The scene here so briefly mentioned is described in remarks on chapter 2, verse 39. While Belshazzar was indulging in his presumptuous revelry, while the angel’s hand was tracing the doom of the empire on the walls of the palace, while Daniel was making known the fearful import of the heavenly writing, the Persian soldiery, through the emptied channel of the Euphrates, had made their way into the heart of the city, and were speeding forward with drawn swords to the palace of the king. Scarcely can it be said that they surprised him, for God had just forewarned him of his doom. But they found him and slew him; and with him the empire of Babylon ceased to be.DAR 99.2
As a fitting conclusion to this chapter, we give the following beautiful poetic description of Belshazzar’s feast, from the pen of Edwin Arnold, author of The Light of Asia. It was written in 1852, and obtained the Newdegate prize for an English poem on the Feast of Belshazzar, at University College, Oxford: —DAR 99.3
Not by one portal, or one path alone,
God’s holy messages to men are known;
Waiting the glances of his awful eyes,
Silver-winged seraphs do him embassies;
And stars, interpreting his high behest,
Guide the lone feet and glad the falling breast;
The rolling thunder and the raging sea
Speak the stern purpose of the Deity,
And storms beneath and rainbow hues above
Herald his anger or proclaim his love;
The still small voices of the summer day,
The red sirocco, and the breath of May,
The lingering harmony in ocean shells,
The fairy music of the meadow bells,
Earth and void air, water and wasting flame,
Have words to whisper, tongues to tell, his name. Once, with no cloak of careful mystery,
Himself was herald of his own decree;
The hand that edicts on the marble drew,
Graved the stern sentence of their scorner too.
Listen and learn! Tyrants have heard the tale,
And turned from hearing, terror-struck and pale;
Spiritless captives, sinking with the chain,
Have read this page, and taken heart again.DAR 99.4
From sunlight unto starlight, trumpets told
Her king’s command in Babylon the old;
From sunlight unto starlight, west and east,
A thousand satraps girt them for the feast,
And reined their chargers to the palace hall
Where king Belshazzar held high festival:
A pleasant palace under pleasant skies,
With cloistered courts and gilded galleries,
And gay kiosk and painted balustrade
For winter terraces and summer shade;
By court and terrace, minaret and dome,
Euphrates, rushing from his mountain home,
Rested his rage, and curbed his crested pride
To belt that palace with his bluest tide;
Broad-fronted bulls with chiseled feathers barred,
In silent vigil keeping watch and ward,
Giants of granite, wrought by cunning hand,
Guard in the gate and frown upon the land.
Not summer’s glow nor yellow autumn’s glare
Pierced the broad tamarisks that blossomed there;
The moonbeams, darting through their leafy screen,
Lost half their silver in the softened green,
And fell with lessened luster, broken light,
Tracing quaint arabesque of dark and white,
Or dimly tinting on the graven stones
The pictured annals of Chaldean thrones.
There, from the rising to the setting day,
Birds of bright feathers sang the light away,
And fountain waters on the palace floor
Made even answer to the river’s roar,
Rising in silver from the crystal well,
And breaking into spangles as they fell,
Though now ye heard them not — for far along
Rang the broad chorus of the banquet song,
And sounds as gentle, echoes soft as these,
Died out of hearing from the revelries.DAR 100.1
High on a throne of ivory and gold,
From crown to footstool clad in purple fold, Lord of the East from sea to distant sea,
The king Belshazzar feasteth royally —
And not that dreamer in the desert cave
Peopled his paradise with pomp as brave;
Vessels of silver, cups of crusted gold,
Blush with a brighter red than all they hold;
Pendulous lamps, like planets of the night,
Flung on the diadems a fragrant light,
Or, slowly swinging in the midnight sky,
Gilded the ripples as they glided by.
And sweet and sweeter rose the cittern’s ring,
Soft as the beating of a seraph’s wing;
And swift and swifter in the measured dance
The tresses gather and the sandals glance:
And bright and brighter at the festal board
The flagons bubble, and the wines are poured.
