BOOK OF DANIEL – Daniel is Summoned

Posted by on Oct 5, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – Daniel is Summoned

Daniel is Summoned

Let us return for a moment to complete our discussion of Daniel 5:10-12. The queen clearly had knowledge of the abilities of Daniel and how Nebuchadnezzar viewed him. If anything, this passage is a queen offering Belshazzar some assurance that he could obtain the meaning of the writing on the wall. That did not mean, even if the queen felt it did, that there would be a favorable outcome in knowing what the writing meant. As I read this passage it reminded me of someone who is saying to another, “Stop worrying about something before you know what it is”.  That could be the point the queen had in telling Belshazzar not to let his thoughts alarm him or for him to go pale in fear. After all, she thought she had the answer to his anxiety – Daniel.

Verse eleven is the verse that seems to imply that Daniel was no longer serving in the Babylonian court. Given the fact that by 539 BC Daniel would have been in his early eighties he may have been in retirement. He could have stepped down or been forced from his position in the court soon after the death of Nebuchadnezzar. But the queen reminded Belshazzar of Nebuchadnezzar’s total confidence in Daniel and that he had made him chief of his wise men which was remarkable because it was appointing someone who was not a Chaldean. She went on to explain why by detailing Daniel’s excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems. She repeated the same phrase Nebuchadnezzar used in describing Daniel as “A man in whom the spirit of the Holy God dwelt”. Finally, she tells Belshazzar that the king named him Beltshazzar which most likely is the name that the Babylonians knew him as. She then suggested Daniel be summoned before the king to reveal the interpretation. That last point is remarkable in that she expressed total confidence herself that Daniel would be able to solve the riddle of the writing on the wall. There was no doubt in her mind. In due reverence to God’s servant she also addresses Daniel by his Jewish name twice. The first time was in introducing his gifts to Belshazzar and the second time in telling the king to call Daniel to the court. Some have even suggested that the queen may have, in fact, been the only person who still valued the advice of Daniel.

Despite the reputation and respect the queen had for Daniel it is interesting how Belshazzar spoke to him upon him coming before the court. Daniel 5:13-16 records, “Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 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. Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. 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 around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” (ESV)

In our next blog, we will discuss this passage in depth. For now, notice the immediate insolence of Belshazzar as Daniel is brought before him. Notice how, by his speech, he treats Daniel like a second class citizen, faintly reminding him that he is a still a slave. Notice Belshazzar’s tone, nonchalantly telling Daniel that the wise men could not make known the interpretation but he has heard that Daniel can. Finally, notice how he casually tells Daniel that if he can read the writing and interpret the meaning he will be clothed with fine garments and gold and be the third ruler of the kingdom.

We shall see next time just how far Belshazzar underestimated Daniel and, more importantly, Daniel’s God.

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BOOK OF DANIEL – Things Go from Bad to Worse

Posted by on Oct 4, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – Things Go from Bad to Worse

Things Go from Bad to Worse!

Some of us may be able to relate when we are fearful of something and it only gets worse. We saw in Daniel 5:6 that Belshazzar’s color changed at the sight of the handwriting on the wall and that his legs gave way and his knees knocked. We then saw in verse seven that he summoned his wise men to interpret what the handwriting meant. Yes, you read that correctly. In all likelihood, they could read the words but they didn’t understand what the words meant in the context of what was written (more of that later). Daniel 5:8-9 tells us, “Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.” (ESV) Now Belshazzar’s fear becomes worse. None of his wise men were able to interpret the meaning of the writing. Belshazzar now became greatly alarmed. Some scholars have suggested the text of the writing may have been in the form of an ideogram [a picture or symbol used in a system of writing to represent a thing or an idea but not a particular word or phrase] but that is pure conjecture. It is worth noting that the hand was writing on the wall, not drawing a picture or a symbol to represent something. The Aramaic word used in Daniel 5:5 is kathab meaning to write or written. It corresponds with the Hebrew word kethab which means writing or wrote. This combination of words are only found in eight instances in the Old Testament and are used by Daniel and Ezra. I personally am persuaded to believe the writing was indeed, just that…writing. The suggestion that it could have been an ideogram, in my view, disrespects the text.

