BEFORE going into our lesson of Belshazzar’s feast, let us first consider the setting. Babylon, the capital city of the Babylonian universal empire, was the greatest city in the world. In many respects it has not been excelled to this day. It measured 14 miles from north to south, and 14 miles from east to west. It was surrounded by walls up to 350 feet high, the height of a modern 35-story building. The walls were 80 feet thick. Just imagine walls of those dimensions, extending for 56 miles, to enclose the city! There were 100 colossal gates, about one every half mile, which gave access to the city.
These gates were of solid brass, swung on massive iron hinges, and secured by huge iron bars, manipulated by an ingenious system of levers. The great river Euphrates looped and flowed diagonally through the city. The walls were arched over the river at the points of entry and exit, and there were water-gates of bronze within the arches, extending down to the water and which opened to permit navigation. In daylight, a constant watch was kept from the top of the walls. From that height the watchers could detect an approaching enemy while still a great distance away. At night, all gates were securely closed and barred. The city was considered absolutely
impregnable. An ancient historian has written: “Babylon was the strongest fortress in the world. Even a small force of brave men could have held it for years.” It was considered siege-proof.
Within the city were other wonders of construction. There were temples of great size and unsurpassed grandeur, decorated with gold, silver, and, precious stones. In and about the temples there were hundreds of gold and silver images of gods. A solid gold image of Bel stood 50 feet high, and weighed 43,000 pounds. In addition to the royal palace of Nebuchadnezzar, the king, there were a number of other splendid palaces for the nobility of the realm.
There were many magnificent gardens and, in addition to these, the city contained one of the seven wonders of the world known as The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This was built by Nebuchadnezzar to please his favorite wife, a princess of the Medes. It seems that she was unhappy on the level plains of Babylon and pined for the more rugged scenery of her native country with its terraced hills. To make her happy, a garden consisting of several levels, or tiers, was constructed with a base said to be over a hundred acres. Each succeeding tier, somewhat smaller than the one below it, was supported by enormous stone arches, thirty feet high, arch upon arch, forming a tapering pyramidal structure 300 feet in height. Each level was overlaid with soil, and planted with exotic flowers gathered from all over the world. Their colorful blossoms hung down and cascaded from one level to another with spectacular –effect. Visitors
from the world over came to see this magnificent garden and also to admire all the other wonders of Babylon, the greatest and most prosperous city in the world.
Now with this background we can better understand why King Nebuchadnezzar was so greatly lifted up in pride, as recorded in the 4th chapter of Daniel. The king was walking on the flat roof of his palace. All the beautiful architecture of the city lay before him. There were glittering temples and towering castles. The hanging gardens were not only resplendent in color but the delightful aroma of the blossoms hung in the air. The mighty Euphrates flowed nearby, bringing to Babylon the commerce and wealth of the world.
Around all were the secure, impregnable walls. The king’s heart swelled with pride as he contemplated that all these things were made solely for his own personal enjoyment and pleasure. It made him feel big and important. So he exclaimed aloud, as recorded in Daniel 4:30,31 (Moffatt):
“There lies Babylon the great, which I have built for a royal residence, by my vast power and to my noble majesty!”
His arrogance displeased God. We read further:
“The words had not left his lips, when a voice fell from heaven: `O king Nebuchadnezzar, here is your sentence: Your kingdom is taken from you! You shall be driven away from human beings, to dwell with the wild animals. You shall be forced to eat grass like cattle, and seven years shall pass over you, till you learn that the Most High reigns over the realm of men, and gives it to anyone whom he chooses.’“
The sentence was immediately carried out. When, after seven years, his insanity was at last over and his reason returned, the great Nebuchadnezzar realized that he really was not as important as he thought he was.
Now let us consider our lesson which is found in the fifth chapter of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar was dead. Nabonidus, his son, was probably also dead. Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar had but recently come to the throne of Babylonia. Coveting the immense riches of Babylon, the Medes and Persians had consolidated their forces under Cyrus, the Persian, and for several months they had been besieging the city. This was the Cyrus whom the Lord, through his prophet Isaiah, declared should free his people, many of whom were captive in Babylon. See Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1.
