Introduction to Chapter 5
five is a drama that unfolds before the readers eyes. There are
several concurrent events taking place. While Belshazzar is busy
feasting with his nobles, wives and concubines, the armies of Persia
are outside the walls of Babylon planning their assault on the
impregnable city, the pride and glory of the Babylonian kingdom.
This chapter takes place at the close of the Babylonian kingdom; in the
year 539 B.C., Chapter 4 is at the close of the life of
Nebuchadnezzar in 562 B.C., chapter 5 is 23 years later.
Chronologically chapter 7 and 8 take place before chapter 5. The reign
of Belshazzar begins about the 553 B.C., so chapter 7 takes place in
the first year and chapter 8 in the third year, or about 547 B.C.
This chapter until recently was one of the most attacked chapters in
Daniel, because no confirmation outside the bible of existed
verifying Belshazzar, as king of Babylon.
However, the discovery of the Nabonidus Chronicle changed all
this. The Nabonidus Chronicle verified the Belshazzar as the
son of Nabonidus, who was the known king of Babylonian Empire.
According to Berosus, a Chaldean historian, preserved by Josephus,
Nebuchadnezzar died after a reign of 43 years, he was followed by
his son Evil-Merodach. Evil-Merodach was assassinated by Neriglisar,
his sisters husband, after two years of rule, because his rule was
arbitrary and licentious. Neriglisar occupied the throne for four
years. After his death, his son, Laborosoarchod, a child, reigned
for nine-months, until he was beaten to death as a result of a
conspiracy. The conspirators appointed Nabonidus, who was one of
them, he ruled for 17 years, until he was defeated by Cyrus the
great in 539 B.C. Josephus writes quoting from the Chaldean
Chapter 5 documents the transition between the Babylonian and
Persian kingdoms. Daniel chapters 6, 9-12 take place during thePersian Empire, which followed the Babylonian Empire. These
chapters took place within a few years of the defeat of Babylon.
DA 5:1 Belshazzar
the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank
wine in the presence of the thousand.
DA 5:2 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.
DA 5:3 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.
DA 5:4 They drank
wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood
existence is no longer in question and has been verified by
Babylonian and Persian documents. What is at question is his
relationship to Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 2, Nebuchadnezzar is
called his father. The problem with this is the timing
Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 B.C. Belshazzar’s father, Nabonidus, came
to power in 556 B.C., following the murder of Laboroarchod,
Daniel’s informs us that Nebuchadnezzar is
Belshazzar’s father. In Aramaic and in Hebrew there is no word for
grandfather or for grandson. So it very likely that Nebuchadnezzar
was the grandfather of Belshazzar, this seems to be affirmed in
verse 11. Here the queen comes out to talk to Belshazzar, she
probably is the queen mother, the wife of Nabonidus, the father of
Belshazzar. In verse one, Belshazzar’s wives and concubines are
present at the feast, this would exclude the queen mother who
arrives in verse 11. She is most likely, Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter,
Nabonidus’ wife and Belshazzar’s mother.
to the Nabonidus Chronicle we know the following events took
Babylon as reported in the International Standard Bible
In the third year of his reign (553 B.C.) Nabonidus
“entrusted the ‘Camp’ to his oldest son Belshazzar, the
first-born….He let everything go, entrusted the kingship to him, and
himself, he started out for a long journey”. So although Belshazzar
is never called “king” in the cuneiform sources, and was unable to
replace Nabonidus in the New Year Festival ritual, he clearly
exercised many of the functions of kingship. He was still
theoretically subordinate to Nabonidus, a situation reflected
correctly in Daniel 5:16, where he offers Daniel a position as
“third ruler in kingdom” or perhaps a “member of a triumvirate”.
Nabonidus seems to remained absent from Babylon for nearly
ten years. We know from the Nabonidus Chronicle that the New Year
Festival was cancelled in the seventh to the eleventh years of his
reign because he did not return to Babylon from his new capital in
Teima in northern Arabia. The wording of two legal documents, from
his twelfth and thirteenth years, in which oaths are sworn not only
by his name but also by that of Belshazzar suggests that Nabonidus
was no more than a nominal ruler, in Babylon at least. He did return
to Babylon in 539 B.C., a few months before the city fell to the
Persians, but whether he relieved Belshazzar of his responsibility
we do not know.
