1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, while he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king and his lords, his wives and his concubines, might drink from them. 3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives and his concubines, drank from them. 4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. 5 In the same hour came forth the fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. 6 Then the king's face was changed in him, and his thoughts troubled him; and the joints of his thighs were loosened, and his knees struck one against another. 7 The king cried aloud to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whoever shall read this writing, and show me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. 8 Then came in all the king's wise men; but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his face was changed in him, and his lords were perplexed. 10 (Now) the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: the queen spoke and said, O king, live forever; don't let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your face be changed. 11 There is a man in your kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and the king Nebuchadnezzar your father, the king, (I say), your father, made him master of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; 12 because an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of dark sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation. 13 Then was Daniel brought in before the king. The king spoke and said to Daniel, Are you that Daniel, who are of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Judah? 14 I have heard of you, that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known to me its interpretation; but they could not show the interpretation of the thing. 16 But I have heard of you, that you can give interpretations, and dissolve doubts; now if you can read the writing, and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple, and have a chain of gold about your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. 17 Then Daniel answered before the king, Let your gifts be to yourself, and give your rewards to another; nevertheless I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation. 18 You, king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father the kingdom, and greatness, and glory, and majesty: 19 and because of the greatness that he gave him, all the peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him: whom he would he killed, and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he raised up, and whom he would he put down. 20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: 21 and he was driven from the sons of men, and his heart was made like the animals', and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys; he was fed with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of the sky; until he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and that he sets up over it whomever he will. 22 You, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which don't see, nor hear, nor know; and the God in whose hand your breath is, and whose are all your ways, you have not glorified. 24 Then was the part of the hand sent from before him, and this writing was inscribed. 25 This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God has numbered your kingdom, and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL; you are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting. 28 PERES; your kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. 29 Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with purple, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 In that night Belshazzar the Chaldean King was slain. 31 Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
Section I. - Authenticity of the Chapter
Much fewer objections have been made to the authenticity of this chapter, and much fewer difficulties started, than in regard to Daniel. 4. Those which have been urged may be classed under the following heads:
I. The first is substantially stated in this manner by Bertholdt, that "Daniel is represented as speaking to the king in such a tone, that if it had actually occurred, he would have been cut to pieces by an arbitrary Babylonian despot; but instead of that, he is not only unpunished, but is suffered to announce to the king the certain destruction of his kingdom by the Medes and Persians; and not only this, but he is immediately promoted to be a minister or officer of a state of exalted rank," p. 345.
To this it may be replied,
(1) That the way in which Daniel addressed him was entirely in accordance with the manner in which he addressed Nebuchadnezzar, in which Nathan addressed David, in which Isaiah addressed Ahaz, and Jeremiah the kings in his time.
(2) Belshazzar was overpowered with the remarkable vision of the handwriting on the wall; his conscience smote him, and he was in deep alarm. He sought the meaning of this extraordinary revelation, and could not but regard it as a communication from heaven. In this state of mind, painful as was the announcement, he would naturally receive it as a Divine communication, and he might fear to treat with indignity one who showed that he had the power of disclosing the meaning of words so mysterious.
(3) It was in accordance with the custom of those times to honor those who showed that they had the power of penetrating the Divine mysteries, and of disclosing the meaning of dreams, prodigies, and omens.
(4) It is not impossible, as Hengstenberg "Authentie des Daniel. 120," suggests, that, smitten with the consciousness of guilt, and knowing that he deserved punishment, he may have hoped to turn away the wrath of God by some act of piety; and that he resolved, therefore, to honor Daniel, who showed that he was a favorite of heaven. The main security of Daniel, however, in these bold and fearful announcements, was undoubtedly to be found in the smitten conscience of the trembling monarch, and in the belief that he was a favorite of heaven.
II. The improbability that all this should occur in one night - that so many scenes should have been crowded into so short a time - embracing the feast, the writing, the calling in of the magicians, the investing of Daniel with his new office, the taking of the city, etc. "Why," says Bertholdt, "was not the proclamation in regard to the new minister deferred to the following day? Why did all this occur in the midst of the scenes of revelry which were then taking place?" pp. 345, 346.
To this it may be replied:
(1) That there is, indeed, every appearance of haste and confusion in the transactions. This was natural. But there was assuredly no want of time to accomplish all that it is said was accomplished. If it was true that Cyrus broke into the city in the latter part of the night, or if, as historians say was the fact, he had entered the city, and made considerable progress in it before the tidings were communicated to Belshazzar, there is no improbability in supposing that all that is said of the feast, and of the handwriting, and of the calling in of the magicians, and of their failure to decipher the meaning of the writing, and of the summoning of Daniel, and of the interpretation which he gave, actually occurred, for there was time enough to accomplish all this.
(2) As to the other part of the objection, that it is improbable that Daniel would be so soon invested with office, and that a proclamation would be made in the night to this effect, it may be replied, that all that is fairly meant in the chapter Daniel 5:29 may be that an order was made to that effect, with a purpose to carry it into execution on the following day. Bertholdt himself translates the passage Daniel 5:29, "Then Belshazzar gave command that they should clothe Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold around his neck," etc. Hierauf "gab Belschazar den Befehl" dem Daniel den purpurmantel und den goldenen Halsschmuck umzuhangen, etc. On the one hand, nothing forbids the supposition that the execution of this order might have been deferred; or, on the other, that the order was executed at once. But little time would have been necessary to do it. See however, the note at Daniel 5:29.
III. A third objection or difficulty arises from the writing itself. It is, that it is wholly improbable that Daniel could have had sufficient knowledge to enable him to interpret these words when no one of the Chaldean sages could do it. Where, it is asked, could he have obtained this knowledge? His instruction in reading languages he must have received in Babylon itself, and it is wholly improbable that among so many sages and wise men who were accustomed to the languages spoken in Babylon and in other countries, no one should have been found who was as able to interpret the words as he. - Bertholdt, p. 346.
To this it is obvious to reply, that the whole narrative supposes that Daniel owed his ability to interpret these words, not to any natural skill, or to any superior advantages of genius or education, but to the fact that he was directly endowed from on high. In other cases, in the times of Nebuchadnezzar, he always disclaimed any power of his own of revealing the meaning of dreams and visions Daniel 2:27-30, nor did he set up any claim to an ability to do it of himself on this occasion. If he received his knowledge directly from God, all the difficulty in this objection vanishes at once; but the whole book turns on the supposition that he was under Divine teaching.
IV. It has been objected that there was no object to be accomplished worthy of such a miracle as that of writing in this mysterious manner on the wall. It is asked by Bertholdt (p. 347), "Is the miracle credible? What purpose was it designed to serve? What end would it accomplish? Was the design to show to Belshazzar that the city was soon to be destroyed? But of what use could this be but a couple of hours before it should occur? Or was it the design to make Belshazzar acquainted with the power of Jehovah, and to punish him for desecrating the vessels of the temple service? But who could attribute to the all-perfect Being such a weakness that he could be angry, and take this method to express his anger, for an act that could not be regarded as so heinous as to be worthy of such an interposition?"
To this it may be replied,
(1) That the objection here made would lie in some degree against almost any single miracle that is recorded in the Scriptures.
(2) That it may have been the intention to warn the king of the impending danger, not so much with a view that the danger should be averted, as to show that it came from God.
(3) Or it may have been the intention to show him the enormity of his sins, and even then to bring him to repentance.
(4) Or it may have been the intention to connect quite distinctly, in the apprehension of all present, and in the view of all future ages, the destruction of Babylon with the crimes of the monarchs, and especially their crimes in connection with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, the burning of the temple, and the carrying away of the people into a long captivity. There can be no doubt, from many parts of the prophetic writings, that the overthrow of Babylon, and the subversion of the Chaldean power, was in consequence of their treatment of the Hebrew people; and nothing was better fitted to show this than to make the destruction of the city coincident with the desecration of the sacred vessels of the temple.
