Until a decade ago, interest in Iraq (Pictures) was minimal unless one worked for an oil company or the government. Then came the Gulf War. Now global attention has once again focused on Iraq and its rogue dictator, Saddam Hussein.

To those who know God's Word, it should be no surprise that Iraq is headline news in these end times. The Bible speaks numerous times of the area we know as Iraqits history, its people and its future. There are nearly 300 references in Scripture to the land area of Iraq. In fact, it is the second most mentioned geographical area, with Israel being the first. The references to Iraq are found in 18 books of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

Old Testament References
Garden of Eden  The earliest mention of what is today Iraq is in the second chapter of Genesis, where it is the likely location of the Garden of Eden. Gen. 2:8 says, "The Lord planted a garden eastward in Eden." Some anthropologists claim Africa is the birthplace of the human race, but according to this verse, the Garden of Eden would have to be east of Israel, which is the geographical and prophetic center of the world. Ezekiel 5:5 says that Israel is the midst of the land, and in Ezekiel 38:12, it is called the navel of the earth. Duet. 32:8 says that God assigns nations their boundaries with Israel at the center. "Eastward" would refer to a location east of the land of Israel, which is Iraq.

Further evidence for the location of the Garden of Eden being in Iraq is found in Gen. 2:1014, which describes a river with four tributaries that watered Eden. The Euphrates and the Hiddekel, now called the Tigris, still exist. They originate in present-day Turkey, join together in southern Iraq and run into the Persian Gulf. The Pishon and the Gihon are now dried up. Some years ago, Smithsonian magazine ran an article on the location of the Garden of Eden. Satellite pictures revealed that the former river beds of the Pishon and Gihon also flowed into the same single river as the Tigris and Euphrates. The article's author concluded that the Garden of Eden lay at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, which is southern Iraq.

The Tower of Babel The next Biblical reference to Iraq is the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 10 and 11. After the Flood, Nimrod, who was a grandson of Ham and great-grandson of Noah, "began to be a mighty one on earth" and "was a mighty hunter before the Lord" (Gen. 10:8). Some believe that this means he was a tyrannical leader who hunted men. His vast kingdom included Babel, which was the precursor to Babylon (Gen. 10:10).

Genesis 11 relates how the single-language people of this area devised to build a city with a tower reaching to the heavens. This Tower of Babel was likely an occult ziggurat with astrological indications as will be described later. God judged the people for this devilish plan by confusing their language so that they could not understand one another. The name Babel literally means "confusion."

Nineveh Nineveh was a great city located on the banks of the Tigris River in modern-day Iraq. It is also mentioned in Genesis 10 along with other cities built by the mighty Nimrod (Gen 10:11). Nineveh is better known as the wicked city to which God directed Jonah to preach a message of repentance and salvation.

Ur of the Chaldeans  Iraq is the possible location of Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham's birthplace, first mentioned in Genesis 11:28. Two Scripture passages place Ur in Mesopotamia (Gen. 24:10 and Acts 7:2-4), which means "the land between the rivers," referring to the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Although the evidence is not absolutely conclusive, many secular and Bible scholars place Ur in southern Mesopotamia, which is present day Iraq. I agree that Iraq was likely the original area of Abraham's people.

It is ironic that the Israelis trace their physical origins to the very area from which they face possible attack. (Saddam Hussein has threatened to strike Israel if the United States attacks Iraq.) Ongoing demonic tension exists between these two areas, which we will detail later.

The Captivity of the Jews  Most of the mentions of Iraq in the Old Testament involve the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The prophet Jeremiah foretold the siege and fall of Jerusalem and the carrying off to Babylon of the Jews. Isaiah also predicts the eventual fall of the Babylonian king and destruction of the empire. The conquest of Jerusalem is described in II Kings 20, 24 & 25; I Chron. 9:1 and II Chron. 36.

The stories of Esther and of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego take place during the exile in Babylon. Ezra and Nehemiah recount the return of the Jews to Israel after their 70-year exile.

Some of the great prophetic passages of the Old Testament were given to men living in Babylon during the exile. It was there that Daniel received his great prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, the rise of Antichrist and the end times. Ezekiel prophesied the restoration of Israel (the vision of the dry bones) and end time events while in exile in Babylon.

New Testament References
Matthew refers to the captivity of the Jews in Babylon in his genealogy of Christ (Matt. 1:11). The land area of Iraq is mentioned in Acts 2:9 as people from that area were in the crowd on Pentecost. Stephen also spoke of Abraham coming from there (Acts 7:2) and of the Babylonian captivity (Acts 7:43). Peter referred to Babylon as still having a Jewish population in his day (I Peter 5:13).

