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Introduction to Nine Old Testament and New Testament Nations

The following information comes from WILLMINGTON’S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE by Dr. H. L. Willmington TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC. Wheaton, Illinois and since that work was written, new information about these 9 nations may have arsien making some of what follows obsolete.

The information is placed here for research purposes only

 Prior to the great flood there seemed to be no distinct and separate community of nations as we see today. But following the rebellion at Babel they came into existence, each with its own language and (perhaps at a later date) its unique cultural and racial peculiarities. Of the many dozens of nations, nine have played (or will play) an important part in the historical and spiritual development of God’s chosen nation, the people of Israel. These nine are: The Canaanites, Sumerians, Philistines, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. The first eight of this group have already played a historical role. The ninth (Rome) will assume a prophetical part (in addition to the historical role it has previously assumed), for its ancient empire will be revived and ruled over by the fearful antichrist.

The Canaanites


I.    Introduction.

A.    The word Canaanite is a general term for those people living in the Promised Land at the time of Israel’s entrance led by Joshua. They would include the Phoenicians, Philistines, Ammonites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Hivites.

B.    Many of these people were the descendants of Canaan, Ham’s fourth son. (See Gen. 9:22-27; 10:6, 15-20.) The name Canaanite may well have come from him. However, some believe the land was called Canaan by the Phoenicians, who traveled there to secure a purple dye from the Murex shellfish. This trade became so well known that the Greeks referred to the entire area as Canaan, a Greek word meaning blood-red.

C.    Some of the early cities founded by the Canaanites were Gezer, Megiddo, Jericho, Sodom, Gomorrah, and Jerusalem.

D.    The abundance of the land can be seen through the testimony of an Egyptian refugee named Sinuhe who fled to Canaan around 1950 b.c. He writes: “It is a good land…figs and grapes are in it; it has more wine than water, it has much honey and olive oil in plenty; all fruits are upon its trees; limitless barley is there, and all kinds of herds and flocks.” This statement should be compared with Exodus 3:8 and Deuteronomy 8:8. E.    The Canaanites probably invented the alphabet. Theirs consisted of thirty-one alphabetic signs. F.    The first recorded war in biblical history took place between four Mesopotamian kings and five Canaanite kings. (See Gen. 14.)

II.    The Religion of the Canaanites.

A.    It may be stated without exaggeration that the Canaanite religion was the most sexually perverted, morally depraved, and bloodthirsty of all ancient history. It was for this reason that God ordered Joshua to exterminate their very culture, citizens, and cities. (See Deut. 7:1-5; 20:10-15; Josh. 9:24.)

B.    There are three primary sources proving the disgusting debauchery of the Canaanites. 1.    The Word of God. (See Gen. 13:13; 15:16; 18:20; 19:1-11; Num. 25:1-3; Jdg. 19:14-25; 1 Ki. 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; 2 Ki. 23:7.) These verses refer primarily to their sexual sins. 2.    The testimony of Philo of Byblos, a Phoenician scholar, who wrote around 100 b.c. He collected ancient religious materials from his homeland. 3.    The Ras Shamra literature of ancient Ugarit, found in a.d. 1929.

C.    The head god of the Canaanite religion was El. His wife was Asherah. He also married his three sisters, one of whom was Astarte. (See Jdg. 10:6.) El had seventy children, the most famous being Baal. El not only killed his brother, but also some of his own sons. He then cut off his daughter’s head, castrated his father, castrated himself, and compelled his confederates to do the same.

D.    The sister of Baal (and daughter of El) was Anat. She became the vile and vicious goddess of passion, war, and violence. She fought Baal’s enemies. The Baal-epic of Ugarit depicts her as follows: “With her might she mowed down the dwellers of the cities, she struck down the people of the sea-coasts, she destroyed the men of the east. She drove men into her temple and closed the doors so that no one could escape. She hurled chairs at the youths, tables at the warriors, footstools at the mighty men. She waded up to the knees, up to the neck in blood. Human heads lay at her feet, human hands flew over her like locusts. She tied the heads of her victims as ornaments upon her back, their hands she tied upon her belt. Her liver was swollen with laughing, her heart was full of joy. When she was satisfied she washed her hands in streams of human blood before turning again to other things.”

E.    The national god of the Canaanite Ammonites was Molech. (See 1 Ki. 11:5, 7.) An important rite in the worship of Molech was the sacrificial burning of children. Two Judean kings, Ahaz and Manasseh, abandoned the worship of Israel’s true God and actually sacrificed their own children to this murderous Molech. (See 2 Ki. 16:3; 21:6.) Thus, the slaughtering of little ones became a common practice of the Canaanite religion. (See Ezek. 16:20, 21; 23:37.) In excavations at Gezer, an archaeologist named Macalister (1904-1909) found the ruins of a Canaanite temple. Inside he discovered hundreds of urns containing the bones of children from four to twelve years old who had been burned alive. Another horrible practice along this line was called “foundation sacrifice.” This called for the slaughter of a child upon the construction of a house. Its body would then be stuffed into a wall to assume “good luck” to the remaining family.

F.    Some reference has already been made to the sexual perversions of the Canaanites. Its priests were usually notorious homosexuals, and the priestesses common prostitutes. Cult figures, figurines, and other objects have been dug up, some of which are carved idols of human sex organs.

The Sumerians


I.    Rise of the Mesopotamian Cities and Peoples.

 A.    It is speculated that sometime prior to 3000 b.c., the events in Genesis 11 took place. Nimrod, Ham’s grandson, led a rebellion against God by constructing the Tower of Babel.

