Updated: Nov 5, 2019
My women's group is discussing the concept of God's sovereignty. We are on a break from our study and I asked them to read the book of Daniel because the theme of that book is God is sovereign. He is sovereign over nations and kingdoms and over every life. I asked them to read the text to look for examples of God's sovereignty. I emailed them background information of world history at this time period. And then information on some of the verses in the text. I decided to share this information with you and wrote 3 blogs on the historical background and information from chapters 1-4 of Daniel. See the bottom of this blog for links to those posts if you are interested and following along with us.
I sat down to email them information on chapter 5 and 6 of Daniel and it ended up the email was only on the first verse of chapter 5! Why? Because the biblical text suddenly goes from King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia in chapters 1-4 to King Belshazzar. Instantly my mind goes to who was King Belshazzar on a historical timeline?
I thought you might find this interesting.
5:1 Belshazzar is now king of Babylonia. Who was he? We know from world history that after Nebuchadnezzar dies, his son takes over as king, but then rules for only two years. Nebuchadnezzar's son is then followed by other kings. Now in Daniel 5:22 it calls King Belshazzar the “son” of Nebuchadnezzar. But the Aramaic term could also mean “grandson” or “descendant” or even “successor.”
"Nebuchadnezzar was not literally the father of Belshazzar. Belzhazzar was the son of Nabonidus, with whom he shared co-regency during the closing years of the Babylonian monarchy. The word "father" in Aramaic [in Daniel 5:2], like Hebrew, can mean "ancestor" or "predecessor", but Belshazzar wanted to emphasize his direct connection to this important ruler who had taken Babylon to its peak."
Source: ESV study Bible text note for Daniel 5:1-4
[I mentioned in a previous post on Daniel 1 and 2 that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew except for half of Daniel and some passages in Ezra which were written in Aramaic. Aramaic is close to Hebrew - a sister language.]
List of Babylonian Kings from 625 BC to 542 BC
King of Babylon Period of Reign (Approx)
Nabopolassar 625-605 BC
Nabu-kudurri-usur II (Nebuchadnezzar) 605-562 BC
Amel-Marduk (Evil-merodach) 561-560 BC
Nergal-shar-usur (Neriglissar) 559-556 BC
Labashi-Marduk 556-556 BC
Nabu-naid (Nabonidus) 555-539 BC
Bel-sharra-usur (Belshazzar) 552-542 BC
Why do I point this out? Because atheists point this out as an error in the biblical text. They say the writer (Daniel) was wrong because he calls Belshazzar the “son” of Nebuchadnezzar and doesn’t mention the kings of Babylonia between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. They assume that Daniel thought that they were literal first generation father and son instead of ancestor and descendant. This does not need to be construed as ignorance or error on Daniel’s part. These kings that came between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar are just not relevant to what God wants us to know.
Daniel lived in Babylon during the reign of these Babylonian kings. He certainly would have known they were the rulers! Duh! And because of the mention of Nebuchadnezzar’s real son in Jeremiah and because Daniel would have read the book of Jeremiah, we can conclude that Daniel purposely left out the mention of these kings.
Furthermore, the ancient historian Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews 10,11,2 mentions the kings that came between Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar and then says Nebuchadnezzar was a “progenitor” (ancestor) of Belshazzar.
The atheists have no argument in this instance.
1984 NIV study Bible text note for 5:1
ESV study Bible text note for 5:1
Believer’s Bible Commentary (affiliate link)
I want you to note here the gap in time in the text between Daniel 4:37 and 5:1. The reason I didn’t remember what happened to Nebuchadnezzar was because the Bible doesn’t tell us. The last words of Nebuchadnezzar in 4:37 was he was humbled by the King of heaven. That he had realized who God was and he gave him praise, exultation and honor because he realized all of God’s works are true and His ways are just. (Remember Nebuchadnezzar had spent 7 periods of time eating grass and being out of his mind until his kingdom was restored to him by God.) So when did he die? How did he die? We don't know from the Bible. We just know he did and in chapter 5 his descendant is now king of Babylonia.
