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Stele of King Nabonidus - History
Dating to the ninth century B.C.E., the Mesha Stele describes how King Mesha rescued the Moabites from Israelite rule. Photo: “Stèle de Mésha” by Mbzt 2012 is licensed under CC-by-3.0
One of the most exceptional biblical archaeology artifacts ever found, the three-foot-tall Mesha Stele contains a 34-line inscription celebrating the Moabite vassal king Mesha’s rebellion against the Israelites. Renowned epigrapher André Lemaire identified in line 31 of the ninth-century B.C.E. stele the phrase בת[ד]וד (bt[d]wd), or “House of David”—a tantalizing reference to King David on an artifact discovered before the famed Tel Dan inscription that also references David. Scholars Israel Finkelstein, Nadav Na’aman, and Thomas Römer have recently re-examined the inscription, however, and propose a new reading: Line 31 references not the “House of David,” but the Moab king Balak from the story of Balaam in the Bible (Numbers 22–24).
History written in stone
How the Mesha Stele—also called the Moabite Stone—became public is an incredible tale itself. As described in Bible History Daily:
[The] black basalt Moabite Stone was first brought to the attention of scholars in 1868 by Bedouin living east of the Jordan River and just north of the Arnon River. After several failed negotiations to purchase it, the Mesha Stele was broken into dozens of pieces and scattered among the Bedouin. In the 1870s several of the fragments were recovered by scholars and reconstructed—comprising only two-thirds of the original Moabite Stone. A paper imprint (called a squeeze) that had been taken of the intact inscription allowed scholars to fill in the missing text.
In the May/June 1994 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, André Lemaire describes how his reading of the “House of David” on the Mesha Stele helps to contextualize the inscription:
The Tel Dan inscription. Photo: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem/Israel Antiquities Authority (photograph by Meidad Suchowolski).
Enough has been preserved at the end of line 31 […] to identify the new enemy of Moab against whom Mesha fought in the last half of the inscription: bt[d]wd, the House of David. Having described how he was victorious against Israel in the area controlled by it north of the Arnon, Mesha now turns to part of the area south of the Arnon which had been occupied by Judah, the House of David. In the tenth and first half of the ninth centuries B.C.E., the kingdom of Edom did not yet exist. The area southeast of the Dead Sea was apparently controlled by Judah. Thus, during Mesha’s rebellion against the king of Israel (2 Kings 3:5), the king of Israel asks for assistance from the king of Judah, who agrees to provide the aid. The king of Israel instructs the king of Judah to attack the king of Moab by going through the “wilderness of Edom” (2 Kings 3:8) because apparently it was an area controlled by the kingdom of Judah. No doubt the missing part of the inscription described how Mesha also threw off the yoke of Judah and conquered the territory southeast of the Dead Sea controlled by the House of David.In its way, the […] fragmentary stela from Tel Dan helps to confirm this reading of the Mesha stela. At Tel Dan, as in the Mesha stela, an adversary of the king of Israel and of the House of David describes on a stone monument his victories over Israel and the House of David, Judah.
A new reading of the Mesha Stele
Finkelstein, Na’aman, and Römer recently analyzed new high-resolution images of the Mesha Stele as well as of the squeeze that had been made before the stone was fragmented. Noting that the bottom portion of the stele, including part of line 31, is broken, the scholars write in Tel Aviv: The Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University that Lemaire’s reconstruction of bt[d]wd in line 31 is unpersuasive:
The original part of the stone makes it clear that the two letters after the beth were already eroded when the squeeze was produced this is why no letter is seen in the squeeze between the beth and the waw.
Three observations follow:
1. The taw that follows the beth in Lemaire’s rendering of בת[ד]וד does not exist.
2. More importantly, before the waw of ב[- -]וד a vertical stroke appears, that—like many similar strokes in the stele—marks a transition between two sentences. In most cases, it is followed by a word starting with a waw, as is the case here. This stroke can be seen in the squeeze and the upper part of it can also possibly be detected in the small original part of the stele that was inserted into the plaster restoration this, in turn, may explain the full restoration of a dividing line in the plaster-restored section.
3. The letter after the waw is indeed a dalet, the left side of which is slightly damaged.
These observations refute any possibility of reading בת[ד]וד in Line 31. Instead, we are dealing with a three-consonant word which is most probably a personal name: it starts with a beth, followed by a space for two missing letters that is followed by the vertical stroke, and then begins a new sentence ([… .]וד).
What personal name with three consonants, starting with the letter beth, could the stele have been referring to? A variety of names might fit here (e.g., Bedad, Bedan, Becher, Belaʻ, Baʻal, Barak), but one name stands as the most likely candidate, i.e., Balak.
The scholars deserve credit for their use of high-resolution photography to bring attention to a potential new reading of this important stele, notable among Northwest Semitic inscriptions for its unusual length and connection with the biblical text.
However, Lawrence Mykytiuk, professor at Purdue University and author of several BAR articles examining the archaeological evidence for people mentioned in the Bible, finds the reference to the biblical Balak on the Mesha Stele to be dubious.
“A reference to King Balak in this stele seems anachronistic for Mesha’s first-person narration of his experience, since the Hebrew Bible associates him with Israel’s journeys before the settlement period, centuries earlier than Mesha and the Omride dynasty,” Mykytiuk said in an email to Bible History Daily. “Could there not have been a later Balak, perhaps from the same location, who is not mentioned in the Bible?”
“Regarding the observation, ‘before the waw of ב[- -]וד a vertical stroke appears,’ one could wish that the apparent vertical stroke were clearer,” Mykytiuk added. “This is especially true because of the claim to have found a previously overlooked transition marker between putative sentences, in a crucial place. No doubt the vertical-stroke transition marker, if correctly perceived and interpreted, is the most decisive element in this new reading.”
Follow Israel Finkelstein, Nadav Na’aman, and Thomas Römer’s argument for identifying the biblical Balak by reading their full article “Restoring Line 31 in the Mesha Stele: The ‘House of David’ or Biblical Balak?” in Tel Aviv: The Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University.
This story first appeared in Bible History Daily in May, 2019.
Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible.
Read more about the Mesha Stele and the Moabites in the BAS Library:
Siegfried H. Horn, “Why the Moabite Stone Was Blown to Pieces,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1986.
Joel S. Burnett, “Ammon, Moab and Edom: Gods and Kingdoms East of the Jordan,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2016.
P. M. Michèle Daviau and Paul-Eugène Dion, “Moab Comes to Life,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2002.
Baruch Margalit, “Why King Mesha of Moab Sacrificed His Oldest Son,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 1986.
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Cyrus the Great: Facts & Fiction
Fired clay brick with Babylonian inscription giving the names and titles of Cyrus , and the statement that he established peace in the land, Ur 6 th century BC, British Museum
As with any figure of such stature, there are many myths and legends surrounding the life of Cyrus the Great. In some cases, however, the truth is even stranger than the fiction. One of the main sources which describes the life of Cyrus is the Cyropaedia (The Education of Cyrus), which was written by Xenophon (ca. 430-354 BC), a Greek historian , general, and student of Socrates. This work describes Cyrus as the ideal ruler and is considered to be a blend of political romance and historical fiction. Another important source is the Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 BC) , who is often called the father of history. His work, The Histories, has often been criticized for seemingly fanciful accounts which many claim were made up for their entertainment value. There are also a number of chronicles written by the Babylonians, such as the Nabonidus Chronicle , but these are extremely fragmented.
The end result is that it requires difficulty to reconstruct the history of Cyrus the Great. Many of the details remain hazy and far too often we are forced to fall back on the myths and legends , some of which are even labeled as such in the very sources which record them. Yet even so, Cyrus the Great exerted an enormous influence over the history of the Ancient World and remains an admired figure to this day.
Prayer of Nabonidus
Fragments of a document called The Prayer of Nabonidus were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The fragments tell the story of King Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, who was afflicted with a disease for seven years while in Teima, Arabia, and prayed to God for salvation. He was then told by a “diviner” that he must proclaim and give honor to God-
“I was afflicted [with an evil ulcer] for seven years…and an exorcist pardoned my sins. He was a Jew from among the [children of the exile of Judah, and said,] ‘Recount this in writing to [glorify and exalt] the Name of the [Most High God]’” (I.3-5).
The Prayer of Nabonidus parallels the biblical story in Daniel 4, in which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is afflicted for seven years and his condition is explained to him by Daniel. The Prayer of Nabonidus may have served as a source for the author of Daniel, or it may simply preserve an older version of the story.
Damien F. Mackey
The historicity of the prophet Daniel and of the book that bears his name has become hopelessly clouded by factors such as the (i) inaccurate view of neo-Babylonian succession (ii) a late authorship (C2nd BC) attribution and the (iii) over-emphasis upon Aramaïc.
Attempted interpretations of the Bible can suffer badly from erroneous extra-biblical factors, such as an over-inflated historico-archaeological model.
The biblical narrative is thus forced to squeeze fit, in Procrustean fashion, within a matrix that has no proper basis in reality, meaning that we end up with, not so much the prophet Jeremiah’s “Terror on every side” (e.g., 20:10), but with “Error on every side”. In Part One of this series (https://www.academia.edu/23886406/_Nebuchednezzar_of_the_Book_of_Daniel), however, and elsewhere, I have argued for a radical shortening of the conventional neo-Babylonian succession, with Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’, for instance, now to be identified with the King Nabonidus who so notably resembles “Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel.
The reason being, that Nabonidus was that Nebuchednezzar.
But historians and biblical commentators almost universally adopt an approach quite different from mine. Blindly trusting in their conventional apparatus, they, upon realisation that the biblical data cannot comfortably be aligned with it, must emasculate the biblical account in, as I said, a Procrustean fashion. One example that stands out in my mind is that of the fallen walls of Early Bronze III Jericho, which adequately fits the account of it given in the Book of Joshua, but archaeologically does not correlate with the estimated time of Joshua, but, rather, with a much earlier era. Conclusion: The Joshuan account must have borrowed from some real historical situation that had occurred many centuries before.
But, how about this approach instead? The Joshuan account adequately fits a real historico-archaeological situation that is thought to have occurred much earlier than Joshua.
Let us re-examine the conventional apparatus to see if it has all been put together properly.
Now, in the case of the Book of Daniel, what has been so colourfully narrated about its king, “Nebuchednezzar”, seems to have been borrowed from a king named Nabonidus. So – and this has been my approach – could Nebuchednezzar and Nabonidus be just the one king, meaning that the conventional neo-Babylonian succession has been wrongly constructed, with kings being multiplied.
That is not the usual approach, though, as we shall read next.
Book of Daniel and historical evidences
“The Babylonian king Belshazzar in Daniel 5 reflects the historical Bēl-šar-us-ur, eldest son of Nabonidus and regent of the kingdom during his father’s ten-year absence in Arabia. The Daniel tradition erroneously makes him the actual king and portrays him as the son of Nebuchadnezzar”.
The methodology that I wrote that I favoured in Part Two (i) is by no means the usual approach, however, which latter is typically the one employed by Paul-Alain Beaulieu, in his nonetheless interesting article, “The Babylonian Background of the Motif of the Fiery Furnace in Daniel 3” (Journal of Biblical Literature, 128 (2009) 289-306), also available at:
Beaulieu, who has accepted the standard view of long oral traditions leading to a late authorship of the Book of Daniel, will nonetheless find that “the story of Daniel and his three companions being taken to the court of Babylon, given rations from the king’s table, and educated in the lore and manners of the Chaldeans, fits remarkably well with the evidence available from contemporary documents”:
…. The royal order to worship the golden image, the refusal of the three Jewish youths to comply with Nebuchadnezzar’s demands, their ordeal in the fiery furnace and miraculous salvation, followed by their reinstatement in royal favor, all raise fascinating literary and theological questions. The themes and motifs that make up this narrative underwent a long process of oral and written transmission that is extremely difficult to reconstruct.
