The Moral and Religious Conditions of the Times of the
Daniel 3-6 (Part 2)
Belshazzars Feast and the Fall of Babylon
The history of this chapter is so well known that we need
not relate it in full. It was in the year 538 B.C. that this happened. The end
of the Babylonian captivity was almost reached and Belshazzar was reigning over
the empire. He was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and vice-regent of the
empire; his fathers name was Nabonnaid.
Critics have stated that Nebuchadnezzar could not be the grandfather of Belshazzar for Nabonnaid, Belshazzars father, was not a son of Nebuchadnezzar. This objection is seemingly strengthened by the fact that no ancient historian gives the name of Belshazzar, from which the critics concluded that he must be a myth. Berosus, who lived about 250 years after the Persian invasion, gives the following list of Babylonian monarchs: Nabuchodonosar (Nebuchadnezzar).
Evil Marudak, who is the Evil Merodach of the Bible. Neriglissor. Laborosoarchod. Nabonnaid. Cyrus, the Persian conqueror.
Different attempts were made to clear up this difficulty, but they failed. Now if Daniel wrote his book, he must be correct. But the critics are ever ready to put the doubt not on the side of history, but on the side of the Bible. So they said Berosus was not mistaken and that if Daniel really had written the book, which bears his name, he would have been historically correct. This is how matters stood up to 1854. In that year Sir Rawlinson translated a number of tablets brought to light by the spade from the ruins of the Babylonian civilisation. These contained the memorials of Nabonnaid, and in these the name of Bil-sharuzzar appeared frequently and is mentioned as the son of Nabonnaid and sharing the government with him. The existence of Belshazzar and the accuracy of Daniel were at once established beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Daniel was promised by Belshazzar to become the third ruler in the kingdom (Daniel 5:16).
Why the third and not the second? Because Nabonnaid was the first, Belshazzar his son was the second and vice-regent. Nabonnaid had a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar for wife and therefore Belshazzar from his mothers side was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar.
But have the critics learned by this complete defeat? Have they profited by this experience and will they leave the Bible alone? Not by any means. They continue to look for flaws in the infallible Book. Some day they will discover the seriousness of their work.
Daniel writes of Belshazzar as the son of Nebuchadnezzar. This is no discrepancy at all, for the semitic languages have no word for grandfather or grandson.
The Condition of Babylon
Matters have gone from bad to worse in the empire. A great feast is held, which was perhaps an annual affair. What splendour was exhibited! A thousand lords and princes with their wives and concubines! Luxuries and licentiousness were seen at that feast. When it was at its height, an awful blasphemy was committed by Belshazzar.
He commanded that the precious vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem be brought that they might all drink out of them. Then they blasphemed God and praised their idols. It was an open blasphemy and defiance of God. Over against the candlestick on the plaster of the wall, all at once a mans hand appeared, and the king beheld the hand that wrote. The whole feast came at once to an end. The joy gave way to fear. The king became pale and his knees shook; the laughter gradually died out as one after another beheld the mysterious words that had been written on the wall.
Once more the Chaldeans and astrologers were called, and once more they were unable to read the writing and give the interpretation. Then the wife of Nebuchadnezzar, the aged queen, appeared upon the scene. She evidently had no sympathy with the feast. She called attention to the forgotten Daniel.
There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him. King Nebuchadnezzar, your father the king, I say, your father made him master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. This man Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, was found to have an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain hard riddles, and dissolve of doubts. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation (5:11-12).
Then Daniel was introduced. He was, as previously stated, an old man. Years and years had passed since he had interpreted Nebuchadnezzars dream and sat in the gate of the king, but Belshazzar had no knowledge of him. Patiently he must have waited in seclusion for other service his God might give him. The fact that Daniel was no longer remembered and neglected is a witness of the degeneracy of Babylon.
Daniel refused the honours of the king and all he had to offer. He knew that ere long, but a few hours more, and the blaspheming king would be no more. And Daniel is more than an interpreter of the handwriting on the wall. He is Gods prophet and messenger. Listen to his sublime words:
Then Daniel answered and said before the King, You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.
O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendour. Because of the high position He gave him, all the peoples and nations and men of every language dreaded and feared him. Those that the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like cattle; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone He wishes.
But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from His temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or understand. But you did not honour the God who holds in His hands your life and all your ways (5:17-23).
Then followed the reading of the letters on the wall. Mene, Mene Numbered-Numbered; Tekel Weighed; Upharsin and divided (literally, divides). It was the solemn announcement of the impending judgment. In that night was Belshazzar the King of the Chaldeans slain. How the Persians took the city by diverting the river Euphrates, which ran through the city, is well known from history.
