Do you recall hearing the phrase, “We see the handwriting on the wall?” It is used in the context that someone knows something is about to happen, implying, “they know where this situation is headed.” I do not hear it in conversation much now, but it still occasionally pops up. I confess it is one that I have always liked because I know where the phrase originated from. Travel with me for a moment as we go back in time; a time when the world was ruled by empires, a time when kings had absolute power.
Our journey goes back to ancient times, many centuries before the Roman Empire. Long before the time of Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire. Even before the once mighty ancient Persian Empire that the Greeks conquered. For a moment we will explore the ancient Babylonian Empire, around the 6th century B.C. The one that had the famous, “hanging gardens of Babylon,” one of the eight wonders of the ancient world. A kingdom whose ruins are situated in present day Iraq. A mighty empire that ruled over many other kingdoms. The walls around Babylon were over 100 feet high, 30 feet wide, and circled the city state for miles. Babylon ruled the Middle East for about 70 years and it’s power was unprecedented. It ruled it’s conquered subjects very harshly. Most empires slowly decline. This one came to an abrupt end all in a single day.
The story is told in the book of Daniel of the Old Testament. A short book whose author Daniel talks about a number of kingdoms past, present and future to his day. Daniel was a very high ranking official who served in the King’s court. He is also the one who you may have heard about that was thrown into a den of lion’s, but that is another story for another day. Although Daniel honorable served the King, he revered and served God in his heart. Daniel was blessed with much knowledge, wisdom, management skills, and the unusual ability to interpret dreams. He served in the King’s court for many years under a number of successive kings. He was old when the following event took place.
King Belshazzar held a great feast attended by a thousand nobles. Much wine was flowing and the King ordered the gold and silver cups that had been removed from King Solomon’s Temple when Babylon conquered Jerusalem years before under a different Babylonian king be brought to the feast. As they drank toasts from these goblets in honor of the gods of Babylon, they mocked the gods of their conquered peoples including the God of King Solomon. At that very moment the fingers of a human hand wrote on the palace wall the following words, Mene Mene Tekel Parsin. No one knew what the words meant and King Belshazzar was filled with so much terror that his knees buckled under him. None of the King’s enchanters, astrologers, or fortune-tellers could decipher the meaning. Someone recalled a wise older official named Daniel who had been known to interpret dreams. He was summoned.
The King promised Daniel a gold necklace, a royal purple robe, and the third highest position in the land if he could tell the meaning of the words. Daniel told the King to keep his gifts but he would reveal the message.
Mene means numbered: God has numbered your days of your reign and has been brought it to an end.
Tekel means weighed: you have been weighed in the balances and have failed the test.
Parsins means divided: your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
The book of Daniel records that very night Babylon was conquered, Belshazzar killed and Babylon was divided into 120 provinces.
Footnote: For many centuries scholars debated if Babylon actual ever existed. The ancient ruins of the city were discovered in the desert north of Arabia in the middle of the 19th century. Historians and archeologists believe the Medes and Persians dammed up the river that flowed underneath and through the city allowing their soldiers to enter the fortified thought impregnable city.
On the game board for Treasure Trove one of the treasure spaces is titled “Kings and their Kingdoms.”
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What is it that fascinates people about caves? A few weeks ago I saw the adventure movie Sanctum about some cave explorers that were on an extended expedition to Borneo that were spending weeks at a time underground. Heavy rainfall on the surface caused flooding underground and the plot thickens as they are trapped by underground rivers that swell with heavy rainfall. Their way of entrance and hopeful exit is blocked by underground passages gorged with water. Let me paraphrase here, “Oh no, what are we to do? Are we going to die down here? It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s wet, and I want to go home, but how? Maybe we can swim our way out, since we have our scuba equipment; anyone have a better idea? We are all expert scuba divers,….. well……., except for her.” I’ll let you see the movie for yourself to find out what happens. Supposedly the movie is loosely based on a true story. If that is true then the word loosely is getting more stretched all the time.
I choose to see the movie. I felt compelled to. I like adventure movies, and I like documentaries on caves. I also like to scuba dive. I wanted to support Hollywood if they are going to make films such as this. I actually liked the movie, but then again I am a sucker for these type of flicks. I scuba dived through a cave once. It was dark and I was not comfortable doing so. Fortunately, my cave dive was only at a depth of 110 feet and lasted all of ten minutes. Enough for me, I just don’t like diving in situations where I cannot come up if I chose to do so.
I have visited a number of caves open to the public and I always enjoy the experience. The Caverns of Sonora in southwest Texas have the most unique formations I have ever seen. It is a small narrow passage way as the guide takes you on the tour. I sort of like that confined felling, what I think most spelunkers experience. That is about the extent of my desire to be a true cave explorer. Well defined trails with someone guiding me. However, the big one, that is Carlsbad has such large trails that you do not need a guide. I especially enjoy Carlsbad since it has a two mile walk inside the cave as you traverse downward. An elevator brings you back up. It is a great family adventure. Spelunk is a cool word that I do not hear much anymore so I wanted to take the opportunity to use it print. Speaking of cool words, how about Blombos Cave?
My daughter was helping me find interesting places of adventure in Africa to place on the game board of TreasureTrove and when she found out there was a place called Blombos Cave, she insisted we include it in the game. In reality it is an archaeological dig that investigates an early civilization on the southern tip of that continent. It is interesting not only to archaeologists but also anthropologists. The findings seem to indicate that one of the earliest known human settlements was located in Southern Africa. A large stash of utensils and artifacts have created an intriguing site of exploration.
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