« PreviousContinue »
Belshazzar's consternation, the following words: Prepare the table,* watch in the watch lower, eat, drink. The prophet foresees, that Bel. shazzar, though dismayed and confounded at first, shall recover his courage and spirits, through the exhortations of his courtiers; but more particularly through the persuasion of the queen, his mother, who represented to him the unreasonableness of being affected with such unmanly fears, and unnecessary alarms; Let not thy thoughts trouble theet nor let thy countenance be changed. They will exhort him therefore to make himself easy, to satisfy himself with giving proper orders, and with the assurance of being advertised of every thing by the vigilance of the sentinels; to order the rest of the supper to be served, as if nothing had happened; and to recall that gaiety and joy, which his excessive fears had banished from the table: Prepare the table, watch in the watch-tower ; eat, drink.
6. But at the same time that men are giving their orders, God on his part is likewise giving his; Arise ye princes, and anoint the shield. It is God himself that commands the princes to advance, to take their arms, and to enter boldly into a city drowned in wine, or buried in sleep.
7. Isaiah acquaints us with two material and important circunistances concerning the taking of Babylon. The first is, that the troops with which it is filled, shall not keep their ground, or stand firm any where, neither at the palace nor the citadel, nor any other public place whatsoever ; that they shall desert and leave one another, without thinking of any thing but making their escape ; that in- running away they shall disperse themselves, and take different roads, just as a flock of deer, or of sheep, is dispersed and scattered, when they are affrighted: And it shall be as a chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up. The second circumstance is, that tho greatest part of those troops, though they were in the Babylonian service and pay, were not Babylonians; and that they shall return into the provinces from whence they came, without being pursued by the conquerors; because the divine vengeance was chiefly to fall upon the citizens of Babylon: They shall turn every man to his own people.ll and flee every one into his own land.
8. Lastly, not to mention the dreadful slaughter which is to be made of the inhabitants of Babylon, where no mercy will be shown either to old men, women, or children, or even to the child that is still within its mother's womb, as has been already noticed: the last circumstance, I say, which the prophet foretells, is the death of the king himself, whose body is to have no burial, and the entire extinction of the royal family; both which calamities are described in the Scripture, in a manner equally terrible and instructive to all princes. But thou art cast out of thy grave, I like an abominable branch. Thou shalt not be joined with them (thy ancestors) in burial, hecause thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people. That king is justly forgotten, who has never remembered, that he ought to be the protector and father of his people. He that has lived only to ruin and destroy his country, is unworthy the common privilege of burial. As he has been an enemy to mankind, he ought to have no place amongst them. He was like unto the wild beasts of the field, and like them he shall be buried; and since he had no senti. ments of humanity himself, he deserves to meet with no humanity from others. This is the sentence which God himself pronounceth against Belshazzar : and the malediction extends itself to his children, who were looked upon as his associates in the throne, and as the source of a long posterity and succession of kings, and were entertained with nothing by the flattering courtiers, but the pleasing prospects and ideas of their future grandeur. Prepare slaughter
* Isa. xxi. 5.
| Dan. v. 10. Isa. xiv. 19, 20.
1 Isa. xxi. 5.
Isa. xiii. 14.
for his children,* for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise nor possess the land. For I will rise up against them saith the Lord of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name and remnant, and son and nephew, saith the Lord.
A description of the taking of Babylon. After having seen the predictions of every thing that was to happen to the impious Babylon, it is now time to come to the accomplishment of those prophecies; and to resume our narrative of the taking of that city.
As soon as Cyrus saw that the ditch, which they had long worked upon, was finished, he began to think seriously upon the execution of his vast design, which as yet he had communicated to nobody. Providence soon furnished him with as fit an opportunity for this purpose as he could desire. He was informed that in the city a great festival was to be celebrated; and that the Babylonians, on occasion of that solemnity, were accustomed to pass the whole night in drinking and debauchery.
Belshazzar himself was more concerned in this public rejoicing than any other, t and gave a magnificent entertainment to the chief officers of the kingdom, and the ladies of the court. When flushed with wine, he ordered the gold and silver vessels, which had been taken from the temple of Jerusalem, to be brought out; and as an insult upon the God of Israel, he, his whole court, and all his concubines, drank out of those sacred vessels. God, who was provoked at such insolence and impiety, at the same instant made him sensible who it was that he affronted, by a sudden apparition of a hand, writing certain characters upon the wall. The king, terribly surprised, and frighted at this vision, immediately sent for all his wise men, his diviners, and astrologers, that they might read the writing to
| Dan. y. 1--29.
* Isa. xiv, 21, 22.
him, and explain the meaning of it. But they all came in vain, not one of them being able to expound the matter, or even to read the characters. * It is probably in relation to this occurrence, that Isaiah, after having foretold to Babylon that she shall be overwhelmed with calamities which she did not expect, adds, Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries. Let now the astrologers, the star gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and suve thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Is. xlvii. 12, 13. The queen-mother, (Nitocris, a princess of great merit,) coming upon the noise of this great prodigy into the banqueting-room, endeavoured to compose the mind of the king, her son, advising him to send for Daniel, with whose abilities in such matters she was well acquainted, and whom she had always employed in the government of the state.
Daniel was therefore immediately sent for, and spoke to the king with a freedom and liberty becoming a prophet. He put him in mind of the dreadful manner in which God had punished the pride of his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, and the flagrant abuse he made of his power, when he acknowledged no law but his own will, and thought himselfempowered to exalt and to abase, to inflict destruction and death wheresoever he would, only because such was his will and pleasure. And thou his son, says he to the king, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knowest all this, but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou and thy lords, thy wives and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them: and thou hast praised the gods of silver and gold of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know and the God, in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways hast thou not glorified. Then was the part of the hand sent from him, and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written,f MenE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing : MENE, God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished il, TEKEL, thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting ; Peres, thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. This interpretation, one would think, should have aggravated the consternation of the company; but they found means to dispel their fears, probably upon a persuasion, that the calamity was not denounced as present or immediate, and that time might furnish them with expedients to avert it. This however is certain, that for ferr of disturbing the general joy of the present festival, they put off the discussion of serious matters to another time, and sat down again to their banquet, and continued their revellings to a very late hour.
