A Nation Awaits Liberation
WHEN Jehovah sets a time for an event it is futile for anyone to try to thwart or postpone it, or to try to force events to an earlier conclusion. Such a fact faced Israel in captivity in Babylon. God had said through his prophet Jeremiah that they would be captives there for seventy years. So there was no use for them to scheme to overthrow Babylon and effect an earlier release. To the contrary, God told them to go ahead and have families and be satisfied to live in Babylon and wait for his time to deliver them. Even when the seventy years would be up, they must not rise up in revolt to destroy Babylon or even to fight for their own freedom from slavery. God himself was to be their Liberator, and he would use an instrument other than the captive Israelites.—Jer. 29:4-10.
It required forbearance and endurance along with faith. Many of the Israelites enslaved in Babylon had repented of the wrongdoing of their nation. They were sick of the degrading worship of the demons that went on constantly all around them in Babylon. They greatly desired to see God’s true worship restored in Jerusalem. But Babylon had the reputation of never releasing its captives, and the Babylonians made mockery of them.—Ps. 137:3, 4; Isa. 14:17.
Since Jehovah God himself was going to be the Liberator, it was up to him to maneuver matters toward the liberation. It is interesting to see how he let the pagan Gentile governments follow their own selfish aims and desires and yet maneuvered them so that they fulfilled his purpose, and that exactly on time.
BABYLON’S WORLD RULE BECOMES ENDANGERED
God showed the prophet Daniel, in a vision, that he would use the Medo-Persian Empire to conquer Babylon, and that Persia would in turn fall to the Macedonian or Grecian Empire. (Dan. 8:2-22) But with Babylon so mighty as to be seemingly invincible, how would God work matters to the point where there was a real danger to Babylon’s position?
We must remember that Nebuchadnezzar, as the Chaldean army commander, had shared with the Medes and Scythians in destroying the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, in 633 B.C.E. Two years later the Median king defeated the Assyrian army at Haran (Harran) and took over all of northern Mesopotamia, while the king of Babylon held the lower Mesopotamian valley. The territory of Persia, east of the Persian Gulf, was subject to the Median Empire, but its kings held the province of Elam and occupied its capital at Anshan, or Anzan.a For protection against this rising power, King Nabonidus of Babylon made an alliance with Lydia and Egypt early in his reign.
King Cyrus I, ruler of Anshan, had a son named Cambyses (I), who married Mandane, the daughter of Astyages, the Median king. (Nebuchadnezzar also married a daughter of Astyages.) Cambyses I had a son named Cyrus (II), who succeeded his father as king of Anshan. Cyrus II revolted against Astyages and took the capital city of the Medes, Ecbatana, in 550 B.C.E., without a fight, then marched westward to subdue the Median Empire, to the eastern border of the Lydian Empire. He next defeated rich King Croesus of Lydia, thereby extending the Persian Empire to the Aegean Sea and the Hellespont or the Dardanelles, in 546 B.C.E. Danger was now at Babylon’s door. If Cyrus conquered Babylon, he would end Semitic domination of the Middle East and set up Aryan or Japhetic domination.
Jehovah’s people down in Babylon did not have to see how events turned out to realize that Babylon would be overthrown, for more than 190 years before this, Jehovah’s prophet Isaiah, who had accurately foretold the downfall of Jerusalem, had also foretold Babylon’s crash before the Medes and Persians. Isaiah set Zion and Babylon in sharp contrast. He had just foretold the deliverance of Jehovah’s organization Zion (Isa. 12:6), and then mentions Babylon: “The pronouncement against Babylon that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw in vision.” (Isa. 13:1) Micah, a contemporaneous prophet, did likewise, saying: “Be in severe pains and burst forth, O daughter of Zion, . . . And you will have to come as far as to Babylon. There you will be delivered. There Jehovah will buy you back out of the palm of your enemies.” (Mic. 4:10) So in Isaiah’s pronouncement against Babylon Jehovah God is really the Speaker. He shows that he, not the Jews, will bring liberation from Babylon, and he is the one who signals to Babylon’s enemies to come against her.
JEHOVAH CALLS NATIONS AGAINST BABYLON
“Upon a mountain of bare rocks [plain to view from a great distance] raise up a signal [the new world power of the Medes and Persians], you men. Lift up the voice to them [invite Jehovah’s executioners, the Medes and Persians and allies from other nations], wave the hand [beckoning them to the assault upon Babylon’s gates], that they may come into the entrances of the nobles [capture the entrances to the walled city and control it]. I myself [Jehovah, even though using worldly commanders] have issued the command to my sanctified ones [as in Israel the Jewish warriors were sanctified, and even pagan nations began a military campaign with religious ceremonies]. I have also called my mighty ones for expressing my anger, my eminently exultant ones [exultant at the grand distinction of overturning Babylon, who made so many nations drink the cup of her anger].”—Isa. 13:2, 3; Joel 3:9.
