BELSHAZZAR THE KING MADE A GREAT
FEAST TO A THOUSAND OF HIS LORDS AND DRANK WINE BEFORE
The inhabitants of Babylon little
realized that this was the last night of their nation’s
existence. In the great banqueting hall measuring 173
feet long by 57 feet wide the king feasted with a
thousand of his lords.
The king never dreamed when he
called his nobles to this feast that it would end in
such a dramatic way.
It was hardly a time to celebrate
for the Persians had conquered most of the territory
around Babylon and were getting ready to take the city
itself. Because of his well fortified city, the king may
have felt secure and planned the feast for the purpose
of inspiring his men in view of the situation; however
it came at a time when a popular Babylonian festival was
BELSHAZZAR, WHILES HE TASTED THE
WINE, COMMANDED TO BRING THE GOLDEN AND SILVER VESSELS
WHICH HIS FATHER NEBUCHADNEZZAR HAD TAKEN OUT OF THE
TEMPLE WHICH WAS IN JERUSALEM; THAT THE KING, AND HIS
PRINCES, HIS WIVES, AND HIS CONCUBINES, MIGHT DRINK
whiles he tasted the wine
It would seem from this statement
that the king had been drinking for quite a while before
he gave this order.
bring the golden and silver vessels
His mind inflamed with the wine, he
gave a command that even in the eyes of a pagan was
sacrilegious. The sacred things of even a conquered
religion were still considered holy, and were not put to
an ordinary use or kept in some secular place but in a
Which his father
Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple
was the grandson of the great king; his mother probably
a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. The word "father" means
"grandfather" or "ancestor". The expression "his father"
could also be understood in the sense of "his
An example of this is found in an
Assyrian inscription which calls the Israelite king,
Jehu, "a son of Omri," although the two had no blood
relationship whatsoever. Actually Jehu was the
exterminator of the whole house of Omri (2 Kings 9, 10.)
His wives, and
his concubines, might drink therein
The two Aramaic words translated
"wives" and “concubines" are synonyms, both meaning
One may have represented a higher
class than the other, one class may have been women from
respectable homes, even homes of nobility and the other,
women bought for money or captured in war.
THEN THEY BROUGHT THE GOLDEN
VESSELS THAT WERE TAKEN OUT OF THE TEMPLE OF THE HOUSE
OF GOD WHICH WAS AT JERUSALEM; AND THE KING AND HIS
PRINCES, HIS WIVES, AND HIS CONCUBINES, DRANK IN THEM.
The king in his arrogance and pride
ordered that the sacred vessels be brought from the
temple to show that no god could raise a hand against
him. There is no question that this act was directed
against the God of Israel. It could well be that
Belshazzar had heard the story
of his grandfather's dealings with
the God of heaven and this may have had something to do
with his action, there is no question that it was an act
THEY DRANK WINE, AND PRAISED THE
GODS OF GOLD, AND OF SILVER, OF BRASS, OF IRON, OF WOOD,
AND OF STONE.
Although Belshazzar knew that he
was safe in a city that was believed could withstand a
very long siege there was evidently some lurking fears
in his mind. These fears he quickly drowned in wine and
as they drank, they praised the various gods Bel-Marduk,
they believed, could surely be counted on to protect his
IN THE SAME HOUR CAME FORTH FINGERS
OF A MAN'S HAND, AND WROTE OVER AGAINST THE CANDLESTICK
UPON THE PLAISTER OF THE WALL OF THE KING'S PALACE; AND
THE KING SAW THE PART OF THE HAND THAT WROTE.
In ancient times even royal palaces
were poorly lighted at night. Over against the most
lighted part, probably on the large blank wall directly
opposite the king's table, possibly raised on a
platform, those bloodless fingers were writing. In
contrast to the poor light of the candles a brilliant
spotlight played on the hand writing on the wall.
Paralyzed by fright and terror, Belshazzar and his
guests watched as the mysterious apparition wrote the
mystic letters in dazzling letters of fire.
