Babylon: the Greek form of BABEL; Semitic form Babilu, meaning "The Gate
of God." In the Assyrian tablets it means "The city of the
dispersion of the tribes." The monumental list of its kings
reaches back to B.C. 2300, and includes Khammurabi, or Amraphel
(q.v.), the contemporary of Abraham. It stood on the Euphrates,
about 200 miles above its junction with the Tigris, which flowed
through its midst and divided it into two almost equal parts.
The Elamites invaded Chaldea (i.e., Lower Mesopotamia, or
Shinar, and Upper Mesopotamia, or Accad, now combined into one)
and held it in subjection. At length Khammu-rabi delivered it
from the foreign yoke, and founded the new empire of Chaldea
(q.v.), making Babylon the capital of the united kingdom. This
city gradually grew in extent and grandeur, but in process of
time it became subject to Assyria. On the fall of Nineveh (B.C.
606) it threw off the Assyrian yoke, and became the capital of
the growing Babylonian empire. Under Nebuchadnezzar it became
one of the most splendid cities of the ancient world.
After passing through various vicissitudes the city was
occupied by Cyrus, "king of Elam," B.C. 538, who issued a decree
permitting the Jews to return to their own land (Ezra 1). It
then ceased to be the capital of an empire. It was again and
again visited by hostile armies, till its inhabitants were all
driven from their homes, and the city became a complete
desolation, its very site being forgotten from among men.
On the west bank of the Euphrates, about 50 miles south of
Bagdad, there is found a series of artificial mounds of vast
extent. These are the ruins of this once famous proud city.
These ruins are principally (1) the great mound called Babil by
the Arabs. This was probably the noted Temple of Belus, which
was a pyramid about 480 feet high. (2) The Kasr (i.e., "the
palace"). This was the great palace of Nebuchadnezzar. It is
almost a square, each side of which is about 700 feet long. The
little town of Hillah, near the site of Babylon, is built almost
wholly of bricks taken from this single mound. (3) A lofty
mound, on the summit of which stands a modern tomb called Amran
ibn-Ali. This is probably the most ancient portion of the
remains of the city, and represents the ruins of the famous
hanging-gardens, or perhaps of some royal palace. The utter
desolation of the city once called "The glory of kingdoms"
(Isa.13:19) was foretold by the prophets (Isa.13:4-22; Jer.
25:12; 50:2, 3; Dan. 2:31-38).
The Babylon mentioned in 1 Pet. 5:13 was not Rome, as some
have thought, but the literal city of Babylon, which was
inhabited by many Jews at the time Peter wrote.
In Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; and 18:2, "Babylon" is supposed to
mean Rome, not considered as pagan, but as the prolongation of
the ancient power in the papal form. Rome, pagan and papal, is
regarded as one power. "The literal Babylon was the beginner and
supporter of tyranny and idolatry...This city and its whole
empire were taken by the Persians under Cyrus; the Persians were
subdued by the Macedonians, and the Macedonians by the Romans;
so that Rome succeeded to the power of old Babylon. And it was
her method to adopt the worship of the false deities she had
conquered; so that by her own act she became the heiress and
successor of all the Babylonian idolatry, and of all that was
introduced into it by the immediate successors of Babylon, and
consequently of all the idolatry of the earth." Rome, or
"mystical Babylon," is "that great city which reigneth over the
kings of the earth" (17:18).