“Listen!” says the prophet Isaiah, as if hearing the movement of international affairs just prior to 539 B.C.E. “A crowd in the mountains, something like a numerous people! Listen! The uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathered together! Jehovah of armies [whose temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon] is mustering the army of war. They are coming from the land far away [from far outside the Babylonian Empire], from the extremity of the heavens [from places under the extreme parts of the heavens], Jehovah and the weapons of his denunciation [Cyrus’ armies as Jehovah’s instrument to enforce his judgment against Babylon], to wreck all the earth [all the land of Babylon as a world power].”—Isa. 13:4, 5.
Isaiah boldly continues: “Howl, you people [Babylonians], for the day of Jehovah is near! [His vengeance for Jerusalem’s desolation is near (becoming more evident after Cyrus subdued Lydia)]. As a despoiling from the Almighty it will come. That is why all hands themselves will drop down, and the whole heart itself of mortal man will melt [Cyrus’ armies chased the Babylonians into their walled cities, King Nabonidus taking refuge in Borsippa]. And people have become disturbed. Convulsions and birth pains themselves grab hold [as they drink the cup of defeat which they have made the nations swallow]; like a woman that is giving birth they have labor pains. They look at each other in amazement [so quick and unbelievable is their subjugation]. Their [proud] faces are inflamed faces [red with embarrassment].”—Isa. 13:6-8.
“Look! The day of Jehovah itself is coming, cruel [as Babylon had been] both with fury and with burning anger, in order to make the land an object of astonishment, and that it may annihilate the land’s sinners out of it [Babylon had sinned against Jehovah’s temple]. For the very stars of the heavens and their constellations of Kesil will not flash forth their light [it was to be a dark day, yes, a dark night for Babylon. The blackness of her situation as a world power would be appalling]; the sun will actually grow dark at its going forth, and the moon itself will not cause its light to shine [it was actually in the night of October 5-6, 539 B.C.E., that Babylon fell to her conquerors]. And I shall certainly bring home its own badness upon the productive land [repaying Babylon in kind, as she deserved], and their own error upon the wicked themselves. And I shall actually cause the pride of the presumptuous ones to cease [Babylon presumed against God’s sovereignty and exulted over destroying his typical kingdom. She thought she was strong enough to rule the earth forever], and the haughtiness of the tyrants I shall abase [her rulers and military officers had acted haughtily like tyrants toward Jehovah’s exiled people]. I shall make mortal man rarer than refined gold, and earthling man rarer than the gold of Ophir [now even one haughty, presumptuous Babylonian tyrant would become hard to find, as rare as refined gold at that time, even rarer than the prized gold of Ophir]. That is why I shall cause heaven itself to become agitated [the heavens over Babylon, which the demonized imagination of the Babylonians filled with false gods like Merodach (Marduk), would not be able to help those who trusted in them], and the earth will rock out of its place at the fury of Jehovah of armies and at the day of his burning anger [the earth of the Babylonian Empire was moved out of its place as the Third World Power and became merely a province of the Persian Empire].”—Isa. 13:9-13.
A CRUEL DAY FOR BABYLON
While the captive Jews would be merely spectators, waiting for God to deliver them as promised, Isaiah describes how Babylon would be utterly without help: “And it must occur that, like a gazelle chased away and like a flock without anyone to collect them together, they will turn, each one to his own people; and they will flee, each one to his own land [all Babylon’s foreign supporters would forsake her and flee, with a view to setting up new relationships with the conquering world power]. Every one that is found [who sticks to Babylon and upholds her domination] will be pierced through, and every one that is caught in the sweep will fall by the sword [it would be a clean sweep of Babylon’s hangers-on]; and their very children will be dashed to pieces before their eyes [thus the family lineage and family name would be wiped out]. Their houses will be pillaged [their wealth would go to the conquerors], and their own wives will be raped [not by their own husbands, but by soldiers, their wives would bear children not bearing the family name].”—Isa. 13:14-16; Ps. 137:8, 9.
