More on Rebuilding Babylon
Commentary for February 21, 2006 — The Future Greatness of Babylon
The future greatness (future to us today) of a rebuilt Babylon is attested often in Scripture. In prophecies that have not yet taken place in history the Bible indicates that Babylon will be rebuilt to a new glory and greatness. This Commentary will discuss some aspects of Babylon’s future greatness. I will work off of two articles, one by Dr. Ernest Martin “The Rebirth of Babylon,” and the other by F.E. Marsh called “Will Babylon Be Rebuilt?.”
Babylon is called “Babylon the Great” (Revelation 14:8, 16:19, 18:2, 10), “Great Babylon, that mighty [strong] city” (Revelation 18:10), and “the great city” (Revelation 17:18, 18:16, 18–19).
It is interesting that in Revelation 17:18, 18:16, 18–19, Babylon is literally in Greek called “the city the great.” While word order in Greek is sometimes controversial, especially in the book of Revelation, it is interesting to note that in Revelation 18:21 the Greek phrasing is different. It is ha megala polis which translated with Babylon is “Babylon, the great city” (with the definite article). However, another way of translating this phrase into English could be “Babylon, the megalopolis.” If this is indeed the true rendering then the size of Babylon just before its destruction in the day of the Lord will be much greater than Baghdad’s current population of 6 million people.
Remember that Babylon was likely the largest city in the world at the time of Ezekiel and Jeremiah. However, it was NOT a large city at the time of John the apostle. John in the Book of Revelation looks to the future from his moment in time in the vision he is given from God the Father through Jesus Christ.In these verses calling Babylon “the great city,” “the megalopolis,” “the Great,” the indication is inescapable that not only are these designations relating to economic and political power, but also to population. At present Baghdad does not quite qualify as one of the world’s 20 most populous cities (see “Most Populous Cities of the World”), although it has almost 6 million people. Perhaps the rebuilt Babylon will become one of the most populous cities in the world. We shall see how the future plays out.
Babylon makes shipping merchants rich because of Babylon’s “costliness” (Revelation 18:19) which most modern translations have rendered as “preciousness” or “wealth.” Babylon will be rebuilt and shall dwell “upon many waters, abundant in treasures” most of which will be gained dishonestly through covetousness (Jeremiah 51:13). This may indicate that the size of the rebuilt Babylon will extend from the Euphrates to the Tigris, a distance of some 35 miles. (Ancient Babylon was primarily located on the east bank of the Euphrates River.) It appears that the walls and city gates will be rebuilt (51:58) although I cannot imagine what purpose such structures may have in this present day. A king will rule in Babylon at that future time (Isaiah chapter 14).
The city will be filled with riches (Jeremiah 50:37; Revelation 18:16–17). The kings (rulers) of the earth will have economic and financial dealings with Babylon (Revelation 18:9). It will be inhabited by masses of people (Jeremiah 50:34–35, 51:12, in context).
It is important to note, as Dr. Martin and F.E. Marsh pointed out in their articles, that at the time of the apostle John (who likely never visited Babylon) in the latter part of the 1st century C.E. Babylon still existed as a mere shadow of its former glory. It still existed at the time of John, but it was not “great,” only a few people were living there, just as today they continue to live there.
The future Babylon will be a major center of culture, music, art, commerce, and trade (Revelation 18:22–23). That trade will involve all the precious commodities that John considered important in his day (Revelation 18:12–13). Note that human trafficking and slavery are particularly spoken of as part of the Babylonian prosperity (verse 13). Slavery is very much in existence in parts of Middle East and Africa today, although hidden from view as a subculture. Apparently such practices will return to public view. Some of God’s people will live in Babylon (either voluntarily or as slaves) and they are warned to leave before the destruction (Revelation 18:4). Babylon will be a place of evil with sorceries and enchantments (spells, Isaiah 47:9, 12) which are successful when performed with the assistance of spirits.
It is interesting that gold and silver are indicated, and are mentioned first in the list of merchandise. It is unclear whether this indicates a monetary usage in a type of financial structure, such as a return to a gold/silver based world economic system. Whatever the case, gold and silver are mentioned first, followed by other less valuable commodities.
Prosperity will be so great as to make Babylon’s merchants some of the great men of the world. Its prosperity will attract merchants from around the world. This means not just those who deal and trade with Babylon, but the merchants from Babylon will become some of the richest people in the world (verse 23).
The city is described in Isaiah 13:19 as “Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency [pride].” This will be Babylon’s status just before its overthrow to destruction so complete that it will never be inhabited again: “neither shall it be dwelt [tabernacled] in from generation to generation” (Isaiah 13:20), not even by beasts (Isaiah 13:20–21; Jeremiah 50:12–13). That is definitely not the situation today, people and beasts (livestock) live at the ancient site of Babylon in the present day. They live there not just temporarily (which is what “tabernacled” means), but they live there permanently. Therefore, this prophecy of Isaiah chapter 13 has not yet occurred in history.
