"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Chapter Twenty-Eight On the first day of the week following His crucifixion, Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week and appeared first to the two Marys, giving them instructions for the disciples to meet Him in Galilee (1-10). Meanwhile the chief priests and elders bribed the soldiers to say that the disciples stole the body (11-15). When the disciples met Jesus in Galilee, He charged them to go and make disciples of all the nations (16-20). POINTS TO PONDER * The circumstances of Jesus’ resurrection * The details of the Great Commission REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The resurrection of Jesus - Mt 28:1-10 - The soldiers are bribed - Mt 28:11-15 - The Great Commission - Mt 28:16-20 2) Who came to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week? (1) - Mary Magdalene and the "other" Mary (cf. Mt 27:56,61) 3) What had happened by the time they got there? (2) - An earthquake, and the stone from the door removed by an angel of the Lord 4) What were the two women instructed by the angel to do? (7) - Tell Jesus’ disciples that He is risen from the dead and for them to go to Galilee 5) Who appeared to the two women on their way to the disciples? (9-10) - Jesus Himself, who gave them the same instructions as did the angel 6) What makes the soldiers’ lie about the body of Jesus fatally flawed? (13) - If the soldiers were asleep, how did they know it was the disciples? 7) When the disciples saw Jesus in Galilee, what was their reaction? (16-17) - They worshiped Him (cf. Mt 28:9), though some doubted 8) What did Jesus claim had been given to Him? (18) - All authority in heaven and on earth 9) What did Jesus charge His disciples to do? What did that involve? (19-20) - To go and make disciples of all nations; baptizing and teaching 10) What did Jesus promise His disciples? (20) - "I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Chapter Twenty-Seven Prevented by law from carrying out execution, the religious leaders sent Jesus to Pilate who condemned Him to be crucified (1-2,10-31). Meanwhile, Judas returned the betrayal money and hanged himself (3-9). Crucified along with two thieves, Jesus expired after six hours (32-56). His body was buried in Joseph’s tomb, secured by Roman guards (57-66). POINTS TO PONDER * The events leading to the crucifixion * The abuse Jesus suffered prior to His actual death REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Jesus before Pilate and his soldiers - Mt 27:1-2,10-31 - Judas hangs himself - Mt 27:3-9 - Jesus’ crucifixion and death - Mt 27:32-56 - Jesus buried and tomb secured - Mt 27:57-66 2) What did Judas do when he realized Jesus was condemned? (3-5) - Returned the betrayal money and then hanged himself 3) What did Jesus confess to Pilate? (11) - He was the King of the Jews 4) Who was released instead of Jesus? (15-26) - Barabbas, a notorious prisoner 5) What abuse did the Roman soldiers inflict on Jesus? (26,28-31) - Scourged, stripped, crowned with thorns, mocked, spat upon, struck with a reed 6) Who helped bear Jesus’ cross? Where was Jesus crucified? (32-33) - Simon of Cyrene; Golgotha (Place of a Skull) 7) Who blasphemed and mocked Jesus as He hung on the cross? (39) - Those who passed by, including the chief priests, elders, and scribes 8) What did the guards confess after seeing the events following Jesus’ death? (54) - "Truly this was the Son of God!" 9) Where was Jesus buried? Who saw where He was buried? (57-61) - In Joseph’s tomb; Mary Magdalene and the "other" Mary
(cf. Mt27:56) 10) Why was a Roman guard placed at the tomb of Jesus? (62-66) - To prevent the disciples from stealing the body and saying He rose from the dead
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Chapter Twenty-Six This lengthy chapter describes the flurry of events leading to Jesus’ arrest and trial, with the plot to kill Jesus (1-5,14-16), Jesus’ anointment by Mary (6-13), the last Passover supper and institution of the Lord’s Supper (17-35), Jesus’ prayers in the garden (36-46), the betrayal by Judas and accompanying arrest (47-56), the appearance before Caiaphas and the council (57-68), and Peter’s denial as foretold by Jesus (69-75). POINTS TO PONDER * The events leading to the arrest of Jesus * The institution of the Lord’s Supper * Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The plot to kill Jesus - Mt 26:1-5,14-16 - Jesus anointed at Bethany - Mt 26:6-13 - The last supper - Mt 26:17-35 - The garden of Gethsemane - Mt 26:36-46 - Betrayal and arrest - Mt 26:47-56 - Before Caiaphas and council - Mt 26:57-68 - Peter denies Jesus - Mt 26:69-75 2) Who plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him? (3-4) - The chief priests, scribes, elders, along with Caiaphas the high priest 3) What did Jesus say would be done for Mary who anointed Him? (13) - Her kind deed would be proclaimed throughout the world as a memorial to her 4) For how much did Judas agree with the chief priests to betray Jesus? (14-15) - Thirty pieces of silver 5) What did Jesus institute while eating the Passover?
