A Nation That Opposes God Cannot Stand
NO NATION wants to throw away its national sovereignty. No nation wants to deteriorate into decay and ruin, and even less to fall into the destructive hands of an enemy nation. Yet, unnecessarily so, nations or governments, because of foolish ideologies, such as making the State or ruler a god, or because of the influence of religious leaders, have been led into opposition to God and his kingdom by Christ, and have lost their sovereignty. Witness the ruin of the governments of Hitler and Mussolini. Such governments may last a while, but they are bound to come to a disastrous end, because they refuse to recognize that world sovereignty, in the final analysis, is in the hands of the Almighty God.—Dan. 4:34, 35.
There are nations on earth today, some even so-called Christian nations, that oppose Jehovah God and refuse to permit within their boundaries the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom by Christ as the only government that can bring the solution to earth’s problems. They go so far as to arrest and imprison Jehovah’s witnesses, who visit the homes of the people with this Bible message. Such preaching is not against the nations’ interests, for it promotes peace and moral strength. God will establish his government firmly in the earth. Jehovah’s witnesses only proclaim that truth. If the Creator has a heavenly government for mankind that he himself will establish, would it not be in the best interests of their people for rulers to acknowledge this government and surrender their sovereignty when the time came for its superior administration of earth’s affairs?
Why do nations take a foolish course of opposition to God and unnecessarily cut short their existence? (Ps. 2:1, 2) How can it be avoided? An analysis of the reasons behind the fall of Babylon, a mighty world power that exercised a short-lived world domination of less than a hundred years, will help us to see why this is so. This series of articles makes a study of ancient Babylon to give the full background necessary to an understanding of Babylon’s modern counterpart, Babylon the Great of the Bible book of Revelation, to be later discussed.
NATIONS HAVE FOLLOWED BABYLON’S PATTERN
By taking into serious consideration the reasons for the fall of Babylon, nations can avoid taking the same bad course, if they desire. The Bible tells us that today, in this time of judgment, rulers must hasten to make peace with Jehovah God’s enthroned king Jesus Christ, and not fight against him and the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom if they want to live. And even though the nations may refuse to take heed, individuals within the nations can separate themselves from such a course of action and be saved.—Ps. 2:10-12; Rev. 18:4.
As to Babylon, first of all she got a start in opposition to God by reason of her very founder, Nimrod, who was a rebel against God. He led men into wars of conquest and caused much bloodshed. (Gen. 10:8-12) After his death he was worshiped as a god. This false worship spread throughout the earth, and we find that religions of all the pagan nations practice the worship of Nimrod under various names. Even Christendom has defiled itself by embracing Babylonish doctrines such as the trinity, adoration of the Virgin Mother and immortality of the human soul.a
Babylon was full of idol images, and was bitterly against God. God was correspondingly against her. He called her people “inhabitants of Leb-kamai,” which means “inhabitants of the Heart of Those Rising Up Against Me,” or, according to a Jewish translation of Jeremiah 51:1 (Leeser): “Those that dwell in the midst of my opponents.” Consequently God promised to bring a destroying wind against her. He would send his harvesters and winnowers, the armies of Cyrus, to cast Babylon’s inhabitants into the air, as it were, so that the wind would catch them and blow them away as chaff. (Jer. 51:2; compare Matthew 3:11, 12) Jeremiah, chapter fifty-one, to which we will now make primary reference, goes on to describe Babylon’s sins and her judgment.
Babylon felt that her gods were strong, especially her god Merodach (who represented Nimrod), and that her army was invincible. On the other hand, she reasoned, Israel, Jehovah’s nation, had no real God to protect her, no husband, and was like a widow. But Israel’s God was very much alive and able to prove that he was still the Husband and Protector of his people. Not realizing this, Babylon had shown no compassion for Jehovah’s people when destroying Jerusalem and its temple in 607 B.C.E. Therefore no compassion was to be shown her as Jehovah repaid her for cutting his people to pieces. (Jer. 51:3-5; Isa. 54:5-7) This fact would be a good thing for nations to know, who treat Jehovah’s people on earth just as they please, as though they had no Protector and Caretaker in the heavens above.
Some rulers today may become powerful enough to make the world reel. They should remember that Babylon was a powerful nation, powerful enough to make all other nations drunk, crazed from getting a taste of her destructive power. She even held God’s people in captivity. She thought she would stand forever. But she was full of the error of false religion. This error rendered her weak and eventually inanimate. In the meantime the Israelite captives were required to detach themselves from her error, not getting involved in her false religion and her greedy materialism, thereby sharing in her guiltiness and becoming inanimate with her when she would be made inanimate in her day of calamity. They must be ready when Babylon fell to move quickly, to return to reestablish true worship in Jerusalem or Zion.—Jer. 51:6, 7.
