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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

(See Babel .) Properly the S. part of Babylonia, chiefly on the right bank of the Euphrates, but used to designate the whole country. Ur or Umqueir, more toward the mouth of the Euphrates, was the original chief city of Chaldaea; here inscriptions of the 22nd century B.C., deciphered lately, prove that the early seat of the Babylonian empire was there rather than higher up the Euphrates. In  Isaiah 23:13 the prophet reminds Tyre of the fact so humbling to her pride, that the upstart Chaldees should destroy her: "Behold the land of the Chaldaeans; this people was not, until the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness:" i.e., their latter empire started into importance only after Assyria, in whose armies they had previously been mercenaries. The mountains of Armenia are thought by some to be their original seat (the Carduchian mountains, according to Xenophon, Cyrop. 3:2-3), from whence they proceeded S. in wandering "bands" ( Job 1:17) before they became a settled empire, but their Cushite language disproves this.

Rawlinson distinguishes three periods.

1. When their empire was in the S., toward the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates; this is the Chaldaean period (from 2340 to 1500 B.C.) in which (See Chedorlaomer of Elam conquered Syria (Genesis 14), as the inscriptions show.

2. From 1500 to 625 B.C., the Assyrian period.

3. From 625 to 538 B.C., the Babylonian period. The Hebrew name is Chasdim , relative to Chesed , Abraham's nephew apparently ( Genesis 22:22). But their existence was centuries earlier ( Genesis 11:28). Chesed's name implies simply that Abraham's family had a connection with them. The Kurds still in Kurdistan between Nineveh and Media may be akin to the ancient Casdim. But G. Rawlinson considers the Chaldi to he more probably one of the Cushite (Ethiopian) tribes that crossed over the Persian gulf and settled in Babylonia.

Their name ultimately prevailed over that of the other tribes in the country. The remains found of their language correspond to that of the modern Galla of Abyssinia, the ancient language of Ethiopia. Scripture is thus confirmed, that Babel came from Cush and Ham, not from Shem ( Genesis 10:6-10). Some interpret Ur = the moon goddess; the Chaldees being moon worshippers or Sabeans, from Tsaba' "the heavenly hosts," worshipped Bel, the planet Jupiter, Nebo, Mercury, etc. ( Job 31:26-27.) Chaldaea lies between the Tigris and Euphrates, and comprises also an average of 30 miles along the W. of the Euphrates; a vast alluvial plain, running N.E. and S.W. 400 miles, with the Persian gulf on the S., and a line from Hit on the Euphrates to Tekrit on the Tigris forming its N. boundary, Elam, or Susiana, lies on the E. An arid waste, with great mounds of rubbish and brick here and there, all that is left of that "glory of kingdoms," now extends where once, by a perfect network of canals for irrigation, a teeming population was supplied abundantly from the rich soil with grain and wine.

Scripture is to the letter fulfilled: "a drought is upon her waters" ( Jeremiah 50:38). It was once said to be the only country where wheat grew wild. Berosus states also that barley, sesame, palms, apples, and many shelled fruit, grew wild. Herodotus (1:193) stated that grain yielded the sower from two to three hundred fold. Strabo says it yielded bread, wine, honey, ropes, and fuel equal to charcoal. Now, while dry in some parts, it is a stagnant marsh in others, owing to neglect of the canals; as Scripture also foretells: "the sea is come up upon Babylon," etc. ( Jeremiah 51:42); "she is a possession for the bittern, and pools of water" ( Isaiah 14:23). The Chaldaean cities are celebrated in Scripture: "Babel, Erech (now Warka), Accad, Calneh (Niffer)" ( Genesis 10:10). Borsippa is Birs-Nimrud now; Sepharvaim or Sippara, Mosaib; Cutha, Ibrahim; Chilmad, Calwadha; Larancha, Senkereh; Is, Hit, where the canal leaving the Euphrates at the point where the alluvial plain begins passed along the whole edge of the plain, and fell into the Persian gulf.

