It Makes a Difference What God You Worship
SENTIMENTS we often hear expressed from the pulpit, in the newspapers, on billboards and from individuals are, “It does not matter which God you worship, just so long as you worship.” “Go to the church of your choice,” or, “Each one has to find God and worship him in his own way.” Most of the people making these statements have accepted the religion they practice because they believe it will bring them life. This means that much hinges on religion, for, if one does not have life, what can he have? So be careful what viewpoint you adopt about religion.
Let us compare the above words with what the Son of God said. When talking to a woman of the Samaritan religion he told her: “Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:21, 24) As to what is truth, Jesus said when speaking to his heavenly Father: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) The truth is, therefore, that which is in harmony with the actual state of things and with the Word of God, the true guide. Jesus as the Son of God was the One most intimate with his Father and said that he himself was devoted to doing his Father’s will. (John 4:34) From this we would be compelled to conclude that the wrong god or the wrong way of worship would not meet with success.
IGNORANCE NO EXCUSE
Moreover, that even ignorance would not excuse one was clearly shown by Jesus’ statement to his disciples about the Pharisees: “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt. 15:14) That ignorance can cause one to fall into a terrible snare of his own undoing, Paul made plain: “We speak God’s wisdom . . . This wisdom not one of the rulers of this system of things came to know, for if they had known it they would not have impaled the glorious Lord.” (1 Cor. 2:7, 8) So the greatest crime in history was committed by men misled because of ignorance.
Those who look at the religions of the world today and say that all religions are good are trying to hold to and save that which God has doomed to absolute desolation. For they are trying to hold on to Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, concerning which God warns: “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.” God decrees: “Thus with a swift pitch will Babylon the great city be hurled down, and she will never be found again.” (Rev. 18:4, 21) Do these statements sound too strong? If you think so you should be very, very careful, for you may run afoul of the commands and decrees of God to your own ruin. Take for incontrovertible proof of this the history of the decline and desolation of the ancient city of Babylon.
WRONG WORSHIP RUINS BABYLON
Never was there a more religious city than Babylon. She was very devoted to the worship of her gods, but did they save her? No; rather, her worship of gods other than Jehovah led to her ruin, and what absolute ruin! When Babylon fell in 539 B.C.E. she did not immediately go into ruin for some centuries, even into the era of the early Christian congregation. But God’s decree would nevertheless be carried out against her. After her fall to the Persians in 539 B.C.E. she lost her hold over God’s people and began to decline.
Thereafter the Bible does not have overly much to say about this ancient city. The inspired Hebrew Scriptures do not bring us so very far beyond the fall of Babylon, for they deal with the history of the Jewish nation only as far as Governor Nehemiah, who wrote the book bearing his name about 443 B.C.E. The last book in the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures was written by a Jew named Malachi. The book of Malachi was probably written about the year 442 B.C.E., during the reign of King Artaxerxes Longimanus. The Hebrew Scriptures close during the rule of the Persian Empire, the Fourth World Power, and the reason is very likely because the Persian Empire began with the reign of Cyrus the Great, who brought about the fall of Babylon as a world power and who liberated Jehovah’s people. He, therefore, was a type or prophetic picture of the promised Messiah or Christ. His empire stood undefeated as the inspired Hebrew Scriptures closed about 442 B.C.E.
In the days of Darius I (in 522 B.C.E.) Babylon tried to stage a comeback when her local ruler (Nidintu-Bel), who had taken the name of Nebuchadnezzar III, revolted. Darius I defeated him and afterward killed him at Babylon. Babylon again revolted in 521 B.C.E. under the Armenian Araka, who took the name of Nebuchadnezzar IV. Darius defeated him, taking the city by storm and entering the city as conqueror. Darius thereby broke the old tradition, namely, that Bel was the one to confer on a man the right to rule that part of the earth. Darius ceased to acknowledge such a false claim. What a blow to Bel or Marduk! This time, after the Persians took the city, they did not deal with it leniently, as Cyrus had done. Says The History of Herodotus, Book 3, chapter 159:
Thus was Babylon taken for the second time. Darius, having become master of the place, destroyed the wall, and tore down the gates; for Cyrus had done neither the one nor the other when he took Babylon.
So, while Jerusalem was being built up, Babylon steadily declined, as described by The Encyclopædia Britannica (1910), Volume 3, page 106b:
On this occasion, after its capture by the Persians, the walls were partly destroyed. E-Sagila, the great temple of Bel, however, still continued to be kept in repair and to be a centre of Babylonian patriotism, until at last the foundation of Seleucia [after 311 B.C.E.] diverted the population to the new capital of Babylonia and the ruins of the old city became a quarry for the builders of the new seat of government.
