Nebuchadnezzar’s Ishtar Gate Lions

March 25, 2010

Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Manners and Customs informs us that in Nebuchadnezzar’s original arrangement in Babylon, “…a section of paved road over two hundred yards long led into the Ishtar Gate. On either side of the roadway lions (sixty on each side), symbols of Ishtar, in molded glazed brick, in red, white, and yellow, lined the walls. The roadway still contains the paving stones inscribed with Nebuchadnezzar’s dedication” (p. 309).

Today’s photo shows one of the panels of glazed bricks, depicting a lion.

Babylon Ishtar Gate Lion. Istanbul Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

“The excavator Koldewey carried off to Berlin many bricks from the Ishtar Gate and the approach to it, and a diminutive gate with its approach has been recreated in the archaeological museum in Berlin. Anyone who walks through this part of the museum can imagine himself as Daniel or Ezekiel walking into Babylon to meet Nebuchadnezzar. Panels of these sacred animals are also on display in the archaeological museums in Baghdad and Istanbul and the Metropolitan Museum in New York” (ibid.).

Such displays may give us a glimpse of the splendor and beauty of ancient Babylon. It gives us some insight into Nebuchadnezzar’s boast: “The king uttered these words: ‘Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?'” (Dan. 4:30, NET).  The mighty monarch learned that “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Dan. 4:17, ESV), when God humbled him. “He was driven from human society, he ate grass like oxen, and his body became damp with the dew of the sky, until his hair became long like an eagle’s feathers, and his nails like a bird’s claws” (v. 33).  When he realized that God is sovereign, and that he reigned only because God permitted it, then he again ascended the throne.  He praised God saying, “But at the end of the appointed time I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven, and my sanity returned to me. I extolled the Most High, and I praised and glorified the one who lives forever. For his authority is an everlasting authority, and his kingdom extends from one generation to the next” (v.34).

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