(bel shaz' uhr) HEBREW: BELTESASSAR
"Bel protects the king"

Belshazzar was co-regent with Nabonidus, a Babylonian noble who in 556 B.C. overthrew Labashi-Marduk, the third ruler after Nebuchadnezzar, from the third year of his reign. Nabonidus never abdicated his throne, but for all practical purposes Belshazzar served as king. In the cuneiform documents Belshazzar is consistently called "the son of the king." Texts from the fifth to the thirteenth years of the reign of Nabonidus speak of offerings of silver, gold, and sacrificial animals which Belshazzar made to Babylonian temples. The chronicle of Nabonidus mentioned his son by name in prayer to the gods as follows:

"And as for me, Nabonidus, the king of Babylon, protect thou me from sinning against thy exalted godhead and grant thou me graciously a long life; and in the heart of Belshazzar, my firstborn son, the offspring of my loins, set the fear of thy exalted godhead, so that he may commit no sin and that he may be satisfied with the fullness of life."

Belshazzar did not make a strong ruler. He is best known for his impious feast, vividly described in the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel, which was going on while the Persian armies were approaching Babylon. On that night Belshazzar "made a great feast for a thousand of his lords" and served them wine from the holy vessels "his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem" (Dan. 5:1-2). In answer to this sacrilege, a disembodied hand suddenly appeared writing mysterious words on the wall; only Daniel was able to interpret the sign. He castigated the king for misusing the holy vessels and revealed the words - "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN" (Dan. 5:25) - predicted Balshazzar's overthrow. Belshazzar was in Babylon when it fell to the armies of Cyrus. Although the city fell without a battle, Belshazzar himself was slain. "That very night," the text recounts, "Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain," overthrown by Darius the Mede (Dan. 5:30).

In keeping with the co-regency, Daniel was made "the third ruler in the kingdom." Two of Daniel's visions are placed in the first and third years of Belshazzar's reign.

See also Daniel 8:1

{E2 Dictionary of Biblical People}

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