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Smith's Bible Commentary Smith's Commentary
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Daniel 5". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ csc/ daniel-5.html. 2014.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Daniel 5". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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Shall we turn now in our Bible to Daniel, chapter 5.
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousands ( Daniel 5:1 ).
There are men who call themselves Bible scholars and they belong to a school known as "higher criticism." And for years these men declared that the book of Daniel was not valid. And one of their reasons for this declaration was that in secular history they had not discovered the name Belshazzar. But one of ancient historians, Neobonis, I think it was who, Neobonodis, who gave a genealogy of Nebuchadnezzar, and there was no mention of any Belshazzar in the genealogy that he gave. And naturally the historian could not be wrong; it's got to be the Bible. And so they put out their disclaimers on the book of Daniel and discredit the book, and they gave a later author and just were willing to use any little excuse to disbelieve the book of Daniel. However, Sir Rawlinson, one of the great archeologists was doing a lot of excavating in the area of Babylon, the Palace of Shushan when they discovered it. And he found some very interesting, many interesting tablets and all in which the name Belshazzar and all existed. And there were, of course, many confirmations of this particular account that we have in Daniel. And so the critics, you'd think they'd give up. No, they just went to something else. But nonetheless, once more the archeologist's spade has proved the truth of God's Word, it's authenticity, it's reliability, and it's a rather tragic thing that man keeps pounding away hoping that one day he'll discover a true flaw. You would think that after this length of time, surely as brilliant and all as these men are, they would have found one that they could have hung their hats on. Or you'd think that they'd be wise enough to quit trying, you know, at this length.
The account of Belshazzar is an interesting account. Belshazzar was not really the son of Nebuchadnezzar. In the language, there was really no real words for grandson. So, "the son of" means that he came from that lineage or from the line. He was actually the grandson of Belshazzar. And he was co-regent with his father. Now being a co-regent with his father, it would seem that his father was, according to other historians, his father was leading the Babylonian troops in their battles, whereas Belshazzar remained at the palace and in Babylon, ruling there in Babylon. His father, a king, also co-reigning with his son, Belshazzar, was out in the field with the troops in their conquering and plundering. And that is, of course, the reason why when this experience came where there was the handwriting on the wall and Daniel was brought in to interpret it, he offered Daniel the third part of the kingdom because there were already two parts; one for his father, one to him, and so Daniel would receive the third part of the kingdom.
"Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords. He drank wine before the thousands." So here's a tremendous party. It lasted for quite a period of time. Josephus records it. Gives us some interesting details about it, as does Herodotus the other ancient historian. And Xenophon also makes reference to this banquet. There are stories of ostriches pulling around trays of fruits and nuts and delicacies, and quite a party. In fact, they say that the incense was so thick within the chambers that when a person would just walk in they'd become intoxicated with the thickness of the incense.
Belshazzar, while he was tasted the wine [or actually, while he was under the influence of the wine], commanded to bring the gold and the silver vessels which his father [which would have been grandfather] Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink from them. And 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, his concubines began to drink from them. And they drank wine, and they praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, iron, wood, and of stone. And in the same hour came forth the fingers of a man's hand, and wrote against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. And 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 ( Daniel 5:2-6 ).
Quite a graphic description of the whole affair, to say the least. As his thoughts began to trouble him and, of course, well might his thoughts trouble him. As he had taken these vessels that have been sanctified for use in the temple unto the Lord only. And he had profaned, not only profaned them by drinking his wine out of them, but he began to praise the gods of gold and silver.
Now there is an interesting prophecy in Isaiah, chapter 21, in which in verse Daniel 5:2 , the prophet declares, "Go up, O Elam; besiege, O Media, or the Medes. All the sign thereof have I made deceased. Therefore are my loins filled with pain. Pangs have taken hold upon me as the pangs of a woman that travails. I was bowed down at the hearing of it. I was dismayed at the seeing of it. My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me. The night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me." And he speaks then, of course, of the, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen; all the graven images of her gods are broken to the ground," in verse Daniel 5:9 . So it's a prophecy against Babylon speaking of the fall of Babylon and surely seems to describe a couple of hundred years before the event this very thing of which Daniel now describes took place there as "the heart was panting, fearfulness affrighted of me, the night of my pleasure he hath turned into fear unto me." And, of course, this is the night that Babylon fell. Cyrus the Persian king, Medo-Persian king came in to conquer and that, of course, brings up another interesting prophecy in Isaiah, as he was prophesying the destruction of Babylon in which he names Cyrus, in chapter 44 of Isaiah, verse Daniel 5:28 . "Then saith He of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd. He shall perform all My pleasure.' Even saying to Jerusalem, 'Thou shalt be built,' and to the temple, 'Thy foundation shall be laid.' Thus saith the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held to subdue nations before him and I will loose the loins of kings."