(5) Or it may have been the intention to recal Daniel into notice, and to give him authority and influence again preparatory to the restoration of his countrymen to their own land. It would seem from the whole narrative that, in accordance with a custom which still prevails in Persia (Chardin, as referred to by Hengstenberg, "Authentie des Daniel," p. 123), all the magicians and astrologers had been dismissed from court on the death of Nebuchadnezzar, and that Daniel with the others had retired from his place. Yet it may have been important, in order to the restoration of the Hebrew people to their land at the appointed time, that there should be one of their own nation occupying an influential station at court, and Daniel was thus, in consequence of his ability to interpret this mysterious language, restored to his place, and was permitted to keep it until the time of the return of the Hebrews to their country arrived. See Daniel 6:2-3, Daniel 6:28.
(6) And it may have been the intention to furnish an impressive demonstration that Jehovah is the true God. Other objections it will be more convenient to notice in the course of the exposition of the chapter.
Section II. - Belshazzar
Of Belshazzar, the closing scene of whose reign is described in this chapter, little more is known than is recorded here. He is mentioned by Daniel as the last king of the Chaldees, under whom Babylon was taken by the Medes and Persians. Herodotus (i. 188) calls this king, and also his father, "Labynetus," which is undoubtedly a corruption of Nabonnedus, the name by which he was known to Berosus. - Josephus "against Apion," i. 20. Josephus himself ("Ant." x. ch. xi. Section 2) says that the name of this king, whom he calls Baltasar, among the Babylonians, was Naboandelus. Nabonadius in the canon of Ptolemy, Nabonedus in Eusebius (Chr. Armen. i. p. 60), and Nabonochus in Eusebius ("Prep. Evang." ix. 41), are remarked by Winer as only varieties of his name. Winer conjectures that in the name Belshazzar, the element shazzar means "the principle of fire." See Kitto's "Cyclopaedia."
The accounts which we have of this king are very meagre, and yet, meagre as they are, they are by no means uniform, and it is difficult to reconcile them. That which is given by Josephus as his own account of the successors of Nebuchadnezzar is in the following language: "After the death of Nebuchadnezzar Evil-Merodach, his son, succeeded in the kingdom, who immediately set Jeconiah at liberty, and esteemed him among his most intimate friends. When Evil-Merodach was dead, after a reign of eighteen years, Neglissar, his son, took the government, and retained it forty years, and then ended his life; and after him the succession came to his son, Labosordacus, who continued it in all but nine months; and when he was dead, it came to Baltasar, who by the Babylonians was called Naboandelus; against him did Cyrus the king of Persia, and Darius the king of Media, make war; and when he was besieged in Babylon there happened a wonderful and prodigious vision. He was sat down at supper in a large room, and there were a great many vessels of silver, such as were made for royal entertainments, and he had with him his concubines and his friends; whereupon he came to a resolution, and commanded that those vessels of God which Nebuchadnezzar had plundered out of Jerusalem, and had not made use of, but had put them into his own temple, should be brought out of that temple." - "Ant." b. x. ch. 11: Section 2. Josephus then proceeds to give an account of the appearance of the hand, and of the writing, and of the result in the taking of Babylon, substantially the same as what is found in this chapter of Daniel.
The account which Berosus gives as preserved by Josephus ("against Apion," b. i. Section 20) varies from this in some important particulars. For an account of Berosus, see the Introduction to Daniel. 4, Section I. He says, "Nabuchodonosar (Nebuchadnezzar), after he had begun to build the forementioned wall, fell sick and departed this life, when he had reigned forty-three years; whereupon his son, Evil-Merodach, obtained the kingdom. He governed public affairs after an illegal and impure manner, and had a plot laid against him by Neriglissar, his sister's husband, and was slain by him when he had reigned but two years. After he was slain, Neriglissar, the person who plotted against him, succeeded him in the kingdom, and reigned four years; but his son Laborosoarchad obtained the kingdom, though he was but a child, and kept it nine months; but by reason of the very ill temper, and the ill practices he exhibited to the world, a plot was laid against him also by his friends, and he was tormented to death. After his death the conspirators got together, and by common consent put the crown upon the head of Nabonnedus, a man of Babylon, and one who belonged to that insurrection.
In his reign it was that the walls of the city of Babylon were curiously built with burnt brick and bitumen; but when he was come to the seventeenth year of his reign, Cyrus came out of Persia with a great army, and having already conquered the rest of Asia, he came hastily to Babylonia. When Nabonnedus perceived he was coming to attack him, he met him with his forces, and joining battle with him, was beaten, and fled away with a few of his troops with him, and was shut up in the city of Borsippus. Hereupon Cyrus took Babylon, and gave orders that the outer walls of the city should be demolished, because the city had proved very troublesome to him, and cost him a great deal of pains to take it. He then marched away to Borsippus to besiege Nabonnedus; but as Nabonnedus did not sustain the siege, but delivered himself into his hands, he was at first kindly used by Cyrus, who gave him Carmania as a place for him to inhabit in, but sent him out of Babylonia. Accordingly, Nabonnedus spent the rest of his time in that country, and there died."
Roos ("Exposition of Daniel," p. 65) supposes that Evil-Merodach, who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar, did not reign more than one year, and that this accounts for the reason why he was not mentioned by Daniel; and that Belshazzar was a grandson of Nebuchadnezz Scripture, he is called his son, and Nebuchadnezzar his father, Daniel 5:11, Daniel 5:22. Belshazzar, he supposes, must have reigned more than twenty years.
The succession in the Babylonian Chaldean kingdom, according to Dr. Hales, was as follows: "Nabonassar reigned 14 years, from 747 b.c.; Nadius, 2, 733; Chinzirus, 5, 731; Jugaus, 5, 726; Mardok Empad, or Merodach Baladan, 12, 721; Arcianus, 5, 709; first interregnum, 2, 704; Belibus, 3, 702; Aphronadius, 6, 699; Regibelus, 1, 693; Mesessemordach, 4, 692; second interregnum, 8, 688; Asaradin, or Esar-haddon, 13, 680; Saosduchin, 20, 667; Chyneladon, 22, 647; Nabopolassar, or Labynetus I., 21, 625; Nineveh taken by the Babylonians and Medes, 604 b.c. Then follows the Babylonian dynasty, to wit, Nabopolassar, Labynetus I., Boktanser, or, Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned 43 years from 604 b.c.; Ilverodam, or Evil-Merodach, 3, 561 b.c.; Nericassolassar, Neriglissar, or Belshazzar, 5, 558 b.c.; Nabonadius, or Labynetus II., appointed by Darius the Mede, 17, 553 b.c.; Babylon taken by Cyrus, 536 b.c."
Dr. Hales remarks in connection with this, "Nothing can exceed the various and perplexed accounts of the names and reigns of the princes of this dynasty (the Babylonian) in sacred and profane history."
Jahn, following Ptolemy chiefly, thus enumerates the kings of Babylon from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar: "Nabocholassar, or Nebuchadnezzar, 43, 605 b.c.; Iluarodamus, or Evil-Merodach, 2, 562 b.c.; Nerichassolassar, or Neriglissar, 4, 560 B. C; Laborasoarchad, 9 months, 556 b.c.; Nabounned, 17 years, 556 b.c.; Babylon taken by the Medes and Persians, 540 b.c."
In this confusion and discord respecting the chronology of these princes, the following remarks may be made in regard to the credibility of the statements in the book of Daniel:
(1) It is clear that it was not uncommon for the same prince to have more names than one. This has not been unusual, especially among Oriental princes, who seem to have often prided themselves on the number of epithets which they could use as designating their royal state. Since this was the case, it would not be strange if the names of the same king should be so used by writers, or in tradition, as to leave the impression that there were several; or if one writer should designate a king by one name, and another by another.
