INTRODUCTION - "Is Iraq in the Bible, and can we predict its future from Biblical prophecies?" -- an interesting
question in these troubled times. Iraq occupies the area in the Near East which was once known as Mesopotamia, the land between
the two rivers, as the name means in Greek. The region is the oldest inhabited area on the face of the earth. It was here
between the Tigris (or Hiddekel) and Euphrates rivers that the Garden of Eden was located (Gen. 2:14). It was here that the
rebel Nimrod founded the city of Babel (Gen. 10:9,10). It was here on the plain of Shinar that the earth's population tried
to build a tower, whose top would reach to heaven (Gen. 11:1-4). It was here that the Lord God came down and confounded the
languages of men to disperse them all over the face of the earth (Gen. 11:5-9). It is from here that King Nebuchadnezzar ruled
over a vast empire (Dn. 1:1). It was from here that God's prophet Daniel wrote as a captive, of the prophecies which God had
given him, revealing much of what will happen in the End Times (Dn. 9:24). And it is here, where the eyes of the world are
now focused to see whether we will have war or peace, for the ruins of the ancient city of Babel or Babylon is but fifty miles
from the modern Iraqi capital of Baghdad. Yes, Iraq is in the Bible even if it is known by another name.
Now, let us see how modern Iraq came into being. The Babylon of Daniel's day fell into the hands of the Persian Empire
and subsequently the Greeks, under Alexander the Great. Mesopotamia as it was then called, later became part of the Roman
Empire, being part of the province of Armenia. However, at the beginning of the 7th century, as the Roman empire was crumbling
in western Europe, the Persians reconquered the area. The Romans rallied and after the Persian ruler was dethroned, his successor
made peace with the Romans, restoring to them the territory.
At this time, the new religion of Islam was uniting Arabs both spiritually and militarily. After the death of Mohammed
in 632 A.D., the office of Caliph was established as kind of Islamic pope. The Caliph was not only a religious leader but
also the head of the political state founded by Mohammed. The government was a supposed to be theocracy, i.e. the rule of
God on earth. Both Persia and Rome were weakened by years of conflict, so that at the end of the 7th century, Persia and the
eastern part of the Roman empire fell into the hands of the invading Arabs. The Arabs founded the city of Baghdad from whence
the Caliph ruled a vast empire. Eventually the Caliph's seat was moved to Damascus in Syria.
With the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century, Mesopotamia came under Turkish rule, where it remained until
the end of World War I, when it was given to Great Britain as a "mandate" under the League of Nations. In 1932,
the region was given its independence and the kingdom of Iraq was established. In 1958, a leftist pan-arab revolution established
a "republic". In July 1979, the present ruler, Saddam Hussein, came to power, and within a month, instituted a bloody
purge to root out all opposition. We are all well aware of the more recent atrocities of Hussein and his ruthless regime which
have highlighted the news in recent days.
In the Bible, we see some of the region's significance as the place where civilization began and where our Judeo-Christian
heritage has its roots. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah had much to say about the future of Babylon, and two chapters of
the book of Revelation are given over to a future destruction of Babylon. Do these passages have any significance on the future
of modern Iraq? Some Bible scholars would say, "No,", while others would answer with a resounding "Yes."
Let us look at their cases! They revolve around two issues:
I. HAVE THE PROPHECIES AGAINST BABYLON BEEN COMPLETELY FULFILLED IN THE PAST?
In his book There's a New Day Coming (pp. 88-89), Herbert Vander Lugt points out that the prophecies of Isaiah 13 and
Jeremiah 51 against Babylon indicate that the city will be totally destroyed at the Day of the Lord and never again rebuilt
or inhabited. Isaiah 13:9, 19, 20 and Jer. 51:25, 26 are clear as to the extent of destruction. Because the actual history
of the fall of Babylon does not match these two chapters, many Bible scholars believe that Babylon on the Euphrates must be
rebuilt. With today's technology, a large city may be built in a short time, and for the past ten years, rumors have persisted
that the Iraqi government has plans to rebuild the city, even constructing a reproduction of the Tower of Babel as a tourist
What Does the Bible Say?
