Rembrandt – Belshazzar’s feast

Rembrandt, Belshazzar's Feast, 1635, (National Gallery, London). The message is written in vertical lines starting at the top right corner, with "upharsin" taking two lines.

In an age of atheism and apathy, the literature, art and music of religion still holds vast sway over the imagination of us all.

I defy you to find me, even in this dumbed down age, a single individual with even the most basic of cultural awareness who will not have heard the phrase:

“The Writing on the Wall”

Daniel 5.5

“In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.”

And here it is, writ large by none other than Rembrandt:

Rembrandt, Belshazzar's Feast, 1635, (National Gallery, London). The message is written in vertical lines starting at the top right corner, with "upharsin" taking two lines.
Rembrandt, Belshazzar’s Feast, 1635, (National Gallery, London). The message is written in vertical lines starting at the top right corner, with “upharsin” taking two lines.

How extraordinary that our very consciousness is so intricately threaded and woven through by these magnificent old fairy tales and the wonderful English of the King James version of the Bible.

The writing is on the wall: you have been warned. Your behaviour in unacceptable, expect to pay for it. Things are about to change, and for the worse.

Belshazzar’s dad Nebuchadnezzar had been naughty enough and now this deluded Chaldean king was up to the same tricks. Don’t mess with the god of the Israelites: he ought to have learnt his lesson.  The silly fellow had to go and blaspheme and quick as a shot his kingdom was handed over by the wrathful Yahweh to the  Medes and the Persians.

‘Shazzar had decided on a rave for his mates but made the cardinal error of using crockery ripped off from a raid on the Hebrew temple.

Daniel (he who will later face the lions’ den) translates for good king ‘Shazzar:

“God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.  Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”

 

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.