God says, See, I will stir up against them the Medes, who do not care for silver and have no delight in gold. Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children. Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherd will rest his flocks there. (Isaiah 13:17-20)
If you’ve been following the news in the Middle East, you know the Kurds are having a very difficult time lately. Although the majority of Kurds are Muslim, the Islamic State (IS) considers them to be idolatrous and has threatened them with extinction.
An example of their plight is the city of Kobani on Syria’s border with Turkey. Surrounded on three sides by IS fighters, the Kurdish city desperately needs help. But Turkey, whose army is camped just across the border on Kobani’s fourth side, won’t help because, for reasons you’ll see below, they don’t like the Kurds. And since the Kurds have been on Syria’s side against IS other countries won’t help for fear of inadvertently helping Syria. This is the latest in a long line of struggles the Kurdish people have endured in their effort to reclaim the national identity and homeland they had in ancient times.
The Kurds are the modern descendants of the Medes, an Indo-European people who were joined by the Persians in their successful effort to overthrow Babylon and establish themselves as a world power in the 6th century BC. The Persians, while joining mid-campaign, eventually became the more dominant partner in the coalition, but together the Medes and the Persians reigned for over 200 years until Alexander the Great defeated them.
The original ancestor of the Medes was Madai, the 3rd son of Japeth, a son of Noah. After the confusion of tongues at Babel he migrated north and east into the region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea where Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, and Georgia converge today. Locals call this area Kurdistan, or land of the Kurds. Mosul, a prominent city in Iraqi Kurdistan, was known in Biblical times as Nineveh. You may remember how the Kurds held off the Islamic State in the battle for the Mosul Dam this past summer.
Turkey has been a resolute opponent of granting the Kurds a national homeland in Kurdistan because much of the land they would occupy is in Turkey, with some in Iran and Iraq as well. In fact, Turkey thinks it owns the land currently occupied by the Iraqi Kurds, including the rich oil fields there, claiming that their ownership dates back to the days of the Ottoman Empire.
The Kurdish army, called the Peshmerga (those who confront death), is a fearsome fighting unit, and with modern arms, enough ammunition, and some training could probably defend themselves against the Islamic State. In fact, Peshmerga women are fighting IS and IS fighters believe that if they are killed by a woman they will go to hell. But the Kurds are struggling from the lack of military supplies because their neighbors are afraid they might become too strong and win their long and hard fought battle to regain their homeland. This is something that no one else wants, no matter which side they’re on. In fact, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the US have all agreed to let Kobani fall to the Islamic State, putting 160,000 Kurdish people at risk of massacre, rather than coming to their aid. They clearly don’t want an independent Kurdistan, primarily because its historical lands sit atop rich oil reserves that Turkey, Iraq, and Iran want for themselves. These countries have reportedly agreed to let the Islamic State solve their Kurdistan problem, thinking they can deal with IS later.
No matter what the odds are against them, the Kurds are not going to disappear from the world stage. We know this because their destiny is to be God’s agency for the never before fulfilled judgment against Babylon at the End of the Age.
By now we all know that Babylon was never destroyed in the way Isaiah and Jeremiah described when the Medes and Persians took the Babylonian Kingdom in 538 BC. When Darius the Mede assumed the throne in Babylon, he did so without having fought a battle for the right. A contingent of the Medo-Persian armies had slipped into the city at night after Cyrus the Persian diverted the River Euphrates far upstream. With the river reduced to knee high depth they crawled under the bronze bars that descended into the river to keep the city secure, and opened the gates for the Medo-Persian armies to capture the mighty fortress without throwing a spear or swinging a sword.
(This was foretold 150 years earlier in a prophecy from the Lord in Isaiah 44:27-45:3 which describes the manner in which Babylon would be taken and even mentions Cyrus by name. Before he was born, Cyrus was chosen to be the one who would free the Jews from their 70 year captivity in Babylon.)
And yet Jeremiah said that the Babylonian army would be completely destroyed, falling down slain, fatally wounded in the streets of Babylon (Jere. 51:3-4) and“her thick wall will be leveled, her high gates set on fire. The peoples exhaust themselves for nothing, the nations’ labor is only fuel for the flames” (Jere. 51:58). The use of the plural for nations in this verse conveys the idea that multiple countries were involved in building the city, another clue that Jeremiah wasn’t talking about the Babylon of his time, but of a future one.
Speaking of Babylon’s destruction, the Lord had Isaiah say,
Listen, a noise on the mountains, like that of a great multitude! Listen, an uproar among the kingdoms, like nations massing together! The LORD Almighty is mustering an army for war. They come from faraway lands, from the ends of the heavens—the LORD and the weapons of his wrath—to destroy the whole country. Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man’s heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame (Isaiah 13:4-8).
