The Future Can Be Foretold!
What did that mean for ancient Babylon?
What does it mean for you?
DO YOU want to know the future? Most people do—but how is it possible?
Many turn to astrology, a system of divination based on the stars that goes back to ancient Babylon. In the United States alone there are an estimated 200,000 astrologers doing $100 million worth of business yearly. Surveys show that churchgoers are just as likely to consult astrologers as are nongoers.
How about you? Where do you get your information about the future?
It is one of the ironies of history that when the ancient city of Babylon was conquered in 539 B.C.E. her world-famous astrologers were unable to predict her fall, and helpless to prevent it.
But someone else did predict that fateful conquest of Babylon—almost 200 years in advance! Amazingly, even the name of the conqueror was predicted, long before his birth. That same source tells what the future holds for this generation, and what happened to Babylon has a bearing on it. Are you interested?
You should be, because the forces that contributed to Babylon’s downfall are still very much active in the world today. Ideas and institutions that flourish in the 20th century are rooted in ancient Babylon. Her fall has meaning for us.
Conquerors Identified by Name
The source of numerous unerring prophecies about Babylon is the Bible. The Bible book of Isaiah contains predictions of her fall written at least 193 years before it happened. But who would the conquerors prove to be? The Bible spelled it out:
In Isaiah’s day the Medes were a group of divided tribes on the outskirts of the powerful Assyrian Empire. (The term “Medes” was often used with reference to both the Medes and their relatives the Persians.) In the years following Isaiah’s prophecy, the power of the Medes grew steadily. As the Bible indicated, rich Babylon could not buy them off with gold!
The Bible further revealed the very name of the leader of the Medes and the Persians who would conquer Babylon:
“This is what Jehovah has said . . . ‘For [Israel’s] sakes I will send to Babylon and cause the bars of the prisons to come down,’ . . . ‘the One saying of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd, and all that I delight in he will completely carry out”’ . . . Cyrus, whose right hand I have taken hold of, to subdue before him nations.”—Isa. 43:14; 44:28; 45:1.
Two hundred years later that very Cyrus conquered Babylon and fulfilled that prophecy. Think about what that means: You likely have in your possession a book that has been proved by history to contain the most accurate prophecies ever written down. This book is also a valuable source of information about our future.
Of course, there are men who like to pooh-pooh the Bible and brag about their own predictions—but should this surprise us? The “wise men” of Babylon acted the same way 2,500 years ago, as history shows. Yet these Bible predictions began to be fulfilled when Cyrus became king of the Medes and the Persians—and they were fulfilled more and more rapidly as he moved toward Babylon. Consider:
About harvesttime in 539 B.C.E. the long-predicted conqueror, Cyrus, arrived before the walls of Babylon. As the prophet Jeremiah had foretold, Cyrus besieged the city.—Jer. 51:11, 12.
Clearly, the Babylonians were paying no attention to the outworking of the unambiguous words of Jehovah’s prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah. They were not interested in the Bible of their Hebrew slaves. Their famous fortune-tellers did not see that the city would soon fall. Instead, they ‘made light of the siege,’ “in the belief that they had provisions enough for more than twenty years.”—Xenophon, Cyropædia, VII, v. 13.
It should not be surprising that the Babylonians felt that their defenses were invincible. Was not Babylon also known as “Šu-anna,” meaning “the high walled”? Ancient historian Herodotus reports that the walls of the city were over 300 feet tall, although this cannot be verified today. At any rate, we are told that the city’s defenses discouraged Cyrus, who reportedly told his staff officers, “I am sure I cannot see how any one could take by storm walls so massive and so high.”—Cyropædia, VII, v. 7.
“All Your Rivers I Shall Dry Up”
How could the city be taken? Significantly, the Bible did not simply name Cyrus as the conqueror of Babylon and leave out the details of his conquest. Rather, the very strategy used by Cyrus to take Babylon had been alluded to in the Bible prophecy that mentioned his name:
Aha! Babylon was surrounded by a network of canals and moats as well as by walls. Indeed, the river Euphrates flowed through the midst of the city. But what if the protection of those waters could be negated, ‘dried up’? First, Cyrus dug trenches to divert the river.
“Then, when he heard that a certain festival had come round in Babylon, during which all Babylon was accustomed to drink and revel all night long, Cyrus took a large number of men, just as soon as it was dark, and opened up the heads of the trenches at the river. . . . and the bed of the river, where it traversed the city, became passable for men.”—Cyropædia, VII, vss. 15, 16.
