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historical: it is supported by physiological analogies; and the objections that it is not mentioned by other ancient writers, and that his empire would not have been preserved to him during such a long illness, are hardly of a nature to be conclusive; our records of his reign are imperfect?, and an arrangement may have been made by which the chief courtiers continued to rule in the king's name,-as in the similar cases of Charles VI. of France, Christian VII, of Denmark, George III. of England, and Otho of Bavaria, referred to by Dr Farrar (p: 201).
The question assumes, however, a different complexion, if it be true that the book is a work of the Maccabæan age. We then have no contemporary evidence for the fact; and it becomes an open question, whether it is more than a popular tradition which the writer has followed, and which he has adopted for the purpose of teaching one of the great lessons of his book. Some support is given to this opinion by the curious, though imperfect, parallel quoted by Eusebius (Praep. Evang. ix. 41) from the Assyrian history of Abydenus (prob. 2 cent. A.D.):“Megasthenes says that Nebuchadnezzar became stronger than Herakles, and made wars upon Libya and Iberia, and having conquered these countries settled a part of their inhabitants on the right of Pontus. After this, it is said by the Chaldæans, he ascended the roof of his palace, and being possessed by some god or other, cried aloud : 'O Babylonians, I, Nebuchadnezzar, announce to you beforehand the coming misfortune, which Bel my ancestor and the Queen Beltis are alike powerless to persuade the Fates to avert. A Persian mule [i.e. Cyrus] will come, having your own deities as his allies>, and will bring slavery. He who will help him in this undertaking will be Mēdēs 3, the boast of Assyria. Would that, before my citizens were betrayed, some Charybdis or sea might receive him, and utterly extinguish him! or else that, betaking himself elsewhere, he might be driven through the desert, where is no city nor track of man, where wild beasts have their pasture, and birds do roam, and that among rocks and ravines he might wander alone! and that I, before he imagined this, might meet with some happier end !' Having uttered this prophecy, he forthwith disappeared; and Evilmaluruchus [Evil-merodach], his son, succeeded him on the throne."
Megasthenes was a contemporary of Seleucus Nicator (B.C. 312—280); but the statements about Nebuchadnezzar's prophecy are made on the authority of the 'Chaldaeans.' Prof. Bevan, following Prof. Schrader”,
1 The statement of Berosus (ap: Jos. c. Ap. i. 20) that 'falling into a sickness leuteow eis appwotiar), he ended his life,' is too vague to be regarded as confirmatory of the narrative in Daniel : Berosus uses almost the same expression (appworňoas) in speaking (ib. i. 19) of the death of Nabopolassar; besides, it is implied that from this sickness Nebuchadnezzar did not recover,
2 Cyrus, in his ‘Cylinder-Inscription, represents himself as led into Babylon by Merodach, the supreme god of Babylon (cf. the Introd. p. xxxi, bottom).
3 Schrader, following a conjecture of von Gutschmid's, reads 'the son of a Median woman,' i.e. Nabu-na'id, who certainly made himself unpopular by his neglect of the gods of Babylon, and may well have been rez ded in great measure responsible for its capture by Cyrus.
4 Used in the sense of Babylonia. 5 In his Essay on ‘Nebuchadnezzar's Madness' in the Jahrbücher für Protest. Theol., 1881, p. 618 ff.
points out well the historical significance of the passage, and its bearing on the Biblical narrative. “Obscure as the passage is in some of its details, one part may be regarded as certain, viz. that we have here a popular legend of Babylonian origin, coloured of course by the Greek medium through which it has passed. The prophecy put into the mouth of Nebuchadnezzar evidently refers to the overthrow of the Babylonian empire by Cyrus, the 'mule.'... The resemblances between the narrative in Daniel and the Babylonian legend can hardly be accidental": in both the king is on the roof of the palace; in the one case a prophetic voice declares to him that he will be driven from men, and have his abode with the beasts of the field, in the other he invokes a similar fate upon his nation's foe.
“But to suppose that either narrative has been directly borrowed from the other is impossible. It would appear that of the two, that in Abydenus is on the whole the more primitive. Its local character,”—notice, for instance, the interest evinced by it in the history of Babylon,~"is strongly marked; and it shews no signs of having been deliberately altered to serve a didactic purpose. In Daniel, on the other hand, we find a narrative which contains scarcely anything specifically Babylonian, but which is obviously intended to teach a moral lesson. It is therefore probable that some Babylonian legend on the subject of Nebuchadnezzar had, perhaps in a very distorted form, reached the ears of the author of Daniel, who adapted the story in order to make it a vehicle of religious instruction."
