Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Conquest of Babylon

Part 4 of Daniel's Messianic Prophecy

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb,
“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.
It is I who says to the depth of the sea, ‘Be dried up!’
And I will make your rivers dry.
It is I who says of 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.’”

Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed,
Whom I have taken by the right hand,
To subdue the nations before him,
To open the doors before him so the gates will not be shut:
“I will give you the treasures of darkness,
And hidden wealth of secret places,
In order that you may know that it is I,
The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
For the sake of Jacob My servant,
And Israel My chosen one,
I have also called you by your name;
I have given you a title of honour
Though you have not known Me.

“I have aroused him in righteousness,
And I will make all his ways smooth;
He will build My city, and will let My exiles go free,
Without any payment or reward,” says the Lord of hosts.

Isaiah the prophet (710 BC)

The Medes and the Persians emigrated from the great plains of Russia in the 9th century BC. Shortly after 700 BC, the Persians took control of the city of Anshan.

Cyrus the Great was born about 600 BC, the son of a Persian king and a Median princess. The Medes had dominated the Persians since the two had settled in the area between the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea.

It was revealed to the king of Media in a dream that Cyrus would eventually eclipse him as a ruler should his grandson be allowed to live. A man by the name of Harpagus was assigned the task of assassinating the young prince. When he failed, the vindictive king served him the flesh of his own son as a ruthless punishment.

Cyrus ascended the throne of the tiny state of Anshan in 559 BC to begin a reign that lasted 30 years. His first course of action was the conquest of Media. Cyrus capitalized on dissent in his grandfather’s army scoring a decisive victory over the Medes. Then he marched into Media’s throne city confiscating its treasures and capturing his grandfather for transport back to Anshan.

In 540 BC, Cyrus set his sights on Babylon. During that period, Babylonian morale was at a low ebb. King Nabonidus was more interested in the study of foreign religions and history than in government. Nabonidus took a ten year hiatus in Arabia and left his son Belshazzar at the helm. He returned in 543 BC with the hopes of winning back the favour of his subjects and the priests who preferred a monarch that restricted himself to the established religion of Babylon. Although he brought all the idols from the surrounding cities into Babylon and celebrated the New Year's feast, he was unable to win the approval of his people.

Cyrus was able to convince Gubara, a Median governor, to defect to the Persian side. The Medes had been allies of the Babylonians since the two defeated Assyria in 612 BC. After taking the cities of Opis and Sippar, they moved towards Babylon. The throne city was dissected by the Euphrates River and its tributary canals. The dry season coupled with an annual shortage of precipitation caused the river to reach its lowest level in years. Furthermore, this was the time of a great Babylonian festival when the entire city of Babylon was accustomed to revelling all night long:

When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his forefather had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines drank from them.
They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing.
Then the king’s face grew pale, and his thoughts alarmed him; and his hip joints went slack, and his knees began knocking together.
Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or make known its interpretation to the king.

Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the exiles from Judah, whom my forefather the king brought from Judah?
“Now I have heard about you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that illumination, insight, and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you.
“Now if you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and wear a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as the third ruler of the kingdom.”
Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him.

“But you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified.

“Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out:
“This is the interpretation of the message:
‘MENE’–God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.
‘TEKEL’–you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.
‘PERES’–your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”

That night, while the inebriated Babylonians celebrated, Gubara diverted the flow of the Euphrates and entered Babylon's impregnable walls through a water channel. On October 12, 539 BC, Gubara captured Babylon without a battle. On October 29, he opened the city’s gates and welcomed his benefactor, Cyrus, king of Persia. Cyrus entered Babylon peacefully and was hailed by its inhabitants as a liberator. Belshazzar was slain, Nabonidus exiled, and Gubara, a.k.a. Darius the Mede, was made king of Babylon to act as a vassal under Cyrus the Great.

Cyrus' proclamation, releasing the Judeans from their captivity, was recorded by Ezra the scribe:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
‘Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem.
‘And every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.’”

Also King Cyrus brought out the articles of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and put in the house of his gods;
and Cyrus, king of Persia, had them brought out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and he counted them out to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.
All the articles of gold and silver numbered 5,400. Sheshbazzar brought them all up with the exiles who went up from Babylon to Jerusalem.

Babylon's seventy year mandate had expired and an assembly of 42,360 survivors of the Babylonian captivity, accompanied by their servants, returned to Judah in 538 BC, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, to rebuild their temple.


  1. Babylon's seventy year mandate: Jeremiah 25:8-12; Jeremiah 29:10; 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.

  2. Scriptural references:
    Isaiah 44:24,26-28; 45:1,3-4,13
    Daniel 5:2-6,8,13-14,16-17,23-28. Peres is the singular of upharsin.
    Ezra 1:1-4,7-8,11

  3. Some readers have come to the conclusion that Cyrus was monotheistic which he was not. He was a superstitious king who sought the approval of the gods. That is confirmed in the opening prophecy by Isaiah: “Though you have not known Me.” Cyrus pioneered the strategy of restoring the temples of his conquered subjects as opposed to the Babylonians who looted and destroyed them. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Related Article: click Persia on the sidebar. Be sure to read the author’s comments.

  5. Other scriptural references: Daniel 5:30-31; 9:1