Daniel Chapter 5
The Writing on the Wall
5:1 King Belshazzar prepared a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in front of them all. 5:2 While under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar issued an order to bring in the gold and silver vessels — the ones that Nebuchadnezzar his father had confiscated from the temple in Jerusalem — so that the king and his nobles, together with his wives and his concubines, could drink from them. 5:3 So they brought the gold and silver vessels that had been confiscated from the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, together with his wives and concubines, drank from them. 5:4 As they drank wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
King Belshazzar was actually Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson. The word “father” in verse 2 can also be translated Ancestor. Grandfather wasn’t a word in their language. It’s clear from extra-biblical records that Nabonidus, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, was King during this time period and he was Belshazzar’s father. King Nabonidus was however out of the kingdom for long periods of time making his son Belshazzar the de-facto King. When you read in verses 1–4 what King Belshazzar did, what goes through your mind? Let’s start with too much wine and wanting to show off leads one to do stupid things. He takes the sacred vessels made of silver and gold, which were stolen from the Temple of God in Jerusalem, and uses them for his party. Then to make matters worse, while drinking from them, they praise their gods of created things. Talk about testing God! When drinking and showing off, you very well may make really bad decisions. We’ll see how this turns out.
5:5 At that very moment the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the royal palace wall, opposite the lampstand. The king was watching the back of the hand that was writing. 5:6 Then all the color drained from the king’s face and he became alarmed. The joints of his hips gave way, and his knees began knocking together. 5:7 The king called out loudly to summon the astrologers, wise men, and diviners. The king proclaimed to the wise men of Babylon that anyone who could read this inscription and disclose its interpretation would be clothed in purple and have a golden collar placed on his neck and be third ruler in the kingdom. 5:8 So all the king’s wise men came in, but they were unable to read the writing or to make known its interpretation to the king.5:9 Then King Belshazzar was very terrified, and he was visibly shaken. His nobles were completely dumbfounded.
Similar to King Nebuchadnezzar, King Belshazzar receives a message from God. Nebuchadnezzar got his in dreams, Belshazzar gets the writing on the wall. I’m guessing you could hear a pin drop in that room when the hand was writing on the wall. Can you image the look on the King’s face as described? Funny the bible says even his knees were knocking! When the hand that was doing the writing goes away, he starts yelling for people to come and interpret what the hand wrote… the writing on the wall. Terrifying things can happen when we do dumb things. The bible says “Fear God”. That goes against our grain sometimes, but it’s certainly good advise. He created everything, and everything is under his control. He loves us and we love him, and we should have reverential fear for the Sovereign God of the universe. It helps to prevent us from doing some unwise things we might otherwise do.
5:10 Due to the noise caused by the king and his nobles, the queen mother then entered the banquet room. She said, “O king, live forever! Don’t be alarmed! Don’t be shaken! 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom who has within him a spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, he proved to have insight, discernment, and wisdom like that of the gods.King Nebuchadnezzar your father appointed him chief of the magicians, astrologers, wise men, and diviners.5:12 Thus there was found in this man Daniel, whom the king renamed Belteshazzar, an extraordinary spirit, knowledge, and skill to interpret dreams, solve riddles, and decipher knotty problems. Now summon Daniel, and he will disclose the interpretation.”
5:13 So Daniel was brought in before the king. The king said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives of Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? 5:14 I have heard about you, how there is a spirit of the gods in you, and how you have insight, discernment, and extraordinary wisdom. 5:15 Now the wise men and astrologers were brought before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation. But they were unable to disclose the interpretation of the message. 5:16 However, I have heard that you are able to provide interpretations and to decipher knotty problems. Now if you are able to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, you will wear purple and have a golden collar around your neck and be third ruler in the kingdom.”
