What is the history of Babylon?
The ancient city of Babylon, located in southern Mesopotamia, was situated on the Euphrates River about 50 miles south of modern Baghdad. Babylon’s great wealth and power were considered mythical until archeologists discovered many of its riches during the 19th century.
The name Babylon means “The Gate of God(s),” and was the capital of the land of Babylonia. Nimrod, a descendant of Noah, established the city and a common religion. It was here where the Tower of Babel was located and where God confused the speech of the builders. No wonder Babylon became a biblical symbol of the confusion that can be caused by godlessness.
The earliest inhabitants were the Sumerians whom the Bible refers to as the people of the “land of Shinar.” Sargon, who was from one of the Sumerian cities, united the people of Babylonia under his rule about 2300 BC. It is believed that Nimrod and Sargon were one in the same person.
Sumerian culture was the basis of the high level of civilization of Babylonia. A system of gods was established, with a temple in each city of the land. The temple-centered culture often held huge festivals; many different types of priests lead the people in worship, especially the exorcist and the diviner who were trained to drive away evil spirits. Literature was dominated by mythology and legends, including a creation story and a flood story, which glorified the gods of Babylon.
In 2000 BC, Hammurabi became ruler of Babylonia. According to the Bible, Abraham left Ur (an ancient city of lower Babylon) during Hammurabi’s reign and moved to Haran. He established its laws into a written system, known as the Code of Hammurabi, and expanded the borders of the Empire. The histories of Babylonia and the land of Assyria, located to the north, developed alongside each other. The Assyrians conquered Babylonia around 1270 BC, and Babylonia became a lesser power as the Assyrians dominated the ancient world.
However, a leader by the name of Nabopolassar won Babylonian independence from Assyria around 626 BC, and under his leadership, Babylonia became the dominant power in the area. In 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II, the son of Nabopolassar, became ruler and reigned for 44 years. He built Babylon into one of the leading cities of the world by using treasures stolen from other nations.
In 587 BC, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and took the leading citizens of the Kingdom of Judah prisoner. The prophet Jeremiah told how the captivity would last 70 years. During this 70-year period of captivity, the Persians conquered Babylonia. The Jews were free to return to their land, while Babylon remained a province of the Persian Empire for the next nine centuries.
Recently, Saddam Hussein rebuilt the city on top of old ruins with his name inscribed on many of the bricks in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar. When the Operation Desert Storm ended, he began to build a modern palace over some old ruins, naming it Saddam Hill. Since Saddam’s overthrow, it has been rumored that there are plans in the near future for restoring Babylon as a cultural center complete with shopping malls, hotels, and maybe even a theme park.
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