DANIEL 5

THE DOOM OF BELSHAZZAR & THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL (5:1-30)

The Babylonian kings that followed him did not heed the spiritual lessons Nebuchadnezzar had learned while king.  Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 B.C. after 43 years as king (605-562 B.C.) and was followed in succession by four kings.  First, his brother-in-law, Neriglissar (560-556), assassinated Evil-Merodach, Nebuchadnezzar’s son (562-560).  His son Labishi-Marduck succeeded him in 556.  Labishi-Marduck was murdered after only 9 months.  Nabonidus, the leader of this revolt, ruled Babylon from 556-539.  Nabonidus was married to one of Nebuchadnezzar’s daughters and appointed their son, Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, to be his co-regent during this time.  In 539 the Babylonian kingdom fell to Cyrus, the king of the Medes and Persians.  It fell on the night Belshazzar saw the handwriting on the wall.  (In other words, what is described in Ch 5, actually did not occur until after Ch 7, toward the end of Daniel’s life.)

 

THE DRUNKEN FEAST

 

Daniel 5:1-31 King Belshazzar (The son of Nabonidus and the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and last Babylonian king.  Date = Oct 12, 539 B.C.) gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them (Wine plays a prominent role in the events that follow in this chapter and is mentioned 5x.  Leaders are warned against drunkenness in Proverbs 31).

 

Proverbs 31:4-7

"It is not for kings, O Lemuel—(not for leaders)

not for kings to drink wine,

not for rulers to crave beer,

[5] lest they drink and forget what the law decrees,

and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.

[6] Give beer to those who are perishing,

wine to those who are in anguish;

[7] let them drink and forget their poverty

and remember their misery no more.

 

2 While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father (grandfather) had taken from the temple in Jerusalem (in 605, 598, 586 B.C.), so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. (Belshazzar would probably never have suggested the blasphemous act of drinking out of the gold and silver goblets from the temple in Jerusalem had he not already had too much to drink.) 3 So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. (The goblets of gold and silver which Belshazzar drank from had been seized more than fifty years earlier when Nebuchadnezzar had first conquered Jerusalem and had taken captive the young Daniel.)   4 As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. (Defaming, snubbing, defaming and blaspheming the God of Israel, as well as praising the false gods of Babylon.  Not smart.  Notice that blasphemy and idolatry generally go together.  Antichrist will both blaspheme and force the worship of his image.)

THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL

 

5 Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared (from nowhere) and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. 6 His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way. (This scared him so badly, he lost control.)  7 The king called out for the enchanters, astrologers and diviners to be brought and said to these wise men of Babylon, (Just like his grandfather had done.) "Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom."

8 Then all the king's wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. (The leader’s failure to read the handwriting on the wall prompted Belshazzar to become even more alarmed.)  9 So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled. 10 The queen, (who was probably Belshazzer’s mother, Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter, or possibly Nebuchadnezzar’s wife, the queen mother) hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. "O king, live forever!" she said. "Don't be alarmed! Don't look so pale! 11 There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father (Nebuchadnezzar) he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar your father--your father the king, I say--appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. 12 This man Daniel (who is now ~80 years old and semi-retired), whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means." (Still counted on to come through when no one else was able.)

DANIEL BROUGHT IN

 

13 So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, "Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? 14 I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. 15 The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. 16 Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom." (Second only to the co-regency of Belshazzar and Nabonidus). 17 Then Daniel answered the king, "You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else.  (Daniel would not be bought, as if it mattered.) Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means. (The mysterious writing was God’s word of judgment on this prideful king.)

A HISTORY REVIEW

 

18 "O king, the Most High God gave your father (actually grandfather) Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. 19 Because of the high position he gave him, all the peoples and nations and men of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. (The first gentile ruler of the Times of the Gentiles.) 20 But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. (See chapter 4 when he went insane for 7 years.)  21 He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like cattle; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes. (See Psalm of Moses Deut 32:8.  God alone gives the nations there inheritance and He sets the inheritance of the peoples.  Israel is the land bridge of the continents, because all the nations of the earth are to be blessed through the nation Israel.)

A LESSON UNLEARNED – BITING WORDS TO BELSHAZZAR

 

22 "But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. (You knew all about these events yet you refuse to humble your heart!)  23 Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

 

THE INTERPRETATION

 

25 "This is the inscription that was written:

mene (Numbered), mene (Numbered), tekel (weighed), parsin (divided)

 

26 "This is what these words mean:  Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. 27 Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. 28 Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." 29 Then at Belshazzar's command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. (The reward was an empty one.)

30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, 31 and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.  (Oct 12, 539 B.C.)

Herodotus, the Greek historian, tells us that during this banquet an amazing series of events was taking place outside the city walls.  The Medes and Persians succeeded in diverting a large portion of the water of the Euphrates River into a nearby lake so that they could enter the city where the river had entered under the walls.  They surprised the defenders of the city, probably largely because their military officers were at the banquet.  But the enemy seized the city with a minimal loss of life.  The king himself was found and executed that very night.  The new monarch, Cyrus' victorious general, named himself Darius the Mede.  He was 62.