Indeed, any proposal in that direction is bound to remain speculative. Changes inevitably occurred in the tale during the long process of its elaboration, a time span covering more than three centuries. This means that the original historical background remains partly concealed behind the final redaction. How much does Daniel 3 reflect the situation of Jewish exiles at the Babylonian court in the sixth century, and the political and theological debates which took place at that time?
I propose in the next few pages to address one aspect of this question, the motif of the punishment in the fiery furnace.
The episode related in Daniel 3 allegedly took place at the court of Nebuchadnezzar, the conqueror of Jerusalem who reigned from 605 to 562 …. Following the deportations he ordered, Jewish exiles settled in Babylonia in substantial numbers in the early decades of the sixth century.
The fate of some exiles is now documented by a group of cuneiform contract tablets stemming mainly from two localities in the region of Nippur, one of them called “city of Judah/of the Judeans” (Al Yahudu/Yahudayu), the Babylonian name of Jerusalem.
As the majority of the people appearing in the documents bear West Semitic and Judean names, it seems certain that this new Jerusalem in Babylonia had been founded by recent exiles. Those Judeans integrated to various degrees into the life of their new home. Some even gravitated around the royal court. Indeed, such a group of Judeans appearing in cuneiform tablets has been known since 1939, when Ernst Weidner published administrative documents discovered in Babylon at the beginning of the twentieth century in the storeroom area of the royal palace and datable to the thirteenth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.
A few tablets record deliveries of rations to groups of foreigners, some of them obviously state prisoners. Among the recipients one finds Jehoiachin, the king of Judah exiled in 597, and a number of unnamed Judean men and princes who presumably belonged to Jehoiachin’s retinue. 2 Kings25:27–30 tells us that in the twenty-seventh year of the exile, the Babylonian king Evil-Merodach (= Amēl-Marduk, son of Nebuchadnezzar II, reigned 562–560 … released him from prison, provided him with a regular allowance and received him every day at his table.
Mackey’s comment: I have identified this king Jehoiachin (Coniah) with the conspiratorial Haman of the Book of Esther:
Is the Book of Esther a Real History?
Therefore the story of Daniel and his three companions being taken to the court of Babylon, given rations from the king’s table, and educated in the lore and manners of the Chaldeans, fits remarkably well with the evidence available from contemporary documents.
While the general historical context of Daniel 3 seems relatively easy to assess, some aspects of its setting remain foggy. It has long been accepted that behind the Danielic Nebuchadnezzar lurks a memory of the historical Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, who reigned from 556 to 539 ….
Mackey’s comment: But, according to my reconstructions, Nabonidus was not “the last king of Babylon”, but he was Nebuchednezzar himself, hence the Book of Daniel’s lurking “memory of the historical Nabonidus”.
Beaulieu will now, again missing the point, go on to write that Nabonidus’s son Belshazzar is a reflection of the “Babylonian king Belshazzar in Daniel 5”. The truth of the matter is that this is just the one Belshazzar. Thus we read:
The figure of Nabonidus emerges most clearly in Daniel 4 and 5. It is now generally accepted that the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness and his expulsion among beasts originates in a recollection of Nabonidus’s eccentric behavior, especially regarding religious issues, and of his withdrawal to the north Arabian oasis of Teima. The Babylonian king Belshazzar in Daniel 5 reflects the historical Bēl-šar-us-ur, eldest son of Nabonidus and regent of the kingdom during his father’s ten-year absence in Arabia. The Daniel tradition erroneously [sic] makes him the actual king and portrays him as the son of Nebuchadnezzar. This latter interpolation constitutes the strongest argument for tracing the Danielic narratives about Nebuchadnezzar to a cluster of historical memories of Nabonidus. This has led some scholars to seek in cuneiform sources relating to Nabonidus historical data that might provide a background to the story of the worship of the golden statue in Daniel 3. Such data came to light with the publication of the Verse Account of Nabonidus in 1924.
This polemical account, probably written at the behest of the Persian conquerors of Babylon, largely focuses on Nabonidus’s promotion of the cult of the moon-god Sîn at the expense of Marduk, the city-god of Babylon. It claims that Nabonidus made a horrifying new cult image of the god Sîn. The Verse Account probably refers in this case to the statue of Sîn that the king claims to have returned to the temple Ehulhul in Harran. Sidney Smith, the original editor of the text, did not fail to see the relation that this episode
bears to the tale of the fashioning and compulsory worship of the gold statue in Daniel 3.
The suggestion was later taken up by Wolfram von Soden and several other scholars since.
…. The statue might also be the image of a king, perhaps Nebuchadnezzar himself, or a symbol of his regal power. In ch. 2 of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar receives a dream vision of such a statue. Some ancient exegetes clearly saw a connection between chs. 2 and 3. In the second century, Hippolytus of Rome already interpreted the statue fashioned by Nebuchadnezzar as a reminiscence of his dream: For as the blessed Daniel, in interpreting the vision, had answered the king, saying, “Thou art this head of gold in the image,” the king, being puffed up with this address, and elated in his heart, made a copy of this image, in order that it might be worshiped by all as God.
…. Originally, the tale focused on the memory of Nabonidus’s crafting of a new image of the moon-god Sîn for the temple of Harran and his effort to impose it as state cult in the Babylonian empire of the sixth century. The tradition eventually substituted Nebuchadnezzar for Nabonidus [sic] and transformed the episode into an edifying theological tale of the arrogant attempt of a pagan king to impose the worship of a statue of his own design, a statue embodying imperial hubris. The Danielic tradition transmuted this memory of Nabonidus’s failed attempt at religious reform into a timeless critique of idolatry. Forced worship of the statue, however, merely sets the background for the other elements in the drama to unfold. As in most court tales, peer envy ushers the heroes into royal disgrace. Refusing to bow down to the statue, the three Jewish youths are denounced for impiety and are sentenced to the punishment prescribed by the king for defying his order: to be thrown alive into a furnace of blazing fire …. Burning as a death sentence occurs occasionally in the biblical and Near Eastern worlds. ….
Punishment by Fire in the Bible
The Bible contains few allusions to execution by burning. In spite of their small number, they indicate that punishment by being burned alive was part of the legal system of ancient Israel. For example, this punishment is prescribed for prostitution or fornication in the episode of Judah and Tamar (Gen 38:24) and, more specifically, for prostitution by the daughter of a priest in the laws of Leviticus (Lev 21:9). Leviticus also prescribes that punishment for the particular form of incest committed by a man who weds both mother and daughter (Lev 20:14). The same end befalls the thief of sacred paraphernalia and his family according to the episode of the sin of Achan (Josh 7:13–19), although Achan himself is stoned to death before being burned.
…. In the prophetic and apocalyptic literature of the postexilic period, burning is sometimes mentioned as a form of eschatological punishment, notably in Daniel7:11, where the beast of the fourth kingdom is killed and given over to be burned with fire. For the interpretation of Daniel 3, the most interesting mention of death by burning in the Bible is the execution of the false Jewish prophets mentioned in the letter sent by Jeremiah to the first wave of exiles in Babylon (Jer 29:1–23).
The time frame of the letter should be 594–593 … between the two captures of Jerusalem, when many in Judah still entertained hopes of casting off the Babylonian yoke. Yet Jeremiah encourages the exiles to settle in their new country and patiently await the term of seventy years prescribed for their return he warns them against false prophets who predict Judah’s impending liberation (Jer 29:21–23NRSV):
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: I am going to deliver them into the hand of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he shall kill them before your eyes. And on account of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” because they have perpetrated outrage in Israel and have committed adultery with their neighbor’s wives, and have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them I am the one who knows and bear witness, says the Lord.
Ahab, son of Kolaiah, and Zedekiah, son of Maasiah, both occur in a list of false prophets from Qumran (4Q339).
They proclaimed the end of Babylonian hegemony over Judah. Therefore, fear of their spreading a spirit of rebellion appears to be Nebuchadnezzar’s most likely motive for ordering their execution. Consonant with Jeremiah’s interpretation of history, Nebuchadnezzar acts here as a mere instrument of God’s plan. However, it is interesting that Jeremiah further indicts the two prophets for fornication, a crime that in some circumstances entailed death by burning in Israel and is listed here as the primary reason for their execution. Jeremiah provides a biblical rationale for their condemnation, a rationale that conceals the political motives of the Babylonians in carrying out that sentence. As I will dis-cuss below, death by burning occurs a number of times in Babylonian sources from the eighth to the third centuries … in some cases as a sentence imposed by the king. The punishment mentioned in Jeremiah 29 involved roasting in fire, but it does not say explicitly how, and therefore burning in a furnace cannot be excluded, even if death at the stake seems more likely. Be that as it may, Jeremiah 29 provides a crucial parallel to Daniel 3 and may yield some clues as to how the tale originated and expanded. Both narratives portray Nebuchadnezzar imposing capital punishment on rebellious Jewish exiles, and the punishment involves death by burning in the two cases.
Punishment by Fire in Ancient Egypt
Burning as a form of capital punishment is attested a few times in texts from the pharaonic and Hellenistic periods in Egypt.
Anthony Leahy has reviewed the various allusions to such punishment in Egyptian sources.
Burning is attested for adultery, murder, conspiracy to murder, sacrilege, and rebellion. It is uncertain whether legal codes prescribed it, but in some cases it could be ordered by royal decree. Execution by burning usually involved placing the condemned on the (“brazier, open furnace”). The Instructions of Ankhsheshonqy, a Demotic text from the first century … describe how the king ordered a group of conspirators to be burned in this manner however, there is no agreement on whether the text refers to an open fire or an enclosed furnace.
Leahy points out two possible examples of large furnaces that could accommodate several individuals.
At Edfu a relief shows the king condemning four prisoners to be tied together in a type of box that is depicted also in Papyrus Salt 825, where it is identified as a “furnace” … with two men tied back to back inside it. He also gives examples of punishment by burning in the metaphysical realm for instance, the Book of Gates depicts some large furnaces …. In Demotic the word … means both a censer or brazier and a large furnace.
Punishment by Fire in Ancient Mesopotamia
Execution by burning occurs in Mesopotamia both as a provision of the legal system for certain crimes and as a punishment imposed by the king.
It is attested already in the Old Babylonian period.
… the Babylonian king Nabû-šuma-iškun, who reigned in the middle of the eighth century, burned alive sixteen residents of the city of Kutha at the gate of Zababa in Babylon.
In a passage warning against the brazen confidence of strength and wealth, the Babylonian Theodicy remarks how the prominent citizen can be burned in fire by the king “before his time,” that is to say, before the natural end of his life.
In addition, the astrological series Enuma Anu Enlil mentions a royal condemnation to be burned.
There is also evidence in mythology and magic for burning as metaphysical punishment.
Punishment by the Fiery Furnace in Mesopotamia
The precise manner of execution in the texts discussed so far cannot be determined. Although death at the stake seems the more likely possibility, one can envisage a number of different ways in which a sentence of death by burning can be carried out. It is fortunate that we have three instances in Mesopotamia where the manner of execution by burning is specified, and all three cases involve being thrown into an oven or a furnace. However, these sources have not been discussed in previous commentaries on Daniel 3. The earliest text (BIN 7, 10) is a letter of King Rīm-Sîn of Larsa, who reigned from 1822 until 1763
… according to the middle chronology …. Thus says Rīm-Sîn, your lord. Because he cast a boy into the oven, you, throw the slave into the kiln.
