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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Daniel 5

 

 

Verses 1-31

Belshazzar's Feast and Daniel's Prophecy of Babylon's Fall (539 B.C.) - In Daniel 5:1-31 we have the story of the great feast that Belshazzar held in his palace. Historians tell us that Belshazzar, the son of Evil-Merodach and grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, was the last king of Babylon. While the city of Babylon was under siege by Cyrus, the Persian king, Belshazzar gathered all of his leaders to a great feast, perhaps in order to strengthen their loyalty towards him. When a man's hand appeared and wrote upon the wall during the midst of the feast, the queen brought in Daniel , by now an old Prayer of Manasseh , to interpret the writing. Daniel then told the king that this was the night that the kingdom of Babylon would fall.

Historical Background- It is popularly believed that the fall of Babylon referred to in Daniel 5:30 refers to the story of Cyrus taking Babylon by leading the Persian army under the city wall after the Euphrates River had been diverted, allowing to enter an otherwise impenetrable fortress, and being led by Gobryas and Gadatas (Herodotus, Histories 1190-191, Xenophon Cyropaedia 751-33). 86] That very night in 539 B.C. Belshazzar was slain and Darius the Median took control as viceroy under Cyrus, king of the Media-Persian Empire. This new empire would dominate the world for around two hundred (200) years until its defeat at the hands of Alexander the Great in 331 B.C.

86] Herodotus, The Histories of Herodotus, trans. Henry Cary (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1899), 74-75; Xenophon, The Cyropaedia, or Institutions of Cyrus, and the Hellenics, or Grecian History, trans. J. S. Watson and Henry Dale (London: George Bell and Sons, 1880), 220-225.

Evil-Merodach- It is interesting to note that we have no record in the book of Daniel of Daniel ministering during the reign of Evil-Merodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar and father of Belshazzar. Perhaps at the death of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach his son retired his father's administrative staff and appointed his own loyal officials. This is often the case during the change of leadership and it was a practice in Persia in the recent centuries. However, the queen and wife of Belshazzar remembered the man Daniel and how God worked through him to interpret such divine events and sent for him.

The Pride of Belshazzar - In stark contrast to King Nebuchadnezzar's humility and glorification of the God of Daniel as recorded in the immediately passage of Scripture, King Belshazzar bursts onto the scene in an expression of the same pride that brought his grandfather low through divine judgment. When Daniel is called in to interpret the handwriting on the wall, he will refer to the pride of Nebuchadnezzar, his divine judgment in the form of madness, and his restoration and glorification of the Most High God. Belshazzar himself will be judged that same night by God through the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and the death of the king. Thus, the story of Belshazzar's pride and destruction is part of a continuous story within Daniel 4-6 that emphasizes God's standard of righteousness for the Gentile nations.

Daniel 5:1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.

Daniel 5:1Comments- Goldingay says, "The last actual Chaldean king, Nabonidus, ‘entrusted the kingship' in 539 b.c. to his son Bçl-ðar-uṣur during his ten-year absence from Babylon, returning as the threat from Cyrus grew." 87]

87] John E. Goldingay, Daniel , in Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD- Romans , vol 30, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Inc, 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), comments on .

Daniel 5:11 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 of Solomon , 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;

Daniel 5:11Comments- Regarding the phrase "king Nebuchadnezzar thy father," according to ancient extra-biblical historians Belshazzar was actually the son of Nabonidus and the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was the grandfather of Belshazzar. Archer tells us that it was common to refer to one's more distant ancestor as father also. We find this done in may passages of Scriptures ( Genesis 28:13; Genesis 32:9). We can read in the Black Obelisk inscription of Shalmaneser III that Jehu is referred to as the son of Omri, who was his distant ancestor. We can also find this in Egyptian writings. 88]

88] Gleason L. Archer, Jeremiah , Daniel , The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol 7, eds. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House), 1976-1992, in Zondervan Reference Software, v 28 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corp, 1989-2001), "Introduction: 7 Special Problems: c. Alleged historical inaccuracies: 4) "King" Belshazzar and his relationship to Nabonidus."

Genesis 28:13, "And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;"

Genesis 32:9, "And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:"

Daniel 5:22 And thou his Song of Solomon , O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;

Daniel 5:22Comments- It appears that God held Belshazzar more accountable than his father Nebuchadnezzar for understanding the ways of God that has been revealed to him. His father had not known of the God of Israel until Daniel has revealed Him to the king. Now God is holding Belshazzar responsible for this revelation and insight into the righteous ways of God.

