Ancient Babylon and the New Jerusalem Contrasted

The following is an excerpt from Uriah Smith’s brilliant commentary “Daniel and the Revelation” which was published in 1897.  The section is comment on Daniel chapter 2:36-38.

“In 606 BC, Babylon came in contact with the people of God, when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and made Judah a subject province.  Thus at this time Babylon enters the field of prophecy. 

The character of this empire is indicated by the nature of the material composing that portion of the image by which it was symbolized – the head of gold.  It was the golden kingdom of a golden age.  Babylon, its metropolis, towered to a height never reached by any of its successors.  Situated in the garden of the East; laid out in a perfect square sixty miles in circumference, fifteen miles on each side; surrounded by a wall three hundred and fifty feet high and eighty-seven feet thick, with a moat, or ditch, around this of equal cubic capacity with the wall itself; divided into six hundred and seventy-six squares, each two and a quarter miles in circumference, by its fifty streets, each one hundred and fifty feet in width, crossing each other at right angles, twenty-five running each way, every one of them straight and level and fifteen miles in length; its two hundred and twenty-five square miles of enclosed surface, divided as just described, laid out in luxuriant pleasure-grounds and gardens, interspersed with magnificent dwelling – this city, with its sixty miles of moat, its sixty miles of outer walls, its thirty miles of river wall through its centre, its hundred and fifty gates of solid brass, its hanging gardens, rising terrace above terrace, till they equalled in height the wall themselves, its temple of Belus, three miles in circumference, its two royal palaces, one three and a half, and the other eight miles in circumference, with its subterranean tunnel under the River Euphrates connecting these two palaces, its perfect arrangement for convenience, ornament, and defence, and its unlimited resources – this city, containing in itself many things which were themselves wonders of the world, was itself another and still mightier wonder.  Never before saw the earth a city like that; never since has it seen its equal.  And there, with the whole earth prostrate at her feet, a queen in peerless grandeur, drawing from the pen of inspiration itself this glowing title, ‘The glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency’, sat this city, fit capital of the kingdom which constituted the golden head of the great image.

Such was Babylon, with Nebuchadnezzar, in the prime of life, bold, vigorous, and accomplished, seated upon its throne, when Daniel entered its impregnable walls to serve a captive for seventy years in its gorgeous palaces.  There the children of the Lord, oppressed more than cheered by the glory and prosperity of the land of their captivity, hung their harps on the willows of the Euphrates, and wept when they remembered Zion. 

And there commenced the captive state of the church in a still broader sense; for, ever since that time, the people of God have been in subjection to, and more or less oppressed by, earthly powers.  And so they will be, till all earthly powers shall finally yield to Him whose right it is to reign.  And lo! That day of deliverance draws on apace.

Into another city, not only Daniel, but all the children of God, from least to greatest, from first to last, are soon to enter; a city not merely sixty miles in circumference, but fifteen hundred miles; a city whose wall are not brick and bitumen, but precious stones and jasper; whose streets are not the stone-paved streets of Babylon, smooth and beautiful as they were, but transparent gold; whose river is not the mournful waters of the Euphrates, but the river of life; whose music is not the sighs and laments of broken-hearted captives, but the thrilling paeans of victory over death and the grave, which ransomed multitudes shall raise; whose light is not the intermittent light of earth, but the increasing and ineffable glory of God and the Lamb.  Into this city they shall enter, not as captives entering a foreign land, but as exiles returning to their father’s house.  Yea, our mouths shall be filled with laughter, and our tongues with singing, when the Lord shall turn again the captivity of Zion (Ps 136:1-2; Rev 21:1-27).

Smith, Uriah, “Daniel and The Revelation” by Uriah Smith, undated (circa 1899), published by The Stanborough Press, Watford, Herts.