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"Babylon The Great Has Fallen!"
God's Kingdom Rules!

Chapter 13

The Fall of Babylon

(Daniel 5)

HIGH up over Babylon the moon was beginning to wane, for it was the night of the sixteenth day of the lunar month Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish sacred year, in the year 539 B.C. Likely the prophet Daniel and other aged Jews who had been deported to Babylon thought of how at that time of the year they used to celebrate the feast of booths or tabernacles (the festival of ingathering) at the temple in Jerusalem when the holy city was still standing. For the ancient Jews this festival was the most joyous one of the whole year. Would the same time in this year of 539 B.C. mark any event to make the exiled Jews rejoice greatly?*

Not in remembrance of any religious festival of a captive people, but in observance of a Babylonian event, King Belshazzar held a feast at his palace. It mattered not that the besieging armies of Cyrus were outside the city walls. The Babylonians felt carefree, for they were sure that Babylon's system of high walls could resist a siege by any foe for more than twenty years. Also, the Euphrates flowed through the midst of the city,

* The date given in this paragraph is according to pages 170, 171 of the book Nabonidus and Belshazzar, by R. P. Dougherty, which sets out data according to the famous Nabonidus Chronicle dealing with the fall of Babylon. According to the book Darius the Mede, by J. C. Whitcomb, on page 70, 114, page 22 top and page 17, ¶l-4, the night of Tishri (Ethanim) 16 corresponds with the night of October 11-12, Julian Calendar, or October 5-6, Gregorian Calendar, the time we use today. See also page 14, ¶1, under "Cyrus," of Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C. - A.D. 75, by Parker and Dubberstein, 1956 Edition.

with quays along its banks out onto which copper doors of the city walls opened. So secure did the Babylonians inside feel, that King Belshazzar could feast on a large scale, although his father Nabonidus was not then in Babylon.

Ah, but that was just the night for which the Persian invader Cyrus had been waiting, as a large contingent of his army under his chief commander lay pitched outside the city. An old man, who was suddenly called to the king's banquet hall that night, tells us what he himself saw there and what took place before day dawned.

"As regards Belshazzar the king, he made a big feast for a thousand of his grandees, and in front of the thousand he was drinking wine. Belshazzar, under the influence of the wine, said to bring in the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his [grand-] father had taken away from the temple that was in Jerusalem, that from them the king and his grandees, his concubines and his secondary wives might drink. At that time they brought in the vessels of gold that they had taken away from the temple of the house of God that was in Jerusalem, and from them the king and his grandees, his concubines and his secondary wives drank. They drank wine, and they praised the gods of gold and of silver, copper, iron, wood and stone." — Daniel 5:1-4.

That was nothing less than a willful effort to heap the greatest shame upon the God whose name is Jehovah, the God of those Jewish exiles. To religious King Belshazzar, the gods of Babylon had proved stronger than this Jewish God, because, sixty-eight years previously, Belshazzar's grandfather Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the holy city of Jerusalem and its temple of Jehovah and had carried off the sacred vessels of Jehovah's house and put them in the house of the chief god of Babylon. (Ezra 1:5-8: Daniel 1:1, 2) Likely King Belshazzar remembered that, before Nebuchad-


nezzar had destroyed Jerusalem and its temple, the prophets of Jehovah had foretold the sudden fall of Babylon. But Belshazzar felt no fear of the fulfillment of such prophecies, for he trusted in the gods of Babylonia, gods who had, by all outward appearances, proved that they were stronger than Jehovah, the inspirer of such gloomy prophecies.

Defiance, then, to that God Jehovah! On with the feast! Let all feasters praise Babylonia's gods represented by idol images of gold, silver, copper, iron, wood and stone. Ha, ha, ha! Let this Jewish God take vengeance for his temple at Jerusalem, if he can! Let all us Babylonian feasters drink deep from his temple vessels!

"At that moment the fingers of a man's hand came forth and were writing in front of the lampstand upon the plaster of the wall of the palace of the king, and the king was beholding the back of the hand that was writing. At that time, as regards the king, his very complexion was changed in him, and his own thoughts began to frighten him, and his hip joints were loosening and his very knees were knocking each other."  — Daniel 5:5, 6.

