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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 5

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verse 1

Dan 5:1

Daniel 5:1 BelshazzarH1113 the kingH4430 madeH5648 a greatH7229 feastH3900 to a thousandH506 of his lords,H7261 and drankH8355 wineH2562 beforeH6903 the thousand.H506

Belshazzar Saw the Writing on the Wall (Daniel Chapter 5)

One thing that is obvious is that the fifth chapter of Daniel does not belong chronologically after chapter four. If one were going to follow the life and events of Daniel in the order that he lived it, one would now need to proceed to chapter seven. The chronological order of the chapters 5 through 8 are 7, 8, 5 and then chapter 6. Chapter seven is dated by Daniel in the introduction as being "In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon" (Daniel 7:1). Chapter 8 is dated by Daniel as being "In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar" (Daniel 8:1). King Belshazzar dies at the end of chapter 5 so it is obvious the books are mixed up chronologically. It appears that the book of Daniel has been arranged by placing the historical books first with the Apocalyptic writings following at the end. It is up to the student to figure out the order.

In Daniel chapter five we are introduced to King Belshazzar at the eve of his overthrow and death and then his replacement by Darius the Mede. Darius was the king who was coerced into throwing Daniel into the lion’s den by his jealous enemies. Every child growing up anywhere near a church knows the legendary story of Daniel and the lion’s den. It was and still is one of this servants favorite Bible stories.

Who was this Belshazzar? When examining the ancient records and works of the scholars it becomes evident rather quickly that there is some disagreement as to the exact details surrounding this king. Rather than go into an exhaustive and lengthy comparison to the historical documents, we are going to stick closely with the Biblical record as to who this man was and when he reigned. It is quite obvious that this man reigned right before Darius the Mede, having been slain in the overthrow of Babylon. Daniel provides a vital piece of evidence in the text that helps us to identify this man who is quite vague in the historical record. In Daniel 5:7; Daniel 5:16; Daniel 5:29, Belshazzar declared that the person who could read and interpret the writing on the wall would be made the third ruler in the kingdom. That was the highest position Belshazzar was authorized to grant, being himself only the second ruler in the kingdom. Belshazzar was a co-regent king of Babylon during the reign of Nabonidus who was the first ruler of Babylon. Co-regents were rulers who administrated the kingdoms in the absence of the king. A modern day equivalent would be the president and the vice president. Belshazzar was the modern day vice president of the ancient Babylonian Empire.

After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, 562 BC, Evil-Merodach (Amel-Marduk), his son reigned about two years (562 to 560 BC), and was then betrayed and slain by his sister’s husband, Neriglissar (Nergal-sharezer). He reigned four years (560-556 BC), and was succeeded by his son Laborosoarchod (Labashi-Marduk) who reigned for less than a year (556 BC). Laborosoarchod was only a child when he replaced his father on the throne. After a reign of only nine months Laborosoarchod was beaten to death as a result of a conspiracy and Nabonidus, son of Evil-Merodach, was crowned king of Babylon (556 BC). Neriglissar was a usurper of the throne. Upon the death of his young son (Laborosoarchod), Nebuchadnezzar’s royal bloodline returned to the throne of the Babylonian Empire. In the book of Daniel, the usurper and his son who were not of the lineage of Nebuchadnezzar were not even mentioned.

Nabonidus was recorded in history as a royal anomaly. He is supposed to have worshiped the moongod Sîn beyond all the other gods, and to have paid special devotion to Sîn’s temple in Harran, where his mother was a priestess, and to have neglected the Babylonian main god, Marduk. Supposedly, because of the tensions that these religious reforms generated, he left the capital for the rich desert oasis of Tayma in Arabia early in his reign. In the meantime, his son Belshazzar ruled from Babylon.

While the reports of the historians are very much conflicting and confusing, there is one thing which is certain:

Daniel 5:1

Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.

Nabonidus had returned to Babylon by this time, probably due to the growing power of Cyrus. History records great tensions between him and his co-regent son, Belshazzar. Some historical documents record that Belshazzar had been relieved of his command, however inspiration labels him as a king on the eve of his death and the overthrow of the Babylonian empire. While Nabonidus was trying to hold off Cyrus from without, Belshazzar was throwing a drunken party inside the city of Babylon. Belshazzar was not a well-loved king. History records that Babylon fell abruptly with little resistance. In fact, Cyrus was welcomed as a liberator by the people when he walked uncontested into Babylon. Obviously, Belshazzar was more concerned with personal gluttony and revelry than he was with the security and welfare of the people in the empire. The picture we have of him is that of a poor leader who was generally unloved by the populace. By today’s standards and phraseology we would conclude that he had a low approval rating. The proper term for him would be a "despot".

