Daniel 5

1 Belshatzar the king gave a great banquet for a thousand of his lords, and in the presence of the thousand he was drinking wine.
2 While tasting the wine, Belshatzar ordered that the gold and silver vessels which his father N'vukhadnetzar had removed from the temple in Yerushalayim be brought; so that the king, his lords, his wives and his concubines could drink from them.
3 So they brought the gold vessels which had been removed from the sanctuary of the house of God in Yerushalayim; and the king, his lords, his wives and his concubines drank from them.
4 They drank their wine and praised their gods made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone.
5 Suddenly, the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the palace wall by the lampstand. When the king saw the palm of the hand that was writing,
6 the king's face took on a different look. As frightening thoughts rose up within him, his hip joints gave way and his knees started knocking together.
7 The king cried out to bring in the exorcists, astrologers and diviners. The king said to the sages of Bavel, "Whoever can read this inscription and tell me what it means will be dressed in royal purple, wear a gold chain around his neck and be one of the three men ruling the kingdom."
8 But although all the king's sages came in, none could read the inscription or tell the king what it meant.
9 Then King Belshatzar became terrified; his face turned pale, and his lords were thrown into confusion.
10 At this point the queen mother, because of what the king and his lords were saying, entered the banquet hall. The queen mother said, "May the king live forever! Don't be scared by your thoughts or let your face be so pale.
11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, he was found to have light, discernment and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. King N'vukhadnetzar your father - the king, your father - made him chief of the magicians, exorcists, astrologers and diviners;
12 because he was found to have an extraordinary spirit, knowledge, discernment, and the ability to interpret dreams, unlock mysteries and solve knotty problems. He is called Dani'el, but the king gave him the name Belt'shatzar. Now have Dani'el summoned, and he will tell you what this means."
13 Dani'el was brought into the king's presence. The king said to Dani'el, "Are you Dani'el, one of the exiles from Y'hudah whom the king my father brought out of Y'hudah?
14 I've heard about you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that you have been found to have light, discernment and extraordinary wisdom.
15 Now the sages, the exorcists, were brought in to me so that they could read this inscription and tell me what it means, but they couldn't interpret it for me.
16 However, I've heard that you can give interpretations and solve knotty problems. Now if you can read the inscription and tell me what it means, you will be dressed in royal purple, wear a gold chain around your neck and be one of the three men ruling the kingdom."
17 Dani'el answered the king, "Keep your gifts, and give your rewards to someone else. However, I will read the inscription to the king and tell him what it means.
18 Your majesty, the Most High God gave N'vukhadnetzar your father the kingdom, as well as greatness, glory and majesty.
19 Because of the greatness he gave him, all the peoples, nations and languages trembled with fear before him. Anyone he wanted to, he put to death; anyone he wanted to, he kept alive; anyone he wanted to, he advanced; and anyone he wanted to, he humbled.
20 But when he grew proud and his spirit became hard, he began treating people arrogantly, so he was deposed from his royal throne, and his glory was taken away from him.
21 He was driven from human society, his heart was made like that of an animal, he lived with the wild donkeys, he was fed with grass like an ox, and his body was drenched with dew from the sky; until he learned that the Most High God rules in the human kingdom and sets up over it whomever he pleases.
22 But, Belshatzar, you, his son, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this.
23 Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven by having them bring you the vessels from his house; and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them; then you offered praise to your gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood and stone, which can't see, hear or know anything. Meanwhile, God, who holds your very breath in his hands, and to whom belongs everything you do, you have not glorified.
24 This is why he sent the hand to write this inscription;
25 and the inscription says, 'M'ne! M'ne! T'kel ufarsin.'
26 This is what it means: 'M'ne!'- God has counted up your kingdom and brought it to an end.
27 'T'kel'- you are weighed on the balance-scale and come up short.
28 'P'res'- your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians."
29 Then Belshatzar gave the order; and they clothed Dani'el in royal purple, put a gold chain around his neck and proclaimed of him that he was to be one of the three men ruling the kingdom.
30 That very night Belshatzar, the king of the Kasdim, was killed.
31 The kingdom passed to Daryavesh the Mede when he was about sixty-two years old.

