Was Belshazzar a Drunken Babylonian King Irreverent to the things of God?
Daniel 5 begins by saying:
King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.
Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king's color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.
Belshazzar would end up summoning the aged Daniel who will say to him:
And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.
The Bible goes on to explain Belshazzar is killed that very night for his blatant irreverence toward God. The world of archeology has shown incredible support for this moment in biblical history.
In 1924 a fascinating archeological discovery was found. It was made of fired clay and was in the form of a cylinder. Interestingly it was covered in ancient cuneiform writing. In the ancient city of Ur, where archeologists were digging, there were four of these cylinders discovered dating to 540BC.
In the cylinder above King Nabonidus of Babylon (556-539BC) is describing his repairs of the temple of Sin in Ur. The text is interesting because it mentions how they have merged the gods of Sin, Marduk and Nabu. The text was written after Nabonidus' return from Arabia in his thirteenth year, but before war broke out with the Persian king Cyrus the Great, who is mentioned as an instrument of the gods.
The cylinder, however, is most interesting to those who read the Bible because it mentions a prayer. The prayer is for Nabonidus and his son named Belshazzar. Belshazzar is mentioned in the book of Daniel.
The cylinder states:
As for me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great godhead and grant me as a present a life long of days, and as for Belshazzar, the eldest son -my offspring- instill reverence for your great godhead in his heart and may he not commit any cultic mistake, may he be sated with a life of plentitude.
The cylinder shows Nabonidus intimately knew his son. He knew Belshazzar was given to irreverence for his gods. His father is concerned that one day he would commit a mistake toward the gods that would possibly lead to a life devoid of plentitude. This cylinder shows how the events of Daniel 5 are in keeping with what we know outside of the Bible about the character of Belshazzar.
Such a fascinating artifact.