Notice that he made a great feast to his lords. If history is accurate in recording that his father had returned to relieve him of his command, then it is quite possible that this feast he was throwing to his lords was for the purpose of gaining their alliance and strengthening his hold on the throne. One thing is for certain, it was an ill conceived, ill timed and ill executed endeavor and was the last official event of his life. And he spent it drinking wine before them all so it is without question that he was intoxicated to some degree and probably quite drunk by the end of the evening.

Verses 1-31

Dan 5:1-31

Analysis of Daniel 5:1-31 by Mark Dunagan

Belshazzar the King

It is the eve of the end of the Babylonian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar had died in 562 B.C., after a reign of forty-three years. In the next 25 years all was lost. Even his son, who had followed him, was assassinated. In 555 B.C. Nabonidus became king, yet he spent much time away from Babylon, often more than 500 miles away in the Northern Arabian Desert. And who ruled in his absence? His son, Belshazzar. The break from chapter 4 to 5 is abrupt – perhaps on purpose, reminding us how temporary and wobbly even the Empires of man can be.

Wine, Women and Worship

If one wonders how this king could be celebrating when it appears the Persians and Medes have the city surrounded (Daniel 5:30-31), is it that much different than unfaithful Christians or unbelievers who remain unfaithful or unbelieving when they are clearly at death’s door on the verge of facing their Creator’s judgment (Hebrews 9:27)? Like other rulers, the king thought that Babylon was virtually impregnable to assault. According to Herodotus it was well stocked with provisions and with the Euphrates River flowing through it, water was not a problem. How startling it is that Belshazzar can party with such gusto when it is clear that the war has been lost, just as astonishing how people who know the truth can continue to ignore it right up until the end.

Those Vessels

Nebuchadnezzar had removed objects from God’s Temple in Jerusalem some 60 years previously (Daniel 1:2), yet this king proceeds to mock God. He feels that the God of Israel is non-existent, he had counted Him out. It was not only contempt for God’s holy things, rather it was contempt for God Himself. People today will likewise mock God – even when it was clear that death was not far away.


There’s nothing like a man’s hand suddenly appearing and writing on the wall to bring about instant sobriety. Like Nebuchadnezzar in chapters 2 and 4, this king calls upon his own experts (Daniel 5:7-8), and as in previous chapters, such experts prove to be worthless. “This is sometimes God’s patternto aggravate our helplessness by exposing the uselessness of our favorite props, even our favorite religious props. You may have your own paganism of choiceoccultism, pluralism, machoism, feminism, agnosticismand they will prove as petrifyingly useless as the Babylonian variety” (Daniel, Dale Ralph Davis, p. 74).

A Good Place to Be

To be brought to a place where it just seems hopeless is a great opportunity to turn to God (Daniel 5:9). In past ages, some believers had noted: “I had been undone if I had not been undone. I had been ruined if I had not been ruined”. Clearly, what saved them, was a crisis.

The Queen Mother

Here is one of those “nameless” people in the Bible upon which everything depends in the given narrative. She plays the same indispensible role as that played by the unnamed servant girl in 2 Kings 5:2-3 who informs Mrs. Naaman about the prophet in Israel who had heal her husband. She is a minor character in this account, yet everything from this point forward depends upon her arriving and telling Belshazzar about Daniel.

Forgotten Daniel

It appears that at this time in the Empire, Daniel and his skills have both been neglected. He is not viewed as one of the in-crowd or one of the "movers and shakers", for the Queen Mother has to remind her son that Daniel even exists. How easily the world forgets the godly! Don’t miss God’s beautiful mercy in this section: This king has insulted the God of heaven, yet God still graciously offers him crucial information.

Keep Your Gifts

Not to be confused with insolence on the part of Daniel, rather Daniel merely states he will read the writing for free. His refusal of such gifts also makes it clear that, come what may, he is determined to tell the truth no matter what the inscription says or means. Daniel is plain and bold, qualities that we so desperately need today (Ephesians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 3:12).

