WOW- Writing on The Wall- Wednesday, 34th week in ordinary time – Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28

Chapter one to six has six edifying stories about Daniel and his three companions at the pagan Babylonian court.  These are indirect references to the religious persecutions of the Jews under Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century BCE (Before Common Era) but set to have taken place in the sixth century BCE.

In chapters 1 – 6 and 13 – 14 the author of the sacred book uses a literary form known as ‘didactic’ (or a fictional form).  Therefore the first six stories are not historical and are not to be read as having actually happened.  The purpose of writing is not to teach history but to preach a message to the readers.

This story in Chapter five is set at the end of the neo Babylonian period.  In this narrative, Nebuchadnez’zar is succeeded by Belshazzar who offended the God of Israel and hence was punished.  In the course of hosting a feast, a mysterious message written on the wall, announces the king’s doom.  Daniel was brought in and he interprets the dream.  Daniel foretells the message; that night Babylon would fall into the hands of the Medes.

Historically this text has a number of inaccuracies. Belshazzar was not the son   Nebuchadnez’zar   as Nebuchadnez’zar was succeeded by Awel-Marduk (the evil Merodach) who was followed by Nergalsharusur, Labashir-Marduk and finally Nabunaid (Nabonudus) in whose seventeenth year Babylon was  conquered  by the Persians.

Belshazzar was never King of Babylon as Nabonidus was the last King of Babylon.  His son Belsharusur (Belshazzar in the story) was the ruler in charge of Babylon during his father’s absence in Taima in Arabia;   but Belshazzar never became King.

Neither was Darius the Mede the conqueror of Babylon (5:31).  In fact no Darius was ever known in history.  Contemporary inscriptions show that Babylon was captured without a blow by Cyrus and that Nabonidus was taken prisoner. 

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