B.    After the language dispersion, various groups settled all over the Middle East.

C.    By the year 3000 b.c., two groups of people had settled in Mesopotamia, a word meaning, “the land between the two rivers.” These rivers are the Tigris and the Euphrates, both of which flow south into the Persian Gulf.

 D.    One group, called the Akkadians, lived in the upper valleys, and the other group, known as the Sumerians, occupied the lower valleys. This was known as the land of Sumer.

II.    Political History of the Valleys.

A.    Some of the more important cities of the southern area where the Sumerians lived were Eridu, Kish, Lagash, Larsa, Nippur, Umma, Ur, and Urak.

B.    Between 2500-2300 b.c., the kings of Ur had made their city the ruling one over all of Sumer. They then invaded the Akkadians in the north.

C.    Shortly after 2300 b.c., the story changed and the Sumerians were conquered by a powerful Akkadian ruler named Sargon.

D.    According to tradition, as a baby Sargon was left to die in a basket on the Euphrates River. He was found by a gardener who raised him to become a soldier.

E.    Sargon was a superb military leader, organizer, and administrator. He established the first recorded empire in history and united all of Mesopotamia.

F.    His headquarters were in the city of Babylon. He ruled for fifty-six years. Sargon was a great lawgiver.

G.    After his death, however, his children were unable to continue his strong rule. Sumer was then invaded and conquered by a group of barbarian mountain men from the north called the Gutians. They ruled for approximately 100 years (2170-2070 b.c.).

 H.    At this time the Sumerians rallied and drove out the Gutians. The new capital became the thriving seaport of Ur on the Persian Gulf. The greatest ruler of this era was a man called Dungi. He was an able administrator and compiled the Law Code of Dungi, which predated the Code of Hammurabi by some three centuries.

 I.    The Sumerian state ended around 2000 b.c. when some wandering eastern people called the Elamites invaded and conquered Sumer.

III.    The Accomplishments of the Mesopotamians.

 A.    The Sumerians were excellent architects and builders. The city of Ur, for example, had a massive royal palace with huge staircases, large columns, and paneled walls. On these walls were beautiful paintings of humans and animals. The aristocrats lived in homes two stories high, which were built around a courtyard. They also knew how to construct a vault, arch, and a dome. One architectural form (later copied by the Egyptians for their pyramids) was the ziggurat. This was a temple tower with a platform built upon another platform, each one a little smaller than the last. It was probably patterned after the Tower of Babel.

 B.    They used gold and silver and possessed a knowledge of alloys, casting, and setting, which resulted in excellent metal work and jewelry.

C.    Astronomy, mathematics, astrology, mapmaking, and surgery were taught in schools.

 D.    There were numerous songs, legends, and ballads written by the Sumerians. Among the most famous were The Creation and The Epic of Gilgamesh.

 E.    The Sumerians made great strides in mathematics, inventing a numerical system based on the unit of six. They multiplied, divided, and worked in fractions. They had a lunar calendar, with a year of 354 days.

 F.    The kings of ancient Sumeria made use of chariots and their troops were well organized, marching in compact units. They were armed with copper helmets and spears.

G.    They were also very skillful in agriculture, raising great crops of grain, vegetables, and dates. They kept such domestic animals as cows, sheep, and goats. For plowing they made use of oxen while the donkeys pulled their carts and chariots. They also had a flourishing dairy industry.

H.    The Sumerians were the earliest recorded people to write. They employed pictographic symbols, but later changed these symbols into conventional signs, writing them upon soft clay tablets with a stylus. The stylus had a triangular tip and made the strokes in the shape of a wedge. This writing later became known as cuneiform, that is, “wedge-shaped.”

IV.    The Religion of the Mesopotamians.

A.    Religion dominated the lives of the people, as in other civilizations of ancient times.

B.    There were gods for each city and town, and for each characteristic, or phase of nature. A complicated mythology was developed. 1.    Ishtar, the mother-goddess, was the goddess of love and fertility. 2.    Tammuz, the favorite son deity, was the god of spring, flowers, and grain; he also was god of the hereafter, where he lived half of the year, returning to earth each spring. 3.    During the Babylonian dynasty, Tammuz was replaced by a similar god, Marduk of the Amorites.

C.    The Babylonians also worshiped heavenly bodies, which led to a study of astronomy and a strong belief in astrology.

D.    There were sacrifices of all kinds, including human.

 E.    There were temples, altars, and schools run by the priests.

 F.    Omens, oracles, and magic played an important part in religion. 1.    Dreams were deemed important and were interpreted. 2.    The future was often foretold by reading the lines on the liver of a sheep bought for sacrificial purposes.

The Philistines


I.    Introduction.

A.    These sea people settled in Palestine around 1200 b.c., having traveled from the Isle of Crete (Caphtor). (See Deut. 2:23; Jer. 47:4; Amos 9:7. They came from the line of Ham, through his second son Mizraim (1 Chron. 1:12). Because of this they were distantly related to the Egyptians.

B.    It is thought that, en route to Palestine, they may have destroyed the Hittites and the great ancient Syrian city of Ugarit. In 1190 b.c. they attempted to invade Egypt but were repulsed by Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses III. After this they settled on the upper coastline and gave Palestine its name.

C.    The Philistines formed a five-city league called the Pentapolis. This consisted of Gaza, Ashdod, Askelon, Ekron, and Gath. Each city was ruled by a lord.

D.    The Philistines were very religious, worshiping Dagon (the grain god), Ashtaroth (god of propagation), and Baal-zebub (god of habitation). (See 1 Sam. 5:4; 31:10; 2 Ki. 1:2.) Baal-zebub later became known as Beelzebub, meaning “the prince of demons” (Mt. 12:24). The Philistines celebrated their victories in the house of their idols (1 Sam. 31:9) and often carried their gods into battle (2 Sam. 5:21).

