After the death of King Nevuchadnezzar, his son, Evel Merodach, became king. After him another son, Balshatzar became king. During his rule, two of his princes, Cyrus and Darius, joined forces and revolted. Balshatzar was furious with them, saying they were ungrateful in light of the honors he had bestowed upon them. He assembled his warriors and went to war, inﬂicting great punishment upon them.
Cyrus and Darius regrouped and attacked Balshatzar’s army before they had a chance to rest. This surprise move caught Balshatzar unaware and he was defeated. Balshatzar called together his chief of staff and outlined a plan.
“We will not attack during the day,” he said, “because their army is too numerous and they will defeat us again. Instead, we will strike at night, when they least expect us, and this way we can hope for victory.”
His soldiers followed his plan and they won a great victory. Balshatzar was jubilant and held a great feast. He invited thousands of people to join him. After drinking too much, the king became drunk.
In the midst of his merrymaking, the king ordered his servants to bring out the golden vessels that were taken from the Beit HaMikdash by his father Nevuchadnezzar. The king and his men drank from them and praised the gods of gold and silver.
A Hand Appears
Suddenly, a great hush fell upon the great assemblage. There, high up on the wall, a huge hand suddenly appeared and in it there was a large pen. The hand began to write and four words appeared on the wall: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.”
The people became frightened at this strange sight and many began to sob. The king was frightened and he called to his astrologers, demanding they explain the meaning of these words. “If you will tell me the meaning I will give you a chain of gold and you will become the third ruler of my kingdom,” he declared.
But none could understand the meaning of the writing, nor could they interpret the words. The king became greatly troubled and all of his princes and lords were worried.
The queen then arose and addressed the king, “Let not your thoughts trouble you. I remember the days of your father, Nevuchadnezzar, when he appointed a great man to rule over all the magicians and astrologers in the kingdom. He was endowed with the Divine spirit of his G-d and he could interpret dreams and he was wiser than any man on earth. Therefore, let the king summon him and put this riddle to him.”
Daniel Is Called
Daniel was brought before the king who said, “I have heard, Daniel, that the spirit of your G-d rests within you and that you have understanding and wisdom. I have heard you can interpret dreams and answer all riddles. Now, if you can read the writing on the wall and interpret it for me, I will clothe you with scarlet and place a chain of gold around your neck, and you shall be the third ruler in my kingdom.”
Daniel answered, “I have no need for your honors or gifts, which you can give to others. I will gladly read the words on the wall and I will make known their interpretation.
“G-d gave your father, Nebuchadnezzar, kingdom, power, glory and honor. When he disobeyed G-d, he was punished and in his later years came to realize that there is only one G-d in this world, so G-d restored the power to him.
“Now you, his son, have not humbled yourself and believed in Him, even though you knew all this. You have revolted against G-d and you have even brought forth all the vessels from His Holy Temple and drank from them.
“Therefore, G-d is now foretelling your future. This is the meaning of the words: Mene – G-d has numbered your kingdom and ﬁnished it. Tekel – You are weighed in the balances and are found wanting. Pharsin – Your kingdom is divided and will be given to the Medes and Persians.”
Balshatzar was so awed with Daniel that he clothed him with scarlet and placed a chain of gold around his neck and he proclaimed that Daniel should be the third ruler in his kingdom.
The King Is Slain
Balshatzar began to fear for his life. He posted guards about his palace and instructed them to let no person enter without his permission.
“If you see a person trying to enter at a late hour, even if he tells you that he is your king, don’t believe him but immediately remove his head.”
That night Balshatzar could not sleep. Perhaps his guards were lax. Slipping out of his room, he quietly passed through his guards to test them if they were alert. But when he tried to get back into his room he was accosted by a soldier.
“I am your king, you fool!” he cried.
“We were warned against such an incident,” replied the soldier. “You can’t fool me, you are an imposter, for the king would not be wandering about at this hour.” Drawing his sword, he killed the king.
When the other soldiers gathered around the slain king they soon realized what had happened. Fearing retribution, they cut off his head and placed it in a sack and ran towards the camps of Cyrus and Darius.
Approaching the camps of the opposing warriors, they were stopped, and when they explained their mission they were immediately ushered in. They then explained everything that had transpired.
Darius arose and exclaimed; “Now I am convinced that the G-d of Israel is the true G-d. If He is willing, when I will become king of Babylon, I will permit the Jews to return to their land and I will give them back all the vessels which were taken from them.”
G-d listened to his pleas and he became the next king of Babylon.
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