As to how Babylon was left like a mere quarry, we read from M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume I, page 597:
From the fallen towers of Babylon have arisen not only all the present cities in its vicinity but others which, like itself, have long since gone down into the dust. Since the days of Alexander, four capitals, at least, have been rebuilt out of its remains: Seleucia, by the Greeks; Ctesiphon, by the Parthians; Al-Maidan, by the Persians; and Kufa, by the caliphs, with towns, villages, and caravansaries without number. The necessary fragments and materials were transported along the rivers and the canals.
BABYLON SUCCESSIVELY TRAMPLED DOWN
Just as Babylon had trampled Jerusalem underfoot and desolated her, she herself progressively became desolated as she was trampled underfoot by succeeding world powers. Daniel had foretold the fall of Persia to the Macedonian world power, at Daniel 11:3: “And a mighty king will certainly stand up and rule with extensive dominion and do according to his will.” Babylon came under the domination of Alexander the Great in 331 B.C.E. after Alexander had established himself as the ruler of the Fifth World Power by his defeat of the last king of Persia, Darius III, at Gaugamela, not far from the former capital Nineveh. Flushed with his victory at Gaugamela, he rested his troops at Babylon and went on to subdue the rest of the Persian domain to the east as far as India, establishing an empire greater than any that preceded his own. From here he returned to Babylon seven years after he had left it.
An interesting sidelight proving that not even the most powerful ruler can ignore God and that ignorance of the true God leads to frustration of plans is the experience of Alexander the Great. At the peak of his power and success, and in spite of the fact that he had some contact with God’s people and could have known about the true God and his decree,a Alexander became Babylonish in his thinking. He decided to make Babylon the capital of his empire. But he unwittingly ran afoul of Jehovah’s prophecy: “She will not be inhabited, and she must become a desolate waste in her entirety.” (Jer. 50:13) Before he could carry out his plans, he fell victim to malarial fever and died at Babylon in 323 B.C.E.
Alexander’s death also brought true the prophecy given through Daniel. Alexander’s empire got to be divided. The division was made among his generals who had fought with him, this division being called the “Partition of Babylon.” Two years later, in 321 B.C.E, there was a second partition made at Triparadisus, and by this the government of the satrapy of Babylonia was given to General Seleucus Nicator.—Dan. 8:22; 11:4.
Seleucus felt himself threatened and fled to Egypt, but after the defeat of his enemy in 316 B.C.E. he returned to Babylon and extended his authority over the whole eastern part of Alexander’s empire as far as the Jaxartes and Indus Rivers. Different from Alexander’s planning, Seleucus set up a new capital city, not of Babylonish style, but of Greek, in 312 B.C.E. This city, Seleucia, was situated on the Tigris River about fifty miles north of Babylon and fifteen miles south of present-day Baghdad. How did Seleucus have a share in trampling Babylon down? He founded this new city of Seleucia, with the “object of exhausting Babylon.”
Especially from the time that the new capital was founded at Seleucia, Babylon and the other Babylonian cities began to decay to mere villages. In the second century B.C.E. conquests by the Parthian king, Mithradates I, began, and about 140 B.C.E. Babylonia became subject to the Parthians. In 129 B.C.E. the rule exercised by the successors of Seleucus Nicator in the East came to an end, giving way to the Parthian Empire.
In overpowering and replacing the Grecian or Fifth World Power, the Romans unavoidably came into conflict with the Parthians. It was not until 226 C.E. that the Parthian Empire was overthrown, and this was done, not by the Romans, but by the revolting Persians; and the Persian dynasty of the Sassanidae replaced it.
CHRISTIANITY PREACHED IN BABYLON
The Parthians had important relations with the Jews due to the large colonies of Jews in Mesopotamia. During the reign of the Parthian king, Artabanus III, from 16 to 42 C.E., there occurred a terrible massacre of more than fifty thousand Jewish colonists in Mesopotamia, as reported by the Jewish historian Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, chapter 9, paragraphs 7-9. According to Acts 2:5-11, there were present at the celebration of the festival of Pentecost in the year 33 C.E. Jews and proselytes from the “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and the inhabitants of Mesopotamia.” These worshipers from the Parthian Empire heard Peter and the other Christian apostles preach, and some of them were baptized as converts to Christianity. They were responsible for carrying the Christian message back with them when they returned to Mesopotamia and other parts of the Parthian Empire.
Babylon kept up some sort of existence down into the era of Christianity. Josephus describes some of the actions of Herod the Great, who reigned in Jerusalem from 37 B.C.E. till shortly after Jesus Christ was born at Bethlehem. Says Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews, Book 15, chapter 2, paragraph 2:
But when Hyrcanus [a Jewish priest captured by the Parthians] was brought into Parthia, the king Phraates treated him after a very gentle manner; as having already learned of what an illustrious family he was. On which account he set him free from his bonds; and gave him a habitation at Babylon, where there were Jews in great numbers. The Jews honoured Hyrcanus as their high-priest, and king; as did all the Jewish nation that dwelt as far as Euphrates.