(26-28; cf. 1Co 11:17-34) - The Lord’s Supper 6) What did Jesus predict would happen that night? (31-35) - All His disciples would stumble, Peter would deny Him three times 7) What did Jesus pray for three times in the garden of Gethsemane (39, 42,44) - "let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless not as I will, but as You will" 8) What claim was Jesus willing to accept at His trail? (63-64) - That He was the Christ, the Son of God 9) After Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, what did he do? (75) - He went out and wept bitterly
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Chapter Twenty-Five Jesus continued His discourse on the Mount of Olives with two parables illustrating the need to be prepared and productive: 1) the wise and foolish virgins (1-13), and 2) the talents (14-30). He concluded the discourse by predicting His judgment of the nations on how they treated His brethren (31-46). POINTS TO PONDER * The importance of being prepared and productive * The basis upon which nations are to be judged REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Parable of the wise and foolish virgins - Mt 25:1-13 - Parable of the talents - Mt 25:14-30 - The judgment of the nations - Mt 25:31-46 2) What parable illustrates the importance of being prepared? (1-13) - The parable of the wise and foolish virgins 3) Why is it imperative that one always be prepared? (13) - "for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." 4) Which "coming" is Jesus talking about? (13) - Either His coming in judgment on Jerusalem or His Second Coming, possibly both 5) What parable illustrates the importance of being productive? (14-30) - The parable of the talents 6) Based on this parable, what does Jesus expect of His disciples? (15, 21,26-27) - To use what "talents" we have to the best of our ability and opportunity 7) In the judgment depicted, who is being judged? On what basis? (32, 40,45) - All the nations; their treatment of Jesus’ brethren (His disciples) 8) Where is there a similar judgment portrayed in the Old Testament? - Joel 3:1-2,12-14, in which nations are judged based on their treatment of Israel 9) Even if such "judgments" are limited to the nations, what do they foreshadow? - The coming of the Lord to judge all men at the end of time,
cf. Ac 17:31; 2Co 5:10 10) How are punishment and reward described in this chapter? (34,41,46) - The righteous: inherit the kingdom, go away into eternal life - The wicked: into the everlasting fire, go away into everlasting punishment
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Chapter Twenty-Four This chapter records the beginning of the Olivet discourse, prompted by questions following Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple (1-3). It involves the destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in 70 A.D., though many also see intertwining references to the Second Coming of Christ (4-51). POINTS TO PONDER * The fulfillment of events foretold by Jesus in this chapter * The importance of being prepared and productive REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The destruction of the temple foretold - Mt 24:1-3 - The sign when things would soon occur - Mt 24:4-28 - The tribulation and events immediately after - Mt 24:29-35 - The need to be prepared and productive - Mt 24:36-51 2) What questions were prompted by Jesus’ prediction? (3) - "When will these things be? What will be the sign...?" 3) What did Jesus say would not be the sign? (4-13) - False christs, wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, persecution, lawlessness 4) What would happen before the "end" would come? (14) - The gospel preached in all the world (cf. Mk 16:15; Ro 10:16-18; Co 1:23) 5) What would be the sign for those in Judea to flee?
(15-16; cf. Lk 21:20-21) - The abomination of desolation (Jerusalem surrounded by armies) 6) What would happen immediately after the tribulation of those days? (29-31) - Cataclysmic events involving celestial bodies (sun, moon, stars) - The sign of the Son of Man, His coming on clouds of heaven, gathering the elect 7) Where else is language like this used to describe judgment upon a nation? - Isa 13:6-13; 19:1-2; 34:4-6; Nah 1:1-5 8) What would not pass away before these things would be fulfilled? (34) - That generation 9) Why did Jesus stress the importance of preparation and productivity? (36-51) - No one knows the day or hour - The Son of Man will come unexpectedly - His servants will be judged by their faithful service
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Chapter Twenty-Three With the religious leaders silenced by their inability to entangle Jesus with their questions, Jesus proceeded to decry the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees in a series of scorching rebukes (1-36). Despite His strong condemnation, His love for them was manifested by His lament for the people of Jerusalem (37-39). POINTS TO PONDER * The hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees * Jesus’ grief over the apostasy and fall of Jerusalem REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Jesus denounces the religious leaders - Mt 23:1-36 - Jesus laments over Jerusalem - Mt 23:37-39 2) What does Jesus tell people to do in regards to the scribes and Pharisees? (3) - Do what they say, even though they do not practice what they preach 3) List some things for which Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees (3-7) - They say, and do not - They bind burdens on others they themselves would not bear - Their works they do to be seen of men - They make their phylacteries broad, enlarge the borders of their garments - They love the best places at feasts, best seats in the synagogues - They love greetings in the marketplaces, to be called "Rabbi" 4) What did Jesus tell His disciples not to do? Why? (8-11) - Not to use religious titles like "Rabbi", "Father", "Teacher" - Rather then be esteemed by such titles, they were to be humble servants 5) List the reasons for the eight woes expressed by Jesus (13,14,15,16, 23,25,27,29) - Preventing others from entering the kingdom of heaven - Devouring widows’ houses and making long, pretentious prayers - Making proselytes twice the sons of hell as themselves - Making inconsistent distinctions between the swearing of oaths - Paying tithes of minute things while neglecting justice, mercy, faith - Cleaning the outside while neglecting the inside - Outwardly appearing righteous while inwardly full of hypocrisy and lawlessness - Building the tombs of the prophets while persecuting prophets 6) What did Jesus say was the condition of Jerusalem? (38) - "See! Your house is left to you desolate"
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Chapter Twenty-Two Jesus told a third parable directed toward the religious leaders: the parable of the wedding feast (1-14). The leaders responded as various factions tried to trip Jesus with questions. Pharisees and Herodians asked Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar (15-22), Sadducees presented an argument against the resurrection of the dead (23-33), and a lawyer asked what was the greatest commandment of the Law (34-40). Jesus answered easily, and then silenced them with a question of His own regarding the Christ as David’s son (41-46). POINTS TO PONDER * Many are called, but few are chosen * Paying taxes, the resurrection, and the greatest commandment * How Christ is both David’s son and David’s Lord REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The parable of the wedding feast - Mt 22:1-14 - Pharisees with Herodians: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar? - Mt 22:15-22 - Sadducees: What about the resurrection of the dead? - Mt 22:23-33 - Lawyer: What is the great commandment in the Law? - Mt 22:34-40 - Jesus: How can Christ be both David’s son and David’s Lord?