(2) It would seem probable, from all the accounts, that Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, but little is known of the king or kings whose reign intervened between that of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar.
(3) The testimony of Daniel in the book before us should not be set aside by the statement of Berosus, or by the other confused accounts which have come down to us. For anything that appears to the contrary, the authority of Daniel is as good as that of Berosus, and he is as worthy of belief. Living in Babylon, and through a great part of the reigns of this dynasty; present at the taking of Babylon, and intimate at court; honored by some of these princes more than any other man in the realm, there is no reason why he should not have had access to the means of information on the subject, and no reason why it should not be supposed that he has given a fair record of what actually occurred. Though the account in regard to the last days of Belshazzar, as given by Berosus, does not agree with that of Daniel, it should not be assumed that that of Berosus is correct, and that of Daniel false. The account in Daniel is, to say the least, as probable as that of Berosus, and there are no means of proving that it is false except by the testimony of Berosus.
(4) The statement in Daniel of the manner in which Babylon was taken, and of the death of Belshazzar, is confirmed by Xenophon (Cyrop. vii.) - an authority quite equal, at least, to that of Berosus. See the note at Daniel 5:30. In the record in Daniel of the close of the life of Belshazzar, there is nothing that might not have been supposed to occur, for nothing is more probable than that a king might have been celebrating a feast in the manner described, or that the city might be surprised in such a night of revelry, or that, being surprised, the monarch might be slain.
Analysis of the Chapter
The chapter comprises a record of the series of events that occurred in Babylon on the night in which it was taken by the Medes and Persians. The scene may be supposed to open in the early evening, at a time when a festival would probably be celebrated, and to continue through a considerable part of the night. It is not known precisely at what time the city was taken, yet it may be supposed that Cyrus was making his approaches while the revel was going on in the palace, and that even while Daniel was interpreting the handwriting on the wall, he was conducting his armies along the channel of the river, and through the open gate on the banks of the river, toward the palace. The order of the events referred to is as follows:
(1) the feast given by Belshazzar in his palace, Daniel 5:1-4;
(2) the mysterious appearance of the part of the hand on the wall, Daniel 5:5;
(3) the summoning of the soothsayers to interpret the handwriting, and their inability to do it, Daniel 5:6-9;
(4) the entrance of the queen into the banqueting-hall on account of the trouble of the king, and her reference to Daniel as one qualified to interpret the vision, Daniel 5:10-12;
(5) the summoning of Daniel by the king, and his address to him, Daniel 5:13-16;
(6) the answer of Daniel, declining any rewards for his service, and his solemn address to the king, reminding him of what had occurred to Nebuchadnezzar, and of the fact that he had forgotten the lessons which the Divine dealings with Nebuchadnezzar were adapted to teach, and that his own heart had been lifted up with pride, and that his conduct had been eminently wicked, Daniel 5:17-23;
(7) the interpretation of the words by Daniel, Daniel 5:24-28;
(8) the order to clothe Daniel in a manner appropriate to one of high rank, and the appointment to the third office in the kingdom, Daniel 5:29; and
(9) the taking of the city, and the death of Belshazzar, Daniel 5:30-31.
In the commencement of this chapter we are informed how Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, when rioting in his palace, and profaning the severed vessels of the temple, Daniel 5:1-4, was suddenly terrified with the appearance of the fingers of a man's hand, which wrote a few words on the wall before him, Daniel 5:5, Daniel 5:6. The wise men and astrologers were immediately called in to show the king the interpretation; but they could not so much as read the writing, because (as Houbigant and others have conjectured) though the words are in the Chaldee tongue, yet they were written in the Samaritan or ancient Hebrew characters, with which the wise men of Babylon were very probably unacquainted, as the Jews were at that time a despised people, and the knowledge of their language not a fashionable attainment, Daniel 5:7-9. Daniel, who had been so highly esteemed by Nebuchadnezzar for his superior wisdom, appears to have been altogether unknown to Belshazzar, till the queen (the same who had been the wife of Nebuchadnezzar according to the general opinion, or the queen consort according to others) had informed him, Daniel 5:10-12. Upon the queen's recommendation, Daniel is called in, Daniel 5:13-16; who boldly tells this despotic king, that as he had not benefited by the judgments inflicted on his grandfather, but gave himself up to pride and profanity, and had added to his other sins an utter contempt for the God of the Jews by drinking wine out of the sacred vessels of Jehovah in honor of his idols, Daniel 5:17-23; the Supreme Being, the Ruler of heaven and earth, had written his condemnation in three words, Mene, Tekel, Peres, Daniel 5:24, Daniel 5:25; the first of which is repeated in the copies containing the Chaldean original; but all the ancient Versions, except the Syriac, are without this repetition. Daniel then gives the king and his lords the fearful import of the writing, viz., that the period allotted for the duration of the Chaldean empire was now completed, (see Jeremiah 25:12-14), and that the kingdom was about to be transferred to the Medes and Persians, Daniel 5:26-28. However unwelcome such an interpretation must have been to Belshazzar, yet the monarch, overwhelmed with its clearness and certainty, commanded the prophet to be honored, Daniel 5:29. And that very night the prediction was fulfilled, for the king was slain, Daniel 5:30, and the city taken by the Medes and Persians, Daniel 5:31. This great event was also predicted by Isaiah and Jeremiah; and the manner in which it was accomplished is recorded by Herodotus and Xenophon.
INTRODUCTION TO DANIEL 5
This chapter gives an account of a feast made by King Belshazzar, attended with drunkenness, idolatry, and profanation of the vessels taken out of the temple at Jerusalem, Daniel 5:1, and of the displeasure of God, signified by a handwriting on the wall, which terrified the king, and caused him to send in haste for the astrologers, &c. to read and interpret it, but they could not, Daniel 5:5, in this distress, which appeared in the countenances of him and his nobles, the queen mother advises him to send for Daniel, of whom she gives a great encomium, Daniel 5:9, upon which he was brought in to the king, and promised a great reward to read and interpret the writing; the reward he slighted, but promised to read and interpret the writing, Daniel 5:13 and after putting him in mind of what had befallen his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, and charging him with pride, idolatry, and profanation of the vessels of the Lord, Daniel 5:18 reads and interprets the writing to him Daniel 5:24, when he had honour done him, and was preferred in the government, Daniel 5:29 and the chapter is concluded with an account of the immediate accomplishment of ancient prophecies, and of this handwriting, in the slaying of the king of Babylon, in the dissolution of the Babylonish monarchy, and the possession of it by Darius the Mede, Daniel 5:30.
Belshazzar's Feast and the Handwriting of God
The Chaldean king Belshazzar made a feast to his chief officers, at which in drunken arrogance, by a desecration of the sacred vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from the temple at Jerusalem, he derided the God of Israel (Daniel 5:1-4). Then he suddenly saw the finger of a hand writing on the wall of the guest-chamber, at which he was agitated by violent terror, and commanded that the wise men should be sent for, that they might read and interpret to him the writing; and when they were not able to do this, he became pale with alarm (Daniel 5:5-9). Then the queen informed him of Daniel, who would be able to interpret the writing (Daniel 5:10-12). Daniel, being immediately brought in, declared himself ready to read and interpret the writing; but first he reminded the king of his sin in that he did not take warning from the divine chastisement which had visited king Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4), but offended the Most High God by desecrating the holy vessels of His temple (Daniel 5:13, Daniel 5:14). He then interpreted to him the writing, showing the king that God had announced to him by means of it the end of his reign, and the transference of the kingdom to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:25-28). Daniel was thereupon raised to honour by Belshazzar, who was, however, in that same night put to death (Daniel 5:29, Daniel 5:30).