There is one large inland fresh water sea, Nedjef, 40 miles long by 35 wide, surrounded by red sandstone cliffs; about 20 miles from the right bank of the Euphrates. Above and below this sea are the Chaldaean marshes in which Alexander was almost lost. In another sense the "CHALDAEANS" are a priest caste, with a peculiar tongue and learning, skilled in divination. In the ethnic sense we saw it was applied first to a particular Cushite tribe, then to the whole nation from the time of Nabopolassar. The Semitic language prevailed over the Cushite in Assyrian and later Babylonian times, and was used for all civil purposes; but for sacred and mystic lore the Cushite language was retained as a learned language. This is "the learning and the tongue of the Chaldaeans" ( Daniel 1:4), in which the four Jewish youths were instructed, and which is quite distinct from the Aramaean, or Chaldee so-called (allied to Hebrew), of those parts of the book of Daniel which are not Hebrew, as not being so connected with the Jews as with the Babylonians.

The Cushite Chaldee had become a dead language to the mass of the people who had become Semitized by the Assyrians. All who studied it were called "Chaldaeans," whatever might be their nation; so Daniel is called "master of the Chaldaeans" ( Daniel 5:11). Their seats of learning were Borsippa, Ur, Babylon, and Sepharvaim. The serene sky and clear atmosphere favored their astronomical studies; Cahisthenes sent Aristotle from Babylon their observations for 1903 years. Afterward their name became synonymous with diviners and fortunetellers. They wore a peculiar dress, like that seen on the gods and deified men in Assyrian sculptures. At the time of the Arab invasion the Chaldaeans chiefly still preserved the learning of the East.

We owe to them the preservation of many fragments of Greek learning, as the Greeks had previously owed much of their eastern learning to the Chaldees. The Aramaean and the Hebrew are sister languages. The former is less developed and cultivated than either Hebrew or Arabic. Of its two dialects, Chaldee and Syriac, the former prevailed in the E., the latter in the W. of Aram. To express the article it employs an affix instead of a prefix as the Hebrew The dual number and the purely passive conjugations are wanting. The Chaldee of parts of the Bible ( Daniel 2:4-7:28;  Ezra 4:8-6:18;  Ezra 7:12-26;  Jeremiah 10:11) more closely approaches the Hebrew idiom than the Chaldee of the Targum of Onkelos. Some think the seeming Hebraisms in it are remnants of an older form of the language than that found in the targums.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [2]

(Jeremiah 1, 10;  Jeremiah 51:24;  Jeremiah 51:35;  Ezekiel 16:29;  Ezekiel 23:16; Gr. Χαλδαία , for the Hebrews כִּשְׂדַּים , elsewhere "Chaldaeans") is properly only the most southern portion of Babylonia. It is used, however, in our version for the Hebrew ethnic appellative Kasdin (or "Chaldees"), under which term the inhabitants of the entire country is designated, and it will therefore here be taken in this extended sense. The origin of the term is very doubtful. Kasdim has been derived by some from Kesed ( כֶּשֶׂד ), the son of Nahor ( Genesis 22:22); but if Ur was already a city "of the Chaldees" before Abraham quitted it ( Genesis 11:28), the name Kasdim cannot possibly have been derived from his nephew. On the other hand, the term Chaldaea has been connected with the city Kalwadha (Chilmad of  Ezekiel 27:23). This is possibly correct. At any rate, in searching for an etymology, it should be borne in mind that Kaldi or Kaldai, not Kasdim, is the native form (Rawlinson, Herod. 1:533, Note). The Chaldaeans are mentioned in the cuneiform inscriptions (q.v.). In Persian cuneiform the name of Babylon or Babylonia is written very differently:

The Babylonian cuneiform writes it in many ways, but none have any resemblance to Kasdim or Kaldi. (See Babylon).

