A Vision of Horror

Next in line was “the wilderness by the sea,” so named because Babylon, a “terrible land,” was now barren, with nothing of worth to offer, and would now be savaged.

A stern vision is told to me;
    the betrayer betrays,
    and the destroyer destroys.

Isaiah 21:2 (NRSV)

What God revealed to Isaiah was so horrifying it caused the prophet intense physical pain.

Therefore my loins are filled with anguish;
    pangs have seized me
    like the pangs of a woman in labor;
I am bowed down so that I cannot hear;
    I am dismayed so that I cannot see.
My mind reels; horror has appalled me;
    the twilight I longed for
    has been turned for me into trembling.

Isaiah 21:3-4 (NRSV)
Engraving of Isaiah’s vision concerning the destruction of Babylon by Gustave Doré

Isaiah had a dire vision of what was going to happen. No one would be there to help them, and in turn, the Babylonians had themselves no regard for what was coming.

They prepare the table;
    they spread the rugs;
    they eat; they drink.

Isaiah 21:5 (NRSV)

Belshazzar’s Ruin

Isaiah described briefly in prophecy what Daniel described at length as history—the fulfillment of what Isaiah had predicted.

Map of the Neo-Babylonian Empire at its greatest territorial extent, under its final king, Nabonidus | By IchthyovenatorSémhur (base map) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Here is an excerpt from Daniel’s account:

Then Daniel answered in the presence of the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else! Nevertheless I will read the writing to the king and let him know the interpretation. 

[Babylon’s rise to greatness]

“As for you, O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar kingship, greatness, glory, and majesty. And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. He killed those he wanted to kill, kept alive those he wanted to keep alive, honored those he wanted to honor, and degraded those he wanted to degrade. 

[God’s warning to the proud through Nebuchadnezzar]

“But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he acted proudly, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and his glory was stripped from him.  He was driven from human society, and his mind was made like that of an animal. His dwelling was with the wild asses, he was fed grass like oxen, and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, until he learned that the Most High God has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals and sets over it whomever he will. 

[Belshazzar’s fatal foolishness and offense against God]

“And you, Belshazzar his son, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this!

  • You have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven!
  • The vessels of his temple have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have been drinking wine from them.
  • You have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know,
  • but the God in whose power is your very breath and to whom belong all your ways, you have not honored.

[The Handwriting of God]

“So from his presence the hand was sent and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: mene, tekel, and parsin. 

“This is the interpretation of the matter: 

  • mene: God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 
  • tekel: you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; 
  • peres: your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed in purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made concerning him that he should rank third in the kingdom.

That very night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was killed. 

And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Daniel 5:17-31 (NRSV, brackets, bullets, and emphases mine)
V0034440 The fall of Babylon; Cyrus the Great defeating the Chaldean Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images The fall of Babylon; Cyrus the Great defeating the Chaldean army. Mezzotint by J. Martin, 1831, after himself, 1819. 1819-1831 By: John Martin Published: – Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Historical Evidence

Nabonidus Chronicle (from 556-539 BCE)

The Nabonidus Chronicle is an ancient Babylonian cuneiform clay tablet, dating from that time period and describing the conquest of Babylon, attributing victory to Cyrus the Great.

The Nabonidus Chronicle | By ChrisO (Own work), CC BY-SA 3.0

Cyrus Cylinder (539 BCE)

The Cyrus Cylinder is an ancient clay cylinder written in Akkadian cuneiform, and dating from the same time period – sixth century BCE – proclaiming Cyrus the Great as liberator of Babylon.

Herodotus (c.480-c.429 BCE)

Herodotus, in his Capture of Babylon, described Darius’s victory, writing that Darius

… destroyed [Babylon’s] defenses, pulled down all the city gates, and impaled the leading citizens to the number of about three thousand. The rest he allowed to remain in their homes. 

Herodotus, Capture of Babylon, Livius.org

There has been some question about the name “Darius.” Who was he? The following options come from “Evidence Unseen.”

“Darius” Is a Title

  • According to scholar Gleason Archer, “the title of Dār eyāwēš, apparently meant ‘The Royal One,’ from dara (which is attested in Avestan Persian as a term for ‘king’).”[1]
  • The title “Darius” was given to Gubaru, an historically established governor of Babylonia and Ebir-nari (Chaldean province) during the reign of Cyrus the Great.
  • Daniel’s wording, that Darius the Mede “received the kingdom,” using a passive voice, indicates Darius did not conquer, but instead was given governorship by someone of higher authority.
  • It is known Gubaru installed satraps in the same way Daniel described Darius doing.

“Darius” Is Cyrus

  • According to scholar Stephen Miller, “Cyrus’s age would conform to known historical data. Bulman points out that Cicero reported Cyrus’s age as seventy when he died and that the cuneiform texts relate that Cyrus reigned nine years after he conquered Babylon. Thus in 539 B.C. Cyrus would have been about sixty-two years of age, the figure given by the writer of Daniel (cf. 5:31).”[2]
  • According to scholar Joyce Baldwin, “Whereas there is no evidence that Gubaru was a Mede, called king, named Darius, a son of Ahasuerus, or aged about sixty, Cyrus is known to have been related to the Medes, to have been called ‘king of the Medes’ and to have been about sixty years old on becoming king of Babylon.”[3]
Map of the path of Cyrus the Great, during his 539 BC invasion of Babylonia | By ChrisO – Derived from Image: Hammurabi’s Babylonia 1.svg, Public Domain,

Babylon is Fallen

Babylon had placed their hope in the wrong gods, which ultimately failed them when they least expected it. They had wrongfully presumed their power would last indefinitely, their ascendancy would become fixed, and all the nations of earth would serve them forever.

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon,
and all the images of her gods
    lie shattered on the ground.”

Isaiah 21:9 (NRSV)

An Oracle Against Dumah

After Babylon came Dumah and Seir, both names for Edom, which had been founded by Jacob’s brother Esau. Isaiah, the watchman, used the metaphor of night as the battle, morning as peace. He predicted that the Assyrian war was going to be soon done, but Babylon was coming. He urged the Edomites to come inquire of the Lord, “Inquire, return, come.” 

A brief morning would arrive soon, that was their opportunity to come to the Lord. 

But they never did. 

After Babylon came the Persians, then Rome and after 70 CE, Edom was wiped off the planet.

V0049424 Encampment in the desert, with Mount Seir in the distance, W Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Encampment in the desert, with Mount Seir in the distance, Wady Arabah. Coloured lithograph by Louis Haghe after David Roberts, 1849. 1849 By: David Robertsafter: Louis HaghePublished: 1849] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

An Oracle Against Dedan

Last Isaiah saw Arabian merchants from Dedan leaving the trade route and hiding in the bushes because of the invading Assyrian army. People from the town of Tema brought these fugitives food and water, but they finally had to flee from their hiding place. 

Within a year the wealthy Arabian tribes would be gone. Their simple weapons would be no match for the military superiority of those who came against them. There would be few survivors.

Historical Map of Arabia (1850) | By John Rapkin – World Digital Library [1], Public Domain,

[1] Archer, G. L., Jr. (1986). Daniel. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel and the Minor Prophets (Vol. 7, p. 18). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel: New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1994), 176.

[3] Baldwin, J. G. (1978). Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 23, p. 30). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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