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Babylon the Greek form of Babel; Semitic form Babilu, meaning "The Gate of God." In the Assyrian tablets it means "The city of the dispersion of the tribes." The monumental list of its kings reaches back to B.C. 2300, and includes Hammurabi (perhaps the Amraphel of Genesis, and hence the contemporary of Abraham). It stood on the Euphrates, about 200 miles above its junction with the Tigris, which flowed through its midst and divided it into two almost equal parts. The Elamites invaded Chaldea (i.e., Lower Mesopotamia, or Shinar, and Upper Mesopotamia, or Akkad, now combined into one) and held it in subjection. At length Hammurabi delivered it from the foreign yoke, and founded the new empire of Chaldea, making Babylon the capital of the united kingdom. This city gradually grew in extent and grandeur, but in process of time it became subject to Assyria. On the fall of Nineveh (B.C. 606) it threw off the Assyrian yoke, and became the capital of the growing Babylonian empire. Under Nebuchadnezzar it became one of the most splendid cities of the ancient world. It was even the site of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

After passing through various vicissitudes the city was occupied by Cyrus, "king of Elam," B.C. 538, who issued a decree permitting the Jews to return to their own land (Ezra 1). It then ceased to be the capital of an empire. It was again and again visited by hostile armies, till its inhabitants were all driven from their homes, and the city became a complete desolation.

The Archaeology of Babylon

Babylon in the New Testament

"Babylon" occurs in a New Testament context both as a literal and a figurative meaning. The Babylon mentioned in 1 Peter 5:13 was the literal city of Babylon, which was inhabited by many Jews at the time Peter wrote.

In the Book of Revelation the destruction of Babylon, a city which seems to personify evil, is foretold. Babylon is usually interpreted as a symbolic replacement for Rome of the Roman Empire. Some Protestant commentaries on the Book of Revelation treat the occurrences of the city Babylon in that book as both the City of Rome and the Roman Catholic Church personified in the institution of the papacy.