JIV NOTE: This article is rather long and for which I must ask the reader’s persistence. This section of Daniel is or has no natural break-point without breaking the context of verses 9 – 30. The website editor of this webpage article may opt to break it into two articles. We now pick up at the point King Belshazzar sees the writing on the wall; a phrase we often use in our modern culture. This is even true of agnostics and bible critics. They too use this phrase.
Then was King Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.
In verse 6 Belshazzar was troubled and his countenance changed. Now he is really worried (Aramaic = exceedingly terrified) and it is obvious. It would appear from the word ‘astonied’ = shebash (Aramaic), that his lords were ‘perplexed’ because of the king’s reactions. Wasn’t this the king who had thrown a party to demonstrate his invincibility? Now he has not only wet his pants in public, but has turned white as a sheet because no one can explain what this writing means.
We have seen the king make four major mistakes:
- Overconfidence Pride (verse 1)
- Open defiance of the God of Heaven (verse 2)
- Drinking to excess (verse 3)
- Worshipping false gods (verse 4)
Seldom do people in such open rebellion not know why judgment has come upon them. The king’s conscience had already convicted him before a word had been spoken. People are wise after the event, but arrogant before; thinking to avoid being caught is their only real concern. Just like Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:15 “and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands” all of Belshazzar’s actions were an open taunt to God. We see that same incredible attitude with Antichrist in Rev 13 where he blasphemes the God of Heaven (Rev 13:6). There is HUGE parallels between Daniel and End Time.
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:
The person referred to here as the queen is what we would understand as the queen mother, and from the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus, it would appear to be Nitocris, wife of Nabonidus and daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, whom Herodotus mentions as a woman of extraordinary prudence. However, this could have been Neb’s now elderly and widowed wife.
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, Chaldeans, and soothsayers;
Having heard of the king’s problem she makes her way to the banquet hall and suggests Daniel as the man to interpret the writing. As Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter [grandmother?] either would have been well acquainted with Daniel and his exploits during her father’s reign, and seems to put in a public ‘dig’ saying that Nebuchadnezzar had learned his lesson late in life. You never listened to him in ‘your’ life yet alone learn the lesson he did.
Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing 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 shew the interpretation.
Maybe because Daniel cared for her father for the seven years of chapter 4, she seems to be fond of Daniel and presents a brief resume´ that is bound to impress. She acknowledges (in verse 11) that the spirit of the ‘holy gods’ is in him and boldly declares that he will shew the interpretation. This shows her faith not only in Daniel but in his ‘Gods’ – plural: Father, Son & Spirit, OR, perhaps she herself had not learned the same lesson of ONE GOD.
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?
Daniel would have been around 80 plus years old by now, and it is clear from this verse that his reputation had preceded him. JIV: He also had not returned to Judah/Jerusalem with Zerubbabel, Ezra, or Nehemiah. The few Judeans that left Babylon upon being released was less than one percent. There are millions of their descendants remaining in Iran and Iraq today but most of them have since intermarried and forgotten their DNA.
I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee.
Notice the pride once more of Belshazzar “even I have heard of you, so you must be something!” The question could well be asked, why Daniel wasn’t called to start with if he had such a reputation. My guess? Possibly for the same reason that is mentioned in the comments on Daniel 4:6, 7 – see also Ephesians 5:13.
15 And now 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:
16 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.
So the king explains the predicament that the other ‘wise’ men couldn’t solve and offers Daniel rewards including to be made third ruler in the kingdom. The reason that third ruler in the kingdom was offered is that, as we have noted, Nabonidus was king, Belshazzer was appointed king of Babylon while Nabonidus was away, thus the #1 and #2 spots were already filled. This is additional evidence that this is a historically accurate record. Critics and ‘so-called (Wikipedia) scholars’ scoffed for years claiming that Daniel was wrong and must have been written many years after this time because no record had been found of Belshazzar being king of Babylon. However, competent research and archaeological discoveries have now completely vindicated Daniel and in fact have demonstrated that Daniel had to be an eyewitness of these events.
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, now much older and less concerned about political correctness, basically tells the king where to put his gifts! He will explain the writing and give the interpretation anyway. All through the book Daniel demonstrates that he doesn’t work for man but for God.
18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy [grand] father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honor:
19 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.
Before Daniel starts to read the writing and interpret the message, he gives this self-edifying little king a history lesson about a real king who had real authority! Read on….
20 (…) 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:
21 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 that he appointed over it whomsoever he will.
Daniel explains to Belshazzar what happens to those who are proud before God and underlines the ultimate lesson: that the most high God rules in the kingdom of men, and he appoints over it whomsoever he will. Either Belshazzar already knew of the happenings to Nebuchadnezzar or he missed the history lesson per his family passing it on.
And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;
The stage is set. Daniel knows by this time tomorrow all would end but feared not for his own life. Daniel already knew this was not about him but the end of this kingdom to which he had been brought as a captive teenager.
But 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:
Just picture this situation: In the middle of his big party, with a thousand of his lords present, a hand ‘out of nowhere’ writes on the wall. The king has an ‘accident’ and turns as white as a sheet. The best men of the land are unable to help him. By now word was out about what has happened. His mother hears about it, comes in and embarrasses him yet further; eventually an 81-year-old man is called who, in front of a thousand lords, criticizes him openly. We haven’t even gotten to the interpretation of the writing yet!
