A Prophecy About Babylon Confirms the Accuracy of the Bible

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A Prophecy About Babylon Confirms the Accuracy of the Bible

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Isaiah was a prophet who began to prophesy the year that King Uzziah of Judah died, which was around 740 B.C. (Isaiah 6:1, 8). One of his predictions was about the city Babylon.

In the Bible, Isaiah 13:1 says, “The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.” At the time of Isaiah’s prediction, Babylon was one of the largest and most important cities in the world. This is what God told Isaiah would happen to Babylon:

“Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who will not regard silver; and as for gold, they will not delight in it. Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces, and they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye will not spare children. And Babylon, the glory of the kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there” (Isaiah 13:17-20).

Isaiah claimed that God told him that Babylon would be completely destroyed.

The Assyrians destroy Babylon

During Isaiah’s lifetime, the Assyrian Empire ruled most of the Middle East. The Assyrians controlled many foreign cities, including Babylon. After Isaiah made his prediction, Babylon rebelled against the Assyrians several times. When Sennacherib, king of the Assyrians, captured the city in 689 B.C., he decided to destroy the city forever so that it could never rebel again. Sennacherib made this inscription about his victory:

“I made its destruction more complete than by a flood. That in days to come the site of that city, and (its) temples and gods, might not be remembered, I completely blotted it out with (floods) of water and made it like a meadow” (Daniel D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 1926-1927, Vol. 2, p. 152).

Isaiah’s prophecy was not fulfilled when Sennacherib destroyed Babylon. Isaiah predicted that the Medes would attack Babylon. But it was the Assyrians who attacked and destroyed the city first.

When Isaiah wrote his prediction, the Medes were weak. Most of the Medes were ruled by other nations, and the remaining Medes were not unified (The Cambridge History of Iran, 1985, Vol. 2, p. 80). It would have been impossible for them to capture or destroy the strong city of Babylon. Isaiah’s prediction appeared to be wrong. When the Assyrians destroyed Babylon in 689 B.C., Isaiah’s prediction appeared to be completely impossible. The Medes could not fight against a city that was gone!

Babylon rebuilt

Sennacherib thought that he had destroyed Babylon forever. But after Sennacherib died, his son Esarhaddon began to rebuild Babylon. Soon Babylon became an important city in the Assyrian Empire like it had been before.

In 626 B.C., Babylon rebelled against Assyria again. This time the Babylonians were successful. A local leader, Nabopolassar, became the king. He was able to establish Babylonia as a separate kingdom and Babylon began to grow in strength.

The Medes were also growing in strength at this time. Media managed to become independent from Assyria and expel the armies of the Scythians that had invaded their country (Herodotus 1.95, 106). In 612 B.C. the king of Media and the king of Babylon formed an alliance and fought together against Nineveh, the last capital city of Assyria. They captured the city and burned it. Within a few years the Babylonians and Medes had completely destroyed the Assyrian Empire. The Babylonians took most of the former Assyrian lands, and the Medes took what remained.

By 605 B.C., when Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon, the Babylonian Empire had become the leading empire in the world. Nebuchadnezzar focused on expanding his empire and on expanding Babylon to become the greatest city in the world. He built a beautiful palace, rebuilt and repaired the walls, improved the city streets and embellished the temples.

When Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 B.C., Babylon was truly one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Isaiah had predicted that God would destroy Babylon—but now Babylon was greater than it had been in Isaiah’s lifetime. However, Babylon’s greatness would not last forever.

The Medes grow in power

A few years later, in 559 B.C., Cyrus the Great became king over Persia, a region under the rule of Media. The Persians were a tribe of people closely related to the Medes. Cyrus’ father was a Persian prince, and his mother was the daughter of the king of Media (Herodotus 1.107, 122). In about 550 B.C. Cyrus overthrew his grandfather, the king of Media, and became the king of both Media and Persia. Cyrus quickly began to build an empire. In 546 B.C. he conquered the Greek kingdom of Lydia (in western Turkey). In 539 B.C., Cyrus’ army came to fight against Babylon.