By now, the wise men were perplexed as well. I’m sure they may have tried as hard as possible. After all, riches and power were being offered which is probably what they were more perplexed about than anything.

Just when we think this scenario is getting worse, the queen enters the story. Daniel 5:10-12 records, “The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.” (ESV)

Some have speculated who the queen mentioned in verse ten was. The Bible record makes no mention of her name. What is clear is that she knew of Daniel’s fame in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Some have said this points to the woman being a wife of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar’s mother. This theory is mute in that we have read the evidence of Nabonidus naming Belshazzar as his firstborn son. The majority of scholars believe that Nebuchadnezzar married Amytis (630-565 BC) who was the daughter of the Median king, Cyaxares (d.585BC). This marriage is said to have come about by their political alliance to overthrow the Assyrian empire. As we are now in the year 539 BC in Daniel chapter five it eliminates Amytis as she would have been dead some twenty-six years. Critics again jump at the chance of referring to Belshazzar as the son of Nebuchadnezzar due to his reference to Nebuchadnezzar as his father in Daniel 5:13. Such liberal academics are quick to claim that this is proof of a later writer of Daniel because they were not familiar with previous kings. That argument borders on the absurd. We have already mentioned kings were referred to as “fathers” by later kings and that that there was no word equivalent to describe a grandfather. As to the queen’s identity, we are left to wonder. Does her identification matter? No. If you firmly believe God’s word is true and have no doubt in your mind, then that should remove questions about the authenticity of the Bible. What God has told us is sufficient. He doesn’t need to tell us and we don’t need to ask.

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BOOK OF DANIEL – Some Interesting Archaeological Finds

Posted by on Oct 3, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – Some Interesting Archaeological Finds

Some Interesting Archaeological Finds

Robert Johann Koldewey (1855-1925) was a German self-trained archaeologist, famous for his in-depth excavation of the ancient city of Babylon. His digs at Babylon revealed the foundations of the ziggurat Marduk and the Ishtar Gate. He also developed several modern archaeological techniques including a method to identify and excavate mud-brick architecture. This technique was particularly useful in his excavation of what Koldewey believed to be the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which he excavated from 1899 to 1917. These gardens were built around 580 BC using, for the most part, unfired mudbricks. Koldewey obtained the support of the German Oriental Society and in 1899 his team unearthed Babylon’s central Processional Street. For the first time, the modern world at that time took its first look at the site of this ancient city. The expedition also found the outer walls, inner walls, and foundation of Etemenanki, a temple sometimes identified as the “Tower of Babel”, as well as Nebuchadnezzar’s palaces. A member of Koldewey’s team, Walter Andrae (1875-1956), later created models of Babylon for the Berlin Museum. In his book, “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the book of Daniel”, James A. Montgomery (1866-1949) referenced Koldewey discovering the largest room of the castle or the throne room of the Babylonian kings. Koldewey said it was distinguished in every respect from all the other rooms he discovered and that he felt sure it was the chief royal chamber. He believed this room to be the very room Belshazzar held his ill-fated banquet. It measured 17 meters wide by 52 meters long (this measurement is approx. 56 feet wide by 171 feet long). Here is the interesting part. Koldewey described the room as having a niche in the center that was opposite the entrance where he felt the throne originally stood. He noticed that the walls were covered with white plaster.

While the above is conjecture and in no way can we categorically state it as being the actual room mentioned in Daniel we can deduce that there were rooms large enough to hold large banquets. We know also that the walls were covered in white plaster. This seems a logical color to have chosen for electricity was not known to the Babylonians. White would have enhanced any light used to brighten a room. They, like many ancient societies, relied upon lights by oil that were used in lampstands.