But the inhabitants of Babylon felt quite secure behind their immense walls. They were amply provisioned for a much longer siege than it was supposed any army could enforce. They felt they could survive indefinitely. In addition to stored commodities, there were large farms and pastures within the city walls which supplied abundant food. All the water needed was drawn from the great river which flowed through the city. So the defenders of Babylon had a contempt for the besieging army of Cyrus and were amused at his tactics. Watching from the walls, they could see the enemy troops a considerable distance away. They seemed to be digging and throwing up some sort of earth-works, near the river bend. They did not even approach close to the city to permit bombardment by the catapults on the walls. Cowards! Nothing to fear from them!
Belshazzar himself probably climbed the wall to take a look. The tiny figures in the distance, grubbing in the dirt, resembled the futile workings of an anthill. He laughed, and returned to his palace, considering the siege a complete failure. He decided to celebrate the occasion by giving a great feast.
Usually when a siege is in progress, food is strictly rationed. But so confident was king Belshazzar in the strength of his capital and so contemptuous was he of Cyrus, that he ordered a sumptuous feast prepared. He, together with his princes, wives and concubines, would be host to a thousand of the nobility of Babylon. There would be food and wine in abundance, limited only by the capacity of the revelers.
No need to skimp. Babylon would never be taken! Was not the city under the patronage and protection of the powerful gods whose temples were there? These were the gods who had enabled his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, to conquer the whole world. The feast was prepared and served in the great ballroom of the royal palace. At an elevated table, at the end of the room, sat king Belshazzar together with his many sons, his wives, and his concubines. The room was illuminated by a huge lampstand, or chandelier, near the king’s table. Below were rows and rows of tables, seating a thousand of the nobility of Babylonia with their ladies. At the king’s signal, course after course of exotic foods were successively served, on enormous platters, carried from the palace kitchens by hundreds of slaves. Wine flowed freely. As each cup was emptied it was immediately refilled. Toasts were proposed and drunk to the praise of the gods of Babylon. Since there were many gods, there were many toasts. The wine began to take effect, and the toasts became more reckless. We can imagine, at this point, that a prominent noble arose, with brimming cup, and loudly said: “I drink confusion to the God of the Hebrews! Any of the gods of Babylon is greater than He!” A sudden hush fell on the assembly. Many there had a fearful respect for the God of the Hebrews. They had heard something of his wonderful works. So they felt uneasy at this gesture of defiance. The king was displeased at this dampening of the spirit of revelry. Stimulated by the wine, he arose and shouted:
“I will drink that toast! And I’ll show you what I think of the God of the Hebrews! Bring here the sacred golden and silver vessels which my grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, took from the Hebrew temple in Jerusalem, that we may drink our wine from them, to the praise of our own gods! I’ll show you which gods are stronger!”
We read now from the record in Daniel 5:2-4:
“Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father [margin: grandfather] 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.”
Belshazzar Profanes the Temple Vessels
This act of publicly profaning the sacred vessels of Jehovah’s temple, in praise of idols, was an act of grossest blasphemy. Belshazzar’s grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, would never have done so; he knew better. He knew from experience that the God of the Hebrews was above any other god or any earthly king. We read in Daniel 2:47 that he had said to Daniel: “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings.” He had also said, in Daniel 3:29, “I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces.” Belshazzar should have listened to his grandfather and not spoken amiss of the God of the Hebrews. He had access to the records of the national decrees. In the archives was a record in Nebuchadnezzar’s own hand, made after his recovery from insanity–a most powerful witness, by a most powerful king. We read in Daniel 4:34-37, “And at the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me; and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth forever; whose dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. And none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? Now I, Nebu–chadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth and his ways judgment. And those that walk in pride, he is able to abase.”
Belshazzar should have known all these things. He should have profited by his grandfather’s experience. He should have taken it to heart; especially that last phrase: “Those that walk in pride, he is able to abase,” which was the great lesson Nebuchadnezzar had learned. In fact, –Belshazzar did know all these things. As a prince of the blood, successor to the throne, he would be carefully instructed in the history of the empire and the acts of his forefathers. When he defied and blasphemed God, he did it willfully and deliberately.
Suddenly the light in the room dimmed as a dark shadow passed over the great chandelier. Every eye turned toward it in time to see a huge hand beginning to write something upon the wall. We now read from the Moffatt translation, starting with Daniel 5:5, “That very hour, the fingers of a man’s hand appeared, writing on the plaster of the royal palace, opposite the lampstand. The king saw the palm of the hand as it wrote. And the king’s fresh color paled; his thoughts alarmed him. The muscles of his thighs relaxed, and his knees struck one against another.”