The context of this letter cannot be reconstructed and remains enigmatic. Is the king quoting a proverb or some other form of saying, or is he ordering these officials to carry out an execution? The two words for “oven” and “kiln” are tinūru and utūnu. The latter derives from Sumerian UDUN, and occurs more rarely as atūnu, the form under which it entered the Aramaic language (Nwt) in Daniel 3). The second occurrence comes from a palace edict of the Assyrian king Aššur-rēša-iši I (1130–1113 …). It was originally published by Ernst Weidner, who noted with his usual acumen the parallel between the edict and the motif of the furnace in Daniel 3.
The relevant part of the edict reads as follows: …. They shall throw them, either the woman or the man, the eye-witness, in the oven.
The word for oven is again utūnu/atūnu, written here with the logogram udun. Unfortunately the edict is not fully preserved, so it is not entirely clear which transgression results in death in the oven. Many provisions in Middle Assyrian edicts sanction inappropriate behavior by palace women and personnel. Thus a misdemeanor of sexual nature seems probable. The third and final example occurs in a Neo-Babylonian school text from the Sippar temple library. It is datable to the first half of the sixth century and is therefore contemporaneous with the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar II and Nabonidus. The text may well have been composed earlier, however, since it purports to reproduce a letter of the Old Babylonian king Samsu-iluna (1750–1712) to a certain Enlil-nādin-šumi, who is given the title of governor …. The king orders the governor to inscribe on a stela an encyclical address to the superintendents of all cult centers of Babylonia.
…. To Enlil-nādin-šumi, governor of the land … superintendent of all [the cult centers of A]kkad, speak, thus [Samsu-ilun]a, king of the world …. “(Concerning) all the cult centers of the land of Akkad, all of those from east to west [which] I have given entirely into your control, I have heard (reports) that the temple officials, the collegium … priests of the cult centers of the land of Akkad, as many as there are, have taken to falsehood, committed an abomination, been stained with blood, spoken untruths. Inwardly they profane and desecrate their gods, they prattle and cavort about. Things that their gods did not command they establish for their gods.”
After having thus chastised local priests and officials for impiety and sacrilege, the king concludes his remonstrances with a series of curses, and instructs Enlil-nādin-šumi to enforce them: You now, destroy them, burn them, roast them, . . . to the cook’s oven . . . make their smoke billow, bring about their fiery end with the fierce flame of the box-thorn!
In spite of the gap in the text, it seems clear that the punishment by burning and roasting envisaged in the curses is effected by means of a cook’s oven. The term for oven here is
kīru, which refers normally to a lime kiln rather than the oven used by cooks and bakers. Remarkably, in his classic commentary on Daniel, James Montgomery noted that the furnace of Daniel 3 “must have been similar to our common lime-kiln, with a perpendicular shaft from the top and an opening at the bottom for extracting the fused lime.”
The Letter of Samsu-iluna provides the closest known parallel to Daniel 3, not only in the manner of execution but also regarding the context in which it is envisaged, that of a royal order on the correct performance of cultic duties. The text belonged to the curriculum of Babylonian schools. Apprentice scribes who joined the royal administration were required to copy and study it. The Letter propagates an idealized view of the Babylonian monarch as religious leader and custodian of traditional rites. Given its status as official text, it is hardly surprising that elements of its ideology resurface with a slightly different formulation in the Harran Stela of Nabonidus. The Harran Stela openly propagandizes Nabonidus’s devotion to the moon-god Sîn of Harran, whom he sought to promote as imperial deity. In a passage that recalls the tone and thematic content of the Letter of Samsu-iluna, Nabonidus chastises the administrators and citizens of the cult centers of Babylonia for behaving sinfully, committing blasphemy and sacrileges, and disregarding the true nature and worship of Sîn: The god Sîn called me to kingship. He revealed to me in a night dream (what follows): “Build quickly Ehulhul, the temple of Sîn in Harran, and I will deliver all lands into your hands.” (But) the people, the citizens of Babylon, Borsippa, Nippur, Ur, Uruk, (and) Larsa, the temple administrators (and) the people of the cult centers of the land of Akkad, offended his (Sîn’s) great godhead and they misbehaved and sinned, (for) they did not know the great wrath of the king of the gods, Nannar. They forgot their rites and would speak slanders and lies, devouring each other like dogs. (Thus) pestilence and famine appeared (ušabšû) among them, and he (the moon-god) reduced … the people of the land.
There are two other striking points of resemblance between the Letter of Samsu-iluna, the Harran Stela, and Daniel 3. In all three cases the Babylonian king addresses his subjects by means of an encyclical proclamation, and the individuals most specifically targeted by the anticipated punishment are the priesthood and high officials, who were generally royal appointees. Daniel 3 records that Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation is addressed to “the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces” (Dan 3:2, 3), and the biblical material further emphasizes that the Jewish companions of Daniel had been nominated by the king to oversee “the affairs of the province of Babylon” (Dan 3:12). The motif of the Chaldeans denouncing the three Jewish appointees stems from the paradigm of the court tale, but the story of officials falling into disgrace because they contravened the king’s religious pronunciamentos very probably originates in actual conflicts that erupted during the reign of Nabonidus.
The executions recorded in Daniel 6 and in the story of Bel and the Dragon, effected by throwing the condemned into a lion’s pit, appear more feasible and on the surface more believable than the punishment in the fiery furnace. However, such a mode of execution finds no parallel in the ancient world. Karel van der Toorn argued that the story probably originated in the literalization of an ancient metaphor that is recorded in a letter addressed by the scholar Urad-Gula to the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal.
The scholar complains that he has unexplainably fallen into disgrace, and in a broken passage states that he prays to the king day and night “in front of the lion’s pit.” Earlier in the letter Urad-Gula had said that he used to eat “lion’s morsels,” which can be understood to mean the fine food apportioned to members of the staff of schol-ars who advised the king. ….
Mackey’s comment: Beaulieu will now proceed to discuss what he (wrongly, I suggest) considers to have been “the transformation of the figure of Nabonidus into that of Nebuchadnezzar”:
A very important element in the elaboration of Daniel 3 is the transformation of the figure of Nabonidus into that of Nebuchadnezzar. This could have happened any time before the court narratives of Daniel 1–6 reached their final form. However, the discovery of the Prayer of Nabonidus among the Qumran manuscripts(4Q242) shows that even after the compilation of Daniel in the first decades of the second century [sic], there continued a parallel tradition that correctly ascribed to the historical Nabonidus the episodes of the royal disease and the residence in the oasis of Teima. These episodes appear in Daniel in the form of the sudden madness, animalization, and exile of Nebuchadnezzar among the beasts. The Danielic figure of Nebuchadnezzar does not entirely depend on a memory of Nabonidus, however. The book accurately portrays Nebuchadnezzar as conqueror of Jerusalem (Dan1:1–2) and builder of Babylon (Dan 4:30). Thus, in Daniel, various memories of the two kings were woven together into one archetypal figure. It seems difficult to deny that there is a very close relation between the story of the two false prophets burned by the historical Nebuchadnezzar in Jer 29:21–23 and the story of the three Jewish exiles thrown into the fiery furnace by the fictionalized Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3. The books of Daniel and Jeremiah share many more traits. For one thing, the two prophets were allegedly near contemporaries. The final redactors of Daniel highlighted this connection in their prophet’s reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s prediction of the length of the exile (Daniel 9).
Mackey’s comment: The Book of Daniel does not, in fact, need any “reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s prediction of the length of the exile”. What stands in need of “reinterpretation” is the neo-Babylonian succession, the incorrect estimation of which by conventional scholars has led to apparent discrepancies between Jeremiah and Daniel. On this, see my:
Prophet Jeremiah’s “Seventy Years” of Babylonian Rule
Ancient Fort and Stele Proclaiming Victory of Famous Persian King Found in Russia
A team of Russian archaeologists have discovered a remarkable ancient stele with an inscribed message from the legendary King Darius I, one of the most famous rulers of ancient Persia.
The discovery took place at the ancient Greek site known as Phanagoria, located near Crimea and the Black Sea. According to Vladimir Kuznetsov, the director of the Phanagoria Historical and Archaeological Museum-Preserve and of the Phanagoria expedition of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the finding “is without exaggeration a discovery of international significance”.
Archaeologists announced the discovery of the stele with its unusual inscription in their report on the Volnoe Delo website . The text was carved into a piece of a marble in ancient cuneiform that was only used by the Persian king. Unfortunately, only 10-15% of the text has survived. However, the researchers were able to read enough to confirm that it was made by the order of King Darius I, who lived between 550 and 486 BC.
Apart from this, the researchers unearthed the ruins of ancient fortifications dating back to at least the 6th century BC. The construction may have been destroyed in the middle of the 5th century BC, which makes the site even more interesting. It is a phenomenon in classical archaeology. The expedition is sponsored by the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, the owner of the Volnoe Delo Foundation.
Excavations at the site in Phanagoria. ( Volnoe Delo )
According to The Art Newspaper , Kuznetsov claims that the inscription is “evidently devoted to the crushing of the Ionian revolt” and places Phanagoria “in the context of one of the most important events of ancient history, which had far-reaching consequences for the Greeks as well as the Persians, and makes is possible to trace the connections of this colony with other parts of the Greek world and analyze its significance in advancing Hellenistic civilization on the Black Sea coast.”
The researchers said that one of the words in the inscription is “Miletus”, the name of the ancient Greek city in Ionia. It was a place that was at the forefront of the revolt against Darius. Archaeologists believe that Darius decided to put up a stele to mark his victory in Miletus, but a fragment of it was later brought by ship to Phanagoria. Nonetheless, the discovery is still very important because most of the inscriptions related to the Persian kings were uncovered in Persepolis in Iran.
However, this is not the only surprising discovery related to Darius I this year. In April 2016, the same team of researchers announced the finding of a piece of a marble arrow once owned by the famous king in Phanagoria. The inscription on the arrow proved that it was made in the 5th century BC. These discoveries also suggest that the legendary king suppressed the Greek revolt and then built a marble arrow with a message commemorating the event.
Remains of the walls of the ancient fortifications at Phanagoria. ( The Art Newspaper )
Darius I was a ruler of the Achamenid Empire. During his reign he expanded the empire so it contained Persia, Central Asia, West Asia, Caucasus, parts of the Balkans, and northeast Africa including Egypt. He was also a king of Egypt. He is known in the literature as Darius the Great due to his achievements as a king and warrior. He was the husband of Atossa, a daughter of Cyrus the Great. Darius was also the father of King Xerxes I , who won the famous battle of Thermoylae.
Darius created a new order in the empire, new provinces, and placed satraps to govern them. He also made Aramaic language the official language of the Achamenid Empire and started a monetary system.
Darius also appears in the Bible in the books of Zechariah, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah and Haggai. However, one of the darkest pages of his reign was the famous Battle of Marathon in September 490 BC, when the smart general Miltiades and his army defeated the outnumbering Persian warriors.
Top Image: Fragments of a building dated to the 5th century with Roman holes at Phanagoria. Source: Oleg Deripaska Volnoe Delo Foundation and the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Archaeology/ Heritage Daily
Akitu – The Babylonian New Year Festival
The calendar of the ancient Near East was usually replete with festivals that honored the gods according to the season. One of the most famous of these festivals was the Akitu Festival of Babylon. The festival began on the first day of the month of Nisannu and lasted for 12 days. Nisannu, which coincides with April, traditionally marked the beginning of the year as it followed the vernal/March equinox.
In Babylon the Akitu Festival was held to honor Marduk, the patron deity of the city. Throughout Mesopotamia other cities held their own Akitu festivals and in some places, such as Ur, the festival was celebrated in the spring and fall at each equinox. The archaeological evidence of the Babylonian festival goes back to the early second millennium BCE around the time that Hammurabi and the Old Babylonian Empire set the city on its nearly 2000 year long path to greatness.
