The Writing on the Wall

Michael A Clark

The Writing on the Wall

 

It is not generally known that the number 2,520 is to be found in Daniel 5, which tells the story of Belshazzar’s feast on the night when Babylon fell. It will be remembered that Belshazzar and his lords were blasphemously drinking wine from sacred vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem, when there appeared the now proverbial writing on the wall. Daniel interpreted the famous words, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN, given in verse 25 thus:

 

   MENE:    God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

   TEKEL:   Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

   PERES:    Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

 

In verse 25 the last word on the wall was Upharsin, which is made up of the conjunction U-, and Pharsin which is the plural of Paras, meaning Persians. Since only consonants were written in ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, the word could also have been read ‘Peres’ which means divided.

 

Certain commentators, however, have observed that ‘the inscription actually contains a string of weight names, viz. mene, tekel, and peres, with the meaning mina, shekel, and half-mina, the last word being documented in the Mishna and other Jewish writings.’ Thus peres is the divided mina, or half-mina. Since the mina consists of fifty shekels, and a shekel contains twenty gerahs, the total weight expressed in gerahs signified by the writing was:

 

                                     Mina                 1000 gerahs

                                     Mina                 1000 gerahs

                                     Shekel                   20 gerahs

                                     Half-mina            500 gerahs

                                     _______________________

 

                                     Total                  2520 gerahs

                                     _______________________

 

 

It can hardly be a coincidence that this addition gives the same figure as the ‘seven times’ mentioned in Daniel 4. Yet this numerical interpretation seems to have remained unknown until the early 1980s, just when the period began to run out. The implication seems to be that we are to reckon 2,520 years from the fall of Babylon in 539 or 537 BC (there is a debate about this).

 

The Bible says, “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom.” There is reason to think that Cyrus, the Persian, was called Darius in his youth, because he was brought up by Median foster-parents who did not know his origin, nor his real name.

 

The sudden and unexpected fall of Babylon came about because the Persians diverted the course of the river Euphrates above the city, so that they could penetrate the walls along the dry river bed while the Babylonians were engaged in feasting.

 

As to the exact date of the fall of Babylon, the commentary Nabonidus Chronicle says: “On the 16th day (10th October) Ugbaru the district governor of Gutium, and the troops of Cyrus, entered Babylon without battle … On 3rd of Marcheswan (29th October) Cyrus entered Babylon and they waved branches before him.” Reckoning forward 2,520 years brings us to October 1982 or 1984. A further 28 years or 4 x 2520 solar days will bring us to October 2010 or 2012 (there being no year zero). However, as the 2520 ft + Burj Khalifa building in Dubai – a true Tower of Babel – is now in place, does this mean that we can expect some important events in October this year or 2012? Events will be their own interpreter, but let each one do that after carefully reading Daniel chapter 5 – and bearing the above facts in mind.

                                                               Michael A Clark                                 

(with acknowledgements to W E Filmer)

 

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