This is a classic case of God resisting the proud, and should serve as a graphic example that pride is an abomination to the Lord (see Proverbs 16:5).
Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.
Daniel now interprets the writing no longer delaying the preponderance of evidence. Time is short and even shorter for Belshazzar.
And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
Rabbinic tradition says that this writing was in the form of an encrypted Hebrew code called ‘Atbash’.
This is not the only time that encrypted words are found in the Bible. In Jeremiah 25:26 there is another example of Atbash (the word Sheshach is an encrypted form of ‘Babylon’), and in Isaiah 7:6 there is an example of another form of encryption called Albam (there the word Tabeel is an encryption of Remaliah). Both of these forms of encryption are fairly simple forms of transposition, where one letter is consistently used to replace another.
JIV SPECIAL NOTE: Hebrew & Aramaic reads right to left – all languages flow toward Jerusalem! If we look at a globe with Jerusalem in the center, countries west of it write left to right, those east write right to left; this may be a coincidence, but then again..(?).
It would appear that Daniel was familiar with this form of encryption, as he has no difficulty in interpreting it before the king: (of course, he also had the eyes and help of God)
Note: Initially this may strike us as simply interesting, however when we stop to consider who the author of scripture actually is, the fact that God has placed hidden codes in the Bible is staggering. This is what the ancient Rabbis would call a ‘remez’ – a hint of something deeper. In a previous study we found ‘Bible coding’ by using names and their definitions to read as a paragraph and statement. This Bible Code is true of Daniel’s name along with his three compatriots.
Bible coding? What a powerful deterrent to adding or subtracting to a portion of scripture because it is difficult or unpopular, when, by altering the surface text (as many liberal and politically correct ‘Christians’ are wont to do) they may in fact corrupt the bible code. Subtracting from the Bible one inadvertently removes the code itself; perhaps even their name from the Book of Life! This gives me a personal and different understanding of predestination. If one is predestined to become a son (child) of God that is one thing. But… if one is predestined BE a child of God; that is something quite different. The same is true of translations. An incorrect translation will corrupt any Bible code hidden from the eyes of the casual reader.
Proverbs 30:5 states that “Every word of God is pure. Do not add to His words lest He rebuke you and you be found a liar”. Also read Revelation 22:19
David echoes in Psalm 119:160 “Thy word is true from the beginning.” If it is pure and true then there is nothing that we can add or subtract to improve it. We should simply fall before our God who has given us His Word, which we are told in Psalm 138:2 He has exalted above all His name! If blasphemy – the misuse of His name – is to be judged, how much more the misuse of His Word!
26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.
Thus king Belshazzar’s worst fears are realized, his time of playing games with the God of Israel is over, and in the most dramatic fashion.
From this verse come two phrases that are still used today ‘you’re number’s up’ and ‘weighed and found wonting’. It is incredible the number of words and phrases that people use every day that originate from the Bible, yet most people have no idea, and worse still, no regard for this most incredible book.
There is a play on words here as well with the word ‘PERES’. In both Hebrew and Aramaic there are no vowels so the word would have been written as ‘P R S’ with the vowels inferred. However without the vowels the sound and meaning can alter. Take for example the words CaT and CoT. Without the vowels all we would read is C_T. And so it is here with Peres; if the ‘e’ (which makes the word mean ‘divided’) is replaced with an ‘a’ we get the Aramaic word for ‘Persians’! Surprised are you???? So was I during my studies.
29 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.
Not that Daniel was bothered; the kingdom only had a few hours to go! Besides, Belshazzar’s grandfather Nebuchadnezzar had already put him in charge of Babylon many years earlier [Daniel 2:48] Also, several years earlier, Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:48 had already made Daniel the ruler over all things pertinent to the running of Babylonian.
30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.
31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.
So Belshazzar, as all proud people will be, is cut down. David said in Psalm 7:9 “Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God tries the hearts and reins.” Recall that Belshazzar’s father was away with the army of Babylon. We have little information as to what happens to him and his missing forces, but they were not there to defend Babylon. Some historians suggest he had already been defeated in battle with the Medes. This is likely to be why it was the Mede Darius who was made ruler in Babylon.
Psalm 37:7-13 says:
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The wicked plot against the just, and gnash upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he sees that his day is coming.” How true this was for Belshazzar who was made a public spectacle in front of his one thousand lords yet was humiliated by the God of heaven whom he had rejected.
God sweeps aside the mighty Babylonian kingdom, the head of gold (cf Dan 2); and in comes the Medo-Persian empire – the chest and arms of silver (Daniel 2). He did this in part as the Babylonians did not treat the captive Judeans with dignity or mercy.
There is some debate over the identity of Darius the Mede. We will deal with that in chapter 6. What we do know is that he was about sixty-two years old when he became ruler of Babylon in 539 B.C. It should be noted, that the first actual year for a Babylonian king was reckoned as their ascension year. What we would consider their 2nd year would therefore be their first regal year. Thus 539-538 = Darius’ ascension year; 538-537 B.C. = Darius’ 1st year.