Bible Commentaries
Daniel 5

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-31

Belshazzar’s Feast

Belshazzar, king of Babylon, holds a great feast, at which he profanely uses the sacred vessels taken by Nebuchadnezzar from the Temple at Jerusalem (Daniel 5:1-4). He is terrified at seeing part of a human hand writing mysterious words on the wall of the banqueting room, and vainly offers great rewards to the wise men of Babylon if they can read and explain the writing (Daniel 5:5-9). The queen tells him of Daniel, and of his fame for wisdom, acquired in Nebuchadnezzar’s days. Daniel is accordingly sent for, and Belshazzar repeats to him his request and his promises (Daniel 5:10-16).

Declining the offered reward Daniel rebukes Belshazzar for neglecting the lessons of humility taught by Nebuchadnezzar’s history, and interprets the writing as a message of doom (Daniel 5:17-29). That night Belshazzar is slain and Darius the Median receives the kingdom (Daniel 5:30-31).

Teaching. The profanations of Belshazzar were very similar to those of Antiochus Epiphanes (1 Maccabees 1:20-24; 2 Maccabees 5:15-17), and Belshazzar’s fate would encourage the Jews in the time of Antiochus to hope that their oppressor would be similarly cut off.

1. Belshazzar the king] These words raise another historical difficulty, We learn from the inscriptions that Belshazzar was the son of Nabuna’ id (Nabonidus), the last king of Babylon, and never occupied the throne himself. As Nabuna’id, however, was much occupied with antiquarian pursuits Belshazzar was practically ’prince-regent.’ See on Daniel 7:1; Daniel 8:1.

2. Vessels] see Daniel 1:2. His father Nebuchadnezzar] another historical difficulty. Nabuna’id was the father of Belshazzar, and was a usurper, who did not belong to the same family as Nebuchadnezzar. It is possible that he may have married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, but of this nothing is known. In that case ’father’ would have the general sense of ’forefather’ which it often bears in OT. But the emphasis laid on ’father’ (Daniel 5:11, Daniel 5:13, Daniel 5:18) and ’son’ (Daniel 5:19) seems to indicate that the writer had the literal relationship in view, and regarded Belshazzar as the actual son and immediate successor of Nebuchadnezzar.

7. Scarlet] RV ’purple’: so in Daniel 5:16, Daniel 5:29.

Be the third ruler] EM ’rule as one of three’: so in Daniel 5:16, Daniel 5:29. The meaning is illustrated by the arrangement described in Daniel 6:2.

12. Hard] RV ’dark.’

13. Jewry] RV ’Judah.’

19. People] RV ’peoples.’

25. The words are names of weights. The U in Upharsin stands for ’and,’ and P(h) arsin is the plural of Peres (Daniel 5:28). The literal meaning of the writing was ’amina, a mina, a shekel, and half minas.’

26-28. The interpretation given by Daniel is connected with the derivation of two of the terms. Mene signifies ’numbered’; Tekel (= shekel) suggests the process of weighing; and Peres is doubly explained, first by its etymology (’division’), and second by its assonance with ’Persian.’

30. Chaldeans] here used in the national sense, as equivalent to ’Babylonians.’

Was Belshazzar.. slain] The traditions about the capture of Babylon by Cyrus, which classical historians have preserved, are now known from the inscriptions of Cyrus himself to be incorrect. The army of Cyrus occupied Babylon without fighting, and Nabuna’id was captured. Cyrus himself afterwards entered the city in peace. A little later, however, there was a night assault made by Gobryas, the governor under Cyrus, in which ’the king’s son’ was slain.

31. Darius the Median (RV ’Mede’)] presents the greatest historical difficulty in the book. In this v. he receives the kingdom of Babylon upon the death of Belshazzar. In Daniel 6:1-2, Daniel 6:25-26 he acts and speaks as a supreme sovereign; in Daniel 6:28 he appears as a predecessor of Cyrus the Persian; in Daniel 9:1 he is called ’Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.’ No such person, however, is mentioned in any other historical source, and the inscriptions leave no room for an independent king of Babylon between Nabuna’id and Cyrus. Cyrus had conquered Media before invading Babylon, and his army comprised both Medes and Persians, Gobryas, the general of Cyrus, who acted under him as governor of Babylon, was probably a Mede, and the author of Daniel has apparently mistaken his subordinate office for an independent monarchy, and has confounded his name with that of Darius Hystaspes (the Darius of the book of Ezra), who was the father, and not the son, of Ahasuerus (Xerxes).

Took] RV ’received,’

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Daniel 5". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.