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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Daniel 5

 

 

Verse 1

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

Ver. 1. Belshazzar the king.] Son to Evilmerodach, grandson to Nebuchadnezzar, whose line failed in this king, according to Jeremiah 27:7. Of Evilmerodach, Daniel saith nothing, because nothing remarkable happen in his time but what was before related. [2 Kings 25:27]

Made a great feast.] Of this feast, see Jeremiah 25:26; Herodot., lib. i.; Xenoph., lib. vii. It was made, say some, upon occasion of a yearly solemnity, which continued five days together, wherein the servants bare sway in every family, having a master of misrule over them. Cyrus took this opportunity, saith Xenophon, and made himself master of the city. Nota hic Baltasaris miram vecordiam, saith one; that is, take notice of Belshazzar’s strange stupidity and security, that having such a formidable enemy before the city, he should thus revel and bezzle: but he did it perhaps to show his valour, and how little he cared for the Persians, who showed themselves soon after to be no contemptible persons. Certain it is that he minded nothing less at his feast than the deliverance of God’s poor people, which now he was in working. Now were the seventy years exactly ended; now therefore was Israel to be dismissed, and it was done. The Rabbis have a tradition, that Belshazzar, seeing the seventy years spoken of by Jeremiah expired, and the Jews, by the coming on of another monarch, not delivered, kept this feast in contempt of that prophecy and people. (a)

To a thousand of his lords.] Who, it is like, were all drunk for company; what wonder, then, that a land so sick of drink spued them all out? Lords and lowlies were grown desperate drunkards, ripe for ruin. Here were a thousand princes, but not one faithful counsellor to better advise this festival king, as he is called, wholly given over to dissolute lusts. Who can tell whether it were not now with him as afterwards with Vitellius the Emperor, when his enemy was at hand, Vitellius trepidus, dein temulentus, (b) to put away the fear of death, he made himself drunk?


Verse 2

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.

Ver. 2. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine.] (a) And was mastered by it; being now in his cups, as they say, and well whittled, "swallowed up of wine," as the prophet expresseth it. [Isaiah 28:7] Aben Ezra rendereth it, in consilio vini, doing as the wine advised him.

Commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels.] Being intoxicated, he casteth off all care of God and man, and falleth into the sins of sacrilege and blasphemy.

Which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple.] And should have restored them hither again. We read that when Gensericus had spoiled and plundered Rome, he took the vessels of gold and silver which Titus had brought from the temple in Jerusalem, and carried them with him to Carthage; these vessels, among other spoils, Belisarius met with when he took Carthage, and carried them to Constantinople. But the good Emperor Justinian would not receive them into his treasury, but sent them again to Jerusalem to be disposed of for the good of the Church, according to the discretion of the Christian bishops who lived there. (b)


Verse 3

Daniel 5:3 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.

Ver. 3. Then they brought the golden vessels.] Made and appointed for a better use; as were likewise much of our Church lands, vessels, and utensils, concerning which a learned man complaineth, Possidebant Papistae, possident iam rapistae. Luther cried out earnestly against this abuse in Germany, Knox in Scotland, Calvin at Geneva: I see, said he to the senate there in a sermon, that we have taken the purse from Judas and given it to the devil; neither can I endure such sacrilege, which I know God in the end will punish most severely. Belshazzar paid dear for his boosing in the bowls of the sanctuary.

And the king and his princes … drank in them.] As if they had been swine troughs. This was to outsin his father and grandfather, who yet were none of the best.


Verse 4

Daniel 5:4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

Ver. 4. They drank wine.] To the honour of their goddess Shac; for so these feast days were called σακεαι ημεραι, being like the Roman saturnalia.

And praised the gods of silver and of gold.] As if these their dung hill deities had mastered and spoiled the God of Israel, who either would not, or could not defend his temple and people from falling into the power of their invincible conqueror. This was blasphemy in a high degree, and therefore presently punished by God.


Verse 5

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.

Ver. 5. In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand.] Taken off from the arm. This strange sight marred all the mirth immediately, making good the proverb, Ubi uber, ibi tuber; ubi mel, ibi fel. Lege Dei aeterna sancitum est ut illicita voluptas pariat ultricis conscientiae furias et supplicia, iuxta illud, Where the breast is, there is the friut, where the honey is, there is the venom. Eternity is confirmed by the law of God that forbidden pleasures give birth to vengeful and enraged conscience and that just punishment is near. Revelation 18:7. Carnal mirth goeth out in a snuff.

Upon the plaster of the wall.] When the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against unrighteousness, he would have it to be well noted and noticed by all.


