Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Babylon Versus Persia-See Anything Similar with Baghdad and Iran?

Nadene Goldfoot                                                              
Hanging Gardens of Babylon  According to legend, 6th-century Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had a colossal maze of waterfalls and dense vegetation planted across his palace for a wife, who missed her lush homeland. Archaeologists still debate the garden's existence.
Credit: Photo Credit: A 16th century depiction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (by Martin Heemskerck)
Babylonian Empire-604-561 BCE Took Assyrian Empire 

Babylon was another ancient state in Western Asia or as we call it, THE MIDDLE EAST.  It was also known as Babylonia, The Land of Shinar or Kasdim translated as Chaldees. "What developed in this area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers from about 6000-3000 B.C. were the beginnings of western civilization. Here the warrior peoples of Assyria reigned with a fearsome hand over Sumerian and Babylonian culture.  Babylon was the center of Mesopotamian civilization.  

 Also corresponding to today’s Iraq, mostly, but also parts of modern-day Iran, Syria and Turkey was the ancient land of Mesopotamia where the wheel was invented.The Mesopotamians believed that they were co-workers with the gods and that the land was infused with spirits and demon-type beings.   
Babylon:  In existence since 2900) B.C., the city of Babylon, under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.), had spread on both sides of the Euphrates River. It covered 500 acres. Many of the houses were three stories high whose flat roofs were buttressed with timbers packed with mud. For the poor who couldn't afford the luxury of wood, there were circular mud-brick huts, supported by a center post, the walls packed with reeds and mud.
 Today,  IRAQ is a piece of it..   In Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament or Five Books of Moses, Babylon was known as the cradle of humanity and as the scene of man's first revolt against G-d when the people built the Tower of Babel.  Many of the early biblical stories find a parallel in Babylonian literature such as The Flood.  Abraham, father of Ishmael and Isaac, was born in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans.  He then migrated to Canaan where he later fought against Amraphel, King of Shinar (Gen.14).  Amraphel.  was one of 5 kings who united to attack the rulers of Sodom and were defeated by Abraham.  He was not the Babylonian king, Hammurabi.
Marduk-chief god of Babylon- a dragon-  Marduk's symbol animal, the mušḫuššu or "snake-dragon" at the Detroit Institute of Arts. This is a glazed brick relief from the city of Babylon itself, dating to the Neo-Babylonian period.
Babylon was to the prophets of Israel a symbol of insolent pagan tyranny,  They were polytheistic. "Marduk (an important god of Babylon)." "He was the patron god of the city of Babylon, where his temple tower, the ziggurat TT  Etemenanki ("Temple (that is) the foundation of the heavens and the earth") served as the model for the famous "tower of Babel." In the first millennium, he was often referred to as Bel, the Akkadian word for "Lord."

Then there was Hammurabi, the great Babylonian lawgiver. He was also Semitic (1728-1686 BCE)  Some of the laws of Moses resemble Hammurabi's law to start with but then expands it to a better state. Hammurabi's laws concerned various aspects of social life, and its penalties are generally severe, enforcing the Jus Talionis (means a retaliation authorized by law, in which the punishment corresponds in kind and degree to the injury.--eye for an eye).  There is much resemblance between this code and biblical legislation and it has been surmised that both arose from a uniform legal tradition rooted in Mesopotamian culture, but here's where Moses was different.  He, from G-d, had differences resulting from the secular and political nature of Hammurabi's legislation, which is based on custom and obedience to the king's will, in contrast to the religious and ethical nature of the Mosaic Law with its appeal to the human conscience.
Onyx stone image of King Nebuchadnezzar II
The Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II (604-656 BCE) inherited the Assyrian Empire and after his conquest of Judah in 597 BCE and then 11 years later in 586 BCE, exiled many Jews to Babylon.
  That's where the Bible shows how depressed the Jews were and wrote, "By the waters of Babylon there we sat and also wept when we remembered Zion (Jerusalem). On the willows within it we hung our lyres, for there our captors requested words of song from us, with our lyres playing joyous music, "sing for us from Zion's song! " How can we sing the song of Hashem upon the alien 's soil?  If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill.  Let my tongue adhere to my palate, if I fail to recall you, if I fail to elevate Jerusalem above my foremost joy."   

They must have met up with former Jews of Israel of their Lost Ten Tribes there who had been exiled as captives  in 721 BCE, 135 years before.  The descendants of the 27,290  Israelites now met up with the many captives of Judah in Babylon!   They had a large Jewish population in Babylon.  They adjusted to their new surroundings.  Perhaps they felt too comfortable there.