Lessons Forgotten

Daniel now repeats what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar in the previous chapter (Daniel 5:18-22). He makes it clear that Belshazzar knew all about what had happened to Nebuchadezzar (Daniel 5:22). This was not new information to him. This is a story that he had probably heard since childhood. The problem was not ignorance, but insolence. "Pay attention to what Belshazzar teaches you: having clear information does not guarantee the right response. He knew all this but did not humble his heart (Daniel 5:22). So having good data does not necessarily bring about required change. Yet Western culture assumes that it will. Political and social gurus preach the information fallacy constantly. In my own country the knee-jerk reaction to any social problem seems to be, ‘Well, we must educate people’. This often means we throw money at it, construct a bureaucracy to oversee it, and try to fund it in some budget. But it’s all built on the assumption that education will bring transformation... But Daniel’s point is – Belshazzar knew and it didn’t matter” (Davis, p. 79).

How about us? What are we actually doing with the truth that has been revealed to us in Scripture? Let us soberly reflect upon the words of the Savior when He said, “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes” (Luke 12:47).

“You Have Not Glorified”: Daniel 5:23

This life is not all about me. My job here is to bring honor and praise to my Creator. How are we doing? Let’s determine today that stirs people to look to God for a more full, meaningful and abundant life: (Matthew 5:13-16).

“My Life in His Hands”: Daniel 5:23

The culture tries to convince us to be our own person, to do things our own way and not to rent out our heads to any God. Yet this chapter reminds us how fragile even the elite are. Babylon, the impregnable city, would fall that one night and this king would be dead (Daniel 5:30). Are we living like our very breath depends upon God or do we spend days without even thinking about Him? Do we lie to ourselves by saying, “I know that I need to change this or that – but I am still young and I have plenty of time”.


Today, we do not live in cities like Babylon, but I find that certain things can cause people to think that they will live for a long time:

1. A monetary cushion: Luke 12:19-20

2. A clean bill of health from a recent checkup.

3. The feeling that one is in good shape.

4. The fact that one is young.

“Weighed and Found Wanting”: Daniel 5:27

God does determine the moral fitness of empires and nations. He does “weigh” administrations and cultures in His moral and spiritual balances (Jeremiah 18; Proverbs 14:34; Psalms 9:17 “Even all the nations who forget God”). But realize this: He likewise weighs the character of individuals. God can bring judgment quietly and swiftly. The judgment in the palace that night was silent. There was no noise of thunder, nor devouring fire from heaven. Judgment can come in quietness. Everyone is accountable to God. “God comes not only to the ghettos and hovels He judges royalty and the people of the upper crust. All will give an account to God (Isaiah 14:10; Isaiah 14:16)” (Daniel, McGuiggan, p. 88).

Verse 2

Dan 5:2

Daniel 5:2 Belshazzar,H1113 whiles he tastedH2942 the wine,H2562 commandedH560 to bringH858 the goldenH1722 and silverH3702 vesselsH3984 whichH1768 his fatherH2 NebuchadnezzarH5020 had taken outH5312 ofH4481 the templeH1965 whichH1768 was in Jerusalem;H3390 that the king,H4430 and his princes,H7261 his wives,H7695 and his concubines,H3904 might drinkH8355 therein.

Daniel 5:2

Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his 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.

Inspiration lists Belshazzar as the son of Nebuchadnezzar. History records that he was the son of Nabonidus. Belshazzar was actually the great grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. he was the son of Nabonidus, who was the son of Evil-Merodach, who was the son of Nebuchadnezzar. It is common Hebrew phraseology to name distance descendants of men as their sons. Jesus Christ Himself was called the Son of David (Matthew 1:1), by inspiration.

It wasn’t enough that Belshazzar was a drunken despot. He purposefully chose to deliberately take the sacred vessels from the Jewish temple and use them in his party for all to drink wine from. There were at least a thousand people at this feast. Whether they really needed more vessels to drink from due to a shortage of wine cups, or this was a deliberate act of contempt against the Jewish people by defiling their sacred things is unclear. However, it appears from consideration of Belshazzar’s reaction to Daniel later in this narrative, it certainly appears that he knew enough about the God of the Israelites to realize He was a true God. And well he should because it was only a matter of a few years between the death of Nebuchadnezzar and his ascension to throne of Babylon. In either event, Belshazzar demonstrated that he was well aware of their existence in the treasure store of the empire and that he cared nothing at all about the religion of the Jews. Obviously Nebuchadnezzar’s influence had vanished. This would not have been done in Nebuchadnezzar’s later years.

