Wednesday, May 5, 2010

how to wreck a wonder of the world

The Word for today: Jeremiah 52
(In light of the fact that Jeremiah 52 has been covered already in Jeremiah 39 and 2 Kings 24, we will instead cover the prophecies levelled against Babylon from the previous chapters.)

Niagara Falls USA.
I'm not sure, given all the money in the world, that I could shipwreck a world wonder as effectively as has been done to that poor city. Every time I drive by, my heart winces at how such a beautiful marvel has been marred by empty buildings, garbage dumps, poverty, and defunct industry.

Babylon (in Modern day Iraq, about 55 miles south of Baghdad)
But the decline of Niagara Falls has nothing on the fall of Babylon. While Niagara's only beauty comes from the hand of our Creator, Babylon was an entirely man-made phenomenon.
Spanning the Euphrates River, it was the premier city in the world of its day. It was the capital of the mighty Babylonian Empire, the height of progress in law, science, astronomy and mathematics in the known world. It was renown for both its beauty (remember the famed Hanging Gardens and its many ziggurats) and its sheer size.

They used all the resources acquired through their conquests and plundering (nations including Judah) to expand and fortify their city-state. Babylon had a perimeter wall that was 75 ft thick, nearly 200 ft tall, extending 11-14 miles around the inner city. Upon this, there were around 250 watchtowers themselves up to 100 feet high. That's a lot of bricks!

Babylon was the Rome and London and New York City of its time, all rolled into one. For a Jew like Jeremiah, whose nation was besieged and about to be plundered by a vastly superior foe, to predict such a downfall for Babylon is ridiculous. Its as ridiculous as the nation of Belize threatening the United States. Its utterly preposterous, unless you factor in the power of God.

Here in the end of Jeremiah, the prophet levels a severe and seemingly contradictory prediction about the end of this city (Jeremiah 51:37 & 42).
"Babylon will be a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals, an object of horror and scorn, a place where no one lives... the sea will rise over Babylon; its roaring waves will cover her."

How could it be a desert type place and yet covered in waves? How could a city that strong and powerful become so desolate?

We learn from the Bible (and from history) the beginning of the end for Babylon in the book of Daniel. Under Cyrus and Darius, t
he Persians circumvented Babylon's impenetrable walls and gates by cleverly redirecting the Euphrates River with deep trenches. The Babylonians were too busy partying to notice (see Daniel 5). But the Persians never destroyed Babylon utterly, so we must look further into history.

We know that around 323 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire and was planning on making Babylon his worldwide capital. But he died just weeks later and his successors did not share in his plans. So Babylon fell into disrepair, yet it was still standing, the prophecy still yet to be completed.

Fast forward t0 around 363 AD, a pagan Roman Emperor, suitably called Julian the Apostate, was campaigning in the area and ordered that the remaining walls of Babylon be destroyed so that it couldn't be used as a refuge for his enemies. Mission accomplished. Nothing left of Babylon.

Fast forward to today. Half the ancient city is buried under sand, the other half is sunk under silt that is deposited by the Euphrates, which floods the land periodically. This fulfills even the seemingly contradictory prophecy that the former glorious city would be both a desert and covered in waters. It is a total desolation, a reminder of the fleeting glory of man and the unstoppable power of God's Word.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about all of this is how God fulfilled His Word not by any supernatural disaster or holy war, but by the action of pagan rulers who never even knew that they had any part in fulfilling the prophecies.

Praise God for His Word. There is nothing like it in all human history. It has been tested and attacked more than any other book, yet time and time again, it rises above all critcism and challenge, and shows us How Firm a Foundation we have for our faith.

(For more info about Babylon and other fulfilled prophecy, I encourage you to check out a great website called "")

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