1. Sound exposition and the corroboration of history seem to teach that a literal Babylon must be rebuilt for the prophecies
of Isaiah 13 to be literally and completely fulfilled. Isaiah13:1-16 definitely relate to the future. Is. 13:5 is significant:
They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation to destroy the whole
land." These seems to indicate an army under the Lord's direction. Taken with verse 6, "Howl for the day of the
Lord is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty," the fall of Babylon seems to await a yet future fulfillment.
Verses 10 and 11 further relate the fall to events surrounding the yet future Day of the Lord, "For the stars of heaven
and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in its going forth, and the moon shall
not cause its light to shine. And I will punish the world for its evil."
2. Although Is:13:17,18 relate to the fall of the city under the Medes, yet verses 19-22 speak of utter destruction "as
when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah", after which the city "shall never be inhabited". This certainly was
not fulfilled when the city fell to the Medes, and therefore must also await a yet future fulfillment."
What Does History Reveal?
1. In 538 B.C. the Persian king Cyrus captured Babylon. The city made no defense. Some say that the city gates were opened
by treachery. Heroditus the historian tells us that at one time the Persians seized the city by turning aside the Euphrates
River from its course, during the night, and entering through the dried canal bed which ran under the city wall.
2. From that time on, some of the Persian kings lived in the city, it being a second capital unto to them. However in
481 B.C., the city rebelled and was severely punished by Xerxes, with its seven story temple of Bel and many of its finest
buildings being destroyed. Nevertheless, in spite of ever increasing decay, in 331. B.C. the city so impressed Alexander the
Great, that having captured it, he planned to make it his capital but was prevented from doing so by his death.
3. The Seleucid kings which followed Alexander built a new city, Seleucia, within a few miles of Babylon. Gradually, the
wealth transferred itself to the newer city, leaving old Babylon to a slow economic death. Finally in 140 B.C., the Parthians,
who were descendents of the Persians, captured and burnt it.
4. At the time of Christ, Babylon was a small village, in the midst of the ruins, and by the 4th century, the church father
Jerome wrote that it had become a place where the Persian kings hunted, an enclosed forest with wild animals.
5. Does this gradual demise of the city fulfill the language of Isaiah's prophecies? Was Cyrus's capture of the city a
by multinational force bringing great destruction on the whole land, as demanded by Is. 13:5? Does Daniel (5:31) record the
fall of the city being accompanied by the cosmic disturbances described in Isaiah 13:10? Was the burning of a decaying city
in 140 B.C. the destruction of "the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldean's excellency" being overthrown
like Sodom and Gomorrah, when the Lord rained down fire and brimstone from heaven (Gen. 19:24,28)? This was prophesied in
6. The answer to all these questions is "No!". For although some of the prophecies regarding the Medes (Is.
13:17,18) were fulfilled in 538 B.C., for the remainder of the prophecies to be fulfilled the city of Babylon must be rebuilt.
II. IS THERE A NEED FOR A REBUILT BABYLON TO FULFILL GOD'S PROPHETIC FUTURE?
Although Bible expositors do not all agree on which verses apply to which in Revelation 17 and 18, most make a distinction
between "ecclesiastical Babylon" which is called "Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots", persecutor
of the true saints of God (Rev. 17:5,6) and "political Babylon", the seven headed, ten horned beast which carries
her, described in Rev. 17:7-13. Because in Rev. 16:19; 17:18; and 18:10 ,21 Babylon is referred to as a "great city",
many expositors also see a "geographic Babylon", a literal place where "ecclesiastical Babylon" and "political
Babylon" make their headquarters.
Is "Babylon" Always a Symbol for "Rome"?
1. The traditional view, at least since the Reformation, is that the "city" representing political Babylon of
the end times must be Rome. This is based on the fact that during the Christian era, "ecclesiastical Babylon" has
been represented by the Roman church. While there is no question that the city of Rome has long been the centre for propagating
the mother-child cult of Babylon and that the Roman emperor Constantine was instrumental in bringing many of the practices
of the Babylonian religion into the church of Rome, it is not conclusive proof that "Babylon" is always a symbolic
term for "Rome".
2. Those who hold this view believe that Peter's allusion that he was writing from Babylon (I Peter 5:13) is a symbolic
usage of the term meaning Rome. They are convinced of the tradition of the early church fathers that Peter was in Rome, in
spite of the fact that there is no scriptural evidence to suggest that Peter was ever in Rome. To the contrary, Paul's omission
of Peter's name when he sent his greetings to the church at Rome (Rom. 16) may be an indication that Peter was not at Rome,
at least when Paul wrote his epistle. Nevertheless, many conclude that the term "Babylon" as relating to the prophetic
future, is a symbolic term "Rome", and should be considered so in all cases.