Verses 3-4

Dan 5:3-4

Daniel 5:3 ThenH116 they broughtH858 the goldenH1722 vesselsH3984 thatH1768 were taken outH5312 ofH4481 the templeH1965 ofH1768 the houseH1005 of GodH426 whichH1768 was at Jerusalem;H3390 and the king,H4430 and his princes,H7261 his wives,H7695 and his concubines,H3904 drankH8355 in them.

Daniel 5:4 They drankH8355 wine,H2562 and praisedH7624 the godsH426 of gold,H1722 and of silver,H3702 of brass,H5174 of iron,H6523 of wood,H636 and of stone.H69

Daniel 5:3-4

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, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

Not only did they use the vessels from the temple to drink wine from in their feast, they praised their false manmade gods who were represented by idols made of all sorts of earthly materials from gold down to wood and stone. To worship their false idols while swilling wine in a drunken state from the sacred vessels from the most holy places of God’s temple in Jerusalem was a sacrilegious act of profound proportion. In scripture this behavior is characterized as spiritual fornication.

Verse 5

Dan 5:5

Daniel 5:5 In the same hourH8160 came forthH5312 fingersH677 ofH1768 a man’sH606 hand,H3028 and wroteH3790 over againstH6903 the candlestickH5043 uponH5922 the plaisterH1528 ofH1768 the wallH3797 ofH1768 the king’sH4430 palace:H1965 and the kingH4430 sawH2370 the partH6447 of the handH3028 thatH1768 wrote.H3790

Daniel 5:5

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.

Belshazzar’s use of the sacred vessels in his feast for the worship of false gods also demonstrated contempt for and ridicule of the God of the Jews. God did not let this go unanswered. In a very short period of time following the use of the temple vessels, Belshazzar saw the fingers of a man’s hand holding some kind of a writing instrument and announcing his downfall as the king of Babylon in a form he could not understand. Belshazzar saw this as it took place and regardless of how intoxicated he was, it made quite an impression on him.

Verse 6

Dan 5:6

Daniel 5:6 ThenH116 the king’sH4430 countenanceH2122 was changed,H8133 and his thoughtsH7476 troubledH927 him, so that the jointsH7001 of his loinsH2783 were loosed,H8271 and his kneesH755 smoteH5368 oneH1668 against another.H1668

Daniel 5:6

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.

Belshazzar was so terrified of this site that he lost control of his body and his knees were knocking together. He saw the writing on the wall. This where that saying came from. This phrase usually uses the word "writing" as a noun. Belshazzar saw it is a verb. He witnessed a supernatural event and his anxiety over it was considerable.

Verse 7

Dan 5:7

Daniel 5:7 The kingH4430 criedH7123 aloudH2429 to bring inH5924 the astrologers,H826 the Chaldeans,H3779 and the soothsayers.H1505 And the kingH4430 spake,H6032 and saidH560 to the wiseH2445 men of Babylon,H895 WhosoeverH3606 H606 H1768 shall readH7123 thisH1836 writing,H3792 and shewH2324 me the interpretationH6591 thereof, shall be clothedH3848 with scarlet,H711 and have a chainH2002 ofH1768 goldH1722 aboutH5922 his neck,H6676 and shall be the third rulerH7981 H8523 in the kingdom.H4437

Daniel 5:7

"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."

Just like Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar consulted the mystics of his realm and promised great power and glory to anyone who could explain this supernatural event. He declared to make the successful interpreter the third ruler in the kingdom which was the highest seat he was authorized to elevate someone to, himself only being the second ruler in the kingdom under his father. We cannot fail to point out that this man was in some form of intoxication at this point. Not too drunk to be terrified of the writing on the wall, but drunk enough to make rash and compulsive promises.

Verses 8-9

Dan 5:8-9

Daniel 5:8 ThenH116 came inH5954 allH3606 the king’sH4430 wiseH2445 men: but they couldH3546 notH3809 readH7123 the writing,H3792 nor make knownH3046 to the kingH4430 the interpretationH6591 thereof.

Daniel 5:9 ThenH116 was kingH4430 BelshazzarH1113 greatlyH7690 troubled,H927 and his countenanceH2122 was changedH8133 inH5922 him, and his lordsH7261 were astonied.H7672

Daniel 5:8-9

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. Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.

