This ancient city, located in the plain of Shinar (Gen. 11:2), was named Bab-ilu (Gate of God). A capital city in Mesopotamia, it was first mentioned by name about 2200 B.C. It was one of the oldest human habitations and was apparently built on or near the site of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:3-9). Famous as the capital of Hammurabi (1792-1750 B.C.), it lost its power after 1300 B.C. The city became famous again under Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B.C.), who spent 40 years laboring to make it the most splendid capital known.
Excavations at the site have uncovered the huge brick outer wall of the city. This barrier was 87 feet thick and 350 feet high, with the top forming a road on which four chariots could drive side by side to block attacks. Twenty-five beautiful avenues intersected with 25 others, dividing the city into squares. The royal palace was a magnificent structure, surrounded by a triple wall with huge bronze gates. Nearby were the terraced Hanging Gardens, made by Nebuchadnezzar for his Median queen Amyitis. Irrigation canals and pumps brought water into the heart of the city for the gardens, orchards, and parklands that covered much of Babylon. Small wonder that Nebuchadnezzar would boast as he did (Dan. 4:30).
The Hebrew captives deported to Babylon (Jer. 52:28-30) would have helped to beautify and enlarge the city, but its splendor was not to last. Isaiah foretold its destruction (Isa. 13:19), Jeremiah predicted that it would become a desolate ruin (Jer. 51:37), and Daniel stated that the Medes and Persians would conquer it (Dan. 5:26-28). This prophecy was fulfilled in 538 B.C.
Excavations near the city’s great Ishtar Gate have uncovered a series of tablets written in Babylonian, listing the rations of oil and grain supplied to captives in Babylonia between 595 and 570 B.C. Jehoiachin of Judah was mentioned, thus confirming the historicity of the captivity as described in Kings (II Kings 24:15).