Kings embody their kingdoms and often project the collective spirit of the people under their rule. In the case of King Saul, he became a reflection of Israel in ways that were unrecognized by the Israelites. As the people’s choice against the will of God, Saul epitomized the physical prestige and power that Israel coveted and idolized, but he also became a model of their disobedience.
David, Israel’s next king, was God’s choice to rule Israel, and his story stands as a reflection of Israel’s fall and also the future repentance of its remnant. Remarkably, even David’s most egregious sins parallel those of his nation, and they are adultery and murder. David had an adulterous affair with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, then had Uriah killed in an attempt to cover his sin. Similarly, Israel developed an idolatrous affair with the world and had Jesus killed as a coverup. The sinful elixir of adultery and murder brought judgment upon the house of David, but he ultimately repented and found mercy as evidenced by his writings in the book of psalms.
Psalm 118:1-2, 24-26
“1O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever. 2Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever….
24This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. 25Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. 26Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.”*
Not only did David praise the Lord for mercy in his psalm, but he also encouraged Israel to do the same. Much later, Jesus would reveal the connection, reciting David’s prophetic song and declaring it as the sign of Israel’s repentance and prerequisite for their forgiveness.
“37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. 39For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.“
David is called a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:21-34), because he demonstrated sincere contrition and repentance after his great sin. His actions perfectly illustrate God’s desire for Israel’s repentance, and Romans 9 declares that Israel’s elect will, one day, repent as David did.
“27Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
29And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrha.”*
So, both Saul and David are two kings that represent Israel—the first in their sin and the second in the final humility and repentance of the remnant. As these two kings collectively reveal, Israel’s story begins with failure but concludes with their eventual fulfillment of the Lord’s purpose.
In a different way, Babylon is also reflected by two kings—Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. However, instead of a reflecting a change from sin to repentance, these kings appear to illustrate an opposite change of heart—from repentance back to sin. Babylon’s reign began with a season of mercy as humbling experiences provided an opportunity for Babylon and its leaders to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. But it was ultimately destroyed as a result of pride and rampant idolatry. This is also reflected by its two kings.
First, there was Nebuchadnezzar. Although it took a series of revelatory experiences, Nebuchadnezzar was afforded a great deal of mercy from the Lord and came to recognize that there is no other god like the God of Daniel and the Hebrews.
But the humility afforded to Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdom he ruled wouldn’t last long after him. In the spirit and nature of Babylon, its people began to return to their worship of idols, most notably under the leadership of a different ruler, Belshazzar, who was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson.
The Lord had raised up Babylon, a Gentile nation, as a form of chastisement against the pride of Israel, His elect nation of promise. During this time of captivity for Israel, the Lord used Daniel along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to reveal His goodness and sovereignty to Nebuchadnezzar on several occasions. In one event, God graciously gave Daniel the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that none of the other magicians or astrologers could discern. In another instance Nebuchadnezzar ordered the Hebrew boys to be thrown into a furnace to be killed, but a fourth entity appeared in the image of the Lord to save them from the flames. In yet another revelation, God drove Nebuchadnezzar to insanity, forcing him to live in the wild for 7 years. Because that event was prophesied by Daniel and fulfilled with precision, Nebuchadnezzar had no choice but to acknowledge the omnipotence of Daniel’s God. Through Nebuchadnezzar, we see an amazing demonstration of divine love and mercy shown towards a nation of Gentiles. Nebuchadnezzar initially credited his own power and might with the rise of Babylon, but he was eventually brought to humility. Then, just two generations later, came Belshazzar.
The biblical story of Belshazzar with all of its details provides valuable insight into the spirit of Babylon. In a way, the spirit of the centuries-older city of Babel, led by Nimrod, had returned to inspire this newer Babylonian Empire back to its rebellious roots. Under Belshazzar, they praised and worshipped the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron and stone even though they had knowledge of Nebuchadnezzar’s divine revelations and declarations. Belshazzar credited these materialistic idols with their nation’s prominence instead of remembering that God had given them their power and security by His authority. So, because Babylon had knowledge of God and still rejected Him, their fate would be worse than the Babel which came centuries before. On the same night that the hand wrote upon the wall, they pridefully celebrated their false gods right into their destruction at the hands of the Medes and Persians. The were so full of their own pride, that they were destroyed, quickly, having barely put up a fight.
Much like Saul and David reflected Israel, Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar became prophetic reflections of God’s season of dealings with the Gentiles. From the spiritual perspective, there is much more to be learned. As defined by scripture, Gentiles are people outside the physical covenant of God, and this great nation of Gentiles was granted such authority that God’s elect nation of Israel was given to them as captives. Through possession of Israel’s covenant people and possessions, Babylon was afforded a knowledge of God that they would not have otherwise learned of. Handled correctly, the captivity of Israel should have caused the Gentiles of Babylon to humble themselves to the truth and revelation of God.
Today, Gentiles, or non-Jewish believers, must recognize that this dynamic still exists to a great extent. We are currently in a position of grace that was once reserved for Israel, alone. Their covenants and promises are in our captivity and possession through the holy scriptures, but they are not to be handled with selfish pride. We can’t take advantage of the sacred protections and promises of God to become spiritually drunk on our own lusts, and we can’t presume to be immune from destruction because of an elevated position. If we forget these truths, and ignore the example of Babylon, then we risk becoming as Belshazzar, and our spiritual fate will be no different than physical Babylon. Paul provides clarity for better understanding in Romans 11
Paul warns us about forgetting the power of God or His unique love and purpose for Israel, so Babylon’s failures are, in fact, a warning to the Gentile church. Still, John prophesies through the book of Revelation that a future Babylon will rise again.
“17 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. 3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: 5 And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth. 6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.”
Notice, there are several similarities. The whore of Babylon appears to be enjoying the metaphorical rewards which Daniel rejected. Daniel once said, “Let thy gifts be to thyself,” but the woman depicted in Revelation 17 is sitting atop a blasphemous beast, boasting in her array of purple and scarlet and delighting in the precious jewelry she has received. Amazingly, she even possesses a golden cup not unlike the vessels which Belshazzar and the Babylonians drank from. The story of the past and this depiction of the future are basically the same. She is also drunk with the blood of Saints and martyrs. Babylon persecuted and killed the Jews of its day, and the new Babylon will do the same to believers in Christ. Worst of all, Belshazzar led Babylon down the Nimrodic path to self-exaltation, self-satisfaction and self-sufficiency despite having knowledge of the ways of God. Ultimately, the end times will feature a group of individuals who carry this same defiant and blasphemous mentality, and they too will be judged.
Past iterations of Babylon stand as a warning to all men, especially Gentiles privileged with the opportunity to benefit from the blessings of Israel’s exclusive covenants. For all of mankind, we must learn from the story of Babylon and surrender to the God who first revealed Himself to Israel. It is not time for us to build our own kingdoms, and prioritizing selfish desires is not the Lord’s will. If we do, Paul warns us that our fate will be far worse than captivity Israel endured. It will be as the destruction of Babylon.