CHAP. V. BELSHAZZAR'S FEAST. While Belshazzar and his lords are at a feast, impiously drinking their wine from cups which had belonged once to the Temple at Jerusalem, the fingers of a man's hand appear writing upon the wall. The king, in alarm, summons his wise men to interpret what was written ; but they are unable to do so (vv. 1—9). At the suggestion of the queen Daniel is called, who interprets the words to signify that the days of Belshazzar's kingdom are numbered, and that it is about to be given to the Medes and Persians (vv. 10—28). Daniel is invested with purple and a chain of gold, and made one of the three chief ministers of the kingdom (v. 29). The same night Belshazzar is slain, and “Darius the Mede" receives the kingdom (vv. 30-31).
Nearly 70 years have elapsed since the events narrated in chi i.; so that Daniel must now be pictured as an aged man, at least 80 years old.
On Belshazzar, see the Introduction. Nebuchadnezzar reigned from B.C. 604 to 561 ; and Babylon fell into the hands of Cyrus 23 years after his death, B.C. 538. The inscriptions have made it clear that Belshazzar was not king of Babylon, as he is here represented as being : Nabu-na'id (who reigned for 17 years, from 555 to 538) was the last king of Babylon; Belshazzar is called regularly " the king's son,” and he bore this title to the day of his death. For a series of years, during his father's reign, he is mentioned as being with the army in the country of Akkad (N. Babylonia). After Gubaru and Cyrus had entered Babylon, and governors had been established by them in the city, he is said (according to the most probable read.
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of 5 his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, 2
ing?) to have been slain by Gubaru 'during the night,' i.e. (apparently) in some assault made by night upon the fortress or palace to which he had withdrawn. Nabu-na'id was a quiet, unwarlike king; and Belshazzar, as general, may have distinguished himself, at the time when Cyrus took possession of Babylon, in such a manner as to eclipse his father,-with the result that in the imagination of later ages he was himself regarded as 'king' of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar in ch. iv. was the personification of pride: Belshazzar is the personification of profanity as well; and his fall is all the more tragic and complete: in a single night the brilliant revel is changed, first into terror and bewilderment, and then into disaster and death. Herodotus (i. 191), and Xenophon (Cyrop. VII. v. 15—31), testify to the existence of a tradition that Babylon was taken by Cyrus during the night, while the inhabitants were all feasting. This tradition is shewn now by the inscriptions (p. xxxi) to be unhistorical, at least in the form in which these writers report it; but it is, of course, not impossible that Belshazzar was holding a feast in the night on which he was slain by Gubaru. Even, however, though this may have been the case, there are features in the representation of the present chapter which so conflict with history as to make it evident that we are not dealing with an account written by a contemporary hand, but with a narrative, constructed doubtless upon a basis supplied by tradition, but written, as a whole, for the purpose of impressing a moral lesson. Those who regard the Book as dating from the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes often think that the chapter may be intended indirectly to allude to him: his audacity and impiety are mentioned pointedly in viii. 10, 11, xi. 36–38; in i Macc. i. 21—24 we read that he 'entered proudly into the sanctuary' and robbed it of the golden altar, and most of the other sacred vessels; and so it is thought that the fate which is elsewhere (viii. 25, xi. 45) distinctly predicted for the impious Syrian prince, is here indirectly hinted at by the nemesis which overtakes the profanity of Belshazzar.
1. Belshazzar] Babyl. Bél-shar-ușur, 'Bel, protect the king!' LXX. Theod. and Vulg. confuse this name with Belteshazzar (i. 7), representing both by Baltasap, “Baltassar.'
to a thousand of his lords] in accordance with the magnificence of Eastern monarchs.
and drank, &c.] and before the thousand was drinking wine. By "before' is no doubt meant, facing the guests, at a separate table, on a raised dais at the end of the banqueting-hall
. We have little or no information respecting the custom of the king at state-ban quets in Babylon: but something similar is reported, or may be inf erred, of royal banquets among the Persians (Athen. iv. 26, p. 145 C, 11. 1–3; cf. Rawl. Anc. Mon.* iii. 215), and Parthians (Athen. iv. 38, p. 153 a-b).
1 See above, p. xxx, II. 22, 23.
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 3 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.
