Sunday Night Bible Study

June 18, 1995

Daniel 5:1-31


I think it's important to keep in mind certain things that have happened to Daniel and his friends in the stay in Babylon.

Daniel 1 - Daniel and his friends take a stand and refuse to eat food that might hinder their relationship with God.

Daniel 2 - Nebuchadnezzar has a dream about a huge idol, of various metals.  Daniel is given the interpretation of the dream, that Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold, followed by various world empires.

Daniel 3 - Nebuchadnezzar doesn't want to be succeeded by another empire, so he builds a huge golden idol, demanding all to bow down to it.  Daniel's three friends refuse to worship anything other than Yahweh, and are thrown into the fiery furnace.  Nebuchadnezzar gets another demonstration of God's great power.

Daniel 4 - Nebuchadnezzar is finally humbled by having gone insane and acting like a cow for seven years.  He comes to his senses and asks God's help, and is restored to his throne, also getting saved at the same time.

:1-4  Belshazzar's feast

:1  Belshazzar the king

His name sounds like Daniel's Babylonian name, Belteshazzar

They are very similar, but still different.

Belsha'tstsar (Aramaic) {bale-shats-tsar'}

Belshazzar = "Bel protect the king"

[email protected]'tstsar {bale-tesh-ats-tsar'}

Belteshazzar = "lord of the straitened's treasure"

History of transition between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar

Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 b.c., after reigning for 43 years.

Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son Evil-Merodach who ruled for two years (562 -560 b.c., 2Ki.25:27-30)

»2Kings 25:27-AV And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the seven and twentieth [day] of the month, [that] Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the year that he began to reign did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison;

Evil-Merodach was murdered in August 560 by Neriglissar, Nechadnezzar's son-in-law, and Evil-Merodach's own brother-in-law.

Neriglissar then ruled four years (560-556 b.c.)

He is also called Nergal-Sharezer

»Jeremiah 39:3-AV And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, [even] Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.

At his death, he was succeeded by his young son Labashi-Marduk, who ruled only two months (May and June 556) before he was assassinated and succeeded by Nabonidus

Nabonidus was another son-in-law to Nebuchadnezzar, having married Nebuchadnezzar's daughter Nitrocris.

Nabonidus ruled for 17 years (556-539 b.c.).

Nabonidus did much to restore the glory that Babylon had achieved under Nebuchadnezzar, and to restore and expand the Babylonian religions.

His mother was the high priestess of the moon god at Haran.

Nebuchadnezzar had made Babylon stray toward worshipping Yahweh.

Nabonidus was absent from Babylon for 10 of his 17 years, going about conquering new lands, and building pagan temples.

While he was gone, he had his eldest son, Belshazzar appointed as a "co-regent", to rule with equal authority, from Babylon.

So, Belshazzar, though king, is the son and co-regent of the head king, Nabonidus.

The current year is 539 b.c., almost 70 years since the events of Daniel 1.

:1  made a great feast

At the time that Belshazzar is holding this feast, things are happening outside the city walls.

The city of Babylon has been under seige by the Persian army of Cyrus, led by Ugbaru, the governor of Gutium.

Though the seige had been going on for some time, the Babylonians weren't worried.

The city of Babylon

It was fourteen miles square, surrounded by a first batch of outer walls that were 87 feet thick, and 350 feet high, with 100 great bronze gates in the walls.

The walls were thick enough, that chariots four abreast were driven around the tops of the walls.

A system of inner and outer walls with a water moat between the walls made it very secure.

The river Euphrates ran through the center of the city, from north to south, through great brass gates.

The city was so large, that it had it's own internal farms, and with the river Euphrates, it was thought that Babylon could survive a seige of 20 years without a sweat.

By the way, the warrior dad, Nabonidus had already gone out to fight the Persian army a while back, and was defeated.

The Persian army to this point had captured all the surrounding areas, except for the city of Babylon.

In the face of this threat, Belshazzar holds a feast, to laugh in the face of the threatening forces.

:1  a thousand of his lords

A really big party

Excavations in Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar's palace have discovered a large throne room 56 feet wide, 173 feet long, big enough to hold this kind of a party.

