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The Bible is a Book of history. The study of ancient manners and customs will greatly add to your understanding of the Bible.

Welcome to the Looking Backwards study section. Looking Backwards is a Bible teaching ministry with devotionals that help provide inquisitive minds with factual and historical insights along with graphics and illustrations.

Looking Backwards
            
By Rusty Russell

"The Striding Lion of Babylon"

Iraq: Babylon, Processional Avenue north of the Ishtar Gate; Neo-Babylonian Period; Reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, ca. 604-562 B.C.; Molded brick with polychrome glaze; 90.3 cm H, 230.5 cm W; Purchased in Berlin, 1931

This colorful striding lion of glazed brick with its mouth opened in a threatening roar, once decorated a side of the 'Processional Way' in ancient Babylon (the Biblical city of Babel). The 'Processional Way' led out of the city through a massive gate named for the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war, Ishtar, whose symbol was the lion. Each year, during the celebration of the great New Year Festival, the images of the city's deities were carried out through the Ishtar Gate and along the 'Processional Way' past some 120 lions such as this one to a special festival house north of the city. The lion sympolizes power and the Babylonians believed that it was Ishtar that gave them their glory.

Nebuchadnezzars Babylon was extensively excavated beginning in 1899 by Robert Koldewey and the Deutsche Orientgesellschaft (see Koldewey's, Das wieder erstehende Babylon, 4th ed., 1925). Among the tremendous complex of ruins was the great Ishtar Gate, beautifully decorated with a series of bulls and dragons in enameled, colored brick.

It was Nebuchadnezzar who said, "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?"

Babylon

The name Babylon or "babilu" means "the gate of god." It is an ancient city in the plain of shinar on the Euphrates River, about 50 miles south of Modern Baghdad. Babylon was founded by Nimrod of Gen. 10, who developed the world's first organized system of idolatry which God condemned (Gen. 11). It later became the capital of Babylonia and the Babylonian Empire.

Nebuchadnezzar (Nabu-kudurri-usur II) was the real genius and builder of Babylon. Of its 70 years in existence he ruled 43 years. He was the most powerful and longest-reigning king of the Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) dynasty. His name means "may (the god) Nebo protect my boundary." As the commander of Nabopalassar’s armies he was unstoppable. Soon after he became king.

Nebuchadnezzar's Power and Wealth

Inscriptions, documents and letters written during the 43 years of his reign (604-562 BC) give an idea of the power and wealth of Babylon. Babylon was of overwhelming size and appearance.

Here are some interesting facts according to the historian Herodotus (Bk 1, 178-186) about Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon:

- The city was in the form of a square, 14 miles on each side, and of enormous magnitude.
- The brick wall was 56 miles long, 300 feet high, 25 feet thick with another wall 75 feet behind the first wall, and the wall extended 35 feet below the ground.
- There were 250 towers that were 450 feet high.
- A wide and deep moat encircled the city.
- The Euphrates River also flowed through the middle of the city. Ferry boats and a 1/2 mi. long bridge with drawbridges closed at night.
- The "Hanging Gardens" built by Nebuchadnezzar for his Median queen were considered one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Water was raised from the river by hydraulic pumps.
- There were 8 massive gates that led to the inner city and 100 brass gates.
- The streets were paved with stone slabs 3 feet square.
- There was "the great Tower" (Ziggurat) and 53 temples including the "GreatTemple of Marduk," and 180 altars to Ishtar.

-In Nebuchadnezzar's palace were the Golden image of Baal together with the Golden Table (both weighing over 50,000 lbs of solid gold), also 2 golden lions and a solid gold human figure (18 feet high).
-Nebuchadnezzar’s palace was considered to be the most magnificant building ever erected on earth.


An extensive inscription, now in the British Museum, details the various construction projects of Nebuchadnezzar at Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar the Instrument of God

During the days of Assyria and Babylon there were many nations who were committing great sins of  idolatry and wickedness. The time of judgement was at hand. The Lord said that He would raise up a warrior from Babylon named Nebuchadnezzar whom He would use as an instrument of judgement to the surrounding nations. There is a remarkable prophecy concerning Egypt and its fall to Babylon:

Jer 43:10-13 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Behold, I will send and bring Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant...when he comes, he shall strike the land of Egypt and deliver to death those appointed for death, and to captivity those appointed for captivity, and to the sword those appointed for the sword. "I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt, and he shall burn them and carry them away captive. And he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd puts on his garment, and he shall go out from there in peace. "He shall also break the sacred pillars of Beth Shemesh that are in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians he shall burn with fire."

