Babylon is named after the city of Babel, which was founded by a descendant of Noah named Nimrod, who is described as a “mighty hunter before the Lord” (Gen 10:9). Moses tells us that Nimrod founded several cities, namely, “Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar” (Gen 10:10). Shinar is in the region of what is today known as Iraq. Moses wrote about the origin of Babylon, with its values and practices.
Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Gen 11:1-4)
In this passage we observe these early descendants of Noah all spoke the same language and chose to settle in the land of Shinar contrary to God’s previous command to “fill the earth” (Gen 9:1). After settling, they began to use God’s resources of volition, intelligence, language, and building materials to build a city for themselves, as well as a tower into heaven. All of this was done to make a name for themselves, rather than to obey and glorify God. Their big plans and big tower were small in the sight of God, who “came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built” (Gen 11:5). No matter how big their tower, it would never reach heaven, and the Lord condescended to see their production. Of course, the Lord knew all along what they were doing, and this satirical language helps us understand the work of men from the divine perspective. Because it was God’s will for them to fill the earth, He confused their language and scattered them over the earth (Gen 11:6-9). According to Allen Ross:
The Bible teaches that those who exalt themselves shall be abased (Matt 23:12). In this little story the proud rebellion was met by God in talionic judgment. What they feared the most came upon them, and the fame they craved came in the form of notoriety. By such justice God demonstrates his sovereignty over the foolish plans of mortals, turning their rebellion into submission to his will.
Babylon is the birthplace of organized rebellion against God, in which people used the Lord’s resources in defiance of His will. Babylon is mentioned over three hundred times in Scripture, and in several places is identified for her pride (Isa 13:19), idolatry (Isa 21:9; Jer 51:44), sorceries (Isa 47:13), and tyrannical form of government (Dan 1:1-8; 3:1-22). By the time we get to the book of Revelation, Babylon is seen both as a city and a system that promotes religious, political, and economic agendas that are antithetical to God. Babylon is described as a great harlot who influences all of humanity with false religions (Rev 17:1-5), is guilty of persecuting and murdering prophets and saints (Rev 17:6), is a dwelling place of demons and unclean spirits (Rev 18:2), with whom “the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality” (Rev 18:3), and she sees herself as a queen that will never know mourning (Rev 18:7). Eventually, Babylon is completely destroyed just prior to the Second Coming of Christ (Rev 18:2, 10, 21).
Babylonianism is a philosophy of human autonomy that permeates all aspects of society including literature, music, art, politics, economics, business, academic institutions, and culture at large. It is a system of values that start and end with man, and is embraced by the vast majority of people who assign no serious thought of God to their discussions, plans, or projects, but who seek to use His resources independently of His wishes. Babylonianism is also the mother of all world religions, which provide people a system of beliefs and rituals whereby they can work their way to heaven by human effort. There is even a Babylonian form of Christianity, which undermines the grace of God and convinces people they are saved by good works.
Biblical Christianity is not a religion, whereby people bring themselves to God through ritual practices or good works. Rather, it presents the truth that God is holy and can have nothing whatsoever to do with sin (Hab. 1:13; 1 John 1:5), that people are helpless to save themselves (Rom 4:1-5; 5:6-10; Gal 2:16; Tit 3:5), and are under His wrath (John 3:18; 36). The gospel message is that God provided a way for helpless sinners to be saved, and this is through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:3-4), who died in our place on the cross and paid the penalty for our sins (Rom 5:6-8; Heb 10:10-14; 1 Pet 3:18). The simple truth of Scripture is that we are saved by grace alone (Eph 2:8-9), through faith alone (John 3:16), in Christ alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), whose substitutionary death provides forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14), eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28), and the gift of righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9).
Biblical Christianity is more than just a way to be saved. It also provides a structured philosophical framework that tells us why everything exists (i.e. the universe, mankind, evil, etc.) and helps us to see God sovereignly at work in everything, providing purpose for our lives, and directing history toward the return of Christ. This gives us hope for the future; for “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13). When properly understood and applied, Scripture guards us from harmful cultural influences (Phil 4:6-8), and directs and enriches our lives (Psa 119:14, 111). Jeremiah wrote, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts” (Jer 15:16). It sets us free to enjoy God’s world and to pursue righteousness and goodness (Rom 6:11-13; Tit 2:11-14).
As Christians, must be careful that we do not fall into Babylonianism, either by following the lead of those who seek to silence or pervert the voice God, or be enticed by pleasures or activities that lead us to trust in people or things instead of Him. Rather, we must consciously place God at the center of our lives and pursue His glory, and humbly serve others above our own self-interests (Phil 2:4-8).
Dr. Steven R. Cook
- The Gospel Explained
- Living in Babylon
- What is Integrity?
- What it Means to Follow Jesus
- Christians in America
- The Gospel Message
- A Biblical Worldview
 Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 244.