was at Susa, in 2286 invaded Chaldaea and carried off the Babylonian images. He is identified with Zoroaster (Ziru-Ishtar). Kudur Lagomer (Chedorlaomer, the Cushite) is next in the dynasty, having as vassals Amraphel (Semitic), Arioch (Aryan), Tidal (Turanian or Scythic, or Turgal, "the great chief") reigning over nomadic races (goim, "nations.") Kudur Mabuk enlarged the dominions of Ur, and was, according to the monuments, Apda Martu, "conqueror of the west."
The early monarchs reign at Ur, and leave traces no further N. than Niffer. Sin-shada holds court at Erech 25 miles to the N. of Ur; Naram-sin, further N., at Babylon. Kara-Indas was contemporary with Asshur-bel-nisisu, 1440 B.C. Purna-puriyas with Buzur-Asshur, 1420-1400. Urukh was the Chaldaean builder to whom belongs the credit of designing the Babylonian temple, with its rectangular base facing the four cardinal points, its receding stages, buttresses, drains, and sloped walls, external staircases, and ornamental shrine crowning the whole. No trace of the original Babylon exists in our day. The oldest structures are Urukh's. Kudur Lagomer was the great conqueror, subduing distant Israel and Syria, a feat not again achieved until Nebuchadnezzar, 1,600 years later. Tiglathi-Nin (1300 B.C.) conquered Chaldea. Thenceforward, Semitic superseded Cushite influences and the Babylonian kings have Assyrian instead of Turanian or Cushite names.
The "canon of Ptolemy" gives the succession of Babylonian kings and their lengths of reign, from 747 B.C. (when Nabonassar began to reign) to 331 B.C. (when the last Darius was dethroned by Alexander). Twelve monarchs and two interreigns interpose between Nabonassar and Nabopolassar; then come consecutively Nebuchadnezzar, Illoarudamus, Nerigassolassarus, Nabonadius, Cyrus. Nabonassar destroyed all his predecessors' annals, that the Babylonians might date from himself. There was a Semiramis at this time, a Babylonian queen (Herodotus says) five generations before Nitocris, mother of the last king. Assyrian monuments also place her at this date, but do not expressly connect her with Babylon. Hence, some guess that Nabonassar was her son or husband, Mardocempalus, the fourth king after him, is the Merodach or Berodach Baladan of Scripture; he reigned twice first for 12 years, contemporaneously with the Assyrian Sargon, and the second time for six months only.
During the first year of Sennacherib his sons and grandsons were at war with Esarhaddon and his successor. He shows his independence of Assyria in his embassy to Hezekiah; and his inquiry as to the astronomical wonder done in the land of Judah, the sun's shadow having gone back on Ahaz' dial, is characteristic of a prince of the Chaldees whose devotion to astronomy is well known. Sargon, according to the inscriptions deprived him of his throne after his first reign of 12 years. Arceanus was made viceroy, and held the post five years. Two years of anarchy followed. Then one Acises reigned a month, and Merodach Baladan held the throne six months, and was then supplanted by Belibus whom Sennacherib made his viceroy for three years and then placed his oldest son Aparanadius on the throne. Two followed, then a second interreign of eight years, and Asaridanus or Esarhaddon followed, son and successor. of Sennacherib.
He held his court alternately in Nineveh and Babylon, which explains the difficulty and shows the accurate propriety of the Scripture statement that Manasseh, king of Judah, was carried by the captains of the king of Assyria to Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:11). A new era begins with Nabopolassar, appointed ruler of Babylon by the last Assyrian king just when the Medes were making their final assault on Nineveh. Nabopolassar deserted to the enemy, arranged a marriage between his son Nebuchadnezzar and the Median leader's daughter, and joined hi besieging the Assyrian capital. (See NEBUCHADNEZZAR.) On the capture of the city (625 B.C.) the S. W. of Assyria was assigned to Nabopolassar in the division of the spoil. So the Babylonian empire was extended over the whole Euphrates valley to the Taurus range, over Syria, Phoenicia, Israel, Idumaea; and the Jews passed as tributaries under Babylon, as they had been under Assyria. Pharaoh Necho, son of Psamatik I (608 B.C.) in the later years of Nabopolassar conquered the whole region between Egypt and the Euphrates.
Josiah, as ally of Babylon, met him in spite of warning and was slain at Megiddo (2 Chronicles 35:20-25; 2 Kings 23:29). Nabopolassar sent Nebuchadnezzar; and the latter at the battle of Carchemish, on the Euphrates, regained all the lost territory for Babylon (2 Kings 24:7; Jeremiah 46:2-12.) Nebuchadnezzar was already at Egypt when news of his father's death recalled him, and he ascended the throne 604 B.C. He reigned 43 years, during which he recovered Syria and Israel, destroyed Jerusalem, and carried away the Jews to Babylon, reduced Phoenicia and Tyre, and ravaged Egypt; above all he was the great builder of the most beautiful monuments of his country and city. His palace with threefold enclosure, plated pillars, enameled brick, and hanging gardens, was celebrated throughout the civilized world.
