Friday, February 3, 2023

Babel Lives

Babylon is both a historic political entity and a symbol of the recurring rise of empires and self-appointed world rulersThere is a larger and older story behind the visions of Daniel than meets the eye, one that remains relevant to this day. The book focuses on the Empire that has been attempting to rule the world since the dawn of human history.

666 Photo by Master Wen on Unsplash
[666 Photo by Master Wen on Unsplash]

We ignore this biblical narrative at our peril. Not only was ancient Babel alive and well in the prophet's day, but even now it is rising on the world scene.

The book’s opening passage calls the Neo-Babylonian Empire the “land of Shinar.” This is a verbal link to the tower of Babel incident recorded in Genesis - (Daniel 1:1-2).

And the story of ancient Babel is echoed in Nebuchadnezzar’s imposition of the Babylonian language on his subjects, and in chapter 3 as he gathers all nations to pay homage to his great golden image.

Biblically speaking, the Neo-Babylonian Empire was not a new political entity. It had an ancient pedigree.

And, in the New Testament, the name “Babylon” becomes a cipher for the latest incarnation of the same Empire that always seeks absolute power over the earth, and all too often, exalts itself to divine status.

In Daniel, the imperial city in which the prophet found himself is the latest but certainly not the last iteration of this imperial power that periodically appears on the earth.


In Genesis, God thwarts the completion of a high tower in the “land of Shinar,” and this results in the diversity and distribution of languages, nations, and cultures across the planet. And that story provides the reader with the true origins of the Neo-Babylonian kingdom - (Genesis 11:1-9).

When the original tower was built in Babel, the “whole earth was of one language and one speech.” Noah’s descendants migrated to Mesopotamia to dwell “in the land of Shinar.”

And the name ‘Shinar’ is the Hebrew equivalent of ‘Sumer,’ the first known civilization located in Mesopotamia.

The people of Shinar begin to build a city with a high tower that would “reach the heavens and thus make us a name, lest we be scattered across the whole earth.”

The description reflects the Sumerian culture. The cities featured temples built on ziggurats, tiered mounds that formed the highest point in a city. Each was dedicated to the city’s chief deity or deities, and its economic, and religious activities centered on the temple.

Originally, Yahweh commanded Adam to “multiply, replenish and subdue the earth.” That same command was reiterated to Noah after the flood.

But humanity chose instead to move to Mesopotamia, build a new civilization, and make a name for itself. And in the Bible, consistently, Babylon is characterized by its arrogance and idolatry - (Genesis 1:28, 9:1, Isaiah 14:13-14, 63:12-14, Jeremiah 32:20).

If humanity united under one language, the wickedness of mankind would know no bounds. By confounding their language, God caused the nations to spread throughout the earth, and He stopped the first attempt at establishing a centralized regional if not global government.

Thus, the idolatrous ambitions of Babylon were delayed, at least, until a more opportune time. And in Daniel, under Nebuchadnezzar, the Kingdom of Shinar began to rise again.

Genesis calls the city ‘Babel,’ the place where “Yahweh confounded the language of all the earth.” The name may be related to the Hebrew word balal or “confusion,” although in the ancient Akkadian language of Mesopotamia bab-ili (‘Babel’) means the “gate of god.”

Thus, in Daniel, the ruler of “Babel” attempts to reverse God’s ancient judgment. Having conquered the kingdom of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar set out to gather different ethnic groups, cultures, and nations to his rebuilt city, and there, the people were educated in the “language of Babylon,” the latest incarnation of the Empire.


In Genesis, the “whole earth spoke one language” as men began to dwell in “Shinar.” They built a city and tower of “great height” in the plain of Shinar to mark their achievements and prevent the dispersal of humanity.

Likewise, in Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar brought Judean captives to Babylon, the great city that he built. Exiles from other nations were educated in the “language of the Chaldeans.” Hence, what the original inhabitants of Babel began to do, Nebuchadnezzar attempted to complete.

And so, Nebuchadnezzar “set up” a great golden image of exceptional “height” in the “plain of Dura,” then decreed that “all peoples, races, and tongues” must render homage to it.  He gathered representatives from every province and nation “to the dedication of his image” - (Daniel 3:1-8).

And so, the whole earth was summoned to be united under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule and to render homage to his great and “high” image.

The verbal parallels are deliberate.  Just as the earlier inhabitants of Mesopotamia united to build a city and high tower for their own glory, so the Neo-Babylonian king presumed to unite all humanity under his authority, and to “pay homage” to the image he had “set up.”


In the book of Revelation, “Babylon” takes on cosmic proportions in its war against the “Lamb” and his people. And this final incarnation of “Babylon” becomes the world “city” that is contrasted with the coming “city of New Jerusalem.”

Babylon is the “great whore,” and she is full of the “abominations” and every “unclean thing” on earth. Her hands are stained with the “blood of the prophets and the saints that have been slain on the earth.” She is characterized by her cruelty, arrogance, self-glorification, and the worship she demands from everyone she subjugates – (Revelation 17:1-6, 18:24).

In contrast, in “New Jerusalem,” no “unclean or abominable thing” enters the city, and the “curse” imposed on humanity due to Adam’s sin is removed. It is populated with the “saints,” and God Himself dwells with them and “wipes away every tear from their eyes” – (Revelation 21:1-8).

Babylon’s influence affects the entire earth, but the true key to her power lies in her control of global commerce. Economic sanction is her weapon of choice – (Revelation 18:1-24).

This cosmic abomination spans history. She rides the seven heads of the “Beast from the sea.” They represent seven “kingdoms.” The first five empires “fell” before John’s time. The sixth existed in his day, which could only be Rome, and the seventh and final imperial power was yet to come.

In chapter 13, the arrival of the “Beast” is described with a present tense participle. It is always “ascending,” either “from the sea” or the “Abyss.” It has appeared numerous times in history, and it is intent on eradicating God’s people.

Regardless of the historical identities of the past six kingdoms, or the identity of the final regime, “Babylon” is an ever-present reality that corrupts and attempts to control the empires and nations of this world– (Revelation 17:7-12).

And so, today. we see another imperial power using economic control to impose its will on nations and peoples, especially the ones that refuse to pay the “Beast” the homage it expects and demands from the “inhabitants of the earth.”

Will it become the final and “seventh kingdom” that “ascends from the Abyss”? Only time will tell. If not, sooner or later, another “Babel” will inevitably follow.