No lack of goodly company was there,
No lack of laughing eyes to light the cheer;
From Dara trooped they, from Daremma’s grove,
“The sons of battle and the moons of love;” *
From where Arsissa’s silver waters sleep To Imla’s marshes and the inland deep,
From pleasant Calah, and from Cattacene —
The horseman’s captain and the harem’s queen.DAR 100.2
It seemed no summer-cloud of passing woe
Could fling its shadow on so fair a show;
It seemed the gallant forms that feasted there
Were all too grand for woe, too great for care; —
Whence came the anxious eye, the altered tone,
The dull presentiment no heart could own,
That ever changed the smiling to a sigh
Sudden as sea-bird flashing from the sky?
It is not that they know the spoiler waits
Harnessed for battle at the brazen gates;
It is not that they hear the watchman’s call
Mark the slow minutes on the leaguered wall:
The clash of quivers and the ring of spears
Make pleasant music in a soldier’s ears,
And not a scabbard hideth sword to-night
That hath not glimmered in the front of fight.
May not the blood of every beating vein
Have quick foreknowledge of the coming pain,
Even as the prisoned silver,* dead and dumb,
Shrinks at cold winter’s footfall ere he come? The king hath felt it, and the heart’s unrest
Heaved the broad purple of his belted breast.
Sudden he speaks: “What! doth the beaded juice
Savor like hyssop, that ye scorn its use?
Wear ye so pitiful and sad a soul,
That tramp of foemen scares ye from the bowl?
Think ye the gods on yonder starry floor
Tremble for terror when the thunders roar?
Are we not gods? have we not fought with God?
And shall we shiver at a robber’s nod?
No; let them batter till the brazen bars
Ring merry mocking of their idle wars.
Their fall is fated for to-morrow’s sun;
The lion rouses when his feast is done.
Crown me a cup, and fill the bowls we brought
From Judah’s temple when the fight was fought;
Drink, till the merry madness fill the soul,
To Salem’s conqueror in Salem’s bowl;
Each from the goblet of a god shall sip,
And Judah’s gold tread heavy on the lip.” *
The last loud answer dies along the line,
The last light bubble bursts upon the wine,
His eager lips are on the jeweled brink, —
Hath the cup poison that he doubts to drink?
Is there a spell upon the sparkling gold,
That so his fevered fingers quit their hold?
Whom sees he where he gazes? what is there,
Freezing his vision into fearful stare?
Follow his lifted arm and lighted eye,
And watch with them the wondrous mystery.DAR 101.1
There cometh forth a hand, upon the stone
Graving the symbols of a speech unknown.
Fingers like mortal fingers, leaving there
The blank wall flashing characters of fear;
And still it glideth silently and slow,
And still beneath the spectral letters grow;
Now the scroll endeth; now the seal is set;
The hand is gone; the record tarries yet.
As one who waits the warrant of his death,
With pale lips parted and with bridled breath,
They watch the sign, and dare not turn to seek
Their fear reflected in their fellows’ cheek,
But stand as statues where the life is none,
Half the jest uttered, half the laughter done, Half the flask empty, half the flagon poured,
Each where the phantom found him at the board
Struck into silence, as December’s arm
Curbs the quick ripples into crystal calm.DAR 102.1
With wand of ebony and sable stole,
Chaldea’s wisest scan the spectral scroll.
Strong in the lessons of a lying art,
Each comes to gaze, but gazes to depart;
And still for mystic sign and muttered spell
The graven letters guard their secret well;
Gleam they for warning, glare they to condemn,
God speaketh, but he speaketh not for them.DAR 103.1
Oh! ever, when the happy laugh is dumb,
All the joy gone, and all the anguish come;
When strong adversity and subtle pain
Wring the sad soul and rack the throbbing brain;
When friends once faithful, hearts once all our own,
Leave us to weep, to bleed and die alone;
When fears and cares the lonely thought employ,
And clouds of sorrow hide the sun of joy;
When weary life, breathing reluctant breath,
Hath no hope sweeter than the hope of death, —
Then the best counsel and the last relief,
To cheer the spirit or to cheat the grief,
The only calm, the only comfort heard,
Comes in the music of a woman’s word,
Like beacon-bell on some wild island shore,
Silverly ringing in the tempest’s roar;
Whose sound, borne shipward through the midnight gloom,
Tells of the path, and turns her from her doom.DAR 103.2
So in the silence of that awful hour,
When baffled magic mourned its parted power,
When kings were pale, and satraps shook for fear,
A woman speaketh, and the wisest hear.