- Mt 22:41-46 2) What two groups are depicted in the parable of the wedding feast? (3,11) - Those who refuse the invitation; those who accept, but improperly adorned 3) How did Pharisees and Herodians try to entangle Jesus in His talk? (15-17) - By asking whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar 4) What did Jesus reply that prompted them to marvel? (21-22) - "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s." 5) How did Sadducees try to trip Jesus? (23-28) - With a hypothetical situation intended to show the resurrection is an impossibility 6) What two-fold answer did Jesus give the Sadducees? (29-32) - Marital relations don’t exist after death; Exo 3:6 proves the dead still exist 7) What were the two greatest commandments in the Law? (37-38) - Love God with all your heart, soul, mind; love your neighbor as yourself 8) How can Christ be both David’s son and David’s Lord? (45) - His son by virtue of physical ancestry, his Lord by virtue of His deity
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Chapter Twenty-One Jesus began His Last Week before His crucifixion with a triumphant entry into Jerusalem (1-11), followed with dramatic acts like driving the moneychangers from the temple (12-17) and cursing the barren fig tree (18-22). His authority was soon challenged (23-27), and in response Jesus told the parables of the two sons (28-32) and the wicked vinedressers (33-46), understood by the religious leaders to be directed toward them. POINTS TO PONDER * The significance of the triumphal entry, cleansing the temple, cursing the fig tree * The conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The triumphal entry - Mt 21:1-11 - Jesus cleanses the temple - Mt 21:12-17 - Jesus curses the fig tree - Mt 21:18-22 - Jesus’ authority questioned - Mt 21:23-27 - The parable of the two sons - Mt 21:28-32 - The parable of the wicked vinedressers - Mt 21:33-46 2) What prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem? (4-5) - The prophecy by Zechariah, Zec 9:9 3) Why was Jesus angry at the merchandising going on in the temple? (13) - God’s house of prayer had been turned into a den of thieves 4) Why were the religious leaders angry with Jesus? (15) - For what they saw Jesus doing, and what they heard people saying 5) What might the cursing of the barren fig tree signify? (19) - The Lord’s displeasure and coming judgment upon Israel’s leaders 6) Where does authority in religion come from? (25) - Either from heaven (the Word of God) or from men (teachings of men) 7) Who did the two sons in the parable represent? (28-32) - The first son: tax collectors and harlots who repented at the preaching of John - The second son: religious leaders who did not believe John 8) What prophecy foretold that religious leaders would reject Jesus? (42) - The one found in Ps 118:22-23
Founding Father Elias Boudinot on Islam
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
American views of Islam going back to the origins of America have been generally consistent. With a Christian worldview intact at the beginning, Americans have naturally recognized Islam’s inherent hostility toward Christianity and its fundamental threat to the American way of life. For example, Elias Boudinot was a premiere Founding Father with a long and distinguished career. He served as a member of the Continental Congress, where he served as its president (1782-1783); he signed the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain; he was a member of the U.S. House where he helped frame the Bill of Rights; he served as the Director of Mint under presidents Washington and Adams; etc. In his masterful refutation of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, Boudinot labeled Muhammad an “impostor,” and insightfully observed that
Mahomet aimed to establish his pretensions to divine authority, by the power of the sword and the terrors of his government; while he carefully avoided any attempts at miracles in the presence of his followers, and all pretences to foretell things to come. His acknowledging the divine mission of Moses and Christ confirms their authority as far as his influence will go while their doctrines entirely destroy all his pretensions to the like authority…. And now, where is the comparison between the supposed prophet of Mecca, and the Son of God; or with what propriety ought they to be named together?...The difference between these characters is so great, that the facts need not be further applied (1801, pp. 36-39, emp. added).
This premiere Founder merely expressed the sentiments of the bulk of the Founders as well as the rank and file of American citizens. The political correctness that now characterizes western civilization has desensitized citizens and left the country vulnerable to the sinister infiltration of an ideology that is antithetical to the principles of the American Republic.
Boudinot, Elias (1801), The Age of Revelation, http://books.google.com/books?id=XpcPAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=mahomet&f=false.
Babylon: A Test Case in Prophecy [Part II]
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the November issue. Part II follows below, and picks up where the first article ended.]
In the preceding article of this two-part study, I began an investigation of certain Old Testament prophecies that focused on the famous city of Babylon. Three major points were discussed: (1) the prophets emphatically declared that wicked and arrogant Babylon would fall; (2) the providential instrument of the Lord, employed in the initial destruction of the city, would be the Medo-Persian regime; and (3) the immediate fall, and ultimate deterioration, would come after the Hebrews had languished seventy years in Babylonian captivity. In this article, I would like to highlight a number of particulars that are reflected prophetically in the biblical record.