This inability of the mystics of the realm being unable to explain what happened was nothing new. It has not been very many years at all since Nebuchadnezzar died and he got multiple opportunities to witness God’s workings within his kingdom. Now on the eve of Belshazzar’s death, God works one last wonder in the soon to fall Babylonian empire.

This thing was witnessed and seen by more than just Belshazzar. His lord were likewise astonished which demonstrates this things wasn’t done in a corner. There were plenty of eye-witnesses to this event. The writing was on the wall in front of them, nobody could read it, it got there by supernatural means and nobody could explain it.

Verses 10-12

Dan 5:10-12

Daniel 5:10 Now the queen,H4433 by reason ofH6903 the wordsH4406 of the kingH4430 and his lords,H7261 cameH5954 into the banquetH4961 house:H1005 and the queenH4433 spakeH6032 and said,H560 O king,H4430 liveH2418 for ever:H5957 let notH409 thy thoughtsH7476 troubleH927 thee, norH409 let thy countenanceH2122 be changed:H8133

Daniel 5:11 There isH383 a manH1400 in thy kingdom,H4437 in whomH1768 is the spiritH7308 of the holyH6922 gods;H426 and in the daysH3118 of thy fatherH2 lightH5094 and understandingH7924 and wisdom,H2452 like the wisdomH2452 of the gods,H426 was foundH7912 in him; whom the kingH4430 NebuchadnezzarH5020 thy father,H2 the king,H4430 I say, thy father,H2 madeH6966 masterH7229 of the magicians,H2749 astrologers,H826 Chaldeans,H3779 and soothsayers;H1505

Daniel 5:12 Forasmuch asH3606 H6903 H1768 an excellentH3493 spirit,H7308 and knowledge,H4486 and understanding,H7924 interpretingH6591 of dreams,H2493 and shewingH263 of hard sentences,H280 and dissolvingH8271 of doubts,H7001 were foundH7912 in the same Daniel,H1841 whomH1768 the kingH4430 namedH7761 H8036 Belteshazzar:H1096 nowH3705 let DanielH1841 be called,H7123 and he will shewH2324 the interpretation.H6591

Daniel 5:10-12

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 for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed: 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; 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.

The queen was obviously not present at the party. This woman is obviously not Belshazzar’s wife because Daniel 5:3 placed his wives in attendance at the party. Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC and the Babylonia empire was overthrown in 539, twenty three years later. It is possible and likely this queen was the widow of Nebuchadnezzar himself. She directly referenced Nebuchadnezzar as "the king". At the very least, she personally knew both Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel. At this time in Daniel’s life he had been in Babylon about 66 years. If he were twelve at the time he arrived in Babylon, this would place Daniel at the age of seventy eight years old.

Verses 13-14

Dan 5:13-14

Daniel 5:13 ThenH116 was DanielH1841 brought inH5954 beforeH6925 the king.H4430 And the kingH4430 spakeH6032 and saidH560 unto Daniel,H1841 Art thouH607 thatH1932 Daniel,H1841 whichH1768 art ofH4481 the childrenH1123 of the captivityH1547 ofH1768 Judah,H3061 whomH1768 the kingH4430 my fatherH2 brought outH858 ofH4481 Jewry?H3061

Daniel 5:14 I have even heardH8086 ofH5922 thee, thatH1768 the spiritH7308 of the godsH426 is in thee, and that lightH5094 and understandingH7924 and excellentH3493 wisdomH2452 is foundH7912 in thee.

Daniel 5:13-14

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? 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.

This is almost incredible that Belshazzar had ask Daniel for his identity. He had heard of him but he was not familiar with Daniel enough to recognize him. Daniel chapter eight records a vision Daniel had during the third year of Belshazzar’s reign (Daniel 8:1). At the end of the vision, Daniel was sick for a period of time which afterwards the text records that he arose and did the king’s business. Daniel was serving King Belshazzar and he barely knew Daniel. Belshazzar was obviously a poor king not even knowing the names or the faces of those who ran his business. He obviously spent more time devoted to being a despot than he did to actually trying to be a king.

Verse 15

Dan 5:15

Daniel 5:15 And nowH3705 the wiseH2445 men, the astrologers,H826 have been brought inH5954 beforeH6925 me, thatH1768 they should readH7123 thisH1836 writing,H3792 and make knownH3046 unto me the interpretationH6591 thereof: but they couldH3546 notH3809 shewH2324 the interpretationH6591 of the thing:H4406

Daniel 5:15

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:

The mystics of the realm should be getting used to this by now. This is the third time we know of that they were unable to perform to the expectations of the king. The first time recorded nearly cost them their lives. If is had not have been for Daniel intervening with the correct interpretation they would have been wiped out by Nebuchadnezzar’s palace guard. It is almost unbelievable that these mystics clung to their false beliefs in the face of the numerous times that it was demonstrated to them that the God of Daniel was the one true and living God.