Midway in the long wall opposite the entrance there was a niche in front of which the king may well have been seated.  Interestingly, the wall behind the niche was covered with white plaster, making it a great place to write on the wall.

:2  the gold and silver vessels ... might drink therein

Apparently up to this time the vessels of gold and silver taken from the temple in Jerusalem had been kept under guard in the treasure house.

But now Belshazzar's starting to cross the line with God.

He's taking the very utensils used in the worship in the temple, and profaning them by drinking wine from them.

We've seen what happens when people abuse the things of God:

Lev.1- Nadab and Abihu were toasted when they used the wrong incense, having also been drinking.

When the Philistines captured the ark from Israel, they suffered with mice infestation and hemmoroids.

When the men of Beth-shemesh peeked inside the ark, 55,000 were killed in a plague.

When David was moving the ark, and using an ox cart, Uzzah reached out to steady it, and was killed because he dared touch the ark.


Don't mess with the things of God.

Keep sacred things sacred.

We live in a society where nothing is sacred anymore.

In a way that's good.

I think it was good when Chuck Smith decided to let hippies into his church.

I think it was good when he let them go barefoot in the church, holding them as more important than the carpet.

In a way it's bad.

When we loose respect for things like the Word of God, and treat it like another book.

I worry about how our children aren't even taught to respect adults anymore.

I had a professor in seminary who used to correct us for slouching in our chairs, and really got upset if someone did something careless like tossing their Bible on the chair.

Maybe he was a little overboard, but there is certainly room for us to grow in learning the holiness of the things of God, and treating them with respect.

It's like what Moses said after Nadab and Abihu had been toasted:

»Leviticus 10:3-AV Then Moses said unto Aaron, This [is it] that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.

:4  they drank wine, and praised the gods of gold ...

We talked about the dangers of alcohol this morning.

»Proverbs 20:1-AV Wine [is] a mocker, strong drink [is] raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Here's another good example of someone who is being deceived by the influence of alcohol on his mind.

They're not only daring to drink from the vessels of the temple, but at the same time are praising pagan idols.

I'd start looking for lightening bolts about this time.

:5-9  The handwriting on the wall

:5  fingers of a man's hand

The idea being pictured here is that a single hand, not attached to any body, appears out of nowhere and starts writing words on the wall.

This is where we get the phrase, "the hand writing on the wall".

:5  against the candlestick

We're not in an electric age here.

The hand writes near the candlestick so it can be seen.

:6  the king's countenance was changed

The countenance is a person's face, their expressions.

We use the phrase from Numbers:

»Numbers 6:26-AV The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

The idea is that God would see you and get happy, His expression would be lifted up when He sees you.

Belshazzar's whole facial expression starts changing.

He started out the party as a haughty, proud individual.

Now he's getting a little frightened.

:6  joints of his loins were loosed

His hips got kind of weak, making it hard to stand.

Keep this phrase in mind for the end of the study.

:6  his knees smote one against another

His knees started knocking together.

This guy is really getting scared!

:7  whoever shall ... shew me the interpretation ...

I think I know who's going to get involved in this.

There's only one guy who's got what it takes - Daniel!

:7  clothed with scarlet

or, purple.

Royal authority to be given.

:7  chain of gold about his neck

Wealth and riches.

:7  shall be the third ruler in the kingdom

Nabonidus was the king, with his son Belshazzar as co-regent.

Daniel was promised a third equal position in Babylon.

:9  his lords were astonied

confused or perplexed

:10-16  Daniel is called in

:10  the queen

This is probably not a wife of Belshazzar, since she isn't at the feast to begin with.

It is either Belshazzar's mom (Nitrocris), or possibly even his grandmother, Nebuchadnezzar's wife.

:11  the spirit of the holy gods

Or, "Spirit of the Holy God"

This is a pagan's way of saying that Daniel was filled with the Holy Spirit.

:11  in the days of thy father

Nebuchadnezzar is not Belshazzar's father, but his grandfather.

It is very common in the Bible to use the term "father" in a generic sense, referring to a previous ancestor.