 E.    The main reason for their early victories over Israel was their possession of the “atomic bomb” of the day, iron smelting. This they probably learned from the Hittites, who were the first to rediscover this method after the great flood. (See 1 Sam. 13:5, 19-22.)

 F.    The Philistines were the “boozers” of their day, consuming great quantities of barley beer.

II.    The Bible and the Philistines.

A.    Shamgar and Samson fought with them (Jdg. 3:31; 13:1; 15:20).

 B.    Jonathan, Saul’s son, defeated them (1 Sam. 14:1-47).

C.    They were eventually driven back to the coast by Samuel (1 Sam. 7:12-14).

D.    Jonathan, Saul’s son, defeated them (1 Sam. 14:1-47).

E.    Saul lost to them and was killed in the battle (1 Sam. 31).

F.    David fought with them (1 Sam. 17; 2 Sam. 5).

G.    They were totally subjected by the time of Solomon (1 Ki. 4:21).

The Egyptians


I.    Introduction.

A.    Egypt, like Mesopotamia, saw the rise of the earliest record of man (apart from the Bible). Egypt was protected on all sides by natural barriers. The sea on the north and deserts on the south, east, and west had to be crossed by any would-be enemy.

B.    Egyptian civilization is really a gift from the Nile River. The longest river in the world (4037 miles), it starts at Lake Victoria in North Africa and flows north, ending in the Mediterranean Sea.

C.    The Nile winds make two-way navigation on the river easy. Ships going north would simply drift downstream, while those vessels headed south would raise their sails and be pushed against the up-river current.

D.    Because of the lay of the land, upper Egypt is really in the south (being higher) and lower Egypt is located north at the delta, where the river parts into seven currents and pours into the sea.

E.    The rulers of upper Egypt (south) wore a white crown, while those of lower Egypt (north) wore a red crown.

II.    The Dynasties of Egypt.

The period from 3300 b.c. to the reign of Alexander the Great (330 b.c.) was divided politically into thirty dynasties by Manetho, a historian of the third century b.c.

III.    A Basic Outline of Egypt’s History.

A.    Early dynastic period—3000-2700 b.c. Dynasty 1 and 2. Capital at Memphis—biblical Noph (Isa. 19:13; Jer. 2:16; 46:14, 19; Ezek. 30:13, 16). Note: A ruler named Menes was the first king of the thirty dynasties. It is thought that he was the Mizraim of Genesis 10:6. Mizraim was the second son of Ham.

B.    Old kingdom—2700-2200 b.c. Dynasty 3 to 6. During this time the great pyramids were constructed.

C.    First intermediary period—2200-2000 b.c. Dynasty 7 to 10.

D.    Middle kingdom—2000-1800 b.c. Dynasty 11 and 12. Capital moved to Thebes (biblical No) (Jer. 46:25; Ezek. 30:14-16; Nahum 3:8). This was the time of the artistic decorations of the tombs.

E.    Second intermediary period—1500-1600 b.c. Dynasty 13 to 17. The Hyksos, Asian overlords, ruled from 1674-1567 b.c., during the fifteenth to seventeenth dynasties.

F.    New kingdom—1600-1100 b.c. Dynasty 18 to 20. The age of Egypt’s supreme power and wealth. During this time the children of Israel were in Egypt and the Exodus took place.

G.    Post-empire period—1100-300 b.c. Dynasty 21 to 30. During dynasty twenty-two Shishak ruled (1 Ki. 11:40; 14:25-27; 2 Chron. 12:2-12). During dynasty twenty-six, Pharaoh Necho ruled (2 Ki. 23:28-30, 33-35; 2 Chron. 35:20-24; 36:4; Jer. 46:2). Persian rule—525-332 b.c. Ptolemaic period—300-30 b.c. Alexander the Great—332-323 b.c. Ptolemy I–XII—304-51 b.c. Cleopatra—51-30 b.c. Of these seven periods, the most important events transpired during the old, middle, and new kingdoms.

IV.    A Brief History of Important Events.

A.    The old kingdom (2700-2200 b.c.). Includes dynasties 3-6. 1.    The first pyramid was built by Pharaoh Zoser. It was probably copied and improvised upon from the ziggurats of Mesopotamia. Zoser was of the third dynasty. 2.    Pharaoh Khufu (also called Cheops) of the fourth dynasty ordered the construction of the great pyramid. The Greeks considered this pyramid one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It took some 100,000 men over twenty years to complete it. The base of the pyramid is 755 feet; limestone blocks, each weighing two-and-a-half tons, were used. 3.    The great Sphinx was built for Pharaoh Khafre (son of Khufu), also of the fourth dynasty. It had a lion’s body and a Pharaoh’s head. The body is 240 feet long and 66 feet high. Its face is thirteen feet wide. 4.   

Pepi II, of the sixth dynasty, was the final and most powerful king of the old kingdom. He ruled for more than ninety years. Shortly after his death, the old kingdom came to an end. For the next 200 years (2200-2000 b.c.) there was political chaos in Egypt as one invader after another crossed the deserts and disrupted life. Irrigation and building projects fell into ruin and civil war raged as three ambitious families tried to set up their own government. This is sometimes called the feudal age, and consisted of dynasties 7-10. The patriarch Abraham visited Egypt during this period (Gen. 12:10-20) around 2085 b.c.

B.    The middle kingdom (2000-1800 b.c.). Includes dynasties 11, 12. 1.    Pharaoh Amenhotep I, of the eleventh dynasty, reunited Egypt. He and his successors began rebuilding the country and developing world trade.