Daniel 5 Commentary

Chapter 5

Belshazzar's impious feast; the hand-writing on the wall. (1-9) Daniel is sent for to interpret it. (10-17) Daniel warns the king of his destruction. (18-31)

Verses 1-9 Belshazzar bade defiance to the judgments of God. Most historians consider that Cyrus then besieged Babylon. Security and sensuality are sad proofs of approaching ruin. That mirth is sinful indeed, which profanes sacred things; and what are many of the songs used at modern feasts better than the praises sung by the heathens to their gods! See how God struck terror upon Belshazzar and his lords. God's written word is enough to put the proudest, boldest sinner in a fright. What we see of God, the part of the hand that writes in the book of the creatures, and in the book of the Scriptures, should fill us with awful thoughts concerning that part which we do not see. If this be the finger of God, what is his arm when made bare? And what is He? The king's guilty conscience told him that he had no reason to expect any good news from heaven. God can, in a moment, make the heart of the stoutest sinner to tremble; and there needs no more than to let loose his own thoughts upon him; they will give him trouble enough. No bodily pain can equal the inward agony which sometimes seizes the sinner in the midst of mirth, carnal pleasures, and worldly pomp. Sometimes terrors cause a man to flee to Christ for pardon and peace; but many cry out for fear of wrath, who are not humbled for their sins, and who seek relief by lying vanities. The ignorance and uncertainty concerning the Holy Scriptures, shown by many who call themselves wise, only tend to drive sinners to despair, as the ignorance of these wise men did.

Verses 10-17 Daniel was forgotten at court; he lived privately, and was then ninety years of age. Many consult servants of God on curious questions, or to explain difficult subjects, but without asking the way of salvation, or the path of duty. Daniel slighted the offer of reward. He spoke to Belshazzar as to a condemned criminal. We should despise all the gifts and rewards this world can give, did we see, as we may by faith, its end hastening on; but let us do our duty in the world, and do it all the real service we can.

Verses 18-31 Daniel reads Belshazzar's doom. He had not taken warning by the judgments upon Nebuchadnezzar. And he had insulted God. Sinners are pleased with gods that neither see, nor hear, nor know; but they will be judged by One to whom all things are open. Daniel reads the sentence written on the wall. All this may well be applied to the doom of every sinner. At death, the sinner's days are numbered and finished; after death is the judgment, when he will be weighed in the balance, and found wanting; and after judgment the sinner will be cut asunder, and given as a prey to the devil and his angels. While these things were passing in the palace, it is considered that the army of Cyrus entered the city; and when Belshazzar was slain, a general submission followed. Soon will every impenitent sinner find the writing of God's word brought to pass upon him, whether he is weighed in the balance of the law as a self-righteous Pharisee, or in that of the gospel as a painted hypocrite.

Chapter Summary


This chapter gives an account of a feast made by King Belshazzar, attended with drunkenness, idolatry, and profanation of the vessels taken out of the temple at Jerusalem, Da 5:1-4, and of the displeasure of God, signified by a handwriting on the wall, which terrified the king, and caused him to send in haste for the astrologers to read and interpret it, but they could not, Da 5:5-8, in this distress, which appeared in the countenances of him and his nobles, the queen mother advises him to send for Daniel, of whom she gives a great encomium, Da 5:9-12, upon which he was brought in to the king, and promised a great reward to read and interpret the writing; the reward he slighted, but promised to read and interpret the writing, Da 5:13-17 and after putting him in mind of what had befallen his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, and charging him with pride, idolatry, and profanation of the vessels of the Lord, Da 5:18-23 reads and interprets the writing to him Da 5:24-28, when he had honour done him, and was preferred in the government, Da 5:29 and the chapter is concluded with an account of the immediate accomplishment of ancient prophecies, and of this handwriting, in the slaying of the king of Babylon, in the dissolution of the Babylonish monarchy, and the possession of it by Darius the Mede, Da 5:30,31.

Daniel 5 Commentaries

Complete Jewish Bible Copyright 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.