The 12 days of the Akitu Festival were each marked by special ceremonies and observances. The most basic and foundational ceremony marked the spring barley harvest wherein the king usually took on a symbolic role of presiding over the harvest. This aspect of the festival led to the formal resetting of the yearly calendar in accord with the solar cycle.
The Babylonian Creation Epic, the Enuma Elish, describes how Marduk put all of the cosmos into motion and defined the rhythm of the calendar. Accordingly Marduk is given special credit during the Akitu festival. The birth of the New Year itself was seen as ritually connected with the original creation of the cosmos by Marduk. One day of the festival was marked by a ceremonial reading of the Enuma Elish. It is possible that this epic was also symbolically reenacted in a ritual performance.
At a certain point n the festival the king would enter into the temple of Marduk known as the Esagila, and surrender his regalia of office to the high priest. The king would then undergo a reaffirmation of his right to rule as a divine representative. After being found worthy in the eyes of Marduk the king would receive his scepter, loop, mace and crown back from the high priest.
Taking The Lord By The Hand
The king then led a procession transporting the god Marduk known as “taking Bel (the Lord) by the hand.” The king would officially escort the statue of the god, presumably carried in a specially designed litter, down the processional way out of the Esagila temple and through the Ishtar Gate to the Akitu temple which lay beyond the city walls. One part of this procession led down a 200 m corridor that was flanked by the palace wall on one side and a city wall on the other. This corridor was called Aibur-shabu, which means ‘the enemy shall never pass.’ The walls of the Aibur-shabu were decorated with 120 lions, symbolic of the protective powers of the goddess Ishtar.
The king of Babylon was also responsible for escorting the god Nabû, from nearby Borsippa, to the Akitu festival. Nabû was a god of scribes who ascended in rank to a god of wisdom and joined Marduk at top of the pantheon, first as his assistant then as his son. At times when Babylon held dominion over Sumer and Akkad other gods from more distant cities would travel, in the guise of their statues, to Babylon to reside for a few ceremonial days in the Akitu temple.
During this time there was a ceremony called hašadu. This involved what has been called a sacred or ritual marriage between two gods. In this case between Marduk and his consort Sarpanitu. During the ceremony the statues of the two deities would be placed for a time on a ritual bed designed for the occasion.
The Neo-Babylonian Empire
One of the final acts of the festival was the reception and enthronement of Nabû. This god was not coincidentally the namesake of Nebuchadnezzar (c. 605 – 562 BCE) who rebuilt the processional way in its famed opulence. The name Nebuchadnezzar means ‘O Nabû, protect my offspring.’ However within a few decades of his rule the prospects of the festivals continuation fell into jeopardy.
Sometimes political turmoil and unrest prevented the gods from travelling to the Akitu temple. One such occurrence was around 960 BCE when desert tribesmen had infiltrated the urban precincts of Babylonia and forced the city to keep its gates closed. However those temporary disruptions were not as disturbing to the Babylonians as the well known absence of the festival which occurred during the middle of the sixth century ca. 553-543 BCE. During this time king Nabonidus (ca. 556-539 BCE), whose name means, ‘the god Nabû has exalted’, mysteriously led his army into the deserts of Arabia for a ten year stint during which the festival could not be held.
This neglecting of the kings sacred duties by Nabonidus prepared the Babylonians to welcome the Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great as a liberator in 539 BCE. After Cyrus had secured Babylon, and Nabonidus had been taken prisoner, the Persian King had his own son Cambyses preside over the Akitu festival of 538 BCE. This highly symbolic moment marked the end of Babylon’s rule as the capital city of the region and as far as can be determined the Akitu festival was never held in the city again.
What is a museum?
In its most basic sense, a museum is an institution that houses, cares for, and displays objects. Usually, these objects are of cultural, artistic, historical, or scientific significance.
The word “museum” is derived from Latin which was, in turn, inspired by mouseion, the Greek term for “a shrine to the Muses.” In Classical Greek mythology, the nine Muses are the goddesses of the arts and sciences, making them perfect patrons for these knowledge-based institutions.
‘Sarcophagus of the Muses' (2nd century AD) (Photo: Jastrow via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)
10 Mad Royals in History
Our understanding and treatment of mental illness has advanced quite a bit over the centuries -- and thank goodness for that. It wasn't so long ago that people who had been deemed "mad" (among other things) were routinely locked up and basically left to rot away in deplorable conditions. It was considered shameful and embarrassing to have an insane person in the family.
But what if that person happened to be the most powerful person in the country? Dealing with a mad monarch takes more than a little finesse. He or she could choose to execute the royal physician for suggesting that he or she might not be fit to rule. Meanwhile the country is falling into ruin. And in many places, the monarch was considered to have been divinely appointed, so questioning authority is akin to questioning one's god.
This is why history is full of royals who may not have been diagnosed as mentally ill by a medical professional, but whose actions and behaviors have qualified as "crazy" to the layperson. We'll start with a possible case of mistaken identity just to complicate things.
Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon, reigning from 556 to 539 B.C.E., and though he isn't mentioned in the Bible, many experts believe he was the real Babylonian king who went mad and acted like an animal rather than Nebuchadnezzar.
According to Daniel 4:25, Nebuchadnezzar, had a disturbing dream which his interpreter Daniel told him meant, "You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth."
So said, so done. One day Nebuchadnezzar was bragging about his greatness the next, he was driven from his home, living with wild animals and eating grass. Seven years later, he recovered his sanity and praised God [source: Easton's Bible Dictionary].
But numerous Babylonian writings and other ancient texts -- including the Dead Sea Scrolls -- make it clear that Nabonidus was the king with the unsound mind. So why the change? Some scholars believe that it's due to mistakes in the translation. Others think that it was a deliberate choice on the part of the editors of Daniel to better advance their ideals. Nebuchadnezzar was a very powerful king who destroyed the first temple in Jerusalem, so if the story was about him instead of Nabonidus, it's one of punishment and redemption [source: Bledsoe].
9: King George III of England
By the time he died, King George III could neither see nor hear, and was considered completely insane. His urine was reportedly tinged blue and/or red, and stories had spread about crazy behavior such as attempting to shake hands with a tree because he thought it was the King of Prussia [source: Johnson].
King George III ruled from 1760 to 1820, and his other claim to fame apart from his madness, was that the American colonies were lost under his reign. He was also cultured and conscientious, and unlike many of the other kings on this list, devoted to his wife [source: The Royal Household].
Modern diagnoses of the cause of the king's insanity have included schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, sexual frustration or the hereditary blood disorder porphyria. Porphyria can mimic the symptoms of madness, causing confusion as well as red urine. Perhaps the arsenic in the medications given to him may have triggered or aggravated the disease [source: Johnson].
Scholars who believe that the king was truly mentally ill point to the disparate differences in his writing and behavior. In "manic" periods, for example, he had convulsions and wrote and talked excessively -- to the point that he foamed at the mouth. These scholars attribute his blue urine to the plant gentian, often used in medication [source: BBC].
In the last decade of King George's life, Britain was actually ruled by his son, the Prince of Wales, as regent [source: The Royal Household].
Charles VI has gone down in history as both "Charles the Beloved" and "Charles the Mad." So how did he get both titles?
He received the first after restoring order to France. He became king at age 11 in 1368, but his uncles ruled until he was 21, ruining the finances of the country and causing numerous revolts. Charles then took over, got rid of the uncles and reinstated his father's trusted advisers [sources: Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, France.fr].
Unfortunately, the happy period only lasted about four years before he began to earn his second title.
While pursuing the man who attempted to assassinate an adviser, Charles became convinced that he was being chased by enemies. Ultimately he killed several of his own knights and nearly murdered his brother. His periods of lucidity became briefer over the years, as he sometimes did not recognize his wife or family, or didn't even remember that he was the king. He went long periods without bathing, ran through the corridors of his palace at all hours, and claimed that he was Saint George [source: Rohl et al.].
But Charles VI's most famous delusion was that his body was made of glass. He refused to be touched and required that special protective clothing be made to keep him from shattering [sources: Fink and Tasman, Sommerville]. Today it's thought that he probably had bipolar disorder, but at the time his illness was considered God's will because he had supported the antipope Clement VII [source: Fink and Tasman].
Maria I also had two different titles: "Maria the Pious" and "Maria the Mad." She was the first queen in Portugal to rule in her own right (rather than as a regent for a minor or consort). Her reign began in 1777 and lasted for 39 years. Maria I was considered to be a good and competent ruler until becoming delirious in 1786. Her husband Peter III (who was also her uncle) died that year, and her son passed away in 1791 [source: Livermore].
Deeply religious to the point of mania, Maria I was also devastated by the death of her confessor in 1791. She considered herself damned, in turns ranting, raging, screaming and wailing [source: Roberts]. Treatments included bloodletting and enemas -- "purgatives" that were commonly used to treat insanity. The queen did not willingly submit to these, and who can blame her?
Dr. Francis Willis, who had treated George III, came to the court in Portugal and diagnosed her as insane. His treatments were even worse -- straitjacketing, blistering and ice baths. Willis wanted to take her to England, away from the court and priests that he accurately considered to be negative influences on her mental health -- but not surprisingly, the court objected. Her son Prince João took over as regent in 1799. Unfortunately the prince wasn't suited to the job, and the court fled to Brazil after France invaded Portugal. Queen Maria I died there in 1816 [source: Roberts].
Let's head back to antiquity with a mad emperor, Justin II. He ruled from 565 to 578 and became emperor under somewhat suspect circumstances. His uncle Justinian I passed away and his chamberlain Callinicus claimed that Justinian designated Justin II as his successor on his deathbed. Callinicus wanted to be political allies with Justin, so he may have fabricated the story.
At first, Justin II seemed to have the empire's best interests in mind -- he took care of the financial end and was tolerant of a minority group of Christians (although he later persecuted them). Then he decided to stop paying other countries around the empire to keep the peace, and his decision led to the loss of part of Italy as well as war with Persia [sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Evans].
Perhaps these failures triggered his mental illness? Regardless, by 574 his wife was acting on his behalf. She convinced him to make a general in his army, Tiberius, his adopted son and heir. Justin II remained emperor in name only until his death, with Empress Sophia and Tiberius ruling as co-regents. Those last few years of his life were terrible. He tried to throw himself out of the windows of his palace, screamed, howled, babbled and bit his chamberlains. Stories circulated that Justin had actually eaten two of them. To soothe him, servants wheeled him around on a wagon for hours while organ music played [sources: Evans, John of Ephesus].
History has given this queen the sobriquet of Juana la Loca or "Joanna the Mad." But many question today whether she was really insane. Joanna married Phillip the Handsome (he fared better with the titles, obviously) in 1496. She was deeply in love with him, but he had numerous mistresses, and Joanna was jealous [source: Encyclopedia Britannica]. Her succession to the throne was murky. She became regent (temporary ruler) of Castile after the death of her mother Isabella I in 1504, but her father, Ferdinand II of Aragon, didn't accept this and convinced the courts that she was too ill to reign. Civil war in Castile made him change his tune, and although his son-in-law Phillip initially agreed that Joanna was mad and unable to rule, Phillip reneged as soon as Ferdinand left for Aragon [source: Andrean].
The courts recognized the couple as rulers, but after Phillip died, Ferdinand II returned and became regent, although not with Joanna's consent. She traveled through Granada for eight months with her husband's coffin and was rumored to kiss and caress the corpse. Her father confined her to a convent, where she stayed through his death and the reign of her son Charles I over both Castile and Aragon -- a period of 50 years [sources: Gomez et al., Andrean]. She may have had melancholia, schizophrenia or depression. But it's also possible that she wasn't insane at all. Instead, her father and son successfully perpetuated the idea to keep her from ruling [source: Gomez et al.].