2.    It was during the final part of the middle kingdom period, around 1897 b.c., that Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery (Gen. 37) and Jacob, his father, moved to Egypt (Gen. 46) in 1875 b.c. Similar conditions of turmoil and warfare which had marked the last years of the old kingdom prevailed during the final period of the middle kingdom. Shortly after 1700 b.c., a group of invaders called the Hyksos (shepherd kings) moved into the Delta from Syria and Asia and conquered northern (lower) Egypt. The Hyksos had war chariots pulled by horses. They used two-edged daggers and swords. The bows were of a powerful double-curved nature and shot bronze-tipped arrows. The Egyptians, untrained and almost unarmed, were no match for them. The Hyksos stopped all work on the pyramids, introduced new gods, and attempted to simplify the Egyptian language. The total time period of this second intermediary period would be from 1800-1600 b.c., covering dynasties 13-17. It is thought by some (but not all) that the Hebrew oppression began in Egypt at this time (Ex. 1) around 1730 b.c. In 1580 a rebellion led by Egyptian soldier Ahmose I successfully drove out the hated Hyksos invaders.

C.    The new kingdom (1600-1100 b.c.). Includes dynasties 18-20. 1.   

Ahmose I and his successors spent much of their time rebuilding Egypt. An intense spirit of nationalism prevailed. Many believe it was during this time and for these reasons (need for cheap labor and suspicion of all foreigners) that the Hebrew oppression in Egypt began.

Thus, all the Pharaohs mentioned in the book of Exodus would come from the famous eighteenth dynasty.


a.    The “new king” who “knew not Joseph” of Exodus 1:8, would be Thutmose I (1539-1520 b.c.). Moses was born in 1525 b.c.

b.    The “daughter of Pharaoh” of Exodus 2:5 was Hatshepsut, who raised Moses and took over the throne of Egypt when her husband Thutmose II died.

c.    The pharaoh who sought to kill Moses of Exodus 2:15 was Thutmose III, step-son of Hatshepsut, who bitterly hated the queen and deposed her. Upon his coming to power, Moses, a friend of Hatshepsut, would naturally suffer Thutmose III’s wrath also.

d.    The pharaoh during the ten plagues of Exodus 5:1 was Amenhotep II. This pharaoh’s tomb was never finished. This may be explained in Exodus 14:8-31 where we are told Pharaoh and his armies perished in the Red Sea crossing attempt. Furthermore, his son never ruled over Egypt. Again, Exodus 12:29 may account for this, as we are told the pharaoh lost a child in the Passover death plague.

2.    The more important rulers during this period belonged to the famous eighteenth dynasty. Some have already been mentioned.

A few from the new kingdom period are:

a.    Ahmose I. The first ruler of the eighteenth dynasty, and one who helped drive out the Hyskos, thus reuniting Egypt.

b.    Hatshepsut. The one who raised Moses and first queen to assume the godship with the kingship of Egypt. She wore a double crown and false beard.

 c.    Thutmose III. The step-son of Hatshepsut who hated her with a passion and was finally able to depose her. Thutmose III was one of the greatest of all Egyptian pharaohs. He is called the Alexander the Great and Napoleon of Egypt. His empire stretched from the Sudan to northern Syria. He was pharaoh when Moses fled Egypt at age forty. He left Egypt so secure that it remained the greatest power of its time for many decades.

d.    Amenhotep II. The pharaoh of the ten plagues. e.    Amenhotep III. The Egyptian empire reached its zenith during his reign. He was called Amenhotep III the Magnificent.

f.    Amenhotep IV. He is better known as Akhnaton, and attempted to change the polytheistic religion of Egypt to worship of the sun god, Aton. He may have been influenced by the power of the true God which was demonstrated during the ten plagues. Amenhotep IV married a beautiful woman named Nefertiti. Many paintings and statues have been found of this couple. It is interesting to note that ancient records have been unearthed (the El-Amarna tablets found in a.d. 1880) which include urgent messages from certain Canaanite kings in Palestine to Amenhotep IV for Egyptian help in repulsing a group of invading people called the Hapirus. It is thought by some (but many would disagree) that the Hapirus were in reality the Hebrews as led by Joshua.

g.    Tutankhaton. He was the son-in-law of Amenhotep IV. In a.d. 1922 his tomb was discovered by Howard Carter. The tomb contained over $100,000 in gold alone. Tutankhaton’s mummy had been placed inside three golden cases and put in a stone sarcophagus. The coffin was then enclosed in four gilded wooden outer cases. He began ruling at age ten in 1361 b.c. and died at nineteen.

 h.    Ramses II. He was the last powerful Pharaoh and one of the most boastful, ruling for some sixty-seven years. He signed the first recorded treaty in history (around 1250 b.c.) with the Hittites.

 i.    Ramses III. He is remembered for defeating the Philistines in a pitched sea battle in 1190 b.c. From this point on it was downhill all the way for Egypt. The only other important Pharaoh in biblical history was Necho II of the twenty-sixth dynasty. He killed the godly Judean king, Josiah (2 Ki. 23:29), and was soundly defeated by the Babylonians at the battle of Carchemish in 605 b.c. (Jer. 46:2).

The Babylonians


I.    Introduction.

 A.    Between the years 2000-1800 b.c., Mesopotamia was controlled by an eastern group of people called the Elamites. (See Gen. 10:22; 14:1, 9.) They are commonly known to us today as the Persians.

B.    In 1760 b.c. the Elamites were driven out of Mesopotamia by a people living west of the Euphrates, called the Amorites. The victorious Amorite general who led this invasion was named Hammurabi. With him began the old Babylonian kingdom. After his death it would almost immediately disintegrate, and remain in pieces for nearly 1000 years until the coming of a Chaldean soldier named Nebuchadnezzar, who would establish the new (and second) Babylonian kingdom.