She, the high daughter of a thousand thrones,
Telling with trembling lip and timid tones
Of him, the captive, in the feast forgot,
Who readeth visions; him whose wondrous lot
Sends him to lighten doubt and lessen gloom,
And gaze undazzled on the days to come;
Daniel, the Hebrew, such his name and race,
Held by a monarch highest in his grace,
He may declare — oh! bid them quickly send,
So may the mystery have happy end. Calmly and silent as the fair, full moon
Comes smiling upward in the sky of June,
Fearfully as the troubled clouds of night
Shrink from before the coming of its light,
So through the hall the prophet passed along,
So from before him fell the festal throng.
By broken wassail-cup, and wine o’erthrown,
Pressed he still onward for the monarch’s throne;
His spirit failed him not, his quiet eye
Lost not its light for earthly majesty;
His lip was steady and his accent clear —
“The king hath needed me, and I am here.”DAR 103.3
“Art thou the prophet? Read me yonder scroll,
Whose undeciphered horror daunts my soul.
There shall be guerdon for the grateful task,
Fitted for me to give, for thee to ask, —
A chain to deck thee, and a robe to grace,
Thine the third throne, and thou the third in place.”
He heard, and turned him where the lighted wall
Dimmed the red torches of the festival,
Gazed on the sign with steady gaze and set;
And he who quailed not at a kingly threat
Bent the true knee and bowed the silver hair,
For that he knew the King of kings was there;
Then nerved his soul the sentence to unfold,
While his tongue trembled at the tale it told.
And never tongue shall echo tale as strange
Till that change cometh which shall never change.DAR 104.1
“Keep for thyself the guerdon and the gold;
What God hath graved, God’s prophet must unfold;
Could not thy father’s crime, thy father’s fate,
Teach thee the terror thou hast learned too late?
Hast thou not read the lesson of his life, —
Who wars with God shall strive a losing strife?
His was a kingdom mighty as thine own,
The sword his scepter and the earth his throne;
The nations trembled when his awful eye
Gave to them leave to live or doom to die:
The lord of life, the keeper of the grave,
His frown could wither, and his smile could save.
Yet, when his heart was hard, his spirit high,
God drave him from his kingly majesty,
Far from the brotherhood of fellow-men,
To seek for dwelling in the desert den;
Where the wild asses feed and oxen roam,
He sought his pasture and he made his home; And bitter-biting frost and dews of night
Schooled him in sorrow till he knew the right, —
That God is ruler of the rulers still,
And setteth up the sovereign that he will.
Oh! hadst thou treasured in repentant breast
His pride and fall, his penitence and rest,
And bowed submissive to Jehovah’s will,
Then had thy scepter been a scepter still.
But thou hast mocked the Majesty of heaven;
And shamed the vessels to his service given.
And thou hast fashioned idols of thine own, —
Idols of gold, of silver, and of stone;
To them hast bowed the knee, and breathed the breath,
And they must help thee in the hour of death.
Woe for the sign unseen, the sin forgot!
God was among ye, and ye knew it not!
Hear what he sayeth now: ‘Thy race is run,
Thy years are numbered, and thy days are done;
Thy soul hath mounted in the scale of fate,
The Lord hath weighed thee, and thou lackest weight;
Now in thy palace porch the spoilers stand,
To seize thy scepter, to divide thy land.’”DAR 104.2
He ended, and his passing foot was heard,
But none made answer, not a lip was stirred;
Mute the free tongue, and bent the fearless brow;
The mystic letters had their meaning now.
Soon came there other sound, — the clash of steel,
The heavy ringing of the iron heel,
The curse in dying, and the cry for life, —
The bloody voices of the battle strife.DAR 105.1
That night they slew him on his father’s throne,
The deed unnoticed and the hand unknown:
Crownless and scepterless Belshazzar lay,
A robe of purple round a form of clay.DAR 105.2
In that night was Belshazzar - slain - Xenophon says, he was dispatched by two lords, Gadatas and Gobrias, who went over to Cyrus, to avenge themselves of certain wrongs which Belshazzar had done them. We have already seen that Cyrus entered the city by the bed of the Euphrates, which he had emptied, by cutting a channel for the waters, and directing them into the marshy country.
