Daniel Chapter 5

by Mike Ratliff

5 Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing. 6 Then the king’s face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together. Daniel 5:5-6 (NASB) 

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 Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand. 2 When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
5 Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing. 6 Then the king’s face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together. Daniel 5:1-6 (NASB) 

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 aloud to bring in the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, “Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me shall be clothed with purple and have a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or make known its interpretation to the king. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, his face grew even paler, and his nobles were perplexed.10 The queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles; the queen spoke and said, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father, illumination, insight and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him. And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans and diviners. 12 This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel now be summoned and he will declare the interpretation.” Daniel 5:7-12 (NASB) 

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 spoke and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the exiles from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? 14 Now I have heard about you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that illumination, insight and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you. 15 Just now the wise men and the conjurers were brought in before me that they might read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not declare the interpretation of the message. 16 But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and wear a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.”
17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him. Daniel 5:13-17 (NASB)

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 granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father. 19 Because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated and whomever he wished he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away from him. 21 He was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes. 22 Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, 23 but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified. Daniel 5:18-23 (NASB) 

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 the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out.
25 “Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’ 26 This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. 27 ‘TEKEL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. 28 ‘PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.
30 That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. 31 So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two. Daniel 5:24-31 (NASB) 

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 enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:28 (NASB)

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!