mene mene tekel parsins

Hand on a Wall

mene mene Rembrandt-Belsazar

logoDo 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.  gutenberg-bible-book-of-danielA 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.

BelshazzerThe 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.”

To learn more about the game go to www.TreasureTroveGame.com  boxtop