Jer. 50:39-40 Babylon...shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.
Isaiah 13:19-22 Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall shepherds make their fold there...and satyrs shall dance there...and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.
Skeptic Dennis McKinsey claims four issues here: (a) There has never been any time since Isaiah that Babylon was uninhabited. People lived there during NT times..and a few continue doing so today; (b) Arabians still visit there; (c) Shepherds still make their fold there; and (d) Babylon has never been known for its dancing satyrs.
Itís important to note that (a) Our subject produces no evidence for this; (b) Josh McDowell (McD.ETDAV, p. 306) quotes Austen Layard and Floyd Hamilton to show that; (c) everything our subject says here is flatly untrue except (d) the Dancing Satyrs of Babylon have not made it to Caesarís Palace just yet; even so, modern translations render this "wild goats" rather than using the mythically-minded KJV's satyrs - I guess our subject will say they ought to be wearing top hats? - and (e) while Babylon was inhabited in NT times, it was deserted for good shortly after. [JPH note: It is unlikely that Saddam's Hussein's restoration effort would constitute an "inhabited" place any more than Disney World would be, even if it is on the same site as ancient Babylon! Nor would any new city on the cite count -- by the same definition as Tyre, places like Hilla have a new identity entirely different from that of the Babylonian city-state.]
However, McKinsey also blows smoke based on a modern version that reads, "Wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her; she shall be peopled no more forever, not inhabited for all generations." He says, "Anyone acquainted with the Middle East knows that hyenas and ostriches have never been dominant inhabitants of Babylon. Indeed, were it not for zoos in the area their presence would never be noticed." Once again, weíre given no references for this, and once again, itís wrong. Regarding the hyena, Cansdale states that it stretches from India to SW Asia and beyond into Africa (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 232). This clearly covers the territory of Babylon. And there was an Arabian species of the ostrich (ZPED, Vol. 4, p.551) that went extinct during World War I. Doubtless it did inhabit Babylon during some period of time.
A reader has added these comments:
1. Mathew Henry says regarding Jer 50:39-40 that Babylon was attacked successfully and then the city withered on the vine until it eventually became uninhabited. see www.blueletterbible.org and Mathew Henry Commentary for Isaiah 13:19-22
2. The MacArthur Study Bible, 1997, NKJ version, page 976 states in its footnotes on Isaiah 13:20 the following: "Though nothing like its glorious past, the site of Babylon has never been void of inhabitants. A city or town of one type or another has always existed there, so this prophecy must point to a further desolation". This obviously contradicts both McDowell and Mathew Henry and Jamieson, Fausett and Brown whom I cite directly below.
3. The Jamieson, Fausett and Brown Commentary in 1871 said the prophesy of Isaiah 19:20 was fulfilled although it gives no details. See www.blueletterbible.org
Here is what I found on the web:
One site makes the important point that one translation says Babylon will not be inhabited nor will it be SETTLED (in other words settled means "permanently inhabited" which the author emphasizes.).
A far better site which is footnoted and heavily researched seems to indicate that Babylon suffered 18 "falls" subsequent to its fall in 539 B.C. by Cyrus. The final recorded fall was in 122 B.C. by Mithradates II (The previous attack somewhere between 126 B.C. and 123 really was a "death blow" to the city so Mithradates II attack was anti-climatic). Here is the adress to that site: http://www.dabar.org/SemReview/fallbabyprob.html It gives a history to the fallsof Babylon titled, "The Historical Decline of Babylon" and it is in the section directly prior to his conclusion to the website.
In addition, the previosly mentioned site ( http://www.dabar.org/SemReview/fallbabyprob.html ) in the section titled "The Argument from the Present" discusses two other concerns: #1 "One city of more than ten thousand population probably lies within the walls of the ancient city" (and it provides a supporting footnote in footnote 19). He also claims that a gentleman by the name of Larkin argues with some measure of effectiveness in the authors mind that it is not true that Arabs do not pitch their tents any longer in Babylon (supported in footnote 20).