1. Extent And Boundaries. The tract of country viewed in Scripture as the land of the Chaldaeans is that vast alluvial plain which has been formed by the deposits of the Euphrates and the Tigris at least so far as it lies to the west of the latter stream. The country to the east is Elam or Susiana; but the entire tract between the rivers, as well as the low country on the Arabian side of the Euphrates, which is cultivable by irrigation from that stream, must be considered as comprised within the Chaldaea of which Nebuchadnezzar was king. This extraordinary flat, unbroken except by the works of man, extends, in a direction nearly N.E. and S.W., a distance of 400 miles along the course of the rivers, and is on the average about 100 miles in width. A line drawn from the junction of the river Khabur with the Euphrates to that of the Lesser Zab with the Tigris may be considered to mark its northern limits; the eastern boundary is the Tigris itself; the southern the Persian Gulf; on the west its boundary is somewhat ill defined, and in fact would vary according to the degree of skill and industry devoted to the regulation of the waters and the extension of works for irrigation. In the most flourishing times of the Chaldaean empire the water seems to have been brought to the extreme limit of the alluvium, a canal having been cut along the edge of the tertiary formation on the Arabian side throughout its entire extent, running at an average distance from the Euphrates of about 30 miles.

2. General Character Of The Country. The general aspect of the country is thus described by a modern traveler, who well contrasts its condition now with the appearance which it must have presented in ancient times. "In former days," he says, "the vast plains of Babylon were nourished by a complicated system of canals and water-courses, which spread over the surface of the country like a net-work. The wants of a teeming population were supplied by a rich soil, not less bountiful than that on the banks of the Egyptian Nile. Like islands rising from a golden sea of waving corn stood frequent groves of palm-trees and pleasant gardens, affording to the idler or traveler their grateful and highly-valued shade. Crowds of passengers hurried along the dusty roads to and from the busy city. The land was rich in corn and wine. How changed is the aspect of that region at the present day! Long lines of mounds, it is true, mark the courses of those main arteries which formerly diffused life and vegetation along their banks, but their channels are now bereft of moisture and choked with drifted sand; the smaller offshoots are wholly effaced. 'A drought is upon her waters,' says the prophet, 'and they shall be dried up!' All that remains of that ancient civilization-that 'glory of kingdoms' 'the praise of the whole earth' is recognizable in the numerous mouldering heaps of brick and rubbish which overspread the surface of the plain. Instead of the luxuriant fields, the groves, and gardens, nothing now meets the eye but an and waste the dense population of former times is vanished, and no man dwells there" (Loftus's Chaldaea, p. 14, 15). The cause of the change is to be found in the neglect of man. "There is no physical reason," the same writer observes, "why Babylonia should not be as beautiful and as thickly inhabited as in days of yore; a little care and labor bestowed on the ancient canals would again restore the fertility and population which it originally possessed." The prosperity and fertility of the country depend entirely on the regulation of the waters. Carefully and properly applied and husbanded, they are sufficient to make the entire plain a garden. Left to themselves, they desert the river courses to accumulate in lakes and marshes, leaving large districts waterless, and others most scantily supplied, while they overwhelm tracts formerly under cultivation, which become covered with a forest of reeds, and during the summer heats breed a pestilential miasma. This is the present condition of the greater part of Babylonia under Turkish rule; the evil is said to be advancing, and the whole country threatens to become within a short time either marsh or desert.

3. Divisions. In a country so uniform and so devoid of natural features as this, political divisions could be only accidental or arbitrary. Few are found of any importance. The true Chaldaea, as has been already noticed, is always in the geographers a distinct region, being the portion most southerly from Babylon, lying chiefly (if not solely) on the right bank of the Euphrates (Strabo, 16:1, § 6; Ptolemy, 5:20). Babylonia above this is separated into two districts, called respectively Amordacia and Auranitis. The former is the name of the central territory round Babylon itself; the latter is applied to the regions toward the north, where Babylonia borders on Assyria (Ptol. 5:20).

