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What Does the Bible Say About..Babylon?

What does the Bible say about Babylon? And what type of people lived there? Be honest with me because I have heard a lot of things and I have a humanities book that basically glorifies the Babylonians even though (I can be wrong) they enslaved people and reformed the traditional religion.


When talking about Babylon, and what the Bible says about the Babylonians, one must make a distinction between the Early Babylonians (Chaldaea) and the Late Babylonians (Babylon). Even the Chaldaeans can be divided into the early and late periods.

The early Chaldaeans are noted for their pyramids, called ziggurats. One of the most famous of those is described in Genesis 11. We generally call it the Tower of Babel, and some say that that is the origin of the name Babylon.

The Chaldaeans were also noted for inventing writing. Their literature also included a flood story, The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is in many ways similar to the story of Noah. The Code of Hammurabi, an early set of laws, has served as a model for constitutions since.

Perhaps the most famous of the late Chaldaeans was Abraham. He left the city of Ur because of his belief in one God rather than the many gods of his people. (Jewish legend says he left after smashing all the idols in his father’s idol store.) The Bible says little about the Chaldaeans other than the Tower story and a mention of Abraham’s birthplace.

Several hundred years later, during the latter part of the Assyrian Empire, a new nation of Babylon arose. This is the Babylon that conquered much of the Middle East, including Judea. Its greatest king was Nebuchadnezzar (or Nebuchadrezzar). This Babylon is famous for establishing an extensive, although short-lived, empire. (They arose and fell within a period of about 200 years.) Because of their conquest of Judah and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the Bible has much more to say of these people than the earlier Babylonians. Much of what the Bible says about the conquest can be found in the later chapters of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, the early part of the book of Daniel, and in some of the prophetic books, such as Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and possibly Joel.

Habakkuk describes these Babylonians as cruel conquerors. “Wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them? They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous. Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?” (Habakkuk 1:13-17)

Although they were cruel, they did keep nations somewhat together even if they transplanted them. They generally allowed people to keep their own religions. Daniel presents them as a somewhat enlightened and tolerant people, with some exceptions among the nobility. Other than conquest and the famous “hanging gardens” they had no notable innovations in culture or religion. A few years after Nebuchadnezzar’s death his grandson, Belshazzar, was defeated and the empire was absorbed into the Medo-Persian Empire.