* The reason why they could not read this sentence was, that it was written in Hebrew letters, which are now called the Samaritan characters, and which the Babylo nians did not understand.
† Whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive, and whom he would he set up, and whom he would he put down. Dan. v. 19. $ These three words signify, number, weight division.
$ Or PERES.
Curus,* in the mean time, well informed of the confusion that was genetilly occasioned by this festival, both in the palace and the city had posted a part of his troops on that side where the river entered into the city, and another part on that side where it went out; and had commanded them to enter the city that very night, by marching along the channel of the river, as soon as ever they found it fordable. Having given all necessary orders, and exhorted his offic to follow him, by representing to them that he marched under the guidance of the gods; in the evening he made them open the great receptacles, or ditches, on both sides of the city, above and below, that the water of the river might run into them. By this means the Euphrates was quickly emptied, and its channel became dry. Then the two forementioned bodies of troops, according to their orders, went into the channel, the one commanded by Gobryas, and the other by Gadatas, and advanced without meeting any obstacle. The invisible guide, who had promised to open all the gates to Cyrus, made the general negligence and disorder of that riotous night subservient to his design, by leaving open the gates of brass, which were made to shut up the descents from the quays to the river, and which alone, if they had not been
left open, were sufficient to have defeated the whole enterprise. Thus did these two bodies of troops penetrate into the very heart of the city without any opposition, and meeting together at the royal palace, according to their agreement, surprised the guards, and cut them to pieces. Some of the company that were within the palace opening the doors to know what noise it was they heard without, the soldiers rushed in, and quickly made themselves masters of it; and meeting the king, who came up to them sword in hand, at the head of those that were in the way to succour him, they killed him, and put all those that attended him to the sword. The first thing the conquerors did afterwards, was to thank the gods for having at least punished that impious king. These words are Xenophon's, and are very worthy of attention, as they so perfectly agree with what the Scriptures have recorded of the impious Belshazzar.
The taking of Babylon put an end to the Babylonian Ant. J. C. 538. empire, after a duration of 210 years from the begin. ning of the reign of Nabonassar. Thus was the power of that proud city abolished just fifty years after she had destroyed the city of Jerusalem and her temple. And herein were accomplished those predictions, which the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel, haddenounced against her, and of which we have already given a particular account. There is still one more, the most important and the most incredible of them all, and yet the Scripture has set it down in the strongest terms, and marked it out with the greatest exactness; a prediction literally fulfilled in all its points; the proof of which stil. actually subsists, is the most easy to be verified, and indeed :
A. M. 3466.
* Cyrop. I. vii p. 189—192
i nature not to be contested. What I mean is the predictior
. of so total and absolute a ruin of Babylon, that not the least remains or traces should be left of it. I think it may not be improper to give an account of the perfect accomplishment of this famous prophecy, before we proceed to speak of what followed the taking of Babylon.
The completion of the prophecy which foretold the total ruin and destruction of
Babylon. This prediction we find recorded in several of the prophets, but particularly in Isaiah, in the thirteenth chapter, from the 19th to the 22d verses, and in the 23 and 24th verses of the fourteenth chapter. I have already inserted it at large, page 132, &c. It is there declared, that Babylon shall be utterly destroyed, as the criminal cities of Sodom and Gomorrah formerly were; that she shall be no more inhabited ; that she shall never be rebuilt; that the Arabs shall not so much as set up their tents there; that the shepherd shall not come thither even to rest his flock; that it shall become a dwelling place for the wild beasts, and a retreat for the birds of night; that the place where it stood shall be covered over with a marsh, so that no trace shall be left to show where Babylon had been. It is God himself who pronounced this sentence, and it is for the service of religion to show how exactly every article of it has been successively accomplished.
I. In the first place, Babylon ceased to be a royal city, the kings of Persia choosing to reside elsewhere. They delighted more in Susa, Ecbatana, Persepolis, or any other place; and did themselves destroy a good part of Babylon.
II. We are informed by Strabo and Pliny, that the Ant. J. C. 124. Macedonians, who succeeded the Persians, did not only neglect it, and forbear to embellish or even repair it, but that moreover they built Seleucia in the neighbourhood,* on purpose to draw away its inhabitants, and cause it to be deserted. Nothing can better explain what the prophet had foretold; It shall not be inhabited. Its own masters endeavour to niake it desolate.
III. The new kings of Persia, who afterwards became masters of Babylon, completed the ruin of it, by building Ctesiphon,t which carried away all the remainder of the inhabitants; so that from th: time the curse was pronounced against that city, it seems as if those very persons that ought to have protected her, were become her eneries; and had all thought it their duty to reduce her to a state of
A. M. 3880.
* Partem urbis Persæ diruerunt, partem tempus consumpsit et Macedonum negligentia: maximè postquam Seleucus Nicator Seluciam ad Tigrim condidit, stadiis rantùm trecentis à Babylone dissitam. Strab. l. xvi. p. 738.
In solitudinem rediit exhausta vicinitate Seluciæ, ob id conditæ à Nicatore intra nonagesimum (or quadragesinnum) lapidem. Plin. l. vi c. 26.
| Pro illâ Seluciam et Ctesiphontem urbes Persarum inclytas fecerunt. S. Hieron in cap. xiji. Isa