King Belshazzar was either the son or grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and he was the last Babylonian king to rule the throne before the Persians conquered the kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar was his father and after he had passed away Belshazzar became the next king. Some accounts claim that Belshazzar was the son of a ruler named Nabonidus who gained power over Babylon after he married one of Nebuchadnezzar’s daughters called Nitorcris. Once Nabonidus ruled Babylon he decided to make the moon god Sin the chief deity. This caused him some serious problems because the officials, priests, and the people recognized Marduk as their patron god. Nabonidus had to leave Babylon in order to save his life and while he was gone his son Belshazzar ruled as the crown prince. In this account, Belshazzar began acting as regent in the absence of his father around 553 B.C.
Belshazzar’s reign as king (not when he was acting in his father’s stead) was incredibly brief and he only ruled two years before the Persians took over Babylon in 539 B.C. He appears on the Bible Timeline Poster right before the fall of Babylon. The Bible says that King Belshazzar was feasting with a thousand of his nobles and he decided to allow them to drink from the golden cups that were taken from God’s temple by Nebuchadnezzar during his reign. As the kings drank the wine they began to praise the gods of gold, silver and other materials. Then out of nowhere a human hand appeared and wrote a message on a wall near the king and his nobles while they feasted.
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When Belshazzar saw this he became very frightened to the point that he turned pale.
Belshazzar summoned his wise men to figure out the message that was written on the wall. The wise men were not able to figure out what was happening so the Queen summoned Daniel because she remembered how he had helped Nebuchadnezzar with his troubling dreams and visions many years ago. Daniel interpreted the inscription “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin” which basically meant that God has numbered Belshazzar’s days and that the kingdom was going to be overrun by the Persians. King Belshazzar gave Daniel many rewards, but he died later on that night when the Persians attacked the Babylonian city.
The Bible doesn’t go into detail about how the Persians conquered Babylon it just states that they killed King Belshazzar after the handwriting on the wall had occurred. Historical records indicate that Nabonidas had come back to the city of Babylon to defend it from the mighty Persian army that was moving from the east. King Nabonidas then marched a Babylonian force to intercept the Persians, but they were unsuccessful with stopping this army. The Persians under King Darius marched into Babylon during the night of Belshazzar’s feast and took the city.
Since Belshazzar only ruled Babylon for two years there is very little information about the things he did while he was in authority. He seems to have been a stable and well liked ruler but many historians have not put out a lot of information about his policies or the things he did for the kingdom of Babylon while he was in power. His name means “Baal protects the king”.
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