Even in this small detail—that Babylon’s fall would come during a drunken festival—Bible prophecy proved accurate:
“I will make her princes and her wise ones, her governors and her deputy rulers and her mighty men drunk, and they must sleep an indefinitely lasting sleep, from which they will not wake up.”—Jer. 51:57.
‘Mighty Men Cease to Fight’
Cyrus’ men were inside the city now, but were by no means out of danger as they crept along the riverbed. High walls flanked the river. Alert Babylonian sentries could close the bronze gates of those walls and the Persians would be trapped and subjected to a hail of missiles from above. But, distracted by their festival, the Babylonians had not secured those vital gates! Again, it was just as the Bible had foretold:
“This is what Jehovah has said to his anointed one, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have taken hold of . . . to open before him the two-leaved doors, so that even the gates will not be shut.”—Isa. 45:1.
Entering the city through the river gates, the invaders encountered very little resistance from the stunned Babylonians. The city was taken almost without a fight. This, too, had been predicted!
“The mighty men of Babylon have ceased to fight. They have kept sitting in the strong places. Their mightiness has run dry. They have become women.”—Jer. 51:30.
Where was the king? Bible prophecy indicated that he would be waiting helplessly in his palace, getting more bad news with the arrival of each messenger from outside:
“One runner runs to meet another runner, and one reporter to meet another reporter, to report to the king of Babylon that his city has been captured at every end.”—Jer. 51:31.
In perfect agreement, history records that the king was found and slain in his palace, along with his bodyguard. “Suddenly, in one day,” proud Babylon had fallen!—Isa. 47:9.
Now what could the haughty Babylonian diviners say? How could they refute the words written about them almost 200 years before and fulfilled in that very hour:
“You have grown weary with the multitude of your counselors. Let them stand up, now, and save you, the worshipers of the heavens, the lookers at the stars, those giving out knowledge at the new moons concerning the things that will come upon you. Look! They have become like stubble.”—Isa. 47:13, 14.
Compared with Bible prophecies written many years before, how accurate did the prophecies of the Babylonian astrologers prove to be? How much understanding did they prove to have? They proved to be literally unable to read the ‘handwriting on the wall’ on the very night of her capture!—Dan. 5:8.
“Babylon the Great”
“Granted that Bible prophecies were fulfilled in the past,” you might say, “what does that have to do with today?”
For one thing, there are still many things in the world today that originated in ancient Babylon. Take astrology:
“Astrology was based upon two Babylonic ideas: the zodiac, and the divinity of the heavenly bodies. . . . The Babylonians credited the planets with the influences that one would expect of their respective deities.”—Great Cities of the Ancient World, L. Sprague De Camp, p. 150.
Did you realize that such “modern” ideas as trial marriage and easy divorce were well known in Babylon? In the realm of politics, the notion of the divine right of kings has been traced to her. “It is hardly coincidence that British monarchs today go through coronation ceremonies so reminiscent of those of Mesopotamia.”—Cradle of Civilization, p. 160.
But above all, Babylon was a religious empire. Remains of over 50 religious temples have been found in her ruins. Her influence on the rest of the ancient world, and, hence, the modern world, was great.
“Mesopotamia became a cultural centre from which were propagated cosmological, mythological and scientific conceptions.”—Ancient Semitic Civilizations, p. 57.
Religious conceptions that got their start in Babylon include the idea of a trinity of gods, based on the Babylonian “supreme triad” of Anu, Enlil and Enki. The notion of the immortal soul was spread abroad from Babylon. Many modern religious rituals began there, just as did political rituals such as the British coronation.
If you are a religious person, it may surprise you to learn that much of what modern churches teach and do has been derived from ancient Babylon. Even if you are not religious, you may find yourself involved in political matters influenced by Babylon, or in such Babylonian exports as astrology. Should this concern you?
Yes, because Jehovah God’s hostility to Babylonian philosophy and religion did not end with the destruction of the city of Babylon. That is why the Bible book of Revelation speaks of a worldwide religious system founded on the ideas of ancient Babylon, and symbolically called “Babylon the Great.” (Rev. 17:3-6; 18:21-24) The book of Revelation includes prophecies about the destruction of Babylon the Great that will come true just as surely as did the Bible prophecies regarding the ancient city of Babylon. The Bible’s counsel is: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4) There is urgency to do so without delay!
Jehovah’s Witnesses will be glad to help you, free of charge, to learn how. In the process, you will gain truly reliable information about the future, from the best possible source, the Bible.
[Pictures on page 19]
What happened to Babylon has meaning for us