Belshazzar’s Party…the Handwriting on the Wall Daniel 5
Daniel 5:1-"Belshazzar" (see the Introduction material for a chronological list of the kings of Babylon)
5:1 Belshazzar. Until recently this king was unknown except for mention in this chapter, but contemporary records have been discovered which report that Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, “entrusted the kingship to his son, Bel-shar-usus” while he retired to Arabia. Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 and was succeeded by his son, Amel-marduk (the Evil-merodach of Jer. 52:31). He in turn was murdered by his brother-in-law (the Nergal-sarezer of Jer. 39:3,13), who was enthroned in August 560. He in turn was succeeded in 556 by his son Labashi-marduk who was assassinated that same year by a group that included Nabonidus, who was made king.
5:2 …Nebuchadnezzar his father. The term “father” can simply mean a predecessor on the throne, or in this case it may indicate that Belshazzar’s mother, the wife of Nabonidus, was the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar.
The Ryrie Study Bible, footnotes on Daniel 5:1 and 5:2, p. 1316
- Belshazzar the king: When we come to Daniel 5, Nebuchadnezzar is no longer the king of Babylon. How did it come from Nebuchadnezzar to Belshazzar? The ancient historian Berosus gives us the following order of events:
- Nebuchadnezzar dies after a 43-year reign
- His son, Evil-Merodach (described in 2 Kings 25:27-30 and Jeremiah 52:31-34) rules for only two years when he is assassinated by his brother-in-law Neriglassar, because his rule was arbitrary and licentious
- Neriglassar (mentioned as Nergalsharezer in Jeremiah 39:3, 13) rules for four years until he dies a natural death
- His son, Laborosoarchod, only a child and of diminished mental capacity, rules for only nine months when he his beaten to death by a gang of conspirators
- The conspirators appoint Nabonidus, one of their gang, to be king. He rules until Cyrus the Persian conquers Babylon.
- b. Belshazzar the king: For a long time, historians and archaeologists knew that Nabonidus was said to be the last king of Babylon, not Belshazzar (who was Nabonidus' eldest son). The solution to this so-called discrepancy was apparent when evidence was uncovered indicating not only Belshazzar's association with Nabonidus on the throne, but also demonstrating that during the last part of his reign Nabonidus lived in Arabia and left the conduct of the kingdom of Babylon to his eldest son Belshazzar.
- There was no additional mention of Belshazzar, the eldest son and co-regent with Nabonidus, until the Nabonidus Cylinder was discovered in this century. It is now displayed in the British Museum.
- According to Babylonian records, Belshazzar became coregent in the third year of Nabonidus' reign (553 B.C.) and continued in that capacity till the fall of Babylon (539 B.C.).
- It is most likely that at the time of Daniel 5, Nabonidus had gone out to fight the Medo-Persian army, and had been already captured. Those armies now surrounded Babylon, and were looking for a way into the strongly defended city.
- Made a great feast for a thousand of his lords: Belshazzar was not afraid of the siege surrounding the city. He was confident because of Babylon's impressive defenses and his vast supplies.
- Conservative calculations set the dimensions of the ancient city of Babylon like this:
- The outer walls were 17 miles long
- These walls were 22 feet thick and 90 feet high
- The outer walls had guard towers another 100 feet high
- The city gates were made of bronze
- A system of inner and outer walls and moats made the city very secure
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Daniel 5,
Daniel 5:1-4-Belshazzar commanded that the gold cups that had been taken from the Temple in Jerusalem when it had been conquered be brought out and used by his nobles to drink from. Notice that they did so as an act of “praise” (:4) to their gods…that were symbolized by gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone (:4,23). His intent was to demonstrate the superiority of his gods over the God of the Jews. This was a deliberate act of disrespect.
Daniel 5:5-6-Suddenly a man’s hand appeared and wrote words in a language not known to them on the wall. The king went into shock (:6,9,10).
