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History 101: The Famous Babylon, Most Hated City In The Bible?

Robert Cargill Babylon Ancient Civilsation

I would highly recommend my current read, The Cities That Built The Bible by Robert R. Cargill who is an Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa irrespective of whether you are a Christian or not as it looks at the various cities such as Babylon that were mentioned in the Bible from an archaeological standpoint of view and how ancient rituals, wars and even Gods have somehow formed the contents and narration of the Bible. Image source: Perlego

Nebuchadnezzar Babylon Empire Central Asia

The extent of King Nebuchadnezzar II’s reign of power at his peak and it is not a surprise that the Judas kings decided to revolt against the hold of his empire considering that it is on the other end of the empire. Image source: Wikimedia

In 597 BCE, King Nebuchadnezzar II besieged Jerusalem when the Judas King failed to adhere pay tributes and when the Judas King died during the siege, Nebuchadnezzar II installed the late Judas King’s uncle as the new king of Judas who also revolted later. The second revolt pissed off King Nebuchadnezzar II who razed Jerusalem down and deported its occupants to his city. This very incident made Babylon one of the most hated cities in the Bible.

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Background of Babylon

From Wikipedia:-

Babylon was the capital city of the ancient Babylonian Empire, which itself is a term referring to either of two separate empires in the Mesopotamian area in antiquity. These two empires achieved regional dominance between the 19th and 15th centuries BCE, and again between the 7th and 6th centuries BCE.

The city, built along both banks of the Euphrates river, had steep embankments to contain the river’s seasonal floods. The earliest known mention of Babylon as a small town appears on a clay tablet from the reign of Sargon of Akkad (2334–2279 BC) of the Akkadian Empire. The site of the ancient city lies just south of present-day Baghdad. The last known record of habitation of the town dates from the 10th century CE, when it was referred to as the “small village of Babel “.

The town became part of a small independent city-state with the rise of the First Babylonian dynasty in the 19th century BCE. The Amorite king Hammurabi founded the short-lived Old Babylonian Empire in the 18th century BC. He built Babylon into a major city and declared himself its king. Southern Mesopotamia became known as Babylonia, and Babylon eclipsed Nippur as the region’s holy city.

The empire waned under Hammurabi’s son Samsu-iluna, and Babylon spent long periods under Assyrian, Kassite and Elamite domination. After the Assyrians had destroyed and then rebuilt it, Babylon became the capital of the short-lived Neo-Babylonian Empire, a neo-Assyrian successor state, from 609 to 539 BC.

With the recovery of Babylonian independence, a new era of architectural activity ensued, particularly during the reign of his son Nebuchadnezzar II (604–561 BC). Nebuchadnezzar ordered the complete reconstruction of the imperial grounds, including the Etemenanki ziggurat, and the construction of the Ishtar Gate—the most prominent of eight gates around Babylon. A reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate is located in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Nebuchadnezzar is also credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, said to have been built for his homesick wife, Amytis.

Nebuchadnezzar is also notoriously associated with the Babylonian exile of the Jews, the result of an imperial technique of pacification, used also by the Assyrians, in which ethnic groups in conquered areas were deported en masse to the capital. According to the Hebrew Bible, he destroyed Solomon’s Temple and exiled the Jews to Babylon. The defeat was also recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles.

It has been estimated that Babylon was the largest city in the world c. 1770 – c. 1670 BC, and again c. 612 – c. 320 BC. It was perhaps the first city to reach a population above 200,000. Estimates for the maximum extent of its area range from 890 to 900 hectares (2,200 acres).

The remains of the city are in present-day Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq, about 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Baghdad, and its boundaries have been based on the perimeter of the ancient outer city walls, an area of about 1,054.3 hectares (2,605 acres). They comprise a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris.

(Source: Wikipedia)

The other famous structure mentioned in the Bible is the Tower of Babel which was used to explain rather half-heartily on how humans who built a huge tower trying to reach the heavens ended up speaking different languages and spread far and near.

Babylon Hanging Garden History

Babylon is famous for the Hanging Gardens which is said to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. However modern archaeologists are unable to verify the existence of such a garden as there is no evidence left of it. Image source: Picryl

Babylon in 3D Rendition

It is interesting to see with the advance in computer graphics, ancient cities can be brought back in full glory and colour in 3 dimensions so that the current generation can appreciate the brilliant architecture of the various building and how the city planners handled the various logistics starting off with the high walls and strong gateways to keep the enemies away.

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Another form of 3 dimension view is by CYARK which provides an option for the viewers to explore the ruins of the city as of now from their computer. CYARK also have 3 dimension & virtual tour of the Assyrian collection in the British Museum attributed to the many years of looting of archaeological treasures when the British & other western countries were in power. In a way, this has become a blessing in disguise considering the political & security instability in countries where these ancient civilisations once strived.

Rivers of Babylon

The destruction of Jerusalem is even recorded in one of the greatest reggae-based hits from the late 1970s by the German-based Boney M which had adapted & remixed a faster rhythm from an earlier rendition by another music group that was based in Jamaica.

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This is a presentation of the song by Boney M at the 1979 Sopot International Song Festival in Poland and the lyrics are inspired by the Bible.

The song is based on the Biblical Psalm 137:1-4, a hymn expressing the lamentations of the Jewish people in exile following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC: Previously the Kingdom of Judah, after being united under Kings David and Solomon, had been split in two, with the Kingdom of Israel in the north, conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BC which caused the dispersion of 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel.

The southern Kingdom of Judah (hence the name Jews), home of the tribe of Judah and part of the tribe of Levi, was free from foreign domination until the Babylonian conquest to which Rivers of Babylon refers.

(Source: Wikipedia)

And the lyrics are actually quite sad and tragic seen from the people who have been conquered and forced to leave their homeland some 2,600 years ago:-

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
Yeah, we wept, when we remembered Zion
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
Yeah, we wept, when we remembered Zion

There the wicked
Carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
Now how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart
Be acceptable in thy sight here tonight
Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts
Be acceptable in thy sight here tonight

(Source: Lyric Find)

History Ancient Civilsation Babylon

The ancient civilisations are known as the river valley civilisation as it is often next to a mighty river that helps the ancient men to settle down and start planting crops and these farm villages slowly merge into large cities and thereafter mighty empires. Map source: Pinterest

Final Say

It is said that the earliest civilisation started in Central Asia some 4000 BC with the Indus Valley civilisation coming about 2500 BC. The first Babylonian empire appeared some 2000 BC before falling to other emerging empires until the Neo Babylonian Empire some 630 BC.

As one would quickly understand from reading the book, The Cities That Built The Bible, not all said in the Bible is the absolute truth. In fact, the author, Associate Professor Robert R Cargill in his very introduction section of the book tells the readers of this book – to challenge all the information, look at the alternatives, seek additional information and tools online and be critical scholars.

In the case of the destruction of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar II, it is something that would be done by any big empire that has a vassal empire stop paying tributes and in fact starts to revolt against it. King Nebuchadnezzar II only decided to destroy the Judas kingdom and all that represent it when there was a second revolt against him. But the writers of the scriptures saw the event rather negatively (the choice of words used in Robert R Cargill’s book).

To be continued…

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