This narrative presents historical difficulties, for a Chaldean king by the name of Belshazzar is nowhere else mentioned, except in the passage in Baruch 1:11f., which is dependent on this chapter of Daniel; and the judgment here announced to him, the occurrence of which is in part mentioned in Daniel 5:30, and in part set forth in Daniel 6:1 (Daniel 5:31), does not appear to harmonize with the extra-biblical information which we have regarding the destruction of the Chaldean kingdom.
If we consider closely the contents of this chapter, it appears that Belshazzar, designated in Daniel 5:30 as king of the Chaldeans, is not only in Daniel 5:22 addressed by Daniel as Nebuchadnezzar's son, but in Daniel 5:11, Daniel 5:13, and Daniel 5:18 is also manifestly represented in the same character, for the queen-mother (Daniel 5:11), Belshazzar himself (Daniel 5:13), and Daniel (Daniel 5:18) call Nebuchadnezzar his אב, father. If now אב and בּר do not always express the special relation of father and son, but אב is used in a wider sense of a grandfather and of yet more remote ancestors, and בּר of grandsons and other descendants, yet this wider interpretation and conception of the words is from the matter of the statements here made highly improbable, or indeed directly excluded, inasmuch as the queen-mother speaks of things which she had experience, and Daniel said to Belshazzar (Daniel 5:22) that he knew the chastisement which Nebuchadnezzar had suffered from God in the madness that had come upon him, but had not regarded it. In that case the announcement of the judgment threatening Belshazzar and his kingdom (Daniel 5:24-28), when compared with its partial fulfilment in Belshazzar's death (Daniel 5:30), appears to indicate that his death, together with the destruction of the Chaldean kingdom and its transference to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 6:1[5:31]), occurred at the same time. Nevertheless this indication, as has already been remarked, appears to have more plausibility than truth, since neither the combination of the two events in their announcement, nor their union in the statement of their fulfilment, by means of the copula וin Daniel 6:1, affords conclusive proof of their being contemporaneous. Since only the time of Belshazzar's death is given (Daniel 5:30), but the transference of the Chaldean kingdom to the Median Darius (Daniel 6:1) is not chronologically defined, then we may without hesitation grant that the latter event did not happen till some considerable time after the death of Belshazzar, in case other reasons demand this supposition. For, leaving out of view the announcement of the judgment, the narrative contains not the least hint that, at the time when Belshazzar revelled with his lords and his concubines, the city of Babylon was besieged by enemies. "Belshazzar (Daniel 5:1-4) is altogether without care, which he could not have been if the enemy had gathered before the gates. The handwriting announcing evil appears out of harmony with the circumstances (Daniel 5:5), while it would have had a connection with them if the city had been beleaguered. Belshazzar did not believe (Daniel 5:29) that the threatened end was near, which would not have been in harmony with a state of siege. All these circumstances are not to be explained from the light-mindedness of Belshazzar, but they may be by the supposition that his death was the result of an insurrection, unexpected by himself and by all." Kliefoth, p. 148.
Now let us compare with this review of the chapter the non-biblical reports regarding the end of the Babylonian monarchy. Berosus, in a fragment preserved by Josephus, c. Ap. i. 20, says that "Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded in the kingdom by his son Evilmerodach, who reigned badly (προστὰς τῶν πραγμάτων ἀνόμως καὶ ἀσελγῶς), and was put to death (ἀνηρέθη) by Neriglissor, the husband of his sister, after he had reigned two years. This Neriglissor succeeded him, and reigned four years. His son Laborosoarchod, being still a child (παῖς ὤν), reigned after him nine months, and was murdered by his friends (διὰ τὸ πολλὰ ἐμφαίνειν κακόηθη ὑπὸ τῶν φίλων ἀπετυμπανίσθη), because he gave many proofs of a bad character. His murderers by a general resolution transferred the government to Nabonnedus, one of the Babylonians who belonged to the conspirators. Under him the walls of Babylon along the river-banks were better built. But in the seventeenth year of his reign Cyrus came from Persia with a great army and took Babylon, after he had subjugated all the rest of Asia. Nabonnedus went out to encounter him, but was vanquished in battle, and fled with a few followers and shut himself up in Borsippa. But Cyrus, after he had taken Babylon and demolished its walls, marched against Borsippa and besieged Nabonnedus. But Nabonnedus would not hold out, and therefore surrendered himself. He was at first treated humanely by Cyrus, who removed him from Babylon, and gave him Carmania as a place of residence (δοὺς οἰκητήριον αὐτῷ Καρμανίαν), where he spent the remainder of his days and died."
Abydenus, in a shorter fragment preserved by Eusebius in the Praepar. Ev. ix. 41, and in the Chron. Armen. p. 60f., makes the same statements. Petermann's translation of the fragment found in Niebuhr's Gesch. Assurs, p. 504, is as follows: - "There now reigned (after Nebuchodrossor) his son Amilmarodokos, whom his son-in-law Niglisaris immediately murdered, whose only son Labossorakos remained yet alive; but it happened to him also that he met a violent death. He commanded that Nabonedokhos should be placed on the throne of the kingdom, a person who was altogether unfit to occupy it." (In the Praepar. Evang. this passage is given in these words: Ναβοννίδοχον ἀποδείκνυσι βασιλέα προσήκοντα οἱ οὐδέν). "Cyrus, after he had taken possession of Babylon, appointed him margrave of the country of Carmania. Darius the king removed him out of the land." (This last passage is wanting in the Praep. Ev.)
(Note: With these statements that of Alexander Polyhistor, in Euseb. Chron. Armen. ed. Aucher, i. p. 45, in the main agrees. His report, according to Petermann's translation (as above, p. 497), is as follows: - "After Nebuchodrossor, his son Amilmarudokhos reigned 12 years, whom the Hebr. hist. calls Ilmarudokhos. After him there reigned over the Chaldeans Neglisaros 4 years, and then Nabodenus 17 years, under whom Cyrus (son) of Cambyses assembled an army against the land of the Babylonians. Nabodenus opposed him, but was overcome and put to flight. Cyrus now reigned over Babylon 9 years," etc. The 12 years of Amilmarudokhos are without doubt an error of the Armenian translator or of some transcriber; and the omission of Loborosoarchod is explained by the circumstance that he did not reign a full year. The correctness of the statement of Berosus is confirmed by the Canon of Ptolemy, who names as successors of Nabokolassar (i.e., Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned 43 years), Illoarudmos 2 years, Nerigassolassaros 4 years, and Nabonadius 17 years; thus omitting Laborosoarchod on the grounds previously mentioned. The number of the years of the reigns mentioned by Berosus agrees with the biblical statements regarding the duration of the exile. From the first taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the fourth year of Jehoiakim are mentioned - Jehoiakim 7 years, Jehoiachin 3 months, and his imprisonment 37 years (Jeremiah 52:31), Evilmerodach 2 years, Neriglissar 4 years, Laborosoarchod 9 months, and Nabonnedus 17 years - in all 68 years, to which, if the 2 years of the reign of Darius the Mede are added, we shall have 70 years. The years of the reigns of the Babylonian kings amount in all to the same number; viz., Nebuchadnezzar 44 1/4 years, - since he did not become king till one year after the destruction of Jerusalem, he reigned 43 years, - Evilmerodach 2 years, Neriglissar 4 years, Laborosoarchod 9 months, Nabonnedus 17 years, and Darius the Mede 2 years - in all 70 years.)
