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The Handwriting on the Wall

There was a king of Babylon, named Belshazzar. He made a great feast to a thousand of his lords and drank wine with them. While he was drinking, he ordered his servants to bring the glasses and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem many years before so that he and his companions might drink out of them. His servants brought the vessels and Belshazzar and his friends drank wine out of them, at the same time praising their own gods of brass, and iron, and wood, and stone. This was a very wicked thing to do and God prepared a punishment for the king, as we shall see.

While the feast was going on there came a man's hand and wrote on the wall of the room where they sat, and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote the words. He was so alarmed at seeing the hand writing words on the wall that he grew pale, and his thoughts troubled him, and his knees trembled with fear.

"Bring the wise men that they may read and explain this writing," cried Belshazzar. "Whoever reads this writing and shows me the interpretation of it, shall be clothed in scarlet and have a chain of gold about his neck and be the third ruler in the kingdom."

The wise men came in and looked at the writing, but no one of them could read it nor make known its meaning. The king was still more troubled in his mind.

The queen came into the banquet house and, when she saw how the king was troubled she said to him: "Let not your thoughts trouble you nor your face be so sad. There is a man in your kingdom, named Daniel, in whom is the spirit of the Holy God. Your father, Nebuchadnezzar, made him master of the magicians and ruler over the wise men. Let him be called and he will show you the meaning of the writing."

Daniel was brought before the king. "Are you Daniel, of the children of Judah, whom my father brought from Jerusalem?" asked Belshazzar, and Daniel told him he was.

"I have heard of you," said the king, "and how you interpret dreams and strange signs and dissolve doubts. Now, if you can read the writing and make known to me the meaning you shall be clothed in scarlet, and have a chain of gold about your neck and be the third ruler in the kingdom."

Daniel looked at the writing and at once knew the meaning of it. He answered the king: "Keep your gifts and rewards for another, but I will read the writing and tell you the meaning thereof."

Then Daniel told Belshazzar that in times past God had given to Nebuchadnezzar a great kingdom and much glory and honor; that all nations and people trembled before him and were afraid of him; that his heart was lifted up with pride and vanity, so much so, that God had driven him out into the fields for a while and made him eat grass like an ox. "But as for you," continued Daniel, "you have not humbled your heart, though you knew all these things. You have brought the vessels of the Lord's house and you and your companions have defiled them by drinking wine from them, and praising your own gods."

Then Daniel pointed to the writing on the wall and said to the king: "This is what is written: Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin. Mene: God hath taken your kingdom and finished it; Tekel: You are weighed in the balance and found wanting; Upharsin: Your kingdom is divided, and is given to the Medes and Persians."

This was not at all pleasing to Belshazzar, but, according to his promise, he ordered Daniel to be clothed in scarlet, and a chain of gold to be put around his neck. He then issued a decree that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

That very night, however, Cyrus came with an army of Medes and Persians and entered the city of Babylon. He did this by changing the course of the River Euphrates, which ran under the wall of Babylon and through the city so that the bed of the river was dry ground on which his soldiers could walk.

The people were celebrating their feast and were given over to revelry. Belshazzar was slain, and Darius, the king of the Medes and Persians, took the kingdom of Babylon for his own. In this way was the prophecy of Daniel fulfilled.