The works of Herodotus and Xenophon are the two principal sources of historical confirmation. Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), known as the “father of history,” produced the first attempt at secular narrative history. His work, which dealt primarily with the Persian Wars, is an important source of information on the ancient world. He vividly describes the overthrow of Babylon. Xenophon (c. 430-355 B.C.), a student of Socrates, was a Greek historian born in Athens. He served in the Persian army and produced several valuable literary works. One of these, called Cyropaedia, is a sort of romance founded on the history of Cyrus the Great (559-530 B.C.). It provides considerable data on the fall of Babylon.
Again, we emphasize that one of the traits of true prophecy is that it deals in specific details, not generalities. Let us examine some of these particulars.
Babylon had been a brutal force. She was “the glory of the kingdoms” (Isaiah 13:19). She had been Jehovah’s providential “battle-axe” that had broken in pieces the nations of the ancient world (Jeremiah 51:20-24). For example, Nebuchadnezzar had defeated thoroughly the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.), and had enjoyed great success in Syria and Palestine, even subjugating “Zion” at the Lord’s bidding.
One might surmise that Babylon would have feared no one. Oddly, though, Jeremiah said: “The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting. They stay in the strongholds; their strength is exhausted, they are becoming like women” (Jeremiah 51:30). How remarkably this conforms to the actual history. Xenophon said that when Cyrus brought his army to Babylon, he initially was perplexed as to how he would take the city, since the Chaldean soldiers “do not come out to fight” (VII.V.7). The Babylonians fearfully remained behind their massive walls refusing, for the most part, to encounter the enemy—exactly as the prophet had indicated.
EUPHRATES RIVER TO BE DIVERTED
When Cyrus surveyed Babylon’s fortifications, he said: “I am unable to see how any enemy can take walls of such strength and height by assault” (Xenophon, VIII.V.7). Accordingly, he devised a brilliant strategy for capturing the city.
As I mentioned in the previous article, the Euphrates river ran under the walls through the center of Babylon. From the river, canals—quite broad and sometimes navigable—were cut in every direction. The Jews in captivity could thus lament: “By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept, When we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). Just to the west of the city was a huge lake-basin, some thirty-five feet deep and covering forty miles square, but which, at the time of the invasion, was but a marsh. Cyrus stationed soldiers at the point where the river entered the city, and also where it exited. At a given time, he diverted the Euphrates from its bed into the marshy lake area. His forces then entered Babylon under the city walls (Herodotus, I.191).
Consider what the prophets declared regarding Babylon’s fall. Isaiah, writing more than a century and a half earlier, referred to Jehovah’s decree. The Lord “saith to the deep: Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers, that saith of Cyrus, he is my shepherd and shall perform my pleasure” (Isaiah 44:27). Some contend that the language of this passage is an allusion to the Exodus, which occurred in Israel’s early history. That cannot be the case, however. The utterance is framed in the future tense, and the context specifically relates this matter to Cyrus. The prophecy “is usually taken as referring to the device Cyrus used in order to capture Babylon” (Fitch, 1954, p. 593).
Later, in his famous oracle against Babylon, Jeremiah exclaimed: “A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up: for it is a land of graven images, and they are mad over idols” (50:38). Again, “I will dry up her sea, and make her fountain dry” (51:36). Though these passages have been interpreted in various ways, the language is quite consistent with the diversion of the river, which allowed the Persians to take the city virtually unopposed (see Wiseman, 1979, p. 849).
SURPRISE CAPTURE DURING DRUNKEN FEAST
Concerning Babylon’s fall, Jeremiah represented the Lord as saying: “I have laid a snare for you, and you are also taken, O Babylon” (50:24). The term “snare” suggests that the citizens of the city would be taken by surprise; they “were not aware” of what was happening until it was too late (50:24b). Herodotus wrote: “Had the Babylonians been apprised of what Cyrus was about, or had they noticed their danger, they would never have allowed the Persians to enter their city” (I.191).
One aspect in the rapid conquest of the city had to do with the fact that the Babylonians, in their smug security, were engaged in drunken festivities; thus, they were wholly unconcerned about the enemy beyond their massive walls. But the Lord had declared: “When they are heated, I will make their feast, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, says Jehovah” (Jeremiah 51:39). Again: “And I will make drunk her princes and her wise men, her governors and her deputies, and her mighty men; and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, says the King whose name is Jehovah of hosts” (Jeremiah 51:57).
Herodotus recorded that the citizens of the central section of the city did not know that Babylon had fallen for a good while because “they were engaged in a festival, continued dancing and revelling until they learnt the capture” (I.191). Similarly, Xenophon said that “there was a festival in Babylon, in which all the Babylonians drank and revelled the whole night” (VII.5.15).
BABYLON TO BE SACKED
The prophets indicated that when great Babylon was taken, her rich treasures would be looted. The Lord, speaking prophetically to Cyrus, had promised: “[A]nd I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places” (Isaiah 45:3). Jeremiah announced: “And they shall become as women: a sword is upon her treasures, and they shall be robbed” (50:37). The treasures of Babylon were splendid beyond description. Herodotus, in describing just one of the temples in the city, declared that it contained more than twenty tons of gold (I.183). It is interesting to note that when Cyrus issued his famous decree that allowed the Jews to return to their land, he endowed them with silver and gold to help finance the project, as well as returning some 5,400 vessels of gold and silver that originally had been taken from the Hebrew temple (Ezra 1:4,11).
