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No, Babylon and the Tower of Babel are Not in Saudi Arabia

From Jim FletcherWND columnist and “now director of the apologetics group Prophecy Matters

A prominent Bible-prophecy teacher claims the true site of the biblical Tower of Babel is in Saudi Arabia and the concept of “Mystery Babylon” actually refers to Mecca, not the Vatican, as some researchers of Scripture claim.

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s no such thing as a “Bible-prophecy teacher”; there are Biblical scholars, some of whom work on Biblical prophecies in historical and literary context, and there are hucksters who instead impose meanings on the texts for their own purposes. In this instance, Fletcher is referring to Walid Shoebat, whose “Bible prophecy” sideline perhaps the most preposterous – although not the most vicious – aspect of the “ministry” through which he collects funds from undiscerning churchgoers:

…Traditionally, many scholars have placed the tower built in an attempt to reach God, recounted in Genesis 11, near Baghdad, Iraq. Some scholars believe “Mystery Babylon” will be located there. Other Bible prophecy teachers insist “Mystery Babylon” refers to the Roman Catholic Church. Shoebat claims these views are incorrect.

He told WND the key is understanding the ancient place names that correspond to modern sites in Saudi Arabia.

…”When it comes to the destruction of end-days Babylon, Scripture makes no mention of any of the ancient Babylonian cities: Nineveh, Ur, Babel, Erech, Accad, Sumer, Assur, Calneh, Mari, Karana, Ellpi, Eridu, Kish, or Tikrit. All of the literal references in Scripture are in Arabia.”

…”Isaiah says, the burden against Arabia,” said Shoebat. “They [other teachers] most of the time look at the traditions – it’s a traditional interpretation – that doesn’t encompass the entire oracle of Scripture.

This builds on Shoebat’s earlier claim that “666” is actually a misreading of the Arabic “in the name of Allah”, and his son’s suggestion that Allah is a Babylonian god of “violence and revolution”.

First, the Tower of Babel: according to the Bible story, Babel is in the “a valley in the land of Shinar”, which had been colonised by people who had moved eastwards. The previous chapter mentions Nimrod’s empire in “Babel, Erech and Accad”. These locations are all in ancient Iraq, and the author may also have been thinking of Mesopotamian ziggurats.  There is absolutely no reason to transpose the story to the peripheral location of Arabia.

Second, “Babylon” in the Book of Revelation: Chapter 17 of the text is an obvious reference to the Roman Empire: the prostitute who bears the name “Babylon the Great” sits on a seven-headed beast: “The seven heads are the seven hills, on which the woman is sitting. The seven heads are also seven emperors”, says the text. Rome, of course, sits on seven hills, and its pagan emperors at the time of writing had begun to persecute the Christians. That’s the context in which the text was written, and the context in which its first readers and listeners would have found it meaningful. The big mistake of “prophecy teachers” is to assume that a difficult text’s full meaning can be discerned only by interpreting it through later events – resulting in a subjective, idiosyncratic, and unhistorical mess.

Third, the “burden against Arabia” in Isaiah 21: this is tacked onto the end of a prophecy about the fall of ancient Babylon (perhaps reworked from a prophecy against Assyria), and a short and obscure passage about Dumah, an oasis in northern Edom. The text urges the inhabitants of Tema to welcome refugees from Dedan: the context is local and specific, and there’s no reason to extrapolate from this short passage to the idea that Arabia is actually a central concern of the author, or to infer that the passage refers to eschatological matters.

Shoebat thinks that “nukes” should “take care” of the Muslim world; and he just so happens to have discovered that the “real” meaning of Bible texts is to warn of the wickedness of a religion that came into existence hundreds of years after the author of Revelation had died. What an amazing coincidence!