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SECT. II.—A Description of the Taking of Babylon.
AFTER having seen the predictions of every thing that was to happen to impious Babylon, it is now time to come to the completion and accomplishment of those prophecies; and in order thereto, we must resume the thread of our history, with respect to the taking of that city.
As soon as Cyrus saw the ditch, which they had long worked upon, was finished, he began to think seriously upon the execution of his vast design, which as yet he had communicated to nobody. Providence soon furnished him with as fit an opportunity for this purpose as he could desire. He was informed, that in the city, on such a day, a great festival was to be celebrated; and that the Babylonians, on occasion of that solemnity, were accustomed to pass the whole night in drinking and debauchery.
a Belshazzar himself was more concerned in this public rejoicing than any other, and gave a magnificent entertainment to the chief officers of the kingdom, and the ladies of the court. When flushed with wine he ordered the gold and silver vessels, which had been taken from the temple of Jerusalem, to be brought out; and, as an insult upon the God of Israel, he, his whole court, and all his concubines, drank out of those sacred vessels. God, who was provoked at such insolence and impiety, at the same instant made him sensible who it was that he affronted, by a sudden apparition of an hand writing certain characters upon the wall. The king, terribly surprised and frighted at this vision, immediately sent for all his wise men, his diviners, and astrologers, that they might read the writing to him, and explain the meaning of it. But they all came in vain, not one of them being able to expound the matter, or even to read the characters. It is probably in relation to this occurrence, that Isaiah, after having foretold to Babylon, that she shall be overwhelmed with calamities which she did not expect, adds, "Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the "multitude of thy sorceries. Let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee c." The queen-mother, Nitocris, a princess of great merit, coming, upon the noise of this prodigy, into the banquetingroom, endeavoured to compose the mind of the king, her son, advising him to send for Daniel, with whose abilities in
a Dan. v. 1-29.
b The reason why they could not read this sentence was. that it was written in Hebrew letters, which are now called the Samaritan characters, and which the Babylonians did not understand.
Isaíah, xlvii. 12, 13.
such matters she was well acquainted, and whom she had always employed in the government of the state.
Daniel was therefore immediately sent for, and spoke to the king with a freedom and liberty becoming a prophet. He put him in mind of the dreadful manner in which God had punished the pride of his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, and the flagrant abuse he made of his power, when he acknowledged no law but his own will, and thought himself empowered to exalt and to abase, to inflict destruction and death wheresoever he would, only because such was his will and pleasure. "And thou his son," says he to the king, "hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this: "but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven, and "they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and "thou and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have “drunk wine in them, and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see "not, nor hear, nor know: and the God, in whose hand thy "breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glori"fied. Then was the part of the hand sent from him, and "this writing was written. And this is the writing that was "written: MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the inter"pretation of the thing: MENE, God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it; TEKEL, thou art weighed in the "balances, and art found wanting; PERES, thy kingdom is "divided, and given to the Medes and Persians." This interpretation, one would think, should have aggravated the consternation of the company; but they found means to dispel their fears, probably upon a persuasion, that the calamity was not denounced as present or immediate, and that time might furnish them with expedients to avert it. This however is certain, that for fear of disturbing the general joy of the present festival, they put off the discussion of serious matters to another time, and sat down again to their banquet, and continued their revellings to a very late hour.
Cyrus, in the meantime, well informed of the confusion that was generally occasioned by this festival, both in the palace and the city, had posted a part of his troops on that side where the river entered into the city, and another part on that side where it went out, and had commanded them to enter the city that very night, by marching along the channel of the river, as soon as ever they found it fordable. Having giving all necessary orders, and exhorted his officers to follow him, by representing to them, that he marched
a Whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive, and whom he Would he set up, and whom he would he put down. Dan. v. 19.
b Dan. v. 22-27.
e These three words signify number, weight, division d Or Peres.
e Cyrop. 1. vii. p. 189–192.
under the conduct of the gods; in the evening he made them open the great receptacles, or ditches, on both sides the city, above and below, that the water of the river might run into them. By this means the Euphrates was quickly emptied, and its channel became dry. Then the two fore-mentioned bodies of troops, according to their orders, went into the channel, the one commanded by Gobryas, and the other by Gadates, and advanced towards each other without meeting with any obstacle. The invisible guide, who had promised to open all the gates to Cyrus, made the general negligence and disorder of that riotous night subservient to his design, by leaving open the gates of brass, which were made to shut up the descents from the quays to the river, and which alone, if they had not been left open, were sufficient to have defeated the whole enterprise. Thus did these two bodies of troops penetrate into the very heart of the city without any opposition, and meeting together at the royal palace, according to their agreement, surprised the guards, and cut them to pieces. Some of the company that were within the palace opening the doors, to know what noise it was they heard without, the soldiers rushed in, and quickly made themselves masters of it. And meeting the king, who came up to them sword in hand, at the head of those that were in the way to succour him, they killed him, and put all those that attendI ed him to the sword. The first thing the conquerors did afterwards, was to thank the gods for having at last punished that impious king. These words are Xenophon's, and are very worthy of attention, as they so perfectly agree with what the Scriptures have recorded of the impious Belshaz
The taking of Babylon put an end to the Babylonian empire, after a duration of 210 years from the beginning of $ the reign of Nabonassar. Thus was the power of that proud city abolished, just 50 years after she had destroyed the city of Jerusalem and her temple. And herein were accomplished those predictions, which the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel, had denounced against her, and of which we have already given a particular account. There is still one more, the most important, and most incredible of them all, and yet the Scripture has set it down in the strongest terms, and marked it out with the greatest exactness; a prediction literally fulfilled in all its points; the proof of which still actually subsists, is the most easy to be verified, and indeed of a nature not to be contested. What I mean is the prediction of so total and absolute a ruin of Babylon, that not the least remains or traces should be left of it.
a A. M. 3466. Ant. J. C. 538.
think it may not be improper to give an account of the perfect accomplishment of this famous prophecy, before we proceed to speak of what followed the taking of Babylon.