Belshazzar was terrified, and his ruddy color, induced by the wine, paled. His self-assurance left him, and he was instantly sobered. He trembled violently from head to foot. The hand disappeared, but the writing remained; four words, in large characters, mysterious, and undecipherable, high upon the wall where all could see. Reflected by the light, the writing seemed to flow, as though of fire. The whole assembly was dumbfounded. There was absolute silence, until the king cried out. We continue from the record: “The king cried aloud, for the enchanters, the diviners, and the astrologers to be brought in.”
They came in haste, looked at the writing, and each in turn shook his head. The characters were strange, and not of any known language. The king was desperate. He now offered rich inducements.
We read: “The king declared to the sages of Babylon, Whoever reads this writing, and tells me the meaning of it, shall be robed in purple, and wear a golden chain round his neck, and rank as third within the realm.”
But even this great incentive, of being the third in rank in the rulership of the world, was to no avail. The record says: “But not one of all the king’s sages could read the writing, or explain the meaning to the king.”
Now there was pandemonium. Stark –terror gripped the whole company. The –ladies fled. Some of them sought out the queen mother and told her what was going on. She had not attended the feast, but even from her apartment she could hear the frightened cries of the feasters. She quickly went to the banquet-hall. As she entered the noise subsided and they made way for her to approach the king. By this time the king was a pitiful object. Pale as death, and trembling violently, he could scarcely stand upon his feet. His nobles were not much better. We now continue from the record: “Then, at the cries of the king, and his lords, the queen-mother came into the banqueting-hall. The queen-mother said: O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you; let not your colour go. Within your realm there is a man in whom is the spirit of the gods divine. In the days of your grandfather, light and learning and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods themselves, were found in him, so that King Nebu–chadnezzar, your [grand]father, himself made him master of the magicians, enchanters, –diviners, and astrologers; since rare ability, knowledge, learning, the power of interpreting dreams, and solving riddles, and reversing spells, were found in this very Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel be called, and he will explain the meaning of this.”
Daniel Interprets the Writing
The prophet Daniel was at this time about 90 years of age. He was probably still in the government service, although not in the exalted capacity of rulership he occupied under Nebuchadnezzar. He doubtless resided in one of the palace buildings nearby. A messenger of the king was hastily dispatched to fetch Daniel. But I think an angel of the Lord got there first and Daniel knew every aspect of the situation. He knew of the profaning of the temple vessels, the insult to God, the –appearance of the hand, the mysterious writing, and the meaning of the words. So he was not surprised when the messenger of the king knocked at his door. Continuing the narrative, we read: “Then Daniel was brought into the king’s presence. The king said to Daniel, so you are the Daniel belonging to the exiles of Judah, whom the king, my [grand]father, brought from Judah? I hear that the spirit of the gods themselves is in you, and that light and learning and rare wisdom are to be found in you. Well now, the sages, the enchanters, have been brought into my presence to read this writing, and to let me hear the meaning of it, but they could not explain its meaning.
However, I hear that you can explain things and reverse spells. Now, if you can read this writing, and let me hear the meaning of it, you shall wear a purple robe, and a golden chain around your neck, and you shall rank third within the realm.”
This offer did not impress Daniel very much. He had been a ruler before ever this king was born. He had once been set over the whole province of Babylon. He knew how to abound, and how to be abased. He knew the futility of earthly glory. At his age, the prospect of another exaltation in the kingdom of Babylon held no special appeal. He had no fear of this king who was so inferior in every way to his grandfather, the great Nebuchadnezzar. What he was about to do he would do as the prophet of the Most High God and not for earthly favors. So he said to the king, somewhat disdainfully:
“Keep your gifts for yourself, and give your rewards to someone else! However, I will read the writing to the king, and let him hear the meaning of it. O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar, your [grand]father, the realm, with its greatness and glory and majesty. And, owing to the greatness he bestowed upon him, all races, nations, and folk of every tongue, trembled in fear of him; for he killed whom he pleased, and spared whom he pleased; he raised whom he pleased, and put down whom he pleased. But when his mind became proud; when his spirit became defiant; so that he bore himself haughtily; he was deposed from his royal throne, and deprived of his glory. He was driven away from human beings, his mind was made like the mind of an animal, and his dwelling was with the beasts. He ate grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dews of heaven, till he learned that the Most High God rules over the realms of men, and that he sets over it anyone whom he chooses. Yet you, his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. You uplifted yourself against the Lord of heaven, by having the vessels of his house brought in before you, and from them you, and your lords, your consorts, and your concubines, have drunk wine, praising the gods of silver and gold, bronze, iron, wood and stone, which can neither see nor hear nor understand. You have not glorified the God who holds in his power your breath of life, and all your destiny. Hence the palm of the hand was sent from his presence, and this writing was inscribed.”
