Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim. 2:15

King James AV1611


The Book of Daniel

Daniel was taught by Dr. James Modlish


Chapter Five
(Belshazzar's Doom - 5:1-31)



Some twenty years pass between chapters 4 and 5, and King Nebuchadnezzar moves off the scene. He was succeeded by a son who reigned just a few years and then was assassinated by his own brother-in-law. He in turn ruled four years but was killed while in battle. The next two rulers occupied the throne a very brief time; the second of these was Nabonidus. He was actually a son-in-law to Nebuchadnezzar and was married to the widow of one of the previous kings. Nabonidus was king of the Babylonian empire at this time, and his son Belshazzar was king of the city of Babylon. This explains why Daniel was named third ruler (5:7,29). While the events in (ch. 5) are taking place, King Nabonidus has been captive of the Medes and Persians for four months. Note the experiences of the king.


I. Enjoying His Feast - (5:1-4)

This feast was in honor of one of the great Babylonian gods, and it took place in the autumn of 539 B.C. Archaeologists have unearthed palaces at Babylon containing great halls large enough to entertain a thousand guests. They have also discovered that the walls were covered with a white calk-like substance, which explains the matter of the handwriting on the wall. The main idea in these verses is drinking wine. Wine has always been associated with Babylon and the Babylonian "system" of this world (Jer. 51:7; Rev. 14:8, 17:15, 18:3, 13). The king was not content to drink wine to his gods (vs. 4, and see Rev. 9:20); he wanted to blaspheme the God of the Jews as well. So he had the sacred temple vessels brought in to be used at this idolatrous, blasphemy feast (see Dan. 1:2). The word "father" in (5:2) indicates "grandfather"; also in (vss. 11 and 13). Please keep in mind that the Medes and Persians were already outside the gates of the city when this feast was in progress! So confident was the king that his fortress city was impregnable that he laughed at the invading armies outside the gates. What a picture of our world today: judgment is about to fall, yet men are making merry and worshiping their false gods. "When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them..." says (1 Thess. 5:3). Babylon was a strong city with walls 350 ft. high and 87 ft. thick! The Euphrates River ran diagonally through the city, and great brass gates controlled the entrances to the city. How could any invading army capture such a city? Well, they did!


II. Revealing His Fear - (5:5-9)

The guests apparently could not immediately see the mysterious hand appear, but the king looked over their heads and saw it on the opposite wall. imagine how shocked the guests were when they saw their king trembling, his knees knocking together! -Wine could not give him courage now; he was face to face with a message from God. You can read (vs. 7), "And the king spake..." He had to know the meaning of the hand and the handwriting. In fact, he offered the man who would explain it the position as third ruler of the land. (How foolish! In just a few hours Belshazzar would not even be alive and ruling himself!) As usual, none of the king's "experts'' could explain the writing on the wall, and this made the king even more concerned. How strange that he did not know Daniel, the man who had counseled his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar. But Belshazzar was a careless youth (he was about 35 years-old at this time) who was more interested in power and pleasure than in spiritual matters No wonder his city fell!


III. Discovering His Future (5:10-29)

The Queen Mother solved the problem. It is likely that this wise woman was widow of Nebuchadnezzar whom Belshazzar's father, Nabonidus, married in order to solidify his power in the kingdom. At any rate, she heard of the consternation in the banquet hall and came to advise the king. "O king, live forever!" she said (vs. 10) - and he was going to be dead before the night was over! Then she told him about Daniel and how he had advised his grandfather. Daniel was an old man now, and had been "retired" from active service. As an honored member of the official family, Daniel was probably invited to the feast as a guest; but he would not defile himself or compromise his testimony. Because of his separated position Daniel was honored of God (2 Cor. 6:14-18).

The king tried to impress Daniel (13-16), but Daniel would not be impressed? He knew that the king's gifts meant nothing in comparison to the blessing of God; for that matter, Belshazzar was not going to be king much longer. Before explaining the handwriting, Daniel preached a sermon to the king, using the king's grandfather as his illustration. He warned the king about his pride and sin and reminded him that God judged Nebuchadnezzar severely. "Thou knewst all this!" Daniel exclaimed; "yet you persist in living such a wicked life! Now God has sent you a message of judgment - it is too late!" God gave Nebuchadnezzar a year to repent (4:28-33), but there was no year for Belshazzar to repent. He was doomed.

Now for the explanation. The words were in Chaldean: Mene (menay), MENE, TEKEL (tekail), PERES (parace). (The word UPHARSIN in (vs. 25) is the plural of PERES, and the letter U is our word "and" in the Chaldean language.) Now, in Babylon a mina and tekel were different weights; and the word peres simply means "to divide." So, when the Babylonian magicians saw these words on the wall, they could not understand what they meant. But God gave Daniel the interpretation: "Numbered - weighted - divided!" Belshazzar's days had been numbered and time was up; he had been weighed in God's scales and found wanting; now his kingdom would be taken from him and divided by the Medes and Persians. And keep in mind that Darius was at the gate at that very hour!

Did Belshazzar believe the message from God, even after all his fear and shaking? NO! We find no evidence of repentance or concern. He kept his promise and made Daniel third ruler just as though his kingdom were to continue forever. The king's pride, lust, indifference, and self-satisfaction led to his downfall.


IV. Meeting His Fate (5:30-31)

Had Belshazzar studied the Prophet Isaiah, he would have known just how the city of Babylon would be taken, and by whom it would be taken. Cyrus the Persian conqueror would defeat the Medes and then come down upon Babylon (Isa. 41:25; 45:1-4). He would dig a canal that would reroute the Euphrates River, and then smuggle his army into the city under the gates! The Babylonians had seen the enemy digging, but they thought they were going to build a mound against the city, Actually, they were diverting the river. Why was the city taken unawares? Because most of the people were drunk! It was a great religious feast day and the people were too involved in pleasure to think about defense. The enemy came right into the banquet hall and the king was slain. What a warning to our nation! We have such a please-mad country today that it will be easy for some enemy to take us unawares, and history will repeat itself.

Who was Darius the Mede? Isaiah had said that Cyrus would capture Babylon and set the Jews free (Isa. 44:28-45:13); see also (Dan. 1:21; 10:1). Darius is mentioned as "king" in (Dan. 6:1,6,9, 25,28; 9:1; 11:1). The solution is found in the word "took" in (5:31). Darius (Cyrus' military leader) took the kingdom for Cyrus, king of Persia, and ruled Babylon for him. In (6:28) we see that it was a dual kingship; Cyrus was while Darius ruled king of the empire, while Babylon and the area connected with it. Cyrus entered Babylon a might conqueror and proceeded to deal wisely with the people, including the exiled Jews. it was Cyrus who issued the decrees that permitted the Jews to return to their land and rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:1-4; see Isa. 44:28). So, even the rise and fall of empires is all a part of God's plan for His people (Rom. 8:28)!

The fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. is a picture of the future fall of Babylon (the devil's world system) as given in (Rev. 17-18). And Bible-believing Christians can already see "the handwriting on the wall." But blind world rulers continue in their pride and pleasure, little realizing that the Lord is coming, yes, He is even at the doors (Jas. 5:9)!

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