The story is about one of those “mysterious” deaths:
When Babylonian king Belshazzar drinks from cups that were looted from Jerusalem, a hand magically appears and writes the phrase “Mene Tekel” on the wall. The Jewish courtier Daniel (Belteshazzar) interprets it as predicting the end of Belshazzar’s reign, and the king dies that night. . In this case, the spook version of the text was included by 17thcentury painter Rembrandt in his work “Belshazzar’s Feast”.
The painting is Rembrandt’s attempt to establish himself as a painter of history paintings. Why did he chose this particular topic? It seems he lived in the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam, hint, hint. He even got help from a friend and fellow inhabitant of that Jewish Quarter.
[Rembrandt derived the form of Hebrew inscription from a book by his friend, the learned Rabbi and printer, Menasseh ben Israel, yet mistranscribed one of the characters and arranged them in columns, rather than right to left, as Hebrew is written. Specifically, the final character (at the bottom of the leftmost row) is shown as a ז (zayin) instead of a final ן (nun).
So, he got help from a rabbi who was also a publisher and allegedly invented the Hebrew printing press. Yet Rembrandt still failed to write Hebrew in proper rows, and misspelled one letter for another, which isn’t even very similar. Still that letter looks very clean, with all those little serifs. So, it might not be a mistake, but rather the spook version of the text. Let’s see how that spells out (using A for Aleph here, to make it more legible.)
Almost no authors ask what you’d get when you read these lines in a normal way. The few that do claim that “attempting to read the inscription normally, i.e. in horizontal lines right-to- left, produces nonsense”. That is wrong. I couldn’t get a great sentence out of it, but vowel- less Semitic script is so concise that most combinations of letters spell some word or another. In our case, if you read the first line properly, right-to-left, it starts with MMT (ממת), which means “death”, as a prefixed form in Hebrew and apparently unprefixed in Aramaic. The third line, where Rembrandt changed the last letter from N to Z, now ends with RZ (רז), Aramaic for “secret”. So, these words even fit the context. Is there a “secret” about the king’s “death”?
The middle line spells NQP (נקף) which means “follow, adhere to” or “completing a cycle”. Must the king adhere to some principle, or complete a cycle?
Having read Miles’ research, I would have guessed he “secretly” faked his “death” after completing his “cycle” as an actor. To confirm this, I tried to find word breaks that match the letters up with Aramaic vocabulary, which is very similar to Hebrew. I also changed one additional letter: Rembrandt used almost-closed, seemingly sofit Ms. Why? Perhaps it was to match the leftmost Samekh in the first row, which looks edgy at the lower corners, again almost like a sofit M. Other people have noticed this before. I replaced it with another M. We then have a sentence, sort of.
[die] [he who] [complete cycle] [O] [lord] [secret]MMT WMN NQP YA AL RZממתומןנקףיאאלרז
So, the secret sentence could read like “Die must he who completed the cycle, O secret lord.” We can get some confirmation that at least the last word is correct though. The last row ends in AL-RZ, which spells out El-Raz, a “secret lord” or “God of Mystery”. There’s a Hebrew name Elraz, which has exactly this meaning and is fairly common in Israel, yet doesn’t seem to occur in Bible or Talmud. People who look like spooks use it as well: An Israeli chemicals “businessman” named Hanan Elraz invented a herbal treatment for cancer patients that theHealth Ministry warned against, and an anti-pollutant for a Guatemalan lake which made the pollution worse. A former Israeli intelligence officer Jean Elraz allegedly joined Arab terrorists and murdered a kibbutz security officer to steal 60 guns and sell them to Palestine authorities. Why would he do that? No reason, he’s simply one of those crazy “psychopaths” who serve in the security forces. And of course, those people “disappear” in Israeli jails“under a false name”, and “no one knows where they are”. Well, I don’t know where that guy is either, but likely not in jail: It looks like another case of fake terror and fake prison terms.
So Aramaic words can be formed out of Rembrandt’s three lines, and the fact that no one discusses this is suspicious in itself. I’d say the fact that he changed N to Z is more evidence that the spooks have some special version of the Bible with all silly puns of their ancestors intact. The Z doesn’t appear to be a mistake. If substitutions like that are allowed to make some pun or secret message work, then nearly everything is allowed, and the spook version of the Bible could be very different from ours.
