B A B Y L O N T H E G R E AT
A Devotional Look at the Influence of Babylon in the
Unfolding of God's Purpose on the Earth
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2021 F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
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CONTENTS
Title Page
Copyright
Preface
Chapter 1 – Babylon and Creation
Chapter 2 - Babylon after the Flood
Chapter 3 – Abraham and Babylon
Chapter 4 – Isaac and Babylon
Chapter 5 – Balaam and Babylon
Chapter 6 – Joshua and Babylon
Chapter 7 – Babylon in the Time of the Judges
Chapter 8 – David’s Shame and the Horsemen of Mesopotamia
Chapter 9 – Hezekiah and the Babylonian Envoys
Chapter 10 – Babylon’s Profit at Judah’s Expense
Chapter 11 – Job and the Chaldeans
Chapter 12 – By the Waters of Babylon
Chapter 13 – Isaiah’s Words to Babylon
Chapter 14 – Jeremiah’s Call to Submit to Babylon
Chapter 15 – Ezekiel: Lusting After Babylon
Chapter 16 — Daniel: Babylon’s Call to Compromise
Chapter 17 – The Fleeting Promises of Babylon
Chapter 18 – Release from Babylon’s Grip
Chapter 19 – God’s Grace in Babylon
Chapter 20 – The Fall of Babylon the Great
About The Author
S
PREFACE
ome time ago, I was struck by a reference to Babylon the Great in
my Scripture reading. This got me thinking about the role Babylon
played in the life of God’s people. Reflecting on this, I thought
about how Babylon is a reoccurring theme from the beginning to the end of
Scripture. The more I thought about this, the more I felt the Lord’s leading
to consider this theme more deeply.
Of all the pagan nations in Scripture, Babylon seems to take a prominent
role. From Genesis to Revelation, there are hints of her presence. She is a
friend and bitter enemy of God and His work.
I am not a historian, nor will I attempt to trace the history of Babylon. This
study examines the role Babylon plays in the unfolding of God’s plan in this
world. It is a devotional look at an important theme in Scripture. As we
examine what the Bible says about Babylon, we will see that there is still an
enemy to God’s people seeking to strip them of His blessings. That enemy
cannot overcome, however, and those who belong to Christ will be
victorious over her. - F. Wayne Mac Leod
A
CHAPTER 1 – BABYLON
AND CREATION
s we begin, let’s try to get a basic understanding of Babylon and
where it was located geographically. This map from
Biblos.com/FreeBibleimages.org is helpful for this purpose.
Babylon was in what was known as Mesopotamia. This region lay between
the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and was very fertile land. Hotly fought over
throughout its history, the land passed from one nation to another. Today
Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Kuwait occupy this region. In Bible times, the two
dominant forces residing here were the Babylonians in the south and the
Assyrians in the north.
This brings us to the book of Genesis and the creation account. After
creating man, Genesis 2 tells us that God placed him in a garden to work
and keep it.
7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man
became a living creature. 8 And the LORD God planted a
garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he
had formed. (Genesis 2)
While we do not know the exact location of the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2
goes on to give us a clue.
10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it
divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the
Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of
Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is
good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the
second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the
whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the
Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the
Euphrates. (Genesis 2)
Genesis 2 tells us that a river in the Garden of Eden divided and became
four rivers (verse 10). The first river was the Pishon that flowed around the
land of Havilah. Bible scholars are uncertain about the identity of this river
and the location of the land of Havilah. The wording of Genesis 2:11 about
the Pishon River, however, should not go unnoticed.
11 It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah
(Genesis 2)
When the writer of Genesis recorded the location of the Garden of Eden, he
used the past tense to describe the Pishon River— “it is the one that
flowed.” When we compare this with verse 14 and his reference to the
Tigris River, the difference is striking. Speaking of the Tigris River, the
author tells us that it “flows east of Assyria.” In other words, the Pishon
River may have already stopped flowing by the time Genesis was written.
This may account for the fact that its identity is unknown today.
The second river is the Gihon that flowed around the land of Cush. Notice
again that author speaks in the past tense about the river Gihon “it is the
one that flowed around the whole land of Cush” (verse 13). Again, the
location of the Gihon River has never been confirmed and continues to be
debated among Bible scholars today.