Days of Lust and Defiance
But what are the lessons here? The last days of Belshazzar were days of the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. Impiety reached its climax in open defiance and opposition to the God of Israel. Babylon was glorying and boasting in her own gods and achievements. What does Babylon represent?
In its final form it is the great religious world system that flourishes immediately after the church has been called away. This final Babylon is a great ecclesiastical system, the centre of which is Rome. Such a system, a universal church full of corruption, will be in existence during the time of the end, but it will not last to the end. According to Revelation that final Babylon will be overthrown by the ten horns before the seven years are accomplished, with which the Gentile age closes.
The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish His purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until Gods words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:16-18).
A political power overthrew the literal Babylon, and a political power will overthrow the ecclesiastical Babylon.
But though we do not yet see this final, great ecclesiastical system, because the hour for it has not yet come, the material for it is present. We are living in the days of Laodicea: the days of boasting and vainglory; the days in which we hear on all sides, I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing (Revelation 3:17). What we hear mostly today is of the great strides we are making, the glorious times we are living in, and the still better times that are coming. But what is underneath it all? An impiety and blasphemy even greater than the impiety and blasphemy in the banqueting hall of Belshazzar.
Hear some of the blasphemies of present day Christendom: The Bible is not the Word of God; Gods holy Word is but a book like other books containing numerous errors, myths, and legend. Is not this a great blasphemy making God a liar?
And worse than this, that worthy Name, the Name that is above every other name, is blasphemed. He is rejected as Gods holy Son; His virgin birth is sneered at; the blessed death on the cross and its meaning for a lost world is set aside; every article of the faith is denied. Are these not greater blasphemies than taking golden vessels that were dedicated to Jehovah and making them profane in a banqueting hall?
Yes, the best that God could give the finest gold, His own blessed Son has been and is blasphemed. God will not stand this boasting, self-glorying, Christ-blaspheming and Christ-rejecting age forever.
And the moral declension is as prominent as the doctrinal departure. Luxuries and lusts hold sway on every hand. The days of Lot, filled with licentiousness, are becoming more evident. The material for the final Babylon, the great apostasy, is present with us in our day. The well-deserved judgment to fall upon Christendom will surely come and not linger.
And the handwriting on the wall? The same hand that wrote on the plaster, over against the candlestick in Belshazzars hall, has written the judgment and the doom of apostate Christendom on the pages of the Bible. There is a Mene, Mene Tekel for the present day conditions of Christendom. Mene, Mene, numbered. The days are numbered. They cannot extend beyond the time appointed by the God of heaven. We do not know when they will expire. God knows that, and all attempts to find out the year or the times will meet with failure and bring dishonour upon Gods Word. The time is near; that is what many of Gods people feel in their hearts.
Heeding the Word of the Lord
Daniel having been forgotten with his God-given interpretations has also its lesson. So have the words of God, the revelations in the Prophetic Word been forgotten. Some day they will be brought back, but then it will be too late for repentance, as it was too late for Belshazzar. This moral condition of the first empire, Babylon, immediately before the judgment came upon it, at the close of the 70-year captivity of the Jews, is thus described in this chapter. It foreshadows the moral conditions of the time of the end, when Israels long dispersion is almost ended and when God will cut out the engrafted branches, the Gentiles, and put back Israel upon their own olive tree.
May we hear Gods call to separation from that which is evil. Babylon confusion is all about us, and God wants His people to be separated from all that hates and despises His truth. In the midst of increasing corruption and apostasy, we must ever honour Christ more in our hearts and lives, be occupied with His Word and do His will, so that we are not partakers of her sins.
The Decree of Darius the Mede
In this chapter (Daniel 6) we are on the ground of the second world empire, the Medo-Persian, represented in the dream image of Nebuchadnezzar by the chest and arms of silver. It is therefore inferior and continues in the downward tendency. And this comes out in this chapter. Daniel is seen in the highest position of the empire, the first of three presidents over the whole kingdom, and Darius the Mede intended to give him a still greater place of honour. Most likely Darius heard of what happened in that eventful night when Belshazzar was feasting and when the enemy entered the dried-up riverbed and took Babylon.
But this condition did not prevail very long. The old prophet, over 80 years of age, is soon envied by other presidents and princes. But they cannot discover anything whatever in him concerning the kingdom. A plan was concocted by them that, according to their mind, will surely rid them of the hated Daniel. The plan reveals the cunning of the Serpent. With lying tongues they came to Darius to inform him that all the presidents had consulted together to establish a royal statute. But as Daniel was one of the presidents and had not been consulted nor agreed to it, they plainly told a falsehood.
The decree to be established was that for 30 days no one in the realm of the empire is to ask a petition of any God or man, save Darius. In other words, the king is to take the place of God. And he who does not do according to this royal statute is to be cast into the den of lions. The king was well pleased with this proposition, for it flattered him. He signed the writing; the decree and the laws of the Medes were irrevocable, so it had to be carried out.
