Historical Note: In chapter five we jump ahead in time (see the opening paragraph).. The previous chapter was the end of the life and reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Though Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar through his mother, the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, he only ruled as co-regent with his less-than-royal blood father, Nebo nidus.
Doubts about Belshazzar (website Creation.com writes…)
Is this (hi)story just a legend, or does the Bible preserve accurate history? Years ago, some skeptics denied that there ever was a king of Babylon named Belshazzar, claiming that his name and story were invented by someone unfamiliar with true Babylonian history. But just when it looked like all the evidence was stacked against Scripture, a series of archaeological discoveries showed that Belshazzar did exist after all, and the details given about him in the Bible are profoundly correct.
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.
In chapter five we find that Belshazzar is now king (not to be confused with Beltshazzar; i.e. Daniel). About 23 years have passed since Nebuchadnezzar died and the kingdom of Babylon has gone through a turbulent time. Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Evil-Merodach, succeeded his father and reigned for almost three years (2 Kings 25:27 / Jeremiah 52:31). His younger brother, Neriglissar, then reigned for about five years being succeeded by his son, Labashi-Marduk. He was but a child-king, who reigned for just a few months before being murdered.
Finally, Nabonidus, who had married Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter, became king. History records that Nabonidus did not relate well with the people of Babylon, especially with the priests of Marduk (the Babylonian god). As a result of this, after three years, Nabonidus appointed his son Belshazzar, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, as king of Babylon while he himself took an army to Arabia, presumably to build sandcastles and keep out of the limelight! All of this political turmoil was just the invitation that a brilliant young military leader by the name of Cyrus needed. The Meads and the Persians were two great adjacent empires that had been steadily growing in power; however when Cyrus came along with one of his parents, one Persian and the other a Mead, it was the smoothing oil that was required to unite two fairly strong empires into one all-conquering one.
Belshazzar would have been aware that the newly formed Medo-Persian Empire was in the ascendancy and no doubt well aware that Cyrus’ army (under the command of his general – Gubaru (later to be crowned Darius)) was heading toward Babylon. So what do you do when you’re the king of Babylon and an invading army is approaching? Throw a party! Evidently Belshazzar was so sure that Babylon was impregnable that he simply shut the gates of the city and gave a great feast to a thousand of his lords to demonstrate his undeniable, if not foolhardy, confidence and incredible wealth. After all, he was the king of the great Babylon, Excellency of the Chaldeans and capital of the known world. If overconfidence was his first mistake, his second was soon to follow. P.S.; Recall that his father, Nabonidus, had taken the army with him into Arabia “to build sand castles.” The huge city of Babylon had but castle or palace guards for defense.
Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his [grand] 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 therein.
Cf. 2 Kings 20:14-18; Daniel 1:2
Openly defying the God of Israel has never been a good career move – United Nations; European Union; PLO; Hezbollah; Hamas, Syrian; Iran, [USA?] etc. take note!
3Then 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.
4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.
Proverbs 31:4 states that it is not for kings to drink wine or strong drink; how much more so when that drink is combined with idolatry. This is begging for trouble and taunting God.
5 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.
6 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 against another.
This would be enough to ruin anyone’s party! This writing didn’t just appear on the wall in any old place; it appeared by the candlestick, the brightest spot in the room so all would see. It is easy to understand why the king’s face and continence were changed. Indeed why his thoughts troubled him. However, in case the reader is unclear as to the King James phrase ‘his loins were loosed’ – JIV: let’s just say he needed the bathroom but didn’t make it in time!
There is an undeniably humorous side to this situation as we look on; imagine being the only man in scripture of whom it is recorded that they wet themselves (or worse)! What makes this even more incredible is that this event was even foretold by the prophet Isaiah 200 years beforehand! “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” (Isaiah 45:1)
No doubt this applied to Belshazzar as his knees buckled and let loose of all muscle control.
7 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 shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.
8 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.
As we saw in chapter two with Nebuchadnezzar, people are quick to turn to ‘religion’ when problems arise and seek answers from the ‘professional’ religious leaders. However just as we see here, they can seldom give or find the answers. Much is made in our day of ‘ordained ministers’ and so often these are the ones the world will turn to in the event of a tragedy or problem, even if only to seek their opinion. But is it not also true that so often these are the ones we see undermining the word of God and compromising in order to be seen to be politically correct? This should come as no great surprise, for those ordained and appointed by men will be answerable to men. In God’s kingdom it is very different. We read nothing in scripture of being ordained by the Bishop, but rather we read: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:16)
For any believer in Christ, it is the Lord Himself who has ordained us. We are answerable to him. Paul tells us: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” and why is this so? “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Cor 1:26-29)
Early in the book of Acts we read of the boldness of Peter and John, yet they were unlearned and ignorant men (see Acts 4:13). They did not have their theology degree from a ‘Bible’ college or seminary, accredited by a secular university that is rooted in humanism and evolutionary thinking. These were just two simple fishermen who would have struggled to get a job in many churches today, yet we read that they had been with Jesus – and that was all the qualification that was necessary!
A personal ordination from the King of kings rates immeasurably higher than anything that manmade institutions purport to offer.
We continue our Daniel series next beginning with Daniel 5:9. …”his countenance changed him.” Now THAT is a significant understatement.