When Jehovah beckoned the Persians to come against evil Babylon, He charged: “[O]pen up her store-houses [granaries, ASV footnote]; cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly; let nothing of her be left” (Jeremiah 50:26). Xenophon reports that Babylon “was furnished with provisions for more than twenty years” (VIII.5.13). No wonder they felt secure; the storehouses were bulging. But God emptied them—just as His prophet had announced!
WALLS TO BE ABOLISHED
I already have mentioned Babylon’s famous walls. An ancient historian, Diodorus, stated that it took 200,000 men a full year to construct these fortifications (Fausset, 1990 p. 181). But Jeremiah prophesied: “The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly overthrown, and her high gates shall be burned with fire” (51:58). Where are Babylon’s walls, and her one hundred gates of brass (Herodotus, I.179) today? Under the “Summary” below, I will detail more precisely the demolition of the city.
BABYLON TO FADE INTO OBLIVION
The prophets repeatedly proclaimed the eventual utter desolation of ancient Babylon. Isaiah gave the following particulars:
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall shepherds make their flocks to lie down there. But wild beasts of the desert shall live there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and ostriches shall dwell there, and wild goats shall dance there. And wolves shall cry in their castles, and jackals in the pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged (13:19-22).
Jeremiah was equally graphic; the reader may consult chapters 50 and 51 of his book for the numerous details given there.
At this point, I would like to mention two points that I made in Part I of this series. First, there was to be an initial defeat of Babylon. Second, afterwards there would be a gradual but progressive degeneration of the locale, which ultimately would become a site of absolute waste. In the following section, I will catalogue the destructions and degeneration of once-great Babylon.
A SUMMARY OF EVENTS
- After a siege of two years, the city of Babylon was captured by Cyrus, commander of the Medo-Persian forces, in October of 539 B.C. This brought the Neo-Babylonian empire (614-539 B.C.) to a close. Significant damage to the city was not inflicted at this time, though some of the walls may have been broken down, at least partially.
- Following a rebellion of the Babylonian subjects, Darius Hystaspes took the city again in 520 B.C.He demolished the walls significantly and carried off the huge gates (see Jeremiah 51:58). Elsewhere I have given a detailed account of how the city was taken—again by a “snare” (Jackson, 1996). Herodotus wrote: “Thus was Babylon taken for a second time. Darius having become master of the place, destroyed the wall, and tore down all the gates; for Cyrus had done neither the one nor the other when he took Babylon” (III.159). Apparently, however, there was some subsequent repair of the walls (see McClintock and Strong, 1969, 1:596).
- During the reign of Xerxes (485-465 B.C.), the temple of Bel (Marduk) was plundered and destroyed. Much of the city was turned into ruins in 483 B.C., and the walls were dismantled further.
- Babylon again fall to Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. As Alexander neared the city, priests and nobles went out to meet him with lavish gifts, surrendering the city. Alexander proposed that he would rebuild the temple of Marduk. He employed 10,000 men to clear the dirt and rubble. They labored in vain for two months. Alexander died and the work was abandoned (Rollin, 1857, 1:575). A clay tablet has been found that confirms this enterprise. It records that in the sixth year of Alexander’s reign, he made a payment of ten manehs of silver for “clearing away the dust of E-sagila [Marduk’s great temple]” (King, 1919, 2:284-288).
- In 270 B.C. Antiochus Soter, a Greek ruler, restored several of the temples in Babylon, but the general decay of the city continued.
- In the time of Strabo (at the end of the 1st century B.C.), the site was in ruins. Jerome (fourth century A.D.), learned that Babylon had been used as a wild game park for the amusement of numerous Persian dignitaries (McClintock and Strong, 1969, 1:596). In the fifth century A.D., according to Cyril of Alexandria, due to the bursting of canal banks, Babylon became a swamp (Jeremias, 1911, 1:294).
- Volney, the French atheist who was such a militant adversary of the Bible, wrote his book, The Ruins of Empires, in 1791. Therein he stated: “Nothing is left of Babylon but heaps of earth, trodden under foot of men” (as quoted in Holman, 1926, p. 333). As Jeremiah had prophesied: “[C]ast her up as heaps” (50:26). It is ironic that a skeptic should lend support to confirming the accuracy of the biblical narrative!
- When archaeologist Austen Layard explored Babylon in the mid-nineteenth century, he described the heaps of rubbish that rendered the area a “naked and hideous waste” (1856, p. 413). Later, when Robert Koldewey excavated the city for eighteen seasons beginning in 1899, he said that as he gazed over the ruins, he could not help but be reminded of Jeremiah 50:39 (1914, p. 314). He reported that many of the sites were covered with forty to eighty feet of sand and rubble.
- A relatively modern air-view of Babylonia—once the world’s greatest city—shows only a mound of dirt and broken-down walls (Boyd, 1969, pp. 153ff.).
In recent years, Sadam Hussein attempted to build a tourist center near the site of old Babylon. The 1990 Persian Gulf War seriously impaired his plans.
THE CRITICS AND THE PROPHECY
The accuracy of the dozens of prophecies regarding the fall of Babylon has baffled skeptics for generations. So remarkable has been the precision of the fulfillment that critics often have resorted toredating the predictions in both Isaiah and Jeremiah so as to make them appear to be records ofhistory instead of prophecy! For example, in commenting upon the oracles of Jeremiah, chapters 50-51, James Philip Hyatt wrote: “Some of the poems in this present collection seem to reflect the city’s downfall, as prophecies after the event rather than predictions...” (1956, 5:1124, emp. added). Such a view ignores the evidence for dating the books at a much earlier period.
