In 539 B.C.,3 the Medes and the Persians joined forces against
the Babylonians. King Nabonidus led his troops into battle against the Medes
and the Persians, leaving his son Belshazzar in charge of the Empire.4
The Medes and the Persians managed to capture the provinces surrounding
the city of Babylon.
During this time of war, King Belshazzar held a banquet for one thousand of his top-ranking officials. All of the king's wives and concubines attended the banquet with him. It was quite a party! Belshazzar drank so much wine he got drunk; then he ordered his servants to bring in the gold and silver cups Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple of G-d in Jerusalem.
When the gold cups were brought in, everyone at the banquet drank from them and praised their idols made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.5
"Dad, I need to ask a few questions!" Jamie blurted out.
"Yeah, me too!" Brian added.
"What do you want to know?" Darryl said looking up from his Bible.
"Are the Medes and the Persians still around?" Brian asked.
"Their kingdom is modern day Iran, located just east of Iraq," Darryl explained.
"What's a concubine?" Jamie asked, "and how many wives did Belshazzar have?"
"The concubines were the women he lived with, and the Bible does not say how many wives the king had," Darryl explained.
"Why would they be partying if a war was going on?" Brian asked.
"The banquet was probably held to boost the morale of the people. They believed that it was impossible for anyone to invade the city since the city was fortified by walls thick enough to drive a chariot on top! Their faith in the Babylonian gods and their fortified city gave them a false sense of security."
Suddenly, while everyone was toasting their gods, there appeared out
of thin air the fingers of a human hand and the fingers
began to write on the wall of the palace. King Belshazzar saw the hand,
as did everyone else. The banquet hall grew quiet; everyone was terrified,
especially Belshazzar. He was so frightened that his face turned pale, his
knees started shaking, and his legs became weak.6 The king called
for his wise men to be brought to him immediately. When they had assembled,
he said to them, "The man who can read this writing and tell me what
it means will become the third most powerful man in my kingdom. He will
wear robes of royal purple and a gold chain around his neck." 7
Although they were promised great rewards, the wise men were unable to decipher the message, making King Belshazzar even more terrified.
"Ahhhh!" Jamie let out a yell; her eyes were as big as saucers.
She sat staring over Darryl's shoulder at the wall of the tent. "Don't
anyone move," she cried. "Do you see it?" she gasped, getting
more excited. "There's a hand on the outside of the tent!" She
was hanging onto Brian for protection.
Darryl swung around; he took one look, and began to laugh. "Jamie, that's the branch of a bush rubbing against the tent!"
"Man, you sure have a wild imagination," Brian said, laughing at her.
"You scared me half to death!" Elizabeth exclaimed.
"Oh...I'm sorry...I guess I just let my imagination run wild," Jamie said sheepishly.
"Well, I think you have a good idea of how Belshazzar and the others must have felt," Darryl said trying to get back to the lesson. "Belshazzar promised to make the person who could interpret the writing the third highest ruler in the kingdom. Why do you think he said third and not second?"
"Well, King Nabonidus, Belshazzar's father, must have been the first highest ruler. Belshazzar would be the second highest ruler. So the highest position he could offer would be the position of third highest ruler." Brian smiled, confident he had answered the question correctly.
"Way to go, Brian," Jamie was impressed.
"Besides explaining the book of Daniel to you, I want to teach you how to analyze the Bible for yourself," Darryl explained. He was pleased Brian had been able to answer the question correctly.