Verse 16

Dan 5:16

Daniel 5:16 And IH576 have heardH8086 ofH5922 thee, thatH1768 thou canstH3202 makeH6590 interpretations,H6591 and dissolveH8271 doubts:H7001 nowH3705 ifH2006 thou canstH3202 readH7123 the writing,H3792 and make knownH3046 to me the interpretationH6591 thereof, thou shalt be clothedH3848 with scarlet,H711 and have a chainH2002 ofH1768 goldH1722 aboutH5922 thy neck,H6676 and shalt be the third rulerH7981 H8531 in the kingdom.H4437

Daniel 5:16

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.

Belshazzar claims to have heard of Daniel. Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar grew to be close friends during the years he reigned as king of Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar died, Daniel was one of the most powerful men in Babylon and doubtless had his own house and was well provisioned for retirement. Under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was the governor of the Babylonian province (Daniel 2:48). We do not know what capacity Daniel served Belshazzar but we do know from the chapter 8 that Daniel was in service to him. Belshazzar had heard of Daniel but was unfamiliar with him personally. Two things are possible here. Either Daniel was in a low enough position of service to the kingdom that he answered directly to someone in authority over him or Belshazzar was a poor enough administrator that he didn’t bother to acquaint himself with the leaders of the realm. Due to the fact that his city was overtaken the very night of this incident, it is certain that there were a great many things going on within his realm for which he was unaware. It is this Bible student’s conviction that the latter is the most logical explanation. Belshazzar devoted himself more to debauchery, revelry and self indulgence than he did in running the kingdom effectively.

Verse 17

Dan 5:17

Daniel 5:17 ThenH116 DanielH1841 answeredH6032 and saidH560 beforeH6925 the king,H4430 Let thy giftsH4978 beH1934 to thyself, and giveH3052 thy rewardsH5023 to another;H321 yetH1297 I will readH7123 the writingH3792 unto the king,H4430 and make knownH3046 to him the interpretation.H6591

Daniel 5:17

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 was unimpressed with the promise of the king’s gifts and authority in Babylon. He told the king to keep them. There is an immediate difference apparent here in the demeanor Daniel has towards Belshazzar as opposed to the respect he showed for Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel had ill tidings for Nebuchadnezzar and waited an hour to tell him because of his distress over the message and what it meant for the king. But for Belshazzar, Daniel immediately speaks out and delivers the cold hard facts.

Verses 18-21

Dan 5:18-21

Daniel 5:18 O thouH607 king,H4430 the most highH5943 GodH426 gaveH3052 NebuchadnezzarH5020 thy fatherH2 a kingdom,H4437 and majesty,H7238 and glory,H3367 and honour:H1923

Daniel 5:19 And forH4481 the majestyH7238 thatH1768 he gaveH3052 him, allH3606 people,H5972 nations,H524 and languages,H3961 trembledH1934 H2112 and fearedH1763 beforeH4481 H6925 him: whomH1768 he wouldH1934 H6634 he slew;H1934 H6992 and whomH1768 he wouldH1934 H6634 he kept alive;H1934 H2418 and whomH1768 he wouldH1934 H6634 he set up;H1934 H7313 and whomH1768 he wouldH1934 H6634 he put down.H1934 H8214

Daniel 5:20 But whenH1768 his heartH3825 was lifted up,H7313 and his mindH7308 hardenedH8631 in pride,H2103 he was deposedH5182 fromH4481 his kinglyH4437 throne,H3764 and they tookH5709 his gloryH3367 fromH4481 him:

Daniel 5:21 And he was drivenH2957 fromH4481 the sonsH1123 of men;H606 and his heartH3825 was madeH7739 likeH5974 the beasts,H2423 and his dwellingH4070 was withH5974 the wild asses:H6167 they fedH2939 him with grassH6211 like oxen,H8450 and his bodyH1655 was wetH6647 with the dewH4481 H2920 of heaven;H8065 tillH5705 H1768 he knewH3046 thatH1768 the most highH5943 GodH426 ruledH7990 in the kingdomH4437 of men,H606 and that he appointethH6966 overH5922 it whomsoeverH4479 H1768 he will.H6634

Daniel 5:18-21

O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: 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. 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: 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 appointeth over it whomsoever he will.

