Baghdad, the capital and largest city of Iraq, is a modern city about fifty miles south of the ancient city of Babylon. Baghdad is often considered to be a continuation of Babylon.
Babylon was one of the greatest cities of the ancient world. It was founded on the Euphrates River by Nimrod “the mighty hunter,” who gave it the name of Babel. It later became the capital of Babylon and the Babylonian Empire. One of its most famous kings was Hammurabi. About 1750 B.C., he wrote down on stone a code of laws, which are similar in many ways to the laws of Moses.
The city formed a large square through which the Euphrates River ran, cutting it in half. Both the inner and outer city were surrounded by brick walls, decorated with blue glazed bricks and pictures of mythical beasts. Eight bronze gates led to the inner city, which contained fifty temples and impressive palaces. The “hanging gardens” of Babylon were one of the wonders of the ancient world.
Babylon played an important part in the history of Judah. It was used by God to punish His people for turning away from Him. After the death of Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, his wicked son, became king of Judah. He had reigned only three months when the servants of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came against Jerusalem and besieged it. During the eighth year of his reign, Jehoiachin went out to Nebuchadnezzar and surrendered as he had been advised. Nebuchadnezzar carried away all of the rich and mighty men of Jerusalem, leaving only the poorest of the people. He also carried away all the treasures of the temple and of the king’s palace, and made Zedekiah the ruler of Judah. During the ninth year of his reign, Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. Therefore, Nebuchadnezzar came and besieged Jerusalem for two years. Because of the famine, the king attempted to flee but was overtaken by the armies of the Chaldees. After putting out his eyes, they carried him to Babylon along with all those who remained in Jerusalem.
God was, however, watching over His people; and, after seventy years of captivity, He brought them back to their own land.
In 539 B.C., the Persians, under Cyrus, took the city. Herodotus, the Greek historian, believes they accomplished this by diverting the Euphrates River. By marching along the dried-up river bed, they were able to enter and capture the city easily. From that time on, Babylon declined. Today, nothing remains of the ancient city, but scattered mounds for archaeologists to work on.
Baghdad was a small village in A.D. 752, when Abu Jafur al-Mamsur established the headquarters of the Arab Empire nearby, and Baghdad was made a part of the empire. By 800, Baghdad had more than a million people and was a world center of education. After the 800’s, however, the empire gradually lost power and wealth.
In 1258, the Mongols from central Asia ended the Arab Empire and nearly destroyed Baghdad. The Mongols had control of the city until 1638, when it became part of the Ottoman Empire. By the 1700’s, only about 15,000 people remained due to wars, fires, and floods.
During World War I, British troops captured what is now Iraq from the Ottoman Turks and helped to establish a petroleum industry in the area. In 1932, Iraq became an independent nation with Baghdad as its capital.
In 1991, Baghdad became the center of conflict when Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait. The United Nations stepped in and demanded that Hussein withdraw from Kuwait. When Hussein refused, action was taken and on January 17, American President Bush declared war on Iraq. American troops and equipment were immediately flown into Iraq and air raids were begun. Because of the superior quality of allied equipment, Hussein was easily overcome. After only six weeks, President Bush officially declared the end of the war on February 27, 1991. Kuwait had been liberated.
Television evangelists were predicting that this Gulf War was a sign that Christ was coming very shortly. Although the Bible tells us that wars are indeed signs of the end times, it also tells us that Christ will come when we least expect Him.
The history of Babylon and Baghdad clearly shows God’s providence and His care of His people. God punished His people by taking them into captivity. Yet, he allowed them to return so that Christ could be born in Judah, and we would have salvation in Him.