THEN THE KING'S COUNTENANCE WAS
CHANGED, AND HIS THOUGHTS TROUBLED HIM, SO THAT THE
JOINTS OF HIS LOINS WERE LOOSED, AND HIS KNEES SMOTE ONE
Sudddenly the king's "colour
changed" his face became ashen white, and consternation
gripped his heart, his limbs gave way, and his knees
knocked together. Gone was all his bravado and his
vainglorious boasting. The loud laughter ceased, and the
music died away. Terror stricken a thousand guests
looked from the face of the king to the writing on the
THE KING CRIED ALOUD TO BRING IN
THE ASTROLOGERS, THE CHALDEANS, AND THE SOOTHSAYERS, AND
THE KING SPAKE, AND SAID TO THE WISE MEN OF BABYLON,
WHOSOEVER SHALL READ THIS WRITING, AND
SHOW ME THE INTERPRETATION THEREOF, SHALL BE
CLOTHED WITH SCARLET, AND HAVE A CHAIN OF GOLD ABOUT HIS
NECK, AND SHALL BE THIRD RULER
IN THE KINGDOM.
Shall be clothed
the royal purple, a deep purplish
red sometimes called crimson, this would be a token of
A chain of gold
about his neck the chain of gold was the ancient
counterpart of a medal awarded to public servants the
king wished to honour for distinguished service.
Shall be third
ruler in the kingdom
Belshazzar was only second in
command because his absent father Nabonidus still ranked
first. Third place would put the lucky wise man next to
Belshazzar, one step from the throne.
THEN CAME IN ALL THE KING'S WISE
MEN: BUT THEY COULD NOT READ THE WRITING, NOR MAKE KNOWN
TO THE KING THE INTERPRETATION THEREOF.
Not one of the wise men even
offered to read the writing, to say nothing of being
able to reveal its fearful meaning.
The words on the wall were most
likely in Aramaic however it was easy to determine the
exact meaning. There were only three words, consisting
of fourteen letters but each of the three words might
have a different meaning, or shade of meaning,
depending to the way the reader might interpret them.
Even with a knowledge of the correct meaning of each
word, the reader could not be certain of the import of
the message as a whole. The inability of the wise men to
decipher the mystic words left the king even more
alarmed than before. It was obvious that this was a
message from the gods possibly with evil intent.
THEN WAS KING BELSHAZZAR GREATLY
TROUBLED, AND HIS COUNTENANCE WAS CHANGED IN HIM, AND
HIS LORDS WERE ASTONIED.
As the Chaldeans were unable to
read the writing on the wall, the king's terror
increased. He knew this was a rebuke for his
sacrilegious use of the holy vessels.
NOW THE QUEEN BY REASON OF THE
WORDS OF THE KING AND HIS LORDS CAME INTO THE BANQUET
HOUSE: AND THE QUEEN SPAKE AND SAID, O KING, LIVE
FOREVER: LET NOT THY THOUGHTS TROUBLE THEE, NOR LET THY
COUNTENANCE BE CHANGED:
It is believed that this queen
mentioned here was either the kind's mother or
grandmother. She could hardly been Belshazzar's own
wife, for his own "wives, and his concubines" were
already among the revelers in the great hall.
THERE IS A MAN IN THY KINGDOM, IN
WHOM IS THE SPIRIT OF THE HOLY GODS; AND IN
THE DAYS OF THY FATHER LIGHT AND UNDERSTANDING
AND WISDOM, LIKE THE WISDOM OF THE GODS, WAS FOUND IN
HIM; WHOM THE KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR THY FATHER, THE KING,
I SAY, THY FATHER,
MADE MASTER OF THE MAGICIANS, ASTROLOGERS,
AND SOOTH SAYERS;
In whom is the
spirit of the holy gods
The information she imparts
concerning Daniel's distinguished service in the past
and concerning his high position under Nebuchadnezzar is
apparently new to Belshazzar. This would suggest that
Daniel had not held office in the realm for some time.
In the days of
It is believed that Nabonidus had
married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and thus Belshazzar
was really the grandson of the great king.
