Jeremiah 50 -The Prophecy Against Babylon & Herodotus and the Fall of Babylon

I have to say, that was pretty smart to use the river to get inside the city.  Sort of like the legend of the Trojan Horse, whether it’s a fairy tale or not.

In 652 BC a series of wars broke out in the Assyrian Empire over who should rule. In 612 BC the Chaldeans conquered the Assyrian Empire and took control of Mesopotamia.

Their king, Nebuchadnezzar rebuilt the city and created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which became one of the seven wonders of the world.

The Chaldeans charted the position of stars and kept track of economic, political, and weather events.

To me, what Cyrus did was more ingenious than the Trojan Horse because he used nature.  I know You created everything and you control everything, so….

Jeremiah 50
The Prophecy Against Babylon

1 The word that the LORD spake against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet.

2 Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken in pieces.

“Babylon is taken” – fulfilled in 539 B.C.

“Is confounded…broken in pieces” – the repetition of each of these phrases emphasizes that the chief god of Babylon and his images and idols are alike doomed.

3 For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast.

4 In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.

5 They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.

6 My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place.

7 All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice, even the LORD, the hope of their fathers.

8 Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he

Babylonian ration tablet naming Jeconiah.
Evil-merodach came to power in Babylon upon the death of his father Nebuchadnezzar in 562 B.C. There are only two references to him in the Bible, and these are parallel accounts.

Evidence suggests that Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Coniah), the king of Judah who was taken to Babylon in 597 B.C., was treated like a king in exile during most, or all, of his time in Babylon. The kindness of Evil-merodach receives special attention.

goats before the flocks.

9 For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country: and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain.

10 And Chaldea shall be a spoil: all that spoil her shall be satisfied, saith the LORD.

11 Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine heritage, because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls;

12 Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert.

13 Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues.

14 Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about: all ye that bend the bow, shoot at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against the LORD.

15 Shout against her round about: she hath given her hand: her foundations are fallen, her walls are thrown down: for it is the vengeance of the LORD: take vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her.

16 Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest: for fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn everyone to his people, and they shall flee everyone to his own land.

17 Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones.

Mede tribute bearer, leading two adorned stallions before Assyrian King Sargon II.

18 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria.

“I have punished the king of Assyria” – Nineveh, the proud Assyrian capital, fell in 612 B.C. and Assyria herself was conquered by a coalition of Medes and Babylonians in 609 B.C.

19 And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead.

20 In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.

21 Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the LORD, and do according to all that I have commanded thee.

“Merethaim” – means “double rebellion [against the Lord],” perhaps referring to vv. 24, 29.  It’s probably a pun on the Babylonian word marratu, which sometimes referred to a region in southern Babylon that was characterized by briny waters.

Jabesh Gilead, Tell Maqlub, from northwest

“Pekod” – means “punishment [from the Lord],” a pun on Puqudu, the Babylonian name for an Aramean tribe living on the eastern bank of the lower Tigris River.

22 A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction.

23 How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!

24 I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and thou wast not aware: thou art found, and also caught, because thou hast striven against the LORD.

“Taken…not aware” – the Persian attack in 539 B.C. would catch the city of Babylon completely by surprise.

25 The LORD hath opened his armory, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation: for this is the work of the Lord GOD of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans.

26 Come against her from the utmost border, open her storehouses: cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly: let nothing of her be left.

27 Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to the slaughter: woe unto them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation.

The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.

28 The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, the vengeance of his temple.

29 Call together the archers against Babylon: all ye that bend the bow, camp against it round about; let none thereof escape: recompense her according to her work; according to all that she hath done, do unto her: for she hath been proud against the LORD, against the Holy One of Israel.

30 Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets, and all her men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the LORD.

31 Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord GOD of hosts: for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee.

32 And the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up: and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him.

33 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The children of Israel and the children of Judah were oppressed together: and all that took them captives held them fast; they refused to let them go.

34 Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name: he shall throughly plead their case, that he may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.

Baghdad

35 A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the LORD, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men.

36 A sword is upon the liars; and they shall dote: a sword is upon her mighty men; and they shall be dismayed.

37 A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots, and upon all the mingled people that are in the midst of her; and they shall become as women: a sword is upon her treasures; and they shall be robbed.

38 A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.

39 Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited forever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.

40 As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbor cities thereof, saith the LORD; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein.

41 Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation, and many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.

