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albefore this Belshazzare three had very shoron of Nebuc
God; and he made a decree, that if the people did not in future serve the true God, they should all be cut in pieces.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, were also raised by the king to greater power, so that what their enemies, and the enemies of God had desired, not only failed, but turned out for their good, and that of their people, who would no more be in danger of insult and suffering, on account of their holy religion.
We have an account of one of Nebuchadnezzar's successors. He was not, indeed, the king that reigned directly after him, for there were three others before this Belshazzar came to the throne, as we learn from some very old historians; but these three had very short reigns of two years, four years, and nine months. The first was the son of Nebuchadnezzar, and was called Evil-Merodach, and the other two were usurpers. Belshazzar was of the lawful line, and was grandson of Nebuchadnezzar.
This was the last king of Babylon; and we learn how he lost it. He made a great feast, and being a despiser of the true God, he sent for the sacred vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple at Jerusalem; and with his princes, wives, and concubines, he drank to the honour of his “gods of gold and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.”
Cyrus was at this time besieging the city ; but the gates and walls being strong, with plenty of water all round it, and there being provision enough for twenty years within it, Belshazzar did not suppose it possible that it could be taken; so he enjoyed himself in his profane doings, and was getting drunk out of the Jewish vessels which had been consecrated to the service of the true God.
In the midst of his mirth and cups, he suddenly saw a hand which was writing upon a wall upon which he cast his eye. He was struck with astonishment and dread. It was marvellous. But what could the secret words mean which the wonderful hand wrote ? Why was he frightened ? Why should he not have supposed that the hand was writing something good for him-some news about the destruction of his enemy, or some advice how to defeat them? No, my young reader, not so. We say, “ A guilty conscience needs no accuser.” So it was with this king. He felt he was doing something that was bad, and he now dreaded to know what was to happen to him. He changed colour, was distressed in his mind, and he trembled so violently that his knees “ even smote one against another.”
He cried aloud to bring the wise men; he was so much in haste that he would not send for them in the usual quiet way. They came, but they could
not read the writing. He and his lords were then more alarmed. The queen, who was not at the feast, having soon heard of the wonderful event, hastened directly to the king, and told him that Daniel could make out the writing, for he had shown such skill in the days of Nebuchadnezzar that he had made him master of the wise men.
DANIEL INTIPPAITING THE WRITING ON THE WALL. The king lost no time in sending for Daniel ; and when he came in, he offered him rewards if he would explain the writing ; but Daniel refused the rewards, and began to explain the secret words.
He faithfully told the king of all that had happened to his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar; that he had not learned wisdom by his grandfather's misfortunes, but had also lifted up his rebellious heart against the Lord of Heaven," and had abused the vessels of the temple, and insulted the God by whose power he drew every breath he breathed. Then he explained the words which were written on the wall, “ MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN," —that God had ended his kingdom, and given it to the Medes and Persians.
Belshazzar, instead of being enraged at such a threat, felt conscious that he had displeased the Almighty God, and that Daniel had spoken the truth; and though Daniel had refused the reward, he bestowed the last honour upon him ; and at his command " they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom."
That very night the city was taken by Darius the Mede, who was besieging it along with Cyrus his nephew, and Belshazzar was slain. Thus fell Babylon, the scourge of Judah, as God had foretold by his prophets.
Darius the Mede, having by conquest come into possession of the empire of Babylon, found it necessary to place no less than a hundred and twenty princes” in the different districts, that they might keep the people in order, and procure the king's taxes. That these princes might not cheat him nor oppress the people, he also appointed three great men to preside over them, and see that they all did their duty. Of these three presidents, Daniel was the first. The king saw that he was a man of “an excellent spirit,” honest, and faithful ; and he therefore promoted him to the highest rank.
Perhaps the integrity of Daniel, who would not countenance those who were under him in doing wrong, as well as his eminence in being placed over so many others, had made the princes dislike him; they could have no other reason for trying to do him injury. So they laid their heads together to find some fault in him; but he was so wise and prudent, that they could accuse him of nothing. He was, however, known to be very strict in worshipping his God, and here they contrived to plan to do him harm. They agreed to make a law, that no one should petition any God or man for thirty days, save the king Darius; him only they might petition ; and if any one should break that law, he should be cast into a den of lions, to be torn to pieces and devoured by them. The proud monarch took this for a great compliment, and signed the decree, by which it became an unchangeable law.
Now Daniel was accustomed to pray three times a day, with his window open and his face toward Jerusalem, according to Solomon's prayer to God at the dedication of the temple, that if his people should be made captives, and should pray from the land of their captivity with their eyes towards Jerusalem, where God had built his house, that then he would hear and maintain their cause. So he did not mind the king's decree, but opened his window and prayed as usual : he might, certainly, have done so in a less public manner; but, as he had been seen before, he would not show signs of fear, or dishonour his God by having it supposed that he had given up praying.
Daniel's enemies being on the watch to catch him, soon informed the king that he had broken the law; and as the king himself could not reverse the sentence, he with great regret and anxiety was obliged to deliver Daniel up to the lions. Now he saw that he was entrapped by the other princes, and that it was their design to ruin Daniel. However, he spoke to the prophet in the kindest manner, so as to prove that he did not in his heart blame him for worshipping his God, and he told him, “ Thy God, whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.”
The sentence having been 'executed, Darius went to his palace and fasted all night, and refused to hear any of his bands play their music, and was so restless that he could get no sleep.
Early in the morning, he arose and went to the den, and asked Daniel if his God had preserved him ; when, finding him quite safe among the wild beasts, he gladly ordered him to be released, the law having had its course, though Daniel was not killed. Then, as a punishment for those who had plotted to take away the innocent life of one of his most trusty servants, he ordered his accusers to be brought and to be cast into the den, “ and their children and their wives” were cast in with them—for very likely they had also been busy in the plot; if they had not, this command of Darius was very cruel and unjust. They had not Daniel's God to protect them, for they had never sought his favour and protection: and so, before they had even got properly into the den, the hungry animals seized them, and tore them to pieces.
Daniel now prospered more than ever ; and Darius published a decree, commanding all his subjects to honour Daniel's God.
Daniel was privileged with some extraordinary visions, showing what was to happen in Persia after Cyrus, and various other important events which should take place among the great nations of the world.
But prior to this, having read in Jeremiah that God would restore his people after seventy years' captivity, he prayed most earnestly and charmingly, for the happiness of his nation in the coming restoration. His prayer is in the ninth chapter of his prophecy.
God was so pleased with his pious servant, that he sent the angel Gabriel to show him yet more interesting events which should happen, even the death and sacrifice of the Messiah, or Jesus Christ, which shonld take place after seventy prophetic weeks. The language of prophecy being secret, a year was called a day, and seven years a week. Seventy of these weeks made seventy times seven years. This number of years, by the rule of multiplication, make four hundred and ninety. At the end of that time the Messiah was cut off; or in other words, the anointed Christ, our Lord Jesus, died for the sins of his people, as Daniel had foretold.