Babylon: Center of the World
The book opens with the biblical Daniel living in exile. The devout wise man is able to interpret dreams, visions, and the handwriting on the wall that foretells the imminent fall of Babylon. The army and siege engines of Cyrus are soon at the city gates with the endorsement of the foreign gods. In the midst of this confluence of divine activity, Daniel stays true to the God of Israel. More
Daniel had lived in exile nearly seventy years. But would never forget when he was taken hostage by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in Jerusalem. His nostalgia was mitigated by his friendship with Nitocris, daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, and wife to the missing Babylonian king Nabonidus. With the Persian army on its way, Daniel could not help but reminisce of when he and the queen were young when he received her summons. Upon meeting in the garden they spoke of his training in the wisdom of the Babylonians, and his interpreting her father’s dream to save al the wise men from execution.
The queen noted the surprisingly shallow river, before she spoke of the city of Opis being routed. The Persians spared the next city and its inhabitants upon their surrender, and were on their way to take the Center of the World. Meanwhile Ugbaru waited for the Zoroastrian priest to finish his oblations to his God Ahura Mazda. The Persian general longed to depart the defeated city of Sippar to join the troops and siege engines on their way to Babylon; in spite of the anxiety he felt at returning to his birthplace, where he once served King Nabonidus before he defected to the enemy.
On the way back to her palace apartment, Queen Nitocris heard the voice of her husband’s son, Prince Belshazzar, coming from the banqueting hall. She entered to find the wise men of the kingdom gathered in a cluster before the ashen-faced crown prince. The crowd parted as she approached the throne, but their eyes did not budge from m the glowing words etched on the plastered wall. She told her husband’s son not to be alarmed for there was a man in the kingdom, who had intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Daniel was brought before the crown prince and interpreted the mysterious handwriting on the wall. He revealed to Belshazzar what the words meant. He said mene referred to the ruling that Yahweh had numbered the days of his reign and brought it to an end; tekel to his verdict that he had been weighed on the scales and found wanting; and upharsin to the prince’s irrevocable sentence that the kingdom had been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
Nitocris knew she had to save her people from being slaughtered by the advancing army intent on death, destruction, and plunder. She had Daniel accompany her back to her chamber where they were joined by High Priest Marduknasirapal, Temple Overseer Iranu, and two scribes. She told the men about a prophecy her father received before his death about a Persian mule who came and imposed servitude upon the city. Daniel added that the Jewish prophet Isaiah foretold that Yahweh’s servant, Cyrus, would overthrow Babylon and be rewarded with the treasures of darkness. Then a stranger seeking audience with the queen sent a ring as proof of the urgency of his request. The high priest confessed he had sent the ring to the recipient. Upon General Ugbaru’s arrival Marduknasirapal also confessed he had promised to deliver the city to the Persians that very night.
While the inhabitants waited to see what would happen to the defeated city, Daniel met up with a group of Jewish refugees that included the prophet Ezekiel, his adopted grandson Seth, and his friend, Gimillu, eldest son of Marduknasirapal. Two weeks later Cyrus made his entrance into the city. Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, and placed Daniel in a high-ranking position. Jealous Babylonian officials plotted to destroy him by forcing him to worship a god other than Yahweh. When Daniel refused, he was thrown into the lions’ den. After his escape, Daniel received visions that opened up of the distant future and names being written in a book of life. Although he remained in Babylon, Daniel lived long enough to see the first group of Jews go up to Jerusalem after Cyrus issued a decree to let the people rebuild Yahweh’s temple.
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