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BABYLONIA The province of which Babylon was the capital; now the Babylonian or Arabian Irak, which constitutes the pashalic of Bagdad. This celebrated province included the track of country lying on the river Euphrates, bounded north by Mesopotamia and Assyria and south by the Persian Gulf. This gulf was indeed its only definite and natural boundary; for towards the north, towards the east or Persia, and towards the west or desert Arabia, its limits were quite indefinite. Bot in ancient and modern times, Important tracts on the eastern bank of the Tigris, and on the western ban of the Euphrates, and still more on both banks of their united streams, were reckoned to Babylonia, or Irak el-Arab.

The most ancient name of the country is Shimar, Ge 10:10 Da 1:2. Afterwards Babel, Babylon, and Babylonia became its common appellation with which at a later period, Chaldea, or the land of the Chaldeans, was used as synonymous, after this people had got the whole into their possession.

Babylonia is an extensive plain, interrupted by no hill or mountain, consisting of a fatty, brownish soil, and subject to the annual inundations of the Tigris and Euphrates, more especially of the latter, whose banks are lower than those of the Tigris. The Euphrates commonly rises about twelve feet above its ordinary level, and continues at this height from the end of April tell June. These inundations of course compelled the earliest tillers of the soil to provide means for drawing off the superabundant water, and so distributing it over the whole surface, that those tracts which were in themselves less watered might receive the requisite irrigation. From this cause, the whole of Babylonia came to be divided up by a multitude of larger and smaller canals; in part passing entirely through from one river to the other; in part also losing themselves in the interior, and serving only the purposes of irrigation. These canals seem to be the "rivers of Babylon" spoken of in Ps 137:1. Besides this multitude of canals, which have long since vanished without trace, Babylonia contained several large lakes, partly the work of art and partly formed by the inundations of the two rivers. Babylonia, therefore, was a land abounding in water; and Jeremiah might therefore well say of it, that it "dwelt upon many waters," Jer 51:13.

The Babylonians belonged to the Shemitic branch of the descendants of Noah, and their language had an affinity with the Arabic and Hebrew, nearly resembling what is now called Chaldee. The Babylonian empire was founded by Nimrod twenty centuries before Christ, and then embraced the cities Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, Ge 10:10. After the building of Nineveh by Ninus, 1237 B.C., that city became the seat of power and continued so until about 606 B.C., when the Assyrian empire gave way to the Chaldean, and Babylon reached its highest point in fame and power. Upon the return of the Jews from captivity, many still remained in Babylonia, and to their posterity the gospel was early conveyed. Peter is supposed by many to have written his first epistle there, 1Pe 5:13. The Jews had thriving synagogues in Babylonia, and one of their Talmuds was there composed. See CHALDEANS.