Daniel preambles the interpretation by recounting to Belshazzar the lesson king Nebuchadnezzar had learned the hard way way about pride and who was really in charge of the kingdoms of earth. Belshazzar did not learn from his predecessor’s lessons.

Verse 22

Dan 5:22

Daniel 5:22 And thouH607 his son,H1247 O Belshazzar,H1113 hast notH3809 humbledH8214 thine heart,H3825 thoughH3606 H6903 H1768 thou knewestH3046 allH3606 this;H1836

Daniel 5:22

And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;

Of great significance here is that Daniel looks Belshazzar in the face and informs him that he knew all this. Belshazzar knew of Nebuchadnezzar’s illness. Belshazzar knew of Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion. Nebuchadnezzar published the whole thing in the form an official document and had it sent out all over the empire. Daniel made this point to emphasize what he was going to say next.

Verse 23

Dan 5:23

Daniel 5:23 But hast lifted up thyselfH7313 againstH5922 the LordH4756 of heaven;H8065 and they have broughtH858 the vesselsH3984 ofH1768 his houseH1005 beforeH6925 thee, and thou,H607 and thy lords,H7261 thy wives,H7695 and thy concubines,H3904 have drunkH8355 wineH2562 in them; and thou hast praisedH7624 the godsH426 of silver,H3702 and gold,H1722 of brass,H5174 iron,H6523 wood,H636 and stone,H69 whichH1768 seeH2370 not,H3809 norH3809 hear,H8086 norH3809 know:H3046 and the GodH426 in whoseH1768 handH3028 thy breathH5396 is, and whose are allH3606 thy ways,H735 hast thou notH3809 glorified:H1922

Daniel 5:23

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:

Belshazzar knew exactly what those vessels were when he ordered them brought to the feast. He also knew about Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion, especially in light of the fact that he was a direct descendant of him. Belshazzar knew of the one true and living God and he knew the things that happened in the past to his not so distant ancestor. Daniel indicated that by doing what he done, he had lifted himself up against the Lord of heaven. Belshazzar had no excuse whatsoever for the conduct he had displayed.

"and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified"

What chilling words these must have been to the drunken despot who had just witnessed the writing on the wall to hear that the God he had ridiculed and dishonored with the violation of the temple treasures, learned that the very air he breathes is in the hands of the God of Heaven.

Verse 24

Dan 5:24

Daniel 5:24 ThenH116 was the partH6447 ofH1768 the handH3028 sentH7972 fromH4481 H6925 him; and thisH1836 writingH3792 was written.H7560

Daniel 5:24

Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.

Apparently the part of the hand which had done the writing on the wall remained in sight until Daniel arrived. That certainly would have been a chilling scene to behold.

Verses 25-26

Dan 5:25-26

Daniel 5:25 And thisH1836 is the writingH3792 thatH1768 was written,H7560 MENE,H4484 MENE,H4484 TEKEL,H8625 UPHARSIN.H6537

Daniel 5:26 ThisH1836 is the interpretationH6591 of the thing:H4406 MENE;H4484 GodH426 hath numberedH4483 thy kingdom,H4437 and finishedH8000 it.

Daniel 5:25-26

And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

The words written on the wall were read by Daniel and their meaning interpreted. The first word MENE announced the downfall of the Babylonian empire. Belshazzar doubtless had no idea it was going to be done as swiftly as it was. The overthrow of the city was already well in progress at the time of Belshazzar’s feast.

Verse 27

Dan 5:27

Daniel 5:27 TEKEL;H8625 Thou art weighedH8625 in the balances,H3977 and art foundH7912 wanting.H2627

Daniel 5:27

TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

Simply stated, Daniel told Belshazzar that he did not measure up to the standards God expected. This is the reason presented to Belshazzar for the ending of the Babylonian empire.

Verse 28

Dan 5:28

Daniel 5:28 PERES;H6537 Thy kingdomH4437 is divided,H6537 and givenH3052 to the MedesH4076 and Persians.H6540

Daniel 5:28

PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

The Medes were allies of Nebuchadnezzar’s father. Nebuchadnezzar himself having married Amytis, the daughter of Cyazares, king of the Medes. Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar’s father, united with the Medes to utterly destroy Nineveh, the capitol city of the Assyrian Empire. So now the Medes and the Persians are going to overthrow the Babylonian Empire. Daniel prophesied it in his interpretation of the writing on the wall and it happened that very night.