In one long prophecy Jeremiah writes about Babylon’s judgment (Jeremiah 50:1–51:19). In this prophecy he calls Babylon “the hammer of the whole earth” just before he proclaims that Babylon will “become a desolation among the nations” (verse 50:23). Some aspects of Jeremiah’s long prophecy have been fulfilled, others have not. Whether Babylon will rise to that former greatness to once again become God’s “hammer” in the coming days in our future remains to be seen.
(“The hammer” identification may refer to the time of Judah’s exile, therefore a portion of the prophecy may not relate to our future. However, certainly the desolation portion is future; that has not yet happened in history.)The destruction of Babylon will begin with an attack from “great nations from the north” (Jeremiah 50:9, and no the United States is not north of Babylon according to any biblical understanding). A great drought will affect the waters around Babylon (Jeremiah 50:38). As Dr. Martin points out from Jeremiah 50:3, the land surrounding Babylon will also suffer desolation. The judgment, punishment, and destruction of Babylon will be completed by God (Revelation 18:8, 18:17–21). The kings (rulers) of the earth who have dealings with Babylon and will bemoan its destruction (Revelation 18:9). Speaking of the time after Judah’s exile:
“And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, says the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual [olam, age lasting] desolations. And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah has prophesied against all the nations.”These prophetic words of Jeremiah about Babylon’s punishment have not yet occurred. They are yet to happen in the future.
• Jeremiah 25:12–13
At this time in February 2006, how do we get from the seemingly interminable and grinding urban combat of insurgency and potential civil war of present-day Iraq to the future glory of a rebuilt Babylon? I do not know the path of events that will lead us from the present to the prophesied future, but we can be assured it will happen. It may take decades. However, a resolution to the problems in Iraq should (in my view) begin to happen quickly because the rebuilding and prosperity of Babylon and all of Iraq will be a lengthy process. The rise to power of the entire Middle East leading to blocs of nations led by two kings, a King of the South and a King of the North, all this will take time. The process will take decades once relative peace and safety in Iraq has been achieved.
It is important to note that the military of Iraq, the future army of Babylon, is being trained by the most experienced, most advanced, best trained, and best led military force the world has ever seen, the United States military. Eventually (and this will also take a long time) the Iraqi armed forces should learn to be as efficient, as deadly, and as constrained in the application of military force as the United States military is today. Only such a trained force can be useful as an instrument of policy, something more than merely being an oppressive force upon its own people. This does not mean that Iraq or Babylon will have a large military force, but it shall be powerful for its size. And this does not preclude the possibility that the nation of Iraq may break into 2 or 3 political parts. If such a breakup occurs, Iraq will still have a loose confederation and cooperation for economic reasons, much like nations in Europe today — economically unified in many ways, yet political divisions that continue even under the European Union. A break up if Iraq is not prophetically impossible.
My understanding is that the beginning of the resolution of conflicts in Iraq leading to relative peace and safety will occur soon, and likely it will occur swiftly. Merchants, bankers, investors, tradesmen, artists, and kings put their resources and investments where property, money, and people are safe. The wealthy do not live where it is not safe for themselves, their families, or their money. Corporations do not invest heavily where valuable assets are at risk of being destroyed. Wealth flows where there is safety and opportunity. (This is one reason the United States is a desirable safe haven for investment.) Safety in Iraq is an essential precondition for investment, trade, and wealth to take place for a future Babylon. The world wants to invest in Iraq. See my article “World Bank Ready to Rebuild Iraq.” They will not do so unless there is a very positive potential reward for any risk they undertake.
If Babylon and Iraq are to be rebuilt and become a major world-class economic, financial, and population center in the Middle East, then this will take a massive amount of infrastructure construction. That infrastructure demands sewage and water treatment, energy supplies, an entirely new and huge electrical supply grid, importation of building materials into the area, food processing and distribution, communications networks, highways and city roads, shipping facilities to accommodate millions of people. In other words, everything will be needed to make Babylon a great city. There is little or nothing there at present.
Very little of that infrastructure exists at present. Saddam Hussein made his country into a “failed state.” The infrastructure was collapsing. The insurgency and sectarian fighting that threatens a civil war make it impossible — at present — to rebuild the infrastructure needed to rebuild Iraq or Babylon.
The rebuilding process might be best done from scratch. In other words, abandon Baghdad and rebuild Babylon anew. This was done in Brazil which built a new capital called Brazilia. It was constructed out of the Amazon jungle. It was a failure for several decades and no one wanted to move or live there. Yet today as the center of government Brazilia is thriving as its nations capital with a population of 2 million.
Is it possible for God to make Babylon great, to promote opportunity and prosperity without safety for investment and trade? Yes, of course. However, I do not see any indication that God is at this time changing the basic Babylonian world system that the world operates under at present; a system that likes peace and safety for business. In human terms, “it’s all about the money” which when combined with a naturally deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9) is a root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
(The Babylonian system was brought into existence by God who used Jeremiah as his instrument to create a new world order. See Dr. Martin’s article “The Prophetic Birth of Our Civilization.”
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