So you read here that his loins were loosed and the joints of his knees began to smite one against another. And here is the prediction two hundred years in advance. "I will loose the loins of kings to open before him the two levied gates and the gates shall not be shut. I will go before thee and make the crooked places straight," and so forth. And he said, "That you may know that I am the Lord which called thee by thy name. I am the God of Israel, for Jacob my servant's sake, Mine elect. I then call thee by thy name and surnamed thee." Now Isaiah wrote this about the year 712 B.C. We are writing of things that took place in the year of about 538 B.C. So a hundred and fifty years before the event, God speaks about it and He talks about loosing the loins of the kings and opening up the levied gates.
The city of Babylon was thought to be totally impregnable. It had a wall some three hundred feet high, eighty feet thick, with these massive towers upon it. And then it had also a secondary wall, not quite as large, the river Euphrates flowed through the middle of the city of Babylon. The wall was fifteen miles around the city and the city was lined off with blocks going east and west, or streets, wide streets going east and west and north and south. Now where these streets intersected the Euphrates River, they had bridges and they also had gates that they could shut so that the Euphrates River could be sealed off and the city actually would be divided in two by the sealing off of the Euphrates River.
According to the historians, the night that Babylon fell, this particular night that we're reading about in chapter 5, for some reason, and they say it was because the soldiers were too drunk to know what they were doing, they did not lock those gates to the levy or that came in from the river Euphrates. Now Cyrus, the king of the Medo-Persian army had diverted or had built diversion channels for the river Euphrates. And he diverted the flow of the river Euphrates and his soldiers came under the wall in the riverbed, having diverted the flow of the river, and then they came up into the city and found these gates unlocked and were able to come in and take the city. Of course the soldiers were really too drunk to defend it. And so prophesied by Daniel in great detail, even naming the king that God would use to destroy the city of Babylon. And now the fulfillment of it and God mentioning even such things as the loins being loosed in prophecy, the joints of the loins being loosed. The fear that came upon Belshazzar when he saw the hand of God.
You know, there are people whose activities are those of open blasphemy against God. There are people who seem to be so forward in their mockery, ridicule, and blaspheming of God. It seems that there is no fear of God within their hearts at all. And they are just brazen. Imagine this man calling for the gold and silver vessels that have been sanctified for use in the temple of God. And now drinking his wine out of these vessels as he praises gods of gold and silver. But suddenly, he saw the hand of God and this king who seemed to be so brazen and so blasphemous is suddenly shaking like a leaf. And there are people today who seem to be so brazen and blasphemous in their activities, but once they see the hand of God beginning to come in judgment. I've seen God break people just down to a withering leaf kind of a thing. People talk so tough. People who seem to be so blasphemous against God. But when God begins to work, I'll tell you, there's no man that can stand against it. This fellow began to shake. His thoughts troubled him and well might they trouble him.
And the king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, the soothsayers. And the king spoke, 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 the third ruler in the kingdom ( Daniel 5:7 ).
His father was first; he was second. He is offering now the position of third ruler.
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. And then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance changed in him, and his lords were astonished. Now the queen [that is, the queen mother], 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 for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed: There is a man in the kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your 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 the master of the magicians, and the astrologers, and the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers; Whereasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, the interpreting of dreams, and the showing of hard sentences, and the dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will show you the interpretation. Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto to Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee. 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 show the interpretation of the thing: And I have heard of thee, that you can make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if you can read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation, you will be clothed with scarlet, you'll have a chain of gold about your neck, you'll be the third ruler in the kingdom ( Daniel 5:8-16 ).
Interesting reputation that Daniel possesses. In him dwells the spirit of the holy gods. Man of excellent wisdom, understanding.
Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Keep your gifts, give your rewards to someone else; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known unto him the interpretation ( Daniel 5:17 ).
The gifts of God are not really to be bought. It is really wrong for a man to receive hire, or to be hired to do the work of God in that sense. Jesus spoke about the hirelings. And for a man to sell these God-given capacities would be a wrong thing. It would be the prostituting of the gifts and the works of God. That is why Daniel said, "Keep your gifts, give them to someone else. I don't need them. I'll tell you what it says. I'll interpret it for you." And but before he interprets it, he's going to give the king a little message.
Now, at this point, Daniel must be close to ninety years old. Because the seventy years of the captivity are almost over. He was probably a teenager, maybe late teens when he was taken captive. So the seventy plus the late teens puts him up close to the ninety mark. Probably eighty-five to ninety years old, somewhere in there. And he takes now this opportunity to preach a stern message to this young king.
O thou king, the most high God gave to Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honor: And for the majesty that he gave him, all of the people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: and whom he would he slew ( Daniel 5:18-19 );
The absolute authority that Nebuchadnezzar possessed.
whom he would he kept alive; whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind was hardened by pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him ( Daniel 5:19-20 ):
They took it, these watchers from heaven.
