God’s Symbolic Woman Wins Her Legal Case
IT IS not uncommon for us to speak in a figurative way of the members of an organization or the inhabitants of a nation as being the children of that organization. Likewise an organization or nation may be spoken of figuratively as the “mother,” while the creator or founder of the organization or nation is looked upon as the “father.” The same practice was customary in Bible times. Jerusalem as the capital city of the Jewish nation was viewed as the mother of her children, the people of that nation, and Jehovah God as the founder was the nation’s Father and therefore the “Husband” of Jerusalem (or Zion), the mother city or organization. (Isa. 54:5, 6) A rival organization to Jerusalem was Babylon, also viewed as the mother of her children, the inhabitants of Babylon. She prefigured the “harlot” organization, religious Babylon the Great. (Isa. 47:1, 8, 9; Rev. 17:1-5) It was an age-old rivalry between the two symbolic “women,” and at the particular time that we look in upon this scene a legal case was being conducted. (Mic. 7:8; Jer. 51:36) The purpose of considering this legal case of Bible times is this: While the case actually was tried and settled in reality and was very serious and important to the people involved, it served also as a drama with prophetic significance. The actors back there represent something greater today, and the entire proceeding and outcome thereof are a miniature or small-scale outline of events to take place in our time that profoundly affect the life of every individual upon the earth.
The ancient city of Babylon, which later articles in this series will show represented the great false religious empire that exercises influence over all the nations today, was one of the women in the legal case, while the other was Jerusalem, God’s chosen city, and which pictures God’s heavenly organization, represented on earth by his anointed witnesses. These Christian witnesses are in a sense the children and members of that organization and proclaim the good news of the coming rule of the earth by God’s heavenly kingdom. As history shows, Jehovah’s witnesses have always experienced opposition from the false religions of this world. If opposition to the preaching of this good news of the Kingdom is traced back, it is found to stem from the leaders of worldly religion, who have stirred up enmity by false accusation and misrepresentation and have exerted pressure to bring official persecution upon Jehovah’s witnesses.
How did Zion have a legal case against Babylon at the time under consideration, approaching and during the year 539 B.C.E.? Zion’s children were in captivity to Babylon, to which God had sold them, not for money, but because of their sins against His covenant with them. He had said that this captivity would be for seventy years, to let the land that had been defiled by the disobedient Israelites enjoy the sabbaths they had failed to keep at his command. Wherein, then, lay the legal complaint? Ah, even though this was true, Zion had a legal case against Babylon on the following counts: (1) Babylon had been unnecessarily cruel in executing the captivity of Zion’s children (Isa. 14:3-6); (2) she had no intention whatsoever of letting them go at the end of the designated seventy years of servitude but thought that she would keep them forever (Isa. 14:17); (3) the strongest count against her was that she gave credit for her victory to the false god Marduk, a no-god, a mere idol representing her original founder or father Nimrod, who was a servant of the Devil as god. She reached the climax of her sins on the night of her fall by openly exalting herself against Jehovah, profaning his name and going out of her way to desecrate the vessels from his destroyed temple.—Dan. 5:1-4.
In order to get a full understanding of this case and how vital it is today, the reader will profit by pausing here to read from the Holy Scriptures a short passage of thirty-one verses of Jeremiah, chapter 51, verses 34 to 64. This will give much more clarity and understanding to what is said in the succeeding paragraphs of this article.
NO PARTIALITY ON THE PART OF THE JUDGE
The legal case was brought before Jehovah God, the great Judge and Supreme Court of the universe, and though he was the Father of his children Israel, his justice would not allow him to decide the case against Babylon unless there were really valid grounds for such. He rendered the judgment without favoritism, in perfect harmony and balance with his justice. We read his judgment with great interest, with a view to a consideration later on of modern-day Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion.
At Jeremiah 51:36-38, Jehovah says to Zion: “Here I am conducting your legal case, and I shall certainly execute vengeance for you. And I will dry up her sea, and I will make her wells dry. And Babylon must become piles of stones, the lair of jackals, an object of astonishment and something to whistle at, without an inhabitant. All together they will roar just like maned young lions. They will certainly growl like the whelps of lions.” Since the avenging of Zion or Jerusalem is inseparably tied up with the vindication of the sovereignty and the name of her God, and as he is Judge of all and the Administrator of justice throughout the universe, he could not let an unjust condition continue forever. He would right all things, so Zion could comfortably leave the executing of vengeance to him. Jehovah foretold centuries beforehand, in the farewell song of the prophet Moses, that he would pay back vengeance to his adversaries and those who hate him and that he would avenge the blood of his servants and make atonement for the ground of his people.—Deut. 32:36-43.