 Awil-Marduk (called Evil-Merodach in the Old Testament; 561-560), the son of Nebuchadrezzar, was unable to win the support of the priests of Marduk (Merodach). His reign did not last long, and he was soon eliminated.  Merodach-Baladan of the 8th century BCE was former king of Babylon.  During the reign of the Judean  King Hezekiah (720-692 BCE) , he sent envoys to Judah to forge political links with that kingdom directed against Assyria.  (II Kings 20:12, etc.).  
King Cyrus II of Persia Reigned (559-536 BCE) 
King Cyrus II of Persia (today's Iran)  died in 529 BCE, .  He had overrun the Babylonian Empire, including Judah and Israel.  He permitted the Jews to return to Judah in 538 BCE and urged them to rebuild their Temple since it had been destroyed.  For this, the returning Jews thought of him as a Divine agent.  They had been in exile for 70 years which is at least 2 generations , most likely 3.  That means that a child who left would come back as a grandparent with grown children who had children.   Many Jews remained where they were. Maybe some of them were born in Babylon.  If they were old and infirm, the trip would be too hard.  Only the physically fit could make such a trip.   Certain towns such as Nehardea, Nisibis, Mahoza were all Jewish populated towns by then.  The Jews' position remained favorable during the many regimes.  A Jewish state was even set up around Nehardea by 2 brothers, Anilai (Anilaos) and Asinai (Asinaios) and it lasted  for a few years.
Cyrus the Great- another title  In the Bible, he is known as Koresh (Hebrewכורש‎)]
For the next 200 years,  both the mass of Jews in Exile in Mesopotamia and in the their homeland in Judah or Israel were under Persian rule.  It was under Persian auspices that there took place the return from exile to their homeland.  Though it was under Persian rule and a Persian province, the people had a degree of autonomy.  This made it easier for people to move from one local to another-all under Persian rule.
Relief of King Darius in Persepolis by درفش کاویانی - Own work.  Darius is mentioned in the Biblical books of HaggaiZechariahEzra–Nehemiah and Daniel.
Queen Esther and "son" King Darius  I (549-486 BCE) inherited the throne from father Cyrus.  He permitted Zerubbabel and the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem to resume reconstruction of the Temple. He was king of Persia who ruled for 35 years, from September 522 BCE to October 486 BCE.  .He was the third Achaemenian king and was considered by many to be “the greatest of the Achaemenian kings.”  

Another explanation of Darius I of Persia was that he was the son of Hystaspes and married Atossa who was the daughter of Cyrus the Great, both being descendants of Achaemenes from different family lines.  marrying a daughter of Cyrus strengthened Darius's position as king.  
 THE BOOK OF ESTHER  of the 4th century BCE- but before 330 BCE-  points out that the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire and Susa, the capital, had Jews living in them.
 Esther- a hidden Jew,  (Hadassah) was married to the Persian King Ahasuerus (King Xerxes I) and staved off a mass slaughter of all Jews in the Persian Empire led by Hamas, the king's adviser.  Hamas was an anti-Semite who thought Jews were too uppity because one wouldn't bow to him.  King Ahasuerus had him and his 7 sons hung in the city square.  This is recorded in the Scroll of Esther and causes Jews to celebrate Purim every year since then.  Haman was the first Hitler.

The Mesopotamian area was controlled by PARTHEA from 250 BCE onward and Persia resumed its existence as a state in 225 CE under the Sassanid dynasty.
Hillel, author of Golden Rule: Do not do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you. 
The Jews of Babylon remained in constant touch with the Jews of Judah and Israel and even supplied some of their leaders, such as Hillel. of 1st century BCE, born in Babylon.   It must be remembered that not all Jews of Judah had been exiled.  Those left in Judah were under the rule of Gedaliah.  When he was assassinated, they may have ruled themselves.  Those who had been deported to Babylon and its expanded area of Mesopotamia had been mainly peasants and craftsmen with their main center at Tel Abib near the Great Canal.  They found encouragement by the confident counsels of Jeremiah, and later were inspired by the ecstatic prophecies of Ezekiel.  So they were able to keep and even fortify their religious identity as Jews.  This exile to Babylon seemed to help the concept of having synagogues and the prayer book and of the canonization of the Scriptures.