Great feast… Having a great
feast was not uncommon for kings, when all those loyal to him are
gathered under the king’s roof. According to the ancient historian
Ktesias, Persian monarchs frequently were known to dine daily with
The timing of the feast, is the more amazing feature. Babylon had
pretty much been defeated by the armies of Cyrus the great, only the
city of Babylon was still undefeated. The nobles had retreated to
the city and had planned to wait out the Persians in the safe
confines of the city of Babylon.
Drank wine… Wine caused
Belshazzar to do things never before done. He was given a certain
boldness, which caused God to judge his kingdom.
The command… Belsharzzar challenged the God of Jerusalem, by ordering the
vessels taken from Jerusalem,
by Nebuchadnezzar to be brought to the party. Belshazzar would have
been familiar with the stories of Daniel and his companions
according to verse 22. The wine caused him to boldly challenge the
God of Israel.
His lords… The party was not an ordinary party, but was wild drinking
party involving both his wives and concubines, the
king’s harem. Try to imagine the scene, music and singing, food of
great abundance, dance and revelry combined with drunken proud men
and their wives and girlfriends. Add to this the bold challenge to
the God of Israel, and you can imagine what results.
Praised the gods…
By using the items from Solomon’s Temple to praise the Babylonian
god’s, Belshazzar was making a direct challenge to god, literally
daring Him to do something.
He rested himself in the power of the city of Babylon to protect
him, his nobles, wives and paramours (concubines). The city as
described by Herodotus, had 350 foot high walls, 87 feet thick, with
100 brass gates, 14 miles to a side, spanning the Euphrates river,
by most accounts one of the greatest cities ever built.
Most modern view these figures as an exaggeration of
the city. They feel the real dimensions to be only ¼ of the size
described by Herodotus with the city only measuring 17 miles around
rather then 56 miles. The city at this time is only partially
excavated, and based upon the location of the mounds the city limits
are more or less indicated, but this is complicated by the Euphrates River
change in course.
Within the walls of Babylon there would
have been parks, straight roads, palaces and temples. The streets
were lined with buildings three and four stories high. The temple
of Bel was an eight-story structure, and the king’s palace was a
complex of buildings now excavated. A bridge spanned the Euphrates
river, and latter a tunnel mentioned by Diordorus, connected both
parts of the city.
Belshazar and his revelers praised the god’s of the
materials that built Babylon.
Handwriting on the Wall
DA 5:5 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.
DA 5:6 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
DA 5:7 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."
DA 5:8 Now all the
king's wise men came, but they could not read the writing, or make
known to the king its interpretation.
DA 5:9 Then King
Belshazzar was greatly troubled, his countenance was changed, and
his lords were astonished.
Same hour… The same hour
men arrived with the articles from the Temple
in Jerusalem, at that very hour. A mysterious event occurred, a
man’s hand with no body, just a hand started writing on the plaster
illuminated by the lamp behind the king. The lamps were the light
source since this party was taking place at night, and this lamp was
located near the king the scene would have been hard to miss.
Nebuchadnezzar’s palace has been excavated, and a
large room measuring 173-feet by 56-feet has been found. This room
is probably the scene of this banquet described in the 5th
chapter. In the middle of the long hall was a spot behind which was
covered with white plaster as described in the book of Daniel.
King’s countenance…The king
was just moments earlier boldly challenging the God of Israel,
drinking toasts from the Temple vessels. Now his bold appearance
has totally changed.
Joints of his hips…
Literally he lost control. A very humiliating event for a proud
king, challenging God, now in front of his guests, wives and
concubines he could not control himself, today was not going to be
Knees knocked… The king was utterly terrified of the hand and what it meant.
purple… Purple was the royal color, signifying ruler ship.
Third ruler… This statement demonstrates the accuracy of the book of
Daniel, compared to the critics. The mention of Belshazzar as king
caused many critics to question Daniel, and its authenticity. The
reason Belshazzar could promise someone the to be third ruler was
because his father Nabonidus was first ruler and he was second.