4. Cities. Babylonia was celebrated at all times for the number and antiquity of its cities. "Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar," are the first towns mentioned in Scripture ( Genesis 10:10). The "vast number of great cities" which the country possessed was noted by Herodotus (1:178), and the whole region is, in fact, studded with huge mounds, each mound marking, beyond a doubt, the site of a considerable town. The most important of those which have been identified are Borsippa (now Birs-Nimrud), Sippara or Sepharvaim (Mosaib), Cutha (Ibrahim), Calneh (Nifer), Erech (Warka), Ur (Megheir), Chilmad (Kalwadha), Larancha (Senkereh), Is (Hit), Duraba (Akkerkuf); but of these not fully, and of many others not at all, have the exact sites been determined, as the Accad of Genesis ( Genesis 10:10); the Teredon of Abydenus (Fragm. 8); Asbi, Rubesi, etc., towns mentioned in the inscriptions. Two of these places Ur and Borsippa are of particular note. Of the rest, Erech, Larancha, and Calneh were in early times of the most consequence, while Cutha, Sippara, and Teredon attained their celebrity at a comparatively recent period. (See each name in its place.)

5. Canals. These constituted one of the most remarkable features of ancient Babylonia. Three principal canals carried off the waters of the Euphrates toward the Tigris, Above Babylon. These were,

1. The original "Royal river," or Ar-Malcha of Berosus, which left the Ehphrates at Perisabor or Anbar, and followed the line of the modern Saklawyeh canal, passing by Akkerkuf, and entering the Tigris a little below Bagdad;

2. the Nahr Mancha of the Arabs, which branched off at Ridhivaniyeh, and ran across to the site of Seleucia; and,

3. the Nahr Kutha, which, starting from the Euphrates about twelve miles above Mosaib, passed through Cutha, and fell into the Tigris twenty miles below the site of Seleucia.

On the other side of the stream, a large canal, perhaps the most important of all, leaving the Euphrates at Hit, where the alluvial plain commences, skirted the deposit on the west along its entire extent, and fell into the Persian Gulf at the head of the Bubian creek, about twenty miles west of the Shat el-Arab; while a second main artery (the Pallacopai of Arrian) branched from the Euphrates nearly at Mosaib, and ran into a great lake in the neighborhood of Borsippa, whence the lands to the south-west of Babylon were irrigated. From these and other similar channels numerous branches were carried out, from which further cross cuts were made, until at length every field was duly supplied with the precious fluid.

6. Sea Of Nedjef, Chaldeean Marshes, Etc. Chaldaea contains one natural feature deserving of special description-the "great inland fresh- water sea of Nedjef" (Loftus, p. 45). This sheet of water, which does not owe its origin to the inundations, but is a permanent lake of considerable depth, surrounded by cliffs of a reddish sandstone in places forty feet high, extends in a south-easterly direction a distance of forty miles, from about lat. 31 º 53 ´ , long. 44 º , to lat. 31 º 26 ´ , long. 44 º 35 ´ . Its greatest width is thirty-five miles. It lies thus on the right bank of the Euphrates, from which it is distant (at the nearest point) about twenty miles, and receives from it a certain quantity of water at the time of the inundation, which flows through it, and is carried back to the Euphrates at Samava by a natural river course known as the Shat el-Atchan. Above and below the sea of Nedjef, from the Birs-Nimrud to Kufa, and from the southeastern extremity of the sea to Sanava, extend the famous Chaldsean marshes (Strab. 16:1, § 12; Arrian, Exp. Al. 7:22), where Alexander was nearly lost; but these are entirely distinct from the sea itself, depending on the state of the Hindiyeh canal, and disappearing altogether when that is effectually closed.