And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and he was dwelling with the wild asses: and they fed him with grass like the 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 appointeth over it whomsoever he will. And thou his son, O Belshazzar, you have not humbled your heart, though you knew all of this ( Daniel 5:21-22 );
Now Belshazzar was well aware of the things that happened to his grandfather. The madness that he experienced until the seven seasons had passed over him and his restoration and the proclamation that his grandfather made upon restoration that there is no god in all the earth like the God of Daniel who is able to set up those whom He would and bring down those whom He would. And sets in authority those whom He will. Belshazzar knew all of this. And Daniel is reminding him that you are sinning against the knowledge that you have. You know better.
But you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and you, and your lords, your wives, your concubines, have drunk the wine in them; and you have praised the gods of silver, gold, brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and in whose all of thy ways, hast thou not glorified ( Daniel 5:23 ):
Now here was the man's sin. He was praising these gods of wood, stone, gold, brass, silver. The gods that they had made with their own hands. Gods that could not see, gods that could not hear. Insensate little idols. Gods that knew nothing. He was praising them. Yet blaspheming the God in whose hand his very breath was.
That, of course, is an interesting statement. The God in whose hand thy very breath is. The lungs are an involuntary muscle. That is, they're not attached to the skeleton and you do not have to think to breathe. It something this is done automatically. Now there are some people, a very, very few, that are afflicted with an extremely rare disease and that is they have to think to breathe. And it's a very tragic thing because they sleep very fitfully. Actually, they've monitored them during their sleep and they sleep for about thirty seconds and then they wake up and take a breath and then sleep for another thirty seconds, and it's a very frightening kind of a thing because they do not breathe except by the control of the mind. They have to think to breathe. But you don't. You can be thankful for that. God controls the breath. It's interesting, God controls the heart, the heartbeat. God controls... those things that are vital to your life, God controls. He let's you control other things, other muscles of your body. But those that involve life, God put on this what we call the involuntary system. That is, they don't take the mind to control them. You don't have to think to make your heart beat. It's something that is done automatically, for your lungs to work, for your kidneys to function, things of this nature, those things upon which your life depends God doesn't leave with something as feeble as your mind to control.
"The God in whose hand your very breath is." Your stinking breath. Wine. Have you ever smelled a wino's breath? Sour. Yet the God in whose hand your very breath is.
Paul the apostle, in talking about God to the philosophers on Mars Hill, said "I want to declare to you, I want to talk to you about the unknown the God. For in Him we live and we move and we have our being." God is much closer to people than they realize. But we need to become more conscious of the all-prevailing and pervading presence of God. As David said, "Where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend in to heaven Thou art there. If I descend in hell Thou art there. If I take the wings and I flee to the uttermost parts of the earth, even there You surround me." He was conscious of the presence of God wherever he might be.
One of the fallacies of the people have always been that of localizing God. And so they had gods of the cities, and they thought that this god dwelt in this city, another god dwells in the next city. Or god is being put in an idol and the worshipping of an idol. It's the localizing of God. He's there, let's go, let's go and visit our god. It's always wrong to localize God. God cannot be localized. He isn't confined to one area. Now we, even in church, many times fall into this same kind of a fallacy of localizing God in church. And so often we'll hear prayers being offered, "Oh Lord, we're so thankful to have this opportunity to come into Your presence this morning and sit here before You," as though we weren't in the presence of God when we woke up. We weren't in the presence of God as we were driving here, but at last we've arrived and we've come into the presence. "Oh let's be quiet now. Let's, you know, let's look sober now or let's not joke now," or you know. And we have that tendency of localizing God. So that we're not aware and conscious of the fact that God is with us wherever we are, in whatever circumstances we are. He hears us, He sees us when we think that we are hiding. We so often are with those blasphemers of Psalms 71:0 who says, "Doth God know? Hath God seen?" And we think that we can hide ourselves from God because God is localized. And so if I do my evil down the street, God won't know it. I just don't do my evil when I get in church. But not so. God is not localized.
"The very God in whose hand thy breath is." Now gods who have no breath, gods who could not see, the little insensate god, they were glorifying and praising them. But the God who controlled their breath, they did not glorify. And for this reason,
That part of the hand was sent from him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. And this is the interpretation: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it [you've had it]. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and you've come up short. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and will be given to the Medes and the Persians ( Daniel 5:24-28 ).
What an awesome declaration from God: "Your kingdom is numbered; it's finished. You've been weighed in the balances; you've come up short. Your kingdom is going to be taken from you and divided, Medes and the Persians."
Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, they put a chain of gold about his neck, they made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom [for the next few hours]. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Mede took the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old ( Daniel 5:29-31 ).