November 25, 2010
Bonus Lesson – 7
The Medo-Persian Empire (The Chest of Silver)
The southern kingdom of divided Israel came under the control of the Medo-Persian Empire in the year 539 BCE (approximately).
Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus, who after ruling only three years, went to the oasis of Tayma and devoted himself to the worship of the moon god, Sin. He made Belshazzar co-regent in 553 B.C., leaving him in charge of Babylon's defense.
In 540 B.C. Nabonidus returned from Tayma, hoping to defend his kingdom from the Persians who were planning to advance on Babylon. Belshazzar was positioned in the city of Babylon to hold the capital, while Nabonidus marched his troops north to meet Cyrus. On October 10, 539 B.C. Nabonidus surrendered and fled from Cyrus. Two days later the Persian armies overthrew the city of Babylon.
Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon according to the Book of Daniel. Like his father, it is believed by many scholars that he was an Assyrian. In the Book of Daniel (chapters 5 and 8) of the Jewish Tanakh or Christian Old Testament, Belshazzar is the King of Babylon before the advent of the Medes and Persians.
Daniel 5:1-4 describes "Belshazzar's Feast" in which the sacred vessels of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, which had been brought to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar at the time of the Captivity were profaned by the company. The narrative unfolds against the background of the impending arrival of the Persian armies.
1: "King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2: While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. 3: So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. 4: As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
In consequence of this, during the festivities, a hand was seen writing on the wall of the chamber a mysterious sentence mene mene tekel upharsin, which defied all attempts at interpretation. Some Rabbinic interpretations (notably the mention in the Babylonian Talmud) say that the words were written in code; one possibility was that it was an atbash cipher, another being that the written Aramaic and Hebrew looked very different, even though they were pronounced similarly.
Still, their natural denotations of weights and measures were superficially meaningless: "two minas, a shekel and two parts." In the verb form, they were: mene, to number; tekel, to weigh; upharsin, to divide—literally "numbered, weighed, and divided". When the Hebrew Daniel was called in, he read and interpreted the words. The last word (prs) he read as peres not parsin. His free choice of interpretation and decoding revealed the menacing subtext: "Thou art weighed in the balance and art found wanting".
The divine menace against the dissolute Belshazzar, whose kingdom was to be divided between the Medes and Persians, was swiftly realized: in the last verse we are told that Belshazzar was slain in that same night, and that his power passed to Darius the Mede.
The Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon also record that there was a festival in the city of Babylon the same night it fell to the Persians.
I mentioned briefly at out last Bible study that I am greatly concerned about both the lack of Bible Knowledge among Christians today and their inability to discern Biblical truths. A recent Christian poll reveals that many do not believe the Bible is actually the Word of God. Instead they believe that the Bible is subjective in nature and should be interpreted only as it pertains to our present time. One example of this which comes to mind is the “Homosexual Agenda.” New Age churches have sprung up everywhere teaching inaccurate and false truths about this lifestyle choice and people flock to them. Why? For many reasons I am sure, but ultimately I believe they locate and attend these New Age churches because they preach/teach a message that they WANT TO HEAR. …I’m all right…you’re all right. God gets in the way – kind of thing.
Can it be proven that the Bible is the very Word of God? Yes.
Forgetting for a moment both the historical and the archeological evidence, let’s look at one often overlooked piece of evidence found in the Bible itself: Bible Prophecy.
We’ve just learned that the Medo-Persian Empire conquered the Babylonian Empire. This fact was made known 150 years BEFORE IT HAPPENED!
How was it made known?
It was revealed supernaturally through what we know as prophecy. (Read Daniel 2: 36-45.)
Now, I won’t say all Biblical prophecy is related to the nation of Israel (The Jew); but the majority of it is and usually in a specific time frame. In other words, God reveals the details to His prophet (in this case it is Daniel) and the prophet passes on the information to his people (The Israelites) or to others as God directs.
Was Daniel a prophet? Jesus the Christ said he was:
15: “Therefore, when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken through Daniel the prophet…,”
If we are certain Jesus the Christ is who He says He is, that He is the Creator God, the Great Jehovah or the I AM, and He informs us that Daniel is indeed a prophet…well that works for me. For all others who claim Daniel was anything but a prophet –they need to spend more time in this book, in my opinion.
Before Daniel was, Bible prophecy revealed the name of Cyrus to the prophet Isaiah. This prophecy foretold a future series of events well before Cyrus was born. …Impossible? Not so much.
Please turn to the book of Isaiah, chapter 24.
Isaiah lived approximately 2700 years ago and was a prophet in the 8th-century BCE. Part of his message was: "The land will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The LORD has spoken this word."
Isaiah therefore warns the people of Israel to turn back to Yahweh (Jehovah). But get this; Isaiah names the individual who will lay waste to their land. Nearly 150 years before Cyrus was born, the prophet Isaiah foretold his birth, his name, and the tasks that the Creator God had predetermined for him to accomplish.
24: Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the One who formed you from the womb, (Who can say then that God is not involved in every person’s personnel life?) “I the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone, (Jehovah of the O.T. is Jesus Christ in the N.T. and He is the Creator God of Genesis 1:1.)
25: Causing the omens of boasters to fail, Making fools out of diviners, Causing wise men to draw back And turning their knowledge into foolishness,
26: Confirming the word of His servant And performing the purpose of His messengers. It is I who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited!’ And of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built.’ And I will raise up her ruins again. (None of these things had happened yet. These events are in the future. Now we come to the real reason we are reviewing these verses.)
27: “It is I who says to the depth of the sea, ‘Be dried up!’ And I will make your rivers dry. (Cyrus took Babylon by laying the bed of the Euphrates River dry, a historical fact, and leading his army into the city by night through the empty channel of the river.)
28: “It is I who says of (Who?) Cyrus, He is My Shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’ “(Take note of the fact that the text says here of the Jewish Temple, “…Your foundation will be laid.” It does not say built. The actual re-building of the temple would be some time later under the reign of Darius the Persian.
10: “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place (Jerusalem)
11: ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
12: ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, (Not to gods made of wood and stone) and I will listen to you.
13: ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.’ “
Does it sound like God has given up His people the Jews? Hardly. He corrects them. He punishes them for their disobedience; but God’s word to the Jewish nation shall be accomplished. It is written!
The Second Temple stood between 516 BCE and 70 CE, during which time it was the center of Jewish sacrificial worship. It was the second temple in Jerusalem, built to replace the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon. The accession of Cyrus the Great of Persia in 538 BCE made the re-establishment of the city of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple possible.
According to the Bible, when the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem following a decree from Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4, ; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23), construction started at the original site, which had remained a devastated heap during the approximate 70 years of captivity (Dan. 9:1-2). After a relatively brief halt, brought about by peoples who had filled the vacuum during the Jewish captivity (Ezra 4), work resumed circa 521 BCE under the Persian King Darius (Ezra 5) and was completed during the sixth year of his reign (circa 515 BCE), with the temple dedication taking place the following year.
Nothing interrupts or prevents God’s will from being accomplished.