I don’t think that Belshazzar’s story literally happened, neither the official nor the spook one. In any case, if my answer is somewhat close, then Belshazzar had to “die” not as punishment, but because some cycle had been completed, perhaps that of the Babylonian empire, which had been marked for mop-up by some overlord committee. Did Belshazzar die, or did he just fake it? I suppose the latter, as this riddle message doesn’t seem to be a grand or terrible secret, but simply yet another spook joke of sorts. We can analyze that out of Rembrandt’s painting. First look at Belshazzar’s face. Many analysts attest an expression of horror and guilt. I see nothing of the sort. he looks merely dumbfounded. The same goes for the 2 people at the table. Real horror looks different.
The woman seems to be Rembrandt’s wife Saskia van Uylenburgh who is also used in his Samson painting. The models for the old guy with the Rabbi-like beard, and Belshazzar himself, might also be friends of Rembrandt. There’s nothing wrong with including your friends in a painting. But the mood that Rembrandt sets with his models here is definitely not one that inspires great reverence for religion or history.
There’s even a more obvious joke here. Look at Belshazzar’s ear: he’s wearing a moon- shaped earring. But it’s not a mythical-symbolic crescent, but a funny moon face with a thick nose, like a baby crib mobile. How’s that for setting a mysterious, terrifying mood? It’s not on all images of the painting, so it might be a later joke, but a spook joke nonetheless.
And while I couldn’t construct a Nazir phrase out of the three lines, I think we still have a Nazir clue in the painting. Look at Belshazzar’s giant turban, with the tiny crown sitting askew on top. That looks silly as well. But we may have more insider references here. The ancient Levites were decreed to wear a turban with a crown (EX 29:6, LEV 8:9), nezer (נזר) in Hebrew, same as a vowel-less Nazir.
So, what really happened? Was Belshazzar killed according to the prophecy, or as part of a conspiracy? Just like before, it seems even the spook version doesn’t chime with real history, where we have hints for a manufactured war again. The historical Belshazzar governed Babylonia, but never as king, only as crown prince in the absence of his father Nabonidus, who for some reason spent the 10 years of 553–543 BC in Arabia. It’s even unclear how the two were related: Belshazzar is described as a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, but Nabonidus asnot being Nebuchadnezzar’s son. Nabonidus claims to be of “of unimportant origins”, and his mother “does not mention her family background”.
The Book of Daniel seems to conflate Nabonidus with Nebuchadnezzar, and explains his absence as soul-cleansing in the wilderness. However, the place where the historical Nabonidus stayed for 10 years wasn’t wilderness. It was Tayma, a wealthy merchant city lying on an ancient trade route, identified to be Biblical Tema. It later became “a principally Jewish settlement”, and it’s unclear whether those Jews were even exiles. What did Nabonidus do there for 10 years? There’s no explanation.
Then, just 4 years after he had returned, king Cyrus of Persia suddenly “entered Babylon without a battle” in 539 BC. After that non-battle, “Nabonidus was captured and his life apparently spared”, as usual. The fate of Belshazzar is not known. The Persians then took over the entire Neo-Babylonian empire and regions beyond. But for some reason, Cyrus did not conquer North Arabia and Tayma, even though that region had indeed been a part of the Neo- Babylonian empire of Nabonidus.
It’s not hard to guess what happened here: The top merchant families were carving up and reshuffling their properties for a new hoaxing cycle, and Nabonid was preparing his retirement hangout, and perhaps his clan’s next enterprise. The official accounts from all sides, and any message on the wall about a real death, are merely the usual inside jokes.
Left the Babylonian Empire, with Tayma (lower left).
Right the subsequent Persian Empire, without Tayma and the surrounding region.
Okay, we’re done for today. What do we get out of all this? We learned that the maintenance of their family trees might have been a prime occupation for the top families even in antiquity. That’s not new. But we also learned that it was apparently something of a religion to them, and an international phenomenon with shared symbolism, which they don’t like to admit. That was new to me. We saw that rulers and their succession were apparently decided from above even in ancient times. And we got a very long text, where the narrator is a king and repeats over and over again that he cannot change anything. I had not expected that either.
Most disturbingly, we encountered much evidence that wars were managed in ancient times as they are now. Presumably this was done by those people who had combined their family trees,
and who also appointed the kings. As usual, it appears these wars were less bloody than officially stated, as with the Persian armies entering without a battle.
I invite you to the dramatic climax in our next installment, where I’ll link Ancient Israel to Ancient Spookia. Have you guessed it yet? In case you like riddles: The word “pun” itself is a clue…