Legend has it that King Erik XIV's last meal was a bowl of poisoned pea soup [source: Öhrström]. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. He ascended to the throne in 1560 but only ruled for eight years. The king was known to be intelligent and well-read. Erik proposed marriage to several royal women over the years (including Queen Elizabeth I) before finally marrying his mistress, a peasant woman named Karin Månsdotter in 1567 [sources: Mäkelä-Alitalo, Encyclopedia Britannica ].
Erik XIV was very ambitious and sought to expand his kingdom, an unpopular view. His half-brother Duke John also wanted to expand his territory and Erik had him imprisoned for high treason in 1563 [source: Glete]. Apparently the king began showing signs of madness and violence around this time. He ordered the murders of five nobles of the Sture family, already imprisoned for conspiracy against him. He personally stabbed Nils Svantesson Sture [sources: Cronholm, Encyclopedia Britannica].
This act proved to be too much for the other nobles, and Erik was dethroned in 1568. Duke John became ruler of Sweden, as John III. John was concerned about Erik getting out of prison, and ordered that guards should kill Erik if there was any attempt at freeing him [source: Mäkelä-Alitalo]. The pea soup, laced with arsenic, took care of that.
3: Christian VII of Denmark
Officially, Danish king Christian VII ruled from 1767 until his death in 1808, but for a large part of it, he was king in name only. Christian was considered incompetent not only due to his wild night life (he caroused with prostitutes in brothels) but also because of his mood swings, paranoia, hallucinations and self-mutilation. Some modern researchers have suggested that he had schizophrenia. Others that he had porphyria [sources: Rohl, Langen, Danish Royal Collection]. Ultimately he was mostly good for rubber stamping various decrees set forth by members of his court. He married the sister of King George III (yes, Mad King George), Princess Caroline Matilda, around the time he was crowned.
Christian's physician Johann Friedrich Struensee gained the confidence of the king and a lot of power. Christian gave him the title of State Councilor in 1768, and Struensee made numerous progressive reforms to modernize the country. That goodwill went away once Struensee began an affair with Caroline Matilda, and her divorce was finalized in 1772. Later that year, Struensee was executed [source: Toyne].
Both moves were orchestrated by Christian's power-hungry stepmother, dowager Queen Juliane Marie. She essentially ruled from 1772 until 1784, when Christian's son Prince Frederick VI took over as regent. Christian is rumored to have died of a heart attack or stroke after being frightened by the arrival of Spanish ships he thought were hostile. But there's not much proof to substantiate that [source: Schioldann].
Royals in Europe don't hold a monopoly on crazy behavior. Case in point: King Farouk of Egypt, who ascended to the throne in 1936. He was said to have mysophobia, an intense fear of contamination that caused him to search for imaginary bits of dirt. He only drove red cars and banned anyone else from owning a red one. He supposedly shot out the tires of vehicles that tried to pass him on the road. Farouk was also reportedly a packrat and a kleptomaniac, and legend has it that he stole Winston Churchill's watch [sources: Crompton, Scriba].
Though celebrated by nobility in his early years, Farouk's subjects didn't care for his shopping sprees, food indulgences, wild expenditures and corrupt governing. They also were unhappy with the loss of most of Palestine after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and its occupation by British forces [source: Cavendish].
The king was overthrown during the Egyptian Revolution in 1952, and his infant son was declared ruler -- although in truth the country was governed by a nationalistic group of officers within Egypt's army. The monarchy was dissolved in 1953, and Farouk died of a heart attack in Italy in 1965 after consuming a huge dinner of a dozen oysters, lobster thermidor, a double portion of roast lamb with fried potatoes and a large helping of trifle for dessert [sources: Cavendish, Scriba].
1: Zhu Houzhao, Emperor Zhengde
We'll end our look at just a few of the crazy rulers in history (you can find long lists of many more, trust us) by going to China. Zhu Houzhao is the personal name of the 10th emperor of the Ming Dynasty, who took the name of Zhengde when he ascended the throne in 1505.
Zhengde had no interest in affairs of the state, preferring affairs of the heart. His vast harem wasn't enough, so he picked up women on the street and had prostitutes in the royal palace. He enjoyed drinking, learning languages, pretending to be a commoner, and traveling incognito as much as possible. He also liked hunting wild animals almost as much as hunting people (both women for his harem and enemies, real and imagined) Once Zhengde was nearly killed by a tiger he was attempting to tame [source: Theobald, Encyclopedia Britannica, Huang].
The actual governing of the country was left to high-ranking eunuchs and friends, who heavily taxed the people and essentially sold public offices to the highest bidders. Anybody questioning Zhengde's strange behavior might be exiled or even killed. Eleven officials were flogged so much they later died of their beatings [sources: Theobald, Encyclopedia Britannica].
But this recklessness couldn't last for long. He had a boating accident at age 31 and passed away a year later. Truly mad or merely eccentric? It's hard to say, but it's obvious that Zhengde wasn't cut out for the throne.
Author's Note: 10 Mad Royals in History
I enjoy history and I'm particularly fascinated by the historical diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, but I still didn't know much about several of these so-called mad royals until researching them. Choosing just 10 was difficult, and I have several royal biographies on my reading list now (as if it wasn't long enough already).
5. Belshazzar’s Feast And The Fall Of Babylon
Almost seventy years have passed since the events of chapter 1 of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar himself had died in 562 B.C. Daniel does not record his immediate successors, and extrabiblical literature is somewhat confused. A plausible account of Berosus, in his third book, found in a fragment preserved by Josephus summarizes the history between Nebuchadnezzar’s death in 562 B.C. and the fall of Babylon 539 B.C.
According to Berosus, Nebuchadnezzar died after a reign of 43 years and was followed by his son Evil-Merodach. Because his rule was arbitrary and licentious, he was assassinated by Neriglisar after he had reigned only two years. The next four years Neriglisar occupied the throne. At his death his son Laborosoarchod, who was only a child, reigned for nine months until a conspiracy resulted in his being beaten to death. The conspirators appointed Nabonidus, one of their number, who reigned for seventeen years before being defeated by Cyrus the Persian. Nabonidus fleeing Babylon went to Borsippa but was forced to surrender to Cyrus. Nabonidus was allowed to live in Carmania until the time of his death, but he was not allowed to come to Babylonia. 245
The account of Berosus preserved by Josephus is supported by other evidence such as the short fragment of Abydenus preserved by Eusebius. 246
Until the discovery of the Nabonidus Cylinder, no mention of Belshazzar, whom Daniel declares to be king of Babylon, had been found in extrabiblical literature. Critics of the authenticity and historicity of Daniel accordingly were free to question whether any such person as Belshazzar existed. Since the publication of Raymond Dougherty’s scholarly research .on Nabonidus and Belshazzar, based on the Nabonidus Cylinder and other sources, there is no ground for questioning the general historicity of Belshazzar and only the details of the scriptural account unverified by extrabiblical sources can be challenged by the critics. 247 Montgomery states that the story is “unhistorical” but “nevertheless contains indubitable reminiscences of actual history.” 248
On the other hand, such a careful scholar as Edward J. Young states, “The identity of Belshazzar has long caused difficulty to commentators. Some have denied his historicity… The king’s name, however, has now appeared upon the cuneiform documents, so that there can be no question as to his historicity. This is the first point at which this ch. exhibits its remarkable accuracy.” 249 The controversy over Belshazzar, because of the extensive investigation and great variety of findings, has become one of the most complicated problems in the entire book, but the problem itself is comparatively simple. Was Belshazzar actually king of Babylon and was he murdered on the night that Babylon was conquered?
A solution of the problem has depended largely on the premises of the scholars dealing with it. Those critical of the authenticity and accuracy of Daniel, especially those zealous to prove second-century authorship, proceed on the premise that Daniel must be in error until he is proved otherwise. Here the discussion is lost in a maze of conflicting facts in extrabiblical literature concerning which the critics themselves are not agreed. Although such ancient records are notoriously inaccurate and at best are fragmentary, the argument of the critics was that Belshazzar never existed because his name did not appear in any of the ancient records. This omission, however, was later remedied, as mentioned above, by the discovery of the name of Bel-shar-usur (Belshazzar) on cylinders in which he is called the son of Nabonidus. Critics, having to recede from their former position that no such person existed, have since centered their attack on the fact that the word king does not occur in connection with Belshazzar on any extant Babylonian records. 250 The establishment of Nabonidus as the father of Belshazzar, or at least his stepfather, nullifies most of the critical objections, although Rowley in an extensive discussion maintains stoutly that to call Belshazzar a king “must still be pronounced a grave historical error.” 251
Since Rowley, however, even liberal scholars have tended to accept the explanation that Belshazzar acted as a regent under his father, Nabonidus. Norman Porteous, for instance, writes, “On the other hand it is known that Belshazzar was a historical person, the son of the last Babylonian king Nabonidus, who acted as regent of Babylon for several years before its fall, while his father was absent at the oasis of Teima in Arabia.” 252 This would begin Belshazzar’s regency about 553 B.C., when Nabonidus went to Teima. Not only the record in Daniel but also the external evidence is now sufficient to support the conclusion that Belshazzar’s coregency is almost beyond question. This is another illustration of how critical objections based on lack of external evidence are frequently overthrown when the evidence is uncovered. 253
Additional evidence that Nabonidus was away from Babylon on the night of Daniel 5 is given in the fragment from Berosus, previously cited, which indicates that Nabonidus had left Babylon only to be vanquished in battle and flee to Borsippa. This would involve the premise that Nabonidus, although usually living at Teima, had returned to Babylon for a visit just prior to the siege of Babylon, had gone out to battle before Babylon was actually surrounded, and then was defeated, thereby permitting the Persians to besiege Babylon itself. Under these circumstances, Belshazzar would indeed be king of Babylon in the absence of his father. Problems of his relationship will be considered at the proper place in the exposition, including the possibility that Belshazzar’s mother was a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and thus in the royal line, whereas Nabonidus was not. There are actually so many plausible possibilities in Daniel’s account, supported by the evidence cited, that the storm of objections can hardly be taken seriously. 254
Belshazzar’s Feast in Honor of the Gods of Babylon
5:1-4 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. 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 princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.
About seventy years had elapsed since the capture of Jerusalem recorded in Daniel 1. In the interpretation of the image in chapter 2, Daniel had predicted to Nebuchadnezzar, “After thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee” (Dan 2:39). Now, in chapter 5, this prophecy is about to be fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliating experience in chapter 4 had been followed by his death in 562 b.c. Approximately twenty-three years elapsed between chapter 4 and chapter 5. In this period, a number of monarchs had succeeded Nebuchadnezzar. According to Berosus, Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son, Evil-Merodach, also known as Amel-Marduk, who was killed in 560 b.c. He was followed by Neriglissar, also spelled Nergal-shar-usur, a son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar who died in 556 b.c. of natural causes. He was succeeded by Laborosoarchad, also known as Labashi-Marduk, a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, who was assassinated after less than a year. Nabonidus assumed the throne in 556 b.c. and reigned until 539 b.c. when conquered by the Medes. Belshazzar is best identified as his son, whose mother was either a wife or a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and thereby strengthened the claim of Nabonidus to the throne. This explains why Belshazzar in the lineal descent from Nebuchadnezzar was honored as a coruler under Nabonidus. Although there are alternative explanations and some dates vary, this succession of kings and identification of characters seems to have reasonable justification. Most expositors disagree with Keil, who identifies Belshazzar with Evil-Merodach, preferring the identification of a son of Nabonidus, based on later evidence not available to Keil. 255 The identifications of Leupold are more satisfactory. 256
In the quarter of a century which elapsed between chapter 4 and chapter 5, the further revelations given to Daniel in chapters 7 and 8 occurred. Chapter 7 was revealed to Daniel “in the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon” (Dan 7:1) and the vision of the ram and he-goat in chapter 8 occurred “in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar” (Dan 8:1). The information embodied in these two visions, insofar as Daniel understood it, therefore was known to Daniel before the event of chapter 5 which chronologically came after chapters 7 and 8. If Belshazzar began his reign in 553 b.c, when Nabonidus went to Teima, the visions of chapters 7 and 8 actually occurred about twelve years before the events of chapter 5.