According to these reports, there reigned in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar four other kings, among whom there was no one called Belshazzar, and only one son of Nebuchadnezzar, viz., Evilmerodach; for Neriglissar is son-in-law and Laborosoarchod is grandson (daughter's son) of Nebuchadnezzar, and Nabonnedus was not at all related to him, nor of royal descent. Of these kings, only Evilmerodach and Laborosoarchod were put to death, while on the contrary Neriglissar and Nabonnedus died a natural death, and the Babylonian dominion passed by conquest to the Medes, without Nabonnedus thereby losing his life. Hence it follows, (1) that Belshazzar cannot be the last king of Babylon, nor is identical with Nabonnedus, who was neither a son nor descendant of Nebuchadnezzar, and was not put to death by Cyrus at the destruction of Babylon and the overthrow of the Chaldean kingdom; (2) that Belshazzar could neither be Evilmerodach nor Laborosoarchod, since only these two were put to death - the former after he had reigned only two years, and the latter after he had reigned only nine months, while the third year of Belshazzar's reign is mentioned in Daniel 8:1; and (3) that the death of Belshazzar cannot have been at the same time as the destruction of Babylon by the Medes and Persians.
If we now compare with these facts, gathered from Oriental sources, those narrated by the Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon, we find that the former speaks of several Babylonian kings, but says nothing particular regarding them, but, on the other hand, reports many sayings and fabulous stories of two Babylonian queens, Semiramis and Nitocris, to whom he attributes (i. 184f.) many exploits, and the erection of buildings which Berosus has attributed to Nebuchadnezzar. Of Babylonian kings he names (i. 188) only Labynetos as the son of Nitocris, with the remark, that he had the same name as his father, and that Cyrus waged war against this second Labynetos, and by diverting the Euphrates from its course at the time of a nocturnal festival of its inhabitants, stormed the city of Babylon (i. 191), after he had gained a battle before laying siege to the capital of the Babylonians (i. 190). Xenophon (Cyrop. vii. 5, 15ff.), agreeing with Herodotus, relates that Cyrus entered the city by damming off the Euphrates during a festival of its inhabitants, and that the king was put to death, whose name he does not mention, but whom he describes (v. 2. 27, iv. 6. 3) as a youth, and (iv. 6. 3, v. 2. 27f., v. 3. 6, vii. 5. 32) as a riotous, voluptuous, cruel, godless man. The preceding king, the father of the last, he says, was a good man, but his youngest son, who succeeded to the government, was a wicked man. Herodotus and Xenophon appear, then, to agree in this, that both of them connect the destruction of Babylon and the downfall of the Chaldean kingdom by Cyrus with a riotous festival of the Babylonians, and both describe the last king as of royal descent. They agree with the narrative of Daniel as to the death of Belshazzar, that it took place during or immediately after a festival, and regarding the transference of the Chaldean kingdom to the Medes and Persians; and they confirm the prevalent interpretation of this chapter, that Belshazzar was the last Chaldean king, and was put to death on the occasion of the taking of Babylon. But in their statements concerning the last king of Babylon they both stand in opposition to the accounts of Berosus and Abydenus. Herodotus and Xenophon describe him as the king's son, while Nabonnedus, according to both of these Chaldean historians, was not of royal descent. Besides this, Xenophon states that the king lost his life at the taking of Babylon, while according to Berosus, on the contrary, he was not in Babylon at all, but was besieged in Borsippa, surrendered to Cyrus, and was banished to Carmania, or according to Abydenus, was made deputy of that province. Shall we then decide for Herodotus and Xenophon, and against Berosus and Abydenus? Against such a decision the great imperfection and indefiniteness of the Grecian account must awaken doubts. If, as is generally supposed, the elder Labynetus of Herodotus is the husband of Nitocris, who was the wife of Nebuchadnezzar, then his son of the same name cannot be identical with the Nabonnedus of Berosus and Abydenus; for according to the testimonies of biblical and Oriental authorities, which are clear on this point, the Chaldean kingdom did not fall under the son of Nebuchadnezzar, and then the statement of Herodotus regarding the two Labynetuses is certainly incorrect, and is fabricated from very obscure traditions. Xenophon also shows himself to be not well informed regarding the history of the Chaldean kings. Although his description of the last of these kings appears to indicate an intimate knowledge of his character, and accords with the character of Belshazzar, yet he does not even know the name of this king, and still less the duration of his reign.
Accordingly these scanty and indefinite Grecian reports cannot counterbalance the extended and minute statements of Berosus and Abydenus, and cannot be taken as regulating the historical interpretation of Daniel 5. Josephus, it is true, understands the narrative in such a way that he identifies Belshazzar with Nabonedus, and connects his death with the destruction of the Babylonish kingdom, for (Ant. x. 11, 2f.) he states that, after Nebuchadnezzar, his son Evilmerodach reigned eighteen years. But when he died, his son Neriglissar succeeded to the government, and died after he had reigned forty years. After him the succession in the kingdom came to his son Labosordacus, who continued in it but nine months; and when he was dead (τελευτήσαντος αὐτοῦ), it came to Baltasar, who by the Babylonians was called Naboandelus (Nabonnedus), against whom Cyrus the king of Persian and Darius the king of Media made war. While they besieged Babylon a wonderful event occurred at a feast which the king gave to his magnates and his wives, as described by Daniel 5. Not long after Cyrus took the city and made Baltasar prisoner. "For it was," he continues, "under Baltasar, after he had reigned seventeen years, that Babylon was taken. This was, as has been handed down to us, the end of the descendants of Nebuchadnezzar." But it is clear that in these reports which Josephus has given he has not drawn his information from sources no longer accessible to us, but has merely attempted in them to combine the reports of Berosus, and perhaps also those of the Greek historians, with his own exposition of the narrative of Daniel 5. The deviations from Berosus and the Canon of Ptolemy in regard to the number of the years of the reign of Evilmerodach and of Neriglissar are to be attributed to the transcriber of Josephus, since he himself, in his work contra Apion, gives the number in harmony with those stated by those authors without making any further remark. The names of the four kings are derived from Berosus, as well as the nine months' reign of Labosordacus and the seventeen years of Naboandelus; but the deviations from Berosus with respect to the death of Evilmerodach, and the descent of Neriglissar and Nabonnedus from Nebuchadnezzar, Josephus has certainly derived only from Jeremiah 27:7 and Daniel 5; for the statement by Jeremiah, that all the nations would serve Nebuchadnezzar, his son and his son's son, "until the very time of his land come," is literally so understood by him as meaning that Evilmerodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, was succeeded by his own son, who again was succeeded by his son, and so on down to Belshazzar, whom Daniel (Daniel 5:22) had called the son of Nebuchadnezzar, and whom Josephus regarded as the last king of Babylon, the Nabonnedus of the Babylonians. Josephus did not know how to harmonize with this view the fact of the murder of Evilmerodach by his brother-in-law, and therefore he speaks of Evilmerodach as dying in peace, and of his son as succeeding him on the throne, while he passes by in silence the death of Labosordacus and the descent of Baltasar, and only in the closing sentence reckons him also among the successors of Nebuchadnezzar.
But if in the passages quoted Josephus gives only his own view regarding the Chaldean rulers down to the time of the overthrow of the kingdom, and in that contradicts on several points the statements of Berosus, without supporting these contradictions by authorities, we cannot make use of his narrative as historical evidence for the exposition of this chapter, and the question, Which Babylonian king is to be understood by Belshazzar? must be decided on the ground of existing independent authorities.
Since, then, the extra-biblical authorities contradict one another in this, that the Chaldean historians describe Nabonnedus, the last king of the Chaldean kingdom, as a Babylonian not of royal descent who, after putting to death the last descendant of the royal family, usurped the throne, which, according to their account, he occupied till Babylon was destroyed by Cyrus, when he was banished to Carmania, where he died a natural death; while, on the other hand, Herodotus and Xenophon represent the last Babylonian king, whom Herodotus calls Labynetus = Nabonedos = Nabonned = Nabonid, as of royal descent, and the successor of his father on the throne, and connect the taking of Babylon with a riotous festival held in the palace and in the city generally, during which, Xenophon says, the king was put to death; - therefore the determination regarding the historical contents of Daniel 5 hinges on this point: whether Belshazzar is to be identified, on the authority of Greek authors, with Nabonnedus; or, on the authority of the Chaldean historians, is to be regarded as different from him, and is identical with one of the two Babylonian kings who were dethroned by a conspiracy.