Belshazzar could no longer hold his cup of wine, a golden vessel from Jehovah's destroyed temple. His praise of Babylonia's gods of metals, wood and stone stopped abruptly. He stared at what that hand from the invisible realm had inscribed on the well-lighted plaster of the wall. A hush settled over all the banquet hall. Then the dead silence was broken as the king recovered his voice.

"The king was calling out loudly to bring in the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the astrologers." Quickly they were brought in before Belshazzar. He pointed to the handwriting on the wall. "The king was answering and saying to the wise men of Babylon: 'Any man that will read this writing and show me its very interpretation, with purple he will be clothed, with a necklace


of gold about his neck, and as the third one in the kingdom he will rule.' " — Daniel 5:7.

Belshazzar's father Nabonidus was not at this feast, for he was not in the city of Babylon at this time. Out on the field of battle, within sight of Babylon's towering walls, he had fought with the troops of Cyrus the Persian and had been defeated and had taken refuge in Borsippa, an important town southwest of Babylon. He was still the supreme or first ruler of the Empire, but his son Belshazzar had ruled as coregent with him for years.* If now, by reading the foreign handwriting on the wall, any wise man proved that heaven was with him, Belshazzar would reward him by making him next to himself, that is, the third ruler in the kingdom of Babylon, even though this barred out Belshazzar's firstborn son as successor to him. At all costs he must learn the handwriting's meaning!

"At that time all the wise men of the king were coming in, but they were not competent enough to read the writing itself or to make known to the king the interpretation. Consequently King Belshazzar was very much frightened and his complexion was changing within him; and his grandees were perplexed:" — Daniel 5:8, 9.

Here the gods of Babylon had failed King Belshazzar. To whom now could he turn to learn the message of the miraculous handwriting on the wall? His grandees were just as perplexed as he was. They had no suggestion to make to the pale, frightened king.

Despite such a handsome reward offered to them for solving the mystery, even the Babylonian wise men were nonplussed at the handwriting. The report of this finally came to the queen. Had her son Belshazzar

* In Antiquities of the Jews, Book 10, paragraph 4 of chapter 11, the Jewish historian Josephus says: "It was Baltasar [Belshazzar], under whom Babylon was taken; when he had reigned seventeen years."
She is understood to be Nitocris, whom Nebuchadnezzar's Egyptian wife by the same name bore to him and whom he gave in marriage to Nabonidus. — See Darius the Mede (page 73, footnote), by John C. Whitcomb, Jr.

called Daniel, the exiled Jew who had interpreted two dreams for her father Nebuchadnezzar? No? Well, then, he should.

"As regards the queen, because of the words of the king and his grandees she entered right into the banqueting hall. The queen answered and said: 'O king, keep living even to times indefinite. Do not let your thoughts frighten you, nor let your complexion be changed. There exists a capable man in your kingdom in whom there is the spirit of holy gods; and in the days of your father [Nebuchadnezzar] illumination and insight and wisdom like the wisdom of gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar your father himself set him up as chief of the magic-practicing priests, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the astrologers, even your father, O king; forasmuch as an extraordinary spirit and knowledge and insight to interpret dreams and the explanation of riddles and the untying of knots had been found in him, in Daniel, whom the king himself named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel himself be called, that he may show the very interpretation.'" — Daniel 5:10-12.

It was the last resort for King Belshazzar. In desperation he acted on the recommendation of the queen mother. While he and his grandees waited for Daniel to be located and brought to the banqueting hall, to solve the mystery of the awe-inspiring handwriting, he failed to receive any reports on what was going on outside Babylon's walls. But, ah! why worry? The strongly fortified walls stood firm and, in effect, they said to Cyrus the Persian: "This far you may come, and no farther; and here your proud waves are limited."  — Job 38:11.

