Daniel Five
Who Was Belshazzer?

(Ulrike Unruh)

Who is Belshazzar?
Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. (See Jer. 27:7)


According to Josephus, c.Ap.I.20, who was quoting from Berosus, it indicates that Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded in the kingdom by his son Evilmerodach, who reigned badly for two years and was put to death by Neriglissor, the husband of his sister, who then reigned for four years. Neriglissor’s son Laborosoarchod, reigned after his father for nine months, but was murdered. His murderers elevated Nabonnedus, one of the conspirators, to the throne. In Nabonnedus’ seventeenth year Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians, but Nabonnedus was not killed in Babylon, he had fortified himself in Borsippa, which Cyrus also conquered and sent Nabonnedus to Carmania where he lived out the rest of his life.

According to this and other reports there were four kings after Nebuchadnezzar
-- his son, Evilmerodach,
--his son-in-law, Neriglissor,
--his grandson (daughter’s son) Laborosoarchod,
--and the last king who, to all appearances was not related to Nebuchadnezzar, namely Nabonnedus who was not put to death by Cyrus at the fall of Babylon.

With these facts in view, historians and critics cast great doubt on this story found in Daniel, as there seemed to be no historical evidence of a king Belshazzar, a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar, who perished in the Babylonian take-over.

However, in the 20th century archaeologists found a cuneiform table, called the "Persian Verse Account of Nabonidus". Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus. After ruling Babylon for three years (553 B.C.), Nabonidus departed the great city and spent ten years in Tema in Arabia, during this time Nabonidus appointed Belshazzar as the ruler of Babylon. Significantly, when the Persians conquered Babylon, Nabonidus was not there, but Belshazzar was!

Yet, this still does not link Belshazzar to Nebuchadnezzar-- at least not through his father.


Several commentators believe the “queen mother” which appears in Daniel 5 is Nitocris. Who is Nitocris? She is actually quite a famous daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and most likely the mother of Belshazzar.

Herodotus: From The History of the Persian Wars

I.185 Nitocris, a wiser princess than her predecessor, not only left behind her, as memorials of her occupancy of the throne, the works which I shall presently describe, but also, observing the great power and restless enterprise of the Medes, who had taken so large a number of cities, and among them Nineveh, and expecting to be attacked in her turn, made all possible exertions to increase the defenses of her empire. And first, whereas the river Euphrates, which traverses the city, ran formerly with a straight course to Babylon, she, by certain excavations which she made at some distance up the stream, rendered it so winding that it comes three several times in sight of the same village, a village in Assyria, which is called Ardericea; and to this day, they who would go from our sea to Babylon, on descending to the river touch three times, and on three different days, at this very place.

She also made an embankment along each side of the Euphrates, wonderful both for breadth and height, and dug a basin for a lake a great way above Babylon, close alongside of the stream, which was sunk everywhere to the point where they came to water, and was of such breadth that the whole circuit measured four hundred and twenty furlongs. The soil dug out of this basin was made use of in the embankments along the waterside. When the excavation was finished, she had stones brought, and bordered with them the entire margin of the reservoir. These two things were done, the river made to wind, and the lake excavated, that the stream might be slacker by reason of the number of curves, and the voyage be rendered circuitous, and that at the end of the voyage it might be necessary to skirt the lake and so make a long round. All these works were on that side of Babylon where the passes lay, and the roads into Media were the straightest, and the aim of the queen in making them was to prevent the Medes from holding intercourse with the Babylonians, and so to keep them in ignorance of her affairs.

I.186: While the soil from the excavation was being thus used for the defense of the city, Nitocris engaged also in another undertaking, a mere by-work compared with those we have already mentioned. The city, as I said, was divided by the river into two distinct portions. Under the former kings, if a man wanted to pass from one of these divisions to the other, he had to cross in a boat; which must, it seems to me, have been very troublesome. Accordingly, while she was digging the lake, Nitocris be. thought herself of turning it to a use which should at once remove this inconvenience, and enable her to leave another monument of her reign over Babylon. She gave orders for the hewing of immense blocks of stone, and when they were ready and the basin was excavated, she turned the entire stream of the Euphrates into the cutting, and thus for a time, while the basin was filling, the natural channel of the river was left dry. Forthwith she set to work, and in the first place lined the banks of the stream within the city with quays of burnt brick, and also bricked the landing-places opposite the river-gates, adopting throughout the same fashion of brickwork which had been used in the town wall; after which, with the materials which had been prepared, she built, as near the middle of the town as possible, a stone bridge, the blocks whereof were bound together with iron and lead. In the daytime square wooden platforms were laid along from pier to pier, on which the inhabitants crossed the stream; but at night they were withdrawn, to prevent people passing from side to side in the dark to commit robberies. When the river had filled the cutting, and the bridge was finished, the Euphrates was turned back again into its ancient bed; and thus the basin, transformed suddenly into a lake, was seen to answer the purpose for which it was made, and the inhabitants, by help of the basin, obtained the advantage of a bridge.

I.188: The expedition of Cyrus was undertaken against the son of this princess, who bore the same name as his father Labynetus, (Nebonitius) and was king

According to Herodotus, Nitocris completed many of the works started by Nebuchadnezzar . She was credited with great wisdom and she was chief of public affairs, occupying the throne. She fortified the city as the Medes and Persians were advancing, and her son was on the throne when Cyrus ordered the taking of Babylon!

From the story found in Daniel 5, we know she was well acquainted with Nebuchadnezzar, and that she obviously could walk in to the king without being invited and tell the king what to do.

The Bible simply calls her “the queen” Daniel five also speaks of Belshazzar’s wives being at the party, but this woman exhibited authority that distinctly set her apart as "the queen".


So let‘s see if these pieces can come together-- we know Neriglissor was married to Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter.

Then in an entry in Easton’s bible dictionary on Belshazzar we find Belshazzar is the son of Nabonadius by Nitocris widow of Nergal-Sharezer (Neriglissor).

Nebuchadnezzar dies, his son Evil-Merodach comes to the throne. Nitocris’s (Nebuchadnezzar daughter)marries Neriglissor. Her husband, Neriglissor usurps the throne using his wife to establish legitimacy. Since Nitocris was such a high profile princess, the people would have known her, and accepted her. But then her husband, Neriglissor, dies and is replaced by their son. There is an uprising and apparently this son is killed.

Nitocris swings into action and marries the aspiring Nabonidius, securing her position and giving him a legitimate claim to the throne.

But now is it possible that Belshazzar was an adopted son of Nabonidus? a son of queen Nitocris from her previous marriage? After all Nabonidius only reigned 17 years, which is not a long enough time to produce a son old enough to take over the reign of Babylon after the third year and oversee Babylon for at least 10 of those years.

Why was the king away from Babylon so much? Could there have been an arrangement made between him and Nitocris which included giving her the reign of Babylon through her son Belshazzar? It is almost as if Nabonidius took the rest of the empire but left the reign of the capital of Babylon itself for the queen and her son.

It is also most interesting that Herodutus credits Nitocis with building fortifications which the historian Berosus credits to Nabonidius.

The above probability fit’s the story of Daniel. The queen would have been an extremely important figure, well acquainted with her father, King Nebuchadnezzar, and the main consistent center of power in the years following him. It would explain why she could walk in and tell the king what to do. It would also explain how Daniel was in one sense still considered an advisor in the kingdom (the queen wanted it so) but almost forgotten by the king.

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