Most of the references to Iraq in the New Testament are prophetic and speak about the future of Babylon. John calls a future Babylon "a great city" in Rev. 14:8; 17:18 and several verses in chapter 18. A literal interpretation would require the rebuilding of an actual city of Babylon. John also speaks of another Babylon in Rev. 17 as we will detail.

Babylon: Literal or Figurative?
Of all the Biblical references to Iraq, those that speak of a future Babylon are the most significant. The Bible speaks much of Babylon specificallythe name is found 284 times. The majority of these refer to a literal place. In Revelation 18, the word refers to both a place and a religious system. The mention in Rev. 17 is the only place where the term Babylon is strictly figurative.

The literal term Babylon refers to both an empire and a city. The Babylonian Empire was vast. At one time, it spread over a huge area that extended from present day Iraq west to the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt, north into what is now Turkey and south into Saudi Arabia.

The city of Babylon was located on the Euphrates River until about 250 AD. During its greatest prominence, the city was about 200 square miles in size and had walls over 300 feet high and 85 feet wide with 100 gates.

There has been some confusion over whether Baghdad and the city of Babylon are one and the same. During the Gulf War, I recall hearing Christians say, "I guess it's all over with Babylon. We've really bombed that now." The site of ancient Babylon is actually about 55 miles south of Baghdad, and it is probably the most famous archaeological site in all Iraq. It is said that former president George Bush had read a book on prophecy and thus ordered that the ancient ruins of Babylon not be attacked even though the Iraqis had parked military equipment there.

Some Bible scholars believe that Babylon is a code word for Rome, and there have been instances in history where even Roman Catholic authorities identify Rome and Babylon as being synonymous. I believe that when a specific city is named in the Bible, it is literal unless there is textual reason to believe it is figurative. When writing of Rome, Luke (six times in Acts) and Paul (three times in Romans and once in II Tim.) never meant Babylon, nor was Peter referring to the church in Rome when he mentioned the church at Babylon (I Peter 5:13). At the time, Babylon still had a significant population. It was there that Jewish scholars wrote the Babylon Talmud in the 5th and 6th centuries AD.

Mystery Babylon

When John wrote of Babylon in Revelation, it was also of a literal place except for one reference in chapter 17. That obviously figurative reference gives the name Babylon to a mystical religious system that has infected the minds of millions of people throughout history. The references to Babylon in Revelation 18 could be dual references to a literal place and this religious system.

Rev. 17 and 18 forecasts a global religion dominating the economic and political systems in the Great Tribulation. This is depicted as a woman called "Mystery, Babylon the Great" and described as "the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth" (Rev. 17:5). This mystical religious system of Satan is seen as the global fornicator seducing the rulers of the entire world.

The word "mystery" in Scripture means something that is not openly known but which becomes known through God's revelation. Mystery Babylon is a strange world religion crafted by Satan to deceive mankind. Those who belong to Christ know the Truth, but sadly much of the world has been deceived by what appears to be "religion" but is actually lies, corruption and blasphemy.

Mystery Babylon has its beginnings in the fall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14), who thought to make himself like the Most High God. (That same chapter also describes the eventual fall of the King of the Babylonian Empire.) This false religion emerged under Nimrod in Babel (Gen. 11), infected most of the ancient world and is still alive and well today, although not often recognized for what it is. It will ultimately lead to the global worship of Antichrist.

Astrology  In Isaiah 47, a literal Babylon is also feminized in paganism as a woman who is punished for her deep involvement in sorceries and enchantments,  in which she had "labored from [her] youth" indicating that Babylon was evil right from its beginning (Is. 47:12).  These practices are specifically seen as astrology in verse 12. In Babylon, the legitimate study of astronomy degenerated into astrology, and human destiny was linked with celestial bodies and their relative positions at one's birth. Much of modern astrology is based on ancient Babylonian astrology.

When Isaiah foretold the downfall of the literal Babylon, he wrote of the ultimate folly of astrology. Through Isaiah, God declares to Babylon, "You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you from what shall come upon you. Behold they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame. No one shall save you." (Is. 47:13, 14a, 15b)

Mother/Child Cult  This mystical religion called Babylon also includes a strange mother-child cult that began in the city of Babylon. In his fascinating book The Two Babylons, Rev. Alexander Hislop traces the account of this cult from secular sources. In summary, Nimrod married a wicked woman named Semiramis, and they had a son named Tammuz  (there is debate over whether he was actually Nimrod's son or was illegitimate). Legend says that Tammuz died and was raised to life by the power of his mother. Semiramis assumed semi-divine names such as "queen of heaven" and "mother of god." She and her son were worshipped as deities as was Nimrod following his death.