Ah, yes, Belshazzar, it was all right about the walls, but what about the river? You watchmen of Babylon, are you too occupied with the city-wide celebration to notice it? Look! The waters of the Euphrates River flowing through the midst of your city have been drop-


ping, receding farther and farther away from the quays lining the riverbanks! What is the matter? Is there a plague upon the Euphrates River? No; not exactly. But Cyrus, after surveying Babylon's mighty walls and concluding that the city could not be taken by direct assault, had decided upon strategy. To the north of Babylon, beyond the range of the missiles of her defenders, Cyrus had dug a canal. It was meant to turn aside the waters of the Euphrates at the critical time and carry them over to the great basin of the artificial lake of Ardericca that Nebuchadnezzar himself had made for the benefit of the capital city but that was then a marsh. That festal night of the lunar month Tishri, the sixteenth, brought for Cyrus the long-awaited opportunity.

Cyrus gave the signal. His men opened the sluices. Ho, ho! Much of the river water went coursing through the canal to the low marshy depression. As the Euphrates waters began sinking in the riverbed, Cyrus' troops waited along the riverside, both to the north and to the south of the city. Patience! Wait till the Euphrates gets low enough. — Now! Into the riverbed poured human streams of armed Medes, Persians and other nationalities, to march from both directions toward the heart of Babylon. Possibly the city gates that faced onto the quays of the riverbanks would be left open on that night of feasting, for them to enter unopposed! They knew nothing of the miraculous handwriting on the wall of Belshazzar's palace, but did it read in their favor? Who could tell? Daniel could!

"Accordingly Daniel himself was brought in before the king. The king was speaking up and saying to Daniel:

" 'Are you the Daniel that is of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Judah? I have also heard concerning you that the spirit of gods is in you, and illumination and insight and wisdom extraordinary have been found in you. And now there have


been brought in before me the wise men and the conjurers, that they may read this very writing, even to make known to me its interpretation; but they are not competent enough to show the very interpretation of the word. And I myself have heard concerning you, that you are able to furnish interpretations and to untie knots themselves. Now, if you are able to read the writing and to make known to me its very interpretation, with purple you will be clothed, with a necklace of gold around your neck, and as the third one in the kingdom you will rule.' " — Daniel 5:13-16.

Be made third ruler in the Babylonian Empire, the Third World Power? Little did Daniel care about that! He was acquainted with the prophecies of Isaiah and of Jeremiah in which they had predicted the fall of Babylon. He knew that the city was doomed; yes, the dynasty from Nebuchadnezzar was doomed, and Belshazzar would be the last Semite king of Babylon. Daniel knew that sixty-eight years had passed since the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by Nebuchadnezzar's hordes, and that the time for Babylon to sit reigning as Mistress of Kingdoms was about up. So, not for the sake of the grand reward offered by Belshazzar, but for the sake of giving a witness to the sovereignty of the Most High God Jehovah and to his foreknowledge and the sureness of His purposes, Daniel would read and interpret the handwriting on the wall. He did not need to fear that the king's extravagant offer would be withdrawn if he told the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and he would thus lose the political reward. No, but he now declared Jehovah's vengeance.

"At that time Daniel was answering and saying before the king:

" 'Let your gifts prove to be to you yourself, and your presents do you give to others. However, I shall read the writing itself to the king, and the interpretation I shall make known to him. As for you, O king, the


Most High God himself gave to Nebuchadnezzar your father the kingdom and the greatness and the dignity and the majesty. And because of the greatness that He gave him, all peoples, national groups and languages proved to be quaking and showing fear before him. Whom he happened to want to, he was killing; and whom he happened to want to, he was striking; and whom he happened to want to, he was exalting; and whom he happened to want to, he was humiliating. But when his heart became haughty and his own spirit became hard, so as to act presumptuously, he was brought down from the throne of his kingdom, and his own dignity was taken away from him. And from the sons of mankind he was driven away, and his very heart was made like that of a beast, and with the wild asses his dwelling was. Vegetation they would give him to eat just like bulls, and with the dew of the heavens his own body got to be wet, until he knew that the Most High God is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind, and that the one whom he wants to, he sets up over it.

