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ch. 5:1-30

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The Writing On The Wall (ch. 5:1-30)

Nebuchadnezzar dies within a year or so after he had been restored to good health.  The next couple of kings that came after him was weak and did not amount to much, and did not last long.  A famine around the date of 530 B. C. did not help matters and caused economic inflation in the land, thus the empire had lost much of its power and influence in the known world.


Most scholars believe that Belshazzar who is mentioned in verse 1 is the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar.  This belief is a result of the Hebrew word for "father" that can also be translated as "grand-father".  World history seems to tell us this as well.  Belshazzar was really only an acting king because his father was off traveling around in remote parts of the kingdom, not really paying attention to his empire.  


On October 12, 539 B. C., Cyrus, King of Persia damned the Euphrates River causing the river to dry up in Babylon.  Once this happened he and his army entered the city of Babylon and took over without a fight.  On October 29 of the same year Cyrus proclaimed the Babylonian Empire had fallen.  He made a declaration of his kingship to the people.  This very document can be seen in the  London Museum in London England.


We see in verses 1 through 5 that Belshazzar had a great party for all of his extended family and close friends.  He ordered that the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar took from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem be brought into the party to be used to drink from.  Nebuchadnezzar had kept these goblets, along with other Jewish sacred items, in a museum.   He didn't bring them out to be used.


At this point Belshazzar knew that Cyrus of Persia was on the move and poised to attack the city of Babylon, but Belshazzar was convinced in his mind that the city was impenetrable and secure, so he partied on.


Little did Belshazzar realize that Cyrus had damned the Euphrates River which resulted in the river drying up in Babylon, which also meant the mote around the city, in between the two great walls was only about a foot deep, making it easy for Cyrus’ army to enter the city  


During the feast, in verses 5 and 6, we see that Belshazzar and the others see what appears to be a human hand writing on the wall.  That made the king extremely fearful. 


As was the custom with Nebuchadnezzar, the king calls in all the wise men so they could interpret what had been written on the wall.  Whoever could interpret the meaning of the words would become the third  most powerful man in the nation.


In verses 8 through 13 we see the queen come into the room and speak of Belshazzar’s father.  As I said earlier, in Hebrew the word for father and grandfather are the same, so it’s not certain how this should be translated, but from history there’s a good chance that we see Nebuchadnezzar was actually Belshazzar’s grandfather, not father.  Belshazzar’s father as mention earlier was out on his own escapades, leaving the responsibility of the kingdom to Belshazzar.  


The queen speaks to the king about Daniel who could most likely interpret this hand writing, because he had the "spirit of the gods" within him.  Though Daniel was noted for this ability, people could not see that Daniel’s God was the one who gave him that ability.  As the world often does, they see the believer through the lens of their own religion, even if it's humanism.   The same happens today.  Christians can be used of the Lord but the world just doesn't see it or get it because of its depravity.   


In verses 14 through 17 we see Daniel being introduced to the king.  He was told that if he could interpret the writing he’d be dressed in purple, wear a gold chain, and become third most powerful man in the kingdom.  This would suggest to me that Daniel had lost his high position that he was given when Nebuchadnezzar was king.  Daniel at one point was second only to the king, and now he seems to be unknown by this king and definitely not second in command.  What we see here is that even though God can put a godly man into a position of authority, He can remove the man from this position.  This isn't due to the man's unholy lifestyle.  It's simply God's sovereign choice in order to fulfill His will on earth.  We should never think that the removal of a godly man from a place where God once put him is a result of sin and judgment on the man.  It could be, but doesn't necessarily mean it is.     


In verse 17 we see that Daniel is not interested in the king’s rewards of riches and a powerful position. Once again this speaks to Daniel’s humility and just what kind of a man he was.   Things of the world had no real interest to him.  It might also be that Daniel knew what it was like to be in a position of authority in a pagan world and he wasn't interested in such a position.  Or, maybe it wasn't God's will and he knew it.  Personally speaking, I don't think Daniel was interested in being the third in command.   


Daniel nevertheless agreed to interpret the writing on the wall, yet before he did, he took this opportunity to give witness to his God by retelling some history to Belshazzar.  He told the king about Nebuchadnezzar, how he was a powerful ruler who killed who he wanted, saved who he wanted, and promoted or deposed who he wanted.  All this was to say that Nebuchadnezzar felt that he was the final authority over all things, but the Most High God sent him away to live as an animal until he acknowledged that there was a king over him, and that was the Most High God.  In other words, Daniel took the opportunity to preach to the king.


In verses 22 to 24 Daniel now shifts his remarks directly to Belshazzar without any fear, as a prophet of God should.  He told the king that Nebuchadnezzar learned this lesson.  The problem was that Belshazzar did not learn this lesson.  Belshazzar was also a very arrogant and proud man, and it is plain from Scripture that sooner or later God brings down the proud.  We can see this in the book of Revelation.  God ultimately brings down the proud at the end of this age in judgements, culminating in what is called "the White Throne Judgment".


Belshazzar was also deeply rooted in his polytheism.  This would be understandable due to the culture he lived in, but somewhere along the line the lesson of the One True God of Heaven did not penetrate his soul and he would be judged for the worship of man made gods.


There were four words written on the wall.  They are "mene, mene,  teckel, and parsin".  Daniel interprets the words this way.  "Mene" means "God has numbered the days of your reign and will bring it to an end".  "Teckel" means "you have been weighed on scales and have been found wanting".  "Perse" means "your kingdom has been divided and it has been given to the Medes and Persians".  You may note the difference in spelling of these words from the inscription on the wall.  Without getting involved in the grammar, the reason for the difference is grammatical.


Once again we see the God of Heaven involved in the kingdoms of man.  Belshazzar’s life was weighed in the heavenly scales and was found to be out of wack and found wanting.  Therefore, God said twice that the days of the king were numbered and his leadership would soon come to an end.  Those who would take over were the Medes and the Persians, who were actually standing at the gates of the city when the hand writing appeared on the wall.  King Cyrus marched into the city while the party was on and took over without a fight.  Many in the city did not even know this had happened until a couple of days later King Cyrus read his decree of victory which can be seen in the  Museum of London England.


It also should be mentioned that by this time there were many in Babylon that wanted a change and welcomed Cyrus’ take-over.  


This chapter ends with Daniel being promoted to third in the kingdom.  The problem is that in the very night that he was promoted it, the king who promoted him was killed by King Darius of the Medes.


At this point we need to comment on Darius who is just mentioned for the first time and Cyrus who has been mentioned in earlier verses.  It is clear from history that Cyrus was king of Persia, but it’s not so clear just who Darius was.  Some say he was the king of Medes.  Some say he was actually Cyrus, while others say he was Cyrus’ son.  The more popular thinking is that prior to the attack on Babylon, Cyrus was king of Persia and Darius was king of the Medes.  Cyrus himself had both Persian and Median parents.    



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