Beautiful it is to see Daniels steadfastness and how the man of faith, whose first steps in the life of faith are recorded in the beginning of this book, now acts. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did before (6:10).
The aged man of prayer, in sweet communion with God, continued thrice daily to pray and to give thanks. Faith looks away from earthly circumstances to an omnipotent Lord. The accusation soon followed. The king then discovered that he was in a hopeless position. His law demanded that Daniel be cast before the lions; his heart, filled with love towards Daniel, demanded that he be saved. But though his heart was set on delivering Daniel and he laboured till the going down of the sun, he found no way to deliver him.
Well may we think here of another Law and another Love. God, a holy and righteous God and a God of love, found a way to save man. Gods holy Law condemns man, who is a sinner, and the curse of the law rests upon him. Gods Love is set upon the world and He so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). The curse of the Law came upon Him who knew no sin and who was made sin for us, and therein is Love manifested.
Daniel in the Lions Den
Daniel was cast into the lions den as our blessed Lord was given to the lion (Psalm 22:21), and a stone was laid upon the mouth of the den, and it was sealed with the kings signet. He is so to speak in a grave as good as dead in the eyes of the world for who has ever heard of hungry lions not devouring a man?
And all this brings before us that other place, the tomb in the garden, where He was laid, and the stone before it, which bore the seal of the Roman world power. But as Daniel could not be hurt by the lions, so He who went into the jaws of death could not be held by death. The tomb is empty, and He is victor over death and the grave. All this is blessedly foreshadowed in this experience of Gods prophet.
After a restless and sleepless night, Darius, who had such regard for Daniel, went very early in the morning to the lions den and cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel. O Daniel, servant of the living God, is your God whom you serve continually, able to deliver you from the lions? (6:20). Then came the answer which filled the heart of the king with joy. Daniel was alive. His accusers and their families were given to the lions, which claimed them at once.
Then followed the proclamation of the king: Then King Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, that in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and steadfast forever, and His kingdom shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall never end. He delivers and rescues, and He works signs and wonders in heaven and in earth. He has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions (6:26-27).
The Deification of Man
In this historical incident, we behold almost the same characteristic as in the third chapter. There was set up the image of gold to be worshiped, the deification of man; and here a man is put in the place of God: honour and worship is demanded for him. That this once more directs our attention to the time of the end, when the times of the Gentiles come to a close, needs hardly to be stated. It is significant that the same deification of man is mentioned in the second empire, which was shown in the Babylonian. It is the characteristic feature of every one of these world empires. Nebuchadnezzar and Darius took the lead.
In the one that followed, the Greek-Macedonian, we find Antiochus Epiphanes, who took the same place. In the Roman Empire we have emperors and others, like Herodes, claiming divine honours; in papal Rome the popes claim infallibility. And in apostate Protestantism the deification of man appears likewise. But all points to the end, when the man of sin, the Son of perdition will appear, the final Anti-Christ who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or worshiped; so that he as God, sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
Of the same person we read also in this Book: And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished, for what has been determined must take place. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god, for he shall magnify himself above all (Daniel 11:36-37).
Gods Provision for the Jewish Remnant
The deliverance of Daniel once more foreshadows the deliverance of the faithful Jewish remnant. It is strange that expositors and teachers put the church into this time of the end. The church, according to the testimony of the New Testament Scriptures, will no longer be on earth when this predicted time of the end comes.
We have then seen that these four chapters foreshadow the moral characteristics of the times of the Gentiles, down to the end, when the stone smites the image and it will forever pass away. Self-exaltation, the pride and deification of man, impiety, blasphemy, hatred, persecution, cruelty, and man putting himself in the place of God are the leading features. Even so it is.
But we must not pass over the last verse of the sixth chapter. So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
It tells of the prosperity of the man of faith even as the delivered remnant will prosper. But here is another prophetic type. Isaiah had announced the birth and work of this same Cyrus over a hundred years before he was born. Let us read what Isaiah said of him.
Who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure; he will say of Jerusalem, You shall be rebuilt, and of the temple, Let its foundations be laid. Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armour, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honour, though you have not known me (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-4).
This is the remarkable word. What Isaiah had announced happened, for under Cyrus the remnant returned. God calls Cyrus my shepherd and my anointed. In this he is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here then is the application. When the time comes, when a man, the Anti-Christ claims divine honour and worship, and when the remnant of His people is delivered out of the lions mouth, then another Cyrus appears upon the scene, one greater than Cyrus, one who will gather the scattered sheep of the house of Israel, even our Lord Jesus Christ.
Taken from The Prophet Daniel.
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