Who or What Is Babylon?
Question: There are over three hundred references to “Babylon” in the Bible. In Revelation 16-18 the destruction of Babylon is the main subject. Who, or what, is “Babylon”?
Answer: “Babylon” is one of the central themes of the Bible. No doubt, Babylon is a place. It is in the region of modern-day Iraq, located some fifty miles south of Baghdad. It has been estimated that Babylon was the largest city in the world from about 1770 to 1670 BC, and again from 612 to 320 BC. It may have been the first city to reach a population of over 200,000 people.
Babylon is of extreme interest to us today because of the emerging religious situation there. The name “Babylon” is the Greek form of the ancient Akkadian Babilu, meaning “gateway of the gods.” In the Bible its name is “Babel,” from the Hebrew balal, meaning “confusion.”
Satan chose Babylon as the place from which to launch his ancient diabolical attack against the human race. Based on the description given in Genesis 2, most scholars believe that the Garden of Eden was located in modern-day Iraq. It was here that Satan launched his attack on Adam and Eve, and thus on the entire human race. It was also in the region of Babylon that the tower of Babel was built.
In Genesis 11:4 we read that the people said:
Let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
This was the first concerted effort of mass rebellion against God.
In addition to all of this, the various peoples that inhabited the region of Babylon repeatedly attacked and subjugated God’s Old Covenant people. The Assyrians and the Babylonians repeatedly invaded Israel.
Nimrod was the founder of Babylon and several of the ancient city-states that launched repeated attacks against Israel. According to Genesis 10:8-12, Nimrod was the founder of Babylon and the ancient city-states in Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The name Nimrod comes from a root word that means “rebel.”
History and mythology tell us that Nimrod had a wife, Semiramis. She had a son who, allegedly, was miraculously conceived. His name was Tammuz. Tammuz is the name of a Babylonian nature deity. Supposedly he died in the heat of summer, with the decline of the vegetation, and was “resurrected” in the spring, with the rejuvenation of the vegetation.
This false Babylonian religion, evidently, corrupted the worship of the true and living God in Israel. Ezekiel 8:14 speaks of the women of Jerusalem weeping for Tammuz at the gate of the Lord’s house.
Question: What do the prophetic Scriptures tell us about Babylon in the future?
Answer: Babylon is both a city and a system or, you might say, a place and a power. It is a place—located about fifty miles south of Baghdad. But Babylon also represents the power of evil aligned against God and His people.
In Revelation 17, Babylon represents the power of a united world religion aligned against God and His people. In Revelation 18, Babylon represents the power of a united world economy aligned against God and His people.
While Babylon is a particular historical and geographical reference, Babylon is much more than that. Revelation 14:8 says that Babylon will be destroyed “because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” In the words of Revelation 17:5, Babylon is “the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” From her belly issued forth worldwide false religion and apostasy.
All of this goes back to Nimrod, and the false religion that he founded. With the scattering of the people that occurred at Babel, the religion of Nimrod was scattered all over the world. This explains why false religions are usually a combination of polytheism, pantheism, and idolatry in various forms.
Question: How do we know that all of these prophecies about the destruction of Babylon have not already occurred in the past? After all, the Persians brought down the Babylonian Empire in 539 BC.
Answer: There is no question that some of the prophecies in the Old Testament about the destruction of Babylon were indeed fulfilled in the past. However, there are prophecies in Scripture regarding the destruction of Babylon that can only be fulfilled in the future.
There are two sections of Scripture that are very important in this regard. Isaiah 13-14 is one section, and Jeremiah 50-51 is another. Isaiah 13:10-13 tell us that Babylon will be destroyed in the Day of the Lord when there are signs in the heavens. The stars, the sun, and the moon will not give their light. The Bible often tells us that there will be such celestial disturbances in the Tribulation period. That is yet future. That did not happen in 539 BC.
Furthermore, in Isaiah 13:19 and in Jeremiah 50:12-13 we are told that Babylon’s destruction will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In other words, it will be a total and irrevocable destruction. Babylon will never again be inhabited. But the region of Babylon today is inhabited, and it has been inhabited down through the centuries.
There are scriptures that tell us after the destruction of Babylon, Israel will be restored both physically and spiritually. Jeremiah 50:2-5 says that it will be a time of national revival. That certainly has not yet happened.
Babylon will be restored in the future. Prophecy can only be fulfilled in the presence of such a restoration.