SOVEREIGN GOD AVENGES INJUSTICES
One may wonder why idolatrous Babylon ever came to hold Jehovah’s people in captivity. This came about because of the sin into which the kingdom of Judah had fallen. Judah was warned repeatedly. The fall of the neighboring ten-tribe kingdom of Israel to Assyria in 740 B.C.E. should have shaken her to her senses, but Judah rebelled against God’s sovereignty and became extremely corrupt, to the point that Jehovah had to chastise the nation. Babylon succeeded Assyria as the Third World Power. God permitted this. Nevertheless, he would have protected his people from being swallowed up by her, but because of Judah’s sins he used Babylon as a convenient instrument of punishment. From Babylon’s viewpoint, however, she did what she did because of pursuance of her selfish schemes for complete world domination and committed ungodliness, wickedness, cruelty and greediness and was especially puffed up against Jehovah, praising her god Merodach and taking vengeful spite out on Jehovah’s people. She, in turn, had to drink the cup of the wine of Jehovah’s rage.
In this fifty-first chapter of Jeremiah, a prophecy given in 614 B.C.E., seventy-five years before her fall, Jehovah taunts Babylon in advance, telling the nations to try to ease her pain with some balsam, but he says she cannot be healed. Why? Well, her wickedness had been great already because of her idolatry, but now, because of her treatment of Jehovah’s people and his temple, including the willful desecration of the temple vessels, her sins had piled up until her judgment reached into the heavens. So Jehovah had to call her to account in harmony with his quality of righteousness. Therefore, in settling the account with her he did so with deeds of righteousness that his people could later recount to his praise.—Jer. 51:8-10.
O how boastful the Babylonians had been toward Jehovah when they thought they had done something great against him by destroying his temple in Jerusalem! Therefore it was a requirement of justice for him to bring Babylon down to the dust. For this he used another instrument, the armies of the Medes and Persians. The action actually transferred world power to them, but they did not realize that they were being used by Him. They thought it was their idea. Little did they know that it was Jehovah’s command that caused them to ‘polish their arrows’ against Babylon so they would penetrate more deeply, and to ‘fill their circular shields’ by getting the bodies of thousands of their warriors behind the shields for protection and moving forward to the attack. It was an idea that Jehovah had formed and expressed even back in the time of the prophet Isaiah, and it had to be carried out against Babylon’s inhabitants. His temple, in ruins, had to be avenged.—Jer. 51:11, 12.
Babylon, misled by her many idol images, practiced demon religion and was therefore like the one whom she worshiped, Satan the Devil. So what she did in subjugating the nations was out of greed, to enrich herself and to exploit these nations for her own selfish benefit and for the praise of her gods. Might God possibly let her go or favor her because of her greatness and wealth? Her treasures would mean nothing to God and he could not be bribed by these to withhold his vengeance upon her. So determined was he that he swore by his own soul to fill Babylon with conquerors like locusts for number. Swearing by his own soul would indicate that he, who had the power to create the earth and all living things upon it and all the power in the universe to bring rains, winds and phenomena, which the gods of Babylon were powerless to do in the least measure, would be fully behind this, Babylon’s destruction. She really did not have a chance to escape.—Jer. 51:13-18.
A “BURNT-OUT MOUNTAIN”
Babylon from the very start had no share in Jehovah, and wanted none, just as nations today who want no part in Jehovah’s worship. Babylon’s founder Nimrod desired no inheritance in him. (Gen. 10:8-10) Because of Jehovah’s faithful friend Abraham and his descendants Isaac and Jacob, God selected the nation of Jacob and thus Jacob (Israel) was his inheritance to praise him and be his witnesses. He was the staff for support of the nation of Israel, and it could lean on him. (Jer. 51:19; Deut. 7:7, 8; 2 Ki. 13:23; Isa. 43:1, 10-12, 21) Israel’s sole hopes for survival or restoration as a nation hinged on their loyalty to Jehovah. When they rebelled, even they could not stand. The prophecy at Jeremiah 51:20-24, addressed to Nebuchadnezzar, proves that Babylon was merely Jehovah’s weapon to destroy Jerusalem because of Jerusalem’s sins and as a weapon to wreak vengeance on other nations that opposed God and hated his people. However, because of Babylon’s vicious badness displayed in destroying Zion, she, in turn, had to fall in a far more permanent way. He addresses her as the Third World Power and decrees that she cannot continue standing, because of opposing him, saying: “ ‘Here I am against you, O ruinous mountain,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘you ruiner of the whole earth; and I will stretch out my hand against you and roll you away from the crags and make you a burnt-out mountain.’” (Jer. 51:25) Whether likening Babylon to a volcano overflowing with lava or likening her to a mountain as a symbol of political government, the Almighty God’s judgment is here made clear.