AN EXCELLENT SPIRIT, AND KNOWLEDGE, AND
UNDERSTANDING, INTERPRETING OF DREAMS, AND
SHOWING OF HARD SENTENCES, AND DISSOLVING OF DOUBTS,
WERE FOUND IN THE SAME DANIEL, WHOM THE KING NAMED
BELTESHAZZAR: NOW LET DANIEL BE CALLED AND HE WILL SHOW
The queen certainly knew all about
Daniel and his ability to explain dreams and such like
things. There can be no question that she was the
grandmother seeing she knew so much about Daniel.
THEN WAS DANIEL BROUGHT IN BEFORE
THE KING, AND THE KING SPAKE AND SAID UNTO DANIEL, ART
THOU THAT DANIEL, WHICH ART OF THE CHILDREN OF THE
CAPTIVITY OF JUDAH, WHOM THE KING MY FATHER BROUGHT
OUT OF JEWRY?
Art thou that
R.S.V. has "You are that Daniel?"
This greeting suggests that Belshazzar was acquainted
with Daniel's past record but not with Daniel himself.
It seems obvious that after Nebuchadnezzar passed off
the scene Daniel's leadership must have come into
disfavour and he was retired from public service. The
fact that Daniel later entered the service of Persia (ch
6:1-3) suggests that his retirement during the closing
years of Babylonian empire was not due to ill health or
I HAVE EVEN HEARD OF THEE, THAT THE
SPIRIT OF THE HOLY GODS IS IN THEE, AND THAT LIGHT AND
UNDERSTANDING AND EXCELLENT WISDOM IS FOUND IN THEE.
I have even heard
Daniel now more than eighty years
old had lived around the court and held some of the
highest offices in the empire under the former
sovereigns, including the great Nebuchadnezzar. The
ancients were very fond of passing on stories and no
greater stories could be told than those of Daniel's
AND THE WISE MEN, THE ASTROLOGERS,
HAVE BEEN BROUGHT IN BEFORE ME, THAT THEY SHOULD READ
THIS WRITING, AND MAKE KNOWN
UNTO ME THE INTERPRETATION THEREOF; BUT THEY
COULD NOT SHEW THE
INTERPRETATION OF THE THING.
Once more the God of Heaven had
overruled, for there was the writing plain for all to
see and yet the wise men, learned in languages, were
unable to decipher same.
AND I HAVE HEARD OF THEE, THAT THOU
CANST MAKE INTERPRETATIONS AND DISSOLVE DOUBTS: NOW IF
THOU CANST READ THE WRITING, AND MAKE KNOWN TO ME THE
INTERPRETATION THEREOF, THOU SHALT BE CLOTHED WITH
SCARLET, AND HAVE A CHAIN OF GOLD ABOUT THY NECK, AND
SHALT BE THE THIRD RULER IN THE KINGDOM.
The king offered Daniel a great
reward to reveal the dream however seeing there was so
little of the kingdom left it was rather a hollow
reward. Especially as Daniel could read the writing and
knew that the king’s offer was worthless.
THEN DANIEL ANSWERED AND SAID
BEFORE THE KING, LET THY GIFTS BE TO THYSELF, AND GIVE
THY REWARDS TO ANOTHER; YET I WILL READ THE WRITING UNTO
THE KING, AND MAKE KNOWN TO HIM THE INTERPRETATION.
Daniel promises the king that he
would read the mysterious writing on the wall but he
declines the royal gifts that Belshazzar offers to him.
He well knew that those gifts would be worthless as the
Persians were very soon to overthrow the kingdom and if
he accepted these gifts they would actually be an
embarrassment to him.
0 THOU KING, THE MOST HIGH GOD GAVE
NEBUCHADNEZZAR THY FATHER A KINGDOM, AND MAJESTY, AND
GLORY, AND HONOUR:
Before Daniel read and interpreted
the writing he reminded the king of the experience of
his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, how that through the
blessings of God he became the greatest monarch of his
AND FOR THE MAJESTY THAT HE GAVE
HIM, ALL PEOPLE, NATIONS, AND LANGUAGES, TREMBLED AND
FEARED BEFORE HIM: WHOM HE WOULD HE SLEW; AND WHOM HE
WOULD HE KEPT ALIVE; AND WHOM HE WOULD HE SET UP; AND
WHOM HE WOULD HE PUT DOWN.