The king slumped in his chair, and all the nobles stood, fascinated, as Daniel faced the wall and pointed to the strange writing: “This is the inscription: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PERES. The meaning of it is: MENE (numbered); God has numbered the days of your kingdom, and ended it. TEKEL (weighed); you are weighed in the scales, and found wanting. PERES (divided); your kingdom is divided up and assigned to the Medes and the Persians.”
Great Babylon Under Siege
In the meantime, when the feast was in progress, tremendous events were taking place outside the city. It was dark and the watch on the wall had been withdrawn. The city being under siege, all gates were closed and barred, including the river gates. But now the army of Cyrus had finished its task. What was thought to be the digging of futile earthworks a distance from the city was, in reality, the excavation of a great trench connecting the two lateral sides of the loop in the river Euphrates which flowed through Babylon. About the time the handwriting appeared on the wall of the banquet-room, the river was diverted and began flowing through its new channel.
The loop passing through Babylon dried up. The great bronze water gates, so tightly closed, now hung forty feet in the air above a broad highway which was the river bed. Over the dry river bed the armies of Cyrus now marched into the supposedly impregnable Babylon.
Rank upon rank, thousands upon thousands of men. The token guard of the city, taken completely by surprise, was quickly overpowered, and Cyrus himself, accompanied by Darius, entered the royal palace with drawn sword. Just as Daniel had finished his speech to the king, and had been given the purple robe and the golden chain, and Belshazzar had –proclaimed him third in rank within the realm, Cyrus strode up the aisle of the great banquet-hall, up to the king’s table, and thrust Belshazzar through with his sword. He then proclaimed Darius, king of Babylonia.
I think that promotion of Daniel was the shortest promotion on record. He was third in rank in the kingdom of Babylonia for about five minutes. The account ends with the words: “That very night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was killed, and Darius the Mede received the kingdom, he being about sixty-two years of age.”
The second universal empire of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision had been inaugurated. The breast and arms of silver had succeeded the head of gold. The Medes and Persians now ruled the world.
The Plague of Pride
There are numerous lessons for us in this account of Belshazzar’s feast, and the fall of Babylon, but the principal lesson is regarding pride. As Daniel told Belshazzar: You “have not humbled yourself. . . . You uplifted yourself against the Lord of heaven. . . . You have not glorified God who holds in his power your breath of life, and all your destiny.” We read in Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” This is what happened to Belshazzar. Again we read in Proverbs 16:5, “Every one that is proud in heart, is an abomination to the Lord.” Pride in any form and in anybody is abominable. So let us consider the nature of pride and its consequences.
First, there are the various forms of pride found in the world and which constitute the spirit of the world. The Lord’s people should be far removed from such forms of pride. For example, some in the world consider themselves superior to –others in every way, as though they were –especially created out of some preferable “dust of the earth.” They boast of their noble ancestry and inherited qualities. But they had better not look too far back. Mark Twain tells how he began tracing his ancestry. When he got back to a horse-thief, he quit.
Some in the world glory in inherited wealth. But many have found that it is not wise to boast of such riches since an investigation might reveal that many fortunes were founded on piracy, oppression, slavery and other forms of exploitation.
Pride of education is not appropriate either. What is there to be proud of? It only means that you have absorbed what others have found out or written about. Besides, the “wisdom of the world” is wholly unreliable. History has been tampered with, war and violence are glorified, ethics are distorted, philosophy is tainted, and even scientific books of only a few years ago, are obsolete in the face of rapidly increasing knowledge.
Pride in one’s beauty or physical superiority is certainly not justified. Such qualities are inherited. The parent, rather than the child, might have some reason for pride.
Pride as respects clothing or adornments is also foolish. The maker of the fabrics, or the ornaments, might have some reason for pride in his handiwork, but surely nor the wearer. He is merely appropriating to himself the skill and –labor of others.