The queen mother in verse 10 was likely either Belshazzar’s mother or maybe even Nebuchadnezzar’s surviving wife. The King was desperate for answers, so he was willing to make anybody royalty who could read the writing on the wall. Time and time again in the book of Daniel we see that the wisdom of the world is unable to solve major problems. Devine revelation comes from the prophet of God. But notice, the world is rarely willing to even seek help from God. Don’t we see the same today in the majority of people who represent us in government? Sure they invoke God’s name if it may help to get them votes, but their policies often don’t represent Godly decisions.
5:17 But Daniel replied to the king, “Keep your gifts, and give your rewards to someone else! However, I will read the writing for the king and make known its interpretation. 5:18 As for you, O king, the most high God bestowed on your father Nebuchadnezzar a kingdom, greatness, honor, and majesty. 5:19 Due to the greatness that he bestowed on him, all peoples, nations, and language groups were trembling with fear before him. He killed whom he wished, he spared whom he wished, he exalted whom he wished, and he brought low whom he wished. 5:20 And when his mind became arrogant and his spirit filled with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and his honor was removed from him. 5:21 He was driven from human society, his mind was changed to that of an animal, he lived with the wild donkeys, he was fed grass like oxen, and his body became damp with the dew of the sky, until he came to understand that the most high God rules over human kingdoms, and he appoints over them whomever he wishes.
5:22 “But you, his son Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, although you knew all this. 5:23 Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. You brought before you the vessels from his temple, and you and your nobles, together with your wives and concubines, drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone — gods that cannot see or hear or comprehend! But you have not glorified the God who has in his control your very breath and all your ways! 5:24 Therefore the palm of a hand was sent from him, and this writing was inscribed.
Before the King could get the interpretation, he had to hear a little sermon from Daniel, and it was a good one. Daniel wasn’t interested in gifts because that is not why he was revealing the message and it would not influence how he revealed the message on the wall. Daniel explained that the King had exalted himself rather than to humble himself before God. Humility doesn’t come easy for human beings does it? Exalting ourselves seems to come much easier. Just about every time we read the bible, we are reminded of our sinful nature and we can see why Jesus had to come and die for our sins. This increases the joy in our hope that one day we will be released from not only the power of evil, but also even the presence of evil, once we arrive in our eternal home, Heaven. That will be joy! Until then, we struggle to be humble and not to think too highly of ourselves.
5:25 “This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEQEL, and PHARSIN. 5:26 This is the interpretation of the words: As for mene — God has numbered your kingdom’s days and brought it to an end. 5:27 As for teqel — you are weighed on the balances and found to be lacking. 5:28 As for peres — your kingdom is divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”5:29 Then, on Belshazzar’s orders, Daniel was clothed in purple, a golden collar was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed third ruler in the kingdom. 5:30 And in that very night Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, was killed. 5:31 So Darius the Mede took control of the kingdom when he was about sixty-two years old.
That night, King Darius, King of the Medes and Persians, invaded and conquered Babylon. King Belshazzar was killed. There are 4 or 5 ancient historian accounts of this taking place that remain to this present day. Interestingly this account doesn’t seem to show King Belshazzar as a really bad leader. He doesn’t seem to have been a Hitler. His kingdom was probably as strong and secure as human hands and ingenuity could make it. Yet according to history much of it fell in just 2 days. Countries in our time face the same dilemma. Major world powers like ours have huge militaries, stock piles of weapons, yet confidence in security in and of itself is misdirected. God provides the hedge of protection. At the End Times, which the bible calls The Day of the Lord, the powers of this world will turn against Jesus upon his return, however they won’t prevail. Our hope can’t be in our government, it must ultimately be in God. I think if America continues to be the garden spot of the world that it has been blessed by God to be, it will be because the church stays focused on worshipping God above all else. We Christians must be aliens in this world, in that our hope is in God, not man, not man made things, not technology, not diplomacy, not military, not in our jobs or our ability. Our only hope is in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Please help us Lord to be humble and guard us against self-pride. When reading the bible, and seeing our society today, what “writing on the wall” do you see for us to consider?