Babylon was a very strong city. Two thick walls and a large moat protected the city, making it extremely difficult for an enemy to attack. However, Babylon was divided into two parts. The larger part of the city was built on the east bank of the Euphrates River, and a smaller part of the city was on the west bank of the river. Babylon had strong walls, but it also relied on the Euphrates River and the moat around the city to protect it.

The Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote about Babylon about 100 years later, described how Cyrus’ army captured the city. Part of the army went north of Babylon and dug a trench from the Euphrates River to a nearby marsh. When the army connected the trench to the Euphrates River, much of the water in the river flowed toward the marsh, while only a little water continued to flow toward Babylon. While the Babylonians were confidently celebrating a feast, the strong river and moat protecting the city became very shallow, and the Medes and Persians were able to enter the city (Herodotus 1.191). They captured the city without a battle, and Darius the Mede was put in charge (Daniel 5:31).

Isaiah’s predictions fulfilled

Finally, nearly 200 years after Isaiah wrote about Babylon, part of his prophecy was fulfilled. God told Isaiah, “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who will not regard silver; and as for gold, they will not delight in it” (Isaiah 13:17). The Medes captured Babylon, just as Isaiah predicted. They captured the city without a battle and did not plunder the city. However, the other details of the prophecy had not happened yet.

Isaiah said that the Medes would kill many people: “Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces, and they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye will not spare children” (Isaiah 13:18). This prediction was fulfilled several years later.

An inscription written on a rock cliff in Bisotun, Iran—made by Darius, king of the Medes and Persians—describes the event. In 521 B.C. the Babylonians appointed their own king and the city rebelled. Darius’ army defeated the rebel army and captured Babylon. Then the rebel king and his main followers were impaled inside the city.

In about 482 B.C. Babylon rebelled against their Persian and Median rulers again. Xerxes the king sent his army to capture the city. The army destroyed the temples and took away the idol of the Babylonian god Marduk (Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander, 7.17.2; Herodotus 1.183). Xerxes may have also destroyed the outer walls of Babylon.

After this punishment the city began to decline in importance. When Alexander the Great defeated the Persians 150 years later, much of Babylon was still destroyed (Arrian 3.16.4). However, many people still lived in Babylon. Alexander decided to rebuild Babylon’s temples and make Babylon a marvelous city again, but he died before he could accomplish his plan.

Babylon abandoned

After Alexander’s death, Seleucus I gained control of a large part of the Middle East, including Babylonia. He did not share Alexander’s grand vision for Babylon. Instead he built a new city called Seleucia, nearby on the Tigris River. An ancient clay tablet shows that Seleucus’ son ordered most of the population of Babylon to move to this new city in 275 B.C. (M.M. Austin, The Hellenistic World From Alexander to the Roman Conquest, 1981, p. 241).

After that time Babylon wasn’t a major city anymore. About 250 years later the Roman writer Strabo wrote, “Seleucia at the present time has become larger than Babylon, whereas the greater part of Babylon is so deserted that one would not hesitate to say…‘The Great City is a desert’” (Geography, 16.1.5, Loeb Classical Library). Before long Babylon was completely empty.

In 1899, German archaeologists went to the area in Iraq called Tell Babil, and they began to dig and uncover parts of ancient Babylon. In 1978, the president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, began to rebuild some of the ancient buildings of Babylon. Some of the temples have been built again and also a palace, some walls and an amphitheater (Amatzia Baram, Culture, History, and Ideology in the Formation of Ba‘thist Iraq, 1968-89, 1991, p. 47).

But today, Babylon is still an empty city. In times of peace tourists can go see the partially rebuilt ruins of Babylon that have remained empty for almost 2,000 years. The city is exactly like Isaiah predicted: “It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation” (Isaiah 13:20).

How could Isaiah know that the Medes, a weak tribe, would grow in strength and conquer the strong city of Babylon almost 200 years later? How could he know that one of the greatest cities in the world would be abandoned and remain empty for thousands of years? No one can make accurate predictions like these. The events in history show that the prophecies in the Bible really did come from God.


