[forthright] Belshazzar's Babylon

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2007 15:38:43 -0600
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

COLUMN: Up for the Task

Belshazzar's Babylon
by Paul Goddard

"The conscience of us all, can read without its
glasses, on revelation's wall." -- Emily Dickinson

Noting that the Euphrates River ran directly under
the walls of Babylon, General Ugbaru attempted to
enter the city by diverting the river. On the
night of October 12th, 539 B.C., he was
successful. With the water lowered, the Medo-
Persian invaders waded past the river gate and
into the heart of city. The attack was a complete

Hours before the attack, King Belshazzar was
completely unconcerned about the threat outside
the city./2 He believed that the enemy could not
breach his impregnable walls. In the comfort of
the citadel, he proudly exhibited his royal
inheritance. Using the Jewish temple vessels as
wine goblets, he toasted the Babylonian gods.
Suddenly, without warning, a silent hand appeared
and left a message on the plaster wall (Daniel

All activity ceased as a frightened king stared at
the wall. His face grew pale, and his knees
knocked as he looked at, "Mene, Mene, Tekal,
Uparsin." Nervously, he called for his diviners,
proclaiming, "Whoever reads this writing and tells
me what it means, will be clothed in purple, have
a gold chain put around his neck, and be made the
third highest ruler in the kingdom."./3 Shocked
and transfixed, the dragomans could not translate
the omen (Daniel 5:7-9).

Hearing the uproar, the king's mother entered the
banquet hall. Certain that the inscription could
be understood, she reminded the gathering of an
old Jewish prophet who had interpreted
Nebuchadnezzar's dreams. Immediately, Belshazzar
called for Daniel (Daniel 5:10-12).

Standing before the king, Daniel was offered gifts
and rewards to interpret the mysterious message.
Incensed, Daniel prefaced his response by
reminding Belshazzar that it was the "Most High
God" who had made his grandfather a dynamic
leader. This was the same God who Belshazzar had
dishonored (Daniel 5:13-24). Then Daniel
interpreted the message, "Numbered are your days,
for God has found you deficient. He rejects you,
and he will divide your kingdom and give it to the
Medes and Persians" (Daniel 5:25-31).

Under the cover of darkness, the enemy moved
toward the palace and closed in on the banquet
hall. The royal guards did not notice, and before
they could react, it was too late. That very night
in the safety of his home, Belshazzar was slain
(Jeremiah 51:54-57).

Oftentimes I hear irreverent people say that they
wish they could see God with their own eyes. Do
they really? Do they really want to see the hand
of God? Woe to those who lack humility and
reverence and make this prideful statement. A time
is coming when self-glorification will come to an
end. It will be a time when the glory of God will
be revealed. Christian, are you up for the task?

"Time is filled with swift transition
Naught of earth unmoved can stand
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God's unchanging hand."

--Jennie Wilson

1/ Ugbaru was a Medo-Persian military strategist.
His siege of Babylon is recorded in the Nabonidus
Chronicle and retold by Herodotus in, The Persian
Wars, Book 1, Section 190, 191. The Nabonidus text
is on display in the British Museum in London,

2/ King Nebuchadnezzar died in 563 B.C. He was
succeeded by his son, Evil-Merodach (2 Kings
25:27-30). Evil-Merodach was assassinated by his
brother-in-law, Neriglissar. Neriglissar's rule
ended with his death in 556 B.C. He was followed
by his son, Labashi-marduk, but the Babylonians
refused to follow him. Labashi-marduk was killed
in a revolt, and months later Nabonidus, the son-
in-law of Nebuchadnezzar was placed on the throne.
Entrusting the kingdom to his son Belshazzar,
Nabonidus was not present during the attack on
Babylon. The term "father" in Daniel 5:2 refers to
Belshazzar's grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar. An
example of this terminology can be found in
Matthew 1:20, when Joseph was called the son of
David. Likewise, Christians call themselves the
children of Abraham.

3/ Since, Nabonidus was the actual ruler of
Babylon, Belshazzar could only reward a third
position of leadership.

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