" 'And as for you, his son Belshazzar, you have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. But against the Lord of the heavens you exalted yourself, and they brought before you even the vessels of his house; and you yourself and your grandees, your concubines and your secondary wives have been drinking wine from them, and you have praised mere gods of silver and of gold, copper, iron, wood and stone, that are beholding nothing or hearing nothing or knowing nothing; but the God in whose hand your breath is and to whom all your ways belong you have not glorified. Consequently from before him there was being sent the back of a hand, and this very writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed:


"' This is the interpretation of the word: ME'NE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and has finished it.


"' TE'KEL, you have been weighed in the balances and have been found deficient.

"' PE'RES, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.' " — Daniel 5:17-28.

From what this courageous Jewish exile Daniel told him, King Belshazzar knew wherein Daniel's God had found him to be underweight, deficient. Since Daniel's God had been able to dethrone Nebuchadnezzar, who was mightier than Belshazzar, he ought to be able to cut down the number of days of Belshazzar's kingship at Babylon, cut down the number of the days of the kingship of his ill-faring father Nabonidus, and bring the kingship of the Semitic Chaldean dynasty to its finish. Daniel's God was also able to give the kingdom to those to whom he wanted to give it, since he is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind. He could divide it between the Medes and Persians, letting both rule conjointly or letting the Medes have it first and after them the Persians.

Evidently, then, Cyrus would succeed! King Belshazzar should have concluded that. But how could Cyrus succeed, when Babylon's walls were so mighty and the city hugged the deep Euphrates, which was hundreds of feet wide, as the strongest part of its defense system?

However, no longer was there uncertainty as to the handwriting on the wall. At least, now, King Belshazzar knew the truth. He knew what to expect. He did not fight back at the aged Daniel and say he was seditious and was giving comfort to the enemy and weakening the morale of Babylon's defenders. Belshazzar stuck to his agreement.

"At that time Belshazzar commanded, and they clothed Daniel with purple, with a necklace of gold about his neck; and they heralded concerning him that he was to become the third ruler in the kingdom." (Daniel 5:29) After submitting to such honors paid to him, not to his own personal glory but to that of


Jehovah God who had inspired him to read and interpret the handwriting on the wall, Daniel left the banqueting hall. He left the doomed to themselves.

Time was running out! Inside the hall there was no longer the spirit of festivity. Outside, throughout the large city, about the size of Germany's Hamburg today, the celebrating kept on with drinking and merrymaking. The city was off guard. The street gates were carelessly left open. No Babylonian soldiers mounted the walls that flanked the Euphrates River on both sides to catch in a trap any invaders who might use the way of the river, to slaughter them with missiles rained down from above.

The riverbed did not need to be absolutely dry, drained off. Time was too precious to wait for that, as the night was wearing on. Into the riverbed the Medes and the Persians poured, on the north and on the south, some soldiers at the midstream being obliged to slosh through water partway up their thighs.* As they march toward one another, no withering deluge of lethal missiles rains down upon them from the tops of the canyon made by Babylon's continuous walls, but the sound of festivities inside her walls strikes their ears.

And now, up over those quays along the riverbanks, you Medes and Persians and allies! Up to Babylon's gates, those gates at the end of every street leading down toward the river! Catch the guards as unprepared as possible! Look! Just as we might have expected, the gates are open, for the whole city is reveling tonight and they did not expect us to invade by the river route. They depended upon the river and not the gates to block our entrance! Enter!

* See pages 265, 266 of Volume 1 of the book The Great Events by Famous Historians in the chapter on "Conquests by Cyrus The Great B.C. 538," by George Grote. — University Edition, copyrighted 1905, by The National Alumni.
See also The Golden Age, as of June 7, 1922. page 572.

Easily the regular Babylonian gate guards are overpowered, and into the city streets the invaders dash. No Babylonians are on the housetops to hurl down missiles from both sides of the streets. Aha! Babylon is caught at both her extremities! And now, men, to the king's palace! Those you meet on the way, strike them down with your weapons! Do not follow those who run into their houses. If any shout at you in their drunkenness or revelry, shout back at them as if you were fellow reveling Babylonians. But, as fast as you can, get to the king's palace!

