D.A.Carson on Babylon (Isaiah 47)

From D.A.Carson’s blog For the love of God at the Gospel Coalition:

D A CarsonAT ONE LEVEL, ISAIAH 47 is pretty straightforward; at another, it is subtly symbol-laden and prepares the way for the development of some biblical symbolism in the New Testament.

At the obvious level, this chapter depicts the fall of Babylon that the accession of Cyrus will bring about. Babylon is a pathetically proud and arrogant city. She is the “queen of kingdoms” (Isa. 47:5); she thinks she will last forever (Isa. 47:7)—not unlike Hitler’s thousand-year Reich. She is so confident of her own security she cannot envisage becoming a widow or losing her children (Isa. 47:8). Proud of her wisdom and knowledge (Isa. 47:10) and her devotion to astrology, she thinks she can control her future (Isa. 47:12–13). Her self-deification is frankly repulsive: the repeated “I am, and there is none besides me” (Isa. 47:8, 10) is a direct challenge to God’s identical claim (Isa. 45:5). But God has had enough. The “queen of kingdoms” will sit in the dust (Isa. 47:1); she will become a slave (Isa. 47:1–3). This “mother” will suddenly be widowed and bereaved (Isa. 47:8–9). Astrology will prove futile to save her (Isa. 47:12–13), and sorcerers and magicians will be of no avail (Isa. 47:12). God himself is out to destroy Babylon.

But this text hints at another level. Chapters 47 and 48 are tied together, constituting one large unit. Isaiah 47 condemns Babylon for its defiant arrogance and promises her doom; Isaiah 48 is addressed to the captives, who (as we shall see in tomorrow’s meditation) are rousingly told to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem. Empirically they live in one city, Babylon; theologically, they belong to another city, Jerusalem. At the level of brute history, of course, the captives could not return to Jerusalem at this stage. They could do so only after Cyrus came to power and granted permission to return. But theologically, the exiles must see themselves as belonging to Jerusalem and not to Babylon. Thus just as “Jerusalem” sometimes refers to the ancient city by that name, and sometimes, as we have seen, anticipates the new, eschatological Jerusalem, so also “Babylon” not only may refer to the ancient city that reached the pinnacle of its splendor about the sixth century B.C., but becomes a symbol—a symbol that anticipates every proud city or culture that imagines it will live forever and arrogantly measures all things by the standards of its own sins and presuppositions. Historic Babylon becomes the symbol of many Babylons.

John understands these things. That is why in Revelation 17 he describes Rome as “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth” (Rev. 17:5), a woman drunk with the blood of the saints. What Babylons have arisen since then?

Existence of Babylonian official connected with the Fall of Jerusalem and mentioned in the book of Jeremiah confirmed

This seems to have been reported in the archaeological circles in 2007, back when very few of us were reading blogs. Thanks for the tip on the story to Johnny C.

Story from http://www.britishmuseum.org/

Important breakthrough in Biblical archaeology

Existence of Babylonian official connected with the Fall of Jerusalem and mentioned in the book of Jeremiah confirmed in cuneiform tablet (photo credit freedominourtime.blogspot)

Working at the British Museum, Assyriologist Michael Jursa has made a breakthrough discovery whilst examining a small clay tablet with a Babylonian cuneiform inscription. The document is dated to the 10thyear of Nebuchadnezzar II (595 BC). It names a Babylonian officer, Nebo-Sarsekim, who according to chapter 39 of the Book of Jeremiah was present at the siege of Jerusalem in 587 BC with Nebuchadnezzar himself. The tablet thus confirms the historical existence of the Biblical figure. Evidence from non-Biblical sources for individuals named in the Bible other than kings is incredibly rare.

Nebo-Sarsekim is described in the book of Jeremiah as ‘chief eunuch’ (as the title is now translated, rather than ‘chief officer’). The Babylonian tablet proves that his name was really pronounced as Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, and gives the same title, ‘chief eunuch,’ in cuneiform script, thereby confirming the accuracy of the Biblical account.

The discovery highlights the importance of the study of cuneiform. The British Museum’s collection contains well over one hundred thousand inscribed tablets which are examined by international scholars on a daily basis.  Reading and piecing together fragments is painstaking and slow work, but cuneiform tablets are our only chance of obtaining knowledge of this fateful period of human history. Other discoveries made whilst examining tablets include an Assyrian version of the Old Testament flood story, observations of Halley’s Comet and even rules for the world’s oldest board game.

Dr Jursa, Associate Professor of the University of Vienna, has been studying tablets at the British Museum since 1991. He says of this discovery:
“Reading Babylonian tablets is often laborious, but also very satisfying: there is so much new information yet to be discovered. But finding something like this tablet, where we see a person mentioned in the Bible making an everyday payment to the temple in Babylon and quoting the exact date is quite extraordinary.”

Irving Finkel, Assistant Keeper in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum, commented: “Cuneiform tablets might all look the same, but sometimes they contain treasure.  Here a mundane commercial transaction takes its place as a primary witness to one of the turning points in Old Testament history.  This is a tablet that deserves to be famous.’