The Bible isn’t going to tell you every detail of what happened in world history. There are great gaps in time in many of the biblical accounts. Details we might think are important and want to know about, the Bible doesn’t tell us sometimes. These gaps in world history do not mean the text of the Bible is in error. Rest assured, God has told us exactly what we need to know to realize Who He is, how we should act before a holy God, what He expects of us, how much He loves us, and to reveal to us His redemptive plan for us. We know all we need to know.
And another thing I want to note here is there is no archeological evidence discovered that refutes any historical account in the Bible. None. That is incredible as each year passes and each discovery jives with the biblical account. There are lots of written historical accounts outside of the Bible which also match the biblical accounts. I teach in my Connecting the Dots of the Bible class how each year more and more manuscript evidence is found. Full and fragments of manuscripts are found on 3 different continents, from different centuries, and from different families of manuscripts and they match! There are some variances, but the vast majority are spelling errors and all variances are accounted for. No variance in any of the manuscripts impacts any theology or the concept of the Scripture verse! When I first learned of this I broke down crying. That is not a coincidence because it is impossible for this to happen on its own. It is a God thing. We are very sure of the reliability of the text. God has preserved His Word for us and it is nothing less than a miracle.
I often wonder why the manuscript evidence is mounting and mounting in just the last few decades. Partly because we have the scientific means now to discover it and analyze it. But I think we are such a skeptical few generations that God is continuing to prove to us His Word is reliable. Don't be skeptical. Don’t doubt.
Just know God tells us what we need to know.
So how and when did Nebuchadnezzar die? We don’t know how. We assume old age. "He survived his recovery for some years, and died B.C. 562, in the eighty-third or eighty-fourth year of his age, after a reign of forty-three years.” We know some of this from archeological evidence. Some of which is in the British Museum. Much which is still in Iraq if it hasn’t been destroyed in our generation. (Remember Judah was judged by God in 586 B.C. - just keeping the historical timeline in our mind.)
I find it extremely sad that because of the situation going on right now in Iraq and in Syria, we are losing many of our world historical artifacts and treasures. People aren’t really talking about it much. But everything is being destroyed. I know lives are more important than history, but things that survived for thousands of years are now destroyed in a little over a decade. Thankfully we have the internet and we have pictures and information preserved for us. It is still just so sad though. However, God is in control and He allowed and is permitting them to be destroyed.
Scholars know the world history of this time period from several sources:
"The sources of our information as to the life of Nebuchadnezzar are about 500 contract tablets dated according to the days, months and years of his reign of 43 years; about 30 building and honorific inscriptions; one historical inscription; and in the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Kings. Later sources are Chronicles, Ezra, and the fragments of Berosus, Menander, Megasthenes, Abydenus, and Alexander Polyhistor, largely as cited by Josephus and Eusebius."
I share this because I want you to realize this history happened! And it has been preserved for us. First in the manuscripts and then in the archeological finds.
I want you to realize there are gaps in historical time in the biblical text throughout the Bible. (Sometimes hundreds of years or in this case, Daniel 5:1, about a decade.) These gaps don't make the Bible in error. God deemed they aren’t important to what He is trying to tell us. The Bible is infallible and inerrant in the original language manuscripts.
I want you to realize atheists will say things that seem true and scholarly and you are tempted to believe them rather than look into something for yourself. Don’t let them make you doubt or be skeptical. There is so much evidence out there supporting the Bible and with the internet it is right at our fingertips. Caution though, always check your sources are reputable. Anyone can say anything they want on the internet - much of which is garbage. My point being, there is no reason to be ignorant though. The Bible will stand up to any amount of scrutiny because it is true.
We can prove most of the accounts in the Bible are true historical events. Earlier accounts in time have not been proven yet. We don’t have that capability yet or may never have it.
But if the historical accounts of the Bible are true and no archeological evidence refutes the Bible; why should we doubt things like the parting of the Red Sea or Jonah being swallowed by a great fish just because we can’t scientifically prove it at this time? God is capable of anything. I believe it all happened.
God created it. He is in control of it. He is sovereign over it.
Wow, did I get sidetracked from looking for indications in the text of God’s sovereignty!
So why was it important that God included King Belshazzar in the Bible? We will have to read Daniel chapter 5 to find out. More to come.
Historical Background: Get This One = Changed Forever