II.    The Old Babylonian Kingdom.

A.    In 1760 Hammurabi conquered the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and made the city of Babylon on the Euphrates his capital.

B.    The chief Babylonian god was Marduk. Hammurabi claimed he was Marduk’s representative on earth, thus establishing the divine right of kings to rule.

C.    He is known not only as the founder of the Babylonian Empire, but also for the Code of Hammurabi. This included a set of laws, some 300 in number, which controlled the social, political, and economic aspects of Babylonian life. Hammurabi did not invent these laws, but simply codified and summarized what had already been given by a former Sumerian lawgiver named Dungi, some 300 years previous.

D.    The old Babylonian empire prospered all during his reign. Finally, after ruling for forty-two years, he died. Shortly after his death in 1708 b.c., a group of warriors from Asia Minor called the Hittites conquered Mesopotamia and the old Babylonian kingdom was no more. The Hittites were the descendants of Heth. (See Gen. 10:15; 23:3-20; 27:46.)

E.    For approximately 170 years the Hittites controlled the Babylonian kingdom area. Finally, in 1530 b.c., they were subdued by the Kassites, a people living in northern Mesopotamia. (See Gen. 2:13; 10:8.) They controlled the area for nearly 400 years, being themselves finally driven out by the Assyrians and the Elamites.

III.    The New Babylonian Kingdom.

A.    Around 620 b.c. a group of people known as the Chaldeans rebuilt the city of Babylon, which had been burned to the ground by the Assyrians in 721 b.c. After the citizens had attempted a revolt, the Chaldeans came from the southern end of Mesopotamia, and were led by a man named Nabopolassar. He then became governor of the city of Babylon. Shortly after this he arranged for his son to be married to the daughter of the king of Media, who ruled a power structure north of Mesopotamia. In 612 b.c. Nabopolassar’s famous son, Nebuchadnezzar, led an allied attack of Babylonians and Medes against Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria.

 B.    The revolt was successful, thus giving birth to the new Babylonian kingdom.

C.    In 606 b.c. Nebuchadnezzar defeated the remaining challenger, Egypt, at the famous battle of Carchemish. Nebuchadnezzar pursued the fleeing Egyptians as far west as Jerusalem. His first visit to Jerusalem was short, for he hurried home on August 15, 605 b.c., because of the sudden death of his father. But before he finished, he would lay siege to the Holy City on at least three occasions and ultimately burn it to the ground.

These occasions were:

1.    605 b.c. He occupied the city, allowed Jehoiakim (Josiah’s son) to rule as his puppet king, took some of the Temple treasures and key royal descendants to Babylon. Among this group of teenagers were Daniel and his three friends (2 Chron. 36:6, 7; Dan. 1:1-3).

2.    597 b.c. He came again and took the rest of the treasures to Babylon along with Ezekiel the prophet, King Jehoiachin (Jehoiakim’s son), and 10,000 princes, officers, and chief men (2 Ki. 24:14-16). This occurred on March 16, 597.

3.    586 b.c. He returned once more to punish the rebellion led by Zedekiah, Judah’s last king. This time the walls were broken, the Temple destroyed, and the city burned. Zedekiah’s sons were killed and he himself was blinded and carried into Babylon where he would die. He then began the extensive improvement of the city of Babylon. (See Dan. 4.) It became the capital of his kingdom. The walls around the city were 300 feet high, and eighty-five feet thick. They were built as a square, with each side nine miles long. The area inside occupied some 200 square miles—about the size of New York City today. Babylon was founded by Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah (Gen. 10:8-10).

Surviving a series of conflicts, it became one of the most magnificent and luxurious cities in the known world. Superbly constructed, it spread over an area of fifteen square miles, the Euphrates River flowing diagonally across the city. The famous historian Herodotus said the city was surrounded by a wall 350 feet high and eighty-seven feet thick—extending thirty-five feet below the ground to prevent tunneling, and wide enough for six chariots to drive abreast. Around the top of the wall were 250 watchtowers placed in strategic locations. Outside the huge wall was a large ditch, or moat, which surrounded the city and was kept filled with water from the Euphrates River.

The large ditch was meant to serve as an additional protection against attacking enemies, for any attacking enemy would have to cross this body of water before approaching the great wall. Within this wall were one hundred gates of brass. But in addition to being a bastion for protection, Babylon was a place of beauty. The famous hanging gardens of Babylon are still on record today as one of the seven wonders of the world. Arranged in an area 400 feet square, and raised in perfectly cut terraces one above the other, they soared to a height of 350 feet. Viewers could make their way to the top by means of stairways which were ten feet wide. From a distance these hanging gardens presented an imposing sight.

The tower itself sat on a base 300 feet in breadth and rose to a height of 300 feet. The great temple of Marduk, adjoining the Tower of Babel, was the most renowned sanctuary in all the Euphrates Valley. It contained a golden image of Bel and a golden table which together weighed not less than 50,000 pounds. At the top were golden images of Bel and Ishtar, two golden lions, a golden table forty feet long and fifteen feet wide, and a human figure of solid gold, eighteen feet high. Babylon was literally a city of gold. (See Isa. 14:4.) The city had fifty-three temples and 180 altars to Ishtar.

D.    Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 b.c.

E.    After several brief reigns by weak men, Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by Nabonidus, who had married Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter. He ruled from 556-539 b.c. After becoming weary of the crown, he left the city of Babylon in control of his son, Belshazzar, and retired to the east, to become the first archaeologist recorded in history.

F.    On October 13, 539 b.c., the city of Babylon was taken by the allied forces of the Medes and Persians. Belshazzar was slain and the new Babylonian kingdom was no more. (See Dan. 5.)

