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THE MESSENGER—PART 20: The Moon-God… Son Of Enlil… Rise Of Marduk

Now, compare that section of Ezekiel’s lament over Tyre to John’s prophecy of the destruction of Babylon the Great in Revelation 18.

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice,

Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!

She has become a dwelling place for demons,

a haunt for every unclean spirit,

a haunt for every unclean bird,

a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast….

nd the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,

“Alas! Alas! You great city,

you mighty city, Babylon!

For in a single hour your judgment has come.”…

The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,

“Alas, alas, for the great city

that was clothed in fine linen,

in purple and scarlet,

adorned with gold,

with jewels, and with pearls!

For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”

And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,

“What city was like the great city?”

And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out,

“Alas, alas, for the great city

where all who had ships at sea

grew rich by her wealth!

For in a single hour she has been laid waste.” (Revelation 18:1–2, 9, 15–19)

Let’s compare some key phrases from these chapters.

The parallels here have been noted by Bible scholars for generations, but God hinted at this almost four thousand years ago when He established His covenant with Abraham. He told the patriarch that his descendants would be afflicted for four hundred years in a land that wasn’t theirs, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”[i]

Ezekiel gave us the clues. He pointed to Mount Hermon, Bashan, and the neighbors of ancient Israel who worshiped the gods who called that region home. Those neighbors, the Amorites, were the people who established the wicked occult system of Babylon. The connection between Mystery Babylon and the Amorites is key. Spiritual wickedness connected to an unparalleled maritime trading empire are the two main features of Mystery Babylon.

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Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.

The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.

And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”

And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. (Revelation 17:1–6)

“Sexual immorality” is a euphemism for spiritual rebellion, like Israel’s “whorings” with the gods of the pagan nations against which the prophets of the Old Testament thundered. And the fall of ancient Babylon may hold a clue to the timing of its future destruction.

The festival hosted by Belshazzar, described in chapter 5 of the book of Daniel, was not a random event. This was not simply an excuse for Belshazzar to show off in front of his friends. This party had spiritual significance.

The tradition of the festivities might reflect historical fact. According to the chronicle, Babylon was taken on the sixteenth of Tašritu. Accepting that Nabonidus imposed new features of the cult of Sîn in the capital after his return from Teima, it is conceivable that festivals linked with the cult of Sîn at Harran were transplanted to Babylon, perhaps even the akitu festival. This festival started on the seventeenth of Tašritu. As Babylon was captured on the eve of the seventeenth, the festivities mentioned by Herodotus and the Book of Daniel may have been those of the Harran akitu festival, as celebrated in the capital by the supporters of Nabonidus.[ii]

The akitu was an annual festival celebrated in the ancient Near East for the patron gods of the cities of Mesopotamia. In Uruk, for example, the akitu was celebrated for Inanna (Ishtar), the goddess called the Queen of Heaven in the book of Jeremiah (and, sadly, whose cult has been absorbed into the Roman Catholic Church).[iii]

The oldest celebration documented akitu dates to about 2500 BC in Ur.[iv] The ancient city was sacred to Sîn, the moon-god. The festival is usually described as a new year celebration because the best-known akitu in the ancient world was held at Babylon on the first of Nisan, the first month of the year. Even today, Nisan 1 is the first day of the religious year on the Hebrew calendar.

Akiti, the Sumerian form of the word, refers both to the festival and the special building used during the celebration.[v] Unlike Babylon’s festival for Marduk, which was held only in the spring, the akiti at Ur was also held in the seventh month around the time of the autumn equinox. The festival involved the idol representing the god traveling by boat from the city to the akiti-house, and then returning to the city with great fanfare.[vi]

The autumn festival at Ur was the more important of the two. Why? The fall akitu, which lasted at least eleven days into the month,[vii] took place as the waxing moon grew larger and larger, symbolizing the god’s reentry into his city just as the days were getting noticeably shorter and the moon asserted his dominance in the sky over Utu, the sun-god.[viii] As it happened, the Babylonian calendar had been tweaked under Nabonidus so that the fall akitu was specifically timed to coincide with either the Harvest Moon or the Hunter’s Moon:

