The Writing on the Wall (Destroyed Cities-part 3 of 3)
Hanging Gardens of Babylon, image via flickr commons via Carla 216

After Ninevah was destroyed by Babylonian and Mede forces, (at this  time the Persians were under Mede control) Babylon  became the new capital of the world. It grew large and wealthy, a city of over 200,000 people.

“Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing punishment on the king of Babylon and his land, as I punished the king of Assyria.” [Ninevah] Jeremiah 50:18

King Balthazar (or also known as Belshazzar) of Babylon (son of Nebuchadnezzar II) had a great feast for “1,000” of his lords. It is speculated that this was a traditional feast honoring their moon god– named Sin- (his symbol is; ironically, XXX) and that the whole city was in a drunken state.

After praising the various gods of gold, silver, and bronze with the vessels from the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem; suddenly fingers of a man’s hand appeared and “wrote in the plaster on the wall”.


Understandably, the king was greatly shaken and demanded to know what the writing meant.
No one could translate this as it was written in Aramaic; and these are also words of measurement, depending on context.

Daniel famously translates the words from God and tells the King that “He has been weighed in the balances, and found wanting. The kingdom will be taken from you and divided among the Medes and the Persians.”

That very night, it became true. Great Babylon was overtaken and King Balthazar killed. King Darius the Mede became the new ruler. There are many speculations on how easily Babylon fell, some say the Medes and Persians diverted the river flowing through Babylon and entered the underground tunnels. Others say they took advantage of the drunken state of all the guards and inhabitants of the city and in the confusion, took over. Either way- in just one night-Babylon was taken.

God’s warning to Babylon was fascinating.

  • Not only was it “like the fingers of a man’s hand” that wrote the message– Babylon was the center of the known world at that time and also the center of learning and culture. The Babylonians fiercely prided themselves on their knowledge as well as their advanced writing and art on plaster at that time.
  • God wrote something that they could not understand, on something they prided themselves in. It confounded them.

King Cyrus the Great of Persia eventually allows the exiled Jews of Babylon to begin returning to Jerusalem.

King Cyrus’ son Darius is most famous for the Daniel and the Lion’s Den story.

Years later, King Cyrus’ grandson Xerxes 1 (or King Ahaseurus in Esther) completely destroys Babylon for their rebellion and attempted revolt under his rule. An interesting sidenote: some say that Queen Vashti in the book of Esther actually was the daughter of former Babylonian King Balthazar. As we know,  Queen Vashti was replaced by Esther.

“And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,

the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans,

will be like Sodom and Gomorrah

when God overthrew them.”

(Is. 13:19)
photo via flicr commons via Mary Harrsch-Striding Lion from the Way of Babylon

Further reading:

Daniel 5


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