TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 50
“Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, conceal it not, and say: ‘Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed. Her images are put to shame, her idols are dismayed.'” – Jeremiah 50:2
Later, in verse 38, Jeremiah says that Babylon “is a land of images, and they are mad over idols.”
Babylon is an interesting city in the Bible.
It’s first mentioned in Genesis 10:10 as the beginning of the kingdom of Nimrod. Babel, or Babylon, literally means gate of the deity. We could think of its religion, idols, and images as the way mankind thought they could reach God.
Genesis 11:9 says, “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 the earth.” Because of this, Babylon has come to mean mixture or confusion. But, the name is also here associated with the idea of departing as God dispersed the people over the face of the earth when he confused their languages.
The Hebrew word translated Babylon is used 261 times in the Old Testament. I find this interesting because 261 is 9 times 29. One of the meanings of the number 9 is visitation. The number 9 is also associated with the Holy Spirit and judgment. The number 29 symbolizes departure as many times in the Bible when a person’s name is used it is associated with departure.
So, even in the first mentions of Babylon, which was originally the city of Babel, we the meanings of 9 and 29. God went down to visit the people of Babel. He judged their activities, confusing their languages and causing them to depart the plain of Shinar.
Revelation, which is chock full of symbolism, including the number of times words are used, uses the name Babylon six times. Six is the number of man. Therefore, we could also think of Babylon as the ultimate city of man. We would be in the ultimate city of man when the Holy Spirit (9) has departed (29).
What’s more interesting is that the only other way to multiply two numbers together and get 261 is 3 x 87. The number 3 symbolizes divine perfection.
What about the number 87?
Interestingly, two of the Hebrew words for idol have a numerical value of 87.
Further, Isaiah 9:6 says “For to us a child is born, to us a son if given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Here one of Jesus’ names is Everlasting Father, which has a numerical value of 87.
And, speaking of his servant, Jesus, God says, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:10-11) “I am the Lord,” our savior, has a numerical value of 87.
Jesus is the image of God (Colossians 1:15). Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the divinely perfect image (idol) of God that saves us from our slavery to the idols of Babylon.
Revelation 18:4 bids us to come out, or depart, Babylon. It is by beholding Jesus Christ crucified, the divinely perfect image of God, that we are able to depart Babylon and its false idols and images. Speaking of Jesus’ death on the cross, Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities [the idols and images of Babylon] and put them to an open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
Another interesting fact about Babylon is that 169 out of 261 uses of the word in the Old Testament occur in the book of Jeremiah. This is more than five times the number of uses in the book with the second most uses of Babylon.
Why is 169 an interesting number?
The number 169 is 13 x 13. That is the only way to multiply two numbers together and get 169. The number symbolizes rebellion and depravity. It is often associated with Satan in the Bible. In the Bible, squaring a number often intensifies its meaning. Revelation 18:2 says, “She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt of every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.” Indeed, Babylon is the dwelling place of everything that leads us away from God. It is truly the city of intensified rebellion and depravity.
I mentioned that the forerunner to Babylon was Babel, which is where God confused the languages of the people.
Jeremiah 50:2 says, “Babylon is taken.” The Hebrew word for taken is used 120 times in the Bible.
In Acts 2, God reversed his visitation to Babylon that resulted in a judgment that caused the people to depart the plain of Shinar when the Holy Spirit visited the 120 disciples in the upper room. Those 120 disciples received from the Holy Spirit tongues of fire that allowed them to speak the languages of the Jews gathered from around the world. These 120 disciples were the first ones sent out to regather the Jews from every nation. In effect, God was regathering those that had their languages mixed at Babel by the 120 disciples that declared the great things God had done. Indeed, Babylon was taken.
In John 21, Jesus stood on the shore and asked the disciples if they had caught any fish. They said no. So, Jesus told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. Verses 10-11 say, “Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full or large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.”
Jesus told his disciples they would be fishers of men. The number 153 symbolizes the disciples’ catch of men from all the Gentile nations. Notice that even though the disciples would catch many men the net would not break. None would be lost.
So, we have 120 representing the regathering of the Jews as the Holy Spirit spoke through the disciples with tongues of fire reversing the midex languages of Babel. And, we have Jesus’ disciples, fishers of men, catching 153 fish representing the salvation of the Gentile nations that were in bondage to Babylon and its idols and images.
Add together 120 and 153 and we get 273.
How many times is the word Babylon used throughout the entire Bible?
I think not. And, this is likely connected to one mention of the number 273 in the Bible.
Numbers 3:42-47 says, “So Moses listed all the firstborn among the people of Israel, as the Lord commanded him. And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names, from a month old and upward as listed were 22,273. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle. The Levites shall be mine: I am the Lord. And as the redemption price for the 273 of the firstborn of the people of Israel, over and above the number of the male Levites, you shall take five shekels per head.”
The Levites were the priests of Israel. Every believe today is priest and part of God’s royal priesthood. Instead of taking the firstborn males of Israel, God would take the Levites, of which were there 22,000 (Numbers 3:39). The number of firstborn over and above the number of priests, 273, would be redeemed with five shekels of silver. Five is the number of grace. Silver is the metal of redemption. So, the extra 273 firstborn males, symbolizing all the Jews that the 120 would regather and the 153 Gentile nations from which none would be lost, are redeemed by the grace of Jesus as he works through his royal priesthood, the believers, the church.
Are all the confluences of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Babylon just coincides?
I would argue they are not. Rather, these connections are the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through the scriptures.
Indeed, Babylon has fallen at the hands of the image of God, Jesus Christ.