King Belshazzar of the ancient Empire of Babylon lived in flagrant disregard of the God of heaven. One night he took that attitude to an extreme:
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. When tasting the wine, Belshazzar commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem that the king and his rulers, his wives and his concubines, might drink from them. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God in Jerusalem. And the king, and his rulers, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, and of bronze, of iron, of wood, and of stone. At that moment fingers of a man’s hand came out and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace across from the lampstand. And the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s face was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosened, and his knees knocked against one another . . . and Darius the Mede received the Kingdom. (Dan. 5:1-6, 31)
As this once mighty king trembles “so that the joints of his loins were loosened,” Daniel is sought to make known to this pompous king the secret of the handwriting on the wall. Daniel confidently interprets the mysterious words written by the visible hand of the heavenly messenger. These words, a pronouncement from the Eternal One, pronounce judgment on this king of Babylon and his empire. This event was no surprise to Daniel, an ardent student of prophecy. Daniel interprets the message from the Throne, “And this is the writing that was written, A MINA, A MINA, A SHEKEL, AND HALF-MINAS. This is the meaning of the thing: A MINA, God has numbered your kingdom and finished it. A SHEKEL, You are weighed in the balances and found wanting. HALF-MINAS, Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Dan. 5:25-28).
The rest of the story is told in chapter five of Daniel’s commentary on that fateful night in Babylon— Belshazzar’s last. The most powerful nation on the earth came to an end on the night when Cyrus and his legions stormed the city. This was an abrupt end to the nation that boasted its power to the rest of the world. This was the super power of the world in Daniel’s day without rival, so they thought.
The handwriting on the wall indicated that Babylon’s day of destruction had come; however, it should have been no surprise to anyone–if they had a knowledge of God’s prophetic Word. Long before this—seventy years before–the promise of Babylon’s demise was recorded by the faithful prophet Jeremiah. “And this whole land shall be a ruin and a waste. And these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall be, when seventy years are fulfilled I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, and the land of the Chaldeans, says Jehovah, for their iniquity, and I will make it an everlasting ruin” (Jer. 25:11, 12).
Furthermore, even before Jeremiah’s prediction—approximately seventy years earlier–Isaiah was given a word from YHWH revealing the very name of him who would bring this judgment upon this arrogant Babylonian king. And that was not all: even the details of how this Persian king would enter the city of Babylon to execute this judgment were given. It would not be until after Cyrus defeated the Babylonian Empire that this prophecy would be made known to him.
Who says to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up your rivers; who says of Cyrus, He is My shepherd, and shall do all My pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, You shall be built; and to the temple, Your foundation shall be laid. So says Jehovah to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have made strong in order to humble nations before him. And I will loosen the loins of kings
“Approximately seventy years earlier–Isaiah was given a word from YHWH revealing the very name of him who would bring this judgment upon this arrogant Babylonian king.”
Cyrus, upon reading his name in a prophecy written even before his birth, believes. Recognizing his part in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, he chooses to complete the role he would play in the work that the King of the Universe had given him to do by ordering the construction of the temple in Jerusalem.
And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, so that the Word of Jehovah in the mouth of Jeremiah might be done, Jehovah stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also in writing, saying, So says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘All the kingdoms of the earth have been given to me by Jehovah God. And He has commanded me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May Jehovah his God be with him, and let him go up. (2 Chron. 36:22-23)
What would have happened if Cyrus did not/would not allow the Scripture to speak to his heart?
For those students of prophecy in 538 BCE—Daniel being one–who knew this was coming, it was no surprise to hear the sound of the Medo-Persian army storming the courts of Babylon. “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans, in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood the number of the years by books, which came of the Word of Jehovah to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (Dan. 9:1-2). The Medes and the Persians had been planning this for years. Little did they realize they were fulfilling Holy Writ as they made their way through the gates into the city, then to the palace of the most arrogant potentate on the planet. “Pride cometh before a fall.” Judgment was the word of the day for the king of Babylon—his judgment had come.
Lesson number one: “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants in Jerusalem: Believe in YHWH your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron. 20:20). God has given His prophetic Word for two reasons. First, so that His people are not taken unawares when the LORD God omnipotent or His enemies are going to do something that will affect His people. “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand” (Mark 13:21-23).
There is another example of this in 2 Kings: “And the man of God sent to the king of Israel, saying, ‘Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there.’ Then the king of Israel sent someone to the place of which the man of God had told him. Thus he warned him, and he was watchful there, not just once or twice. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was greatly troubled by this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, ‘Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?’ And one of his servants said, ‘None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom’” (2 Kings 6:9-12).
The second reason Bible prophecy was given is for those who do not know Him in whom all the secrets of the future are held; when they see prophecy fulfilled before their eyes, they might believe. “Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He” (John 13:19).