Nabonidus dwelt in Teima, north of the Arabian desert as recorded in
the Nabonidus Chronicle.
All the king’s wise
Again, the wisdom of the world is pitted against the wisdom of God,
championed by Daniel. The wise men could not read the writing or
understand what it meant.
In an application sense, the same goes with the Bible
today. The wise men of this world cannot read the Bible and
understand the words. The meaning is hidden from the skeptic who
chooses to reject God’s word.
1:18 For the
message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but
to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is
written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to
nothing the understanding of the prudent." 20 Where is the wise?
Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God
made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom
of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God
through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who
I Corinthians 1:18-21
Interpretation… Paul with all his knowledge and understanding of scripture
could not understand the idea of the Messiah dying until God choose
to reveal Himself to Paul. In the same way, people cannot see
Christ until God chooses to reveal Himself.
God’s plan for the end of days is also hidden from the
world but revealed to his people, the wicked do not understand but
the wise will understand.
9 And he said, "Go
your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the
time of the end.
10 "Many shall be
purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly;
and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall
Daniel suggested as interpreter
DA 5:10 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.
DA 5:11 "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.
DA 5:12 "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."
The queen… This is the
queen mother, not the wife of Belshazzar. Most probably her name is
Nitocris, the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, mother of Belshazzar, wife
of Nabonidus. Some also speculate she is the wife of
Nebuchadnezzar, the grand-mother queen. Because of the commotion
being made she was called into the room.
There is a man… The nobility of Babylon had
forgotten Daniel at this time. We last see Daniel about 562 B.C.
near the final years of Nebuchadnezzar’s life. Twenty-three years
later, he makes his appearance before the Babylonian government,
again representing the God of Israel against the gods of Babylon.
She is reminding the young and impetuous king of what
went on in the kingdom before him. He either forgot because he was
so caught up in the world. Choosing to ignore the lessons of his
Daniel Called before the King
DA 5:13 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?
DA 5:14 "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.
DA 5:15 "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.
DA 5:16 "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."
Are you Daniel… Belshazzar had some knowledge of Daniel and his
circumstances. The memory seemed distant by the king’s
questioning. Belshazzar is a young king when he took power, the
oldest son of Nabonidus, his fathers reign lasted 17 years and his
co-reign about 14 years. So if Belshazar took power at the age of
20 he would be about 34 years old at this point.
My father… In Aramaic there is no separate word for grand-father. More
then likely Nebuchadnezzar is his grand-father, father of Nitocris,
Daniel’s rebuke of Belshazzar
DA 5:17 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.
DA 5:18 "O king,
the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and
majesty, glory and honor.
DA 5:19 "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.
DA 5:20 "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
DA 5:21 "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.
DA 5:22 "But you
his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew
DA 5:23 "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.
Daniel answered… Daniel chief concern was God’s holiness. Daniel at this
point is probably close to eighty years of age. Taken as boy of
around 14 to 15 years of age, he had remained in Babylon from 605
B.C. to 539 B.C., 66 years until this time. Daniel had no need for
the king’s reward, Daniel sought God’s reward.
Again, God delivered to Daniel, a room full of souls
to hear a message from God. If we could imagine a room full of
music, revelry, drinking, boasting and lewdness brought to a sudden
halt. Then transitioning to a king who looses control in front of
his guests cries out in fear. Then Daniel is called, to deliver a
sermon about God’s plan.
Similar stories can be seen on the Titanic, moments
before it struck an iceberg people in revelry unconcerned about
eternity. Moments later all this changed, people were struck with
fear as their security was destroyed by an iceberg.
hardened in pride…
Nebuchadnezzar had a similar problem of pride, but was humbled and
learned the lesson, God rules over men, the Most High God of Israel,
as opposed to the gods of the material world.
You knew… Daniel reminds
the king, if fact he hints that Belshazzar was a witnesses to the
events in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. Maybe he was a young boy, who
witnessed what his grandfather’s ordeal. He however, choose ignore
that part of his life, and was filled with his own pride.