A former professor in a Christian university has even capitulated to this liberal viewpoint. Anthony Ash asserted:
Dating chapter 50 is virtually impossible. The arrangement of the text indicates that it was a composite, probably containing materials from different periods.... The chapter may have reached this form near the mid-sixth century B.C., when the fall of Babylon appeared likely (1987, p. 309, emp. added).
Upon this basis, then, one supposes that Jeremiah—or whoever put the composite together!—simply made a lucky guess as to the fall of Babylon. Such a view is disgusting, and unworthy of any Christian writer.
The prophetic details regarding the fall of ancient Babylon, as minutely recorded in the Old Testament narratives, truly are astounding. This is but another example of the amazing evidence that demonstrates the character of the Bible as the inspired Word of God.
Ash, Anthony L. (1987), Jeremiah and Lamentations (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press).
Boyd, Robert (1969), A Pictorial Guide to Biblical Archaeology (New York: Bonanza).
Fausset, A.R. (1990 reprint), “Jeremiah,” A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Volume 2, Part 2, ed. Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Fitch (1954), “Isaiah,” The New Bible Commentary, ed. F. Davidson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Herodotus (1956), The History of Herodotus, transl. by George Rawlinson (New York: Tudor).
Holman, Thomas (1926), “Prophecy Vindicated by Volney,” New Testament Christianity, ed. Z.T. Sweeney (Columbus, IN: NT Christianity Book Fund).
Hyatt, James Phillip (1956), The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. George A. Buttrick (Nashville, TN: Abindgon).
Jackson, Wayne (1996), “Zopyrus the Persian,” Christian Courier, 32:27, November.
Jeremias, Alfred (1911), The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East (New York: Putnam’s Sons).
King, Leonard W. (1919), A History of Babylonia and Assyria (London: Chatto & Windus).
Koldewey, Robert (1914), The Excavations at Babylon (London: Macmillan).
Layard, Austen H. (1856), The Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (New York: Harper).
McClintock, John and James Strong (1969), Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, reprint).
Rollin, Charles (1857), Ancient History (New York: Harper & Brothers).
Xenophon (1893 Edition), Cyropaedia, transl. by J.S. Watson and Henry Dale (London: George Bell & Sons).
Wiseman, D.J. (1979), “Jeremiah,” The New Layman’s Bible Commentary, ed. G.C.D. Howley, F.F. Bruce, and H.L. Ellison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Babylon: A Test Case in Prophecy [Part I]
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
It was the most remarkable community of its day—a San Francisco, New York, or London of the antique world. Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), known as the father of ancient history, once visited the great metropolis. He said that “in magnificence there is no other city that approaches to it” (I.178). It was Babylon!
Babylon’s roots reached back almost to the dawn of civilization. Its genesis was with the mighty hunter, Nimrod, who conquered men and made them his unwilling subjects (Genesis 10:10). From that ignoble origin eventually evolved the Neo-Babylonian empire (614-539 B.C.), which figures so prominently in Old Testament history.
THE GOLDEN CITY
The city of Babylon straddled the Euphrates River about fifty miles south of what is now modern Baghdad in Iraq. Herodotus claimed that the town was laid out in an exact square, approximately fifteen miles on each side. The historian suggested that the city was surrounded by a moat (more than 260 feet broad), behind which was a massive wall—some 75 feet thick and 300 feet high, with 15 large gates of brass on each side. Later writers (e.g., Strabo and Diodorus Siculus) gave somewhat smaller dimensions. But these may reflect different areas of measurement, or perhaps other historical periods (Keith, 1840, p. 271). When Jacob Abbott wrote his fascinating volume, History of Cyrus the Great, he suggested that Babylon was four or five times the size of London (1850, p. 190). Modern archaeological investigations have involved a significantly smaller area. One of the prominent features of this illustrious city was Nebuchadnezzar’s Hanging Gardens, constructed for his Median wife who was homesick for her hill-country environment. This botanical marvel was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The Scriptures take note of the fame that characterized this community. The prophets designated Babylon as “great” (Daniel 4:30), the “glory of the kingdoms” (Isaiah 13:19), the “golden city” (Isaiah 14:4), the “lady of the kingdoms” (Isaiah 47:5) who was “abundant in treasures” (Jeremiah 51:13), and the “praise of the whole earth” (Jeremiah 51:41). Surely a kingdom of this nature could last forever.
BABYLON:THE INSTRUMENT OF PROVIDENCE
In order to appreciate the significance of Babylon in light of Bible prophecy, one must understand something of Hebrew history. The northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians in 722-721 B.C. The southern kingdom (Judah) had been spared that catastrophe (see Isaiah 37) but, due to her progressive apostasy, was on a clear collision course with Babylon. The prophets warned that if Judah continued her rebellion, Jehovah would raise up Nebuchadnezzar as His “servant” to punish the wayward Hebrews. Many of them would be killed; others would be captured and taken away as prisoners by the marauding Babylonians (Jeremiah 25:9). The Chaldean monarch, however, would not be commended or rewarded for this endeavor; rather, after his subjugation of Judah, the Lord would punish him, and the Babylon regime would commence a journey toward oblivion. Jeremiah summed up the history of this affair in the following way:
Israel is a hunted sheep; the lions have driven him away: first, the king of Assyria devoured him; and now at last Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones. Therefore thus says Jehovah 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 (Jeremiah 50:17-18).