The seventeenth of Tašritu always fell during one of the two periods of the year that the moon had an unusually prominent place at night. It should also be remembered that the Harvest Moon and Hunter’s Moon, by a curious trick of perception, are popularly believed to be unusually large and luminous. It is therefore singularly appropriate that the akitu festival in honor of the moon god Sîn should take place on the seventeenth of Tašritu, when the lunar deity, several days after full moon, retained its sway throughout the night.[ix]

This is the key point. Because most Christians are not very familiar with the festivals of Yahweh, we will spell it out: The last Jewish feast of the year, and the most important on the annual calendar, is Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles—and it begins every year on the fifteenth of Tishri (the Babylonian month of Tašritu).

So, the night of Belshazzar’s party on 16 Tishri, 539 BC, was a kickoff event for the akitu festival to honor the moon-god, a Mesopotamian religious rite at least two thousand years old. Meanwhile, the most important annual festival of Yahweh, Sukkot, had begun the day before, on 15 Tishri. And then Belshazzar, for reasons unknown, decided to liven up the party for his god, Sîn, by ordering the wine served in sacred utensils that were consecrated for use in the Temple of Yahweh.

Why did Belshazzar do it? What inspired him? More important, why was he hosting a party with an army of invading Medes and Persians outside the city walls?

It’s impossible to say. Accounts of the last night of Babylon are somewhat contradictory. Some sources place Nabonidus at the battle, others don’t. It seems unlikely that Cyrus could have marched an army into Babylonia without word reaching the king. Maybe Nabonidus and his son considered the akitu feast too important to postpone, even for an invasion. Maybe they believed the invasion made holding the festival imperative, to win the favor of the moon-god so Sîn would protect the city. Maybe Belshazzar’s decision to bring out the Temple utensils was meant to demonstrate the power of the moon-god over the God of the exiles from Judah.

Whatever his reasons, it was a big mistake. Boom. Lights out. Babylon was done. On the sixteenth of Tishri, the second day of the annual Feast of Tabernacles.

If the fall of the ancient kingdom of Babylon foreshadows the destruction of the end-times church of the Antichrist, then the date may be significant. Tishri 16 in 2025 is October 8, just a few days ahead of our speculative “last possible date for a pre-tribulation rapture.”[x]

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Looking ahead to the date of the asteroid’s fly-by, we find another confluence of dates that may be significant. And, like the fall of Babylon, this also has a connection to the moon-god.

We should emphasize that the moon-god was one of the most popular and important in ancient Mesopotamia. Perhaps that’s not surprising in a dry, desert land where daytime temperatures during the summer months often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius). Although Marduk was the chief god of Babylon, who was elevated to the top of the Mesopotamian pantheon as Babylon became the dominant political power in the region, the great King Hammurabi credited the moon-god Sîn with establishing his dynasty and creating him personally.

The moon-god was the first-born son of Enlil, who was king of the gods before the rise of Marduk. In Sumer, where he was called Nanna, Sîn was one of the “seven gods who decree,” with Anu, the sky-god; Enlil, the king; Ninhursag, mother of the gods; Enki, the god of wisdom; Shamash (also called Utu), the sun-god; and Ishtar (or Inanna), the goddess of sex and war.

Calendars in Mesopotamia were based on the thirty-day cycle of the moon. Undoubtedly, there was a fertility aspect to this; in a culture that depended on the health of flocks and herds, that was important. In fact, the moon-god’s name, Sîn, was represented in cuneiform by the symbol for the numeral 30. This link between the fertility of the herd and the moon, and the similarity of the shape of the crescent moon and the horns of a bull, led to Sîn being described in Mesopotamian texts as the “frisky calf of Enlil” or “frisky calf of heaven.”[xi]

Even though Enlil was still considered the king of the gods during the Old Babylonian period (the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), a text fragment translated in 2011 describes the moon-god Nanna/Sîn as ruling over the Mesopotamian divine assembly, which was called the Ubšu-ukkina. Anu and Enlil, whom we would expect to be the presiding deities, are there only as advisors, along with the other “gods who decree.”[xii]

You, who stand before him to sit in the Ubšu-ukkina

An, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Utu, and Inanna sat in assembly for the king

They advised him there.

