Belshazzar the king made a great feast
This king was not the immediate successor of Nebuchadnezzar, but Evilmerodach, ( Jeremiah 52:31 ) , who, according to Ptolemy's canon, reigned two years; then followed Neriglissar, his sister's husband, by whom he was slain, and who usurped the throne, and reigned four years; he died in the beginning of his fourth year, and left a son called Laborosoarchod, who reigned but nine months, which are placed by Ptolemy to his father's reign, and therefore he himself is not mentioned in the canon; and then followed this king, who by Ptolemy is called Nabonadius; by Berosus, Nabonnedus
F20 by Abydenus F21, Nabannidochus; by Herodotus F23, Labynitus; and by Josephus F24, Naboandelus, who, according to him, is the same with Belshazzar; whom some confound with the son of Neriglissar; others take him to be the same with Evilmerodach, because he here immediately follows Nebuchadnezzar, and is called his son, ( Daniel 5:11 Daniel 5:13 Daniel 5:18 ) , and others that he was a younger brother, so Jarchi and Theodoret; but the truth is, that he was the son of Evilmerodach, and grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, which agrees with the prophecy in ( Jeremiah 27:7 ) , for though Nebuchadnezzar is called his father, and he his son, ( Daniel 5:2 Daniel 5:11 Daniel 5:13 Daniel 5:18 Daniel 5:22 ) this is said after the manner of the eastern nations, who used to call ancestors fathers, and their more remote posterity sons. He had his name Belshazzar from the idol Bel, and may be rendered, "Bel's treasurer": though, according to Saadiah, the word signifies "a searcher of treasures", of his ancestors, or of the house of God. Hillerus translates it, "Bel hath hidden". This king made a great feast;
or "bread" F25, which is put for all provisions; it was great, both on account of plenty of food, variety of dishes, and number of guests, and those of the highest rank and quality. On what account this feast was made is not easy to say; whether out of contempt of Cyrus and his army, by whom he was now besieged, and to show that he thought himself quite safe and secure in a city so well walled and fortified, and having in it such vast quantities of provision; or whether it was on account of a victory he had obtained that morning over the Medes and Persians, as Josephus Ben Gorion F26 relates; and therefore in the evening treated his thousand lords, who had been engaged in battle with him, and behaved well: though it seems to have been an anniversary feast; since, according to Xenophon and Herodotus, Cyrus knew of it before hand; either on account of the king's birthday, or in honour to his gods, particularly Shach, which was called the Sachaenan feast; (See Gill on Jeremiah 25:26) (See Gill on Jeremiah 51:41) which seems most likely, since these were praised at this time, and the vessels of the temple of God at Jerusalem profaned, ( Daniel 5:2-4 ) , this feast was prophesied of by Isaiah, ( Isaiah 21:5 ) and by Jeremiah, ( Jeremiah 51:39 ) , it had its name from Shach, one of their deities, of which (See Gill on Daniel 1:4) (See Gill on Daniel 1:7) the same with Belus or the sun. The feasts kept in honour of it were much like the Saturnalia of the Romans, or the Purim of the Jews; and were kept eleven days together, in which everyone did as he pleased, no order and decorum being observed; and, for five of those days especially, there was no difference between master and servant, yea, the latter had the government of the former; and they spent day and night in dancing and drinking, and in all excess of riot and revelling F1; and in such like manner the Babylonians were indulging themselves, when their city was taken by Cyrus, as the above writers assert F2; and from the knowledge Cyrus had of it, it appears to be a stated feast, and very probably on the above account. According to Strabo F3, there was a feast of this name among the Persians, which was celebrated in honour of the goddess Anais, Diana, or the moon; and at whose altar they placed together Amanus and Anandratus, Persian demons; and appointed a solemn convention once a year, called Saca. Some say the occasion of it was this; that Cyrus making an expedition against the Sacse, a people in Scythia, pretended a flight, and left his tents full of all provisions, and especially wine, which they finding, filled themselves with it; when he returning upon them, finding some overcome with wine and stupefied, others overwhelmed with sleep, and others dancing and behaving in a bacchanalian way, they fell into his hands, and almost all of them perished; and taking this victory to be from the gods, he consecrated that day to the god of his country, and called it Sacaea; and wherever there was a temple of this deity, there was appointed a bacchanalian feast, in which men, and women appeared night and day in a Scythian habit, drinking together, and behaving to one another in a jocose and lascivious manner; but this could not be the feast now observed at Babylon, though it is very probable it was something of the like nature, and observed in much the same manner. And was made "to a thousand of his lords"; his nobles, the peers of his realm, governors of provinces; such a number of guests Ptolemy king of Egypt feasted at one time of Pompey's army, as Pliny from Varro relates F4; but Alexander far exceeded, who at a wedding had nine (some say ten) thousand at his tables, and gave to everyone a cup of gold, to offer wine in honour of the gods F5; and Pliny reports F6 of one Pythius Bythinus, who entertained the whole army of Xerxes with a feast, even seven hundred and eighty eight thousand men. And drank wine before the thousand;
not that he strove with them who should drink most, or drank to everyone of them separately, and so a thousand cups, as Jacchiades suggests; but he drank in the presence of them, to show his condescension and familiarity; this being, as Aben Ezra observes, contrary to the custom of kings, especially of the eastern nations, who were seldom seen in public. This feast was kept in a large house or hall, as Josephus F7 says, afterwards called the banqueting house, ( Daniel 5:10 ) .
F20 Apud Joseph. contr. Apion. l. 1.
F21 Apud Euseb. Evangel. l. 9. c. 41. p. 457.
F23 Clio, sive l. 1. c. 188.
F24 Antiqu. l. 10. c. 11. sect. 2.
F25 (Mxl) "panem", Montanus, Piscator. All food is called bread, Jarchi in Lev. xxi. 17.
F26 Hist. Hebr. l. 1. c. 5. p. 24.
F1 Athenaei Deipnosophist. l. 14. c. 10. ex Beroso & Ctesia.
F2 Xenophon. Cyropaedia, l. 7. c. 23. Herodot. Clio, sive l. 1. c. 191.
F3 Geograph. l. 11. p. 352, 353.
F4 Nat. Hist. l. 33. c. 10.
F5 Plutarch. in Vit. Alexand.
F6 Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 33. c. 10.)
F7 Antiqu. l. 10. c. 11. sect. 2.