But Babylon was the epitome of arrogance. She boasted that no one would be able to conquer this powerful citadel. The Babylonians felt absolutely secure within their mighty fortress, and believed that the capital city would never be vanquished. “I shall be mistress forever.... I am, and there is none else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children” (Isaiah 47:7-8). Inscriptions from the Chaldean archives have illustrated the haughty disposition that characterized the Babylonian rulers (Millard, 1985, p. 138).
PROPHECY AS AN APOLOGETIC
Before I discuss prophecies relating to Babylon, there are some preliminary matters that must be considered. First, there is the nature of God—the eternal “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). He is the One Who is, Who was, and Who is to come (Revelation 1:4). He, and only He, knows the future as well as the past. The Lord, therefore, is able to speak of those things that “are not” as though “they were” (Romans 4:17).
Only God can know the future. If, then, we are able to establish the fact that the prophets announced—many years in advance—truths regarding the desolation of Babylon, it would amount to a demonstration that ultimately the biblical record was given by God Himself. These matters never could have been known by mere chance.
There is an interesting passage in the book of Jeremiah that illustrates this point. On a certain occasion in the prophet’s ministry to Judah, Jeremiah was told by the Lord that his cousin, Hanamel, would arrive soon, offering to sell him a parcel of land in the town of Anathoth. Presently, Hanamel came to the prophet and made that very offer. Jeremiah subsequently uttered this significant statement: “Then I knew that this was the word of Jehovah” (Jeremiah 32:8, emp. added). When a prophecy is made—and the prediction comes to pass—one can know that God has spoken, provided other prophetic guidelines are in place.
In this two-part study, we will survey some of the prophecies that focus upon Babylon’s demise. First, though, let us remind ourselves of several principles that govern the validity of genuine prophecy. (1) True prophecies are stated emphatically; they are not couched in the jargon of contingency (unless, of course, contextual evidence suggests that one is dealing with a conditional prophecy). (2) Generally, a significant time frame must lapse between the prophetic utterance and the fulfillment, so as to exclude the possibility of “educated speculation.” (3) The prophecy must involve specific details, not vague generalities. (4) The predictive declarations must be fulfilled precisely and completely. No mere substantial percentage will suffice. One should recognize, though, that occasionally a prophecy may contain figurative terminology; this does not, however, militate against its evidential validity.
In the forthcoming reflections, we will emphasize these important points: (1) Babylon’s fall is announced unequivocally: (2) the time of the beginning of her end is declared; (3) the invading forces are specified; (4) particular details of the Chaldean destruction are chronicled; (5) the final result—Babylon’s utter dissipation—is portrayed quite graphically. These factors, considered in concert, testify eloquently to the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures.
BABYLON TO FALL
In addition to the passage mentioned earlier (Jeremiah 50:17-18), there are many other prophecies that affirm the ultimate desolation of Babylon. In the early eighth century before the birth of Christ, and almost two hundred years before Cyrus conquered the “golden city,” Isaiah declared: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the graven images of her gods are broken unto the ground” (21:9). The double use of “fallen” is for emphasis. Although the verb “fallen” is in the present tense form in English, it actually is in the perfect tense in Hebrew, which represents completed action. This reflects a grammatical idiom commonly known as the “prophetic perfect,” frequently employed in the Old Testament to stress the absolute certainty of fulfillment (Freeman, 1968, pp. 122-123). The action thus is expressed confidently—as though it had been accomplished already.
Again Jehovah, through his prophet, rhetorically calls to Babylon: “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans” (Isaiah 47:1). Babylon is designated as a “virgin” because for many years she had escaped the ravages of other nations. But that status would come to an end!
Or consider the announcements of Jeremiah: “Declare you among the nations and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken” (Jeremiah 50:2). “Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed; wail for her; take balm for her pain” (Jeremiah 51:8). Among other contexts, a survey of Isaiah, chapters 13 and 14, and Jeremiah, chapters 50 and 51, will reveal numerous declarations concerning Babylon’s impending fall and ultimate desolation.
THE PROPHETIC CHRONOLOGY
In giving consideration to the “time” factor in prophecies regarding the destruction of Babylon, two things must be kept in view. First, there was to be an initial defeat of the superpower. Second, afterward there would be a gradual but progressive degeneration of the locale that ultimately would result in total ruin. At this point, we will consider only the first of these matters.
After Judah’s good king, Josiah (639-608 B.C.), died during the battle of Megiddo, he was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz, a miserable failure who reigned only three months. Jehoahaz was taken captive to Egypt (2 Kings 23:30-34), where, as Jeremiah prophesied, he died (Jeremiah 22:11-12). Then Jehoiakim, Josiah’s second son, came to Judah’s throne. He reigned eleven years (608-597 B.C.). During his administration, the compassionate Jeremiah, via his prophetic proclamations, was attempting to bring the southern kingdom to a state of repentance—with little success, I might add. Let us focus momentarily upon the oracles of Jeremiah, chapter 25.
First, we must observe that the material of this important chapter is dated. “The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim” (25:1). Thus, the following prophecies can be dated to 605 B.C. The prophet described the horrors that were to be visited upon Palestine by the impending Babylonian invasion. He then announced the fate of Babylon herself.
And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations [Judah and several of her neighbors—WJ] shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, says Jehovah, for their iniquity (Jeremiah 25:11-12).
