Aren’t you blessed by God’s grace! We’ve seen this week that God’s grace extends not only to His people, but even to Israel’s enemies. Such is God’s grace to us. While we were yet sinners (enemies of God), Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8)
As we’ve seen this week, many prophecies are partially fulfilled, awaiting their final fulfillment in the last days. Let’s finish this week’s study with another prophecy that has found partial fulfillment, but will one day soon be fully fulfilled.
We’re going to take a wild ride through Scripture today, so buckle your seat belts and hang on! Our goal is not only to study an incredible prophecy about Babylon, but to also solidify the fact that the Bible validates itself through prophecy. You’re going to be amazed by our study today!
Babylon is mentioned more times in Scripture than any other city besides Jerusalem. (Want to see for yourself? Logon to the Bible Gateway search page and conduct a word search for “Babylon” and for “Jerusalem,” then any other city you can think of!)
Indeed, Babylon is mentioned a lot! Why do you suppose it is mentioned so many times?
Babylon is referenced more in Jeremiah (a book of prophecy) than anywhere else in Scripture. Indeed, Babylon has and will play a very critical part in end times, particularly during The Tribulation. We will look more about those prophecies next week, so today’s lesson will segway nicely into next week’s study.
Our run through Scripture today will take us through a small portion of Isaiah 41, a brief dip into Isaiah 13, a full plunge into Jeremiah 51 and Daniel 5, then a crowning point in Isaiah 44. If you are one who likes to be prepared, go ahead and place markers there! If you’re using the online links, you shouldn’t have any problems navigating as the time comes. If you simply prefer to watch or listen to the message, click on Prophecy Concerning Babylon and follow along with Pastor Mark Martin. So hang on and let’s go for a ride!
Babylon was once the world’s greatest empire. It was huge and it was prosperous. It was also well-fortified. But nonetheless, we know that Babylon is little of nothing today. But what will it be like in the future? We’ll study more about that in in next week’s lesson, but today let’s consider a prophecy of Babylon that has already been fulfilled.
Recall that, in Isaiah 41:21-23, God issued a challenge to all other gods to present their case by declaring what is going to take place in the future. The Creator God of the Universe is the only God capable of predicting the future with 100% accuracy, and as we’ve seen, He makes many prophecies about various nations and people groups. He has much to say about Babylon, and we are about to dive in!
To briefly paint a mental picture of ancient Babylon, imagine a city 196 square miles in size (slightly larger than Albuquerque NM), and entirely enclosed with double walls 20 stories high and 87’ wide at the base. Eight chariots could race side-by-side on top of the walls. Inside were large fields as well as the Temple of Marduke which was the size of about 30 football fields and featured a tower 60 stories high. Gold and silver adorned most of the city. King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace was 100 miles around, and contained hanging gardens, which ultimately became one of the ancient wonders of the world. Water was pumped from the Euphrates and fountains flowed freely in this desert place.
Babylon was magnificent and was deemed impregnable, yet God predicted its destruction 174 years before it occurred! Turn in your Bible to Isaiah 13:17-21. Who did God stir up to overtake Babylon? According to verse 20, how would you describe the destruction?
Isaiah indicates that Babylon will be destroyed, never to be inhabited again! That prophecy doesn’t sound good for Babylon, does it? Well, the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel fill in the blanks for us. First let’s check out Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jeremiah 51.
The first ten verses lay out God’s plan to destroy Babylon and reiterate that, despite their guilt, neither Israel nor Judah were being forsaken by their God and He was acting with vengeance. Verse 11 confirms that it is the Medes who will be stirred up by the Lord. God, through the prophet Isaiah, predicted Babylon’s demise 174 years beforehand, and then re-iterated it through Jeremiah’s prophecy 62 years before it happened! It’s important to know, though, that the Medes were “nobodies” at that time!
Jeremiah goes on to detail the destruction, including the fact that Babylon would become a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals, an object of horror and hissing, without inhabitants (verse 37).
