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Discovery Magazine 3/1/2002

Unbeatable Babylon?

Babylon was one of the richest cities in the world during the years 740 680 B.C. During these “glory days,” the city prospered greatly. It was located between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers—a strip of land so good for growing crops that today it is known as the “fertile crescent.”

But its farming was not the reason for its fame. Babylon gained its reputation because of its high, massive walls and strong military defense. In fact, its walls were said to be 14 miles long and over 300 feet high—taller than most buildings today. Not only were the walls long and high, but in some places they were 75-feet thick. But the wall was not the only form of defense. The Euphrates River surrounded the city, making a perfect moat that ranged from 65 to 250 feet across. This wall and moat system seemed to make the city unbeatable.

Yet in spite of the military strength of the city, God’s prophets predicted its destruction. In Jeremiah 50:9, the prophet said that God would “raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country.” This prediction probably seemed silly at the time it was made, because none of the countries in the north was strong enough to defeat Babylon. But many years after the prophecy, Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persian Empire, gathered a huge force of many different nations and marched southward against Babylon.

The details of the fulfillment are amazing. Jeremiah recorded that God had declared: “I will dry up her sea and make her springs dry” (51:36). Also, the Lord had spoken: “I will prepare their feasts; I will make them drunk, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep and not awake” (51:39).

Listen to the story as history unfolds. The Euphrates River ran underneath the great walls. After a siege of two years, Cyrus was able to alter the river to make it flow into a huge marsh. By doing this, he “dried up the rivers” of Babylon and provided an easy way for his soldiers to enter under the city walls where the water once flowed. The Babylonians still could have defended the city, but instead they were feasting and getting drunk. They had no idea what was happening. Cyrus ordered his men to act like drunken men, and by the time the Babylonians realized what had happened, the place was filled with enemy troops who defeated the city.

The prophets in the Bible predicted exactly what would happen to Babylon. This shows us that the Bible is from God, because only He can tell the future.

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