Nebuchadnezzar came to conquer and that he did. He broke the power of Egypt at the battle of Carcemish and proved to be one of the mightiest monarchs of all time. Among the cities he invaded and plundered were Tyre, Moab, Ammon, Edom, and Jerusalem.

Jer 27:8 'And it shall be, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and which will not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation I will punish,' says the LORD, 'with the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.

Nebuchadnezzar was indeed an instrument of judgement upon the surrounding nations. The Lord even warned Israel to submit to Nebuchadnezzar's rule because he was given power by the Lord to destroy and conquer. Israel at that time was divided from north to south and the whole northern kingdom had been destroyed by Assyria and taken away as captives for their idolatry. The southern kingdom (Judah) had her moments of glory but they had stooped far into idolatry and God gave numerous warnings through the prophets yet they did not listen and the time for judgement had come and Nebuchanezzar was God's instrument.

II Ki 21:12-15 "therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Behold, I am bringing such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle. 'And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab; I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 'So I will forsake the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become victims of plunder to all their enemies, 'because they have done evil in My sight, and have provoked Me to anger since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.'"

II Ki 24:11-14 And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, as his servants were besieging it. And he carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king's house, and he cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said.  Also he carried into captivity all Jerusalem: all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land. . . He burned the house of the LORD and the king's house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire. And all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls of Jerusalem all around.

Nebuchadnezzar's Pride

Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon was one of the weathiest and most powerful empires in the history of the world. Even the Bible called it "the city of gold" (Is 14:4). The Lord had used him as a tool of His judgement but that does not at all mean that He was pleased with Babylon nor Nebuchadnezzar. Their wicked practices and idolatries were an abomination before the Lord. His day was coming too and the Lord gave powerful warnings about the fate of Babylon.

Dan 4:30 The king spoke, saying, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?"

Nebuchadnezzar was a man of enormous power and wealth and yet he was obstinate to the ways of the Lord and wanted to glorify himself and his kingdom rather then give glory to God. God had allowed a Jewish captive in babylon named Daniel to be raised up as a voice of God's will in Babylon. Daniel was so respected that he was appointed one of the wise men in Babylon. Daniel spoke of future empires that would rule after Babylon, such as Persia, and Greece and Rome, and another Roman empire in the latter days. Yet  Nebuchadnezzar hardened his heart and did not want to believe that God has a purpose in the rising and fall of empires and thus he maintained that his kingdom would never end. The time for the judgement of Babylon was approaching.

Jer 50:31 "Behold, I am against you, O most haughty one!" says the Lord GOD of hosts; "For your day has come, the time that I will punish you."

The Judgement on Babylon Foretold

The Lord spoke many times through the prophets that His people, the Jews, would fall to Babylon. and lose their temple that Solomon had made, and their city, and be taken away as prisoners. Yet woe to the nation that is used as God's instrument. It was not a blessing to plunder the wealth and the people of Israel, rather it was a curse. The Babylonians were wicked and they were known as the "land of idolatry." They would be shown  no mercy as they had not shown to others. The prophet Isaiah spoke of this judgement:

Isa 47:5-15  "Sit in silence, and go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans; for you shall no longer be called the Lady of Kingdoms. I was angry with My people; I have profaned My inheritance, and given them into your hand. You showed them no mercy; on the elderly you laid your yoke very heavily. And you said, 'I shall be a lady forever,' so that you did not take these things to heart, nor remember the latter end of them. "Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures, who dwell securely, who say in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, nor shall I know the loss of children'; But these two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day: the loss of children, and widowhood. They shall come upon you in their fullness because of the multitude of your sorceries, for the great abundance of your enchantments . . . "let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you from what shall come upon you. Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; . . .No one shall save you.

