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cities of Sodom and Gomorrah formerly were; that she shall be no more inhabited; that she shall never be rebuilt; that the Arabs shall not so much as set up thir tents there; that the shepherd shall not come thither even to rest his flock; that it shall become a dwelling place for the wild beasts, and a retreat for the birds of night; that the place where it stood shall be covered with a marsh, so that no trace shall be left to show where Babylon had been. It is God himself who pronounced this sentence, and every article of it has been successively accomplished.
I. In the first place, Babylon ceased to be a royal city, the kings of Persia choosing to reside elsewhere. They delighted more in Susa, Ecbatana, Persepolis, or any other place; and did themselves destroy a good part of Babylon.
II. We are informed by Strabo and Pliny, that the Macedonians, who succeeded the Persians, did not only neglect it, and forbear to embellish or even repair it; but, that moreover they built Seleucia in the neighbourhood, on purpose to draw away its inhabitants, and cause it to be deserted. Nothing can better explain, what the prophet had foretold; It shall not be inhabited. Its own masters endeavour to make it desolate. .. .
III. The new kings of Persia, who afterwards became masters of Babylon, completed the ruin of it, by building Ctesiphon, which carried away all the remainder of the inhabitants; so that from the time the curse was pronounced against that city, it seems as if those very persons that ought to have protected her, were become her enemies; and had all thought it their duty to reduce her to a state of solitude, though by indirect means, and without using any violence; that it might more manifestly appear to be the hand of God, rather than the hand of man, which brought about her destruction.
IV. She was so totally forsaken, that nothing of her was left remaining but the walls; and to this condition she was reduced at the time when Pausanias wrote his remarks upon Greece. . .
V. The kings of Persia finding their place deserted, made a park of it, in which they kept wild beasts , for hunting. Thus did it become, as the prophet had
foretold, a dwelling place for ravenous beasts, that are enemies to man; or for timorous animals, that flee before him. Instead of citizens, she was now inhabited by wild boars, leopards, bears, deer, and wild asses. Babylon was now the retreat of fierce, savage, deadly creatures, that hate the light, and delight in darkness. Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, and dragons shall dwell in their pleasant palaces. Isaiah xiii. 21, 22.
VI. But it was still too much that the walls of Babylon were standing. At length they fell down in several places, and were never repaired. Various accidents destroyed the remainder. The animals which were to be subservient to the pleasure of the Persian kings, abandoned the place; serpents and scorpions remained, so that it became a dreadful place for persons that should have the curiosity to visit, or search after, its antiquities. The Euphrates, that used to run through the city, having no longer a free channel, took its course another way; so that, in Theodoret's time, there was nothing more than a very stream of water left, which ran across the ruins, and, not meeting with a slope or free passage, necessarily degenerated into a marsh.
In the time of Alexander the Great, the river had quitted its ordinary channel, by reason of the outlets and canals which Cyrus had made, and of which we have already given an account; the outlets being badly stopped up, had occasioned a great inundation in the country. Alexander, designing to fix the seat of his empire at Babylon, projected the bringing back of the Euphrates into its natural and former channel, and had actually set his men to work. But the Almighty, who watched over the fulfilling of his prophecy, and who had declared, he would destroy even to the very remains and footsteps of Babylon, (I will cut off from Babylon the name and remnant, Isaiah xiv. 22,) defeated this enterprise by the death of Alexander, which happened soon after. It is easy to comprehend how, after this, Babylon being neglected to such a degree as we have seen, its river was converted into an inaccessible pool, which covered the very place where that impious city had stood, as Isaiah had foretold: I will make it pools of water. Isaiah xiv. 23. And this was necessary, lest the place where Babylon had stood should be discovered hereafter by the course of the Euphrates.
VII. By means of all these changes Babylon became an utter desert, and all the country round fell into the same state of desolation and horror; so that the most able geographers at this day cannot determine the place where it stood. In this manner God's prediction was literally fulfilled: I will cut off from Babylon the name, I will make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water; and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts. Isaiah xiv. 22, 23. I myself, saith the I ord, will examine, with a jealous eye, to see if there be any remnant of that city, which was an enemy to my name, and to Jerusalem. I will thoroughly sweep the place where it stood, and will clear it so effectually, by defacing every trace of the city, that no person shall be able to preserve the memory of the place chosen by Nimrod, and which I, the Lord, have abolished. I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts.
VIII. God was not satisfied with causing all these
alterations to be foretold, but to give the greater assurance of their certainty, thought fit to seal the prediction of them by an oath. The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely, as I have thought, 80 shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. Isaiah xiv. 24. But if we would take this dreadful oath in its full latitude, we must not confine it either to Babylon or its inhabitants, or to the princes that reigned therein. The malediction relates to the whole world: it is the general anathema pronounced against the wicked; it is the terrible decree, by which ihe two cities of Babylon and Jerusalem shall be separated for ever, and an eternal divorce be put between the saints and the reprobate. The Scriptures that have foretold it, shall subsist till the day of its execution. The sentence is written therein, and deposited, as it were, in the public archives of religion.
The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, as I have thought, so shall it come to pass, and as I have purposed, 80 shall it stand.
BALAAM, the son of Beor, or Bosor, was a native of Pethor, a village of Mesopotamia, near the river Euphrates. His history is given, in Numbers, chap. xxii. xxiii. xxiv. and xxxi., to which the reader is referred for the particulars. Balaam lived at the time the children of Israel came out of Egypt. The latter had passed the Red Sea, and having defeated two armies, which opposed their passage through the wilderness, the nations which lay contiguous took the alarm at their multitude, and became exceedingly jealous of them; and, not aware of the supernatural method by which they were fed, thought they would “ lick up the provision, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field.” Amongst these Balak, king of the Moabites, distinguished himself: and the most eligible scheme that occurred to him of prevailing against Israel, was to execrate or curse them. This was not an unusual procedure among the heathen, who imagined their deities to be agitated by the same malignant passions that raged in their own breasts; and of course concluded that they might be impelled by incantations and spells to do whatever their votaries wished. Balak, from the same corrupt notion of the God of Israel which he entertained of the false deities, and hoping to bring the Israelites under the divine displeasure, sent for Balaam, saying, “ This people are too mighty for me; come thou, therefore, and curse them; peradventure I may prevail against them; for I know that he whom thou blessest, is blessed; and he whom thou cursest, is cursed.” Numbers xxii. 1-6. The messengers came, with more than the customary oriental present, on visiting a stranger: it was " with the rewards of divination in their hand.”
During the night, Jehovah actually appeared to him, and said, “ What men are these with thee? Thou shalt not go with them: thou shalt not curse the people, for they are blessed." Wicked as Balaam was, his fears were excited by this vision; so that, terrified by the restraint, he rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, “Get back into your own country, for the Lord resuseth to permit me to go with you:” and they accordingly returned to their master. The king of Moab, however, concluding that he had not come up to the prophet's price, sent a second embassy, “ far more honourable and splendid;"—to such meannesses can the great descend to answer base and unworthy purposes! Balaam was also. given to understand that, in case of his compliance, “ he should be promoted to very great honour:” ver. 15–17. This temptation was too powerful for the prophet's virtue: his heart lusted after the honours of Balak, and