Cush was the grandchild of Noah through his son Ham. Genesis 10:6-10
records the genealogy of Cush, the son of Ham:
6 And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and
Canaan. 7 And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and
Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtecha: and the sons of Raamah;
Sheba, and Dedan. 8 And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be
a mighty one in the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the
LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter
before the LORD. 10 And the beginning of his kingdom was
Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of
Shinar. (Genesis 10)
These verses tell us that Cush had a son by the name of Nimrod. Nimrod,
according to Genesis 10:10, was the leader of the kingdom of Babel in the
land of Shinar. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia has this to
say about Babel:
bā´bel, bab´i-lon (Topographical): Babylon was the Greek
name of the city written in the cuneiform script of the
Babylonians, bab-ili, which means in Semitic, “the gate of
god.” The Hebrews called the country, as well as the
city, Bābhel. This name they considered came from the’
root, bālal, “to confound” (Ge 11:9).
“The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.” Marion, IA:
Laridian, Inc., 2017. This book is in the public domain.
Electronic files copyright © 2017 by Laridian, Inc. All rights
reserved.
Nimrod, the son of Cush, was the founder of the people of Babel or
Babylon. This places him in the region of Mesopotamia. The land of Cush
was likely in this region currently in history.
The last two rivers mentioned in Genesis 2 are the Tigris and Euphrates.
The Tigris flowed when Genesis was written and is spoken of in the present
tense which flows east of Assyria.” (Genesis 2:14). Assyria was located
to the north of Babylon, and the Tigris flowed east of this nation toward
Babylon. The Euphrates was west of the Tigris River, and nothing further is
mentioned about it as it may have been well known.
Genesis 2:10-14 would lead us to believe that the Garden of Eden was in
the fertile valley of Mesopotamia in the land that would eventually become
Babylon. The land Babylon would occupy was a land that provided for the
first family God created. It was the centre of His creation and, in those early
days, experienced the fullness of His blessing before sin entered the world.
This region also experienced the fall into sin when Satan tempted Eve to eat
from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There in the Garden of
Eden, Satan tempted Eve to question the purpose of God and eat what God
had forbidden. Speaking to Eve that day, Satan said:
4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God
knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like
God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was
good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to
be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave
some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3)
Here in this region of the world, the devil challenged God’s purpose by
tempting Eve to lust after what was forbidden to humankind. He
encouraged her to surrender to the lust of the flesh and mind. He told her
that eating the forbidden fruit would make her like God. Eve yielded to
temptation and ate the forbidden fruit.
There in what would become known as Babylon, the first seeds of rebellion
were sown. Babylon would become a symbol of the lust of the flesh and the
temptation to become our own god, determine our own destiny, and
disregard the Creators purpose.
For Prayer:
Father, as we consider the theme of Babylon in Genesis, we see that this
region of the world saw the beginning of creation and its fall into sin. There
we see the rise of rebellion against your purpose. There Satan sowed his
seeds of doubt and tempted our first parents with the lust of the flesh and
mind. There he planted the seed of rebellion and challenged Adam and Eve
to break from their Creator to become their own gods.
Father, help us to learn from history. Help us to see that it was this fall that
caused all the problems we experience today. Open our eyes to see how that
seed of rebellion planted in the soil of Babylon continues to impact people
around the world today. Thank you for sending Your Son Jesus to reverse
the curse of sin. Thank you that Babylon’s curse can be broken in the
person of Your Son and His work on the cross of Calvary.
I
CHAPTER 2 - BABYLON
AFTER THE FLOOD
n the first chapter, we saw that the Garden of Eden was likely located
in Mesopotamia in the region known as Babylon. In that garden,
Adam and Eve, tempted by Satan, chose to rebel against the authority
of God. The evil that began there would multiply in the years to come.
Genesis 6 describes the conditions by the time of Noah and the response of
the Lord to those conditions:
5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the
earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was
only evil continually. 6 And the LORD regretted that he had
made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So
the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from
the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and
birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
(Genesis 6)
The Lord God saw the depth of sin in the heart and mind of humankind
“every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”
(Genesis 6:5). As a result, He determined to destroy all flesh from the earth.
