Daniel 5

Thursday Evening Bible Study

December 22, 2005

Daniel 5

:1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand.

His name sounds like Daniel's Babylonian name, Belteshazzar

Belshazzar = “Bel protect the king”

Belteshazzar = “lord of the straitened’s treasure”

Belshazzar is one of the descendants of Nebuchadnezzar

Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC, after reigning for 43 years.

Over a period of six years, Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by a list of various descendants who often fought and assassinated their way to the throne.
Finally in 556 BC, one of Nebuchadnezzar’s sons-in-laws, Nabonidus, took the throne and ruled for 17 years.
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.  He is also the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar.

The current year is 539 BC, almost 70 years since the events of Daniel 1, it’s been 23 years since Nebuchadnezzar died.

How long were the Jews supposed to be in Babylon?  Seventy years.

There are also some other important background items to mention.

The city of Babylon is not at peace.  They have been under siege by the Persian army of Cyrus.  Though the siege had been going on for some time, the Babylonians weren’t very 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 its own internal farms, and with the river Euphrates, it was thought that Babylon could survive a siege of 20 years.

At this point in history, the general/king Nabonidus had already attempted to fight the Persians, but was defeated.  In fact the Persians have defeated every place in the Babylonian empire except for the city of Babylon.

This feast of Belshazzar is a way of laughing in the face of his own fate.

:2 While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.

:3 Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them.

:4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.

These are the holy plates and vessels used in the worship of Yahweh.  These were things that had been made solely for the purpose of worshipping God.

And now they are being used to worship these silly false gods.

We are like those special, holy vessels.  God wants to use us for His own purposes, not for drunken parties.

(1 Pet 1:15-16 NLT)  But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God--who chose you to be his children--is holy. {16} For he himself has said, "You must be holy because I am holy."

(1 Cor 6:19-20 NKJV)  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? {20} For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

:5 In the same hour the fingers of a man's hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

Think of “thing” from “The Addams Family”.  A disconnected hand appears out of nowhere and begins to write on the plaster wall.

This is the origin of the phrase, “The handwriting on the wall”.

:6 Then the king's countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other.

:7 The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spoke, saying to the wise men of Babylon, "Whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck; and he shall be the third ruler in the kingdom."

Nabonidus was the king, with his son Belshazzar as co-regent.  Whoever interprets this mystery will gain an equal third position in Babylon.

:8 Now all the king's wise men came, but they could not read the writing, or make known to the king its interpretation.

:9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly troubled, his countenance was changed, and his lords were astonished.

It looks like another great party has been ruined.  J

:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came to the banquet hall. The queen spoke, saying, "O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change.

This is probably not a wife of Belshazzar. It is either Belshazzar's mom (Nitrocris), or possibly even his grandmother, Nebuchadnezzar's wife.

:11 "There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father; your father the king; made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers.

father – used in the generic sense.  Nebuchadnezzar was actually the grandfather of Belshazzar.

:12 "Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation."

:13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke, and said to Daniel, "Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah?

Daniel is probably in his eighties by now.

:14 "I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you.

:15 "Now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not give the interpretation of the thing.

The writing was in Aramaic.  The wise men should have been able to read it, but interpreting was another thing …

:16 "And I have heard of you, that you can give interpretations and explain enigmas. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom."

:17 Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, "Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation.

Daniel could probably make a bundle off of this fellow.  But Daniel doesn’t seem to charge for his ministry.

:18 "O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor.

:19 "And because of the majesty that He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished, he kept alive; whomever he wished, he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down.

This is ultimate power.  Nobody could tell Nebuchadnezzar what to do.  He was completely in charge of his life and kingdom.  Sort of …

:20 "But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.

:21 "Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses.

This is what we looked at last week in Daniel 4.

:22 "But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this.

:23 "And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.


Learn from others

You don’t really have to be humiliated to learn humility.
You can learn from the examples of others.

:24 "Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written.

:25 "And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.

Three different Aramaic words were written on the wall.  The meaning of the particular words isn’t the issue, it’s the significance that’s not understood.

:26 "This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it;

mene – this comes from an Aramaic word that means “to number or reckon”.

God has been counting the days of Belshazzar’s rule, and it’s over.

:27 "TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting;

tekel – similar to the Hebrew word “shekel”, it means “to weigh”

Belshazzar is a lightweight on God’s scales.

:28 "PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians."

peres – the original word was “upharsin”, which is just another form of this root word which means “to break in two, divide”

Belshazzar’s kingdom is not being split up.

It’s interesting to note that “peres” is also a word related to the name “Persia”.

:29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

:30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain.

That very night the city of Babylon fell.

The Persian King 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 BC.
Amazingly enough, this was all prophesied earlier by the prophet Isaiah:
(Isa 45:1-4 NKJV)  "Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held; To subdue nations before him And loose the armor of kings, To open before him the double doors, So that the gates will not be shut: {2} 'I will go before you And make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut the bars of iron. {3} I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel. {4} For Jacob My servant's sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.

Both KJV and NAS have in verse 1, “loose the loins of kings”, like Belshazzar’s knees knocking together.

It mentions the doors being opened – just as the gates in the river were left open.

called you by your name – the amazing thing is that Isaiah wrote this around 700 BC, over a hundred years before Cyrus would even be born.

:31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Darius was the fellow that Cyrus puts in charge of Babylon.