“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 surprise./1
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 5:1-6).
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.”
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, England.
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.
Handwriting on the Wall