Only Noah and his family would remain. Genesis 6-8 recounts the story of
the great flood that destroyed all living creatures on the earth except for
Noah, his family, and the animals they brought with them on the ark.
As the waters of that flood subsided, God appeared to Noah and his family
and commissioned them to multiply and fill the earth:
1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be
fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. (Genesis 9)
Through Noah and his descendants, the world as we know it would again be
repopulated.
As we come to Genesis 11, we discover that Noah’s family left the location
where the ark came to rest and travelled to a plain in the land of Shinar:
2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in
the land of Shinar and settled there. (Genesis 11)
The question we need to address here concerns the location of Shinar and
why it is important to the topic of this book?
The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia has this to say about
Shinar:
The name given, in the earliest Hebrew records, to Babylonia,
later called Babel, or the land of Babel (bābhel, ‘erec bābhel).
In Ge 10:10 it is the district wherein lay Babel, Erech, Accad,
and Calneh, cities which were the “beginning” of Nimrod’s
kingdom. In Ge 11:2 Shinar is described as the land of the plain
where migrants from the East settled, and founded Babel, the
city, and its great tower.
“The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.” Marion, IA:
Laridian, Inc., 2017. This book is in the public domain.
Electronic files copyright © 2017 by Laridian, Inc. All rights
reserved.
Shinar was in the region of Babylon. We have a clear reference to this when
we compare Daniel 1:2 and 2 Chronicles 36:6. Daniel tells us that
Jehoiakim was taken by Nebuchadnezzar and brought to the land of Shinar:
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah,
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and
besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into
his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he
brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and
placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. (Daniel 1)
2 Chronicles 36 identifies the place of Jehoiakim’s captivity as Babylon:
5 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign,
and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil
in the sight of the LORD his God. 6 Against him came up
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and bound him in chains to
take him to Babylon. (2 Chronicles 36)
We understand from this that the land of Shinar and Babylon were the same.
Having concluded that Shinar is in the region of Babylon, it falls on us now
to see what took place in that fertile plain after the flood. Genesis 11 tells us
that those whom God commissioned to fill the earth determined to disregard
the command of God, choosing rather to settle in Shinar and build a city
with a tower that would reach up into the heavens.
4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a
tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for
ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole
earth.” (Genesis 4)
Noah’s descendants wanted to make a name for themselves and rebelliously
disregarded God’s command to fill the earth. In response, God confounded
their language and dispersed them from Shinar over the face of the earth.
The region of Shinar where the tower and city were built would become
known as Babel:
9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD
confused the language of all the earth. And from there the
LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth. (Genesis
11)
Let me take a moment to put these pieces together. Shinar, where the
descendants of Noah settled after the flood, was in the region of Babylon.
That fertile plain lured Noah’s family away from the purpose of God.
Instead of spreading out to fill the earth, they determined to enjoy the
blessings of Shinar. There on Babylonian soil, they disregard God’s purpose
to make a name for themselves instead. The pride of their eyes, the lust of
the flesh and the possibility to become “like God” (see Genesis 3:5) were
temptations too big to resist. There in Shinar, they broke free from the
command of God to determine their own destiny.
Once again, Babylon becomes a place of temptation and rebellion against
God and His purpose. The rich plain of Shinar offered them everything they
wanted. They became comfortable and fat off its blessings. They had no
desire to fill the earth, as God had commanded.
The city and tower they built became a symbol of human pride and desire
for independence from God. There in Shinar, the descendants of Noah took
a stand against God. They dared to defy His lordship over their lives. They
determined, instead, to follow their own path and take charge of their own
destiny.
Once again, we see how Babylon becomes a symbol of human
independence and the love of comfort, wealth, and prosperity.
For Prayer:
Father, we confess that there is an attraction to sin and rebellion in each of
us. We are aware of the sinful nature that desires to be independent and
determine its own destiny. May we be mindful of the attractions of Babylon
with all its comfort and ease. Keep us from elevating ourselves above You
and your plan for our lives. May our heart’s desire be to fulfil Your purpose
in our lives. Give us the grace to walk in that purpose, no matter how
difficult it might be. Give us the grace to resist the temptations of Babylon.