To live for self is to perish. Covetousness, the desire of benefit for self's sake, cuts the soul off from life. It is the spirit of Satan to get, to draw to self. It is the spirit of Christ to give, to sacrifice self for the good of others. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:11, 12. COL 259.1
Wherefore He says, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” COL 259.2Read in context »
The advent of the army of Cyrus before the walls of Babylon was to the Jews a sign that their deliverance from captivity was drawing nigh. More than a century before the birth of Cyrus, Inspiration had mentioned him by name, and had caused a record to be made of the actual work he should do in taking the city of Babylon unawares, and in preparing the way for the release of the children of the captivity. Through Isaiah the word had been spoken: PK 551.1
“Thus saith the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; ... to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.” Isaiah 45:1-3. PK 551.2Read in context »
“Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of Thy servant, and his supplications, and cause Thy face to shine upon Thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake. O my God, incline Thine ear, and hear; open Thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by Thy name: for we do not present our supplications before Thee for our righteousness, but for Thy great mercies. PK 556.1
“O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for Thine own sake, O my God: for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name.” Verses 4-9, 16-19. PK 556.2
Heaven was bending low to hear the earnest supplication of the prophet. Even before he had finished his plea for pardon and restoration, the mighty Gabriel again appeared to him, and called his attention to the vision he had seen prior to the fall of Babylon and the death of Belshazzar. And then the angel outlined before him in detail the period of the seventy weeks, which was to begin at the time of “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.” Verse 25. PK 556.3Read in context »
Belshazzar, while engaged in his sacrilegious feast, was not aware that he had guests he had not invited. The God of heaven heard the praises bestowed upon vessels of gold and silver. He saw the desecration of that which had been dedicated to Him by holy consecration applied to profane and licentious purposes. It is a truth which should make every one of us weep, that those living in these last days, upon whom the ends of the world are come, are far more guilty than was Belshazzar. This is possible in many ways. When men have taken upon themselves the vows of consecration, to devote all their powers to the sacred service of God; when they occupy the position of expositors of Bible truth, and have received the solemn charge; when God and angels are summoned as witnesses to the solemn dedication of soul, body, and spirit to God's service—then shall these men who minister in a most holy office desecrate their God-given powers to unholy purposes? Shall the sacred vessel, whom God is to use for a high and holy work, be dragged from its lofty, controlling sphere to administer to debasing lust? Is not this idol worship of the most degrading kind?—the lips uttering praises and adoring a sinful human being, pouring forth expressions of ravishing tenderness and adulation which belong alone to God—the powers given to God in solemn consecration administering to a harlot; for any woman who will allow the addresses of another man than her husband, who will listen to his advances, and whose ears will be pleased with the outpouring of lavish words of affection, of adoration, of endearment, is an adulteress and a harlot. TM 434.1
No misfortune is so great as to become the worshiper of a false god. No man is in such miserable darkness as he who has lost his way to heaven. It seems that an infatuation is upon him, for he has a false god. To turn this worship of the human, fallen, corrupt beings of earth to the only true object of worship seems a hopeless task. There are in our time continual repetitions of Belshazzar's feast and Belshazzar's worship; and Belshazzar's sin is repeated when the heart, which God requires to be given to Him in pure and holy devotion, is turned away from Him to worship a human being, and the lips are made to utter words of praise and adoration which belong alone to the Lord God of heaven. When the affections God claims to cluster about Him are made to center upon earthly objects,—a woman, a man, or any earthly things,—God is superseded by the object which enchains the senses and affections, and the powers which were solemnly dedicated to God are bestowed upon a human being who is defiled with sin. Men and women who once bore the image of God, but are lost by disobedience and sin, He means to restore again through their becoming partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust. And when men and women devote their God-given powers to unholy purposes, to minister to lust, God is dishonored, and the actors are ruined. TM 435.1Read in context »
At Belshazzar's Feast—Little did Belshazzar think on that night of that sacrilegious feast that there was a messenger from heaven watching his every movement; and that night the performance in that palace brought the figures of his evil works to their full measure. He was no longer to be protected and shielded by God. The restraining power was no longer to ward off the evil; he was to fall, his kingdom was to pass into other hands, and his body was to be slain. TSB 139.3Read in context »