Jer 50:10-11 And Chaldea shall become plunder; all who plunder her shall be satisfied," says the LORD. "Because you were glad, because you rejoiced, you destroyers of My heritage, because you have grown fat like a heifer threshing grain, and you bellow like bulls,

The Lord warns all to flee from the judgement that is to come upon Babylon:

Jer 51:6-9 Flee from the midst of Babylon, and every one save his life! Do not be cut off in her iniquity, for this is the time of the LORD'S vengeance; he shall recompense her . . . Forsake her, and let everyone go to his own country; for her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies.

And the Lord warns that this judgement will be so complete that Babylon will never be rebuilt and both name and remnant will be destroyed forever:

Jer 51:58-64 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: "The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people who built them labored in vain, because of the fire; and they shall be weary" . . ."Now it shall be, when you have finished reading this book, that you shall tie a stone to it and throw it out into the Euphrates. "Then you shall say, 'Thus Babylon shall sink and not rise from the catastrophe that I will bring upon her. And they shall be weary.'" Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.

Isa 14:22-24 "For I will rise up against them," says the LORD of hosts, "And cut off from Babylon the name and remnant, and offspring and posterity," says the LORD. "I will also make it a possession for the porcupine, and marshes of muddy water; I will sweep it with the broom of destruction," says the LORD of hosts. The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, "Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, and as I have purposed, so it shall stand

Jer 50:2-3 "Declare among the nations, proclaim, and set up a standard; proclaim-- do not conceal it-- say, 'Babylon is taken, Bel is shamed. Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are humiliated, her images are broken in pieces.'

The Medes and the Persians destroy Babylon

Isa 13:17-22 "Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who will not regard silver; and as for gold, they will not delight in it.  Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces, and they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye will not spare children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, 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. But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, and their houses will be full of owls; Ostriches will dwell there, and wild goats will caper there. The hyenas will howl in their citadels, and jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come, and her days will not be prolonged."

In 539 B.C. Cyrus led the massive Persian army along with the Medes and other armies into victory over Babylon by diverting the Euphrates River during a Feast and marching right into the city. Nothing remains today of Babylon except a series of widely scattered mounds to study. Persia became the world power, then Greece around 150 years later through Alexander the great, and then came Rome a few hundred years later, just as the prophet Daniel had spoken by the Word of the Lord.

Israel had fallen into the same sins as Babylon. They were playing the harlot with the other gods and it came to a point that  Jeremiah said that their sin was incurable. They would not be healed and they could not be healed and it was the judgement that came that caused them to remember the Lord, and to remember their inheritance. Israel had forsaken God, yet the Lord did not forsake them:

Jer 50:18-20 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. But I will bring back Israel to his home, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan; his soul shall be satisfied on Mount Ephraim and Gilead. In those days and in that time," says the LORD, "The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found; for I will pardon those whom I preserve.


A Word of Encouragement

It is a sad and tragic end that wealth, power and fame lead to when we do not give the glory to God. Nebuchadnezzar was a man who was perhaps the wealthiest and most powerful man that ever lived yet his record shows that after being told of God's plan for the nations, he went and had a 90 foot image of solid gold built in the honor of himself and the kingdom of Babylon. It is easy in this life to be focused on ourselves and the pursuit of wealth and fame, yet the Lord has given us a promise. If we acknowledge Him, He will direct our path. If we lean not on our own understanding , He will lead us, and if we trust in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart. Fame, wealth, and power have led many to ruin and yet there is also the testimony of many men and women of God who were wealthy or famous, who testified with their lives of their love and committment to the Lord. We need to ask ourselves, what are we doing with our lives? How are we handling our finances? Is the pursuit of money or fame driving us? Jesus was the greatest Man that ever lived yet He was a servant and sought the best for those whom He loved. He said, "no servant is greater than his Master, and if I wash your feet, then you also, ought to wash one another's."

May we as the Church, joint heirs with Jesus Christ, realize the riches of His inheritance. May we as His bride realize that we are in a relationship with the living God, who promised that He loves us and will never leave us or forsake us. May we as the stewards of the kingdom of God realize that the power to make wealth is a gift from God and entrusted to us for His glory.

Father search my heart and see if there is anything in me that has become more important than you. I know you understand me. Help me to see that the gifts and talents that I posess are entrusted to me, help me to give you the glory. Thank you for promising that you will keep me. Thank you that nothing I ever do can separate me from your love. Keep my heart open Lord and don't let me forget how much oppurtunity is here for me right now to serve you.
In Jesus' name

Amen!

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