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Image of 'Belshazzar’s Feast’ by Rembrandt, about 1635.

‘Belshazzar’s Feast’ by Rembrandt, about 1635

The story in this painting comes from the Old Testament Book of Daniel. Belshazzar, the King of Babylon, held a great feast at his palace for his nobles. At the feast, he commanded that the gold and silver vessels that his father, Nebuchadnezzer, had stolen from the Temple in Jerusalem, should be used to drink wine from. Belshazzar and his guests drank from the sacred vessels, and this was blasphemous.

Rembrandt shows us the next scene, in which a mysterious divine hand appears and writes on the wall. Nobody could read the writing except Daniel, the seer. The inscription said: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN, which means 'God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; your kingdom is given to the Medes and Persians.' That very night Belshazzar was slain.

© The National Gallery, London

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