Jehovah’s justice as to his judgment against Zion was met by Jerusalem’s being in captivity for the foretold seventy years. Now was the time for Babylon to begin to receive her punishment, God’s vengeance. She would become in time merely a pile of stones, a lair of jackals, something that people would pass by and look at in astonishment, whistling as though passing by a haunted place. Her inhabitants would roar and growl, while pining away, like whelps of lions hungry and in distress. Though her queens Semiramis and Nitocris, according to the historian Herodotus, built extensive water works that included wells for watering the famous gardens, also a reservoir of forty-seven and a half miles in circumference, and Nebuchadnezzar had built a large artificial lake, these, by Jehovah’s decree, would be dried up. They have since dried up and disappeared.
On the night of Babylon’s fall, in the midst of riotous banquets and revelry throughout the city, Jehovah set up his own banquets for her, much more significant ones, serving her the cup of the wine of his anger—a death-dealing potion. While the Babylonians were exulting in their drunkenness and dropping off to sleep, a drunkenness from which they expected to awake, their sleep turned out to be indefinitely lasting, for many were killed as they lay in a drunken stupor. They were like sheep for the slaughter, and even their leaders, as well as King Belshazzar himself, like rams and he-goats, were brought to their end.—Jer. 51:39, 40.
The multitudes of Cyrus’ troops came in on Babylon like a sea. It was an astonishment to observers to see what happened to her in that one night, but this was only the beginning, for she was eventually to be a waterless plain, and her god Bel or Marduk would have no power over anyone. The walls of Babylon, so mighty, seeming to reach into heaven, would be a ruin. (Jer. 51:41-44) Babylon had been a city looked to, envied and praised by the whole earth, except by Jehovah’s people. Her hanging gardens, her great tower of Babel and temple of Bel caused her to become the wonder city of the world. The change that Jehovah brought was so embarrassing and humiliating that Babylon’s priests tried to explain it as though it were a direct act on the part of Marduk who had been offended and was teaching proper respect for himself. They may have made Cyrus believe this at first, until he had read the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah that showed the true reason for Babylon’s fall.
OUT OF HER, MY PEOPLE!
But what about Zion’s children, captive in Babylon? They had to see the issue in this legal case clearly, and they had to support Zion in her case. They would not act in vengeance, but as soon as God’s decision was executed they had to be ready to get out of the midst of her. Otherwise, seeing the materialism of Babylon and looking at her greatness as others did, they might begin to lose sight of the fact that Jehovah was judging her. They should yearn to get out of this land filled with idol images and should remember the promise God had made to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; otherwise they might begin to have the same fears as Babylon herself when her judgment time approached. If so, they too would die. For to all those who loved Babylon reports would come that would make their hearts weak many years before Babylon fell. These were the reports of Cyrus’ victories. First he conquered the Medes. Then he marched westward to subdue the powerful Lydian Empire under King Croesus and conquer the southern coast of Asia Minor. Year after year the menace of Cyrus became greater until finally he was at Babylon’s very doors. The expression at Jeremiah 51:46, “ruler against ruler,” may also be rendered “ruler upon ruler” to denote constant change of ruler, say from Nabonidus to Belshazzar to Darius the Mede to Cyrus the Persian.—Jer. 51:45, 46.
The fiction of the Babylonish priests, that Marduk had been responsible for Babylon’s fall to Cyrus, could not be kept up forever. The Persians at first may have tolerated the gods of Babylon for political and social reasons, for the effect it might have on the subjected Babylonians. But they were Zoroastrians and, in time, further embarrassment and shame upon Babylon’s gods came due to Persian persecution of these Babylonian no-gods.*—Jer. 51:47.
Certainly, as interested observers of the progress of Zion’s legal case, the angels of God would rejoice over Zion’s legal victory. The earth, that is, God’s people on the earth, would join in this joyful cry for his recompense against Babylon for the slain ones of Israel as well as the many thousands of others she had slaughtered in carrying on her war of world conquest against the nations, being bloodguilty for the slain ones of all the earth.—Jer. 51:48, 49.
In anticipation of the decree of release that Jehovah would put it in the heart of Cyrus to issue, Jehovah says to his protected and spared people: “You escapees from the sword, keep going. Do not stand still. From far away remember Jehovah, and may Jerusalem herself come up into your heart.” (Jer. 51:50) By the mode of transportation existing in that day Zion or Jerusalem was very far away from Babylon, a journey of four or five months, and that over the most difficult kind of terrain. But the Israelites were not to be like the wife of Lot and look back. They were to be keen in their desire to return to the holy mountain of Jerusalem to worship and to get away from Babylon as far as possible.