As to the symbolic application, Revelation 17:9, 10 speaks of seven mountains where the woman sits on top: “And there are seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet arrived.” The Babylonish empire was one of those five kingly mountains that had fallen in the apostle John’s time, but she was more ruinous than the two mountains, Egypt and Assyria, that had preceded her, the first two world powers of Bible history. But though she towered above the crags, Jehovah could push her over, for he has “weighed with an indicator the mountains, and the hills in the scales,” and, to him, “the nations are as a drop from a bucket.” (Isa. 40:12, 15) So in 539 B.C.E. he would throw Babylon down from her lofty position. Like nuclear fire the fire of his judgment would burn her through and through so that in her debased position she no longer would have the strength and fixedness of a towering, deep-rooted mountain. She would be burnt-out and destined to crumble to ashes. As the initial stage of his burning her, he commands the armies of Cyrus, as was the custom in those days, to sanctify themselves for the warfare. These included the “kingdoms of Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz,” apparently territories Cyrus had conquered. From all Cyrus’ dominion they were called, “like bristly locusts” for number. Really, unknowingly they would act as Jehovah’s “sanctified ones.” Defeat at the hands of these armies would be only the start of Babylon’s downward course until finally she would become a desolate waste to time indefinite. (Jer. 51:26-29) It has come true, for now only ruins that have been dug up or uncovered in modern times are left, being a mere tourist attraction at which the train makes a temporary halt.
BABYLON’S DECAY SETS IN
Babylon’s bad course of action had brought on national weakness and decay. On the night of Babylon’s fall many of the warriors were too drunk to rise up to fight and were killed as they lay in their armor. (Jer. 51:3) The others were fearful and became like women, taking to flight. (Jer. 51:30) The inhabitants of Babylon had a preview of this weakness of her warriors before Babylon fell, as we read in The Encyclopedia Americana:
Nabonidus, last king of Babylon . . . fought a battle within sight of Babylon, was utterly defeated, and then, while most of his army found safety within the great walls, he himself with a small force entered Borsippa, an important town southwest of Babylon; possibly hoping by this movement to force Cyrus to divide the Persian host. His stepson Belshazzar (Bilshar-uzur), . . . apparently cosovereign, conducted the defense of Babylon. After the fall of the capital, Nabonidus surrendered, was kindly treated by Cyrus, and even made governor of the province of Carmania.b
However, not only were the soldiers weak and in a panic to flee to what they thought was safety behind Babylon’s walls, but King Belshazzar himself, after hearing the interpretation of the handwriting on the wall, became terrified and this terror turned to despair when, a while later, the runners came from different parts of the city to report that the city had been captured at every end, the fords were seized and the papyrus boats were burned to prevent the escape of the Babylonians.—Jer. 51:31, 32.
Jehovah likened Nebuchadnezzar to a great snake in that he ‘swallowed down’ his people. He had acted like the dragon or sirrush, which was a symbol of the god Marduk or Merodach whom he worshiped. He filled himself with the Jewish nation’s pleasant things, the precious utensils of Jehovah’s holy temple in particular. He wrenched the nation off its home territory as if it were something unclean. This brought bloodguilt upon his nation and she must pay for it by being trampled like the mire of the streets and brought into the lowest shame, crushed to pieces by the symbolic threshing and stamped down solid like a threshing floor. The prayer Zion made must be answered, for Jehovah to pay back Babylon with the same kind of treatment that she had meted out to Zion and spill the blood of her inhabitants to settle the account. Let it be noted, however, that the captive Israelites did not do any threshing themselves, just as none of God’s people shares in a fight against the nations. It was Cyrus’ armies God used, just as he will use the heavenly, angelic armies of the Greater Cyrus, Jesus Christ, to carry out his vengeance on Babylon the Great and all those who remain under her influence.—Jer. 51:33-35.
WHAT IT MEANS TO US
In our modern time Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, has misled the nations, and according to the prophecy in Revelation, will lead them into a fight with God. (Rev. 17:5, 9, 14) Opposing God, they bring bloodguilt upon themselves and so have to be threshed: first of all, Great Babylon, the mighty world empire of false religion, as foretold in the prophecies of Micah and Revelation; afterward, the political nations that have allowed Babylon the Great to influence them against Jehovah’s sovereignty and the proclamation of it by his witnesses. It is a God-ordained principle that “righteousness is what exalts a nation, but sin is something disgraceful to national groups.” A national group that brings such disgrace on itself is sure to go into ruin, for “wicked people will turn back to Sheol, even all the nations forgetting God.”—Prov. 14:34; Ps. 9:17.
Whatever course nations may take, individuals can escape from Babylon the Great now, just as the Jews escaped in 537 B.C.E., by considering seriously what God’s Word says about her. They can detach themselves—flee from the midst of her for their lives to avoid partaking of her sins and receiving of her plagues. This quick action is the only way to deliverance from everlasting destruction.—Rev. 18:4.
a See pages 32-45 of the book “Babylon the Great has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules! published by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, New York.
b Edition of 1929, Volume 19, page 677.