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Belshazzar, son of Nabonidus, was the last ruler of Babylon during the time of Daniel

After his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar died, his uncle had reigned for two years, only to be murdered by a brother-in-law. That king soon died, leaving the throne to his son, Belshazzar's cousin, who was assassinated by order of Nabonidus.

Nabonidus soon left the administration of the kingdom to his son Belshazzar who ruled from Shushan for about fourteen years. It was in the first year of this coregency that Daniel had a dream and accompanying vision while in bed. This vision showed four fearsome beasts coming from all directions.[1] Two years later another dream revealed a ram that was to be destroyed by a much stronger goat.[2] Though he had been trusted by Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar had to be told by the queen mother that the old bureaucrat was still available.[3]

About eleven years later, things had turned bad in the capital city. Nabonidus' reforms had been squandered by his son. A new superpower was in the process of attacking as Belshazzar called all his leaders together for a party in what he thought was an impenetrable city. While they were drinking, he had the gold and silver cups that were taken nearly seventy years earlier from the Temple in Jerusalem brought to the feast. The guests at the feast drank from these sacred cups, and made toasts to the idols of the gods of Babylon.[4]

As they were drinking from these cups, they saw the fingers of a hand writing on the plaster of the wall. Belshazzar and his guests were frightened and called for the magicians and astrologers to interpret what the hand had written. Not only could they not interpret the writing, they could not read the script.[5]

When none of them could interpret the words, the king was told about an old man named Belteshazzar, who had apparently had begun going by Daniel, the name of his youth.[6] Daniel told the king that he had offended God by drinking out of the Temple cups. Daniel then read the script which read: "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN." This was an Aramaic dialect for three coins: the mina, the shekel, and the peres (half-mina). But the root words relayed a message: The word MENE means "numbered." The word TEKEL means "weighed," and the word PERES means "divided." The interpretation was devastating: "God has numbered the days of your reign, and they have ended. You have been weighed in God's balances and do not measure up. Your kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and Persians."[7]

True to his promise, Belshazzar transferred authority to Daniel, as a ruler of a "third of the kingdom." Daniel was wearing the regalia that night as Darius the Mede entered the city, killing Belshazzar and many of those that had assembled around him.[8] The great Babylonian kingdom had fallen, just as the visions that Daniel had received had shown beforehand.[9]


  1. Daniel 7:1 (Link)
  2. Daniel 8:1 (Link)
  3. Daniel 5:10 (Link)
  4. Daniel 5:1-4 (Link)
  5. Daniel 5:5-9 (Link)
  6. Daniel 5:12 (Link)
  7. Daniel 5:23-28 (Link)
  8. Daniel 5:30-31 (Link)
  9. Daniel 7:4 (Link)