The image of Semiramis with Tammuz became a religious mother and child idol, and the cult spread to the Sidon area (present-day Lebanon). Israel's King Ahab outdid himself when he married Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, King of Sidon (I Kings 16:31). The mother goddess cult infected Israel through wicked Jezebel, who brought Baalism with her. I Kings 16:33 notes that in raising up an altar to Baal, Ahab did more spiritual damage than all the kings before him because he brought Babylonian paganism into Israel.

The ancient ceremony observing the death and resurrection of Tammuz involved a sad time of mourning that turned into a forty-day fast. Special buns were baked in connection with the end of the mourning period. Jeremiah speaks of Jews who were baking cakes and offering incense to the "queen of heaven" (Jer. 7:18; 44:17-19). Among the abominations committed by Israel, Ezekiel was dismayed to see what God called a greater abominationwomen sitting outside the Temple "weeping for Tammuz" (Ezek. 8:13, 14). Jewish women were taking part in the forty-day mourning period for the dead son of Nimrod's wicked wife! It was not long after that God allowed the nation of Israel to be carried off into Babylonian captivity. It was as if He said to Israel, "If you want Babylon, I'll give you Babylon." Strangely, the fourth month of the Jewish calendar is still called Tammuz today.

The mother/child cult made its way into the different religious systems of Egypt, Greece, India and Asia (where it can still be seen) and to Rome where many elements of it were eventually fused into the Christianity of that day. It is often difficult to separate these pagan elements even today. Hislop outlines these extensively in The Two Babylons.

Sadly, much of what is practiced today in Roman Catholicism is a carryover of Babylonian paganism and other forms of pagan idolatry. The mother/child cult is evident in the Madonna and Child and the adoration and worship of Mary. Semiramis was also called Ishtar. In Sidon, the name became Ashtaroth, from which we get our word Easter. In Rome, the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ became blended with the pagan celebration of that same time of year. The 40-day fast and baking of buns related to observing Tammuz' death and resurrection was "christianized" as Lent with the addition of crosses on the buns. Lent is also observed by some Protestant denominations. While it could be argued that many extra-Biblical Christian traditions have their roots in paganism, the Babylonian influence is most clearly seen in the rites of Roman Catholicism.

The "Force" Daniel 11:38 says that Antichrist will worship "the god of forces." Some Bible versions translate this as  "the god of fortresses." Hislop points out that the goddess Diana, who was worshipped in Ephesus (Acts 19:24), was depicted with a tower fortress on her head. Diana is thought to be one and the same as Semiramis since Babylon was a walled city with a tower. The cult of Diana permeated much of ancient society and still fascinates people today. In fact, The New York Times ran a full-page article on it some years ago (8/21/94). Diana is depicted with multiple rows of breasts, which some believe are actually bulls' testicles. It is this same idea of depraved womanhood that John wrote of in Revelation.

The "god of force" from Babylonian paganism can be also be seen in what is known as the New Age Movement. In her book The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, Constance Cumbey quotes New Age material that refers to people entering the "spirit of the God of Force."

The New Age Movement is basically a conglomeration of mystical "theologies" that teaches a type of salvation through "correct" thinking and knowledge. It seeks to combine all religions, cultures, and governments, and its goal is global peace and harmony. It teaches feel-goodism, universal tolerance, and moral relativism. Man is divine, and God is a force that can be manipulated.

My files contain other materials that detail the same phrase in the occult. This idea of a "force" has also seeped into other seemingly legitimate areas. Remember the phrase from the tremendously popular Star Wars films? "May the Force be with you!"

Eventually, the strange mystical religious system called Mystery Babylon will be destroyed. The strange ten-horned beast upon which Mystery Babylon rides (Rev. 17:3) represents the political system under Antichrist. His political forces will eliminate the religious system as seen in Rev. 17:16.

A Future City

Babylon Rebuilt  Ancient Babylon will one day rise again in fulfillment of prophecy. As mentioned previously, I believe this will take place literally. For over 1,700 years, the ruins of Babylon have lain abandoneduntil recently. In my files, however, I have numerous news articles on the rebuilding of Babylon by Saddam Hussein, with the oldest dated 1979. Over 60 million bricks, some bearing Saddam's name, are in place atop ancient bricks with the name of his hero Nebuchadnezzar. The Ishtar Gate has been rebuilt, and the famed Hanging Gardens are on the drawing board. There is even a street map of a new Babylon.