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 Isaiah , and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:

Daniel 5:25 And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.

Daniel 5:25 — "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN" - Comments- The Aramaic reads ( ופרסין תקל מנא מנא). F. F. Bruce tells us that these were common Aramaic words, indicating various weights.

He says the word "Mene" is used in other Semitic languages, being derived from the verb menah (Hebrew "manah", Adkkadian "manu"). The Greeks borrowed this word and it became "mna" or "mina" in the New Testament, and is translated as "pound" in English.

He says the word "Tekel" is found as "sheqel" or "shekel" in Hebrew, which is also a measure of weight in the Old Testament. In Babylonia and Assyria sixty shekels equaled one maneh. In Palestine, fifty shekels equaled one maneh.

He says the word "Upharsin" also refers to a measure of weight. The "U" is a form of the conjunction ( ו) meaning "and." The word "pharsin" is the plural form of "peres" ( פרס), which means "a division." Thus, it carries the meaning of half-minas.

However, these words carry the Aramaic meaning, "numbered, weighed, divided," which fits the context of this passage. 89]

89] F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company), 1963, 52.

Daniel 5:26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

Daniel 5:26Word Study on "MENE" - Strong says the Aramaic word "Mene" ( מְנֵא) (H 4484) literally means, "numbered," and comes from the Aramaic verb ( מְנָא) (H 4483), which means, "to count, to appoint," thus, "to number, to ordain, to set." This Aramaic word "MENE" is used only three times in the Old Testament, with all three uses being found here in Daniel 5:25-26.

Comments- The word "MENE" is repeated to emphasize the fact that God's Word is certain.

Daniel 5:26Word Study on "hath numbered" - Strong says the Aramaic word "numbered" ( מְנָא) (H 4483) means, "to count, to appoint," thus, "to number, to ordain, to set."

Daniel 5:26 — "God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it" - Comments- That Isaiah , God has determined the number of years that this kingdom should last. Jeremiah prophesied that Babylon would exist seventy years and that He would judge the kingdom of the Chaldeans after using them to judge Judah ( Jeremiah 25:1; Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 27:6-7).

Jeremiah 25:1, "The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon;"

Jeremiah 25:11-12, "And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations."

Jeremiah 27:6-7, "And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his Song of Solomon , and his son"s Song of Solomon , until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him."

Daniel 5:27 TEKEL Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

Daniel 5:27Word Study on "TEKEL" - Strong says the Aramaic word ( תְּקַל) (H 8625) literally means, "to balance," and comes from the Aramaic verb ( שָׁקַל) (H 8254), which means "to suspend, or poise", thus, "to pay, to receive, to spend, to weigh." From this same Hebrew verb comes the familiar word "shekel," Aramaic ( שֶׁקֶל) (H 8255), translated, "shekel" in the KJV, which is used as a common unit of measuring weight throughout the Old Testament. This Aramaic word is used only three times in the Old Testament, with all three uses being found here in Daniel 5:25; Daniel 5:27.

Daniel 5:27Word Study on "weighed" - Strong says the Aramaic word ( תְּקַל) (H 8625) literally means, "to balance."

Daniel 5:27Word Study on "wanting"- Strong says the Aramaic word ( חַכִּיר) (H 2627) means, "deficient, wanting," and corresponds to the Aramaic verb ( חָסֵר) (H 2637), which means, "to lack." We can see the meaning of this word in Psalm 62:9.

Psalm 62:9, "Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity."

Daniel 5:27 — "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting" - Comments- F. F. Bruce reads, "You are weighed in the balances and found to be under weight." 90]

90] F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company), 1963, 52.

Daniel 5:28 PERES Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

Daniel 5:28Word Study on "PERES" - Strong says the Aramaic word ( פְּרַס) (H 6537) means, "to split up, to divide." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 3times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as "UPHARSIN 1, PEREH 1, divided 1." Note in the Aramaic text that "PERES" ( פרס) is the singular of "UPHARSIN" ( פרסין), which has the same spelling as "Persians" ( פרס), which word is found in this same verse. Thus, there appears to be a play on words.

Daniel 5:28Word Study on "divided" - Strong says the Aramaic word ( פְּרַס) (H 6537) means, "to split up, to divide," and corresponds to the Hebrew verb ( פָּרַס) (H 6536), which means, "to break in pieces, to split, to distribute." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 14times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as "divide 9, parteth 2, deal 1, hoofs 1, tear 1." The word ( פְּרַס) (H 6537) is used only three times in the Old Testament. All three uses are found in this passage, the other two being found in Daniel 5:25, "UPHARSIN" and in Daniel 5:28 "PERES."

