Friday, October 2, 2015

The Ancient Temple of Bel

  Blogger: Amber Schamel

 Travel back in time with me to around 536 B.C. We’re visiting the ancient city of Babylon during the captivity of the children of Israel.  One of the first things you’ll notice, as we enter the city, is a giant ziggurat complex. This is the remarkable temple of Bel. Let’s explore, shall we?

Bel Chief god of Babylon

Bel with his pet dragon
Public Domain
Bel, the "city god" or patron god of ancient Babylon, was also known as Marduk. I chose to stay with the name Bel when referring to him in my book because that is the name referenced in the Scriptures.  (Jer. 50:2, Jer. 51:44, Is.  46:1)

Bel rose to the position of chief deity in Babylon around the time of king Nebuchadnezzar. The real reason for his rise from a minor god to the ruling god is unclear. According to mythology, all gods were at one time equal, although they didn’t all get along. One god in particular, Tiamut, was evil and hated by the rest. The other gods told Bel they would make him the chief god forever if he would defeat Tiamut.  He was successful, and therefore rose to supreme power. The more likely story is that for some unknown reason, Bel suited the king’s agenda better than the rest and he came up with a story get the people to go along with it.

Bel is often pictured with a pet dragon and circular designs. I drew from this as I crafted one of my favorite scenes in The Swaddling Clothes.  Nearing the end of the Jewish captivity in Babylon, Ezra and Zerubbabel enter the temple of Bel to retrieve the stolen Jerusalem treasures. Since not much is known about the inside of the temple, it was a lot of fun to come up with what it might have been like. 

One of the most interesting things I learned during my research about Bel and his temple in Babylon, was of the festival of Akitu that was held every year. During this festival, the priest would impersonate Bel and strip the king of his jewelry, scepter and crown. Then the priest would slap the king, very hard, hoping to make him cry. The king then recites special prayers of submission. If he did cry, it was even better because it showed deeper submission to Bel. After this, the priest adorned the king with the items he had stripped, signifying that Bel had renewed the king’s power. During the rest of the festival, there was a “battle” inside the temple between Bel and the other gods. 

The festival concludes with the king being wed to the high priestess. 

Amber Schamel is the author of the Amazon Bestseller, The Swaddling Clothes which releases as a second edition on November 16th. Connect with Amber and stay up to date with her releases on her website,

1 comment:

  1. Amber, this is fascinating. Wow. I'm glad our pastor doesn't smack us around. Looking forward to reading The Swaddling Clothes.