Saddam is trying to make the ancient city into a national showcase of his own personal ambitions. Believing himself a kind of reincarnated Nebuchadnezzar as well as a lineal descendant of Mohammed, Saddam aims to reconstruct the Babylonian Empire. He has erected huge statues of himselfone reportedly at Babylonand demands honor bordering on worship under pain of death. Whether this is the final form of Babylonian rebuilding and paganism remains to be seen.

Some prophecy scholars believe that since Isaiah 13:20 says Babylon will never be rebuilt, all references to a future city are figurative. But Babylon is indeed being rebuilt. The context in Isaiah 13 is "the day of the Lord" (Is. 13:6), a clear reference to the Tribulation to come. The future destruction of the city of Babylon will be the ultimate destruction.

Babylon Destroyed  Jeremiah 50 and 51 predicts a fiery death "as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah" (Jer. 50:40), and Revelation clearly forecasts a fiery end for both the literal Babylon (Rev. 18) and the mystical Babylon (Rev. 17:16). Some reports out of Iraq are that Babylon is being rebuilt to refute these passages. However, rebuilding would not refute them, but would actually result in their fulfillment.

Ancient Babylon was not destroyed by fire. After being conquered by the Persians, Greeks and others, it gradually lost its importance as well as its population and was eventually abandoned. Over time, it was covered with water and sand and forgotten. Therefore, the fiery destruction of Babylon must be future. Jeremiah also forecasts that no one shall live there, also indicating this must be future since some people are living in rebuilt Babylon today.

Babylon's destruction will be in retribution for its treatment of Israel and the Jewish people (Jer. 51:24, 35 & 49). Is it only coincidence that Saddam Hussein, the man who is rebuilding Babylon, also hates Israel and the Jews?

Modern Iraq is the leading threat in global chemical and biological warfare. Iraq has submitted thousands of pages proclaiming their non-involvement regarding weapons of mass destruction, but most knowledgeable analysts dismiss these disclaimers as outright lies, empty diversions or delay tactics. Charges are that Iraq does indeed have chemical, germ and nuclear weapons, some of which are so deadly that they could sicken or kill all the world's population. But this news should come as no surprise to those who study prophecy.

Revelation predicts burgeoning end-time sorcery coming from Babylon (Rev. 18:23). The word for "sorcery" in Rev. 18:23 is the English translation of the Greek word "pharmakeus," which means a druggist, a poisoner or a magician. It is the same word from which we get pharmacy, pharmacists and pharmaceuticals. Another form of the word is translated "witchcraft" in Gal. 5:20 where it means to do the work of a pharmacist in an evil sense. The terms may be used for both chemical and spiritual harm, and both of these can apply to Babylon in the end times. Saddam has already proven to be a wicked "pharmacist." He has gassed his own people!

Babylon and Jerusalem
The story of end-time commotion is really a tale of two cities. A huge landscape stretches 850 miles from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. (Some believe the original land grant given to Abraham and the Jewish people extends all the way across this area and will accommodate the 12 restored Jewish tribes in the Millenium.) At each end of this expanse of land is a city of remarkable Bible importance.

First, there is Babylon. It is second only to Jerusalem in the number of specific mentions in the Bible, and, as we have seen, its role in prophecy is significant.

The other city is Jerusalem, over 800 miles to the west. Jerusalem is the site of Mount Moriah, where Abraham nearly sacrificed his only son, Isaac. David made Jerusalem his capital. Solomon's Temple and the Second (rebuilt) Temple were located there. Jerusalem is the city outside which Christ died and rose again and from which He will rule the entire world in a millennial reign to come.

Babylon and Jerusalem represent spiritual polarity. Babylon is a city of conquest. It was the origin of the attack that destroyed Jerusalem and where the Jews spent 70 years in exile. Jerusalem is the City of Peace. In fact, its very name means peaceYerushalaim (Jeru-shalom). Babylon is the city of farce. Southeast of Babylon is the likely location of the Garden of Eden where Satan deceived Adam, and man entered into rebellion against God. It is the source of astrology, sorcery and pagan worship. Jerusalem is the city of faith. In Jerusalem are Calvary where Christ died and the Garden Tomb from which He arose in victory over death and Satan, thus providing our salvation.

