The last days of Babylon are depicted in the Bible with the story of King Belshazzar’s feast in Daniel 5, in which Daniel interprets a vision for the king. In gratitude, Belshazzar “gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom” (Daniel 5:29).
Why third ruler? The story of Joseph offers a parallel in some respects. In Genesis 41, after Joseph successfully interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams he was made second ruler (after Pharaoh). Interestingly, the text of the Cyrus Cylinder claims that King Nabonidus put his first-born son (Belshazzar) in charge of Babylon as regent. This information (not indicated in the Bible text) provides us with a simple explanation for why Daniel is offered third place by Belshazzar (who is never described as “king” in the cylinder). If Belshazzar himself is second ruler, his right-hand man would be the third ruler.