Before they get there, Babylonian runners keep reaching the palace and are admitted. The first reporter is taken to King Belshazzar. The enemy are inside the city at the end from which I've come,' he says, breathing heavily. As he is dismissed and goes his way out, he encounters another runner coming in, just arriving. This one reports to King Belshazzar: the city has been taken at the end from which he has come. Another newly arrived runner is brought in, to report to the king. Then another, and still another. The city has been captured at every end! What will King Belshazzar do now? Commit suicide? He waits in indecision — at his palace.

And Gobryas [Ugbaru the governor of Gutium] and Gadatas and their troops found the gates leading to the palace locked, and those who had been appointed to attack the guard fell upon them as they were drinking by a blazing fire, and without waiting they dealt with them as with foes.

But, as a noise and tumult ensued, those within heard the uproar, and at the king's command to see what the matter was, some of them opened the gates and ran out.

And when Gadatas and his men saw the gates open they dashed in in pursuit of the others as they fled hack into the palace, and dealing blows right and left they came into the presence of the king, and they found him already risen with his dagger in his hand.

And Gadatas and Gobryas [Ugbaru] and their followers overpowered him; and those about the king


perished also, one where he had sought some shelter, another while running away, another while actually trying to defend himself with whatever he could.*

"In that very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed, and Darius the Mede himself received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old," says Daniel 5:30, 31.

Xenophon's historical work, entitled "The Education of Cyrus" (written about 370 B.C.), goes on to say:

Cyrus then sent the companies of cavalry around through the streets and gave them orders to cut down all whom they found out of doors, while he directed those who understood Assyrian to proclaim to those in their houses that they should stay there, for if anyone should be caught outside, he would be put to death.

While they were thus occupied, Gadatas and Gobryas came up, and first of all they did homage to the gods, seeing that they had avenged themselves upon the wicked king, and then they kissed Cyrus's hands and his feet with many tears of joy.

And when day dawned and those in possession of the citadels discovered that the city was taken and the king slain, they surrendered the citadel, too.

And Cyrus at once took possession of the citadels and sent up to them guards and officers of the guards. As for the dead, he gave their relatives permission to bury them. He furthermore ordered the heralds to make proclamation that all Babylonians deliver up their arms; and he ordered that wherever arms should be found in any house, all the occupants should be put to the sword. So they delivered up their arms and Cyrus stored them in the citadels, so that they might be ready if he ever needed them for use. — ¶31-34, Section VII, chapter 5.

* Quoted from the translation of the Cyropaedia (or, The Education of Cyrus), by the ancient Greek historian and general, Xenophon (VII, 5:27-30). It is believed that the Gobryas mentioned by Xenophon may refer to Ugbaru the Governor of Gutium, whom the Nabonidus Chronicle mentions as having conquered Babylon for Cyrus the Persian and who is not the same as Gubaru who appointed governors in Babylon for Cyrus. — See Darius the Mede (page 75, footnote), by J. C. Whitcomb, Jr.
Concerning Gobryas as Ugbaru, see also Nabonidus and Belshazzar, by R. P. Dougherty, pages 170-173, 175, 180, 184, 185, 187, 188, 192, 195, 196, 198, 199.

As for Belshazzar's father, King Nabonidus, he survived his son. He had taken refuge in the nearby city of Borsippa, and in order to besiege him, Cyrus the conqueror moved against him. Nabonidus, however, did not choose to defend himself but surrendered to Cyrus. He received mercy at Cyrus' hands and was merely deported to the province of Carmania, of which he was even made governor. At his death he left behind inscriptions, including the so-called Nabonidus Chronicle.  — Am1, Volume 19, page 677.*

Although Babylon fell to Cyrus' troops on Tishri 16 (October 5-6), 539 B.C., he himself did not enter the city till seventeen days after it fell and had been occupied by his troops, namely, on the third day of the month Marchesvan (October 22-23). The conquered Babylonians gave him a good welcome. He, in turn, proclaimed peace to all the city. Eight days later his main general, Ugbaru (Gobryas), died, and a period of mourning followed. King Cyrus had a governor with him, namely, Gubaru; and when Cyrus made his entry, this Gubaru appointed governors in Babylon.

