Babylon—Center of False Worship
“SHE has fallen! Babylon has fallen, and all the graven images of her gods he has broken to the earth!” What kind of city was the Babylon about which Isaiah prophesied? That is a vital clue in our understanding the significance of modern Babylon the Great.—Isaiah 21:9.
Ancient Babylon was noted for its worship of heathen gods and goddesses. In his book Babylonian and Assyrian Religion, Professor S. H. Hooke states: “Babylon was the city where Marduk held the chief place among the other gods who were worshiped there. . . . There were in Babylon in the time of Nebuchadnezzar II no less than fifty-eight temples belonging to designated gods, to say nothing of many other temples not so assigned. Hence it can be seen how large a part the priestly caste must have played in the life of a great city.” It is said that Marduk’s temple in Babylon had 55 side chapels. How reminiscent of many temples, churches, and cathedrals today that have side chapels for lesser gods, saints, and Madonnas!
Babylon was a center of idolatry in the cult of the gods. One account states that the priests and the faithful “used to lavish attention upon their sacred images, considering the statues as intermediaries with the gods. The statues were covered with expensive vestments, adorned with necklaces, bracelets, and rings; they rested on sumptuous beds and were taken out in procession over land and water on foot, in carriages and private boats.”* How similar to the worship rendered to gods, saints, and Madonnas in modern Hinduism, Buddhism, and Catholicism, in which they likewise parade their images through streets and on rivers and the sea!
As a further example of the parallel between ancient Babylon and modern religion, consider the following description taken from the same encyclopedia: “Her faithful believers call her by the sweetest names: She is not only goddess and lady but also merciful mother, she who listens to prayers, she who intercedes . . . she who has given life to the universe and to humanity.” Compare that to the following prayer from El Santo Rosario (The Holy Rosary): “We give you thanks, Sovereign Princess, for the favors we receive every day from your beneficent hand; be so kind, Lady, as to have us now and forever under your protection and shelter.”
Who is the subject of this description and the prayer? Many will immediately conclude, “The Virgin Mary.” That answer is only half right. The prayer is offered to Mary. However, as Las Grandes Religiones Ilustradas informs us, the first quotation is a description of Ishtar, the “Lady of Love,” the Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, and war. Sometimes she is presented in images “as a mother suckling her baby boy.”* Yet another example of how modern religion is not such a far cry from ancient Babylon!
We could also draw a comparison between ancient Babylon with its concepts of the human soul and its triads of gods and, today, the similar concepts of the immortal soul and the triads of modern religion. The evidence reinforces our understanding that “Babylon the Great” is an appropriate symbol of Satan’s world empire of false religion.
Babylon—Arrogant Enemy of True Worship
Babylon was also the arrogant enemy of Jehovah’s ancient people, Israel, and a despiser of their true worship. Babylon destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., carried away all the valuable utensils of Jehovah’s worship, and desecrated these vessels at Belshazzar’s feast.—Daniel 5:3, 4.
Likewise, in modern times Babylon the Great has been a relentless opposer of true worship. In most instances where Jehovah’s Witnesses have been persecuted, the clergy have promoted it, often through their alliances with political rulers.
One clear example of clergy-inspired opposition goes as far back as 1917, and this pattern has been repeated time and again. In that year the International Bible Students, as the Witnesses were then known, published the book The Finished Mystery. A few pages of this book were construed as subversive by the Canadian and U.S. clergy, whose countries were embroiled in World War I. They hastened to inform their political paramours of this publication. The result? According to Professor Martin Marty, in his book Modern American Religion—The Irony of It All: “The clergy turned against the Russellites [Witnesses] and cheered to hear that twenty-year sentences [for alleged sedition] were to be imposed upon convicted Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders.”
But what was the clergy reaction a few months later when those leaders were exonerated of the charges? “There were no cheers by the orthodox church members.” The Witnesses stood alone for Bible principles “to the point that they antagonized the federal government over their religion.” The Witnesses were not and never have been willing to be the obsequious consorts of political rulers, not even under Nazi rule in Germany or under Fascist rule in Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
Babylon Denounced and Shamed
How appropriate, then, when Revelation states that Babylon the Great is “drunk with the blood of the holy ones and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” and “in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” World religion’s bloodguilt for actively participating in or passively condoning wars and persecution of true Christians can be traced down through the centuries.—Revelation 17:6; 18:24.
Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, has enjoyed luxury and power throughout history. But an angel warned John that the great harlot’s day would come. The account tells us: “And he cried out with a strong voice, saying: ‘She has fallen! Babylon the Great has fallen, and she has become a dwelling place of demons and a lurking place of every unclean exhalation and a lurking place of every unclean and hated bird!’”—Revelation 18:2.
When will Babylon fall? Or has she fallen already? In what way does she suffer a fall? And how does that affect you? These and related questions will be answered in our next issue of The Watchtower.
Las Grandes Religiones Ilustradas (The Great Religions Illustrated): Asirio-Babilónica, Volume 20, Mateu-Rizzoli, Barcelona, Spain, 1963, page 53.
Volume 19, pages 19, 20.
[Picture on page 8, 9]
Babylon the Great has her roots in ancient Babylonish religion