Nanna sets the holy…in order.…

The great gods were paying attention to….

Suen [Sîn], his assembly’s decision, his speech of goodness, abundance.…

for Suen, they implement abundance in heaven and earth properly(?)

The king suitable for holy heaven, the barge in the midst of heaven.[xiii]

“The barge in the midst of heaven” is the crescent moon. Besides resembling the horns of a bull, it also looks like a reed boat sailing across the night sky. Even though bits of the tablet are missing, it’s clear that Sîn was “the king” in the Mesopotamian divine assembly, with the other “great gods” in subordinate roles. (And note that Marduk isn’t even mentioned!) This supports the theory that the Amorite founders of Babylon, even though they hailed from the city sacred to Marduk, considered the moon-god, Sîn, their patron.

It’s also important to remember that to Mesopotamians, the Ubšu-ukkina was a physical place. The assembly of the gods took place in Nippur, inside the temple of the chief god Enlil, which was called the E-kur, or “Mountain House.” We’ll explain why that’s significant in a moment.

Christians familiar with the Old Testament may have the impression that the chief spiritual enemy of God before the birth of Jesus was Baal. The confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel was spectacular, after all, and the slaughter of the priests who’d been eating at the table of Queen Jezebel was serious business. But a closer reading of Scripture shows that until the time of Gideon, maybe two hundred years or so after the Exodus, the pagan deity who was the focus of God’s attention was the moon-god.

Our first clue is in the account of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt:

They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.

And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger. (Exodus 16:1–3)

Nothing in the Bible is there to fill space. So, why did Moses specifically note the arrival at the wilderness of Sin on “the fifteenth day of the second month”? In the ancient Near East, calendars were set to the phases of the moon, with the new moon starting the month. The fifteenth day, then, was during the full moon, a time when the moon-god was believed to be at full strength. That’s precisely when the people of Israel “came to the wilderness of Sin”—the wilderness of the moon-god. That undoubtedly had something to do with the grumbling of the people—they believed they were entering the territory of a god they did not serve when he was at full strength.

The conflict with the moon-god continued at Mount Sinai, which, you have surely noticed, is also derived from the name of the lunar deity.[xiv] While Moses’ encounter with Yahweh in chapter 3 of the book of Exodus is described as taking place at “the mountain of God,” the fact that it was named for the moon-god suggests that the Hebrew har elohim in Exodus 3:1 could just as well be translated “mountain of the gods.” Yahweh must have chosen this place as a message aimed at the entity who masqueraded as the moon to the pagan Amorites of Mesopotamia.

This also suggests a deeper meaning for the golden calf fashioned by Aaron when Moses was too long on the mountain for the Israelites. Perhaps they thought that since they were at the mountain of Sîn, in the middle of the wilderness of Sîn, fashioning a golden idol to represent the “frisky calf of heaven” was a good way to win the favor of the god who ruled the region.

It’s difficult for modern American Christians to grasp, but the prophets and apostles understood full well that the pagan gods of their neighbors were real, and that they controlled certain specific territories. This belief continued in Israel for centuries. On one of the many occasions that David escaped from King Saul, he lamented:

Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering, but if it is men, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of the Lord, saying, “Go, serve other gods.” (1 Samuel 26:19)

David understood that Israel belonged to Yahweh. If he was driven out, he would be outside of the territory of Yahweh and would be compelled to serve the gods of the lands where he found refuge. Although this is a strange idea to us today, it was the common understanding of the spirit realm in the ancient Near East.

