The Handwriting on the Wall

by Mike Ratliff

5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. (Dainiel 5:5-6 ESV)

God used Nebuchadnezzar to bring an end to the Judean kingdom. The kingdom of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar was glorious. God blessed him and, as we saw in yesterday’s post, humbled him when he took credit for it all. After his death in October 562 BC, having reigned 43 years, he was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk (or Evil-merodach 2 Kings 25:27-30). Amel-Marduk, who, after a reign of two years, was succeeded by Neriglissar (559 – 555). Neriglissar was succeeded by Nabonidus (555 – 538). Nabonidus, having no interest in politics or ruling an empire, left Babylon to live at Tayma, a rich oasis city in Arabia, leaving his son Belshazzar behind to rule the empire in his stead. At the close of the reign of Nabonidus and Belshazzar (less than a quarter of a century after the death of Nebuchadnezzar) Babylon fell under Cyrus the Great as the head of the combined armies of Media and Persia. This new empire was the silver part of the “image” in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from Daniel 2. Daniel Chapter 5 tells us the story of the last night of Belshazzar’s reign.

1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.
2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God 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, iron, wood, and stone.
5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. (Daniel 5:1-6 ESV)

Belshazzar was no Nebuchadnezzar. While this party was going on the armies of Media and Persia under Cyrus the Great surrounded the city of Babylon. The city was under siege and he was having a drunken party. Not only does he ignore the threat of the siege, he brings out the sacred vessels, taken from Solomon’s Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, to be used as for the drinking of wine. However, just as this sacrilege takes place the fingers of a human hand supernaturally appears. This hand writes on the plaster wall of the king’s palace. Belshazzar sees the hand write. He goes pale, God causes the man’s conscience to condemn him, and all the strength goes out of his legs. His knees knock together. The man is frightened.

7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Who-ever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.
10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. 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, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.” (Daniel 5:7-12 ESV)

Our sovereign God blocks the “wise men” of Babylon from being able to read or interpret the writing on the wall so none of them can tell him what it means. As he cries for someone to interpret the writing he declares that whoever can do it will be made third ruler in the kingdom. He is the second ruler behind his father Nabonidus. However, the queen reminds him of Daniel.

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the en-chanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. 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. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. (Daniel 5:13-17 ESV)

Oh that our Christian leaders in our time would have Daniel’s view of the temporal! Earthly rewards, riches, fame, etc. mean little or nothing to the one who is eternally focused as Daniel was. He knew that the handwriting on the wall was from God and, therefore, he knew that his job was to interpret it for God’s glory and to express His will to these people.

18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in 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, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. (Daniel 5:18-23 ESV)

Not only does Daniel tell Belshazzar to keep his gifts, he preaches to him. He tells him how it was God who raised up Nebuchadnezzar and it was God who humbled him as we saw in Daniel 4. Daniel also reminds Belshazzar that he should know all of this. Then he rebukes him for his pride and reckless use of the sacred vessels taken from the Temple of God. Then he tells him why the handwriting is on the wall. God almighty holds our very breath in his hands. We live because our God wills it. When it is time for us to die it is because He wills it. There is no fear of God in Belshazzar or those who have been partying with these sacred vessels. Those who walk in pride have no fear of God. However, God is able to humble those who walk in pride.

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then 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.
30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old. (Daniel 5:24-30 ESV)

Daniel tells the king that the hand that wrote on the wall came from God’s presence. The message was in Aramaic so the fact that no one could read or interpret except Daniel tells us that this was a supernatural message that could only be read by God’s man, Daniel. Mene is Aramaic for “counted” or “appointed.” The fact that it is repeated gives it a stronger meaning. Tekel means “weighed” or “assessed.” Belshazzar’s kingdom was assessed or weighed by God and found wanting. Therefore, he has called an end to it. The word Parsin means divided. Some translations put “U” on the front of this word and spell it as UPHARSIN. This would denote “and divided.” Daniel tells Belshazzar that God is through with him and is giving the kingdom to the Medes and Persians. That very night the Medo-Persian army was able to enter the city by diverting the Euphrates River from flowing under the wall. This lowered the water enough so the army could reach the palace before anyone was aware. Belshazzar and his guard were killed. This took place on October 16, 539 B.C.

Darius the Mede is a mystery. Some believe he was Cyrus himself. Others believe he was Gubaru or Gobryas the appointed king over Babylon under Cyrus. Cyrus entered the city in victory on October 29, 539 B.C. The name Darius was the name or title of at least 5 Persian rulers. One clue that this king is Cyrus himself is found in Daniel 6:28.

28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Daniel 6:28 ESV)

It is possible to translate this verse as, “So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius even Cyrus the Persian.” Whoever this king was, God used him for His glory, as we shall see in chapter 6.