Lessons for the Lord’s People
But our lesson here is not for the world, but for the Lord’s people. The scriptures are given for our admonition. The pride here warned against is spiritual pride. Whereas in the world pride is merely foolish, to the New Creature it is extremely dangerous. It can result in the loss of our calling and election because if we exalt ourselves with pride, as Nebuchadnezzar did, and as Belshazzar did, we place ourselves under the condemnation of Luke 18:14: “Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased.” This eliminates our exaltation to glory, honor and immortality. So we are exhorted in 1 Peter 5:6, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” Thus pride is a spiritual sickness which, unless curbed, can lead to the loss of everything. Because James 4:6 says, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”
What chance do you have if God himself resists you? So let us now consider some of the many forms that spiritual pride can assume, in order that we may shun it like the plague it is.
First there is a general feeling of pride which is most likely to overtake those who are longest in the narrow way and most prominent in the Lord’s service. It is insidious because it develops very gradually and imperceptibly. It finally manifests itself in a feeling of superiority, of being better than others. When attending Berean studies, one afflicted with such pride hears no proper answer to any of the questions except his own. In testimony meetings he hears no really helpful testimony except his own. How halting and ineffective the others are!–to him. He never sees an elder in the chair who knows how to lead a meeting. He considers his discourses much deeper and more profound than those of other speakers, whose best efforts he despises.
If at election time he receives less votes than others, his feelings are hurt. He fancies himself a martyr and blames certain “enemies” in the class. This is an almost hopeless condition. It is difficult to reverse when so firmly established. Only a severe chastening of the Lord can correct it. The only safe way is to prevent it. How can this be done? The slightest tendency toward superiority should be noted and curbed. If you begin to think you are somebody great and have a special standing before the Lord, above your brethren, earnestly consider 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” If you feel smug and conceited, thinking your abilities, which are really so imperfect in the Lord’s sight, are better than those of your brethren, take heed to Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves.” Or, as the Revised Version renders it: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.”
Some exhibit pride by being envious of those who are in more prominent positions in the public promulgation of the truth, thinking that they could do better, and therefore they should occupy those positions. Such should consider 1 Corinthians 12:18, “But now hath God set the members, every one of them, in the body, as it hath pleased him.” Also Romans 12:10, “Be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.”
Then there is a form of spiritual pride which is particularly insidious because it stems from the beauty of the truth itself. God’s divine plan of the ages is magnificent beyond compare. When one first gets a glimpse of it he is dazzled by its sheer grandeur. He cannot get too much of it. He delights and revels in its radiance–this marvelous revelation of an Almighty God of love, this great salvation, this life from the dead, this perfect solution to every problem of humankind!
To know and accept the truth is the supreme experience of a lifetime.
The more one delves into it, the more of its luster appears. It is simple, yet glorious. It is absolutely flawless, and there are so few in the world who appreciate it.
Some at this point are susceptible to the virus of pride. He begins to think that he must be a cut above his fellowman to be granted this insight into the Lord’s plan, that he must have some natural superiority of mind, or nobility of character, which makes him worthy of it.
He begins to feel important, that he is somebody great, God’s special favorite. This condition is bad enough but the next step such a one may take is particularly deplorable. –Although he knows that God revealed the beauties of the divine plan to him through the agency of a faithful and wise servant, he comes to believe that he has a clearer grasp of the truth than “that servant” did; that he can use better words to more aptly express the correct thought. Thus he elevates himself and equates his own mind with that of the greatest Bible Student of modern times–God’s special instrument for the restoration of “that faith once delivered to the saints.” He fancies that he can improve the truth. He begins to see “new light.” He finally becomes so swollen with spiritual pride that he believes he has special revelations from the Lord, that he has been appointed God’s special instrument to promulgate some great doctrine, to discover some new interpretation of scripture, or some new type. He gets revelations all right, but they are not from the Lord. If he cannot avoid it, he may mention or quote Bro. Russell’s writings, but when he does so, it is usually with some disparaging remark that “he disagrees with Bro. Russell in a good many things,” or that “he follows no man, but goes to the Word of God directly.”
Do you see how terribly destructive spiritual pride can be, how it can destroy the New Creature? Let us be on the alert to quench the slightest beginning of pride. Let us continually keep in mind that it was not because of any value or worth on our part that we were called and given a knowledge of the truth. It was a wholly unmerited favor, a gift of God, entirely undeserved. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 describes the Lord’s people as “Not many wise . . . not many mighty, nor many noble. But the foolish . . . the weak . . . the base . . . the despised . . . things that are not; that no flesh should glory in his presence.” We can take credit for absolutely nothing. Everything we have or are is a gift. We read in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory?” Also James 1:17, “Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” And we cannot even be proud of any service of the Lord we are privileged to perform. It is the Lord who uses us, and not we ourselves. We are tools in his hand. So what do we have to boast of?