The decision in favour of the former I have in my Lehrb. der Einl., along with many interpreters, contended for. By this view the statements of Berosus and Abydenus regarding Nabonned's descent and the end of his life must be set aside as unhistorical, and explained only as traditions intended for the glorification of the royal house of Nebuchadnezzar, by which the Babylonians sought to lessen the undeniable disgrace attending the downfall of their monarchy, and to roll away the dishonour of the siege at least from the royal family of the famed Nebuchadnezzar. But although in the statements of Berosus, but particularly in those of Abydenus regarding Nebuchadnezzar, their laudatory character cannot be denied, yet Hvernick (N. Krit. Unterss. p. 70f.) and Kranichfeld, p. 30ff., have with justice replied that this national partiality in giving colour to his narrative is not apparent in Berosus generally, for he speaks very condemnatorily of the son of Nebuchadnezzar, saying that he administered the affairs of government ἀνόμως καὶ ἀσελγῶς; he also blames the predecessor of Nabonnedus, and assigns as the reason of the murder of the former as well as of the latter their own evil conduct. Nor does it appear that Berosus depreciated Nabonnedus in order to benefit his predecessors, rather he thought of him as worthy of distinction, and placed him on the throne in honour among his predecessors. "What Herodotus says (i. 186) of the wife of Nebuchadnezzar is expressly stated by Berosus to the honour of the government of Nabonnedus, namely, that under his reign a great part of the city wall was furnished with fortifications (τὰ περὶ τὸν ποταμὸν τείχη τῆς Βαβυλωνίων πόλεως ἐχ ὀπτῆς πλίνθου καὶ ἀσφάλτου κατεκοσμήθη); and it is obviously with reference to this statement that in the course of the narrative mention is made of the strong fortifications of the city which defied the assault of Cyrus. Moreover, in the narrative Nabonnedus appears neither as a traitor nor as a coward. On the contrary, he goes out well armed against the enemy and offers him battle (ἀπαντήσας μετὰ τῆς δυνάμεως καὶ παραταξάμενος); and the circumstance that he surrendered to Cyrus in Borsippa is to be accounted for from this, that he only succeeded in fleeing thither with a very small band. Finally, it is specially mentioned that Cyrus made war against Babylon after he had conquered the rest of Asia. From this it is manifest that the fame of the strength of Babylon was in no respect weakened by Nabonnedus' seventeen years' reign." (Kranichfeld.) All these circumstances stand in opposition to the opinion that there is a tendency in Berosus to roll the disgrace of the overthrow of the kingdom from off the family of Nebuchadnezzar, and to attribute it to an incapable upstart.
What Berosus, moreover, says regarding the treatment of Nabonnedus on the part of Cyrus shows no trace of a desire to depreciate the dethroned monarch. That Cyrus assigned him a residence during life in Carmania is in accordance with the noble conduct of Cyrus in other cases, e.g., toward Astyages the Mede, and toward the Lydian king Croesus (Herod. i. 130; Justin. i. 6, 7). In addition to all this, not only is the statement of Berosus regarding the battle which preceded the overthrow of Babylon confirmed by Herodotus, i. 190, but his report also of the descent of Nabonnedus and of his buildings is established by inscriptions reported on by Oppert in his Expdit. Scient. i. p. 182ff.; for the ruins of Babylon on both banks of the Euphrates preserve to this day the foundations on which were built the walls of Nabonnedus, consisting of hard bricks almost wholly covered with asphalt, bearing the name of Nabonetos, who is not described as a king's son, but is only called the son of Nabobalatirib. Cf. Duncker, Gesch. des Alterth. ii. p. 719, 3rd ed.
After all that has been said, Berosus, as a native historian, framing his narratives after Chaldean tradition, certainly merits a preference not only to Herodotus, who, according to his own statement, i. 95, followed the Persian tradition in regard to Cyrus, and is not well informed concerning the Babylonian kings, but also to Xenophon, who in his Cyropaedia, however favourably we may judge of its historical value, follows no pure historical aim, but seeks to set forth Cyrus as the pattern of a hero-king, and reveals no intimate acquaintance with the history of the Chaldean kings. But if, in all his principal statements regarding Nabonnedus, Berosus deserves full credit, we must give up the identification of Belshazzar with Nabonnedus, since the narrative of Daniel 5, as above remarked, connects the death of Belshazzar, in point of fact indeed, but no in point of time, with the destruction of the Babylonian kingdom; and the narratives of Herodotus and Xenophon with respect to the destruction of Babylon during a nocturnal revelry of its inhabitants, may rest also only on some tradition that had been transmitted to their time.
(Note: Kranichfeld, p. 84ff., has so clearly shown this origin of the reports given by Herodotus and Xenophon regarding the circumstances attending the taking of Babylon by Cyrus, that we cannot refrain from here communicating the principal points of his proof. Proceeding from the Augenschein (appearance), on which Hitzig argues, that, according to Daniel 5:26., the death of Belshazzar coincided with the destruction of the Chaldean kingdom, since both events are announced together in God's writing, Kranichfeld assumes that this appearance (although it presents itself as an optical illusion, on a fuller acquaintance with the manner of prophetic announcement in which the near and the more remote futures are immediately placed together) has misled the uncritical popular traditions which Herodotus and Xenophon record, and that not from first and native sources. "The noteworthy factum of the mysterious writing which raised Daniel to the rank of third ruler in the kingdom, and certainly, besides, made him to be spoken of as a conspicuous personage, and the interpretation which placed together two facta, and made them apparently contemporaneous, as well as the factum of one part of the announcement of the mysterious writing being actually accomplished that very night, could in the course of time, even among natives, and so much the sooner in the dim form which the tradition very naturally assumed in foreign countries, e.g., in the Persian tradition, easily give occasion to the tradition that the factum mentioned in the mysterious writing occurred, as interpreted, in that same night." In this way might the Persian or Median popular tradition easily think of the king who was put to death that night, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, as also the last Babylonian king, with whom the kingdom perished, and attribute to him the name Labynetus, i.e., the Nabonnedus of Berosus, which is confirmed by the agreement of Herodotus with Berosus in regard to the battle preceding the overthrow of Babylon, as well as the absence of the king from Babylon at the taking of the city. - "The historical facts with respect to the end of the Chaldean kingdom, as they are preserved by Berosus, were thrown together and confused along the dim course of the tradition with a narrative, preserved to us in its original form by Daniel, of the contents of the mysterious writing, connecting the death of the king with the end of the kingdom, corresponding with which, and indeed in that very night in which it was interpreted, the murder of the king took place; and this dim tradition we have in the reports given by Herodotus and Xenophon. But the fact, as related by Daniel 5, forms the middle member between the statement given by Berosus and the form which the tradition has assumed in Herodotus and Xenophon." "This seems to me," as Kran., in conclusion, remarks, "to be the very simple and natural state of the matter, in view of the open contradiction, on the one side, in which the Greek authors stand to Berosus and Abydenus, without, however (cf. Herodotus), in all points differing from the former; and, on the other side, in view of the manifest harmony in which they stand with Daniel, without, however, agreeing with him in all points. In such circumstances the Greek authors, as well as Berosus and Abydenus on the other side, serve to establish the statements in the book of Daniel."