W
CHAPTER 3 – ABRAHAM
AND BABYLON
e move from Noah and his descendants to Abraham, the next
important figure in the Old Testament. We meet Abraham for
the first time in Genesis 11:
27 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered
Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28 Haran
died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his
kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 And Abram and Nahor
took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name
of Nahors wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of
Milcah and Iscah. (Genesis 11)
Abram’s father was Terah. The family lived in Ur of the Chaldeans. While
Abram was in Ur, the Lord God spoke to him and told him to leave his
country and travel to a location He would reveal to him. The Lord God
promised to bless him and his descendants.
1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and
your kindred and your fathers house to the land that I will
show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will
bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a
blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who
dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the
earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12)
Genesis 15, the Lord God confirms that Abram was living in Ur of the
Chaldeans when He called him:
7 And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out
from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.”
(Genesis 15)
What is important for us to note here is the location of Ur of the Chaldeans.
Several Old Testament passages can clarify this for us. Speaking out against
the rebellion of Israel, the prophet Ezekiel has this to say:
14 But she carried her whoring further. She saw men portrayed
on the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed in
vermilion, 15 wearing belts on their waists, with flowing
turbans on their heads, all of them having the appearance of
officers, a likeness of Babylonians whose native land was
Chaldea. (Ezekiel 23)
Notice the phrase “Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea.” This
shows us that Chaldea was in Babylon. Ezekiel 11:24-25 speaks about how
the Spirit of God took Ezekiel in a vision to the Israelite exiles in Chaldea:
24 And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me in the vision by
the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to the exiles. Then the vision
that I had seen went up from me. 25 And I told the exiles all
the things that the LORD had shown me. (Ezekiel 11)
We know from the rest of Scripture that God’s people were exiled to the
land of Babylon. Chaldea and Babylon were the same place in the mind of
Ezekiel.
Ezekiel is not the only prophet to use the words Chaldea and Babylon
interchangeably. Isaiah the prophet does the same when he says:
20 Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with
a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth;
say, “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob!” (Isaiah 48)
Also consider the words of Jeremiah:
8 “Flee from the midst of Babylon, and go out of the land of
the Chaldeans, and be as male goats before the flock. (Jeremiah
50)
24 “I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea
before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in
Zion, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 51)
35 The violence done to me and to my kinsmen be upon
Babylon,” let the inhabitant of Zion say. “My blood be upon the
inhabitants of Chaldea,” let Jerusalem say. (Jeremiah 51)
In these three passages from Jeremiah, the prophet speaks of Babylon and
the Chaldeans as the same nation. There can be little doubt that Abram and
His family were from Babylon.
Babylon was the likely location of the Garden of Eden, where God began to
unfold His purpose for humanity. It was also the location where the
descendants of Noah migrated after the flood. Babylon was a place of new
beginnings. This is what we see here in the life of Abraham. God chose him
while he was in Ur of the Chaldeans and called him to be the father of a
new nation under His blessing –the nation of Israel.
Babylon was the location of the fall of Adam and Eve. It was also the
location of the rebellion of Noah’s descendants. Here in Genesis 12, we see
how God reaches out to the very place that had been the source of sin and
rebellion to bring hope by showing grace and favour to a single family.
God’s blessing would be on Abram and his family, but it would not be on
the land of Babylon. God chose to remove Abram from Ur and bring him to
another land to shower His grace upon him. The favour of God would be
removed from the land of rebellion and sin.
While Abram left the land of Babylon, we have evidence of Babylon
continuing to trouble him and his family. God’s blessing in the life of
Abraham was so abundant that there came a time when there was no room
left in the land for both Abraham and nephew Lot. They determined,
therefore, to separate. Lot chose the fertile Valley of the Jordan and settled
in the region of Sodom.
In Genesis 14, we read:
1 In the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of
Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, 2
these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of
Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim,
and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). (Genesis 14)
Notice what is happening here. While Lot was living in Sodom, a coalition
of four kings made war with Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar.
