Having done with Nebuchadnezzar, we here enter upon the history of his descendant Belshazzar; and a short history it is. We have here, his impious feast; his prophanation of the vessels of the sanctuary: his awful alarm and death.
The Prophet simply gives the relation of the history, but doth not enlarge upon it. Indeed it needs no comment. Drunkenness leads to impiety and prophaneness: and every evil follows. Was it not enough to deny God, but he must insult him also? Would nothing do for an unholy feast, and strumpets; but the holy vessels of the temple? Lord! to what a state of ruin is our whole nature reduced by the fall!
Behold, Reader! on what a slender thread the happiness of man hangs, when in a moment the appearance on a wall can snap it asunder! What was it so alarmed the reveling prince, and his drunken lords? Simply the view of a man's hand, writing on the wall! But what did he write! In truth, none of the company could tell, for none of them could read it. But what none of them could do, conscience did for them. Belshazzar felt the whole of the evil before it was explained; and more than anticipated all. I beg the Reader to remark with me, the beautiful correspondence between the prediction of this event, and the accomplishment. Isaiah had been commissioned to tell of this two hundred years at least before. Cyrus was named by the Lord as his servant, to the ruin of Babylon, to open the two-leaved gates, and that the Lord would loose, it was said, the loins of kings. And here we learn, that Belshazzar, (and no doubt his princes also,) literally had this prophecy accomplished in his own person. See Isaiah 45:1-4. Historians relate, that Cyrus found out a passage to enter Babylon through the river Euphrates, where there was two-leaved gates. What a wonderful coincidence of providences there must have been, to bring about such events! Reader! never forget that the Lord cannot need instruments for the accomplishment of his will, whenever that will is about to be manifested to his creatures!
What a consternation the whole court was thrown into by this event, we may well conceive, by what is here said. Daniel is again had recourse to, in order to help the king, and his party out of their alarm. Let the Reader once more remark, how truly honorable the Lord's servants are, even in the very view of them who seem to despise them. And I would beg the Reader to believe, for the fact is certainly so, this is much more common in private life even than is generally conceived.
Who but must admire the faithfulness and honesty of Daniel. And who but must bless the Lord for making him so! It was now many a year since Daniel was first brought before the king on such an occasion; but with growing he had not lost his confidence. The fear of the Lord will drive away the fear of man; as the fire of the sun will put out the fire of the chimney!
There is some little difficulty to an ordinary Reader in observing, that the words of the hand writing on the wall, and the manner of Daniel's interpreting them are not the same. The word MENE is twice! which everyone who knows anything of the Hebrew language, knows, is a common way of expressing a thing as certain. TEKEL, thou art weighed and found light: these words, are as the hand writing of the wall represented them. But the other word, UPHARSIN, differs from what Daniel made it, PERES. But when the Reader be told, that PERES is the singular number of UPHARSIN, this explains it, and removes the difficulty. PERES, He divideth it, that is, God hath done it. UPHARSIN, They divided it, that is, the Medes and Persians, as God's ministry. As the Chaldean and the Hebrew languages had no doubt upon many occasions been thrown together, there seems to have been here a compound of both: so that it is probable Daniel had both in view; the one to the dividing the kingdom, and the other of the nation to whom it was given, that is, both the Medes and Persians. Cyrus the Persian conquered it; and Darius the Mede, a confederate prince in colleague with Cyrus, by agreement was made king over it. It doth not appear that the poor Prophet ever made a public appearance in his scarlet and gold; and indeed, from the death of the king the same night, it should seem improbable that he ever did. But what were such things then, or what are they now, but as the toys of children to the Lord's servants!
Short, but awful, the account of the king's death! In that night. A night indeed of terrors. Certainly it was a night of the most daring impiety. Probably also, a night of drunkenness. So died this wretched man. The gospel, in the same short, but expressive manner, relates the death of the voluptuous sinner. The rich man died, and was buried. And the next account of him was in hell. Luke 16:22-23; Revelation 6:8.
MY soul! dismiss not this solemn chapter, until thou hast gathered some of the many instructions, which, under grace, it holds forth to the Church of God, and to all the members of Christ's mystical body. It is blessed to behold, in the swift judgment of sinners, how sure the Lord's appointments are; and how Jesus is unceasingly watching over the special and personal interests of his people. And while the hand writing on the wall, or what is the same thing, the voice within, in the sinners conscience, loosens the loins of the enemies of Christ; the Holy Ghost is witnessing to the spirits of the Lord's people, peace with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Oh! ye Daniels of the present hour! be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Witness for your Lord, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, Shortly the midnight hour of the ungodly will come, when all the enemies of the cross shall perish. Shortly that day will arrive, when the Lord wilt call his faithful home to glory! And oh! what a vast, what an eternal distinction will then take place, between the Daniels and the Belshazzars of every generation! Precious Jesus! in that day, be thou my hope, my joy, my confidence; that when the whole world of unbelievers are weighed in the balance and found wanting, my soul, among the redeemed of Zion, may be able to shout aloud for joy, crying out in the language of God's own word, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to Him shall I then come, with all that believe in Him, and never be ashamed, nor confounded, world without end!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Daniel 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany