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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

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Me´ne, Me´ne, Te´kel, Uphar´sin, the inscription supernaturally written 'upon the plaster of the wall' in Belshazzar's palace at Babylon (), which 'the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers' could neither read nor interpret, but which Daniel first read, and then interpreted. Yet the words, as they are found in Daniel, are pure Chaldee, and if they appeared in the Chaldee character, could have been read, at least, by any person present on the occasion who understood the alphabet of his own language. To account for their inability to decipher this inscription, it has been supposed that it consisted of those Chaldee words written in another character. Dr. Hales thinks that it may have been written in the primitive Hebrew character, from which the Samaritan was formed, and that, in order to show on this occasion that the writer of the inscription was the offended God of Israel, whose authority was being at that moment peculiarly despised (), he adopted his own sacred character, in which he had originally written the Decalogue, which Daniel could understand, though it would be unknown to the wise men of Babylon. This theory has the recommendation, that it involves as little as possible of miraculous agency. It has been supposed by some, that 'the wise men' were not so much at fault to read the inscription, as to explain its meaning; and certainly it is said throughout our narrative that 'the wise men could not read the writing, nor make known the interpretation of it,' phrases which would seem to mean one and the same thing; since, if they mean different things, the order of ideas would be that they could not interpret nor even read it, and Wintle accordingly translates, 'could not read so as to interpret it' (Improved Version of Daniel, London 1807). At all events the meaning of the inscription by itself would be extremely enigmatical and obscure. To determine the application, and to give the full sense, of an isolated device which amounted to no more than 'he or it is numbered, he or it is numbered, he or it is weighed, they are divided,' must surely have required a supernatural endowment on the part of Daniel a conclusion which is confirmed by the exact coincidence of the event with the prediction, which he propounded with so much fortitude ().





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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