Nebuchadnezzar had been used of God
in subduing the nations. Even Israel itself was
overthrown because God had allowed the king to do this
in fulfillment of prophecy. The same with Tyre and
BUT WHEN HIS HEART WAS LIFTED UP,
AND HIS MIND HARDENED IN PRIDE, HE WAS DEPOSED FROM HIS
KINGLY THRONE, AND THEY TOOK HIS GLORY FROM HIM:
When God is unable to save men in
prosperity, He brings upon them adversity in order to
humble them and make them more responsive to the
prompting of the Holy Spirit. This is very well
illustrated by Nebuchadnezzar's case.
AND HE WAS DRIVEN FROM THE SONS OF
MEN; AND HIS HEART WAS MADE LIKE THE BEASTS, AND HIS
DWELLING WAS WITH THE WILD ASSES: 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 RULED IN THE
KINGDOM OF MEN AND HE APPOINTED OVER IT WHOMSOEVER HE
Had the king heeded the counsel
that had been given to him it would have saved him from
the great humiliation that came upon him. In reciting
the story of his grandfather's experiences, Daniel
possibly was endeavouring to show the proud monarch how
important it is to heed the warnings of God and to give
attention to His counsel.
Really this experience of
Belshazzar was designed to be a warning to all mankind,
particularly those who fail to take notice of the
counsel of God because they are so determined to go
their own way.
AND THOU HIS SON, 0 BELSHAZZAR,
HAST NOT HUMBLED THINE HEART, THOUGH THOU KNEWEST ALL
It was not the easiest task to
deliver this message but Daniel did not mince words, he
spoke the truth, unpleasant as it was, and what is more
the king knew in his heart that it was true. Possibly
the Holy Spirit was speaking to him for the last time
and the words would stir his conscience.
BUT THOU HAST LIFTED UP THYSELF
AGAINST THE LORD OF HEAVEN; AND THEY HAVE BROUGHT THE
VESSELS OF HIS HOUSE BEFORE THEE, AND THOU AND THY
LORDS, THY WIVES, AND THY CONCUBINES, HAVE DRUNK WINE IN
THEM; AND THOU HAST PRAISED THE GODS OF SILVER, AND
GOLD, OF BRASS, IRON, WOOD, AND STONE, WHICH SEE NOT,
NOR HEAR, NOR KNOW: AND THE GOD IN WHOSE HAND THY BREATH
IS, AND WHOSE ARE ALL THY WAYS, HAST THOU NOT GLORIFIED.
The experience of the writing on
the wall must have sobered up the king quite a lot but
his mind was still stupefied by the wine. Even in his
partly sober partly inebriated state, he remembered
something about Nebuchadnezzar's remarkable experience
and of his high esteem for Daniel. His gaze went to the
sacred gold and silver goblets that lay scattered about
the banquet tables in mute testimony of what Daniel was
THEN WAS THE PART OF THE HAND SENT
FROM HIM; AND THIS WRITING WAS WRITTEN.
The writing on the wall would have
been large enough for all the guests to read, it is
possible that the letters were illuminated.
AND THIS IS THE WRITING THAT WAS
WRITTEN, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
Daniel proceeded to read the words
written on the wall, apparently four words in Aramaic.
But even after the words had been read, they could not
be understood except by divine revelation.
THIS IS THE INTERPRETATION OF THE
THING: MENE; GOD HATH NUMBERED THY KINGDOM, AND FINISHED
"numbered," or "counted ". By divine illumination Daniel
drew from this word the interpretation "God hath
numbered thy kingdom and finished it."
TEKEL; THOU ART WEIGHED IN THE
BALANCES, AND ART FOUND WANTING.
