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William Shepard

Belshazzar's Feast

One of the successors of Nebuchadnezzar in the kingdom of Babylon was named Belshazzar. He was the great-great-grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. After he had ruled for seventeen years, Cyrus, the king of Persia, and Darius, the king of Media, made war against him.

Belshazzar made a great feast in his palace, to which he invited all his lords. And he commanded his servants to bring in the holy vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple of Jerusalem, and to place them on the table, so that he and his lords and wives might drink out of them. And while all the company were drinking and praising their own idols, they saw a hand come out of the wall, and it wrote certain words upon the wall. But no one could read the words or understand what they meant, though the king called for all the prophets and the wise men to come to his palace. Then Belshazzar was greatly disturbed, and he caused it to be proclaimed throughout the country that if any one could read the writing on the wall and explain its meaning, the king would give him a chain of gold and clothe him in purple, which was the royal color, and give him a third of all his dominions. And many wise men were tempted by these offers, but when they came and saw the writing they could not read it.

The king's grandmother saw how greatly distressed he was, and she came to him and said that there was an old man among the Jews whose name was Daniel, who was of great sagacity, and had explained to Nebuchadnezzar many things that were known to no other man. Belshazzar sent for Daniel to come to him, and he repeated his promises to him if he would interpret the writing on the wall. But Daniel told him to keep his gifts, for he would explain the writing without requiring any reward. And Daniel said the words were Greek, and were as follows: Maneh, Thekel, Phares.


Daniel before Belshazzar

"Maneh," Daniel explained, "means a number, and it signifies that the number of years which God hath appointed for thy kingdom have nearly expired. Thekel means a weight, for God hath weighed thy kingdom in a balance and finds it going down already. Phares means a fragment, for God will break thy kingdom into pieces and divide it among the Medes and the Persians."

And what Daniel had foretold came true. For soon afterwards Babylon was taken by the Medes and the Persians, and Belshazzar himself was carried away into captivity.