Genesis 14:11-12 tells us that the attackers took possession of Sodom and
Gomorrah. They took Lot captive and stripped him of all his possessions.
11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and
Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. 12
They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was
dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.
(Genesis 14)
Genesis 14:1 tells us that one of the kings involved in the capture of Sodom
and Gomorrah and the capturing of Lot was Amraphel, king of Shinar. We
have already determined in the last chapter that Shinar was in the region of
Babylon. While God had removed Abram from Babylon, Babylon pursued
his family. There are several lessons we should learn from this chapter.
Notice first that God met Abram in the land of rebellion and sin. God
stretched out His hand and chose a family from Babylon to bring blessing to
the whole earth. Through this one man, the nation of Israel was born.
Through Israel, the Saviour of the world came.
Notice second that God removed Abram from Babylon to shower His
blessings on him. Abram had to be willing to accept the call of God to leave
the land of sin and rebellion for the blessings of God to be realized in his
life. That meant leaving friends and neighbours. It required trusting the
word that God has spoken to him. Ultimately it demanded a commitment on
Abram’s part to follow the Lord in whatever path that took him. This was a
great step of faith for Abram and his family.
Finally, notice that while Abram left Babylon, Babylon would continue to
be an issue in his family’s life. Abraham’s nephew would be captured by a
Babylonian king and stripped of all his possessions. Notice, however,
Abraham’s response to Lot’s captivity.
14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive,
he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them,
and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 And he divided his
forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated
them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16
Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought
back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and
the people. (Genesis 14)
Taking only 318 trained men with him, Abraham pursued the army that had
taken Lot captive. God gave him victory over them, and he rescued Lot
from their hands and retrieved his possessions. While Babylon pursued
Lot’s family in the person of Amraphel, king of Shinar, the Lord God who
took him from Ur was greater than any enemy army. Babylon and all its
partners could not strip Abraham and his family of the blessing God had
promised.
For Prayer:
Father God, I thank you that you are gracious and merciful. Thank you that
you rescued me from the land of rebellion and sin. You have blessed me and
set me free from the grip of Babylon in my life. Thank you for reaching out
to me in my sin and calling me to your blessing. I ask that you protect my
family and me from the sin and rebellion that seeks to tempt and enslave us.
I thank you for the example in the life of Abraham of the power of faith to
conquer this great enemy.
I
CHAPTER 4 – ISAAC AND
BABYLON
n Abraham’s final years, his concern was for his son Isaac. He did not
want his son to marry the Canaanites who live in the land. They did
not worship his God but walked in pagan ways. Abraham understood
that the blessings of God would fall on his son, and so he did not want him
to be tempted by the Canaanite ways and turn from the one true God.
Calling his most trusted servant, Abraham commissioned him with the task
of returning to the land of his origins to find a wife for Isaac, his son.
Genesis 24:10 tells us that Abraham’s servant went to Mesopotamia (the
region of Babylon) to find a wife for Isaac.
10 Then the servant took ten of his masters camels and
departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and
he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor.
(Genesis 24)
Once again, we see the connection to Babylon. While Isaac was kept from
the influences of a pagan Canaanite wife, his relationship with a Babylonian
wife was not without its problems. When Abraham’s servant arrived in
Mesopotamia, he met a young girl by the name of Rebekah. Rebekah was
the granddaughter of Nahor, Abraham’s brother (Genesis 24:15). She would
become Isaac’s wife.
God would give Isaac and Rebekah two boys by the names of Jacob and
Esau. These boys were very different in personality. Esau became a
favourite son of Isaac, while Rebekah preferred Jacob. Genesis 25:29-34
recounts how Jacob took advantage of his brother in a time of need and
obtained his birth right.
In his old age, Isaac determined that he would bless his son Esau. When
Rebekah heard this, she decided to trick her husband into giving it to Jacob
instead. While Esau was out hunting for game, Rebekah prepared a meal for
Isaac, disguised her son Jacob, and told him to pretend to be Esau.