G.    The Babylonians excelled in astronomy (a scientific study of the stars and planets) and astrology (a religious interpretation of that study). They also were great builders. Nebuchadnezzar built the famous hanging gardens to satisfy his homesick wife, Ametis, who often longed for the mountains of her native land, Media. His own palace covered seven acres. The banquet hall alone was 171 feet long by sixty-five feet wide—over 11,000 square feet.

The Assyrians


I.    Introduction.

 A.    Without doubt the cruelest people in ancient history, and among the cruelest that ever lived, were the Assyrians. They conquered and ruled by sheer brute terror. They took over Mesopotamia around 1200 b.c.

B.    They instituted the method of depopulating a subdued enemy nation. The citizens of a defeated country would thus be carried from their homeland to Assyria as slaves. Their land would then become available for homesteading to those foreigners who desired to live there.

C.    The Assyrians developed the science of siege warfare, whereby battering rams and other equipment were used in destroying enemy walls and fortifications.

 D.    They also were the founders of the “pony express” system. Through this ancient “postal system” the king was kept in close touch with his governors.

 E.    They built temples and palaces with massive gateways, stairs, towers, and arches. Huge palaces were constructed for their kings. The home of Sargon II at Khorsabad occupied twenty-five acres, with over 200 large rooms, and housed 80,000 guests.

F.    The capital and most important city of Assyria was Nineveh. Nineveh lay on the eastern side of the Tigris, and was one of the greatest—if not the greatest—of the cities of antiquity. It had 1,200 towers, each 200 feet high, and its wall was 100 feet high, and of such breadth that three chariots could drive on it abreast. It was sixty miles in circumference, and could, within its walls, grow corn enough for its population of 600,000. Zenophon says the basement of its wall was of polished stone, and its width fifty feet.

In the city was a magnificent palace, with courts and walls covering more than 100 acres. The roofs were supported by beams of cedar, resting on columns of cypress, inlaid and strengthened by bands of sculptured silver and iron; its gates were guarded by huge lions and bulls sculptured in stone; its doors were of ebony and cypress encrusted with iron, silver, and ivory, and paneling the rooms were sculptured slabs of alabaster, and cylinders and bricks with cuneiform inscriptions. Hanging gardens were filled with rich plants and rare animals, and served with other temples and palaces, libraries and arsenals, to adorn and enrich the city; and all was built by the labor of foreign slaves.

II.    Important Assyrian Kings.

A.    Tiglath-pileser I (1114-1076 b.c.). He was one of the earliest powerful kings. He called himself ruler of the earth and claimed to have personally killed four huge buffalo, ten elephants, and 120 lions.

B.    Ashur-nasir-pal (883-859). The great foreign expansion invasions began with this king.

C.    Shalmaneser III (858-824). He is not known in the Bible, but his records tell us that King Ahab was involved in a war with him. He was the son of Ashur-nasirpal.

D.    Tiglath-pileser III (746-728). This Assyrian general usurped the throne and revived the empire which had degenerated for some eighty years after the death of Shalmaneser III. He is often referred to in the Bible (2 Ki. 15:29; 16:7, 10). At a time of dispute between Israel and Judah, the king of Judah foolishly called on him for help. Soon after, Tiglath-pileser invaded Israel and carried off many of the citizens of the two-and-a-half tribes living east of Jordan (2 Ki. 15:29, 30). This Assyrian king really developed the army into a world-famous fighting machine.

E.    Shalmaneser V (727-722). He captured and imprisoned Hoshea, the last northern king of Israel (2 Ki. 17:1-6), and died while laying siege to Samaria.

F.    Sargon II (721-705). He was Shalmaneser’s general who finished the sacking of Samaria. He is mentioned in Isaiah 20:1. Sargon was later assassinated.

G.    Sennacherib (705-681). He was the able son of Sargon II. At the time of his father’s death, Sennacherib was governor of the city of Babylon. He later destroyed Babylon for their attempt to rebel. Sargon II surrounded Jerusalem in 701 b.c. and demanded that King Hezekiah surrender. But God saved the city by sending his death angel, who slew 185,000 Assyrian troops (2 Ki. 18-19; 2 Chron. 32; Isa. 36-37). Sennacherib was later himself murdered by one of his own sons.

H.    Esarhaddon (681-669). He rebuilt Babylon, which had been destroyed by Sennacherib his father. Esarhaddon was a great king and may have been the one who imprisoned the Judean king, Manasseh, in Babylon for awhile (2 Chron. 33).

I.    Ashurbanipal (668-626). He allowed various foreigners to move into the depopulated northern kingdom territory and homestead the land. This was the beginning of the Samaritan race (2 Ki. 17:24). He was the last powerful Assyrian king. The empire survived only fifteen years after his death. The capital city of Nineveh fell in 612 b.c.

History tells us that Nabopolassar, king of the Babylonian invasion forces, besieged the city for three years, leading three massive attacks against it, and failing each time. Because of this, the Assyrians inside Nineveh rejoiced and began holding drunken parties. But suddenly the Tigris River overflowed its banks and sent its wildly churning waters against the walls of the city. Soon it had washed a hole, into which rushed Babylonians, and the proud city was destroyed.

The destruction of Nineveh was so great that Alexander the Great marched his troops over the same desolate ground which had once given support to her mighty buildings and did not even know there had once been a city there. The city itself was not excavated until as recently as a.d. 1845.

The Persians


I.    Introduction.

A.    For some 220 years (550 to 330 b.c.) the Persians ruled what was at that time the most extensive empire in history.