Thus, almost three-quarters of a century before Babylon fell, when there was absolutely no indication of Chaldean vulnerability, Jeremiah announced the impending doom of the ancient world’s superpower, and he gave a time indicator as to when those circumstances would unfold. There simply was no natural way he could have “guessed” it.
THE CONQUERORS SPECIFIED
But who would overthrow mighty Babylon? Both Isaiah and Jeremiah provide that information. In a section that concludes with: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon,” the messianic prophet wrote: “Go up, O Elam; besiege O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease” (Isaiah 21:2). As I have noted elsewhere, “Elam is here used to facilitate the Hebrews’ understanding of the source of the impending invasion, since Persia was not yet prominent. Later, Elam is considered as a part of the Persian empire...” (Jackson, 1991, p. 48). Skinner observed that Elam and Media were
[t]he dominions of Cyrus. The former lay east of the Tigris and north of the Persian Gulf; Media was the mountainous district adjoining it on the north. Cyrus, according to the Babylonian records, was originally king of Anzan, in the north of Elam; in 549 he conquered Media, uniting the two in one kingdom (1963, 1:170).
Rawlinson noted that “Elam” is named because it was familiar to the Hebrews, whereas “Persia” would have been a designation alien to them at the time of Isaiah’s writing (1950, 10:336). What precision!
Again, Isaiah detailed the conquering exploits of Cyrus, leader of the Medo-Persian forces and the brilliant strategist who overthrew the city of Babylon:
Thus says Jehovah to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of kings; to open the doors before him, and the gates shall not be shut (45:1).
The prophecy was uttered two centuries before the birth of the Persian monarch, and yet, as I shall demonstrate subsequently, it set forth a number of remarkable events in connection with the conquest of the Chaldean capital.
Jeremiah was equally specific regarding the invaders of Babylon. “Make sharp the arrows, hold firm the shields: Jehovah has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes; because his purpose is against Babylon to destroy it” (51:11). Some have suggested that this passage sarcastically urged the Babylonians to sharpen their arrows and firmly clutch their shields—as if they would be able to defend themselves against the Lord’s forces (Clarke, n.d., 4:388). Others feel that this is a rhetorical charge to the Medo-Persian soldiers to prepare their military implements for attack against the Chaldean forces (Plumptre, 1959, 5:168). “The Persians were famous among the ancients for their archers” (McClintock and Strong, 1969, 1:372). Jehovah has plans for Babylon. He will destroy it by means of the “kings” (tribal rulers) of the Medes. Again, the accuracy of the biblical text is demonstrated by the precise terminology used. As Wiseman has noted concerning Jeremiah 51:11: “Babylonian texts (Nabonidus) show that the title ‘king of the Medes’ (11) was correctly in use in 544 B.C.” (Wiseman, 1979, p. 849).
The historical facts are not disputed. The Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.), was succeeded by his son, Evil-Merodach (562-560 B.C.), who is mentioned in 2 Kings 25:27-30 and in Jeremiah 52:31-34. Next came Neriglissar (560-556 B.C.), an evil conspirator who was defeated and slain in battle by the Medes and Persians (Sanderson, et al., 1900, 1:54). Labashi-Marduk subsequently came to the Chaldean throne in 556 B.C., but was assassinated after a few months. Finally, there was Nabonidus, who ruled from 556-539 B.C. His son, Belshazzar, was co-regent with his father. Actually it was Belshazzar who was occupying the city of Babylon when it fell (see Daniel 5:1ff.). Inscriptions have been discovered which make it clear that Nabonidus had entrusted the “kingship” of the capital city to his son while he campaigned in Arabia for about a decade (Vos, 1988, 1:276). When Cyrus advanced against Babylon, Nabonidus marched east to meet him, but fled before the Persian general’s army. Later, after Cyrus had captured the city (539 B.C.), Nabonidus surrendered to the Persians. And so, the biblical prophecies regarding the conquerors of the city of Babylon were fulfilled exactly.
In the second installment of this study, I will present some of the many details concerning the fall and deterioration of Babylon—details that were previewed prophetically by the great seers of Israel.
Abbott, Jacob (1850), History of Cyrus the Great (New York: Harper Brothers).
Clarke, Adam (n.d.), Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible (Nashville, TN: Abingdon).
Freeman, Hobart (1968), An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Herodotus (1956 reprint), The History of Herodotus, George Rawlinson, translator (New York: Tudor).
Jackson, Wayne (1991), Isaiah: God’s Prophet of Doom and Deliverance (Abilene, TX: Quality).
Keith, Alexander (1840), Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived From Prophecy(Edinburgh, Scotland: William Shyte and Co.).
McClintock, John and James Strong (1969 reprint), Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Millard, Alan (1985), Treasures From Bible Times (Oxford, England: Lion Publishing).
Plumptre, E.H. (1959 reprint), Ellicott’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Rawlinson, George (1950 Reprint), “Isaiah,” The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Sanderson, Edgar, J.P. Lamberton, and John McGovern (1900), The World’s History and Its Makers(Chicago, IL: Universal History Publishing Co.).
Skinner, J. (1963), “Isaiah: I-XXXIX,” The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press).
Vos, Howard (1988), “Belshazzar,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Wiseman, D.J. (1979), “Jeremiah,” The New Layman’s Bible Commentary, ed. G.C.D. Howley, F.F. Bruce, and H.L. Ellison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).