Against this view of the origin of the tradition transmitted by Herodotus and Xenophon, that Cyrus took Babylon during a riotous festival of its inhabitants, the prophecies of Isaiah 21:5, and of Jeremiah 51:39, cannot be adduced as historical evidence in support of the historical truth of this tradition; for these prophecies contain only the thought that Babylon shall suddenly be destroyed amid the tumult of its revelry and drunkenness, and would only be available as valid evidence if they were either vaticinia ex eventu, or were literally delivered as predictions.)
But if Belshazzar is not the same person as Nabonnedus, nor the last Babylonian king, then he can only be either Evilmerodach of Laborosoarchod, since of Nebuchadnezzar's successors only these two were murdered. Both suppositions have found their advocates. Following the example of Scaliger and Calvisius, Ebrard (Comm. zur Offb. Johannes, p. 45) and Delitzsch (Herz.'s Realencykl. iii. p. 277) regard Belshazzar as Laborosoarchod or Labosordacus (as Josephus writes the name in the Antt.), i.e., Nebo-Sadrach, and Bel = Nebo; for the appearance of the queen leads us to think of a very youthful king, and Belshazzar (Daniel 5:13) speaks of Nebuchadnezzar as if all he knew regarding him was derived from hearsay alone. In v. 6:1 (Jeremiah 5:31) it is indicated that a man of advanced age came in the room of a mere youth. If Daniel reckons the years of Belshazzar from the death of Evilmerodach (cf. Jeremiah 27:7), for Belshazzar's father Neriglissar (Nergal-Sar), since he was only the husband of a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, could only rule in the name of his son, then Belshazzar (Nebo-Sadrach) was murdered after a reign of four years and nine months, of which his father Nergal-Sar reigned four years in his stead, and he himself nine months. With Belshazzar the house of Nebuchadnezzar had ceased to reign. Astyages, the Median king, regarded himself as heir to the Chaldean throne, and held as his vassal Nabonnedus, who was made king by the conspirators who had murdered Belshazzar; but Nabonnedus endeavoured to maintain his independence by means of a treaty with the king of Lydia, and thus there began the war which was directed first against the Lydian king, and then against Nabonnedus himself.
But of these conjectures and combinations there is no special probability, for proof is wanting. For the alleged origin of the war against the Lydian king and against Nabonnedus there is no historical foundation, since the supposition that Astyages regarded himself, after the extinction of the house of Nebuchadnezzar, as the heir to the Chaldean throne is a mere conjecture. Neither of these conjectures finds any support either in the fact that Nabonnedus remained quiet during the Lydian war instead of rendering help to the Lydian king, or from that which we find on inscriptons regarding the buildings of Nabonnedus. According to the researches of Oppert and Duncker (Gesch. d. Alterthums, ii. p. 719), Nabonetus (Nabunahid) not merely completed the walls left unfinished by Nebuchadnezzar, which were designed to shut in Babylon from the Euphrates along both sides of the river; but he designates himself, in inscriptions found on bricks, as the preserver and the restorer of the pyramid and the tower, and he boasts of having built a temple at Mugheir to the honour of his deities, the goddess Belit and the god Sin (god of the Moon). The restoration of the pyramid and the tower, as well as the building of the temple, does not agree with the supposition that Nabonnedus ascended the throne as vassal of the Median king with the thought of setting himself free as soon as possible from the Median rule. Moreover the supposition that Neriglissar, as the husband of Nebuchadnezzar' daughter, could have conducted the government only in the name of his son, is opposed to the statements of Berosus and to the Canon of Ptolemy, which reckon Neriglissar as really king, and his reign as distinct from that of his son. Thus the appearance of the queen in Daniel 5 by no means indicates that Belshazzar was yet a boy; much rather does the participation of the wives and concubines of Belshazzar in the feast point to the age of the king as beyond that of a boy. Finally, it does not follow from Daniel 5:13 that Belshazzar knew about Nebuchadnezzar only from hearsay. In the verse referred to, Belshazzar merely says that he had heard regarding Daniel that he was one of the Jews who had been carried captive by his father Nebuchadnezzar. But the carrying away of Daniel and of the Jews by Nebuchadnezzar took place, as to its beginning, before he had ascended the throne, and as to its end (under Zedekiah), during the first half of his reign, when his eldest son might be yet a mere youth. That Belshazzar knew about Nebuchadnezzar not from hearsay merely, but that he knew from personal knowledge about his madness, Daniel tells him to his face, Daniel 5:22.
Finally, the identification of Labosordacus, = Nebo-Sadrach, with Belshazzar has more appearance than truth. Bel is not like Nebo in the sense that both names denote one and the same god; but Bel is the Jupiter of the Babylonians, and Nebo the Mercury. Also the names of the two kings, as found on the inscriptions, are quite different. For the name Λαβοσόρδαχος (Joseph. Ant.) Berosus uses Λαβοροσοάρχοδος; and Abydenus (Euseb. praep. ev. ix. 41) Λαβασσάρασκος; in the Chr. arm. it is Labossorakos, and Syncellus has Λαβοσάροχος. These names do not represent Nebo-Sadrach, but that used by Berosus corresponds to the native Chaldee Nabu-ur-uzuurkud, the others point to Nabu-surusk or -suruk, and show the component parts contained in the name Nabu-kudrussur in inverted order, - at least they are very nearly related to this name. Belshazzar, on the contrary, is found in the Inscription published by Oppert (Duncker, p. 720) written Belsarrusur. In this Inscription Nabonetus names Belsarrusur the offspring of his heart. If we therefore consider that Nabonnedus represents himself as carrying forward and completing the work begun by Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, the supposition presses itself upon us, that also in regard to the name which he gave to his son, who was eventually his successor on the throne, he trod in the footsteps of the celebrated founder of the Babylonian monarchy. Consequently these Inscriptions would indicate that Belshazzar (= Belsarrusur) of Daniel was the son of Nebuchadnezzar, and his successor on the throne.
Though we may rest satisfied with this supposition, there are yet weighty reasons for regarding Belshazzar as the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar, who was put to death by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, and thus for identifying him with Evilmerodach (2-Kings 25:27; Jeremiah 52:31). Following the example of Marsham in Canon chron. p. 596, this opinion is maintained among modern critics by Hofmann (Die 70 Jahre, p. 44ff.), Hvernick (N. K. Unt. p. 71), Oehler (Thol. Litt. Anz. 1842, p. 398), Hupfeld (Exercitt. Herod. spec. ii. p. 46), Niebuhr (Ges. Ass. p. 91f.), Zndel (p. 33), Kranichfeld, and Kliefoth. In favour of this opinion we notice, first, that Belshazzar in the narrative of Daniel is distinctly declared to be the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar. The statement of Berosus, that Evilmerodach managed the affairs of the government ἀνόμως καὶ ἀσελγῶς, entirely harmonizes also with the character ascribed to Belshazzar in this chapter, while the arguments which appear to oppose the identity of the two are unimportant. The diversity of names, viz., that Nebuchadnezzar' successor both in 2-Kings 25:27 and Jeremiah 52:31 is called אויל מרדך, and by Berosus, Abydenus, and in the Canon of Ptolemy Εὐειλμαράδουχος, Amilmarodokos, ̓Ιλλοαρούδαμος (in the Canon only, written instead of ̓Ιλμαρούδακος), but by Daniel בּלשׁאצּר, is simply explained by this, that as a rule the Eastern kings had several names: along with their personal names they had also a surname or general royal name, the latter being frequently the only one that was known to foreigners; cf. Niebuhr, Gesch. Assurs u. Babels, p. 29ff. In the name Evilmerodach, the component parts, Il (= El), i.e., God, and Merodach, recur in all forms. The first part was changed by the Jews, perhaps after the tragic death of the king, into 'ewiyl, stultus (after Psalm 53:1-6?); while Daniel, living at the Babylonian court, transmits the name Belshazzar, formed after the name of the god Bel, which was there used. Moreover the kind benevolent conduct of Evilmerodach towards king Jehoiachin, who was languishing in prison, does not stand in contradiction to the vileness of his character, as testified to by Berosus; for even an unrighteous, godless ruler can be just and good in certain instances. Moreover the circumstance that, according to the Canon of Ptolemy, Evilmerodach ruled two years, while, on the contrary, in Daniel 8:1 mention is made of the third year of the reign of Belshazzar, forms no inexplicable discrepancy. Without resorting to Syncellus, who in his Canon attributes to him three years, since the numbers mentioned in this Canon contain many errors, the discrepancy may be explained from the custom prevalent in the books of Kings of reckoning the duration of the reign of a king only in full years, without reference to the months that may be wanting or that may exceed. According to this usage, the reign might extend to only two full years if it began about the middle of the calendar year, but might extend into three calendar years, and thus be reckoned as three years, if the year of the commencement of it and the year in which it ended were reckoned according to the calendar. On the other side, it is conceivable that Evilmerodach reigned a few weeks, or even months, beyond two years, which were in the reckoning of the duration of his reign not counted to him, but to his successor. Ptolemy has without doubt observed this procedure in his astronomical Canon, since he reckons to all rulers only full years. Thus there is no doubt of any importance in opposition to the view that Belshazzar was identical with Evilmerodach, the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar.