To the Israelites following Moses, Yahweh was one of many entities in the spirit realm. Yes, He had freed them from Egypt (and delivered manna six days a week like clockwork), but as far as they knew, they were on the moon-god’s turf.

Here is where this is leading: Forty years later, as the Israelites finally crossed the Jordan into Canaan, the first target of their war to claim their inheritance was the city of Jericho—another center of the moon-god’s cult. The city’s name is derived from the Amorite name of the moon-god, Yarikh.

And here’s where it gets really interesting. Note the timing of the attack on the city:

While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. (Joshua 5:10)

This terrified the people of Jericho. The Bible records that the city was “was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in.”[xv] The significance is that the ancient Mesopotamian akitu festival would have been held on or around 1 Nisan, the first day of the new year. While we don’t have evidence for such a festival at Jericho, if it was held according to Mesopotamian custom, the celebration would have lasted eleven days, with a grand procession out of the city on the first day of the festival to carry the idol representing the god to the special akitu-house. After days of feasts, prayers, and rituals, the god would have returned to his temple inside the city on day seven.

Assuming that this was an annual rite at Jericho (remember, the oldest known akitu was documented a thousand years before the Exodus at Ur, the moon-god’s city in the land of Sumer), the Bible tells “none went out, and none came in”—there was no celebration for the moon-god that year with the army of Israel camped outside the gates!

Then, Israel celebrated the Passover, which always begins on the evening of 14 Nisan. This is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, along with Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost) and Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles we described earlier.

The Israelites would have celebrated this festival for seven days on the plain outside Jericho, in full view of the Amorites inside the city’s massive defensive walls. Jewish tradition holds that the march around the city, commanded by the Captain of the Lord’s Army (Jesus in the Old Testament), began after Passover, on 22 Nisan.

Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord.

And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually.

And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually.

And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.

On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times.

And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.”

So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. (Joshua 6:12–20)

There are two things to note here. First, God knocked down the walls of the city so that He and His people could enter on the seventh day of marching, a mockery of the ancient festival held in honor of the moon-god (and other pagan deities in Mesopotamia) for more than a thousand years.

Second, and more relevant for us in the not-too-distant future, is that the walls of Jericho came tumbling down on 28 Nisan.

Asteroid Apophis arrives at planet earth on April 13, 2029—which, on the Hebrew calendar, falls on 28 Nisan.[xvi]

UP NEXT: What Follows The Third Trumpet When “A Great Star” Falls From Heaven

 

[i] Genesis 15:16.

[ii] Beaulieu, Paul-Alain, The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, 556–539 B.C. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989) 150.

[iii] Houtman, C., “Queen of Heaven.” In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible 2nd extensively rev. ed. (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999) 679.

[iv] Cohen, op. cit., 401.

[v] Black, J. A. ,“The New Year Ceremonies in Ancient Babylon: ‘Taking Bel by the Hand’ and a Cultic Picnic,” Religion, 11:1 (1981) 40.

[vi] Hall, Mark G., A Study of the Sumerian Moon-God, Nanna/Suen (Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 1985) 336.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Cohen, op. cit., 402.

[ix] Wolters, Al, “Belshazzar’s Feast and the Cult of the Moon God Sîn,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 5 (1995) 201–202.

[x] Horn, op. cit.

[xi] Ornan, Tallay, “The Bull and Its Two Masters: Moon and Storm Deities in Relation to the Bull in Ancient Near Eastern Art,” Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 51, No. 1 (2001) 3.

[xii] Peterson, Jeremiah, “Nanna/Suen Convenes in the Divine Assembly as King,” Aula Orientalis 29 (2011) 279.

[xiii] Ibid., 284–285.

[xiv] Jacobs, Joseph; Seligsohn, M.; Bacher, Wilhelm, “Sinai, Mount.” The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901), http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13766-sinai-mount, retrieved 7/6/20.

[xv] Joshua 6:1.

[xvi] “Calendar for April 2029 (Israel).” TimeAndDate.com (https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/monthly.html?year=2029&month=4&country=34), retrieved 7/6/20.

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