Nabonidus, Belshazzar, And The Book Of Daniel: An Update -- By: William H. Shea

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 12:3 (Summer 1983)
Article: Nabonidus, Belshazzar, And The Book Of Daniel: An Update
Author: William H. Shea

Nabonidus, Belshazzar, And The Book Of Daniel: An Update

William H. Shea

[William H. Shea, Ph.D., is associate professor of Old Testament at Andrews University Theological Seminary, Berrien Springs, MI, and is a frequent contributor to Bible and Spade.]

More than half a century has now passed since R. P. Dougherty’s significant monograph was published in 1929, summarizing what was known up to then about Nabonidus and Belshazzar.1 Certain further pieces of information about these two historical figures have surfaced in the meantime, and the present seems like an appropriate juncture at which to review the evidence and examine the relationship of Nabonidus and Belshazzar to the biblical record. Of Nabonidus we can only speak indirectly in this latter connection, since he is not mentioned by name in the Bible. Belshazzar, however, figures prominently in the fifth chapter of Daniel, which refers to events taking place on the night Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians.

Aside from references in works dependent upon Daniel, such as Baruch and Josephus, Belshazzar, was unknown until his identity was recovered from cuneiform sources in the last half of the nineteenth century. Before that, interpreters of Daniel generally identified him with one or another of the previously known Neo-Babylonian kings.2 Belshazzar’s name was first found in Neo-Babylonian

texts deciphered in the 1860s. A major advance in information about him came with publication by T. G. Pinches of the Nabonidus Chronicle. This document records that the crown prince, i.e., Belshazzar, remained in Babylonia with the army while Nabonidus was away in Tema for a number of years.3 Additional texts referring to Belshazzar appeared thereafter, a most significant one being the so-called Verse Account of Nabonidus, published in 1924 by Sidney Smith.4 This text refers specifically to the fact that Nabonidus “entrusted the kingship” of Babylon to the crown prince when he left for Tema.

Before examining the fifth chapter of Daniel, I shall deal with two other passages in Daniel that mention Belshazzar: the datelines of 7:1 and 8:1, referring to Belshazzar’s first and third years, respectively. Then several specific matters relating to the fifth chapter itself will be considered.

1. The Datelines of Dan 7:1 and 8:1


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