This sounds more like 21st century weaponry. I’m told that a neutron bomb will melt flesh right off the skeleton while the victim is still standing. Perhaps this is what Isaiah saw.
Isaiah said that Babylon would never be inhabited again after being judged, and Jeremiah repeated the pledge seven more times. Yet Babylon has been continuously inhabited and is so today. There must be a future role for the Great City, and it must be a major one to merit six chapters of the Bible. Isaiah 13-14, Jeremiah 50-51 and Revelation 17-18 all speak of it. Isaiah 14 tells us why. It’s because the real King of Babylon is Satan himself.
Isaiah 13-14 is a 2 chapter oracle about the destruction of Babylon, some of which we’ve highlighted above. But Isaiah 14:4 says, “You will take up this taunt against the King of Babylon” and from there on things get personal. Isaiah 14:11says, “How you have fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning” and then lists the five boasts that Lucifer made in his rebellion against God. It’s one of only two glimpses the Bible offers into this mysterious event that many scholars believe preceded Adam’s creation. The other is in Ezekiel 28:12-19 where Lucifer is called the King of Tyre. Both foretell of his utter defeat.
There are more good reasons to believe that the Babylon spoken of in these prophecies is the End Times city in Iraq, and that it will be destroyed by the Medes, or rather their modern counterparts, the Kurds. The Medes are mentioned in Isaiah 13:17 & Jere. 51:11, 28 as being involved in a destruction of Babylon that’s never happened in history and will result in the eternal desolation of Satan’s headquarters on Earth.
Although many nations will be involved, only the Medes are mentioned by name, and both Isaiah and Jeremiah were speaking of them in regards to the city in modern Iraq. Referencing the time as “The Day of the Lord” Isaiah called Babylon“the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans’ pride” (Isaiah 13:19) (The Chaldeans were the people of the southern regions who founded and controlled the Babylonian Empire. Some believe that Kuwait is the nation now occupying the land of the Chaldeans, and that this was the basis for Saddam Hussein’s claim to Kuwait in the invasion that prompted the first Gulf war.)
Jeremiah went even farther. He used two cryptograms (code words) to authenticate his description, also in the context of the End Times. There are several instances of Hebrew code writing in the old Testament. They typically substituted the last letter of the 22 letter alphabet for the first, the 21st for the 2nd, the 20th for the 3rd and so on.
Jeremiah’s two cryptograms can be found in Jere. 51:4 where Leb Kamai is code for Chaldea and in Jere. 51:41 where Sheshach is code for Babylon. I believe he did this to make it unmistakably clear that he was referring to an end times version of Biblical Babylon. How Satan will restore this now largely ceremonial city into the capitol of Earth at the end of the age is a matter of much speculation, some of it skeptical. For now what we know from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and John is that he will.
I say that because some of the language John used in Rev. 17-18 is almost certainly taken from Isaiah and Jeremiah. In Isaiah 13:21-22 Babylon is called a haunt for jackals, owls, and hyenas, words that in Hebrew describe demons as well as unclean animals. Compare that with Rev. 18:2. With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.
Or how about Isaiah 47:7-9 where the Lord accused Babylon as saying “I am the eternal queen … and not a widow,” and said she would be destroyed in a moment, on a single day. Compare that with Rev. 18:7-8. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’ Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her.
Jeremiah called Babylon a gold cup in the Lord’s hand who made the whole Earth drunk. He said the nations drank her wine and went mad, and she would fall suddenly. (Jere. 51:7-8) Compare that with John’s words in Rev. 17:4 & 18:3.She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. All three of these prophets were speaking of the same place, and describing something that hasn’t happened yet.
Those who say the restoration of Babylon will require billions of dollars and many years have not considered that its preparation has been under way for several years now. For example, if you take a close look at the dimensions and capabilities of the US embassy in Baghdad you will see how easily it could be converted into a world governmental headquarters. With a compound covering 104 acres, it is the largest and most expensive embassy in the world, and is nearly as large as Vatican City. Babylon is only about an hour away by car. Additionally, a major communication center is being built in Babylon that will link Europe with the Far East.
In addition, one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces sits on a hill overlooking ancient Babylon and has been completely restored as a hotel and tourist destination. It could easily house the anti-Christ and his entourage. And there are several large military installations nearby as well. In short, preparing Babylon to become the capitol of the world won’t take anywhere near as long as most people think. And remember, this is Satan’s city on Earth. Therefore we should realize there will be supernatural power at work in the rebuilding process as well.
But here’s the take away from this commentary. Through the Kurds, the Medes have stepped out of history and onto the world stage once again, and another player in the End Times Scenario is taking its place. One day soon, the King of the Medes will again lead a vast army against Babylon, and this time her destruction will be complete, and the Lord’s words will be fulfilled. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.