King Herod successfully arranged for the king of Parthia to restore Hyrcanus to Judea, Herod’s dominion. However, he did not bestow the Jewish high-priesthood upon Hyrcanus. “For,” as paragraph 4 tells us, “being cautious how he made any illustrious person the high-priest of God, he sent for an obscure priest out of Babylon, whose name was Ananelus, and bestowed the high-priesthood upon him.”b Later King Herod took this office from Ananelus of Babylon and gave it to Aristobulus, a young priest.
After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E. the Babylonian settlements became influential among the Diaspora, the dispersed Jews outside of Palestine. The Jewish rabbis in Babylonia had become more celebrated than those of the Holy Land, than even those of Jerusalem. Babylonian Jews considered themselves to be of purer racial extraction than the Jews of Palestine, especially after Jerusalem fell. Schools that gained renown were established in Babylonia and there was a great output of rabbinical literature from there. As a consequence two Jewish Talmuds were developed, the Babylonian and the Jerusalem or Palestinian.
BABYLON FINALLY A COMPLETE RUIN
In spite of these continued activities in and about Babylon, God’s Word had to be fulfilled that she would become a ruin, uninhabited and shunned by the superstitious. Eusebius Jerome, famous translator of the Bible into Latin, went to Palestine in the year 386 C.E., to labor and to die there. He gives testimony to the sureness of God’s prophecy against Babylon, reporting in his time that Babylon was quite in ruins and her walls served only to enclose a park or forest in which the Persian monarch could hunt. But these walls eventually fell into decay, and in 1811 Claudius J. Rich, the English traveler, found no traces of Babylon’s vast walls.c Says the Cyclopædia by M’Clintock and Strong, Volume I (published in the year 1891), page 596a:
More thorough destruction than that which has overtaken Babylon cannot well be conceived. Rich was unable to discover any traces of its vast walls, and even its site has been a subject of dispute. “On its ruins,” says he, “there is not a single tree growing, except an old one,” which only serves to make the desolation more apparent. Ruins like those of Babylon, composed of rubbish impregnated with nitre, cannot be cultivated.
Only ruins are left of Babylon today and these are ruins that have been dug up by archaeologists from 1899 on. At the present time the railway from Baghdad to Basra lies only a few feet away from the hill called Babil. A wooden signboard displays the words in English and Arabic “Babylon Halt. Trains stop here to pick up passengers.” No one resides there; it is not even a place for the Arab to pitch his tent, as the Bible foretold.—Isa. 13:20.
Babylon is incontrovertible proof of the fact that it does make a difference what God you worship. No matter how great or powerful one is, he cannot successfully go against the principles and decrees of the Sovereign of the universe, Jehovah God. Just as Babylon sank down into oblivion as a millstone that is hurled into the sea, so modern-day Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, is scheduled for the same fate. Babylon has, by her false religious doctrines and her opposition to God and his Word, kept many people in ignorance and she still holds many captive. In 1914 C.E. God’s kingdom was established in the heavens in the hands of his Son Jesus Christ. In 1919 Babylon the Great fell and her hold on those who wish to be released is now broken. Many have left her false religious systems since that date. Since she is accursed of God and devoted to destruction, anyone who tries to hold onto her or save her or reclaim anything from her will suffer a like fate with her. Babylon the Great is on the decline and will soon suffer her complete destruction. Flee to the worship of the true God Jehovah and come under the rule of the established kingdom of Jesus Christ for the blessings of everlasting life.
In his sermon on the mount, Jesus Christ pointedly said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name. . . ?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matt. 7:21-23.
a Josephus recounts that Alexander entered Jerusalem and was shown the prophecy of Daniel: “And when the book of Daniel was shown to him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended.”—Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, page 418, Whiston’s translation. The passages shown may have been Daniel 7:6; 8:3-8, 20, 21; 11:3. Alexander was greatly pleased, but did not see the necessity of learning the truth and worshiping the true God.
b Quoted from the translation from the Greek by William Whiston, M.A., as revised by Samuel Burder, A.M., Boston edition of 1849 (Volume I)
As to the existence of Babylon in the Christian era, it is interesting to note the map (Plate XIII) on page 89 of The Westminster Historical Atlas of the Bible, edition of 1956, the map being entitled “The Roman World at the Birth of Jesus.” It shows the city of Babylon on the Euphrates River and outside the Roman Empire. According to cuneiform texts, the temple of Bel in Babylon continued existing at least till 75 C.E., or until after the Christian apostle Peter had been there.—1 Pet. 5:13.
c See Narrative of a Journey to the Site Babylon in 1811, by C. J. Rich, published in England in 1815. After the publication of this, Rich made a second excursion to Babylon and did other extensive traveling. He died in 1821.
[Picture on page 663]
Babylon Halt. Trains stop here to pick up passengers