Daniel 5:31 says that Darius the Mede "received the kingdom" at the age of sixty-two years. Who was this Darius? There is yet some difficulty in proving this in the uninspired pagan cuneiform inscriptions and other historical writings. But the argument is strong that he was the same as Cyrus' governor named Gubaru. New documents that may yet be discovered by archaeologists will either confirm or disprove this. In the

* See also Berosus, a Babylonian priest of Bel, about 250 B.C. He wrote about his people with the aid of cuneiform sources, but wrote In Greek. His works have disappeared, but the Jewish historian Josephus and also historian Eusebius Pamphilius have preserved fragments of Berosus' writings. See Contra Apionem, Book I, section 20, by Josephus. ISBE, Volume 1, page 368a, says Nabonidus was imprisoned.
See Babylonian Problems (page 201), by W. H. Lane, 1923 Edition.
See chapter 7 of Darius the Mede, published in 1959 in the United States of America, by John C. Whitcomb, Jr.

meantime, however, the believers in Daniel's God Jehovah know that the historical truthfulness and accuracy of the Holy Bible concerning Darius the Mede does not rest upon the imperfect, uninspired worldly documents. They know that Daniel wrote according to the historical facts and under the unerring inspiration of Jehovah's holy spirit. — Matthew 24:15.

As regards the great city of Babylon, chapter six of Daniel speaks of Darius the Mede, not as the Governor of Babylon, but as a king, who "set up over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, who were to be over the whole kingdom." From the depths of the lions' den the prophet Daniel addressed Darius the Mede as "king." Calling attention to his kingship, Daniel 6:28 says: "As for this Daniel, he prospered in the kingdom of Darius and in the kingdom of Cyrus the Persian." And Daniel 9:1 speaks of the "first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus of the seed of the Medes, who had been made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans." The reign of Darius I was brief. Cyrus the Persian took the title of King of Babylon, King of Countries. For a time he reigned from Babylon, which he had not destroyed. This, however, did not mean that Babylon had not fallen, in fulfillment of Jehovah's prophecies through his witnesses. Babylon had fallen, despite its not being destroyed at once.

Military conquest affected the fortunes of Babylon at many critical stages in its history. It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that the capitulation to Cyrus in 539 B.C., should be designated 'The Fall of Babylon,' as if no other like event had occurred in the city's history. Even the submission of Babylon to Alexander [the Great] in 331 B.C. pales in importance when compared with the disaster which brought the Neo-Babylonian empire to a close.

A reasonable explanation of this phenomenon commends itself to the inquirer. Cyrus' capture of Babylon brought about far-reaching consequences. Its subjugation by Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal had not removed the


balance of power from Semitic control, but the triumph of Persia in 539 B.C. introduced a new predominating influence in ancient Oriental developments. That date marks the turning-point in favor of Aryan leadership, a directing force which has maintained itself at the forefront of civilization down to the present day. — Nabonidus and Belshazzar (page 167), by Dougherty.

Says The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 2, page 441b: "The fall of Babylon before the advance of Cyrus meant the fall of Semitic sway in Babylonia and the rise of Aryan power." — Edition of 1929.*

Not only that, but, according to God's viewpoint as given in the Holy Bible, the fall of Babylon to Cyrus the Persian meant the downfall of the Third World Power of sacred history and the installation of the Fourth World Power, namely, that of Medo-Persia, and this with marvelous benefits for the chosen people of Jehovah God. The Bible makes much of that noteworthy event, the fall of ancient Babylon. Why? Because it foreshadows that the fall of modern Babylon the Great inside our generation will be of still greater importance worldwide, and this, also, with the greatest benefits to true worshipers today of Jehovah as God.

* Says page 65 of the book On the Road to Civilization (1937), by Heckel and Sigman: "With the opening of the gate of Ishtar to Cyrus, twenty-two centuries of Semitic supremacy ended and the Persian Empire became a power in the East."
Says page 236 of The Dawn of Civilization (1940), by Engberg: 'Moreover, Cyrus was the first great Aryan conqueror of whom we know, and through his efforts the Semites, long the lords of western Asia, lost control until the coming of the Arabs a thousand years later."

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