« ForrigeFortsæt »
PROPHECY CONCERNING BABYLON.
We have already remarked that the mission of Jeremiah extended to the Gentiles. By one of the princes who accompanied Zedekiah to Babylon, he sent the predictions against that city which are contained in the fiftieth and fifty-first chapters of his book. They are of surpassing beauty and sublimity. He ordered Seraiah, after reading them there, to bind a stone around the roll on which they were written, and cast it into the Euphrates, and say, “Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her.” If. the spirit of the captives in Babylon was such at that time as when they hung their harps “on the willows in the midst thereof,” they would sing exultingly, “Happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us."
The fulfilment of this remarkable prophecy against a nation with which so much of the public life of Jeremiah was concerned, we will briefly illustrate. It was delivered fifty-six years before the overthrow of Babylon.
Chaldea was an immense plain, watered by the Euphrates and Tigris. These rivers, especially the Euphrates, annually overflowed their banks, and
together with the canals, some of which extended from one river to the other, rendered this plain one of the most fertile regions in the whole East. Herodotus describes its richness as wonderful, and supposes he shall not be believed when relating what he actually saw. According to his account the soil of this plain never yielded less than two hundred bushels of corn for one sown, and sometimes it yielded three hundred. The grain, too, was of a very large size. After the Persians had subdued Chaldea, they reckoned it one of their best provinces; and when their empire extended from the Hellespont to India, Chaldea, including perhaps Syria, supplied a third part of the subsistence of the king and his army. If Jeremiah had predicted that the plain would be watered by another river in future times, the prediction would seem no more improbable than that the plain would become desert and barren. In the days of Jeremiah there was no more reason to suppose, from any thing to be seen, that the plain of Chaldea would lose its fertility, than that the Euphrates would cease to flow. And in fact Chaldea was a fertile country for a long time after the prophecy was spoken. It was "fruitful and pleasant” when invaded by Julian, in the fourth century. According to Gibbon, in the seventh century the “pastures were covered with flocks and herds.” The celebrated city Seleucia was built in the neighborhood of Babylon about
three centuries before Christ, and four hundred years afterwards it contained more than half a million of inhabitants. This shows that the region must have been fertile and populous.
But fruitful and populous as this plain was, the prophet had predicted, when Babylon was in all her glory, the mistress of the earth, and when the fields were rich almost beyond imagination, that it would become waste. “ As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbor cities thereof, saith the Lord, so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein." Chaldea shall be a spoil, a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert.” “There cometh up a nation against her which shall make her desolate, and none shall dwell therein.” “ Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle."
The present state of the region around the ruins of Babylon shows the truth of these predictions. A late traveller remarks, “ The whole country between Bagdad and Hellah,” modern Babylon," is a perfectly flat and, with the exception of a few spots as you approach the latter place, uncultivated waste. That it was at some former period in a far different state, is evident from the number of canals by which it is traversed, now dry and neglected; and by the quantity of heaps of earth covered with fragments of bricks and broken tiles, which are seen in every direction—the indisputable traces of
former population. At present the only inhabitants of this tract are Zobeide Arabs, the sheikh of which is responsible for the security of the road." In another place, the same traveller mentions “the immense wastes” around the city of Babylon. Another traveller
“ The whole land from the outskirts of Babylon to the furthest stretch of sight, lies a melancholy waste. Not a habitable spot appears for countless miles.” The same traveller says, “The soil of this desert consists of a hard clay mixed with sand, which at noon became so heated with the sun's rays, that I found it too hot to walk over it with any degree of comfort."
This is “ the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency," the plain which once yielded its increase almost beyond the wish of the cultivator. The "sower" has been “cut off from Babylon, and he that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest." If it could have been foreseen that Babylon would have been overthrown and forsaken, still none would expect such a change in the natural world ; for if the Chaldeans should be destroyed, it would seem probable that a region so rich would be occupied by some other nation. What stronger proof can be desired than this, that the prophet who predicted so wonderful a change in the soil of Babylon, spoke as he was “moved by the Holy Ghost ?" If not taught by Him who ruleth over the earth, by whom “the pastures are clothed with flocks," "the val
leys are covered over with corn,” how could he know that these fruitful fields would cease to give forth their abundance ?
Babylon, the capital of the Chaldean empire, was one of the most ancient cities in the world. It lay in the midst of the great plain which we have just described, and the river Euphrates ran through it from north to south. It was a very large and strong city. It is said to have been sixty miles in circumference, and to have been a square of fifteen miles on each side. Its walls are stated to have been more than eighty-seven feet thick and three hundred high. There were one hundred gates of solid brass, twenty-five on each side; and on the top of the walls were numerous towers. The whole was surrounded by a deep ditch. The walls were so high and the gates so firm, that they seemed sufficient to repel any attempt to take the city by assault.
And the inhabitants were in no danger from famine, for besides the stores which in so fertile a country might easily be laid up, there was a large space of unoccupied ground within the walls for pasture and grain. No wonder Babylon should be represented as saying, “I shall be a lady for ever; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children.” But violence and pride will make a city weak, however high its walls and strong its gates and bars.
Jeremiah foretold the overthrow of Babylon, and