Christ Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Babylon

Online, many have suggested—and I have been intrigued to consider—that these are the days of a modern  Babylonian exile, with the government’s orders to not gather, especially in groups of ten or more and to not get within six feet of people, due to Covid-19. I thought I’d examine that notion against Scripture and see how it stands up.

The problem of Babylon in the history of Judah begins quite inconspicuously in Scripture[i]. After Assyria defeated the northern kingdom of Israel, there was an incident where lions were attacking the populations that the Assyrians shipped in to settle the region of Samaria.  The Assyrian king ordered a priest to be sent in, so that the newly settled inhabitants of the land could learn about the “god of the land” in his parlance, that is, about the true God. The inhabitants stubbornly refused.  Among them were the Babylonians, who made “Succoth-benoth” (literally “booths of girls”) which was the name, apparently, of a false god, “Sarpanitu.” For the people in Judah, this may have seemed unimportant.  They may have even said, “not my problem!”  The applications and parallels that we can draw from this are manifold.  How many times haven’t we said the same thing about reports that come to us form halfway around the world?  This may have been many people’s first reaction, to Covid-19!

  The parallels continue, and the history is well-known.  Eventually Babylon became a huge problem for the people of Babylon.  They carted off the people of Jerusalem, and deposited them squarely in the midst of the heathen, and confusing, land of Babylon.  The people thought “this can’t be happening.”  They longed to return home, and get back to the temple, which they viewed as their ace in the hole.  God would never let anything happen to the temple, right?  Wrong.  The Babylonians destroyed the beautiful temple.  This was quite a blow.  Notice, however, that a remnant endured.  They were faithful the one true God, who preserved the remnant and brought them back home.  During the time in exile, the sorrow of the people matches that of our own, with everything being so different now.  Another parallel.  

  Fast forward to the New Testament, and the name, “Babylon,” isn’t mentioned nearly as much as in the Old.  It pops up in Matthew’s genealogy.  (God was working all the time, preparing the way for the Savior to enter the world!)  It isn’t mentioned at all by Jesus, anywhere in Scripture.  In Acts, Stephen quotes a Scripture reference to Babylon in his speech, before he became a martyr for the faith.  This reference is one of the many places where it is revealed that the exile in Babylon was brought by God because His covenant people had repeatedly worshipped false gods.  Tragically, false gods are still worshipped in abundance.  We don’t have Scripture that tells us explicitly that Covid-19 is such a punishment, but we would do well to heed the warnings of Scripture against false gods in all their guises. Another parallel?  Perhaps.  Parallels are allowed.  We see one in 1 Peter 5:14, where Rome is called Babylon.

  Which brings us at last to the book of Revelation.  Ominously and yet significantly, Babylon is mentioned six times.  To cut to the chase, Babylon represents anti-Christian governments, allied with both Satan and anti-Christian religions.  (This would require a whole article to flesh out, I realize, so I apologize for abbreviating it so.)  Again, we realize that this is a problem that confronts us, the whole world over, Covid-19 or not, and yes, this is another parallel to modern life.  In fact, this problem is only going to get worse as the final day approaches.  We must be aware of our real-life spiritual enemies and constantly do battle, equipped with the Word of God.  I do want to highlight a thought up for you, however, as we consider the way that Babylon is thus presented in the New Testament, especially in Revelation.   Remember that John wrote the book of Revelation while he was in literal exile, on the island of Patmos.  Yet, John doesn’t call his personal sequestration “Babylon.” That term was reserved for the political landscape.  John couldn’t gather with his fellow Christians in-person.  But God still worked through him, in a truly amazing way, a miraculous way, and the book of Revelation came to be written by divine inspiration, a book that was written as a circular letter, to be shared from congregation to congregation throughout Asia Minor.  May we also come to understand that the power of God’s Word.  The power of the Gospel remains.  God will equip and provide for His church on earth.  Let there be no doubt, and do not be dismayed, nor surprised at the things that are happening.  Rather, be encouraged to bravely and boldly carry out the mission of the Gospel, for the world still needs to hear it, and we need to be proclaiming it with all our strength and in every way we can.

  –In Christ’s love, Pastor Daryn
  
   [i] Or does it? The word for Babylon is the same in Hebrew as Babel בָּבֶ֫ל.  You could hardly overemphasize the impact of the Tower of Babel incident! (Gen. 11:1-9.) That Babel was the Hebrew name for Babylon, the capital of Babylonia, perhaps indicates a play on words. We also have a bit of onomatopoeia going on (with the word sounding like “baby talk”).  In the Gen. 11 account, it explains the term, Babel, as being indicative of confusion.  Some have suggested that “Babylon” meant “gate of the gods” in Babylonian. In cuneiform, “Babylon” almost looks like a random geometric pattern: 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠.  The false gods and worldliness of Babylon represent confusion, indeed!

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