Mosul, Iraq

42 They shall hold the bow and the lance: they are cruel, and will not shew mercy: their voice shall roar like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses, everyone put in array, like a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon.

43 The king of Babylon hath heard the report of them, and his hands waxed feeble: anguish took hold of him, and pangs as of a woman in travail.

44 Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan unto the habitation of the strong: but I will make them suddenly run away from her: and who is a chosen man that I may appoint over her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?

When the archaeological, geographical and epigraphic evidence is reviewed in detail, it is clear that the infamous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have now been found.

What is more, this evidence demonstrates that the Bible provides an accurate eyewitness account of events that occurred southeast of the Dead Sea over 4,000 years ago.

45 Therefore hear ye the counsel of the LORD that he hath taken against Babylon; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out: surely he shall make their habitation desolate with them.

46 At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth is moved, and the cry is heard among the nations.

Herodotus and the Fall of Babylon

The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 480-425 B.C.) produced one of the most famous books of ancient Greece, the History.  Its focus is the series of wars between Persia and the Greeks that lasted from approximately 490 to 479 B.C.

Herodotus devoted a great deal of attention to the background of the wars and in the process gave a fairly sweeping view of the eastern Mediterranean world during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.

The Greek word historiai (literally “investigations”) aptly describes how Herodotus went about collecting and recording information about the customs and histories of the peoples he encountered.  He is regarded as the father of Western history writing because he tried to confine himself to human events and to avoid myths.

Herodotus’s account of the fall of Babylon (History, 1.189-191) in 539 B.C. relates to the prophetic account in Jeremiah 50-51, as well as to Daniel’s indication that Babylon fell overnight during a festival (Dan 5:30-31).

Herodotus began with a fantastic tale of how Cyrus’s horse drowned in the Gyndes River and how he, to punish the river by making it weak and sha

The statue of Herodotus in Bodrum

llow, compelled his army to spend a summer diverting it into 360 channels.

Arriving at Babylon, Cyrus faced the prospect of a prolonged siege.  Babylon was large enough to store food for many years, so any attempts to starve the city into submission would have been futile.

But, Herodotus noted, the city had one peculiar characteristic: The Euphrates River ran through the middle of Babylon and divided it into two parts.  Cyrus decided that the river channels under the walls provided the only chance of gaining entry, but the volume of water and the strength of the current were too great.

Yet, the Persian king hatched an ingenious plan: He posted soldiers at the points at which the Euphrates entered and left the city and instructed his men to move through the river when it became fordable.

Meanwhile, the noncombatants went up stream and diverted much of the river into an artificial marsh.  When the water level had dropped sufficiently, the Persian soldiers made their way in and captured the Babylonian capital.

What are we to make of this account?  Most historians believe that Herodotus’s version of events is at least to some degree confused and misleading.  In his actual conquest of Babylonia, Cyrus’s forces proceeded down from the north and rapidly overcame resistance.

A second front was opened against Babylon by a certain Ugbaru, governor of Gutium.  Ugbaru proceeded to capture Babylon for Cyrus with astonishing speed, and Cyrus himself entered the city shortly thereafter.

Several factors may have contributed to the Persian victory:

Cyrus II of Persia (c. 600 BC or 576 BC–530 BC), commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire.

Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much of Central Asia and the Caucasus.

1st – Cyrus may have kept the bulk of the Babylonian forces occupied with his army while Ugbaru came in from the rear.

2nd – The Babylonian regime was unpopular, and the people seem to have welcomed Cyrus as a liberator.

3rd – Ugbaru appears to have entered Babylon by subterfuge (as is reflected in the version of the story about the diversion of the Euphrates).

It’s certain that Babylon fell suddenly.  Herodotus is correct in stating that the Euphrates bisected the city, and the Nabonidus Chronicle confirms that it fell without  a battle.  Thus, the account about diverting the Euphrates may be true.

Both Daniel 5 and Herodotus indicate the Babylon fell during a rowdy festival.  Herodotus stated:

Owing to the sheer size of the city, so say the inhabitants, those in the outlying areas were captured without those in the center knowing about it.

Daniel 5 accounts the  story of Belshazzar’s feast, and can be regarded as an independent witness.  Herodotus, in this account as elsewhere, was colorful and not always fully reliable, but he appears to have preserved something of (and perhaps a good deal of) the true story.

Persian Empire: Ruins of the Palace of Darius at Persepolis

…I want to know more about the weather?