In dealing with men, God always
uses a language which appeals forcibly to their
understanding. This is illustrated by the handwriting on
It is a common belief among pagans
that the gods weigh deeds in the balances, and if the
good deeds outweigh the evil, the individual enters into
his reward; however if the opposite is the case then
These words addressed to the king
condemn all who like Belshazzar neglect to take hold, of
their God given opportunities. In the great
investigative judgment of heaven men are weighed in the
balances of the sanctuary to see whether their moral
character and spiritual condition correspond with the
benefits and blessings God bestows upon them.
PERES; THY KINGDOM IS DIVIDED, AND
GIVEN TO THE MEDES AND PERSIANS.
The consonants of the word “peres”
also stand for Persia and the Persians, who were even
then at the gates of Babylon.
God had very graciously given
Nebuchadnezzar the opportunity to accept Him and every
blessing which heaven could bestow was given so that the
king and his kingdom might stand on the side of right.
Some have asked the question, why did Belshazzar accept
so meekly the announcement of the end of his kingdom,
especially seeing the Persians were besieging him, and
such a statement would be regarded as treachery and
unpatriotic. The answer is, "a terror of God was upon
them all. (Gen 35:5)
God had stood by Daniel on other
occasions when he was in danger and again at this time.
THEN COMMANDED BELSHAZZAR, AND THEY
CLOTHED DANIEL WITH SCARLET, AND PUT A CHAIN OF GOLD
ABOUT HIS NECK, AND MADE A PROCLAMATION CONCERNING HIM,
THAT HE SHOULD BE THE THIRD RULER IN THE KINGDOM.
The king fulfilled the promise he
had made to Daniel, although Daniel clearly indicated
that he was not interested in the honors the king
offered as reward. Scarcely had the scarlet robe been
placed on Daniel and the golden chain hung about his
neck, when the shouts of the invading army rang through
In the midst of their feasting and
revelry none had noticed that the waters in the
Euphrates were steadily diminishing. The besieging army
of Cyrus, who had been held back by the massive walls of
the city, had turned the river from its natural course
and diverted it into many irrigational canals further
upstream. Possibly the Babylonian guards in charge of
the great gates that barred entrance into the city were
as intoxicated as their king. Had they been sober, they
would have certainly raised the warning as they noticed
the receding waters.
What happened that night was a
fulfillment of prophecy. Isaiah 45:1 says, "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."
IN THAT NIGHT WAS BELSHAZZAR THE
KING OF THE CHALDEANS SLAIN.
The Persians, once in the river
bed, easily entered the city through the open gates.
Soon one post was running to "meet another, and one
messenger to meet another," to show the king of Babylon
that his city is taken, but the news was received too
late to save the king. God had numbered his kingdom and
The pen of inspiration describes
the overthrow of the kingdom more vividly than any human
historian. Speaking of the downfall of Babylon, Jeremiah
says, in Jeremiah 51:39 R.S.V. "While they are inflamed
I will prepare them a feast and will make them drunk,
till they swoon away and sleep a perpetual sleep and not
wake, says the Lord."
AND DARIUS THE MEDIAN TOOK THE
KINGDOM, BEING ABOUT THREESCORE AND TWO YEARS OLD.
The kingdom was given to Darius,
the aged king of the Medes. Thus came to an end one of
the proudest monarchies that has ever been upon the
The question naturally arises, why
did not the conquering army destroy Daniel, who was the
third ruler in the kingdom? The answer is simple. When
the kingdom was taken and Belshazzar slain, Nabonadius,
the first ruler, at the head of the army, was surrounded
by the enemy in another part of the kingdom.
This left Daniel as sole ruler in
Babylon. He, knowing that over one hundred years before,
Isaiah had prophesied that Cyrus should take the kingdom,
was ready to welcome him whom God had said should build the
house of the LORD at Jerusalem.
There is also good reason to believe
that Daniel and Cyrus were not strangers, when excluded from
the council of Belshazzar. Daniel had spent a portion of his
time at Shushan, the capital of Elam. Daniel may have formed
an acquaintance with Cyrus, and showed to him, as the high
priest did to Alexander on another occasion the prophecy
pertaining to himself and also revealed to him the way God
had said he should enter Babylon. It is evident from the
wording of the decree given in the first chapter of Ezra
that Cyrus was familiar with these prophecies.