Listening to his mother, Jacob deceived his father and received Esau’s
blessing (see Genesis 27:5-13). When the incident was discovered, Esau
determined to kill Jacob as soon as his father died.
Understanding the seriousness of what she had done, Rebekah told Jacob to
escape by going to live with her brother Laban (see Genesis 27:43). Genesis
28:5 tells us that Jacob went to Paddan-Aram to stay with his uncle.
5 Thus Isaac sent Jacob away. And he went to Paddan-aram, to
Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah,
Jacob’s and Esau’s mother. (Genesis 28)
By this means, Isaac ended up in the region of Babylonians with his uncle
Laban.
Jacob’s life in Mesopotamia was not easy. When he asked for permission to
marry Rachel, Laban’s daughter, Laban tricked him on his wedding night
and gave him his elder daughter Leah instead. Jacob was forced to work
many years to obtain Rachel as his second wife.
The conflict between Rachel and Leah would be wearisome for Jacob. Leah
often felt unloved and clashed with her sister as she competed for Jacob’s
attention.
Listen to Jacob’s description of his work relationship with Laban, his father-
in-law:
38 These twenty years I have been with you. Your ewes and
your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the
rams of your flocks. 39 What was torn by wild beasts I did not
bring to you. I bore the loss of it myself. From my hand you
required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 There
I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and
my sleep fled from my eyes. 41 These twenty years I have been
in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two
daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed
my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of
Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side,
surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God
saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you
last night.” (Genesis 31)
Jacob’s father-in-law took advantage of him. The abusive treatment was
such that Jacob determined to take his wives and possessions and escape to
the land of his father Isaac. Understand here that Jacob knew his brother
Esau wanted to kill him. He was willing, however, to risk his life, rather
than stay under the oppression of his father-in-law.
It is worth noting that as they escaped Laban’s oppression, Rachel stole his
household gods, packing them with her belongings to take with her to her
new home. Those pagan idols returned from Babylon with her to become
part of their new home.
We see here the connection of Jacob to the land of Babylon. He was driven
there because of the influence of a Mesopotamian mother. His uncle and
father-in-law from Paddan-Aram oppressed and took advantage of him. The
wives he obtained from this region clashed with each other, causing family
conflict. His favourite wife, Rachel, introduced pagan idols into his family
and brought them back with her into the land of Promise.
The influence of Babylon in the family of Jacob was very subtle. It wearied
and oppressed him over his lifetime. It caused intense family conflict and
emotional and physical strain. Like a dull headache, Babylon would drain
his strength and spiritual vitality. Rebekah, Jacob’s Babylonian mother,
wanting her way, stooped to deceit and disrespected her husband’s wishes.
Wishing to become rich and influential, Laban dishonestly profited off the
back of his son-in-law to gain his wealth.
Babylon becomes a symbol of the deceptive power of riches and self-
interest. It resorts to deception, disrespect, and theft to obtain its wealth. It
is a self-centred philosophy of life that stands contrary to the purpose of
God. Isaac and his family fell prey to its oppression.
For Prayer:
Father, we see the influence of Babylon in our day. This subtle philosophy
promotes self-interests above Your purpose. We see its impact in our secular
world but also in the church of our day. We pray that you would break the
pride in our hearts that elevates our interests above others. Remove our lust
for power, riches, and influence. Break the Babylonian spirit in our
churches and our personal lives so we can live in the fullness your purpose.
T
CHAPTER 5 – BALAAM
AND BABYLON
he people of God lived as slaves in Egypt after the death of Joseph.
God raised a deliverer by the name of Moses to set them free.
Moses led his people through the wilderness toward the land God
had promised Abraham.
Despite their wilderness wandering, Israel prospered under the leadership of
Moses. They defeated every nation that opposed them and the purpose of
God. The Moabites noticed this blessing, and as Israel approached their
borders, Numbers 22:3 describes their reaction:
1 Then the people of Israel set out and camped in the plains of
Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho. 2 And Balak the son of
Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 And
Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were
many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel.
(Numbers 22)
Moab was “in great dread” and “overcome with fear.”