With the removal of the historical difficulty lying in the name Belshazzar the historical credibility of the principal contents of this narrative is at the same time established. And this so much the more surely, as the opponents of the genuineness are not in a position to find, in behalf of their assertion that this history is a fiction, a situation from which this fiction framed for a purpose can be comprehended in the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes and in the relations of the times of the Maccabees. According to Berth., v. Leng., Hitz., and Bleek, the author sought on the one hand to represent to the Syrian prince in the fate of Belshazzar how great a judgment from God threatened him on account of his wickedness in profaning the temple, and on the other, to glorify Daniel the Jew by presenting him after the type of Joseph.
But as for the first tendency (or purpose), the chief matter is wholly wanting, viz., The profanation of the holy vessels of the temple by Antiochus on the occasion of a festival, which in this chapter forms the chief part of the wickedness for which Belshazzar brings upon himself the judgment of God. Of Antiochus Epiphanes it is only related that he plundered the temple at Jerusalem in order that he might meet his financial necessities, while on the other hand the carrying away by Nebuchadnezzar of the vessels belonging to the temple (Daniel 1:2) is represented as a providence of God.
(Note: According to Bleek and v. Leng., this narrative must have in view 1 Macc. 1:21ff. and 2 Macc. 5:15ff., where it is related of Antiochus as something in the highest degree vicious, that he entered into the temple at Jerusalem, and with impure hands carried thence the golden basins, cups, bowls, and other holy vessels. But in spite of this wholly incorrect application of the contents of the passages cited, Bleek cannot but confess that the reference would be more distinct if it were related - which it is not - that Antiochus used the holy vessels at a common festival, or at least at the time of offering sacrifice. But if we look closely at 1 Macc. 1:21ff., we find that Antiochus not only took away the utensils mentioned by Bleek, but also the golden altar, the golden candlestick, the table of shew-bread, the veil, and the crowns, and the golden ornaments that were before the temple, all which (gold) he pulled off, and took also the silver and gold, and the hidden treasures which he found; from which it clearly appears that Antiochus plundered the temple because of his pecuniary embarrassment, as Grimm remarks, or "for the purpose of meeting his financial necessities" (Grimm on 2 Macc. 5:16). Hitzig has therefore abandoned this reference as unsuitable for the object assumed, and has sought the occasion for the fiction of Daniel 5 in the splendid games and feasts which Antiochus held at Daphne (Polyb. xxxi. 3, 4). But this supposition also makes it necessary for the critic to add the profanation of the holy vessels of the temple at these feasts from his own resources, because history knows nothing of it. Polybius merely says that the expense of these entertainments was met partly by the plunder Antiochus brought from Egypt, partly by the gifts of his allies, but most of all by the treasure taken from the temple.)
As regards the second tendency of the composition, the glorifying of Daniel after the type of Joseph, Kliefoth rightly remarks: "The comparison of Daniel with Joseph rests on hastily collected indefinite resemblances, along with which there are also found as many contrasts." The resemblances reduce themselves to these: that Daniel was adorned by the king with a golden chain about his neck and raised to the highest office of state for his interpretation of the mysterious writing, as Joseph had been for the interpretation of the dream. But on this Ewald
(Note: P. 380 of the 3rd vol. of the second ed. of his work, Die Propheten des A. Bundes.)
himself remarks: "The promise that whoever should solve the mystery would be made third ruler of the kingdom, and at the same time the declaration in Daniel 6:3 (Daniel 6:2show that in the kingdom of Babylon there existed an arrangement similar to that of the Roman empire after Diocletia, by which under one Augustus there might be three Caesars. Altogether different is the old Egyptian law set forth in Genesis 41:43., and prevailing also in ancient kingdoms, according to which the king might recognise a man as the second ruler in the kingdom, or as his representative; and since that mentioned in the book of Daniel is peculiar, it rests, to all appearance, on some old genuine Babylonish custom. On the other hand, the being clothed with purple and adorned with a golden chain about the neck is more generally the distinguishing mark of men of princely rank, as is seen in the case of Joseph, Genesis 41:42."
To this it must be added, that Belshazzar's relation to Daniel and Daniel's conduct toward Belshazzar are altogether different from the relation of Antiochus to the Jews who remained faithful to their law, and their conduct toward that cruel king. That the conduct of Belshazzar toward Daniel does not accord with the times of the Maccabees, the critics themselves cannot deny. Hitzig expresses his surprise that "the king hears the prophecy in a manner one should not have expected; his behaviour is not the same as that of Ahab toward Micah, or of Agamemnon toward Calchas." Antiochus Epiphanes would have acted precisely as they did. And how does the behaviour of Daniel harmonize with that of Mattathias, who rejected the presents and the favour of the tyrant (1 Macc. 2:18ff.), and who put to death with the sword those Jews who were submitting themselves to the demands of the king? Daniel received the purple, and allowed himself to be adorned with a golden chain by the heathen king, and to be raised to the rank of third ruler in his kingdom.
(Note: "In short, the whole accompaniments of this passage," Kranichfeld thus concludes (p. 213) his dissertation on this point, "are so completely different from those of the Maccabean times, that if it is to be regarded as belonging peculiarly to this time, then we must conceive of it as composed by an author altogether ignorant of the circumstances and of the historical situation.")
While thus standing in marked contrast to the circumstances of the Maccabean times, the narrative is perfectly consistent if we regard it as a historical episode belonging to the time of Daniel. It is true it has also a parenetic character, only not the limited object attributed to it by the opponents of the genuineness - to threaten Antiochus Epiphanes with divine judgments on account of his wickedness and to glorify Daniel. Rather it is for all times in which the church of the Lord is oppressed by the powers of the world, to show to the blasphemers of the divine name how the Almighty God in heaven punishes and destroys the lords of this world who proceed to desecrate and abuse that which is sacred, without taking notice of the divine warnings addressed to them on account of their self-glorification, and bestows honour upon His servants who are rejected and despised by the world. But when compared with the foregoing narratives, this event before us shows how the world-power in its development became always the more hardened against the revelations of the living God, and the more ripe for judgment. Nebuchadnezzar demanded of all his subjects a recognition of his gods, and prided himself in his great power and worldly glory, but yet he gave glory to the Lord of heaven for the signs and wonders which God did to him. Belshazzar knew this, yet it did not prevent him from blaspheming this God, nor did it move him to seek to avert by penitential sorrow the judgment of death which was denounced against him.
*More commentary available by clicking individual verses.