As I read the above that I share with you, it became apparent that Belshazzar and his guests would have had no problem in immediately seeing the hand and the writing on the wall. Some have suggested this niche and the light shining from the lampstand against the plaster would have certainly brought attention to this incredible sight.

Whatever room Belshazzar held his banquet in is irrelevant to the story. The important thing is what occurred and why. In desperation for an answer, we are told in Daniel 5:7, “The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” (ESV)

A couple of things are apparent in this verse. First is the fact that Belshazzar made the same mistake as Nebuchadnezzar. He called the same pagan “experts” that Nebuchadnezzar called although, perhaps, with more arrogance than his predecessor. I say that because he would have known what occurred to Nebuchadnezzar and also how and who had interpreted the king’s dreams. Given his attitude and clear disdain for the God of the Jews, the suggestion has been made that perhaps Daniel was no longer in service to the court. The other thing that is apparent in this verse is Belshazzar’s promise to whomever that could tell him the meaning of the writing would become the third ruler in the kingdom. This points to the fact that Belshazzar was indeed regent to Nabonidus’s throne and therefore the second ruler in the kingdom.

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BOOK OF DANIEL – Actions Have Consequences

Posted by on Oct 2, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – Actions Have Consequences

Actions Have Consequences.

Let us remind ourselves of the words we previously read of Xenophon in his political romance work entitled Cryopaedia, “There upon they entered; and of those they met some were struck down and slain, and others fled into their houses, and some raised the hue and cry, but Gobryas and his friends covered the cry with their shouts, as though they were revelers themselves. And thus, making their way by the quickest route, they soon found themselves before the king’s palace. Here the detachment under Gobryas and Gadatas found the gates closed, but the men appointed to attack the guards rushed on them as they lay drinking around a blazing fire, and closed with them then and there. As the din grew louder and louder, those within became aware of the tumult, till, the king bidding them see what it meant, some of them opened the gates and ran out. Gadatas and his men, seeing the gates swing wide, darted in, hard on the heels of the others who fled back again, and they chased them at the sword’s point into the presence of the king. They found him on his feet, with his drawn scimitar in his hand. By sheer weight of numbers they overwhelmed him: and not one of his retinue escaped, they were all cut down, some flying, others snatching up anything to serve as a shield and defending themselves as best they could.”

Notice the result of Belshazzar’s poor judgment. There are several points here, all leading up to the final conclusion. While Belshazzar and his powerful friends were all getting drunk and blaspheming against God by using sacred vessels originally removed from the temple of Jerusalem, they were unaware Babylon had been breached by enemy forces of the Persian empire. Even when some guards attempted to raise the alarm, the Persians raised their voices as if they were revelers themselves while killing the guards. They quickly made their way to the palace where the feast was taking place. The gates to the palace were closed but the guards assigned to them were also drinking and laying around an open fire as they, too, were dispatched by Persian forces. By now Belshazzar had heard a commotion and sent word to have the disturbance investigated. Xenophon says some of these men opened the gates and ran out, which suggested the original guards, who were supposed to protect the gates, were outside of them as they lay drinking. This also explains how the Persians were able to capture or kill them without too much trouble. Once the gates were open, however, the flood of Persian forces chased everyone at a “sword’s point”, which means extremely close into the presence of the king. Belshazzar was by now standing with a drawn scimitar [Eastern sword] in his hand. Not only was Belshazzar overwhelmed, but so was his entire retinue. Not one of them escaped. They were all cut down.