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.

Daniel 5:30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.

Daniel 5:31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

Daniel 5:31Comments- Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus (Xerxes) of the seed of the Medes, reigned briefly from 538 to 536 B.C. ( Daniel 9:1). (This is not a reference to Darius the Persian who was the third successor to Cyrus the Great.) Scholars say that at the death of Belshazzar ( Daniel 5:30), Darius "received the kingdom" of Babylon by being made king, or viceroy, over the kingdom of the Chaldeans under Cyrus the king of Persia ( Daniel 5:31). Thus, Daniel 6:28 suggests that Darius and Cyrus ruled at the same time. This is supported by the fact that the name "Darius" never occurs in any ancient documents outside of the book of Daniel. We can conclude that Darius was probably never the king over the entire Persian Empire.

Daniel 6:28, "So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian."

Daniel 9:1, "In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;"

When we go to extra-biblical sources, we find that the Greek historians credit the takeover to Cyrus the Persian. 91] Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), the Greek historian, tells us that Cyrus led an army of Medes and Persians to Babylon and captured the city after diverting a water channel of the Euphrates river, with the dried river allowing entrance into the city by night (see Herodotus 1191). 92] Xenophon (430-354 B.C.), a later Greek historian, also records the fall of Babylon, but includes the story of two of Cyrus' skilled generals Gadatas and Gobryas, who orchestrating the assault (Cyropaedia 751-34). 93] Josephus tells us that Darius the king of Media was a relative of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, and that together they took over the Babylonian kingdom from Belshazzar.

91] Gleason L. Archer, Jeremiah , Daniel , The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol 7, ed. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House), 1976-1992, in Zondervan Reference Software, v 28 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corp, 1989-2001), "Introduction: 7 Special Problems: c. Alleged historical inaccuracies: 5) The ‘legendary' Darius the Mede."

92] See Herodotus 1191in Herodotus I, Books I-II, trans. by A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1975), 238-241.

93] See Xenophon Cyropaedia 751-34in The Cyropaedia, or Institutions of Cyrus, and the Hellenics, or Grecian History, trans. J. S. Watson and Henry Dale (London: George Bell and Sons, 1880), 220-225.

"When Evil-Mcrodach was dead, after a reign of eighteen years, Niglissar his son took the government, and retained it forty years, and then ended his life; and after him the succession in the kingdom came to his son Labosordacus, who continued in it in all but nine months; and when he was dead, it came to Baltasar, who by the Babylonians was called Naboandelus; against him did Cyrus, the king of Persia, and Darius, the king of Media, make war; and when he was besieged in Babylon, there happened a wonderful and prodigious vision." (Antiquities 10112)

"And this is the end of the posterity of king Nebuchadnezzar, as history informs us; but when Babylon was taken by Darius, and when Hebrews , with his kinsman Cyrus, had put an end to the dominion of the Babylonians, he was sixty-two years old. He was the son of Astyages, and had another name among the Greeks. Moreover, he took Daniel the prophet, and carried him with him into Media, and honored him very greatly, and kept him with him; for he was one of the three presidents whom he set over his three hundred and sixty provinces, for into so many did Darius part them." (Antiquities 10115)

It would not have been uncommon for Cyrus the Persian to appoint a prominent Mede as viceroy over a part of his kingdom in order to reward loyalty and keep unity in the region. We know that many noble Medes were employed as officials, satraps and generals. This is very likely how Darius the Mede gained the description as taking the kingdom in Daniel 5:31. Since there is record of a man named Gubaru who appears as the governor of Babylonia and of Ebir-nari (the western domains under Chaldean sovereignty) in tablets dated from the fourth to the eighth year of Cyrus (535-532 B.C.), some scholars suggest that Gubaru took the title as "Dar eyawes" or "Darius" during his rule as viceroy under King Cyrus. 94]

94] Gleason L. Archer, Jeremiah , Daniel , The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol 7, eds. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House), 1976-1992, in Zondervan Reference Software, v 28 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corp, 1989-2001), "Introduction: 7 Special Problems: c. Alleged historical inaccuracies: 5), The ‘legendary' Darius the Mede."

 


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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Daniel 5:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/daniel-5.html. 2013.

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