Daniel 5:7-9-The king called for all of his “wise men” to read and explain the words and promised a great reward to whoever could do so. But none could do so.
Daniel 5:10-Then the king’s wife remembered Daniel. Daniel was brought in and the king made him the same promise of great reward if he read and explained the words. But Daniel told him to keep his reward. Daniel reminded the king that he knew what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar because of his pride…and yet, he was acting arrogantly by using the drinking vessels from the Temple (:18-23). So, God sent this hand to write these words of warning on the wall (:24). The writing on the wall declared that the kingdom of Belshazzar was about to come to an end. That very night...Belshazzar was killed...and Darius the Mede became king. Darius was a sub-king under Cyrus the Persian. He is referred to in secular history as Gubaru.
5:30 Herodotus and Xenophon testify that the city was entered by diverting the Euphrates River, and that the enemy entered to find the people in a drunken festival (on Oct. 11 or 12, 539 B.C.).
The Ryrie Study Bible, footnote on Daniel 5:30, p. 1318
- MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of each word: "It should be observed, that each word stands for a short sentence; mene signifies NUMERATION; tekel, WEIGHING; and peres, DIVISION." (Clarke)
- God had Belshazzar's number, and it fell short
- God weighed Belshazzar, and he came up light
- God would therefore divide Belshazzar's kingdom to the Medes and the Persiansc. Given to the Medes and Persians: The ancient Greek historian Herodotus relates that the Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon by diverting the flow of the Euphrates into a nearby swamp. This lowered the level of the river so his troops marched through the water and under the river-gates. They still would not have been able to enter had not the bronze gates of the inner walls been left inexplicably unlocked. This was exactly what God predicted in Isaiah 44:28-45:7 and Jeremiah 51:57-58. God opened the gates of the city of Babylon for Cyrus, and put it in writing 200 years before it happened!
- b. Weighed in the balances, and found wanting: A mighty army and brilliant tactics overcame The Babylonian Empire, yet it still fell from within. The armies of the Medes and Persians could only conquer because Belshazzar and his kingdom were found lacking in spiritual and moral value.
- "In October 539 B.C., Cyrus advanced into lower Mesopotamia and, leaving Babylon till last, conquered and occupied the surrounding territory. Seeing which way the wind was blowing, Nabonidus of Babylon deserted his city, leaving it in the charge of his son Belshazzar … the taking of Babylon was as bloodless and effortless as Daniel 5 implies." (Motyer, in his commentary on Isaiah)
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Daniel 5,
Darius’ Demand for Worship…the Lion’s Den Daniel 6
Daniel 6:1-3-Dairus divided the kingdom into three areas and appointed a leader over each...Daniel was one of them. Daniel began to excel and Darius planned to make him the leader over everyone. However, when word got out, it caused jealousy among other leaders.
Daniel 6:4-27-These leaders could not find anything corrupt about Daniel. So, they decided to use his religious faith against him. They knew that every day Daniel prayed three times to God (:10). So, they conspired against Daniel by convincing the king to pass a law saying that for 30 days no one could pray to or worship anyone but the king. The king did as suggested. But Daniel continued his daily practice of prayer to God. The leaders then told the king that Daniel refused to stop worshipping his God (:12-13). The king was distressed about this (:14) and tried to help Daniel. But he had signed the law...so, he had to throw Daniel into the lion's den. He said, however, that he believed that God would spare him (:16). The king even fasted in Daniel's behalf (:18). The next day Daniel was alive. The king then threw the men and their families into the lion’s den, who had accused Daniel (:24). He then sent out a decree that all the citizens of his kingdom were to respect the God of Daniel (:25-27).
Daniel 6:28-Daniel was successful in the reign of both Darius and Cyrus of Persia.
Prayer: Father, pride is so insidious and so dangerous. I fail to see it in myself…but am quick to see it in others. I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me proper discernment so that I will be able to recognize it in my life and repent of it. Help me to always give You praise for all that You do in me and through me.