Fearing what might happen to them and realizing that they were likely no
match for them in battle, the Moabites determined that the best course of
action was to curse the Israelites. Numbers 22:4-6 show us exactly how
they intended to do this:
4 And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will now
lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the
field.” So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at
that time, 5 sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at
Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the people of
Amaw, to call him, saying, “Behold, a people has come out of
Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling
opposite me. 6 Come now, curse this people for me, since
they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat
them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom
you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”
(Numbers 22)
Balak of Moab sent messengers to a prophet by the name of Balaam.
Numbers 22:5 tells us that Balaam lived in Pethor, “which is near the River
of in the land of the people of Amaw.” A footnote in the English Standard
Version of the Bible tells us that the river referred to here is the Euphrates
River. This location is confirmed in Deuteronomy 23:4 where it says:
3 “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the
LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter
the assembly of the LORD forever, 4 because they did not meet
you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out
of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of
Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. (Deuteronomy
23)
Deuteronomy 23:4 tells us that Balaam was from Pethor of Mesopotamia
the region of Babylon. King Balak hired a pagan Mesopotamian prophet to
curse Israel.
God spoke to Balaam and warned him not to curse the Israelites. Balaam
was faithful to the command of God and chose rather to bless the nation of
Israel to the sheer frustration of Balak, who hired him.
While Baalam appeared to be a friend on the surface, it is interesting to note
what happened to Israel as soon as Balaam left. Listen to the words of
Numbers 25:1-3:
1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with
the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the
sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to
their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the
anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. (Numbers 25)
When Balaam left the region, the men of Israel began to “whore with the
daughters of Moab” and offered sacrifices to their gods. Israel fell into the
worship of the pagan god Baal, kindling the anger of God against them.
While it is difficult in Numbers 25 to connect Israel’s rebellion against God
and Balaam in this passage, the connection is noticeably clear in Revelation
2:14. Speaking to the church of Pergamum, the Lord says:
14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there
who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a
stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat
food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
(Revelation 2)
The Lord rebuked the church of Pergamum because they fell into the
teaching of Balaam. The Lord told the church that Balaam taught Balak
how to put a stumbling block before Israel, so they ate food sacrificed to
idols and engaged in sexual immorality.
While Balaam obeyed the Lord and refused to curse the Israelites, he told
the Moabites how to seduce Israel and cause them to fall under the anger of
God. The result was devastating for the nation of Israel.
A quick reading of the story of Balaam could lead us to believe that he was
a sincere prophet of God who blessed the people of Israel despite
tremendous pressure to curse them. He could easily be seen as a friend of
Israel. The reality, however, was quite different. Balaam was a great enemy
of Israel. While he blessed them in public, he taught their enemy how to
defeat them.
Balaam used the lust of the flesh to tempt Israel. He did not do this himself
but put it in the mind of Balak to do so. He acted in secret to destroy the
people of God while coming across as their hero.
When Moab wanted to defeat the people of God, they called on a prophet
from Babylon. He came and secretly taught them how to lure God’s people
into sin through immorality and idol worship. Once again, we see the
influence of Babylon in the life of Israel. God had taken Abraham out of the
nation, but Israel was not free of her temptations.
Revelation 2 tells us that Balaam instructed Balak how to cause Israel to
stumble in two ways. First by tempting them with sexual immorality, and
second by enticing them to eat food sacrificed to idols. Sexual immorality
needs no explanation. I want to say a word, however, about food sacrificed
to idols.
Food that was sacrificed to idols was offered to the gods but then cut up and
sold or given to neighbours to eat. As they ate, they celebrated these gods
and enjoyed the fruit of these pagan rituals.
While our focus here is not on meat sacrificed to gods, there is a principle I
would like to take from this example. What should be the believers
response to a secular song promoting an immoral lifestyle? What about a
movie or book that uses immorality to entertain? Do these forms of
entertainment not encourage a lifestyle that is not from God? Do we not eat
meat sacrificed to idols by listening to and being entertained by the
immorality of these forms of entertainment?
Babylon’s influence is very subtle. Like Balaam, Babylon entertains us and
makes us feel good, but it will ultimately destroy us. Its lure has destroyed
the testimony of many Christians and ended many ministries. In the days of
Balaam, the Mesopotamian prophet, it brought the anger of the Lord upon
His chosen nation. May the Lord give us the grace to resist its temptations
today.