Verse 29

Dan 5:29

Daniel 5:29 ThenH116 commandedH560 Belshazzar,H1113 and they clothedH3848 DanielH1841 with scarlet,H711 and put a chainH2002 ofH1768 goldH1722 aboutH5922 his neck,H6676 and made a proclamationH3745 concerningH5922 him, thatH1768 he should beH1934 the thirdH8531 rulerH7990 in the kingdom.H4437

Daniel 5:29

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.

it is very interesting here that a king who had just been informed that he didn’t measure up and that his kingdom would be divided went ahead and heaped all the promised treasures and the position of authority upon Daniel anyway. He was not told he was going to die which doubtless helped to prevent a panicked reaction from Belshazzar. The key to figuring out why Belshazzar went ahead with the treasures and the promotion is found in Daniel’s words to him from verse 22, "though thou knewest all this". Belshazzar knew all these things. He also knew that God was very powerful and completely capable of doing all the things that Daniel said would happen. This foolish king knew that the God of heaven struck Nebuchadnezzar mad for a period of time. Without a doubt he knew all the other incidents which led up to Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion as well. This man knew that God was God and chose to ignore everything he knew. Belshazzar should have seen the proverbial writing on the wall long before he saw it literally. And it is this Bible student’s belief that Belshazzar thought the heaping of treasures and accolades on Daniel would appease the wrath of God and either postpone or cancel God’s intent to divide the kingdom among the Medes and the Persians.

So then why did Daniel accept the treasures and the promotion from Belshazzar? First and foremost, Belshazzar was the king in Babylon. One had best be cautious about refusing the wishes of any king if they wanted to stay alive. Daniel was an aged man and had been in administrative positions before. It was not a new experience for him and he doubtless knew that as the 3rd person in power in the Babylonian empire, he would likely be in a favorable position during the coming takeover to help ease the transition for his own countrymen still in captivity there. we do not know if Daniel knew of the suddenness of the takeover or not, but we do know Daniel knew it was going to happen.

Verse 30

Dan 5:30

Daniel 5:30 In that nightH3916 was BelshazzarH1113 the kingH4430 of the ChaldeansH3779 slain.H6992

Daniel 5:30

In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.

In 539 BC Cyrus invaded Babylonia. A battle was fought at Opis in the month of September, where the Babylonians were defeated. The Battle of Opis was a major engagement between the armies of Persia under Cyrus the Great and the Babylonian Empire under Nabonidus during the Persian invasion of Mesopotamia. At the time, Babylonia was the last major power in western Asia that was not yet under Persian control. Opis was located north of the capital city Babylon and its overthrow resulted in a decisive defeat for the Babylonians. A few days later, the city of Sippar surrendered to the Persians and Cyrus’s forces entered Babylon apparently without a fight. Cyrus was subsequently proclaimed king of Babylonia and its subject territories, thus ending the independence of Babylon and incorporating the Babylonian Empire into the greater Persian Empire.

Nabonidus fled to Babylon, where he was pursued by Gobryas (also known as Darius the Mede), and on the 16th day of Tammuz, two days after the capture of Sippara, the soldiers of Cyrus entered Babylon without fighting. Nabonidus was captured and history vaguely records that his life was spared. Gobryas (Darius the Mede), was made governor of the province of Babylon and Belshazzar was killed. Thus marked the end of the Babylonian Empire which then fell to the Medes and the Persians.

Verse 31

Dan 5:31

Daniel 5:31 And DariusH1868 the MedianH4077 tookH6902 the kingdom,H4437 being about threescoreH8361 and twoH8648 yearsH8140 old.H1247

Daniel 5:31

And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

According to Rex A. Turner, in his book "Daniel a Prophet of God", the "Darius the Mede" who took the kingdom here was Gobryas, also known as Ugbaru, the governor of Gutium. Under Cyrus the Great, he entered the city of Babylon on October 12, BC 539. Darius the Mede (Gobryas) was slain in battle less than a month later and was succeeded by another man named Darius (Gubaru) also under Cyrus. Darius (Gubaru) is the man who was coerced into throwing Daniel to the lions in chapter 6.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Daniel 5". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/daniel-5.html.
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