Knocking Knees

There is a tradition that during the insanity of Nebuchadnezzar, his son Evil-merodach ruled the empire, but did it so badly that Nebuchadnezzar, on regaining the throne, threw him into prison. Here he became acquainted with Jehoiachin, who was now in the thirty-seventh year of his imprisonment.

Nebuchadnezzar, after recovering from his illness, seems to have reigned only about a year, when he died, leaving the throne to Evil-merodach, who, although a wicked king, was kind to Jehoiachin, releasing him from prison, and giving him a high place in the kingdom. After reigning two years, Evil-merodach is said to have been succeeded by his brother-in-law Neriglissar.

This part of Babylonian history is involved in so much obscurity that it is hardly safe to make positive statements in regard to it. A recent writer says: "Neriglissar was slain in a battle gained by Cyrus, and succeeded by his son Laborosoarchod. This prince, being assassinated after a profligate reign of nine months, was succeeded by Nabonadius, or Belshazzar, who reigned seventeen years."

In the first year of Belshazzar, Daniel had a vision, in which he saw four beasts coming up out of the sea. These were said to denote the four great leading kingdoms of the earth, of which the Babylonian was the first.  In the third year of Belshazzar, Daniel had another vision, in which Medo-Persia was represented by a ram; Grecia, by a goat; and Rome, by a horn.

In these visions further particulars were brought out in the grand outline of history introduced in Nebuchadnezzar's dream.  It seems that after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel must have retired to private life; for at the impious feast of Belshazzar, when the hand writing appeared on the wall, which made his knees knock, and none of the wise men of the court could interpret it, the queen probably the widow of Nebuchadnezzar, and grandmother of Belshazzar speaks of Daniel as one entirely unknown to the king.

Having been called to interpret the mysterious inscription on the wall, Daniel first recounted the experiences of Nebuchadnezzar, and then sharply reproved Belshazzar for not heeding the warnings thus afforded, for drinking wine in the sacred vessels of the temple, and for exalting false gods instead of the God of Heaven.

The interpretation of the handwriting on the wall showed that the time had come for the complete overthrow of the Babylonian empire. 

The Sacred Record adds these significant words: "In that night was Belshazzar king of the Chaldeans slain.  And Darius the Median took the kingdom."  It appears that at the very time when Belshazzar and his lords were indulging in feasting and drunkenness, the Medo-Persian army, under command of Cyrus, was entering the city through the dry bed of the river, and the gates, which had been carelessly left open.

Darius the Mede was uncle to Cyrus, and took charge of the kingdom, while the youthful hero, in command of the army, pushed westward to new conquests.

Darius set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty princes; and over these, three presidents, of whom Daniel was first.  Daniel's promotion caused the presidents and princes to be envious; and failing to find any fault in the administration of the government, they got the king to sign a decree that whosoever should ask any petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of the king, should be cast into the den of lions.

But Daniel, in total disregard of the decree, prayed to the God of Heaven three times a day at his open window. For this he was cast into the lions' den, but God sent an angel to protect him, so that he received no harm. By the king's order, Daniel's accusers were then cast into the same den, and immediately destroyed by the lions. Then Darius made a decree that in every part of his dominion, men should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, at the same time declaring him to be the living God, whose kingdom should continue forever.