Verse 1 of chapter 5 introduces the fact that Belshazzar as king of Babylon had made a great feast to which a thousand of his lords had been invited with their wives. That such a large feast should be held by a monarch like Belshazzar is not at all strange. Leupold cites the ancient historian Ktesias to the effect that Persian monarchs frequently were known to dine daily with 15,000 people. 257 M. E. 50:Mallowan mentions the great feast that Ashusnasirpal II gave to 69,574 guests when he dedicated his new capital city of Calah (Nimrud) in 879 b.c. 258
Although the size of the banquet is not amazing, the situation was most unusual. If the setting can be reconstructed, Nabonidus previously had gone forth from Babylon to fight the Medes and the Persians and had already been captured. The whole surrounding territory of the city of Babylon and the related provinces already had been conquered. Only Babylon with its massive walls and fortifications remained intact. Possibly to reassert their faith in their Babylonian gods and to bolster their own courage, this feast in the form of a festival had been ordered. The storehouses of Babylon were still abundant with food and wine, and there is evidence that there was plenty of both at this feast. The expression “drunk wine before the thousand” indicates that Belshazzar was probably on a platform at a higher level than other guests and led them in drinking toasts to their deities. Under the stimulus of wine, the thought occurred to Belshazzar to bring in the gold and silver vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar almost seventy years before. The implication in the clause “whiles he tasted the wine” is that Belshazzar in his right mind probably would not have committed this sacrilegious act.
Drinking bouts such as characterized Babylon were also common among other peoples, such as the Persians. Athenaeus quotes Heracleides of Cumae, the author of Persian History, in describing in detail the custom of drinking to excess after dinner. 259 The luxury of both the drinking and the eating is also illustrated in Athenaeus in describing dinners among the Persians of high station as follows: “For one thousand animals are slaughtered daily for the king these comprise horses, camels, oxen, asses, deer, and most of the smaller animals many birds also are consumed, including Arabian ostriches—and the creature is large—geese, and cocks.” 260
Much has been made of the reference of Belshazzar’s relationship to Nebuchadnezzar, who is described as “his father” in verse 2 and even Keil is influenced by this to consider Belshazzar a literal son of Nebuchadnezzar. 261 This is not entirely impossible, of course, for as Leupold shows, 262 Nabonidus could have married a widow of Nebuchadnezzar who had a son by Nebuchadnezzar who then could be adopted by Nabonidus by way of strengthening his own hold upon the throne. As Nabonidus assumed the throne in 556 B.C., only six years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, and Belshazzar was probably at least a teenager when Nebuchadnezzar died—if he was old enough to be coregent with Nabonidus in 553 B.C.— it is possible that he was a genuine son of Nebuchadnezzar and that his mother, after Nebuchadnezzar’s death, was married to Nabonidus. This, however, is conjecture and probably it is more natural to consider Belshazzar a son of Nabonidus himself.
Although the precise identity of Belshazzar may continue to be debated, available facts support accepting Daniel’s designation of Belshazzar as king. The reference to father may be construed as “grandfather.” As Pusey states, “Neither in Hebrew, nor in Chaldee, is there any-word for ‘grandfather,’ ‘grandson.’ Forefathers are called ‘fathers’ or ‘fathers’ fathers.’ But a single grandfather, or forefather, is never called ‘father’s father’ but always ‘father’ only.” 263
The sacred vessels taken from Jerusalem had apparently been kept in storage without sacrilegious use from Nebuchadnezzar’s day until the occasion of this feast. Now these holy vessels are distributed among the crowd and used as vessels from which to drink wine. Verse 2 cites that “the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines” drink from them and this fact is restated in the actual act in verse 3 where only the golden vessels are mentioned. The Revised Standard Version, following the Vulgate, adds in verse 3 “and silver vessels.” This act of sacrilege was an intentioned religious gesture in praise of the gods of Babylon mentioned in descending order of importance as “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.” That Belshazzar well knew the blasphemous character of his act is evident from Daniel 5:13, 22. He knew Daniel and knew the history of Nebuchadnezzar’s experience with God’s chastening. Some have found, in the six materials mentioned, a typical reference to “the number of the world amenable to judgment because of its hostility to God.” 264 In the original, the gods of gold and silver are separated by the conjunction “and,” not true of the listing of the gods of brass, iron, wood, and stone, as if there were two classes of deities. This distinction is supported by Keil. 265
Their pride in their deities may have been bolstered by the magnificence of the city of Babylon itself, interpreted as an evidence of the power of their gods. Herodotus gives a glowing account of Babylon as a monument to the genius of Nebuchadnezzar and undoubtedly a source of much pride to all the Babylonians. According to Herodotus, Babylon was about fourteen miles square, with great outer walls 87 feet thick and 350 feet high, with a hundred great bronze gates in the walls. A system of inner and outer walls with a water moat between the walls made the city very secure. So broad and strong were the walls that chariots four abreast could parade around its top. Herodotus pictures hundreds of towers at appropriate intervals reaching another 100 feet into the air above the top of the wall. 266
Modern interpreters view Herodotus’ figures as greatly exaggerated, with the real dimensions only about one-fourth of what Herodotus claimed. The outer wall seems to have been only seventeen miles in circumference, instead of about fifty-six as Herodotus claimed, with much fewer towers and gates and probably even the towers were not more than 100 feet tall. While the dimensions may be questioned, the magnificence of the city was not seriously exaggerated. 267
The great Euphrates River flowed through the middle of the city in a general north-south direction and was bordered by walls on each side to protect the city from attack from the river. Within these walls were beautiful avenues, parks, and palaces. Many of the streets were lined with buildings three and four stories high. Among these buildings were the Temple of Bel, an eight-story structure, and the magnificent palace of the king, actually a complex of buildings, which have now been excavated. A great bridge spanned the Euphrates River, connecting the eastern section and the western or new section of the city. The bridge was later supplemented by a tunnel mentioned by Diodorus. The famed “hanging gardens” of Babylon were large enough to support trees.
Although Babylon has been only partially excavated with but a small part of the original city recovered, the system of mounds which mark the city today more or less indicate its boundaries. Archeological research is complicated by a change in the course of the Euphrates River and a higher water level, but more than 10,000 inscribed texts have been discovered.
In many respects, Babylon was the most fabulous city of the ancient world both for the beauty of its architecture and for the safety of its huge walls and fortifications. It was hard for the Babylonians to believe that even the Medes and the Persians who had surrounded their beloved city could possibly breach the fortifications or exhaust their supplies which were intended to be ample for a siege of many years. Their confidence in their gods was bolstered by their confidence in their city.
The Handwriting on the Wall 5:5-9
In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. Then came in all the king’s wise men but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.
While the feast was in progress with its drinking of wine and shouting of praises to the gods of Babylon, suddenly there appeared the fingers of a man’s hand which wrote on the plastered wall of the palace. With only the fingers of the hand visible and producing writing upon the wall, the spectacle immediately attracted attention.
In the ruins of Nebuchadnezzar’s palace archeologists have uncovered a large throne room 56 feet wide and 173 feet long which probably was the scene of this banquet. Midway in the long wall opposite the entrance there was a niche in front of which the king may well have been seated. Interestingly, the wall behind the niche was covered with white plaster as described by Daniel, which would make an excellent background for such a writing. 268
If the scene can be reconstructed, it is probable that the banquet was illuminated by torches which not only produced smoke but fitful light that would only partially illuminate the great hall. As the writing according to Daniel was written “over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace,” it may have appeared in an area of greater illumination than the rest of the room and thus also have attracted more attention.
The effect upon the king and his associates was immediate. According to Daniel, his countenance changed, that is, changed color and became pale. His thin courage, bolstered by wine drunk from vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had plundered and were seemingly a symbol of the power of the gods of Babylon, now deserted him. He was instead filled with terror to the point that “the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.” In his excitement, he no longer could sit down but hardly had the strength to stand. Probably before the babble of conversation in the banquet room had subsided, the king began to cry aloud “to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers.” Only three classes of wise men are mentioned, but it is doubtful whether any class was intentionally omitted as verse 8 refers to “all the king’s wise men.” The astrologers were actually the magicians the Chaldeans were a broad class of scholars and learned men in the lore of the Babylonians and the soothsayers corresponded more closely to the modern concept of astrologers, although they may have also practiced sorcery. It is possible in the decline of the Babylonian Empire that the number of the wise men was far more limited at this point in history than it was under Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. In any event, there is no proof for the suggestion discussed by Keil that the classification of wise men mentioned purposely excluded Daniel. As Keil points out, the king was ready to listen to anyone who could interpret the writing. 269
As soon as a suitable number of the wise men had assembled, the king addressed them offering the reward that, if one of them could read the writing and show the interpretation, he would be clothed with scarlet and have a chain of gold about his neck and become third ruler in the kingdom. To be clothed in scarlet and to wear a chain of gold about the neck were special tokens of the king’s favor and certainly would have been coveted by any of the wise men.
Much speculation has arisen concerning the expression that he offered them the position of being “the third ruler in the kingdom.” There is some question as to whether the Aramaic indicates specifically “the third ruler.” The ordinal numeral would be tÿli‚ta„y (as in Dan 2:39) whereas the Aramaic here is actually talti‚ . Scholars are not agreed as to the precise meaning of this term, but the suggestion is made that it may be a title for an office of honor which did not necessarily correspond precisely to the meaning of the word. As Keil expresses it, “It is not quite certain what the princely situation is which was promised to the interpreter of the writing… That it is not the ordinale of the number third, is, since Havernick, now generally acknowledged.” 270 However, recent scholarship has tended to confirm the translation “the third ruler.” Franz Rosenthal, for instance, confidently translates the term “one-third (ruler), triumvir.” 271
In spite of the problem in the word, it is probable that the offer of honor was that of being the third ruler. Belshazzar under Nabonidus was considered the second ruler, and the position of a third ruler would be the highest that he could offer. Belshazzar was evidently in no mood to bargain but was terrified and desperately desired to know the meaning of the writing.
The large reward that was offered, however, was to no avail, for the wise men who assembled could not read the writing nor interpret it. This implies a twofold difficulty. Some have claimed that the text does not plainly indicate the language. Charles, for instance, suggests that the writing was in unfamiliar ideograms. 272 This, however, is mere conjecture. The probability is that the writing was in Aramaic and therefore not entirely unknown to the wise men.
In any case Daniel read the writing as Aramaic, and the suggestion of puns in the language (see later discussion) depends upon the Aramaic. The difficulty of the wise men in reading the writing may have been that it was written in Aramaic script without the vowels being supplied but if written in cuneiform, the vowels would have been included. Daniel does not explain the difficulty in reading the writing on the wall, but the problem apparently was not that it was a strange language but rather what the words signified prophetically. For further discussion, see exposition of Daniel 5:25-27.
The inability of the wise men to decipher the writing only increased the concern of Belshazzar. Perhaps the full force of his wickedness in using the vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem had begun to dawn upon him, or the fears suppressed concerning the presence of the armies which surrounded Babylon may have now emerged. His concern was shared by the entire assembly.
Belshazzar’s predicament is another illustration of the insecurity and powerlessness of the rulers of this world when confronted by the power and wisdom of God. How God holds in derision the rulers of the world who take counsel against Him (Ps 2:1-4)! Like Nebuchadnezzar before him, Belshazzar was soon to experience divine judgment but without the happy ending.
Daniel Suggested as the Interpreter
5:10-12 Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed. There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard 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.