As Isaiah 10:15 expresses it, “Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up; or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were not wood.”
As Luke 17:10 points out, “We are unprofitable servants.” So let us remember the lesson Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar so painfully learned, that “those who walk in pride, he is able to abase.”—Daniel 4:37
Other Lessons from This Experience
As the Hebrews were taken captive to literal Babylon and were imprisoned there, the Lord’s true people have been captive in mystic Babylon. At the end of the Gospel age, the fall or rejection of Babylon is announced and the Lord calls his people out from that system saying in Revelation 18:4, “Come out of her, my people.” As literal Babylon was immensely wealthy, and dominated the world, Christendom, until recently, has done so: subjugating and exploiting heathen nations. But now the controlling role of Christendom is — being effectively challenged by powerful Communist governments.
As literal Babylon was considered impregnable, the Papacy, an important segment of mystic Babylon, falsely appropriates to itself the promise of Matthew 16:18 that, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Literal Babylon’s feeling of safety followed by its quick fall reminds us of 1 Thessalonians 5:3, “For when they shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” This describes the present time when the kingdoms of this world are giving way to the rule of Christ.
As the power and prosperity of literal Babylon depended upon the commerce brought to it by the river Euphrates, and the city fell by the diverting of its waters, so mystic Babylon will collapse because the people of the earth will withdraw their support. Thus the prophecy of Revelation 16:12 will be fulfilled: “And the . . . angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.” Since the east is the place of sun rising, the “kings of the east” are those who accompany the “Sun of Righteousness,” Christ Jesus, the new king of earth.
The lesson Nebuchadnezzar learned was “that the Most High reigns over the realm of men, and gives it to anyone whom he chooses.” Daniel 4:17 shows that God has always been in supreme control of the earth. He has not abdicated his rulership; not for a moment. Satan is a usurper with no real right to rule. His rule has been merely permissive. In due time the dominion of earth is completely wrested from him and given to Christ, God’s choice. In Ezekiel 21:27 Christ is called the one “whose right it is; and I will give it him.” Nebuchadnezzar’s statement in Daniel 4:37–“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and honour the king of Heaven; for all he does is right, his dealings are all just, and haughty men he is able to abase” –will be the heart sentiments of restored humankind at the end of the Millennial Age.
Belshazzar’s contempt for the besieging Cyrus, who was appointed by God to conquer Babylon and who typified the Christ, the anointed King, reminds us of Psalms 2:1-6, prophetic of the change of earth’s rule: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, . . . let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.”
The eating and drinking of Belshazzar’s feast at the time of the impending fall of literal Babylon, brings to mind the prophecy of Luke 17:26,27, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
At the feast their praising of the gods of gold and of silver reminds us of the false standards of this present evil world–the praise of success, the feverish pursuit of prosperity, the worship of mammon. With the Lord’s people it is different. We heed Jesus’ words, given in Luke 12:33,34 (Diaglott), “Make for yourselves purses which grow not old; an unfailing treasure in the heavens; where no thief approaches, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.”
The rulers of literal Babylon drank wine from the sacred vessels of the Lord. The leaders of mystic Babylon have misused the Holy Bible. They have derived false, God-dishonoring doctrines from it and have been drunken by them, and made others drunk. As Revelation 17:2 expresses it: “The inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”
At the feast a hand appeared and wrote upon the wall, against the lampstand, and the rulers of literal Babylon were frightened, so much that their knees knocked together. We read in Luke 21:25,26, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”
As the handwriting on the wall immediately preceded the taking of the city, this might indicate that just before the final calamity, earth’s rulers will have a definite and frightening indication of it. The message from God was: “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” God weighs and judges nations, and their leaders. He has found that none measure up to the standard of the kingdom and that all must be removed.
We are impressed by the fearlessness of Daniel in interpreting the writing on the wall. This clearly indicates that we should faithfully witness to the kingdom without any fear of the consequences. As Cyrus slew Belshazzar and took over the government of the world, Christ, the antitypical Cyrus, removes Satan and his government from the scene and inaugurates the Messianic phase of the Kingdom in power and glory.
Daniel was robed in purple, a golden chain was hung around his neck, and he ranked third in the Kingdom. The Church, pictured by Daniel, will be clothed with the royal robe of rulership, given the golden chain of the divine nature, and rank third, after the Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus. Let us strive to be of that faithful Daniel class!