God named beforehand the very ones he would use as leaders in overthrowing Babylon: “Here I am arousing against them the Medesb [this would include the Persians (See Isaiah 21:2-9.)], who account silver itself as nothing and who, as respects gold, take no delight in it [the Medes and Persians were not after silver and gold, but conquest, to overthrow Babylon as the Third World Power; so they could not be bought off]. And their bowsc will dash even young men to pieces [the Persian bows were made of metal and could dash their young men to pieces]. And the fruitage of the belly they will not pity; for sons their eye will not feel sorry [they would be bent on destroying the enemy, the fruit of Babylonian bellies].”—Isa. 13:17, 18.
What was to be the result of Jehovah’s arousing the bow-bearing Medes against the Babylonians? Jehovah’s decree declares: “And Babylon, the decoration of kingdoms, the beauty of the pride of the Chaldeans, must become as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah [utter desolation as by fire and sulphur (Gen. 19:23-25)]. She will never be inhabited, nor will she reside for generation after generation. And there the Arab will not pitch his tent, and no shepherds will let their flocks lie down there [they will fear it like a haunted place]. And there the haunters of waterless regions will certainly lie down, and their houses must be filled with eagle owls. And there the ostriches must reside, and goat-shaped demons themselves will go skipping about there. And jackals must howl in her dwelling towers, and the big snake [not the “Sirrush,” the dragon representing Babylon’s god Marduk, but a literal snake inhabiting the desolate place] will be in the palaces of exquisite delight. And the season for her is near to come, and her days themselves will not be postponed.”—Isa. 13:19-22.
Such desolation would be one of the features of the vengeance of Jehovah God upon that world-dominating center of false religion, enemy of God from its inception in the days of Nimrod. Though centuries would pass after Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C.E. before this desolation would overtake her, it would come inescapably.
As the time for the end of the seventy-year captivity of the Jews drew near, Babylon’s fall drew even nearer, so the Jews who had faith in Jehovah God and who desired to see his true worship established did not worry or try to run ahead of God by causing a revolt and trying to free themselves from Babylon’s captivity. Today there is a Greater Babylond that is nearing its fall and horrifying desolation, but those who read God’s Word and have seen the fulfillment of many of his purposes exactly on time know that the Greater Babylon will likewise fall to her complete desolation in the very near future, and that it is not their duty to use any force of arms or fleshly weapons to accomplish it, but that it will be done by Jehovah and his invisible heavenly forces, to his own honor. Babylon the Great will be desolated forever, just as was ancient Babylon, which is now nothing more than a desolate ruin. Then pure worship will fill the earth, and the rule of Jesus Christ, the Greater Cyrus, will mean complete liberation for all who delight in his kingdom. Further discussions of Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s prophecies on Babylon will appear in succeeding issues.—Rev. 18:21.
a Elam was also called Susiana by the classical geographers, from its capital city Susa, or Shushan.
b In an article entitled “The Last Days of Babylon,” D. J. Wiseman, head of the Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities of the British Museum, describes the discovery of a stone monument, inscribed in Babylonian, which gives King Nabonidus’ own account of events during his reign over Babylonia. In this monument, the Harran stele, King Nabonidus of Babylon makes reference to the king of the Medes in the year 546 B.C.E., which was some years before Cyrus the Great had absorbed the Median Empire. Quite properly, then, the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah refer to Babylon’s conquerors as “Medes.” Though Daniel’s prophecy speaks of the kingdom of Darius the Mede, it does not mean an independent Median kingdom, with its capital at Ecbatana, after Babylon fell. Wiseman’s article was published in Christianity Today, Volume II, No. 4, November 25, 1957.
c “The chief weapon of the Persians, as of all Iranians, was the bow, which accordingly the king himself holds in his portraits, for example, on the Behistun rock and the coins (darics). In addition to the bow, the Persians carried short lances and short daggers. But it was not by these weapons, nor by hand to hand fighting, that the Persian victories were won. They overwhelmed their enemy under a hail of arrows, and never allowed him to come to close quarters. When the infantry kneeled to shoot, the cavalry swarmed round the hostile squadrons, threw their lines into confusion, and completed their discomfiture by a vigorous pursuit. In a charge the infantry also might employ lance and dagger; but the essential point was that the archers should be mobile and their use of the bow unhampered.”—The Encyclopœdia Britannica, Volume 21, edition of 1911, page 207.
d For a description of Babylon the Great and the modern-day final and complete fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, see “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules! and the articles entitled “It Is Nearer than They Think” and “The Day of Jehovah upon This World,” on pages 291-299 of The Watchtower, October 1, 1949.
[Map on page 53]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
THE BABYLONIAN AND RIVAL EMPIRES IN JEREMIAH’S DAY (647-607 B.C.)
THE GREAT SEA
[Picture on page 55]
Persian Archers Under King Darius