Lifted up yourself
against the Lord of Heaven… Belshazzar was not
only filled with pride, but choose to challenge heaven itself.
God who hold your
breath… Belshazzar like most who choose to ignore God forget the very
breath they breath is from God, let alone our possessions.
Daniel’s interpretation of the writing
DA 5:24 "Then the
fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was
DA 5:25 "And this
is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
DA 5:26 "This is
the interpretation of each word. Mene: God has numbered your
kingdom, and finished it;
DA 5:27 "Tekel: You
have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting;
DA 5:28 "Peres:
Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians."
Fingers of the
hand... These fingers could have belonged to an angel,
The inscription seemed to be unreadable to the wise men of Babylon.
It very well might have been in an unfamiliar script. Daniel however
could read and interpret the writing.
Mene anmMene' A weight
of measurement usually 50 shekels
weigh, to be weighed
Upharsin orpP@rac (P'al) to break in two, divide n m
Daniel’s Reward and the Prophecy fulfilled
DA 5:29 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.
DA 5:30 That very
night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain.
DA 5:31 And Darius
the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
Eighty year old Daniel, was clothed with purple whether he like it
or not. That very night while the party was in progress, Persian
soldiers had entered the city and were in the process of taking
control, even while Daniel was in throne room with the Babylonian
Darius the Mede…Darius
the meade, is made governor by the conquering Persian and Meade
armies. Cyrus however is the king, Darius ruled over the province
of Babylon. Heroditus gives us details not covered in the Bible of
how Cyrus defeated Babylon.
Cyrus…then advanced against Babylon. But the
Babylonians, having taken the field, awaited his coming; and when he
had advanced near the city, the Babylonians gave battle, and, being
defeated, were shut up in the city. But as they had been long aware
of the restless spirit of Cyrus, and saw that he attacked all
nations alike, they had laid up provisions for many years, and
therefore were under no apprehensions about a siege. On the other
hand, Cyrus found himself in difficulty, since much time elapsed,
and his affairs were not well advanced. Whether, therefore, someone
else made the suggestion to him in his perplexity or whether he
himself devised the plan, he had recourse to the following
stratagem. Having stationed the bulk of his army near the passage
of the river where it enters Babylon, and again having stationed
another division beyond the city, where the river makes its exit, he
gave order to his forces to entered the city as soon as they should
see the stream fordable. Having stationed his forces and given
these directions, he himself marched away with the ineffective part
of his army; and having come to the lake, Cyrus did the same with
respects to the river and the lake as the queen of the Babylonians
had done; for having diverted the river, by means of a canal, into
the lake, which was before a swamp, he made the ancient channel
fordable by the sinking of the river. When this took place, the
Persians who were appointed to that purpose close to the stream of
the river, which had now subsided to about he middle of a man’s
thigh, entered Babylon by this passage. If, however, the
Babylonians had been aware of it beforehand, or had known what Cyrus
was about, they would not have suffered the Persians to enter the
city, but would have utterly destroyed them; for, having shut all
the little gates that lead to the river, and mounting the walls that
extend along the banks of the river, they would have caught them as
in a net; whereas the Persians came upon them by surprise. It is
related by the people who inhabited this city, that by reason of its
great extent, when they who were at the extremities were taken,
those of the Babylonians who inhabited the centre knew nothing of
the capture (for it happened to be a festival); but they were
dancing at the time and enjoying themselves, till they received
certain information of the truth. And thus Babylon was taken for
the first time
The Cyrus Cylinder also sheds light on the fall of Babylon. In Cyrus
own word he tells how Babylon came into his possession.
Marduk, the great lord, a protector of his people/worshipers, held with
pleasure his (i.e, Cyrus) good deeds and his upright mind (lit.
heart) (and therefore) ordered him to march against his city
Babylon…He made him set out on the road to Babylon…going at his side
like a real friend. His widespread troops-their number, like that
of the water of a river, could not be established—strolled along,
their weapons packed away. Without any battle, he made him enter
his town Babylon…sparing
Babylon…any calamity. He delivered into his (i.e. Cyrus’) hands
Nabonidus, the king who did not worship him (i.e. Marduk)