7. Productions. The extraordinary fertility of the Chaldaean soil has been noticed by various writers. It is said to be the only country in the world where wheat grows wild. Berosus noticed this production (Fragm. 1, § 2), and also the spontaneous growth of barley, sesame, ochrys, palms, apples, and many kinds of shelled fruit. Herodotus declared (1:193) that grain commonly returned 200-fold to the sower, and occasionally 300-fold. Strabo made nearly the same assertion (16:1, § 14); and Pliny said (Hist. Nat. 18:17) that the wheat was cut twice, and afterwards was good keep for beasts. The palm was undoubtedly one of the principal objects of cultivation. According to Strabo it furnished the natives with bread, wine, vinegar, honey, porridge, and ropes; with a fuel equal to charcoal, and with a means of fattening cattle and sheep. A Persian poem celebrated its 360 uses (Strab. 16:1, 14). Herodotus says (1:193) that the whole of the flat country was planted with palms, and Ammianus Marcellinus (24:3) observes that from the point reached by Julian's army to the shores of the Persian Gulf was one continuous forest of verdure. At present palms are almost confined to the vicinity of the rivers, and even there they do not grow thickly except about the villages on their banks. The soil is rich, but there is little cultivation, the inhabitants subsisting chiefly upon dates. More than half the country is left dry and waste from the want of a proper system of irrigation, while the remaining half is to a great extent covered with marshes, owing to the same neglect. Thus it is at once true that "the sea has come up upon Babylon, and she is covered with the waves thereof" ( Jeremiah 51:42); that she is made "a possession for the bittern, and pools of water" ( Isaiah 14:23); and also that "a drought is upon her waters, and they are dried up" ( Jeremiah 50:38), that she is "wholly desolate" "the hindermost of the nations, a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert" ( Ib. 12, 13). (See Loftus's Chaldaea And Susiana; Layard's Nin. And Bab. ch. 21-24; Rawlinson's Herodotus, vol. 1, Essay 9; and Mr. Taylor's Paper In The Journal Of The Asiatic Society, vol. 15.) (See Babylonia).

8. Inhabitants. The monuments of Babylonia furnish abundant evidence of the fact that a Hamitic race held possession of that country in the earliest times, and continued to be a powerful element in the population down to a period very little preceding the accession of Nebuchadnezzar. The most ancient historical records found in the country, and many of the religious and scientific documents, are written in a language which belongs to the Allophyllian family, presenting affinities with the dialects of Africa on the one hand, and with those of High Asia on the other. The people by whom this language was spoken, whose principal tribe was the Akkad (Accad,  Genesis 10:10), may be regarded as represented by the Chaldaeans of the Greeks, the Kasdim of the Hebrew writers. This race seems to have gradually developed the type of language known as Shemitism, which became in course of time the general language of the country; still, however, as a priest-caste, a portion of the Akkad preserved their ancient tongue, and formed the learned and scientific Chaldaeans of later times (Rawlinson, Herodotus, 1:533). Their language was the language of science in those countries; and the Chaldasans devoted themselves to the study of the sciences, and especially astronomy. (See Chaldaean Philosophy).

The scientific tablets discovered at Nineveh are all in this dialect. These facts throw new and clear light on the many allusions to the Chaldean wise men in the Bible ( Daniel 1:4;  Daniel 2:2;  Daniel 4:7;  Ezekiel 23:14). The influence and power of the Chaldaeans rapidly increased, so that in the early part of the ninth century B.C. they became the dominant race in Babylonia, and gave that kingdom their name ( 2 Chronicles 36:17;  Daniel 9:1). During the eighth century B.C. a number of them emigrated from their native plains, and settled in the mountains of Armenia. This is possibly the true explanation of the occurrence of the Chaldeans in that region, as noted by many ancient writers (Xenoph. Anab. 4:3, 4; Strabo, 12; Steph. Byz. s.v. Χαλδαία ); and this, too, shows why Gesenius and other recent authors were led to believe that the Chaldaeans of Babylonia were a colony from the northern mountains, settled in that country by one of the later Assyrian monarchs. (See Rawlinson, Five Great Monarcchies, Lond. 1864 sq.; Ditmar, Vaterland D. Chald Ä Er, Berlin, 1786; Palmrblad, De rebus Babylonicis, Upsal. 1820; Bochart, Geography.) (See Chaldees).