2. whiles) the genitive sing. of the subst. while (as in 'for a while'), used adverbially (cf. needs, upwards”): It occurs in A.V. ix. 20, 21; Ez. xxi. 29 (twice), xliv. 17; Hos. vii. 6; Matt. v. 25; Acts v. 4; 2 Cor. ix. 13; and several times in Shakespeare, as Much Ado, iv. 1, 221, 'What we have we prize not to the worth, Whiles we enjoy it,' Meas. for Meas. iv. 3, 84; Jul. Caes. i. 2. 209.
whiles he tasted the wine) in the taste-i.e. enjoyment—of the wine, when he began to feel the influence of the wine.
commanded, &c.] an act, under the circumstances, of wanton and defiant impiety.
the golden and silver vessels, &c.] see i. 2.
his father] Belshazzar is not known to have been related to Nebuchadnezzar : his father was Nabu-na'id, a usurper, the son of one Nabo-balâțsu-ikbi, and expressly said (see Introd. pp. xxvii, li) to have been unconnected with Nebuchadnezzar's family.
'Father' may, however, by Hebrew usage, be understood to mean grandfather (Gen. xxviii. 13, xxxii. 10; cf. i Kings xv. 13 for greatgrandfather); and there remains the possibility that Nabu-na'id may have sought to strengthen his position by marrying a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, in which case, of course, Nebuchadnezzar would be Belshazzar's grandfather on his mother's side (see however, p. li, n.).
2. princes] lords, as v. 1. So v. 3.
his wives] his consorts : so vv. 3, 23. The word is a rare one, being found otherwise in the O.T. only in Neh. ii. 6 (of the queen of Artaxerxes), and Ps. xlv. 92.
concubines] so vv. 3, 23. Not the usual Hebrew word, but one found also in the Aramaic of the Targums. Cf. Cant. vi. 8, where queens' and 'concubines' are mentioned side by side.
The presence of women at feasts was not usual in antiquity (cf., of Persia, Est. i. 10-12); but there is some evidence, though slight, that it was allowed in Babylon (Xen. Cyrop. v. ii. 28; and, in the age of Alexander, Curtius v. i. 38). The LXX. translator, feeling probably some difficulty in the statement, omits the clause relating to the wives and concubines' both here and vv. 3, 23.
· It is read by some scholars conjecturally in Jud. v. 30 ('for the neck of the consort,-Spej for 550i). The cognate verb means to ravish (Is. xiii
. 16 al.).
In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, s 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 6 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, 7 the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake,
5. In the same hour] in the midst of their godless revelry (v. 4). Cf. for the expression iii. 6, 15, iv. 33.
over against] in front of, or opposite to, the candlestick; and hence a part of the wall where the light was particularly bright.
the plaister) lit. the chalk. The place was consequently white : and any dark object moving upon it would be immediately visible. In the great halls of Babylonian palaces the brick walls were probably, as in the palaces of Assyria, lined to a height of 10—12 ft. above the ground with slabs of a kind of alabaster, ornamented with elaborate basreliefs, and often brilliantly coloured (cf. Ez. xxiii. 4): in their upper part, also, the walls seem to have been usually painted, but the plaster may sometimes have been left white. Comp. Layard, Nineveh and its Remains", i. 254–7, 262 f., Nineveh and Babylon, p. 651, Rawl., Anc. Mon.4 ii. 283.
the part] the palm or hollow; the word (in the fem.) is used in the Targums and in Syriac in this sense (e.g. 1 Kings xviii. 44). “We must suppose the hand to have appeared above the place where the king was reclining” (Bevan).
6. countenance] lit. brightness (i.e. healthy freshness and colour) : cf. iv. 36. So vv. 9, 10, vii. 28. Cf. the Targum (Onk.) of Deut. xxxiv. 7, . And the glorious brightness of his face was not changed.'
was changed] i.e. grew pale through fear. If the text be correct, the word used can be rendered only' was changed for him' (hence R.V. in him); but the construction which this rendering presupposes, though found occasionally in Hebrew?, is doubtful in Aramaic. Probably was changed is right, though two letters in the Aram. should be omitted.
his thoughts alarmed him] Cf. iv. 19. "Troubled' is altogether too weak.
the joints of his loins were loosed, &c.] He trembled violently, and could not stand firm. Cf. Od. xviii. 341 Núdev günd yuîa ékáotns Ταρβοσύνη. 7. aloud] lit. with might, as iii. iv.
Not simply manded, but cried aloud': the king's alarm was reflected in the tones of his voice.
the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the determiners (of fates)] Cf. iv. 7; and see on i. 21, ii. 2, 27.
spake) answered (ii. 20). So v. 10.
* Ges.-Kautzsch, § 117. 4, Rem. 3.