3. Although it is true that the antichrist will be the leader of the revived Roman Empire, and that political Babylon,
in its final form, will be a revival of the Roman Empire, it is only an assumption that his capital will be the literal city
Are the "Seven Mountains" of Rev. 17:9 the "Seven Hills of Rome"?
1. The traditional interpretation of Rev. 17:9 is that "seven mountains" on which the whore of Babylon sits
are the seven hills of Rome. However, it makes more exegetical sense to see the "mountains" as representing kingdoms,
since the term is used in Scripture in that symbolic sense (Ps. 30:7; Dn. 2:35). Specifically, the Lord calls Babylon a "destroying
mountain" and promises to make it a "burnt mountain" (Jer. 51:25). It is also interesting to note that in Rev.
17:10, "And there are seven kings" is more literally translated "and are seven kings", as there does not
appear in the Greek and is inserted as a matter of interpretation.
2. To be consistent with the interpretation of Rev. 17:9,10 that the seven heads are seven "mountains" or kingdoms
and are seven "kings", we must see the whore riding not on the literal city of Rome, but on political Babylon, which
is represented by seven successive Gentile world empires which have carried the Babylonian mother-child cult down through
the ages, i.e. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. This agrees with Rev. 13:1, where six of the beast's heads
of represent the Gentile world empires to the time of John, the seventh head being a revival of the system of a Gentile world
empire. This of course will be a revival of the Roman Empire (cf. Dn. 7:7,8,24).
1. If, according to Rev. 17:9, the "seven mountains" are not the seven hills of Rome, the capital city of the
revived Roman Empire need not be literal Rome, although it could be. If, however, the literal city of Babylon must be rebuilt
in order for the prophecies of Isaiah 13 to be literally and completely fulfilled, it makes more sense to expect the headquarters
of the revived Roman Empire to be established at a yet future literal Babylon on the Euphrates.
2. Babylon the Great is indeed the Mother of Harlots and Abominations. Harlotry or adultery is the term used throughout
the Old Testament for spiritual infidelity, when a people depart from the One, True God to go "whoring" after a
false religious system (Ex. 34:15; Jud. 2:17; I Chr. 5:25; Hos. 9:1). Down through the ages, all false religions can trace
their origins to Nimrod and his rebellion against God at the Tower of Babel. Ancient lore tells us how Satan tried to counterfeit
the promise of the woman's Seed who was to come (Gen. 3:15). Nimrod's wife Semiramis bore him a son, whom she named Tammuz.
She declared had been miraculously conceived and was to be the promised deliverer of men. As man spread over the face of the
earth, he carried with him this mother-child cult. It became Astoreth and Tammuz in ancient Phoenicia, Isis and Horus in Egypt,
Aphrodite and Eros in Greece, and Venus and Cupid and Italy. The madonna and child is even a holy symbol to the Buddhists.
3. While we cannot say for sure in what form the ecumenical church of the end times will finally emerge, we can say for
sure that it will be a continuation of the mother-child cult, the religion of Babylon. The city of Rome has only been the
headquarters of this cult for the past 2,000 years or so of man's history, while the city of Babylon was the original headquarters
and remained so for some 4,000 years of man's history. Should we be surprised, if under Satan's direction, the antichrist
rebuilds Babylon and makes it his headquarters? Should we be surprised if God totally destroys the city "in one hour"
as the book of Revelation declares.
4. If the city Babylon in Revelation is the literal city of Babylon, the city must be rebuilt. Iraqi territory will, once
again, come into the Roman Empire, this time in its revived form under the antichrist. He will make it his capital, and for
a short time it will be the administrative and commercial centre of the world, but its judgment is sure, its destruction will
5. God keeps His promises. The word of His prophecy shall not fail. Yet while God will yet deal with in the future Babylon,
we must remember another, more general promise, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget
God" (Ps. 9:17). While we are motivated to pray for the nations of the world at times of international crisis, let us
not forget to pray for our own land, for as sure as God's judgment will fall upon Babylon, His judgment will fall upon all
who reject His provision of salvation...His offer of eternal life to all who will confess their sin and put their faith and
trust in Jesus Christ.