For Prayer:
Lord God, we see in the example of Balaam of Mesopotamia how he
appeared as a friend of your people but was a very subtle enemy. Balaam
taught the enemy how to seduce your people with immorality and idol
worship. His influence remains today. Babylon’s philosophy continues to
tempt us. Give us the grace to resist its attraction. Teach us how to
recognize its subtle influence in our church and the danger it poses in our
ministry and personal lives.
A
CHAPTER 6 – JOSHUA
AND BABYLON
fter the death of Moses, the Lord chose Joshua to lead His people
into the Promised Land. In Joshua 1:1-6, we read the Lord’s
commission to Joshua:
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD
said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my
servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you
and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the
people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will
tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4
From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river,
the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea
toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your
life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not
leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for
you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to
their fathers to give them. (Joshua 1)
In these verses, the Lord God promised to give Joshua every place the sole
of his foot tread. No man would be able to stand against him in battle. The
Lord assured Him that He would never leave or forsake him and that he
would possess the land of Canaan. God would be with Joshua just as He
had been with Moses.
Evidence of the presence of the Lord did not delay in coming. As Joshua
prepared to enter Canaan, the Lord spoke to him.
7 The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in
the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with
Moses, so I will be with you. 8 And as for you, command the
priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to
the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the
Jordan.’” (Joshua 3)
The first barrier to entering the land God had promised to Israel was the
Jordan River. The whole nation had to cross this river, and God had a plan
for this. He told Joshua to send the priests, carrying the ark of the covenant
ahead of the people. As soon as the priest’s feet rested in the Jordan, the
river stopped flowing and provide a way for the nation to cross. (see Joshua
3:13)
What took place that day proved that the presence of the Lord God was
with the people as they advanced on the Canaanites. News of the incident
created terror in the hearts of the inhabitants of the land. They knew the
presence of God was with Israel.
One of the first cities to conquer was the city of Jericho. God showed
Joshua how that conquest would take place. Seven priests would carry the
ark of the covenant and walk around the city blowing trumpets. The army
was to walk silently before and after these priests. They were to repeat this
practice once a day for six days (see Joshua 6:8-14).
On the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times. When
they completed the seventh circle around the city, the priests were to blow
the trumpet, and the people were to shout. Joshua told them that the Lord
would reveal His presence and give them the city when they did so. The
Lord told the people that they were to destroy Jericho completely. They
were to take nothing from the city but destroy everything in sight. The only
exception to this was the silver, gold, and bronze. This was all to be given
to the treasury of the Lord:
18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to
destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of
the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for
destruction and bring trouble upon it. 19 But all silver and
gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the
LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.” (Joshua
6)
When the priests sounded that final trumpet, the walls of the city fell. The
army of Israel went in and defeated their enemy, destroying everything in
sight.
Before we move on to the subject of our study, we need to see what is
happening here. God has been moving powerfully. He miraculously opened
the Jordan River for Israel to cross and flattened the walls of the city of
Jericho to the amazement of His people. The fear of Israel and her God was
spreading throughout the land. Nations knew they were no match for the
power of Israel’s God. These were amazing days. The presence of God was
evident.
Amid this incredible work of God, we catch a brief glimpse of Babylon
lurking in the shadows. One of the soldiers present in the conquest of
Jericho was a man by the name of Achan. Joshua 7:1 tells us that he
disregarded the command of Joshua to destroy everything and took some
articles from the city for himself.
1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted
things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah,
of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the
anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel. (Joshua
7)
When Joshua sent men to the next town to spy out the land, they came back
and reported that the city was much smaller than Jericho and it was not
necessary to send the entire army to conquer it (Joshua 7:3). Joshua sent
three thousand soldiers to take Ai. When these soldiers attacked, however,
the people of Ai defeated them and sent them into flight. This defeat
devastated Joshua and the people of Israel.
Joshua asked the Lord why his army had been defeated. The Lord answered
in Joshua 7:10-12, saying:
10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on
your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they