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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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BABYLON . Bâbel is the Hebrew form of the native name Bâb-ili , ‘Gate of God.’ It was also Tin-tir or ‘Seat of life,’ and E or E-ki . It is likely that these names once denoted separate towns gradually incorporated. Other quarters of Babylon were Shu-anna, Tç, Shuppatu, and Litamu. According to the Heb. tradition ( Genesis 10:10 ), it was as old as Erech, Akkad, and Calneh. Native tradition makes it as old as Erech and Nippur, the latter being proved by excavations to date back to prehistoric times. Babylon is from Bâb-ilani . It lay on the E. bank of the Euphrates, part of its site being now occupied by Hillah, about 50 miles S. of Baghdad. The ruins extend for 5 miles N. to S. Bâbil, the N. ruin, covers 120,000 sq. ft. and is still 90 ft. high. It covers the remains of the celebrated Esagila temple. The Mujellibeh is not much less in area, and 28 ft. high.

The Kasr contains the ruins of Nebuchadrezzar’s palace, along whose E. side ran the sacred procession street, decorated with enamelled tiles representing the dragon and the re’çm , to the Istar-gate at the S.E. corner. The whole was enclosed within an irregular triangle, formed by two lines of ramparts and the river, an area of about 8 sq. miles. The city crossed the river to the W., where are remains of a palace of Neriglissar. In later times it became coterminous with many other large cities, and Herodotus ascribes to it a circuit of 55 miles. The German excavations now being carried on may be expected to solve the many problems connected with the site.

From the very earliest times the kings and rulers of Babylonia worked at the building of its temples, palaces, walls, bridges, quays, etc. Hammurabi first raised it to be the capital of all Babylonia. It was sacked by Sennacherib in b.c. 689, the chief palaces, temples, and city walls levelled with the ground, and the waters of the Euphrates turned over it. Esarhaddon began to rebuild it, and it stood another long siege under his son, Ashurbanipal. Nabopolassar began its restoration; Nebuchadrezzar raised it to its height of glory. Cyrus took it without resistance, and held his court there. Darius Hystaspis besieged, took it, and destroyed its walls. Xerxes plundered it. Alexander the Great planned to restore it. Antiochus Soter actually began the restoration of its great temple. The foundation of Seleucia robbed it of its population, but the temple services continued to b.c. 29, at least. See, further, Assyria and Babylonia.

C. H. W. Johns.

BABYLON (in NT). Babylon was apparently used by the early Church as a symbol for Rome. 1 . In Rev. ( Revelation 14:8; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:5; Revelation 18:2; Revelation 18:10; Revelation 18:21 ) its destruction is foretold, because of its sins, and particularly because of its persecution. Such identification is, however, somewhat uncertain, and rests ultimately on the Improbability that the word in the connexion in which it appears can refer to the city of Mesopotamia (the word is so used in Matthew 1:11; Matthew 12:17 , Acts 7:43 ). This basal probability is supported by the fact that Babylon is called ‘mystery’ in Revelation 17:5 , is said to be seated on seven mountains ( Revelation 17:9 ), and to be a centre of commerce and authority ( Revelation 18:3-19; Revelation 18:17; Revelation 14:8 ). Rome is apparently called Babylon in Sib. Or . V. 143, 158; 2 Es.; Apoc. [Note: Apocalypse, Apocalyptic.] Baruch.

This identification of Babylon in Revelation with Rome dates at least from the time of Jerome. The attempt to identify it with an apostate Judah and Jerusalem can hardly be taken seriously. The fact that Revelation utilized the Jewish apocalyptic material further makes it imperative that the term symbolize a power which stood related both to Christians and Jews, in a way parallel with the relation of Babylon to the ancient Hebrew nation.

2 . The reference to Babylon in 1 Peter 5:13 has had three interpretations: ( a ) Babylon in Egypt, mentioned by Strabo and Epiphanius; ( b ) Babylon on the Euphrates; and ( c ) Rome. In view of the symbolic use of the word ‘Babylon,’ as mentioned in the foregoing, the last seems the most probable. Eusebius ( HE ii. 15) so interprets the reference, and, in view of the ancient and persistent tradition, there is nothing improbable in St. Peter’s having been in Rome. This probability is strengthened by the reference to the persecution to which Christians were being subjected. Assyrian Babylon in the second half of the 1st elm was in decay, and 1Peter would be particularly appropriate if sent out from the seat of a persecution, such as that of Nero, or possibly of Domitian.

Shailer Mathews.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Babylon'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​b/babylon.html. 1909.
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