The completion of the Prophecy which foretold the total Ruin and Destruction of Babylon.
This prediction we find recorded in several of the prophets, but particularly in Isaiah, in the 13th chap. from the 19th to the 22d verses, and in the 23d and 24th verses of the 14th chap. I have already inserted it at large, in the 2d volume, Book iv. Art. ii. Sect. I. It is there declared, that Babylon shall be utterly destroyed, as the criminal cities of Sodom and Gomorrah formerly were; that she shall be no more inhabited; that she shall never be rebuilt; that the Arabs shall not so much as set up their tents there; that neither herdsman or shepherd shall come thither even to rest his herd or his flock; that it shall become a dwellingplace for the wild beasts, and a retreat for the birds of the night; that the place where it stood shall be covered over with a marsh, or a fen, so that no mark or trace thall be left to show where Babylon had been. It is God himself who pronounced this sentence, and it is for the service of religion, to show how exactly every article of it has been successively accomplished.
I. In the first place, Babylon ceased to be a royal city, the kings of Persia choosing to reside elsewhere. They delighted more in Shushan, Ecbatana, Persepolis, or any other place; and did themselves destroy a good part of Babylon.
a II. We are informed by Strabo and Pliny, that the Macedonians, who succeeded the Persians, did not only neglect it, and forbear to embellish, or even repair it, but that moreOver they built Seleucia in the neighbourhood, on purpose to draw away its inhabitants, and cause it to be deserted. Nothing can better explain what the prophet had foretold ; "It shall not be inhabited." Its own masters endeavour to depopulate it.
III. The new kings of Persia, who afterwards became masters of Babylon, completed the ruin of it, by building c Ctesiphon, which carried away all the remainder of the in
A. M 3880.
b Partem urbis, Persæ diruerunt, partem tempus consumpsit, et Macedonum negligentia; maxime postquam Seleucus Nicator Seleuciam ad Tigrim condidit, stadiis tantum trecentis a Babylone dissitam. Strab. 1. xvi. p. 738.
In solitudinem rediit exhausta vicinitate Seleuciæ, ob id conditæ a Nicatore intra nonagesimum (or quadragesimum) lapidem Plin. l. vi. c. 26.
e Pro illa Seleuciam et Ctesiphontem urbes Persarum inclitas fecerunt. S. Hieron. in cao. xiii. Isa.
habitants; so that from the time the curse was pronounced against that city, it seems as if those very persons, that ought to have protected her, were become her enemies; as if they all had thought it their duty to reduce her to a state of solitude, though by indirect means, and without using any violence; that it might the more manifestly appear to be the hand of God, rather than the hand of man, which brought about her destruction.
a IV. She was so totally forsaken, that nothing of her was left remaining but the walls; and to this condition she was reduced at the time when Pausanias wrote his remarks upon Greece. Illa autem Babylon, omnium quas unquam sal aspexit urbium maxima, jam præter muros nihil habet reliqui. Paus. in Arcad. p. 509.
V. The kings of Persia, finding the place deserted, made a park of it, in which they kept wild beasts for hunting. Thus did it become, as the prophet had foretold, a dwelling-place for ravenous beasts, that are enemies to man; or for timorous animals that flee before him. Instead of citizens, she was now inhabited by wild boars, leopards, bears, deer, and wild asses. Babylon was now the retreat of fierce, savage, deadly creatures, that hate the light, and delight in darkness. " Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, and dragons "shall dwell in their pleasant palaces."
d St. Jerom has transmitted to us the following valuable remark, which he had from a Persian monk, that had himself seen what he related to him. Didicimus a quodam fratre Elamita, qui de illis finibus egrediens, nunc Hierosolymis vitam exigit monachorum, venationes regias esse in Babylone, et omnis generis bestias murorum ejus ambitu tantum contineri. In cap. sa. xiii. 22.
VI. But it was still too much that the walls of Babylon were standing. At length they fell down in several places, and were never repaired. Various accidents destroyed the remainder. The animals, which were to be subservient to the pleasure of the Persian kings, abandoned the place: serpents and scorpions remained, so that it became a dreadful place for persons that should have the curiosity to visit, or search after its antiquities. The Euphrates, that used to run through the city, having no longer a free channel, took its course another way, so that in e Theodoret's time there was nothing more than a very little stream of water left, which ran across the ruins, and not meeting with a descent, or free passage, necessarily degenerated into a marsh.
-a A. D 96. b He wrote in the reign of Antoninus, successor to Adrain.
e Euphrates quondam urbem ipsam mediam dividebat: nunc autem fluvius conversus est in aliam viam, et per rudera minimus aquarum meatus fluit. Theodor. in cap. 1. Jerem. ver. 38, 39.