Verse 6

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.

Ver. 6. Then the king’s countenance was changed.] How soon is carnal joy extinct, the gallantry of it checked with troubles and terrors! how suddenly is it put out as the fire of thorns! [Psalms 118:12 Ecclesiastes 7:6] Surely as lightning is followed with rending and roaring; and as comets, when their exhaled matter is wasted, vanish and fill the air with pestilent vapours; so is it here.

So that the joints of his loins were loosed.] If a bare citation to judgment were so terrible to this jolly prince, what shall the judgment itself be "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord," &c.

And his knees smote one against another.] The writing on the wall he could neither read nor understand; but his conscience had written bitter things against him, which being now held to the fire of God’s wrath become legible, as things written with the juice of an onion are visible when brought to the fire. The wounds also of an accusing conscience pierce the members of the body. [Proverbs 17:22] The mark that God set upon Cain was, in likelihood the perpetual trembling of his hands and whole body. Tullus Hostilius, who profanely derided the devotions of his predecessor Numa, had deservedly for his gods Pavorem fear, and Pallorem. wanness, (a) Caracalla, after the murder of his brother Geta, was so haunted with the furies of his own evil conscience, that he forbade any so much as to name him on pain of death, and was well nigh mad; so was Theodoricus the tyrant upon the sight of the fish’s head set before him, wherein he thought he saw the face of Symmachus whom he had wrongfully slain. The like befell our Richard III after the murder of his two innocent nephews; and Charles IX of France after the massacre at Paris.


Verse 7

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.

Ver. 7. The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers.] Daniel seemeth not to have been in any request in the days of this dissolute prince, Neither was there any courtier that would mention him, or mind the king of him till the old queen came in. Such combibones drinking buddies are unfit comforters; many of them likely were by this time bucked with wine, and then laid out to be sunned and scorned.

Shall be clothed with scarlet, &c.] A troubled heart will give anything for release, as Cain, Spira, &c.

And shall be the third ruler in the kingdom,] i.e., Next to myself and the queen-mother. Thus he promiseth to another a third place, who could not promise to himself any place. Spirat superbiam miser.


Verse 8

Daniel 5:8 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.

Ver. 8. But they could not read the writing.] Utpote caecitate et stupore pervulsi; they could not so read it as to make any good sense of it. It may be the initial letters only were set down, or else without pricks, or in a strange character, the Samaritan, or some other. The honour of the work was reserved for a better man.


Verse 9

Daniel 5:9 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.

Ver. 9. Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled.] In the midst of his feast he was thus damped and cast into his dumps; according to that of Amos, [Amos 8:10] "I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation." Yet find we not in him any sign of true remorse. "Whoredom and wine and new wine had even taken away his heart," [Hosea 4:11] robbed him of himself, and laid a beast in the room.


Verse 10

Daniel 5:10 [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:

Ver. 10. Now the queen.] The queen mother, whom Herodotus calleth Nicochris, and greatly commendeth for her wisdom and ability of speech, which in a woman is a comely ornament: [Proverbs 31:26] (1.) She was not at this riotous feast, which is an argument of her temperance; (2.) She prudently insinuateth into the king by the ordinary salutation, "O king, live for ever"; (3.) She adviseth him to bear up, and not to be too troubled; (4.) She maketh honourable mention of Daniel, cuius virtutum sola est admiratrix, and persuaded the king to make use of him by her own experience, We use to say thus women’s wits are best at a pinch. Most sure it is that women have proven sometimes more prompt for counsel than men; [ 13:23] and some we may find who, beside their sex, have little of a woman in them. See 2 Samuel 20:16. Herodotus maketh this Nicochris as famous as Semiramis.


Verse 11

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, 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;

Ver. 11. There is a man in thy kingdom.] Once famous for his oracles, and highly promoted by thy grandfather Nebuchadnezzar. Thus this old queen speaketh of ancient things. She was not therefore Belshazzar’s wife, as Porphyry scoffingly objected, but his mother at least, if not his grandmother.

In whom is the spirits.] See on Daniel 5:10.

The king, I say, thy father.] This was a check to Belshazzar for neglecting so worthy a person as Daniel, whom his grandfather had so highly honoured.


Verse 12

Daniel 5:12 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.

Ver. 12. Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, &c.] Very excellent is the grace of the Spirit in godly hearts, [Colossians 1:29] neither can natural conscience do less than stoop and strike sail to the image of God in whomsoever.

And dissolving of doubts.] Chald., Knots; that is, perplexed and obscure speeches and sentences.