A Better City

We have reached a historic time when the two most significant cities or areas of both Bible history and Bible prophecy are featured in daily news stories. How can this be unless we are speeding toward a prophetic rendezvous with destiny? The Bible said it would be this way. Jerusalem is the geographic center and focus of the Bible, and Babylon will rise again in fulfillment of prophecy. Saddam Hussein may be gone one of these days, but his legacy of placing ancient Iraq and Babylon on the front page will live on until after the Tribulation.

Satan's Territory  The land area of Iraq is Satan's stronghold. The Bible gives us an astonishing look into the territorial demon powers of that area. As mentioned earlier, Daniel received his prophetic visions in Babylon. During this time, Daniel was in deep prayer and mourning for three weeks. While meditating on the banks of the Tigris River, an unnamed angel visits him. This angelic being's message to Daniel gives us the keenest insight into territorial demons we find anywhere in Scripture.

For the 21 days of Daniel's meditation, this angel had been fighting with the "prince of Persia" as he attempted to break through the satanic ranks to bring his message to Daniel. "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days: but, behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, [leader of a rank of good angels] came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia." (Dan. 10:13)

Here is evidence of an unseen world of demonic activity. The "kings of Persia" means this territorial demonthe prince of Persiahas underlings. This is clearly a demonic force since Cyrus, the king (singular) of Persia, is mentioned separately in verse 1. Michael the archangel is mentioned twice more in the Bible (Jude 1:9 and Rev. 12:7), and in both instances, he is fighting with the Devil and his fallen angels.

Persia is the land area of Iraq, and this demonic activity is still going on there today. Some years ago, a friend of mine showed me an astounding book. He had been marvelously saved years before and pledged to help lost and wayward kids. One of the kids he was counseling at the time was into demonism. He got scared and gave my friend a book that contained the actual names of the demonic rulers of all the land areas of the world. One of these was designated as the "Prince of Persia."

The area of Babylon is clearly ruled by a demonic force. Is it any wonder why that area of the world is so troubled? Satan thinks that Babylon is his and that Jerusalem is negotiable. That is why Antichrist will stand up in a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem and proclaim himself God in the ultimate blasphemy during the Great Tribulation (II Thess. 2:3 & 4). The only reason Satan can't take over completely right now is that the Holy Spirit in the Church is restraining this (II Thess. 2:7). As soon as the Church is removed in the Rapture, Satan's plan will all come together in the Tribulation in deceit, then domination and finally in horrible global conflict.

God's Victory But Christ will be the victor and ultimately reign forever. Hymn writer Isaac Watts wrote of the future kingdom of Christ. "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun, Does his successive journeys run; His kingdom spread from shore to shore, Till moons shall wax and wane no more." We are getting closer and closer to that time. Since we can see crucial end time trends developing in Iraq today, then the return of Christ for His completed Church must be close.

Believers have a roadmap of future events, but we have a far better hope for the coming of Christ! The redeemed New Testament Church will not be around when a deceived world worships Antichrist during his blasphemous rule in Jerusalem. Nor will we be here on earth when wicked Babylon is destroyed by fire.

Jesus declared in John 14:6 that He was going away to build us a heavenly home, and when it was finished He would return to take us there. Like nomadic Abraham from ancient Iraq, Christians look for a city "whose builder and maker is God. But now they desire a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them."  (Heb. 11:10, 16)

In another old hymn, Isaac Watts also wrote of the future home of those who love the Lord.  "Come we that love the Lord and let our joys be knownWe're marching through Immanuel's ground to fairer worlds on high. We're marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion; We're marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God."

The real issue is not whether you are prophetically informed but spiritually born again. In receiving Christ, we are prepared for the eventual future whenever it happens. We are also prepared for immediate future, that is the removal of the Churchthose who know Himwhen Christ returns any day now to instantly remove us to Himself.

If you are unprepared for the future, you need to invite Jesus Christ into your heart in simple faith. Anyone who prays to God directly and admits his lost condition and receives Christ into his life is saved. He is forgiven, cleansed, becomes a child of God and is certain of Heaven. "For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." (II Corinthians 5:17)

When this decision is made, we possess eternal life as a positive fact forever! "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life." (I John 5:11-13)

Perhaps you have never prayed before. Pray, "God, I know I am a sinner. I believe Jesus Christ died for me. Come into my life. Forgive my sins and begin living your life in me."

If you have prayed to receive Christ as Savior, please contact us to let us know. We would love to pray for you and send you some material to help you grow in your new life with Christ!
P.O. Box 10, Towaco, N.J. 07082  *  973-334-9081

  David M. Virkler
A New Look At An Old Bible Land
Iraq And The Bible