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Daniel 5

09.07.2010

Some time after his wacky dreams, Daniel is summoned before Belshazzar to explain the disembodied hand that interrupted the latter’s feast by writing, ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin’ on the wall.  This is another of the great stories in the first half of Daniel that I remember from Sunday school.

One element that I didn’t realized until I read this story this morning was that Babylon was conqured by Persia later that night!  This means that either the Persians had ridiculously fast elephants that took them super sonic speeds past the Babylonian defenders and into the capital city or Belshazzar was living it up with an invading army perilously close. 

This makes the disembodied hand not so much the bearer of prophecy as a declarer of plain fact.  It’s as if the finger isn’t writing on the wall, it’s pointing and saying, ‘Look, you fool, over there.  The Persians are literally climbing over the walls.  Your time is up.’

I’m not sure what theologically can be drawn from this new element of the story.  I guess it shows just how out of touch Belshazzar was, and how blind he was to the reality of the world in which he lived.  Compared to Belshazzar’s fate, Ned got off easy.  All he had to do was go nuts, sleep outside, and eat grass for seven years and he found himself ultimately in God’s good graces.  Belshazzar gets to die in his sleep and go down in history as the idiot who doodled as Babylon burned.*

———-

*Take that, Nero!

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