What should be we learn from this story of the last night of the Babylonian empire? Why did God take this kingdom down and allow the silver part of Nebuchadnezzar’s “image” to come to power? Just as God humbled Nebuchadnezzar as we saw in Daniel 4, He is able to humble those who walk in pride. In our day, there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing drawing huge numbers of professing Christians into apostasy. They do not fear God. They flaunt their false doctrines and pragmatic religion before the face of God and call it Christianity. It is religion to be sure, but Christianity it isn’t. I have heard and seen these men and women “make prophecies” and use false “healings” and fake “miracles” as if they have usurped God’s very power for their own benefit. They preach a “Kingdom Now” theology that is nothing more than how to get rich by being a “Christian.” The pragmatic bunch is preaching a form of the gospel that is nothing more than empty religious acts that deceive millions into thinking they are Christians because they prayed some prayer or walked some aisle or were baptized. Their sermons are not expositions of scripture. Instead, they are feel good messages that tell people that being religious is all it takes to please God. No obedience or cross carrying required. God is love after all.

The handwriting is on the wall. God has opened the spiritual eyes of his messengers. They have been given discernment and they are revealing to God’s people the truth of the growing apostasy. The Scarlet Woman is being made more and more apparent every day. God is calling His people to come out of her while there is still time. The Remnant who have been drawn from religious darkness into His light of obedience are being given His peace and joy as they find that they can serve Him without being part of some religious organization. Many are forming small house churches while seeking God’s will in every part of their lives. Those He draws into this must continue to seek His face and will in all things in these last days. Even so…come soon Lord Jesus!

Soli Deo Gloria!

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15 thoughts on “The Handwriting on the Wall

  1. The pruning has begun and only the lamps with enough oil will last. It is no game, eternity hangs in the balance for billions including many who sit in evangelical pews and listen to hedonistic pied pipers.

    He comes soon, space for repentance is running low.

  2. Rick,

    Amen, it is no game! This is serious business. And that means we had better be prayin’ and preachin’ as God leads us.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. Rick,

    Yes, the writing is on the wall isn’t it. It makes the storm coming through IA right now a little scary. Maybe all the people I have been preaching to will think of His power . Come Lord Jesus

  4. Mike,
    I know your name. :) Storms make me nervous and I can just imagine how much worse His wrath will be. I have been earnestly praying every day for my loved ones and others. I have been doing that for years. Knowing how God works He will do it just in time. Praise Him!

  5. Debs in Ia. and we are in Missouri! Storms hitting pretty good in Mo. too tonight. Yes the handwriting is on the wall and most are oblivious to see it……..except the elect. We are so thankful He gives His sheep the eye salve. Things aren’t going to be a bed of roses for us the way it looks either. Is He worth it? YOU BET!!

  6. Paul,

    I live just SW of KC. Those storms are just west of us and they are predicting them to be here tomorrow. Yes, He is worth it! Amen!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. Paul,

    Well it looks like a bunch of mid westerners in here. Hi neighbors! I live way up here in NE IA. When I look at the weather map it looks like a long storm one coming up from Kansas.
    I’m not expecting a bed of roses, besides, some roses have thorns so it doesn’t sound to comfy anyway. :)
    I really don’t dwell on it because when that time comes it is He who gives us the strength and courage in fact He even gives us the words to say! I am more concerned about the lost. We will be with our Lord. Yes, He is worth it all! After all He died to cover our sins and He was perfect. Glory to our Lord! Amen.

  8. Paul and Deborah,
    That line of storms is just west of KC now. It looks as if it extends from the middle of Minnesota all the way to Texas. God is so powerful! This is huge to us, but to Him it is nothing.
    In Christ
    Mike Ratliff

  9. There is a colossal storm of infinite proportions, filled with divine wrath, and growing ever closer to the entire planet. Warnings have been given although recently downplayed.

    There is only one shelter and His name is Jesus the Christ. Praise His name, I feel safe!!

  10. Rick,

    Notice also that only Daniel could read and interpret the writing on the wall even though it was just four words in Aramaic. Have those who are guilty of being false prophets been blinded to the warning God is giving us now?

    Yes, if we are in Christ then we are eternally safe. Amen!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  11. Mike, I think thats where the eye salve and His elect who have the oil in their lamps can and will see the handwriting on the wall. He says we won’t be fooled, so I take that as a ‘yes’, we do get see and read it! Our DAD takes good care of His children!!

  12. Oh how manifold is the wisdom of God!

    It never ceases to strike awe in my heart to read the omniscient words of the Creator glimpse with humble amazement His perfect knowledge!

    The handwriting is certainly upon the wall of modern church-ianity and while I’m certainly no Daniel I’m nonetheless convinced the handwriting can be translated simply as ICHABOD because the glory of the Lord has surely departed from the harlot church.

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