Now let Daniel be called.] Who will not obtrude himself, nor, like the marigold, open and shut with the sun; but, as the violet, which grows low and hangs the head downward, hiding itself also with its own leaves, so Daniel, were it not that the fragrant smell of his many virtues betrayed him to the world, would choose to live and die in his self-contenting secrecy.


Verse 13

Daniel 5:13 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?

Ver. 13. Then was Daniel brought in.] Wise men are never found to be unnecessarily forthputting, or overly forward to express themselves. They know qui bene latuit bene vixit; et qui bene tacuit, bene dixit; and when they must speak, use as few words as may be, and as direct to the point.

Art thou that Daniel.] Daniel had deserved of the Babylonian state to have been better known of Belshazzar, and better respected; but this is the world’s wages.

Which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, &c.] What needed all this? he never learned it surely of his queen mother. She had spoken all good of Daniel, and inminded the king of another both office and name. He only takes notice of Daniel’s captive condition, and vaunts of his grandfather’s victory, moving this insolent and unseasonable question in tanta necessitate et consilii inopia, "Art thou Daniel?" &c


Verse 14

Daniel 5:14 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.

Ver. 14. I have even heard of thee that the spirit, &c.] This silly and shallow prince hath nothing to say but what was put into his month by his wiser grandmother; only what she discreetly concealed, viz., that Daniel was one of the captives, &c., hoc unum commemorat gloriosus rex, that he blurts out, in a way of upbraiding. (a)


Verse 15

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:

Ver. 15. But they could not show the interpretation of the thing.] They could not read nor interpret it. Such as seek to sorcerers are worthy to lose their labour, as a punishment of their folly. Suidas testifieth that the citizens of Alexandria in Egypt devised and decreed that astrologers should pay a certain tribute to the State out of their gettings, and that it should be called the fool’s tribute, because none but fools and light fellows would resort to such for direction.


Verse 16

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.

Ver. 16. And I have heard of thee.] As far off as he maketh it, Belshazzar could not be so ignorant of Daniel, as he would seem to be, since he understood punctually the dreams, honours, and troubles of his grandfather. [Daniel 5:22] But this he took for a piece of his silly glory, to make it very strange, as if he had never heard of Daniel till now.


Verse 17

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.

Ver. 17. Let thy gifts be to thyself.] Honours, pleasures, riches,

Haec tria pro trino numine mmadus habet.

But as Moses, by the force of his faith, overcame them all, [Hebrews 11:24-27] so did Daniel here, throwing off the offers of them, and answering the king’s proud speech with a grave invective, which he beginneth somewhat abruptly, not without indignation, as having to deal with a wicked and desperate man, rejected of God. Ministers must carry in them a retired majesty, saith one, toward the persons of wicked men. [2 Kings 3:14]


Verse 18

Daniel 5:18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:

Ver. 18. O thou king, the most high God gave Nebachadnezzar.] See here the necessary and profitable use of history, which hath its name, saith Plato, παρα το ισταναι τον ρουν, from stopping the flux and overflow of impiety in others;

Exemplo alterius qui sapit, ille sapit.

Domestic examples are most prevalent; as not to profit by them is a great provocation, and yet all too common. [Psalms 49:14] Lamech was nothing bettered by Cain’s punishment, but the contrary. Jude inveigheth against such as made no use of Sodom’s ruin; this was a just presage and desert of their own.

And kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour.] His offences were much increased by these many obligations.


Verse 19

Daniel 5:19 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.

Ver. 19. Whom he would he slew.] De facto loquitur, non de iure. See the like 1 Samuel 8:10-17. {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 8:10"} {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 8:11"} {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 8:12"} {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 8:13"} {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 8:14"} {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 8:15"} {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 8:16"} {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 8:17"} Lactantius (a) telleth of a certain tyrant, qui lucem vivis, terram mortuis denegabat, who would never let his subjects rest alive or dead.


Verse 20

Daniel 5:20 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:

Ver. 20. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride.] Pride is of a hardening property, causeth men to commit sin with a high hand, as Pharaoh. The increase of the spleen is the decrease of the body; so is pride of the soul, and overturneth the whole man. Evagrius noteth it for a special commendation of Mauritius the Emperor, that he was not puffed up with his preferments.


Verse 21

Daniel 5:21 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.

Ver. 21. And he was driven.] See on Daniel 4:22. Lege historiam, ne fias historia.