  • Jmarstan123

    None of the prophecies regarding Babylon has been fulfilled. The Bible says no inhabitants once it falls and people were documented living there in 1900s and people are living there right now. Bible also says no Arab will pitch their tent there and Arab villages are living in Babylon today as I type this. Not to mention, archeologists are living on the site right now. The Bible also says the building materials won’t be reused but in 1800s-1900s stones were reused and mined and in 2016 the stones were being reused to help build buildings. As you can see the prophecies have not been fulfilled. However, Babylon is mentioned in revelation and that’s where those prophecies get fulfilled. Read Isiah 13, sets the time when Babylon “land of the Chaldeans” will be destroyed and be judged on “the day of the lord”.

  • Brad Watson. Miami
    Regarding the "destruction of Babylon" (Iraq), most scholars recognize this prophecy in The Revelation Chapters 14, 16-18 - like all prophecies from The Revelation - must coincide with the return of the Christ; and it has.
  • gippy
    Also not mentioned here is that Saddam Hussein attempted to restore/rebuild Babylon I believe in 1988 or sometime during the late eighties. Of course he failed doing so and eventually died like Alexander did. To see a detailed article on this attempt then copy and paste this link below into your web browser **Link removed to comply with comment policy** or search the web for it. Its very interesting that the original location of the ancient Babylonian city grounds has yet to be restored or rebuilt to this day. When Jehovah the ONE TRUE almighty God makes a promise it stands true every time.
  • Mkings


  • BMH
    Starcrash, I don't think this is looking at it with a confirmation bias at all. Your quotation of Wikipedia doesn't contradict anything in this article, as the author states that the city was inhabited under the Chaldeans and Hellenists. After the death of Alexander the Great, the city was uninhabited. The measure of that word does not mean that not one single person would ever step foot in city again. If NYC was destroyed, and there were 10 people roaming the city, it would still be considered "uninhabited," and uninhabitable. After Alexander, Babylon was not a place to call home and essentially ceased to exist. The ruins that are left don't make Babylon a city once again. It is a tourist attraction and nothing. It seems pretty clear Isaiah was correct, and straining at gnats might be a post-modern cultural bias at work. In addition, just because Isaiah's prophecy (not prediction), has not come to pass at this point, does not mean that it will not in the future. There is no time table written that I see.
  • Starcrash
    I think you're looking at this prophecy with a confirmation bias. It's true that Babylon's in ruins, but has it been left uninhabited ever since? According to Wikipedia, "the Neo-Babylonians [Chaldeons] conducted massive rebuilding projects in the city", followed by more rebuilding in the 'Hellenistic' period many years later. And now that it's a tourist site, I'm pretty certain there are people living there now, both above it and at its periphery -- "people" as opposed to "satyrs" (Isaiah 13:21, KJV) and "dragons" (verse 22, KJV). It should also be noted that Isaiah predicted that Damascus would also fall to ruin (17:1) and yet is one of the oldest cities that continues to be inhabited.
  • chargfox

    Starcrash, yes, Babylon has been left uninhabited (unpopulated, unfrequented, desolate, lonely, deserted). That tourist visit, the military set up a temporary base there, that people have tried to rebuild it, it still remains uninhabited. Visitors aren't habitants, they are visitors.

    Throughout Scripture, satyrs are translated as hairy goats (also used to refer to the wicked as sheep are God's people). Notice just before it "neither shall the shepherds make their fold there."

    The Hebrew interlinear translation of verse 22 says "And the wild beasts of the islands in their desolate houses, and dragons palaces;"
    Reading here, it's easy to see...wild beasts in their desolate houses, and (IN) dragons palaces.

    In 689 BC, Babylon's walls, temples and palaces were destroyed. In 604-561 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II reconstructed the imperial grounds, including the Ishtar Gate. Remains of the Ishtar Gate are decorated with images of dragons.

    As for Damascus, both Damascus and Samaria were destroyed by the Assyrians. Isaiah 17 does not say Damascus would be destroyed forever.

  • Mkings

    Have you seen Damaskus today?

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