belshazzar Summary and Overview
Bible Dictionaries at a Glance
belshazzar in Easton's Bible Dictionary
Bel protect the king!, the last of the kings of Babylon (Dan.
5:1). He was the son of Nabonidus by Nitocris, who was the
daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and the widow of Nergal-sharezer.
When still young he made a great feast to a thousand of his
lords, and when heated with wine sent for the sacred vessels his
"father" (Dan. 5:2), or grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar had carried
away from the temple in Jerusalem, and he and his princes drank
out of them. In the midst of their mad revelry a hand was seen
by the king tracing on the wall the announcement of God's
judgment, which that night fell upon him. At the instance of the
queen (i.e., his mother) Daniel was brought in, and he
interpreted the writing. That night the kingdom of the Chaldeans
came to an end, and the king was slain (Dan. 5:30). (See
The absence of the name of Belshazzar on the monuments was
long regarded as an argument against the genuineness of the Book
of Daniel. In 1854 Sir Henry Rawlinson found an inscription of
Nabonidus which referred to his eldest son. Quite recently,
however, the side of a ravine undermined by heavy rains fell at
Hillah, a suburb of Babylon. A number of huge, coarse
earthenware vases were laid bare. These were filled with
tablets, the receipts and contracts of a firm of Babylonian
bankers, which showed that Belshazzar had a household, with
secretaries and stewards. One was dated in the third year of the
king Marduk-sar-uzur. As Marduk-sar-uzar was another name for
Baal, this Marduk-sar-uzur was found to be the Belshazzar of
Scripture. In one of these contract tablets, dated in the July
after the defeat of the army of Nabonidus, we find him paying
tithes for his sister to the temple of the sun-god at Sippara.
belshazzar in Smith's Bible Dictionary
(prince of Bel), the last king of Babylon. In #Da 5:2| Nebuchadnezzar is called the father of Belshazzar. This, of course, need only mean grandfather or ancestor. According to the well-known narrative Belshazzar gave a splendid feast in his palace during the siege of Babylon (B.C. 538), using the sacred vessels of the temple, which Nebuchadnezzer had brought from Jerusalem. The miraculous appearance of the handwriting on the wall, the calling in of Daniel to interpret its meaning the prophecy of the overthrow of the kingdom, and Belshazsar's death, accorded in Dan. 5.
belshazzar in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
BELSHAZ'ZAR (Bel's prince, or may Bel protect the king!) was the son or grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, and the last king of Babylon. Dan 5:1, 1 Sam 30:18. During the siege of the city of Babylon he gave a sumptuous entertainment to his courtiers, and impiously made use of the temple-furniture (of which Nebuchadnezzar had plundered the temple at Jerusalem) as drinking-vessels. In the midst of the festivities, to the terror of the king, a hand miraculously appeared to be writing upon the wall: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. Daniel was called in to explain the mystery, which, thus interpreted, proved to be a prophecy of the king's death and the kingdom's overthrow, which took place in the course of the succeeding night, when Darius the Median captured the city. Dan 5:25-31.
belshazzar in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Contracted from Belsharezar: from Bel, the Babylonian idol, and shar, a "king"; zar is a common Babylonian termination, as in Nebuchadnez-zar. His solemnly instructive history is graphically told in Daniel 5. See BABEL; BABYLON, for the remarkable confirmation of the Scripture account of his death on the night of revelry in the siege of Babylon; which is also stated by Xenophon; whereas Berosus in Josephus calls the last king Nabonedus (Nabonahit, i.e. Nebo makes prosperous) and says that in the 17th year of his reign Cyrus took Babylon, the king having retired to Borsippa (the Chaldaean sacred city of religion and science); and that having surrendered there, he had a principality assigned to him in Carmania by Cyrus. The inscription at Umqeer (Ur of the Chaldees), read by Sir H. Rawlinson, strews that Nabonedus admitted his son Belshazzar into a share of the kingdom, just as Nabopolassar admitted Nebuchadnezzar his sort to share in the government, Xerxes admitted his son Artaxerxes, and Augustus his successor Tiberius; so that the discrepancy is cleared.
Nabonedus, defeated by Cyrus in the field, fled to Borsippa, and survived. Belshazzar fell in the last assault of Babylon. Xenophon calls the last king of Babylon "impious," and illustrates his cruelty by the fact that he killed a courtier for having struck down the game in hunting before him, and unmanned Gadates a courtier at a banquet, because one of the king's courtiers praised him as handsome. His reckless infatuation is marked by his making a feast when the enemy was thundering at his gates; compare 1 Thessalonians 5:3-7 for the lesson to us. He set at nought eastern propriety by introducing women and even concubines at the feast. His crowning guilt, which made the cup overflow in vengeance, was his profaning the vessels of Jehovah's temple to be the instrument of revelry to himself, his princes, wives, and concubines, drinking out of them in honor of his idols.
Security, sensuality, and profanity are the sure forerunners of the sinner's doom. Intoxicating drinks tempt men to daring profanity, which even they would shrink from when sober. To mark the inseparable connection of sin and punishment, "the same hour" that witnessed his impious insult to Jehovah witnessed the mysterious hand of the unseen One writing his doom in full view of his fellow transgressors on the same palace wall which had been covered with cuneiform inscriptions glorifying those Babylonian kings. Compare Proverbs 16:18. His daring bravado was in an instant changed into abject fear; conscience can turn the most foolhardy into a coward. His promise that whosoever should read the writing should be "third ruler in the kingdom" is probably an undesigned coincidence with the historic truth now known that Nabonedus was the chief king, Belshazzar secondary, and so the ruler advanced to the next place would be THIRD (Daniel 5:7).
Daniel having been summoned at the suggestion of Nitocris, the queen mother, probably wife of Evil Merodach, Nebuchadnezzar's son, faithfully reproved him for that though knowing how God had humbled his forefather Nebuchadnezzar for God-despising, self-magnifying pride, he yet "lifted himself against the Lord of heaven"; therefore MENE, God has numbered thy years of reign and the number is complete, compare Psalm 90:12. TEKEL, weighed in the balances of God's truth, thou art found wanting. UPHARSIN, or PERES, alluding to the similar word "Persians," thy kingdom is divided among the Medes and Persians. Cyrus diverted the Euphrates into a channel, and guided by Gobryas and Gadatas, deserters, marched by the dry channel into Babylon, while the citizens were carousing at an annual feast to the idols (Isaiah 21:5; Isaiah 44:27; Jeremiah 50:29-35; Jeremiah 50:38-39; Jeremiah 51:36; Jeremiah 51:57). Belshazzar was slain; compare Isaiah 14:18-20.