In graphic detail Daniel 5:5-30 explains what happened prior to the final events mentioned by Xenophon. Note that Daniel 5:5 says that after Belshazzar and those in attendance drank from the sacred vessels of God, “Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote.” (ESV)

Perhaps while they were still drinking out of the sacred vessels this hand appeared, for their sinful actions were immediately dealt with. Belshazzar and those present thought they could mock God. They had the audacity to challenge God’s authority despite knowing what Nebuchadnezzar had experienced in challenging the one true God. As Belshazzar caught sight of the hand his demeanor changed. Daniel 5:6 records, “Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.” (ESV)

So terrifying was the sight of this hand that Belshazzar’s face grew pale. Often a person can tell when something is troubling someone else. This was the case for Belshazzar. He was visibly troubled. So much so that his hip sockets became loose and his knees knocked in fear of the hand and its message.

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BOOK OF DANIEL – The Lesson of Belshazzar

Posted by on Oct 1, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – The Lesson of Belshazzar

The Lesson of Belshazzar.

Many scholars have wondered what the point is of Daniel chapter five. An obscure king that nobody knew about appears in what may seem to be an odd, isolated chapter in Daniel. Not only does he, Belshazzar, appear but he disappears also in the same chapter. In fact, in real time, the events of Daniel chapter five cover only several hours.

To answer this conundrum we should recall the lessons of Nebuchadnezzar. In the first four chapters of Daniel, we learned of this mighty king of Babylon who had defeated the Jews and destroyed the city and temple of Jerusalem and carried off thousands of Israelites to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was, indeed, proud and arrogant. But God, through His mercy, subjected Nebuchadnezzar to a series of events that would eventually see this pagan king recognize God as the ultimate ruler over all mankind. His acknowledgment led him to finally praising God. While critics may argue the lack of historical evidence on this point, Christians are to place Scripture as the ultimate authority in the events of history. Such critics remind me of those who insisted that Jesus show them a sign from heaven. He rebuked them and called them an “evil and adulterous generation” (Matthew 16:1-4). It is sad to see those critics who insist on seeing proof rather than taking God’s word for it in order to believe.

You will recall Nabonidus became king only six years after Nebuchadnezzar died. Both he and now his son, Belshazzar, would have been fully aware of Nebuchadnezzar’s obeisance to God. They would also have known of the items removed from the temple in Jerusalem being stored in the house of their pagan god. Not once did Nebuchadnezzar, or for that matter, Nabonidus, consider bringing these items out from storage to be used by them. That changed when Belshazzar had other ideas. Daniel 5:2-4 tells us, “Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.” (ESV) This wasn’t a simple case of being drunk and doing something on the spur of the moment. It was open defiance. It was blasphemy!

One gets the impression of Belshazzar being arrogant by what we read in verse one. He drank wine in the presence of the thousand. These “thousand”, you will recall, were the nobles he had summoned to dine with him. Now, in a public display of pride and self-importance in front of these thousand assembled, he decided to show his rebellion to the rule of God. He did not care that the vessels of gold and silver from the Jewish temple were sacred. He certainly didn’t care if Nebuchadnezzar or Nabonidus had held any reverence to their purity and holiness. It is to be expected that he knew how the Jews viewed them. Many theologians consider that the absence of Nabonidus in this scene was due to the fact that he had already gone out with his army to meet the Persians in battle and had already been captured, unbeknown to Belshazzar. The Persians were by now at the walls of Babylon. The sheer stupidity of Belshazzar ignoring this threat and holding a feast for himself and his nobles displays a level of arrogance that is hard to comprehend. This wasn’t about him being inebriated or ignorant of what he commanded. He was committing a sin by the full knowledge that he had of the temple items.

And so, after a period of over thirty years being undisturbed, the vessels of gold and silver from the temple of Jerusalem were brought before Belshazzar and his nobles. There, the king, his nobles, wives, and concubines all drank from them. As they drank they praised pagan gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Here was the blasphemy. These were pagans, willfully drinking from items of God’s temple in open defiance to His authority. How all this turned out for them, and in particular Belshazzar, we will see next time.

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BOOK OF DANIEL – The Feast of a Thousand

Posted by on Sep 28, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – The Feast of a Thousand

The Feast of a Thousand.

