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Clay cylinder containing the name Belshazzar

Did You Know?

Did You Know?

How does archaeology confirm the role of Belshazzar of Babylon?

FOR many years, Bible critics claimed that King Belshazzar, who is mentioned in the book of Daniel, never existed. (Dan. 5:1) They held that view because archaeologists could find no evidence that he had actually lived. However, that changed in 1854. Why?

In that year, a British consul named J. G. Taylor explored some ruins in the ancient city of Ur, in what is now southern Iraq. There, located in a large tower, the explorer found several clay cylinders. The cylinders, each about four inches (10 cm) long, are engraved with cuneiform writing. The writing on one of the cylinders includes a prayer for the long life of Babylonian King Nabonidus and his oldest son, Belshazzar. Even critics had to agree: This finding proves that Belshazzar did exist.

However, the Bible states not only that Belshazzar existed but also that he was a king. Again, critics were skeptical. For example, the 19th-century English scientist William Talbot wrote that some state that “Bel-sar-ussur [Belshazzar] was co-regent with Nabonidus his father. But of this there is not the slightest evidence.”

That controversy was settled, however, when the writings on other clay cylinders revealed that Belshazzar’s father, King Nabonidus, was away from the capital city for years at a time. What happened during his absence? “When Nabonidus went into exile,” states the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “he entrusted Belshazzar with the throne and the major part of his army.” So Belshazzar served, in effect, as a coruler in Babylon during that time. Thus, archaeologist and language scholar Alan Millard stated that it was appropriate for “the Book of Daniel to call Belshazzar ‘king.’”

Of course, for God’s servants, the principal evidence that the book of Daniel is trustworthy and inspired by God is found within the Bible itself.​—2 Tim. 3:16.