Verse 22

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

Ver. 22. And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thy heart.] It was no small aggravation of his sins not to be warned, and now he shall hear of it on both ears. The putting out of the French king’s eyes, which promised before with his eyes to see one of God’s true servants burned, who seeth not to be the stroke of God’s hand? Then his son Francis, not regarding his father’s stripe, would needs yet proceed in burning the same man. And did not the same God give him such a blow on the ear that it cost him his life? (a)


Verse 23

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:

Ver. 23. But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven.] As did also Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Herod, [Acts 12:21-23] whose acts were set forth with false and flattering praises by Nicholas Damascenus, as Josephus (a) complaineth; but so are not Belshazzar’s by holy Daniel, who yet is almost his only historiographer.

And whose are all thy ways.] Chald., Thy whole journey.


Verse 24

Daniel 5:24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.

Ver. 24. Then was the part of the hand.] Completa peccati mensura, non differtur poena, when sin is once ripe, punishment is ready. The bottle of wickedness, when once full with those bitter waters, will soon sink to the bottom.


Verse 25

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

Ver. 25. MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.] These words signify, He hath perfectly numbered, he hath weighed, and it falleth in pieces. They were the Samaritan characters, saith one, (a) therefore the Babylonians could not read them, nor could the Jews understand them, though they knew the characters, because they understood not the Chaldee tongue as Daniel did. See on Daniel 5:8.


Verse 26

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

Ver. 26. MENE God hath numbered thy kingdom.] He hath cast up thy reckonings, taken account of thy maladministration, and calleth for satisfaction. So he dealt with Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Cum duplicarentur lateres, venit Moses, when the tale of bricks was doubled, then came Moses; and when the four hundred, or the four hundred and thirty, years of their captivity in Egypt were exactly expired, the same night were the firstborn slain. So the tyranny of the Roman emperors was numbered at the end of three hundred years after Christ, when they, sounding the triumph before the victory, had foolishly engraven upon pillars of marble these bubbles of words, Nomine Christianorum deleto qui Remp, evertebant, we have utterly rooted out the name of Christians, those traitors to the commonwealth. So, lastly, God hath numbered the Pope’s kingdom, and well-nigh finished it. Let him look to the year 1666. It is plain Satan shall be tied up a thousand years; 666 is the number of the beast; Antichrist shaft so long reign; these two together make the just number. (a)


Verse 27

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

Ver. 27. TEKEL thou art weighed in the balances, (a) and art found wanting.] As the former was a term taken from creditors, so this from light coin; deprehensus es minus habere, thou art not current. Others may think thee weighty enough and worthy, but God pondereth the hearts, [Proverbs 22:2] and thinketh thee fit to be refused, ut nummus reprobus so money rejected.


Verse 28

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

Ver. 28. PERES thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes.] This had been long before prophesied, Isaiah 13:17; yea, Genesis 9:25; and now Ham’s posterity felt his father’s curse. Nimrod, the founder of Babylon, came of Ham, Madai or the Medes were of Japhet, and Elam or the Persians of Shem. God’s forbearances are no acquittances. Let all wicked ones look to it. What is Mene but death? Tekel but judgment? Peres but hell or utter separation from God? and all to be passed through by their poor souls if timely course be not taken. Hear this, all ye drunkards, who glory in drinking the three outs &c.


Verse 29

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.

Ver. 29. Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel.] No nay, but they would do it; and he at length admitted it, partly that he might not seem to slight the king’s courtesy and to be disaffected, and partly that thereby he might be the better known to the Persians for the comfort of God’s poor people.

And put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation, &c.] All this the king commanded to be done, out of an admiration of Daniel’s divine wisdom, and that he might be dicti sui dominus, as good as his word; but not a word hear we of his repentance, such was his stupidity; nor doth Daniel exhort him to it, because he saw him to be past feeling, and knew that the decree was gone forth.


Verse 30

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

Ver. 30. In that night was Belshazzar … slain.] By Gaddatha and Gobrya, two of Cyrus’s commanders, who had been wronged by Belshazzar (as Xenophon (a) also testifieth), and now took revenge on him, after that they had betrayed the city, and brought in Cyrus’s army. So fell that famous Babylon: fuit Ilium et inyen, gloria Teucrorum.


Verse 31

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

Ver. 31. And Darius.] Called by Ctesias, Dαριαιος, which comes near to Dariaves, as the Chaldee here calleth him. He is thought to be the same with Cyaxares, son of Astyages, and uncle to Cyrus.

Being about threescore and two years old.] Born the same year, say the Rabbis, (a) wherein Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and destroyed it. So Augustine was born the same day in Africa that Pelagius was in Wales, say chronologers, by a wise and watchful providence of God for the good of his Church.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Daniel 5:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/daniel-5.html. 1865-1868.

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