Daniel 5:1 opens by saying, “Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand.” (NASB) We mentioned in our previous blog that Belshazzar was his father’s co-regent. Perhaps it is fairer to say his title was regent. A co-regent is someone who reigns with someone else, whereas a regent is someone who is appointed to administer a country due to the absence of the monarch. Belshazzar is, in fact, referenced as the Crown-Prince in Babylonian and Assyrian historical texts. Like his father, Nabonidus was away from Babylon ten years out of the seventeen that he reigned. It should come as no surprise that Belshazzar may have been looked up as king of Babylon although he was never officially installed in that capacity.

Nabonidus is said to have worshipped the moon-god Sîn above all the other gods. He paid special attention in his devotion to Sîn’s temple in Harran, where his mother, Adad-guppi, was a priestess. He angered the people in Babylon for his neglect of the Babylonian primary god, Marduk, and left Babylon in the care of his firstborn son, Belshazzar, and traveled to the desert city of Tayma in Arabia early in his reign. It is estimated that Nabonidus left Babylon for Tayma in Arabia in 553 BC just three short years after his coming to the throne. He did not return until 543 BC (ten years later). This does not discount that he may have made sporadic visits to Babylon, but we cannot be certain of this. In view of the fact that Nabonidus left after three years and upon his return his rule was to last only four years, one could argue that the people of Babylon saw Belshazzar as their “king” in that his regency lasted longer than his father’s actual reign of the people of Babylon. Critics may argue until they are blue in the face that Belshazzar (who was a great soldier but a terrible politician) was not the king but, to all intent and purposes, he was in name only. He had full authority while his father was away to rule Babylon as he saw fit. You will see later in this chapter why Daniel called him king as we progress and the proof of why Daniel called him king in Daniel 5:1.

We are not told why Belshazzar held a great feast. Some scholars have suggested that it was to allay the fears of the people who, no doubt, heard of the Persian army under Cyrus gaining victories in surrounding areas. As the date of Daniel chapter five is stamped at 539 BC they would have been fully aware that the Persians were close to an attack on Babylon itself. The only thing that had so far held them back was the great walls surrounding Babylon protecting its inhabitants from such an onslaught. It is interesting to note that Xenophon (died 354 BC) who was a Greek philosopher, historian, soldier, and mercenary together with Herodotus (born 485 BC and who was also a Greek historian) both agree with Daniel on the events of the night of the feast mentioned in Daniel 5:1. There are conflicting accounts on how the Persians gained entry to the city, but clearly, they did. Xenophon in his political romance work entitled Cryopaedia (7.5.20-23) agrees with Herodutus, The Histories (1.292) that the combined Median and Persian army entered the city via a channel of the Euphrates River. Due to the festivities of the feast, their attack met little to no resistance. Xenophon writes, “Thereupon they entered; and of those they met some were struck down and slain, and others fled into their houses, and some raised the hue and cry, but Gobryas and his friends covered the cry with their shouts, as though they were revelers themselves. And thus, making their way by the quickest route, they soon found themselves before the king’s palace. Here the detachment under Gobryas and Gadatas found the gates closed, but the men appointed to attack the guards rushed on them as they lay drinking round a blazing fire, and closed with them then and there. As the din grew louder and louder, those within became aware of the tumult, till, the king bidding them see what it meant, some of them opened the gates and ran out. Gadatas and his men, seeing the gates swing wide, darted in, hard on the heels of the others who fled back again, and they chased them at the sword’s point into the presence of the king. They found him on his feet, with his drawn scimitar in his hand. By sheer weight of numbers they overwhelmed him: and not one of his retinue escaped, they were all cut down, some flying, others snatching up anything to serve as a shield and defending themselves as best they could.”

As we study this chapter further we will see that, unlike Nebuchadnezzar whom God showed great patience to, Belshazzar received none. We will develop this point further as to why this was the case in the next series of blogs.

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