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Week 7 - The Handwriting on the Wall

The Last King of Babylon

Jeremiah 27:7 And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him.

Belshazzar is somewhat of an enigma. Nabonidus calls him his son, offering a prayer to Sin, the moon god, on a clay cylinder: "[That] my son, the offspring of my heart, might honor his godhead and not give himself to sin." The 17 years Nabonidus is married to Nitocris before Daniel 5 is not enough time to conceive a son old enough to serve as regeant. He was probably adopted, hence "offspring of my heart", and according to Isaiah, was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar.

While Nabonidus is excavating, and Belshazzar is partying, Nitocris, daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, widow of Nergal-sharezar, now wife of Nabonidus, orders the completion of important works begun by Nebuchadnezzar. She builds a canal to divert the Euphrates into a marsh, and while the marsh fills, completes construction of a stone bridge over the Euphrates within Babylon. The bridge of Nitocris conveniently joins the two parts of the city for the first time.

The inattention of Nabonidus, and profligate administration of Belshazzar irritate the Persians (who pay taxes to Babylon), and they distribute propaganda explaining to the citizens why Cyrus would make a much better ruler than Nabonidus (and Belshazzar). Among other things, Nabonidus had been bringing the gods of the cities of Babylonia (who were believed to live in their idols) to Babylon, which they didn't like, and Cyrus said that he would return them to their home cities. Nabonidus was a popular ruler (probably because he did the bare minimum as ruler), but Belshazzar was very unpopular - constantly partying at taxpayer expense.

Soon Cyrus comes with an army, and Nabonidus returns to order a resistance by the armies of Babylon, but the half hearted resistance is defeated at Opis. Nabonidus retreats to Borsippa, and Belshazzar shuts himself up in the city, considering it impregnable.

Jeremiah 51:57 And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.

Daniel 5:30-31

While Belshazzar and his military are partying, Cyrus rediverts the Euphrates into the marsh, using the convenient canal dug by Nitocris, and sends Darius to Babylon as regeant. Darius comes under the wall on the lowered Euphrates, and once inside the city, the citizens not invited to the feast of Belshazzar open the gates for him. They had been very unhappy because they could not celebrate the New Years festival in honor of Marduk in the absence of the Nabonidus the king (as opposed to Belshazzar, the regeant). They welcome Cyrus and his regeant Darius as the new king, and after Belshazzar and his nobles are executed, Cyrus issues a general order of amnesty for everyone else, and the New Year festival is finally celebrated with Cyrus the king in the city. Cyrus installs Darius the Mede as regeant of Babylon.

Nabonidus returns to Babylon, surrenders, and is brought before Cyrus, who honors him, and funds his retirement in Carminia, where there are marvelous fossils to unearth as well as ancient artifacts. When queen Nitocris dies, the son of Cyrus attends the funeral to honor the queen.

Cyrus fulfils his "campaign" promises, and returns the idols brought to Babylon by Nabonidus to their cities of origin. He returns the articles for the Jewish temple to Jerusalem as part of this policy, and finances rebuilding the Jewish temple.