B.    They established one of the best systems of government and developed the largest political systems known until the Roman Empire. Their kingdom was divided into twenty-one provinces called satrapies. The superior justice of their code of law was also seen, in that even kings were subjected to it.

C.    Their two main capitals were Susa and Persepolis.

D.    Like the Assyrians before them, the Persians made great usage of the “pony express” system, stationing horses each fourteen miles. In this manner important news could reach the king from the outposts of the empire in less than ten days.

 E.    Many believe the Persian palaces were the most beautiful ever built.

F.    The main Persian teacher was Zoroaster, born around 600 b.c. He developed a system of dualism, consisting of good (demonstrated by light) and evil (illustrated by darkness). Zoroaster taught (in crude form) the bliss of heaven for the righteous, and the sufferings of hell for the wicked. He also taught future judgment. Although a pagan, and much in error, Zoroaster was apparently the first unsaved man after the great flood to found a world religion which included these biblical concepts. The Persians were also remarkably tolerant in allowing those peoples conquered by them to continue their various religious worship systems.

G.    The Persians were great lovers of dogs. In no other ancient civilization has this noble animal fared so well. It was believed a stare from a dog could frighten off a demon. To strike a dog was a crime and to neglect a puppy was as serious as neglecting a human baby.

II.    A Brief Chronological History of Persia.

A.    By 550 b.c. a Persian general had subdued the Medes and united them into a top fighting force with the Persians. Prior to this time they had been dominated by that nation.

B.    The name of this Persian was Cyrus the Great, one of the most important men ever to live. In 547 b.c. he conquered Croesus, the fabulously rich king of Lydia (that land between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea). Cyrus used camel troops to accomplish this.

 C.    After this he conquered all those territories as far east as the Indian borders. He finally turned to Babylon. In 536 b.c. he took the city of Babylon and had Belshazzar executed. (See Dan. 5.)

D.    Cyrus then allowed the Jewish remnant to return to Jerusalem a few years later. (See Ezra 1.) He died in battle in 529 b.c. Cyrus is mentioned often in the Bible. (See Ezra 1-5; Isa. 44:28; 45:1; Dan. 1:21; 6:28; 10:1.)

E.    He was succeeded by his son Cambyses II (529-522) who conquered Egypt. The Temple rebuilding in Jerusalem was stopped for awhile by royal order during his reign. (See Ezra 4:7, 11.) Cambyses committed suicide while learning of a revolt against him.

F.    Darius the Great (522-486) took over and saved the crumbling empire by restoring law and order. Darius was very cruel. When the city of Babylon attempted a revolt, he crucified 3000 of its leading citizens. He did, however, allow the temple work (that Cambyses had stopped) to continue (see Ezra 6:1-12).

In 490 b.c., Darius the Great led a huge fleet of 600 ships carrying some 60,000 Persian crack cavalry and foot soldiers to capture Athens and subdue the Greek civilization. But he was soundly defeated on a small plain called Marathon by the brilliant Greek general, Miltiades. In spite of the vastly numerical superiority of the Persians, the Greeks outcircled their foes and cut them down like overripe wheat. The battle of Marathon is listed as number six in the book, History’s 100 Greatest Events, by William A. DeWitt.

G.    Xerxes (486-465), the son of Darius, then reigned. He was the King Ahasuerus of the book of Esther. In the spring of 480 b.c., Xerxes crossed the Dardanelles with over 100,00 men and hundreds of ships. History tells us Xerxes wept while watching the dazzling display of his smartly marching armies, all carrying their brightly colored flags and banners. When asked why he wept, the king replied, “Because I know all this military glory is but for a moment and will soon fade away forever. Because in much less than one hundred years from now every man present here today will have died, myself included.”

Disaster struck soon after, for he lost 400 ships in a severe spring storm at sea. In blind frustration and anger, Xerxes beat upon the stormy waters with his belt. Upon landing in Greece, his proud Persian troops were stopped for an entire day at the mountainous pass called Thermopylae. Here, a Greek captain named Leonidas and his 300 brave Spartan soldiers held back the entire invading army for twenty-four hours, inflicting great losses on them, and allowing the much smaller Greek army to carry out an orderly retreat to safety.

Xerxes eventually broke through and burned Athens to the ground. But most of its citizens had escaped to the island of Salamis. The king then set sail for Salamis, confident of victory, for he outnumbered his enemy at least three to one. But the smaller and swifter Greek fighting boats had mastered the art of ramming. Soon, before his horrified eyes, Xerxes viewed the slaughter of his proud navy. He left for Persia a defeated man. The remaining troops were put under the command of General Nardonius. One year later, Nardonius was defeated and killed in a pitched battle at Plataea in 479 b.c.

The Persian Empire was then dealt the final death blow. J. F. C. Fuller’s well-known book, The Decisive Battles of the Western World, lists the battles at Salamis and Plataea among the most important in recorded history.

 H.    Artaxerxes (465-423), was the son of Xerxes I and the king in the time of both Ezra (Ezra 7:1) and Nehemiah (Neh. 2:1).

I.    Darius III (335-331 b.c.). The Persian Empire was destroyed during his short reign, by Alexander the Great.

The Greeks


I.    Background.

A.    From 546-479 b.c. the Greek states were constantly threatened by Persian invasions. But this all ended after the victorious battles of Salamis and Plataea.

B.    Shortly after these battles, Greece entered its Golden Age, led by an Athenian democratic leader named Pericles (461-429 b.c.). A number of its citizens would become some of the most famous who ever lived. 1.    Herodotus (485-425), the father of history. 2.    Hippocrates (460-370), the father of modern medicine. 3.    Socrates (469-399), philosopher. 4.    Plato (427-347), philosopher. 5.    Aristotle (384-322), philosopher. 6.    Demosthenes (385-322), one of history’s greatest composers of oration.

