Rising out of the sands of time in the western Iranian province of Khuzestan, (not far from Shushan) is a unique ziggurat known as Chogha Zanbil. It dates back to 1250BC and was only discovered in the 1930s and is one of the largest, oldest and best-preserved ziggurats that may be visited in the Middle East today.

When we approached this imposing site late in the afternoon, the howling of jackals could be heard coming from it; a stark reminder of the judgment of Babylon in Isaiah 13: “Hyenas will cry in its towers and jackals in the pleasant palaces” (ESV ).

Ziggurats (meaning “mountain top” or “pinnacle” – conveying the idea of a bridge between earth and heaven) were huge multi-tiered temple towers, built on raised areas in major cities of ancient Mesopotamia and the western Persian plateau to honour the local gods. They were of mud brick construction with a facing of baked bricks laid in bitumen (cp Gen 11:3). At the Chogha Zanbil ziggurat there were over 5,000 of these baked bricks on which can be seen cuneiform characters in Elamite and Akkadian chronicling the history of this site.

Today this ziggurat stands at 24.75m high, a little less than half its estimated original height of 53m when it had five levels crowned with a temple. This area was abandoned after its destruction in 640BC and, over the centuries, the Chogha Zanbil ziggurat was completely covered over by river flood sands. The locals simply knew it as a sand hill without knowing its true identity for almost 2,500 years!

From the beginning of time, man has aspired to reach to the heavens, to build cities, to have renown: “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Gen 11:4).

This theme permeates right through the history of the kingdom of men …

Of Nebuchadnezzar we read: “Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Dan 4:30). His kingdom was not to last: “… The kingdom is departed from thee” (Dan 4:31). Tablets have been found describing Nebuchadnezzar’s tower in Borsippa with instructions that he wanted this tower built with the same design as that of the tower of Babel – of which only the foundation remains some 10 kms away, north of Babylon. Another text quotes Nebuchadnezzar as declaring that Nabu’s tower should be dedicated to the god Marduk and reach the skies so that it was no less in grandeur than that of Babel. In Daniel 1:2 we have reference to Nebuchadnezzar bringing vessels from the house of Israel’s God to the house of his god, to the treasure house of his god – a possible reference to the ziggurat tower he built.

We read of Belshazzar: “… I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation (mountain of the meeting of the gods LSG), in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isa 14:13-15). This is surely a reference to the purpose of the ziggurats (refer Dan 5:22-30).

Babylon the Great is no different. Its great pontiff “exalteth himself against all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he is as God sitteth in the temple of God shewing himself that he is God” (2 ess 2:4). The spirit of ziggurat worship is alive and well in the Catholic Church today.

How wonderful will the day be when all that pertains to the kingdom of men will be forever removed and replaced by a city which has secure foundations and whose builder and maker is God (Heb 11:10)