The crisis produced by the inability of the wise men to interpret the handwriting on the wall is met by the entrance of one described as “the queen.” Much speculation surrounds the identity of this person as it is related to the larger question of Belshazzar’s lineage. Keil and Leupold both consider her to be a wife of Nebuchadnezzar and the mother of Belshazzar. 273 As the wives of the lords and the king himself had earlier been declared to be at the banquet (v. 3) one who had the role of “queen” would most probably be Belshazzar’s mother. She had not attended the banquet. This would be understandable if she was elderly and the widow of Nebuchadnezzar. If she were the wife of Nabonidus who was in captivity she probably would not have desired to come alone. Hearing the unusual clamor at the banquet and learning of the distress of her son, because of her position she was able to enter the banquet hall freely and speak to the king. Her address is courteous, “O king, live for ever,” but directly to the point. Like a mother, she told her son in effect to pull himself together because there must be some solution to his problem. As one holding her position was normally highly regarded and treated with respect, she could speak out in a way that no other could do. Honoring of parents was characteristic of the Israelites (Ex 20:12 1 Ki 2:13-20 2 Ki 24:12-15). The same was true in the Gentile world, and the dowager queen was able to enter the banquet hall without an invitation.
Montgomery, opposing the idea that the queen is Belshazzar’s wife, comments, “Also the lady’s masterful appearance on the scene betokens rather the queen-mother than the consort.” 274 Jeffery, likewise, writes, “…she speaks to him of his father in a way that suggests a mother speaking to a son rather than a wife to a husband.” 275
The solution to the problem which the queen suggested was that they invite Daniel the prophet, who had been discovered as a man of wisdom by Nebuchadnezzar, to interpret the writing. The queen uses the very words which presumably she had heard Nebuchadnezzar express (Dan 4:8, 9, 18). According to the queen, Daniel had “the spirit of the holy gods.” In the time of Nebuchadnezzar, to whom she refers as “thy father,” Daniel had been found to have the wisdom of gods and possessing “light,” that is, enlightenment, “understanding” or insight, and in general wisdom comparable to the wisdom of the gods. So great was his genius that Nebuchadnezzar had made him “master” or chief of his wise men, which in itself was a remarkable position for one who was not a Chaldean and this honor placed upon him testified to the confidence of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel’s abilities. The reference to Nebuchadnezzar as the father of Belshazzar, as previously indicated, should probably be either grandfather or greatgrandfather as the same term would be used for any of these designations. It does imply, however, that Belshazzar was in descent from Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel’s excellent qualities manifested themselves in “an excellent spirit,” unusual knowledge and understanding, and the ability to interpret dreams, difficult sentences, and “dissolving of doubts,” that is, solutions to problems. The word for doubts ( qitÿri‚n ) is actually knots, joints, difficult problems. Daniel had not been assembled with the other wise men because he probably was in semiretirement and was no longer chief of the wise men. The queen urged, however, that now he be brought in to solve the present problem.
Daniel Called Before the King
5:13-16 Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee. And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not show the interpretation of the thing: And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.
When Daniel was brought before the king, he addressed a natural question to reassure himself of the identity of Daniel. It seems clear that Belshazzar knew something of Daniel, for his form of address in verse 13 goes beyond the information supplied by his mother. He knew for instance that Daniel was of the captivity of Judah and that he was one of the captives which Nebuchadnezzar had brought out of Jerusalem. It may well be that because of awareness of his ancestry and religious convictions that Daniel had been demoted by Belshazzar himself. Now Belshazzar was all too eager to have the gifts of this man exercised to interpret the writing. Belshazzar goes on in verse 14 to repeat what his mother had said concerning Daniel’s wisdom.
Belshazzar informs Daniel of the inability of all the wise men either to read or to interpret the writing. Belshazzar then offers Daniel the same promise he made to the others of being clothed with scarlet and having a chain of gold and the privilege of being “the third ruler in the kingdom,” that is, the triumvir. As in the previous instances in Daniel 2 and 4, the wisdom of the world is demonstrated to be totally unable to solve its major problems and to understand either the present or the future. Daniel as the prophet of God is the channel through which divine revelation would come, and Belshazzar in his extremity was willing to listen.
Too often the world, like Belshazzar, is not willing to seek the wisdom of God until its own bankruptcy becomes evident. Then help is sought too late, as in the case of Belshazzar, and the cumulative sin and unbelief which precipitated the crisis in the first place becomes the occasion of downfall.
The situation before Belshazzar had all the elements of a great drama. Here was Daniel, an old man well in his eighties, with the marks of godly living evident in his bearing—in sharp contrast to the wine-flushed faces of the crowd. In the midst of this atmosphere of consternation, apprehension, and fear, Daniel’s countenance alone reflected the deep peace of God founded on confidence in God and His divine revelation.
Daniel’s Rebuke of Belshazzar
5:17-23 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew and whom he would he kept alive and whom he would he set up and whom he would he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: And he was driven from the sons of men and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this: But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:
Daniel’s reply to the king is properly called a sermon, and as King says, “What a great sermon it is!” 276 Daniel begins by disavowing any interest in the gifts or rewards which the king offered. This was not prompted by disrespect nor by the evident fact that they would be short-lived. What Daniel is saying is that he will give an unprejudiced interpretation with no attempt to seek favor from the king. He promises both to read and to make known the interpretation.
In addressing the king, Daniel does not begin with a formal salutation as he does for instance in connection with Darius in Daniel 6:21 where he says, “O king, live for ever.” No doubt Daniel holds Belshazzar in contempt for his desecration of the sacred vessels. However, the narration here must be considered in the form of a condensation and probably Daniel addressed the king in a formal way. A parallel is found in Daniel 2:27, where Daniel addresses Nebuchadnezzar without formal greeting, and in Daniel 4:19, where Daniel replies to Nebuchadnezzar simply with the expression, “My lord.” This was hardly a time in any case for Daniel to greet Belshazzar with such an expression as he gave to Darius, “O king, live for ever,” when as a matter of fact, Belshazzar’s hours were numbered. Instead, in verse 18 he recognizes him as king but then immediately delivers his prophetic message of condemnation.
Daniel first reminds Belshazzar that God gave Nebuchadnezzar his great kingdom and the honor that went with it. Daniel describes graphically in verse 19 how Nebuchadnezzar was feared and had absolute authority of life and death over his people and, accordingly, was an absolute sovereign. As Young points out, however, the very character of this absolute authority delegated to Nebuchadnezzar by God also made Nebuchadnezzar responsible. 277 This is demonstrated and supported by Nebuchadnezzar’s experience of insanity in Daniel 4 when, as Daniel expresses it, “he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.” Daniel then itemizes in detail the characteristics of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity, how he lived with the wild beasts, ate grass like the ox, and was wet with the dew of heaven. All of this proved that God was greater than Nebuchadnezzar and held him responsible for his authority. Only when Nebuchadnezzar was properly humbled did God restore him to his” glory and kingdom.
These facts are pertinent to Belshazzar’s situation as they were well known by everyone as Daniel expresses it in verse 22, “And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this.” The contrast between the supreme power of Nebuchadnezzar and the very limited power of Belshazzar is also evident. Belshazzar was not even the first ruler in the kingdom and was humiliated by the fact that Babylon was besieged and had already lost its power over the provinces surrounding the city.
Belshazzar’s situation and his knowledge of Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling made all the more blasphemous his taking of the vessels captured in Jerusalem from the house of the Lord and using them to drink wine in praising the gods of Babylon. With what eloquent scorn Daniel declares that Belshazzar, his lords, wives and concubines had drunk wine from these sacred vessels and had “praised gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified.” 278
Although the Scriptures do not state so expressly, it is probable that the message of Daniel to the king was heard by the entire company. It would have been quite improper for the entire company to keep on talking, especially in these dramatic circumstances, when Daniel was reporting to the king. They would naturally want to hear what he had to say. One can well imagine the tense moment as these ringing words reached every ear in the vast hall in the deathlike silence that greeted Daniel’s prophetic utterance. Here was a man who did not fear man and feared only God. Daniel spoke in measured tones the condemnation of that which was blasphemous in the sight of the holy God. There was, however, nothing insolent or discourteous in Daniel’s address to the king and the charges were stated in a factual and objective way. In any case, the king was in no position to dispute with Daniel, even though Daniel’s words brought even greater fear and apprehension to his heart.
Daniel’s Interpretation of the Writing
5:24-28 Then was the part of the hand sent from him and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.
In beginning his explanation of the handwriting on the wall, Daniel first of all reads the writing and for the first time, the words are introduced into the text of this chapter. Transliterated into English, they are given as “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” There has been almost endless critical discussion as to what the meaning of this inscription is, and the interpretation is complicated by a number of factors. 279 In the book of Daniel the words are given in Aramaic, but some have questioned this. 280 If it was written in Aramaic script, however, only the consonants may have appeared. If in cuneiform, the vowels would be included. While in ordinary discourse the lack of vowels could normally be supplied rather easily, in a cryptic statement such as this the addition of vowels is a problem. The inscription on the wall may have appeared like this, “MN’ MN’ TQL UPRSN.” The order of the letters in the Aramaic, of course, would be the reverse of this, that is, from right to left.
Young suggests, after some of the rabbis, that the characters may have been written vertically, 281 and in that case in the Aramaic order they would have appeared as follows:
If, in addition to the complications of the Aramaic, a language which was known, some unfamiliar form of their characters was used, it would indeed have required divine revelation to give a suitable explanation and interpretation, and may account for the difficulty in reading the writing.
Because of the variety of words that could be identified merely by the consonants, another suggestion has been made. MENE could be considered equivalent to the maneh of Ezekiel 45:12 Ezra 2:69. TEQEL could be considered as representing the Hebrew shekeL PERES could be read as PERAS, or a half-maneh, although this identification is questionable. Under this interpretation, the writing would read, “A maneh, a marieh, a shekel, and a half-maneh.” Having arrived at this conclusion, however, it still remains to be determined what it means. Young in his discussion on this point gives J. Dymeley Prince 282 the credit for the suggestion that the maneh refers to Nebuchadnezzar, the shekel (of much less value) to Belshazzar, and the half-minas refers to the Medes and the Persians. 283 Daniel’s explanation, however, is far more cogent and reasonable, and does not give any indication that the words mean other than he indicates.
The word MENE means “numbered,” and Daniel interprets this in verse 26 as indicating “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.” It is in keeping with the idea that man’s days are numbered, and the repetition of the word twice is probably for emphasis. Like the other words, it is a passive participle.
TEQEL means “weighed,” with the thought that Belshazzar has been put into the balances and found wanting, that is, short of true weight.
PERES means “divided,” and is merely another form for UPHARSIN as in verse 25 having the u, which is equivalent to the English and, with PHARSIN being the plural of PERES. Leupold suggests that PHARSIN could be understood by changing the vowels to be “Persians” 284 and might have a double meaning as indicated by Daniel’s explanation “given to the Medes and Persians.” A pun may be intended on this third word. Having been interpreted to mean “divided,” it is also understood as a reference to the Aramaic word for Persian, thereby hinting a Persian victory over Babylon.
The interpretation of Daniel is clear and much more satisfactory than the alternatives offered by some expositors. Belshazzar is made to understand that Babylon will be given to the Medes and the Persians. Even while Daniel was interpreting the writing on the wall, the prophecy was being fulfilled as the Medes and the Persians poured into the city.
Daniel’s Reward and the Prophecy Fulfilled
5:29-31 Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.