For further information please contact Hannah Boulton on +44 (0)20 7323 8522 or

Below, another cuneiform which records the accession of Nebuchadnezzar and the appointment of Zedekiah as king, – which agrees with the text of 2 Kings 24:10-17. Photo credit http://www.generationword.com/notes/jeremiah/ On this website you can find plenty of maps and charts, and commentary on Jeremiah (and other Bible books) in verse by verse detail- http://www.generationword.com/

Notes to editors:

  • Cuneiform is the oldest form of writing known to us and was commonly used in the Middle East between 3,200 BC and the second century AD. Today there are only a small number of scholars worldwide who can read cuneiform script which was created by pressing a wedged-shaped instrument (usually a cut reed) into moist clay. Each tablet is a unique window into the past and allows us a direct link to the people who lived during that period. Examples of cuneiform tablets are on permanent display in the Museum and the whole collection can be accessed by appointment through the Middle East Study Room. More information on cuneiform can be found atwww.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/explore/themes/writing
  • Nebuchadnezzar II (Nabu-kudurri-usur, ‘O Nabu, protect the son’) came to the throne in 604 BC, on the death of his father Nabopolassar. The Babylonians had conquered the Assyrian empire having allied themselves with the Iranian Medes. After his coronation in Babylon the new king campaigned in Syria for five months. In 601 BC Nebuchadnezzar marched to the Egyptian frontier. The Babylonian and Egyptian armies clashed and both sides suffered heavy losses. Over the next few years the struggle between the Babylonians and Egyptians continued and in the course of these campaigns Jerusalem was captured (597 BC). Problems in this region persisted when Zedekiah, the Babylonian-appointed king of Judah, rebelled. As a result, in 587-6 BC Jerusalem was taken again and a large section of the population deported.

Ravi Zacharias – What does a person of influence look like

RaviDaniel, as he stood before Nebuchadnezzar and the nation of Babylon, as the challenge was given to them to be remolded and reshaped. Take a notice of what happened. These men were in exile, and all of a sudden, the highest man in the land is asking for the best of these young men to be selected: strong in their countenance, impressive in their personality, and what was it that was going to take place? They were to be reprogrammed and a new set of values planted within them. They were to be taught the philosophy, the literature, and the language of the babylonians. Philosophy- the way they reason, literature through the back door of the imagination, and the entire change of culture could begin, once that language was handed to them. Philosophy, literature and language to help these men rethink all that there was to be challenging them within this new culture, so that a new set of values would be born into them, and then transferred through them to the next generation.

Daniel 1:8-10; 17

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. 18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. 21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

  • We move towards the direction of our comfort. We do. But the important thing is how God reminds us never to get so comfortable with comforts, that it is the comfort principle that ends up driving all that you do. Here is a man who trained his appetite, training his longings, training his hunger. And the marvelous thing is this: how he reminded himself again, and again, that he did not want to get spoiled by all that the king would afford to him and give to him. Instead, he disciplined himself and backed away from even that which could have been alright for him to enjoy, but he resisted it for a greater and a higher call.

(1) Daniel drew his line of resistance by training his hunger & appetite

I wanna talk to you a little bit about training your hunger. The truth of the matter is that we make small decisions in the early days of our lives that often can put some deep desired within us that are not good for the long run. Can we put paper cuts to our soul, early in life (which is all it takes for someone to contract a termini virus from someone else), can we entertain a habit, can we begin a relationship, can we make a choice, could it be one evening that lacerates you in such a way, that puts a different kind of hunger into you, and the destruction process can set in? To you, young men especially I want to give you this challenge. There are people out there, with businesses, and productions, and ideas, whose soul purpose is to cut you in your soul, and get you hooked and reprogrammed so that you will then have hungers and passions and desires that no one human being on the face of the earth can ever fulfill. All they end up doing is framing your mind and creating within you a kind of imagination that is ultimately insatiable- never, ever satisfying. In this day of mass communicating with computers, we’re living with a great deal of danger  for our young people. I remember talking about this at a seminary in midwestern Canada, I just mentioned this whole scourge of the pornographic empire, and at the end, when the invitation for prayer was given, every aisle was filled with kneeling men, tears running down their faces, wanting to retrain their hungers.

  • My daughter, Naomi, works in the rescue of trafficked women and children from the prostitution industry. She’s been pleasing for me to write a book with her on pornography. She said, „Dad, if I could only tell you the devastation this thing wreaks. And I have fought it off, because I hate to even get into the research of something like this. Draw the line in the right places, so that you can train your hungers. (17:00)

(2) Daniel’s  line of dependance on God for  wisdom 

But he also drew his line of dependence. What is dependence? To go beyond the reading, to go beyond the learning- to seek wisdom. Nebuchadnezzar did an extraordinary thing dream and it was a culture in which dreams meant an awful lot. And this repeated dream of a statue with a head and shoulders of gold, the breastplate of silver, the girth made of bronze, the legs made of iron and the feet made of a mixture of iron and clay. And a stone, cut out of no man’s hand smashes that statue. And he wants to know what this means. So the magicians and the enchanters asked Nebuchadnezzar of his dream, but he said, „You tell me the dream if you’re that capable, and then you interpret it.”  So, Daniel comes on the scene and God reveals the dream to him. Daniel goes to Nebuchadnezzar and tells him, „That which I am about to tell you has nothing to do with my learning, or my education. It has nothing to do with my intellect. It has everything to do with God’s wisdom. And now I will unfold to you your dream.”You can only learn so much from books and education. Ultimately, that which will carry you through will be the wisdom of God in the toughest situations of life.

The line of dependence.  Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection, at the core of the Gospel is the only hope for humanity. Wherever you go, ask God for wisdom on how to get that Gospel in, even in the toughest situations of  life.

(3) Daniel’s line of confidence

His line of resistance, his line of dependence, his line of confidence. Daniel knew that ultimately  the truth would triumph and 3 monarchs in a row crossed over to his side, he never crossed over to theirs. That’s remarkable. That’s a reflection of a soul that God intends for you and me: To draw the line in the right places, to be shaped for his purpose, to be able to stand before the toughest adversaries and to see that the difference will ultimately count.

(VIDEO 30 min)

Chuck Missler – Israel and the Last Days

Study from Daniel on Israel. Click  the More button for  video.

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