Keep in mind that many prophecies are partially fulfilled before final fulfillment, and all that is predicted here occurred just as the Lord said it would! Today, archaeologists are wary of excavation, because not only was Babylon left a heap of ruins, but evil spirits surrounded Babylon, and researchers often come down with incurable diseases when trying to excavate there! Indeed, as verse 43 indicates, Babylon became a place of horror!
Let’s focus now on a very key passage that will transition us to Daniel’s prophecy. Jeremiah 51:56-58 is that passage, so take a moment to read it. What seems to be happening during this siege by the Medes?
Yes, the Babylonian leaders would be drunk and passed out when the Medes attacked, and Daniel’s prophecy provides details of that very episode which occurred years later, in 538 BC! Turn to Daniel 5.
Verses 1-3 tell us that Belshazzar, king of Babylon, was hosting a great feast, drinking wine from the gold and silver vessels that were taken from the temple in Jerusalem. In the midst of the drunken festival, there suddenly appeared “handwriting on the wall” and the king was alarmed (verses 5-6). Belshazzar’s wise men could not decipher the meaning, so once more Daniel was called in to interpret for the king.
Read verses 25-28. What was the message Daniel interpreted? What happened to King Belshazzar that same night (verse 30), and who received the kingdom (verse 31)?
Just as God predicted, not once but twice…the Medes took over Babylon! The leader of the Medo-Persian army was a man by the name of Cyrus.
The fact that the Bible weaves together perfectly is absolutely astounding! Not only did Jeremiah and Daniel record details of Babylon’s destruction at the hands of the Medes, but another prophet, Isaiah, accurately recorded the identity of Cyrus 186 years before he was born!
Interestingly, God had prepared the pagan Cyrus for this very victory, as he had once come to a big river he could not cross. In fact, many of his horses had been swept away trying to cross a river and he was mad! As a result, he had his men make 260 canals on each side of the river and it was diverted. So, when it came time to take Babylon, Cyrus knew how to divert the great Euphrates River! Indeed, that was a key to his victory over Babylon. The second key was that the iron gates where the river flowed under the walls were left open! Drunkenness make wise men forget important things!
But let’s get back to Cyrus’ place in history, revealed 186 years before he was even born! Read Isaiah 44:24-28. Here, we find God predicting that Jerusalem would be inhabited and her ruins raised up. According to this passage, who did God appoint as “shepherd” to perform His desires?
Yes…Cyrus…the pagan army commander who conquered Babylon! Scripture tells us that it is this Cyrus who ultimately makes a decree to restore Jerusalem. Yet Jerusalem was not even destroyed yet! Jerusalem was strong, the temple stood and Cyrus was not even born yet! In fact, the Lord had to place His supernatural protection upon Cyrus to preserve his life, as a decree was made to kill him as a child. He was raised by a servant of his father.
As we’ve already studied, Ezra 1:1-4 identifies Cyrus, king of Persia, as the one the Lord stirred up to declare a decree to re-build the Temple. However, let’s mine the golden nugget for today!
Turn to Isaiah 45:1-7. The Lord calls Cyrus His anointed in verse 1! His anointed? This pagan king…anointed? Only God could do that! But notice the nuances in this passage.
- Verse 1 says Cyrus would subdue nations. He subdued Babylon, the greatest nation on earth at the time.
- Verse 1 refers to gates that would not be shut. The river gates of Babylon were left open that fateful night!
- God said He would shatter doors of bronze and cut through iron bars (verse 2), which He did in the conquest of Babylon.
- He gave Cyrus the treasure of darkness in the victory over Babylon.
- God called Cyrus by name…almost two centuries before he was born.
- Cyrus performed God’s bidding for the sake of Israel (verse 4).
- Cyrus did it, though he did not know the Lord (verse 4).
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. – Isaiah 45:5-7
Are you amazed, saints? The God of Israel is faithful. His Word rings true, and prophecy validates it! Dear ones, let’s never lose sight of the Blessed Hope who promises to come again.
Well, this is only a warm up, my friends! Next week we’ll look more closely at what Babylon will be up to during The Tribulation, and we’ll discover the final fulfillment of the prophecies of Babylon. So prepare to leave the cruise ship and jump on the speed boat! We’ve got lots more territory to explore. See you next week!