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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 5

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-31

Daniel 5. Belshazzar, who is represented as king of Babylon, makes a great feast, using the vessels which his father had brought to Babylon from the Temple at Jerusalem. During the feast the fingers of a man’ s hand are seen, writing on the wall. Daniel explains the handwriting and tells the king that his days are numbered and that his kingdom is to be given to the Medes and Persians. That night the king is murdered and Darius the Mede assumes the throne. The motive of the chapter is again quite plain. Nebuchadnezzar’ s act of sacrilege has its parallel in the profanation of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes; and the fate of Belshazzar is depicted as an encouragement to the persecuted Jews of the Maccabean age. The chapter raises some very serious historical difficulties (see notes on Daniel 5:1 and Daniel 5:31).

Daniel 5:1 . Belshazzar the King.— In the Book of Daniel Belshazzar is represented as king of Babylon just before its conquest by the Persians in 538 B.C. Nothing is said as to the length of his reign, though “ the third year” is mentioned in Daniel 8:1. Belshazzar is also described as the son of Nebuchadnezzar. But these statements appear to be erroneous. The statements of historians and the evidence of the Inscriptions make it abundantly clear that the name of the king at the time of the conquest was Nabonidus or Nabuna’ id, and that Belshazzar was his son. Some scholars have supposed that Belshazzar was associated with his father in the rule of Babylon, but we have no evidence to prove this theory, and the Inscriptions, by always describing him as the king’ s son, seem to make it impossible. Moreover Nabuna’ id was entirely unconnected with the dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar, so that unless we resort to the purely imaginative hypothesis that he married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, it is quite impossible for the statement that Belshazzar was the son or grandson of Nebuchadnezzar to be true.— made a great feast: this agrees with the statements of Herodotus and Xenophon that a great feast was being held on the night in which Babylon was destroyed.

Daniel 5:2 . gold and silver vessels: see Daniel 1:2.— his father: Daniel 5:1 *.

Daniel 5:4 . The LXX adds, “ But the eternal God they praised not who hath power over their spirit.”

Daniel 5:5 . the part of the hand: the palm or hollow of the hand.

Daniel 5:6 . The brightness of his face grew pale from fear.

Daniel 5:7 . third ruler: the term is not found elsewhere. Driver translates, “ shall rule as one of three.”

Daniel 5:10 . the queen: probably the queen-mother, i.e. the wife of Nebuchadnezzar. For the influence exerted by the wife of a former king, see 1 Kings 15:13, 2 Kings 10:13; 2 Kings 24:12, Jeremiah 13:18; Jeremiah 29:2.

Daniel 5:12 . shewing of dark sentences: declaring of riddles.— dissolving of doubts: loosing of knots, probably contains a reference to magic spells, releasing from spells ( cf. Daniel 5:16).

Daniel 5:18-24 . A description of the glory of Nebuchadnezzar’ s rule ( cf. Daniel 2:37 f ., Daniel 4:10-12), his overweening pride, and the punishment which God inflicted on him (see Daniel 4).

Daniel 5:21 . his heart was made: an allusion to the madness which befell Nebuchadnezzar (see introduction to Daniel 4).

Daniel 5:25 . Mene: there is a good deal of difficulty with regard to ( a) the original form of the inscription, ( b) the interpretation of the words. In reference to ( a) it will be observed that the Upharsin of the inscription becomes “ Peres” in the interpretation. ( b) The words are generally explained as meaning “ Counted, counted, weighed and pieces.” The objection to this is that “ tekel” and “ peres” are substantives and not verbs. Another suggestion, which is widely accepted, regards the terms as names of three weights, “ a mina, a mina, a shekel and a half mina” (a mina contained 50 or 60 shekels). It is supposed that the mina means Nebuchadnezzar, the shekel Belshazzar, the half-mina or Peres, the Persians. The interpretation suggested by Daniel is connected with the derivation of the words “ mene,” numbered; “ tekel,” weighed; “ Peres,” divided; the form of the word naturally suggested Persians.— Upharsin: the connexion with Peres may be thus explained: U is the connecting particle “ and,” and pharsin is the plural form of Peres.

Daniel 5:30 . the Chaldean king: the king of Babylon.

Daniel 5:31 . Darius the Mede: the introduction of Darius is one of the most serious historical inaccuracies in the Book. Darius is described as king of Babylon after the Persian conquest. In Daniel 5:6 he is depicted as an absolute sovereign dividing the kingdom into satrapies and appointing governors. In Daniel 9:1 he is called “ the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans,” preceding Cyrus in this position ( Daniel 6:28). There is no historical warrant for these statements. We know that Cyrus became king immediately after the fall of Babylon. There is absolutely no room for Darius between the expulsion of Nabuna’ id and the accession of Cyrus. Some authorities have identified Darius with Gobryas (of which the name may be a corruption), who is said to have commanded the attacking army at the siege of Babylon, and as viceroy of Cyrus to have taken over the government of the city, appointing governors, etc. Gobryas never, however, held the position assigned to Darius in our Book.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Daniel 5". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/daniel-5.html. 1919.
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