Mighty empires waxed and waned in the land between the two rivers (Tigris and Euphrates) as Abraham, the father of the fledging nation of Israel died leaving his sons and grandsons to fulfill God’s promise of making them into a great nation.
With passing of time, powerful nations demonstrated hatred toward the little embryonic Jewish nation along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. Powerful nations such as Egypt, Nineveh, and Syria were followed by a new threat that appeared on the stage of history: Babylon. The Amorite king, Hammurabi (ruled 1792-1750) first created the short-lived Babylonian Empire about 1792 B.C. but it quickly faded after his death. The only thing remembered about the empire is the famous Code of Hammurabi.
Bible critics suggest that the Hebrew prophet Moses got his laws from Hammurabi, and if so, so what. Even a pagan king can have some great ideas; however, Moses had something Hammurabi did not have: information from Jehovah! Of course, the earlier an event in history, the less reliable is the date. Moreover, all experts admit that the Mosaic Law was far more gentle and humane than Hammurabi’s.
Until about 600 B.C., Babylon was ruled by various powers in the region. Then, the empire became almost unstoppable. About this time, Zoroaster was teaching in Persia, Buddha was born in India in 563 (and later abandoned his wife and son) and the Roman Republic was founded in 509 B.C.
The Babylonians conquered and destroyed Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire after it had been weakened repeatedly by civil war. The Jews in Jerusalem were swiftly backsliding into all kinds of wickedness and were finally attacked by Nebuchadnezzar II, the head honcho of the Babylonian Empire. In 586 B.C., he returned to Jerusalem and took the best, the brightest, and the bravest Jews into a 70-year Babylonian Captivity leaving only the poorest of the poor to occupy the defeated, destroyed, desolated, and almost deserted city.
In captivity, 500 miles from Jerusalem, the Jews sat beside the Euphrates River, hung their harps on a willow limb and cried, “We wept, when we remembered Zion.” The recently defeated Jews had been marched from Jerusalem to Babylon and often promised, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.” However, with time they came to enjoy the “good life” and adjusted to the captivity. In Jeremiah 29:4-9, the prophet had told them to “make the best of it” and accommodate themselves to the conditions of a protracted exile without being assimilated with the pagan Babylonians. Of course, Jeremiah knew what followed the end of their captivity.
Herodotus, a Greek historian born about 450 BC, wrote, “Babylon surpasses in splendor any city in the known world.” He described the city as a huge square 14 miles on all four sides. It had 100 gates of bronze that were still standing when Herodotus was there about 400 B.C. He claimed the outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high! Wide enough, he said, to allow two four-horse chariots to pass each other. The city also had inner walls which were “not so thick as the first, but hardly less strong.” The walls went 35 feet underground thereby frustrating any tunneling under them. There was a large water-filled moat just outside the outer wall. It was impossible to conquer Babylon but Cyrus did the impossible.
Babylon fell to the Persian Empire under the rule of Cyrus in 539 B.C. The Persian Empire stretched from Ethiopia to India connected by more than 3,000 miles of well-built roads. The most famous road was the Royal Road built by King Darius that stretched about 1,600 miles from Sardis in Turkey to Susa, capital of Persia. Herodotus wrote of this road, “There are royal stations (every 3.4 miles) and excellent inns, and the whole road is through an inhabited and safe country.” Maybe the first Interstate!
Persia was also famous for its efficient postal system, the world’s first, prototype to our Pony Express. At the royal stations there were fresh horses for relay riders to carry the mail from one end to the other. Common travelers made the 1,600 mile trip in 90 days but the “Persian Express” did it is less than a week! About like U.S. mail from coast to coast–today.
Herodotus described the Persian mail system and it functioned exactly as the Pony Express did in America. The famous historian said of those Persian riders, “These are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.” Evidently, Americans took the Persians’ slogan as well.
Cyrus was very generous with all religions, especially the Jews. He understood that religion is “glue” that holds a state together. Within a year he gave permission for the Jews to return to their homeland and even helped finance the journey and the rebuilding of their city and Temple. Mighty Babylon was on a downhill slide and by the time of Strabo (at the end of the 1st century B.C.), the site was in ruins and by 500 A.D. the whole area was a swamp. In recent years, the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein (who envisioned himself as another Nebuchadnezzar) sought to rebuild Babylon; however, he was hindered because his “friends and associates” hanged him by his neck–until dead. Babylon is in the same condition–dead and buried. Many say it will be rebuilt.
When Captain Titus attacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the city fell and the Second Temple was destroyed, beginning the period of the Second Exile. The Jews would be scattered throughout the world. In the land God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the Jews would have little influence for the next 1900 years. However during most of this Second Exile there have always been some Jews living in Jerusalem.
Such has been the Jewish story but they were never destroyed. Some Jews were assimilated but not as a nation. Enough of them stayed true to biblical principles such as worshiping Jehovah, abhorring pagan gods, keeping the Law, observing the Sabbath, circumcision of their sons, etc., to always be a separate nation wherever they were living. They are a strong, separate, and sovereign nation today much to the chagrin of Muslim Jew-haters who want to “drive Israel into the Sea.” Pharaoh tried that and he ended up in the Red Sea.
May all tyrants end that way!
Fact, Fraud or Faith?
by Don Boys, Ph.D.
Only an uninformed fanatic says that evolution or creation can be proved scientifically. Christians believe in creationism because we believe in the veracity of the Bible but we also have scientific evidence to support our position. In every debate I’ve had with evolutionary scientists, the arrogant, asinine accusation is made, “Well, evolution is scientific while creationism is religion.” Evolution is about as scientific as a voodoo rooster plucking ceremony in Haiti. Almost.