What is the literal meaning of the word Babylon, and what is its origin?

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In Babylonian, the name Bab–ilu (Babel, or Babylon) meant “gate of the gods,” but the Hebrews associated it with balal, a word in their language meaning “to confuse” (Gen. 11:9).

Babylon was founded by Nimrod (Gen. 10:10; 11:1–9). From the very beginning, the city was emblematic of disbelief in the true God and defiance of His will (Gen. 11:4–9), a citadel of rebellion against Him. And God saw fit to destroy the tower of Babel and to scatter its builders (Gen. 11:7, 8).

Isaiah identifies Lucifer as the invisible king of Babylon (Isa. 14:4, 12–14). In fact, it would appear that Satan designed to make this city as the center and agency of his master plan to secure control of the human race, even as God purposed to work through Jerusalem. Thus, throughout OT times, the two cities typified the forces of evil and good at work in the world.

When Nebuchadnezzar II rebuilt Babylon it became one of the wonders of the ancient world. His plan to make his kingdom universal and eternal (Dan. 3:1; 4:30) was a success to the extent that, in splendor and power, the new Babylonian Empire surpassed its predecessors. But, it also became prideful and cruel. It conquered God’s people and threatened with defeat His purpose for them as a nation. God humbled Nebuchadnezzar but his successors refused to humble themselves before God (Dan. 5:18–22), and eventually the kingdom was weighed in the balances of heaven and found wanting (Dan. 5:26–28).

Later Babylon became one of the capitals of the Persian Empire, but it was partly destroyed by Xerxes. Over the centuries the city gradually lost more of its importance and eventually, toward the close of the 1st century a.d., ceased to exist (Isa. 13:19; Rev. 18:21).

Toward the close of the 1st century AD, Christians were already referring to the city and empire of Rome by the cryptic title Babylon (1 Peter 5:13). By that time this once magnificent city laid in ruins and thus a graphic illustration of the impending fate of mystical Babylon. Thus, Babylon, both literal and mystical, has thus long been recognized as the traditional enemy of God’s truth and people (Rev. 17:5; 18:24).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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