The ruins of ancient temples repaired by him, and cities restored and adorned, still attest his genius, with their bricks inscribed with his name. How appropriate the language assigned to him in Daniel 4:29-30, as he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon, possibly on the highest terrace of the hanging gardens: "Is not, this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power and for the honor of my majesty?" Evil Merodach, his son, succeeded in 561 B.C., who in the beginning of his reign "did lift up the head of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, out of prison" (2 Kings 25:27; Jeremiah 52:31). After a two years' reign, in consequence of bad government he was murdered by Neriglissar, his brother-in-law, the Nergal Sharezer, Rabmag (chief of the magi, or priests, a title assigned to Neriglissar in the inscriptions) of Jeremiah 39:3; Jeremiah 39:13-14. He calls himself in the inscriptions "son," i.e. son in law of the "king of Babylon." He built the palace on the right bank of the ancient bed of the Euphrates.
Nabonidus the last king was an usurper who seized Laborosoarched, Neriglissar's son, after a nine months' reign, and tortured him to death. He only claims for his father the rank of Rabmag. Herodotus makes him son of a queen Nitocris and Labynetus; but the inscriptions do not directly support his having any connection with Nebuchadnezzar. Probably Balshazzar was grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, as indeed is asserted by Scripture (Jeremiah 27:7; Daniel 5:2; Daniel 5:11; Daniel 5:13), and was suffered by the usurper Nabonahit (as Nabonidus is called in the inscriptions), who adopted him as son, to be subordinate king and his acknowledged successor, in order to conciliate the legitimate party; perhaps Nabonahit married Nebuchadnezzar's daughter or granddaughter (Nitocris) to strengthen his throne, and by her was father to Belshazzar. Nabonahit (as Berosus records) having allied himself to Creeses, king of Lydia, Cyrus' enemy, brought on himself Cyrus' assault of Babylon in 539 B.C. He headed the forces in the field, while Belshazzar commanded in the city.
Shut up in Borsippa (Birs-i-Nimrud, the sacred city of the Babylonians, containing their most revered objects of religion and science) he surrendered and was spared, and Cyrus gave him an estate in Carmania. Belshazzar (from Bel the idol, and shat, a prince), by a self confident careless watch and unseasonable and profane revelry (Daniel 5), allowed Cyrus' forces on a great Babylonian festival to enter by the bed of the river which the invader had drained into another channel, and was slain. Babylon's capture by surprise during a festival was foretold in Jeremiah 51:31; Jeremiah 51:39, and that the capture should be by the Medes and Persians, 170 years earlier in Isaiah 21:1-9. Thus, Berosus' account of the king not being slain, and Daniel's account of his being slain, supposed once to be an insurmountable difficulty, is fully cleared up by the monuments.
Rawlinson found clay cylinders in Umqeer (Ur of the Chaldees), two of which mention Belshazzar as oldest son of Nabonahit. Berosus gives the Chaldaean account, which suppresses all about Belshazzar, as being to the national dishonor. Had the book of Daniel been the work of a late forger, he would have followed Berosus' account which was the later one. If he gave a history different from that current in Babylonia, the Jews of that region would not have received it as true. Darius the Mede took the kingdom at the age of 62, upon Belshazzar's death. Rawlinson thinks that he was set up by Cyrus, the captor of Babylon, as viceroy there, and that he is identical with the Median king Astyages, son of Ahasuerus (Cyaxares), whom Cyrus, the Persian king, deposed but treated kindly. The phrase (Daniel 9:1), "Darius, son of Ahasuerus (Cyaxares), of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldaeans," implies that Darius owed the kingdom to another, i.e. Cyrus.
Herodotus makes Astyages the last king of the Medes, and that he was conquered by Cyrus and left no issue. Josephus, on the contrary (Ant. 10:11, section 4), makes Darius = Cyaxares II, son of Astyages (Ahasuerus). Able critics (Hengstenberg, etc.) think his reign was ignored by Herodotus, etc., because through indolence he yielded the real power to his nephew Cyrus, who married his daughter and received the crown at his death. Xenophon, in his romantic story (Cyropaedia), mentions Cyaxares II. Thus, Cyrus, in assaulting Babylon, acted in his name, which accounts for the prominence given to Darius the Median, and for the Medes being put before the Persians in the capture of Babylon (Isaiah 13:17; Isaiah 21:2; Daniel 5:31; Daniel 6:28). Future discoveries may decide which is the right view.
DECLINE. The Persian kings held their court at Babylon a large part of each year. In Alexander's time it was the second city of the empire. Twice in Darius' reign (Behistun inscriptions), and once under Xerxes, Babylon rebelled and suffered severely for it. Alexander's designs for restoring its architectural beauties were frustrated by his death. The seat of empire under his Syrian successors, the Seleucidae, was removed to Antioch. Seleucia rose subsequently near it and carried away both its population and much of its materials.
Ctesiphon, Bagdad, Kufa, Hillah, etc., are mainly built of its old bricks. Thus, "the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency" has "become heaps" "without an inhabitant" (Jeremiah 51:37; Jeremiah 50:39). "A drought is upon her waters," the irrigation which caused Babylonia's fertility having long ceased. "Wild beasts of the desert," "doleful creatures," and "owls (or, ostriches) dwell there" (Isaiah 13:20-22). The "wild beasts of the islands" (rather "of the howlings," i.e. jackals) and "dragons" (serpents) abound; so that "neither the Arabian pitches his tent, nor the shepherd folds his sheep there," as believing the whole region haunted.
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