»1Kings 15:11-AV And Asa did [that which was] right in the eyes of the LORD, as [did] David his father.

»1Kings 22:50-AV And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father: and Jehoram his son reigned in his stead.

»2Kings 15:38-AV And Jotham slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father: and Ahaz his son reigned in his stead.

:12  shewing of hard sentences

solving riddles, puzzles

:12  dissolving of doubts

lit, "loosening of knots"

»Daniel 5:12-NIV ... solve difficult problems...

:17-24  Daniel rebukes Belshazzar

:17  Let thy gifts be to thyself

Keep in mind, Daniel is probably a man in his eighties about now.

He isn't interested in money or power.

He never was.


Ministry is free

Jesus told His disciples:

»Matthew 10:8-AV Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

We need to guard ourselves that we don't allow ministry to be a thing associated with money.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't support people in ministry.

But when money becomes the central issue, something is wrong.


Keith Green's ministry - no charge, God will provide.

:22  thou ... hast not humbled thine heart

Holy boldness.

Somebody has to say something to Belshazzar.

Daniel stands up to do it.

He didn't have to say this stuff, he could have just gotten down to work and interpretted the message.


Caring enough to confront

»2Timothy 2:24-26 AV And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, patient,  25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;  26 And [that] they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

:25-29  The interpretation

:25  Mene ...

The inscription was written in Aramaic, a language that the people understood.

It wasn't as it the message was in a foreign language, it was that they just didn't understand it.

To the person in the room looking at this, it looked as if a series of monetary values were being written on the wall.

Mene is the mina, about 50 shekels.

Tekel is the shekel

Upharsin is the half-shekel

totalling about 101 1/2 shekels.

:26  Mene

mene' 1) (P'al) mina, maneh   1a) a weight or measurement; usually 50 shekels but maybe 60 shekels

It comes from the verb menah which means to number or reckon.

The kingdom of Babylon had reached it's last number, it was over.

:27  Tekel

[email protected]   v 1) to weigh   1a) (P'il) to be weighed n m 2) tekel, shekel   2a) (P'al) tekel - a unit of weight, shekel

Belshazzar had been put on the scales, and didn't measure up.

:28  Peres

On the wall it read "upharsin", which is a slightly different form of the exact same word as here.

[email protected] v 1) (P'al) to break in two, divide n m 2) half-mina, half-shekel   2a) a unit of measure and weight

His kingdom would be divided.

It would be given over to the Medes and Persians.

Ironically, the word for "Persians" (Parac {paw-ras'}) is very similar, almost a play on words.

:29  the third ruler ...

Big deal, it isn't going to last very long.

:30-31  Babylon falls

Darius the Median

We'll hear more about him next week.

:30  In that night was Belshazzar the king ... slain

That very night the city of Babylon fell.

Cyrus had been engineering an ingenious plan for Babylon's fall.

He had split his army in half, part on the north of the city, part on the south, both near the water's edge.

They were under orders to march in to the city when the river became crossable.

He had had his army build a canal to the north of the city, and when he gave the command, the river Euphrates was diverted through the canal, into a nearby lake.

As the river subsided, the army flowed in from both sides through the gates in the river.

The river gates had been left unlocked.

Because Babylon wasn't expecting the army to ever get in, everything was left unguarded, and the city surrendered without a fight on October 12, 539 b.c..

Amazingly enough, this was all prophesied some three hundred years earlier by the prophet Isaiah:

»Isaiah 45:1-4 AV Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;  2  I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:  3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call [thee] by thy name, [am] the God of Israel.  4 For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.

the loins of kings loosed (Belsazzar)

open ... the two leaved gates - city unguarded

call thee by thy name - before he was even born.

Overall Lessons:

Humility, God is in control

Nebuchadnezzar said it all last week:

»Daniel 4:34-37 AV And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom [is] from generation to generation:  35 And all the inhabitants of the earth [are] reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and [among] the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?  36 At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.  37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works [are] truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

You can learn it the easy way and humble yourself, or you can learn it the hard way and be humbled.