Literal or Metaphor?
Q. I know that Arab nations are listed in Psalm 83, Daniel, and Ezekiel. But where does Babylon fit in? Will it be a literal, future city or is it just a metaphor for an evil, religious system?
Good questions. Let's look at what some scholars are saying about this subject:
Tale of Two Cities
Jerusalem and Babylon is a "tale of two cities." Jerusalem represents God's city. Babylon represents Satan's city. Babylon's origins are mentioned in the Tower of Babel story in Genesis and end with the wicked Babylonian religious system and revived political city in Revelation 17 and 18. (Missler, The Mystery of Babylon).
Babylon vs. Jerusalem
For example, Jerusalem is the most mentioned city in the Bible. But, Babylon is the second most mentioned city.
Jerusalem is noted as a city of peace. But, Babylon is a city of wickedness and war.
God's temple will be in Jerusalem. But, the ancient Tower of Babylon was a satanic "roost."
Our future heavenly city is the New Jerusalem - something like an exquisite space-city. Yet, the horror of the Great Harlot is the new Babylon described in Revelation 17:1, 3.
The New Jerusalem is eternal. The new Babylon is destroyed forever.
Jerusalem is God's city (Rev. 21:2). Babylon is Satan's city (Rev. 18:2).
(Hitchcock 2003, 47)
Satan's Copycat Religion
The ancient dictator, Nimrod, founded Babylon. Nimrod's wife, Semiramis, founded the original Babylonian mystery religion. Interestingly, she had a son through an allegedly miraculous conception. His name was Tammuz. It was an attempt to fake the promise of the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15. The false religious beliefs of this early Babylonian religion included the deity of this mother and son, an "order" of virgins who became prostitutes and Tammuz's resurrection after he was killed by a wild animal.
This spread to other beliefs worldwide. Although the names were changed the basic story was not. Here is a nutshell summary:
Assyria: Ishtar and her son, Tammuz
Phoenicia: Astarte and her son, Baal
Egypt: Isis and her son Osiris - sometimes called Horus
Greece: Aphrodite and her son, Eros
Rome - Venus and her son, Cupid
(Hitchcock 2003, 42).
Babylon - New York City?
Just a few years ago many prophecy buffs thought New York City was the prophetic Babylon mentioned in Revelation 17 and 18. But, several things have occurred that make scholars believe the Bible is more literal about the future of ancient Babylon located in modern day Iraq than they realized. Many now believe that Babylon will be the literal headquarters for the antichrist.
Babylon Ground Zero of Oil Nations
Surprisingly, the United States is building a 104 acre U.S. Embassy - the largest in the world - on the Tigris River in Baghdad. Ancient Babylon is just 50 miles south of Baghdad in Iraq. If you look at a map you will see that ancient Babylon and Baghdad are just about ground zero of Islamic nations in the news today: Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.
Move U.N. to Babylon
In fact, just recently we read an article in Newsweek called: "Want Middle East Stability? Move UN to Iraq." The article was posted by Professor Cynthia Ayers and David Cammons. They made the point that the UN should be moved out of New York City. But, "Where should it go? Try Iraq. While moving the U.N. headquarters to Venezuela or Iran is probably not wise, moving it to Iraq might be a strategic coup. There is even a ready-made location for it - Saddam Hussein's 600-room palace and compound constructed over the remains of the ancient city of Babylon."
Whoa…Wake-up prophecy buffs!
During the Gulf War we learned that Saddam Hussein had spent millions in an effort to restore the ancient city of Babylon. He even offered a reward to any Iraqi who could figure out how to irrigate the famous "hanging gardens," one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Hussein allowed weddings to take place in Babylon in seeming defiance of Revelation 18:23: "The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again." Furthermore, Hussein rebuilt the Ishtar gate, the King's palace and the banquet hall where Daniel interpreted the "handwriting on the wall" mentioned in Daniel 5. This may be the beginning of a future, rebuilt literal Babylon mentioned in Revelation 18!
Merchants Grown Wealthy
Secondly, Americans were stunned to learn about the fast emergence of Dubai and other cities in this region. Most Americans learned about it when the Dubai Ports World fiasco opened American citizens' eyes to the reality of our interdependence upon Islamic nations.
These new cities are flush with cash and riches and are the new tax havens of the world. Photos of the wealth and artistic designs and architecture in cities like Dubai are available to anyone. It is clear that the world's wealth is being transferred to these areas, and it is clear that many nations have a parasitic relationship with Middle East nations. This is hauntingly like the biblical description,
"The kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown wealthy from her excessive luxury" (Revelation 18:3).
Land of Shinar
Zechariah 5:5-11 contains an interesting prophecy concerning iniquity hidden in a basket which is moved from one place to another. At some point this basket of iniquity is transferred to the land of Shinar - or Babylon. Many scholars believe that Zechariah 5 is just another prophecy that says the Antichrist's religious and political power will reside in the literal, rebuilt Babylon. In this way fulfillment of Revelation 17 and 18 will include the total future destruction of a literal, rebuilt Babylon. Of course, before it can be completely destroyed it must first be rebuilt.
Furthermore, many scholars including Barry Setterfield and Chuck Missler point out that biblical prophecy has neglected the eastern part of the revived Roman Empire. Experts are quick to believe the antichrist comes from the revived western part of the Roman Empire - possibly within the Catholic Church. But, they forget that the original empire had its eastern component in Constantinople, Turkey and surrounding areas - almost all of which are Islamic today. Daniel's prophecy about a ruler in chapter 9:26, could well be an Islamic antichrist!
Revelation 17&18 Literal?
Finally, we believe that the religious and political Babylon spoken of in Revelation 17 and 18 will become a literal reality. There is no reason to believe otherwise. While this is just a brief introduction to the subject of prophetic Babylon, we will write more about this soon. Keep your eyes on the news and on Him who controls all things.
Hitchcock, Mark. 2003. The Second Coming of Babylon. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.
Hitchcock. 2002. Is America in Bible Prophecy? Sisters, OR: Multnomah.
Missler, Chuck. 2004. Tape cassettes. The Mystery of Babylon. Coeur d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House.
Walvoord, John and Hitchcock, Mark. 2007. Armageddon, Oil, and Terror. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.