The weightiest reason for Jehovah’s issuing his judgment against Babylon was expressed in Jeremiah 51:51, where Jehovah’s people speak of the shame that they had been put to by the enemy, mainly when strangers came against the holy place of the house of Jehovah that had been brought by its desecration at Babylonian hands. This called for direct vengeance, not only against the uncircumcised Babylonians who acted this way against God’s temple, but also against the gods whom they served and who thus seemed to overpower Jehovah. For this reason the idol-serving Babylonians would be pierced and their death throes would be heard throughout all her land. Her idol images would be profaned and broken, unable to save her children.—Jer. 51:52.
Oh, yes, Babylon felt she could scoff at God. Even through her fears at the reports about Cyrus, she felt she was at the pinnacle of power over the earth and that her gods at the tower of Babel and her walls could protect her from anything. But she overlooked the fact that she was dealing with the Most High God. (Jer. 51:53) Yes, her voice had been very great and boastful and she was boisterous with praise to her gods, joined in by the thousands of Babylon’s population. What a cry she would make when she was so quickly and surprisingly thrown down! Her princes, governors and mighty men would come under this judgment as they fell into a sleep, the sleep of Sheol or the grave of all mankind rather than just a temporary sleep of drunken revelry. In course of time that great city was to be destroyed so completely that only the silence of death would reign over her moldering ruins, over a dead city.—Jer. 51:54-57.
Babylon had people of many nations working in her interests, building her walls and temples, and now all their toil was wasted. They merely built something to be burned up. And any who would try to revive her to her former status or make her endure forever would merely tire themselves out. Her gates, the part which was wood, would be set aflame, and the copper of these gates would vanish. The outer walls may have been destroyed by Cyrus, and Darius I may have effected further demolition, but at any rate they eventually came to the condition as uncovered by archaeologists that shows they fell into complete ruin.—Jer. 51:58.
FALL OF MODERN-DAY BABYLON ILLUSTRATED
During the reign of King Zedekiah the prophecy of Jeremiah here under study was used in a way that well illustrated Babylon’s fall to come seventy-five years in the future. Jeremiah’s prophecy, from Jer 50:2—51:58 chapter fifty, verse two, to chapter fifty-one, verse fifty-eight, was written down by him and the command was given by Jeremiah to Seraiah, the king’s quartermaster and apparently the fleshly brother of Jeremiah’s secretary Baruch, to take this writing to Babylon and to read all the words aloud. Then he was to take the book and tie a stone to it and pitch it into the Euphrates, saying: “This is how Babylon will sink down and never rise up because of the calamity that I am bringing in upon her; and they will certainly tire themselves out.” (Jer. 51:61-64) After reading aloud this inspired scroll, Seraiah was to address himself to Jehovah as the speaker of the words written down on the scroll. Hence it appears that Seraiah read the scroll aloud alongside the Euphrates River with no one hearing the reading but Jehovah God himself. Of course, it would have been dangerous to read it in the hearing of Babylonian ears. Nevertheless, Seraiah would remember much of what he had read, and could comfort the Israelites there in captivity by telling them of the hopes given them by this prophecy of Jeremiah.
So Jehovah’s woman won her case and her Husband, the Supreme Universal Judge, acted with full justice in the decision and the judgment he carried out. This carries a fine illustration and pattern for all those who love righteousness today and who would like to see justice carried out against the great empire of false religion because of her responsibility for so much of the bloodshed in the earth and particularly for her enmity against God and his Kingdom proclaimers. Revelation 18:20, 21 shows us that this was a pattern: “ ‘Be glad over her, O heaven, also you holy ones and you apostles and you prophets, because God has judicially exacted punishment for you from her!’ And a strong angel lifted up a stone like a great millstone and hurled it into the sea, saying: ‘Thus with a swift pitch will Babylon the great city be hurled down, and she will never be found again.’”
It is easy to see that this prophecy could not have application to the literal city of Babylon in Mesopotamia, for it had fallen from world power six hundred years previously and, by the time that Revelation’s prophecy of things yet future has complete fulfillment, literal Babylon will have lain in absolute ruin for years. We need to expect a much greater fulfillment. Therefore it is beneficial to us to continue examining Bible prophecies on Babylon, for it helps us to see the meaning of important world events taking place before our eyes in this twentieth century.
Under “Persian Domination,” The Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 2 of the 1946 edition, page 852b, says: “Toward the end of the Persian domination an outbreak of Zoroastrian fanaticism seems to have led to the destruction of many of the great temples. The zikkurat of Babylon was a mass of debris when Alexander [the Great] first saw it, though it had been in a good state when Herodotus wrote; the temple at Ur everywhere shows marks of incendiary destruction, after which the site was deserted, save for stray fugitives. There is every sign that Persian rule in Babylonia was unpopular from the time of Darius I, and that by the time of Darius III the land had suffered from a religious persecution.”