Records of the economy was found from the banking-house of Murashu at Nippur.  Imagine, people living that long ago had to pay bills like we do.  Things improved when the ex-king Jehoiachin was released from prison and accorded royal honors in 561 BCE, and it is possible that the institution of an exilarch as head of Babylonian Jewry goes back to this period.
Then, things got worse again under Belshazzar (Besharuzur).  Not working out well, he was overthrown in 538 BCE by Cyrus of Persia who permitted his Jewish subjects to return to Judah if they so desired.
Emperor Trajan-reigned from 98 to 117 CE.   This suppression of risings he brought about  ended the prosperity of the Jewish settlements in Egypt, Cyrenaica and Cyprus.  His oriental policy led to a major clash with Jews.  
During the Roman occupation of Judah, the Babylonian Jews rose against the Emperor Trajan in a bloody revolt which was suppressed by his commander, Lucius Quietus in 116 CE.  Now the Jews in Babylon were under the rule of both Persians and Parthians,(empire of Iranic people).  It ruled over the vast mass of the Jewish population in Mesopotamia, Babylonia and Media.  The Parthians restored Antigonus Mattathias to the throne of Judah in 40 BCE.  The Jews of the Roman empire looked on Parthia as their future savior.  Under their rule, the famous rabbinic schools in Mesopotamia began to flourish.  They enjoyed an extensive measure of internal autonomy with their own leader who was of Davidic descent who happened to be the king's representative, while the community was governed by a council of elders.

It was a creative time.  The Jews of Babylon wrote the Babylonian TALMUD, which reflected a society mainly based on agriculture and crafts.  The Jews were learned in Jewish studies and had produced works of literary merit such as Ezekiel, Daniel, and Tobit.  At the beginning of the 3rd century, Babylon became the main center of rabbinic studies.  The importance of schools founded then was enhanced with the abolition of the Palestinian patriarchate in 425, when Babylon became the spiritual center for all Jewry.

Persecutions in the 5th century led to the Jewish revolt under Mar Zutra II who held out for 7 years but was finally captured and killed.  The Talmud was finished in this period.  The position of the Jews continued to be difficult until the Arab conquest in the 7th century.

The capital of Babylon is today's Baghdad.  Iraq sits on Babylon land.  Baghdad was created in 763 and had a Jewish community living there at its birth.  It became the largest city in the state and the of the Exilarchate and of the Gaonate.  Historian Benjamin of Tudela in about 1170 stated that he found 40,000 Jews living there including many distinguished talmudists.

It was under Mongol rule from 1258 and the Jews were favored people, many achieving high administrative positions.  What happened?  In 1291 there was a massacre of Jews, probably because of the favoritism shown.  Jews enjoy education and hone their skills and this seems to rile masses who do not--a possible reason for anti-Semitism.  The community regrouped later, but Tamerlane captured Baghdad in 1400, so most of the Jews quickly left town.  From the 17th century on when the Turks were ruling and then Baghdad became prominent again.

In the 19th century, Jewish  Baghdad was the mother-community of the new Jewish settlements of India and the Far East, most likely created out of business opportunities and needs.

World War II loomed and by 1939, the Jews numbered 80,000 in Baghdad.  They were important to the economic life of this city as businessmen.  Rashid Ali on April 1, 1941 was an Iraqi Prime Minister who got the position from a pro-Nazi coup and this was accompanied by a pogrom  where hundred of Jews were killed or wounded.  It had been led by 4 Iraqi army generals.*  Going with the Nazis caused " a British invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation until 1947".The Iraqi army was driven out of Fallujah and pursued to Baghdad, which fell within a week. This cleared the way for the nominal restoration of the Regent and the pro-British government. British military occupation of Iraq continued until late 1947."  The Ottoman Empire had gone over to Germany's side in WWI. Evidently their morality suited the Iraqis just fine.  They lost the war both times.  

Israel was created May 14, 1948 and most of the Jews of Baghdad migrated there with only a few going to other countries.  Only some 5,000 remained and these had dwindled to about 200 by 1990 because of their advanced age.  The Jews had been subjected to extreme restrictions and 9 were publicly hanged in 1969 after charges of spying for Israel-most likely not true as I knew a co-teacher whose uncle was one of them, and he was NO spy.
Iranian soldier wearing gas mask
From September 22, 1980 till August 20, 1988, Iraq and Iran had a war that ended in stalemate.  Iraq had invaded Iran.  100,000+ civilians were killed on both sides  (not including 182,000 civilians killed in the Al-Anfal Campaign)  They both came to the point that they were using child soldiers. 

Who would ever dream that Cyrus's  Persia, The Divine Agent of the Jews,   would turn out to be Iran, who wants to destroy Israel and kill Jews today, and is devious enough to get closer every minute in creating an A bomb.  .   It seems the Ayatollahs must spring from Haman's seed  for sure.  So it isn't surprising that Iran is instigating revolt in Iraq and backing the President who is a Shi'a like they are.  They've interfered enough to allow IS to create a caliphate out of Iraq and Syria.  

Resource:  The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Updated 6/5/15

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