C.    However, the Golden Era was short-lived, for two of the leading Greek city states, Sparta and Athens, began fighting among themselves. Their three armed conflicts are known as the Peloponnesian wars (from 459-404 b.c.). Sparta came out ahead after these wars.

II.    The Rise of Alexander the Great.

 A.    In 338 b.c., a man from Macedonia conquered Greece. He was assassinated two years later, in 336 b.c. His name was Philip of Macedon (380-336 b.c.).

B.    Philip was succeeded by his son, Alexander the Great, who would soon become one of the world’s most famous conquerors. He was twenty at the time. He immediately prepared to carry out his father’s orders to invade Persia.

C.    In 334 b.c. he crossed the Hellespont (which separated Asia Minor from the Middle East). 1.    He defeated the Persians at Granicus in 334 b.c. 2.    He routed them again at Issus in 333 b.c. 3.    He destroyed Tyre, spared Jerusalem, and was welcomed by Egypt. Here he founded the city of Alexandria. 4.    He forever crushed the Persians at Arbela in 331 b.c.

D.    In 327 he invaded India. At this time he also laid plans to rebuild the city of Babylon to its former glory. But in India he died in 323 b.c. at the age of thirty-two.

E.    His mighty empire was soon divided by his four generals.

1.    Ptolemy—who ruled Egypt. Cleopatra came from this line.

2.    Seleucus—who took Syria. From Syria came the notorious Antiochus Epiphanes IV (176-163 b.c.).

3.    Cassander—who took Greece and Macedonia.

4.    Lysimachus—who ruled Asia Minor.

The Romans


I.    The Making of the Roman Empire.

 A.    The traditional date for the founding of Rome is April 21, 753 b.c. Cicero says the name came from its founder, Romulus. He ruled for thirty-nine years and then mysteriously disappeared, having supposedly been taken up into heaven.

 B.    By the year 338 b.c., Rome controlled central Italy.

C.    Then came the historic Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, with the latter being destroyed in 146 b.c.

1.    First war (264-241 b.c.)

2.    Second war (218-202 b.c.). Hannibal appeared during this war. He terrified the Romans when he marched a herd of elephants over the Alps in 218 b.c. and defeated two large Roman armies. He also routed his enemy at Cannae in 216 b.c. Finally a Roman general named Scipio defeated Hannibal at Zama in 202 b.c. Rome then became the mistress of the Mediterranean.

3.    Third war (149-146). The city of Carthage was taken and burned.

 D.    Pompey, the famous Roman general, conquered Palestine in 63 b.c. This was followed by a period of civil wars and uncertainty.

 E.    The empire was then saved and consolidated by Julius Caesar during his famous Gallic wars (58-51 b.c.). On the Ides of March 44, b.c., Caesar was assassinated in Rome.

II.    History from New Testament Times to the End of the Roman Empire.

A.    The empire was then taken over by Octavius (also known as Augustus) Caesar. He defeated Brutus and Cassius (two of the rebels who murdered Julius Caesar) at Philippi in 42 b.c. In 31 b.c. Octavius defeated the forces of Anthony and Cleopatra at Actium, and made Egypt into a Roman province. The Roman Empire now entered its zenith of power and glory. It was during Octavius’ rule that our Lord was born (Lk. 2:1). Octavius ruled from 31 b.c. to a.d. 14.

 B.    Octavius was succeeded by Tiberius Caesar (a.d. 14-37). The ministries of both John the Baptist and the Savior took place at this time.

 C.    Caligula (a.d. 37-41), also known as Little Boots. He became a ruthless maniac and was assassinated. Caligula was in power during the early part of the book of Acts.

 D.    Claudius (41-54). He was poisoned by his own wife. Paul conducted his great missionary trips during his reign.

E.    Nero (54-68). After a normal eight-year reign, Nero degenerated into an insane monster. He had Rome burned and murdered many Christians by falsely blaming them for the fire. Peter and Paul were martyred during his reign. In a.d. 68 Nero committed suicide.

F.    The Roman general Vespasian (68-79) became ruler. He ordered his son Titus to destroy Jerusalem. This was done in a.d. 70.

G.    Upon his death, Titus took the throne. He ruled from a.d. 79-81. During his rule, Pompeii was destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius.

H.    In a.d. 81, Domitian ascended to power. He banished John the apostle to the Isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:9).

I.    The ten or more Roman emperors had one thing in common—they all hated Christians!

J.    Finally, in a.d. 284, Diocletian came into power. His reign is known as the last one to persecute believers, but also the most ruthless. Diocletian separated the Eastern empire from the West and appointed a man named Maximian to rule the eastern part. In 305 he resigned.

K.    When Diocletian left the throne, two men immediately began contending for it. One was the son of Maximian, and the other was Constantine. The issue as to who would rule Rome was settled in a.d. 312, just outside the city, at a place called Milvian Bridge. Here Constantine soundly defeated his rival to power.

L.    In 313 Constantine issued the famous Edict of Toleration, which in effect made Christianity his state religion. He also presided over the Council of Nicaea in 325.

 M.    Julian the apostate, the nephew of Constantine, became ruler after the death of his uncle. He attempted to replace Christianity but failed. His dying words on a battlefield in 363 were: “Oh Galilean, thou hast conquered at last!”

N.    Theodosius the Great (378-395), a champion of Christianity, once more divided the empire into Eastern and Western sections, as Diocletian had previously done.

O.    During the years 450-455, Attila the Hun and the vandals plundered Italy and Rome.

 P.    In 476 Romulus Augustulus, the last Roman emperor, was dethroned.