The drama of the writing on the wall and its interpretation is now brought to its fulfillment as Belshazzar keeps his promise. Daniel is clothed with scarlet, a chain of gold put about his neck, and a proclamation issued that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. All of these honors, however, were short-lived and useless, as Daniel well knew, and typical of the honors of this world. In its rise to power the Babylonian Empire had conquered Jerusalem, taken its inhabitants into captivity, looted its beautiful temple, and completely destroyed the city. Yet this empire was to have as its last official act the honoring of one of these captives who by divine revelation predicted not only the downfall of Babylon but the course of the times of the Gentiles until the Son of man should come from heaven. Man may have the first word, but God will have the last word.
Herodotus gives an interesting account of the circumstances surrounding the capture of Babylon:
“Cyrus… then advanced against Babylon. But the Babylonians, having taken the field, awaited his coming and when he had advanced near the city, the Babylonians gave battle, and, being defeated, were shut up in the city. But as they had been long aware of the restless spirit of Cyrus, and saw that he attacked all nations alike, they had laid up provisions for many years, and therefore were under no apprehensions about a siege. On the other hand, Cyrus found himself in difficulty, since much time had elapsed, and his affairs were not at all advanced. Whether, therefore, someone else made the suggestion to him in his perplexity, or whether he himself devised the plan, he had recourse to the following stratagem. Having stationed the bulk of his army near the passage of the river where it enters Babylon, and again having stationed another division beyond the city, where the river makes its exit, he gave order to his forces to enter the city as soon as they should see the stream fordable. Having stationed his forces and given these directions, he himself marched away with the ineffective part of his army and having come to the lake, Cyrus did the same with respect to the river and the lake as the queen of the Babylonians had done for having diverted the river, by means of a canal, into the lake, which was before a swamp, he made the ancient channel fordable by the sinking of the river. When this took place, the Persians who were appointed to that purpose close to the stream of the river, which had now subsided to about the middle of a man’s thigh, entered Babylon by this passage. If, however, the Babylonians had been aware of it beforehand, or had known what Cyrus was about, they would not have suffered the Persians to enter the city, but would have utterly destroyed them for, having shut all the little gates that lead to the river, and mounting the walls that extend along the banks of the river, they would have caught them as in a net whereas the Persians came upon them by surprise. It is related by the people who inhabited this city, that, by reason of its great extent, when they who were at the extremities were taken, those of the Babylonians who inhabited the centre knew nothing of the capture (for it happened to be a festival) but they were dancing at the time, and enjoying themselves, till they received certain information of the truth. And thus Babylon was taken for the first time.” 285
Keil discusses at length both Herodotus’ account and that of Xenophon in his Cyropaedia, which is similar, and summarizes the arguments of Kranichfeld discounting these records. Discoveries since Keil tend to support Herodotus and Xenophon, although not accounting for Darius the Mede. The battle probably took place much as Herodotus records it. 286
Prophecy anticipating the fall of Babylon is found in both Isaiah and Jeremiah, written many years before. Isaiah and Jeremiah had prophesied that Babylon would fall to the Medes on just such a night of revelry as Daniel records (Is 13:17-22 21:1-10 Jer 51:33-58). Some of these prophecies may have their ultimate fulfillment in the future (Rev 17-18). More specifically of the invasion of the Medes, Isaiah writes, “Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media” (Is 21:2), and continues, after describing their dismay, “My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me. Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield” (Is 21:4-5). Finally, the tidings come, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground” (Is 21:9). Jeremiah is explicit, “And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts. Thus saith the Lord of hosts The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire” (Jer 51:57-58).
The account of Cyrus, himself, of the fall of Babylon has now been recovered in an inscription on a clay barrel:
Marduk, the great lord, a protector of his people/worshipers, beheld with pleasure his (i.e., Cyrus’) good deeds and his upright mind (lit.: heart) (and therefore) ordered him to march against his city Babylon… He made him set out on the road to Babylon… going at his side like a real friend. His widespread troops—their number, like that of the water of a river, could not be established—strolled along, their weapons packed away. Without any battle, he made him enter his town Babylon,… sparing Babylon… any calamity. He delivered into his (1:e., Cyrus’) hands Nabonidus, the king who did not worship him (i.e., Marduk). 287
Daniel himself records with graphic simplicity the fulfillment of his prophecy in the words, “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.” The concluding verse of the chapter in English versification records how Darius the Median became ruler of Babylon at the age of 62 years. The identity of this conqueror, unknown outside the Bible by this name, has touched off endless controversy and discussion which will be considered in the next chapter.
The long chapter devoted to this incident which brought the Babylonian Empire to its close is undoubtedly recorded in the Word of God not only for its historic fulfillment of the prophecies relative to the Babylonian Empire but also as an illustration of divine dealing with a wicked world. The downfall of Babylon is in type the downfall of the unbelieving world. In many respects, modern civilization is much like ancient Babylon, resplendent with its monuments of architectural triumph, as secure as human hands and ingenuity could make it, and yet defenseless against the judgment of God at the proper hour. Contemporary civilization is similar to ancient Babylon in that it has much to foster human pride but little to provide human security. Much as Babylon fell on that sixteenth day of Tishri (Oc. 11 or 12) 539 B.C., as indicated in the Nabonidus Chronicle, 288 so the world will be overtaken by disaster when the day of the Lord comes (1 Th 5:1-3). The disaster of the world, however, does not overtake the child of God Daniel survives the purge and emerges triumphant as one of the presidents of the new kingdom in chapter 6.
245 The actual text of Berosus is as follows: “After beginning the wall of which I have spoken, Nabuchodonosor fell sick and died, after a reign of forty-three years, and the realm passed to his son Evilmaraduch. This prince, whose government was arbitrary and licentious, fell a victim to a plot, being assassinated by his sister’s husband, Neriglisar, after a reign of two years. On his death Neriglisar, his murderer, succeeded to the throne and reigned four years. His son, Laborosoardoch, a mere boy, occupied it for nine months, when, owing to the depraved disposition which he showed, a conspiracy was formed against him, and he was beaten to death by his friends. After his murder the conspirators held a meeting, and by common consent conferred the kingdom upon Nabonnedus, a Babylonian and one of their gang. In his reign the walls of Babylon abutting on the river were magnificently built with baked brick and bitumen. In the seventeenth year of his reign Cyrus advanced from Persia with a large army, and, after subjugating the rest of the kingdom, marched upon Babylonia. Apprised of his coming, Nabonnedus led his army to meet him, fought and was defeated, whereupon he fled with a few followers and shut himself up in the town of Borsippa. Cyrus took Babylon, and after giving orders to raze the outer walls of the city, because it resented a very redoubtable and formidable appearance, proceeded to Borsippa to esiege Nabonnedus. The latter surrendering, without waiting for investment, was humanely treated by Cyrus, who dismissed him from Babylonia, but gave him Car-mania for his residence. There Nabonnedus spent the remainder of his life, and there he died”^ Flavius Josephus. “Against Apion,” in Josephus 1:221-25. For discussion of Josephus’ account, see Keil, pp. 164-71.
246 Eusebius, Praeper. Ev. 9:41, cited by C. F. Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p. 164.
247 See Raymond P. Dougherty, Nabonidus and Belshazzar.
248 James A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p. 249.
249 According to J. A. Brinkman, “Probably the first recorded mention of Belshazzar, Prince of Babylonia under Nabonnedus” is in a cuneiform text 135 in a collection at the Archaeological Museum in Florence published in 1958-60 by Professor Karl Ober-huber of the University of Innsbruck. The text is definitely from the sixth century B.C. This text indicates that a person known as Bel-sarra-usur was a res sarri, an officer of the king, under Neriglissar who came to the throne in 560 B.C., as had been earlier pointed out in a text YBC 3765:2 published by R. P. Dougherty in 1929 in Nabonidus and Belshazzar, pp. 67-68. This, no doubt, prepared the way for the co-regency under Nabonidus which probably began 553 B.C., supporting Daniel 5. (Cf. J. A. Brinkman, “Neo-Babylonian Texts in the Archaeological Museum at Florence,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 25:202-9.)
E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel, p. 115.
250 Cf. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel, p. 210 and George A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible, p. 481 ff.
251 H. H. Rowley, “The Historicity of the Fifth Chapter of Daniel,” Journal of Theological Studies 32:12.
252 N. W. Porteous, Daniel: A Commentary, p. 76.
253 The new evidence confirming the theory that Nabonidus was absent is found in the statement in the “Prayer of Nabonidus” that Nabonidus was at the oasis of Teima in Arabia at this time. See J. T. Milik, “ ‘Priere de Nabonide’ et autres ecrits d’un cycle de Daniel,” Revue Biblique 63:407-15. Although it is possible to question the historicity of portions of the “Prayer of Nabonidus,” as it is undoubtedly apocryphal, the consensus of both liberal and conservative scholarship seems to take the account as repeating in the main a true story. Cf. Norman Porteous, Daniel: A Commentary, p. 76.
254 For further discussion of this problem, see Young, pp. 115-19 Keil, pp. 162-79 and Leupold, pp. 208-14. Cf. the interesting discussion of Belshazzar by C. Boutflower, In and Around the Book of Daniel, pp. 114 ff.
257 Montgomery mentions a marriage feast of Alexander with 10,000 guests (Montgomery, p. 250).
Ibid., p. 214. See also Keil, p. 179, citing Athenaeus, as does Young, p. 118.
258 M. E. L. Mallowan, “Nimrud,” in Archaeology and Old Testament Study, p. 62.
259 Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae IV, 145.
263 Edward B. Pusey, Daniel the Prophet, p. 346. See also Leupold, pp. 216-17, who discusses this quotation from Pusey.
264 Otto Zockler, Daniel, Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, p. 126.
266 Herodotus, History of the Persian Wars, 1:178-83.
267 Cf. Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, pp. 115-16 and T. G. Pinches, “Babel, Babylon,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1:350. For a map of Babylon in sixth century B.C., see D. J. Wiseman, “Babylon,” in The New Bible Dictionary, pp. 117-20. For pictures and further details, see R. K. Harrison, “Babylon,” in The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, pp. 89-93.
268 Cf. Montgomery, p. 253, citing Koldewey, Das wieder erstehende Babylon and E. G. Kraeling, Rand McNally Bible Atlas, p. 327.
271 F. Rosenthal, A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic, p. 71.
272 R. H. Charles, The Book of Daniel, pp. 57-59 cf. Keil, pp. 184-85.
273 Keil, p. 185 Leupold, pp. 224-25.
275 Arthur Jeffery, “The Book of Daniel, Introduction and Exegesis,” in The Interpreter’s Bible, 6:426.
276 G. R. King, Daniel, p. 148.
278 There is a remarkably close parallel to the language of 5:23 in the “Prayer of Nabonidus” found in Qumran Cave 4:See J. T. Milik, pp. 407-15.
279 In the end, even the critics accept either the interpretation of Daniel (mene, “numbered” tekel, “weighed” peres, “divided”) or the reading, “ a maneh, a maneh, a shekel, and a half-maneh,” see exposition.
280 Charles, pp. 57-59 Keil, p. 126.
282 Since Prince, who wrote his commentary in 1899, many others have followed the suggestion of Clermont-Ganneau (Journal Asiatique) 1886, that the inscription contained a string of weight names. E. G. Kraeling (“The Handwriting on the Wall,” Journal of Biblical Literature 63 : 11-18) assuming that five kings are in view—i.e., mene is given twice and the upharsin equals two half-minas—suggests that the five kings following Nebuchadnezzar were intended, viz., Evil-Merodach, Neriglissar, Labashi-Marduk, Nabonidus and Belshazzar. D. N. Freedman (“Prayer of Nabonidus,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 145 : 32) identifies the three kings as Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus and Belshazzar. Freedman cites H. Louis Ginsberg (Studies in Daniel, pp. 24-26) as holding that only three kings are referred to, viz., Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach and Belshazzar.
283 Ibid., p. 126 cf. Montgomery, pp. 263-64.
287 J. B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pp. 315-16.