February 9

Daniel 5

We are in the Exile Stream and back in the book of Daniel. We are reading from the New King James Version this week. Last week, King Nebuchadnezzar lived like a beast eating grass for 7 years and was humbled. What will we encounter today in Daniel’s story?


Lord, another empire has crumbled and found itself in the dustbin of history.  What a long tale of woe for those who do not acknowledge you and humbly submit to your lordship.  May we sing the sacred hymn to you, “I Surrender All.”  May you reveal to us Lord the things that you would want us to do each and every day and may we have the ears to listen.

Amen in Christ’s Name.


Today we cover a dramatic shift in history as the kingdom of Babylon falls to the Medes and Persians. Now if you remember there was the statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream and he was the head of gold and now that head of gold has given way to the chest and arms of silver. By this time Daniel is definitely older and the Babylonian king from his youth, Nebuchadnezzar, is no longer in power.

It is in order to state that Belshazzar is Nebuchadnezzar’s maternal grandson.  The chapter refers to the two being father and son but Daniel, rather than going into drawing a family tree, he just calls them father/son.  There were four kings between them.  Three were short lived and virtually irrelevant as Babylon declined.  One of them did not even rule for a year.  Nebuchadnezzar has his major chronic crisis in the prior chapter.  Long before that, he had a daughter; Nitocris.  Her husband Nabonidus was put in as king 556 B.C. and ruled for 17 years to the end of the Babylonian Empire.  Belshazzar, his blood son, though the Bible refers to him as Nebuchadnezzar’s son, was pulled in to play coregent in the Babylonian Empire because his blood father Nabonidus much preferred to tour the empire and assess the architectural progress of developments far and away.  Belshazzar was willing to stand in as ruler “with” his father who was usually out and about in Babylon’s massive territories.  We do not know what year Belshazzar was requested to be acting king with his direct father Nabonidus.  We do not have the date that Daniel chapter 4 comes to an end leading up to what we read today.  And in case anyone is confusing the two names, Belshazzar is the acting king described in chapter five.  Belteshazzar is the Babylonian name given to Daniel in 1:6 when he was 13 years old and newly arrived/appointed in Babylon 605 B.C.  And for perspective, Daniel chapters 1-4 is a 66 year period.  Daniel 5 takes place in a single evening.

Belshazzar calls a great banquet for 1000 nobles.  Pulling that off even today is no light feat.  Back then with no refrigeration only added to the complexity, timing, and coordination of it all.  It was a big deal and it also reveals that Belshazzar is a bit of a party animal.  Perhaps he could have lasted longer but he definitely stepped over the line when he brought out all the goblets that were absconded from the Temple in Jerusalem (586 B.C.), dedicated them to pagan gods of Babylon, and began serving drinks from them.  This is all done in the city of Babylon that was a wonder of the ancient world.  A man could not be seated higher in history and be so cut down in a day.  This isn’t a spoiler – we just read it.  The hand appearing on the wall was not a ghost effect.  It was real. That would be pretty scary, don’t you think, to have a hand just appear out of nowhere and start writing on the wall. There was a humor/horrow show years back that featured a human hand that scampered around like a spidery rodent. It’s spooky like a science-fiction movie can be. And the hand in the show was small, normal size. This hand in Babylon is large and is delivering an ominous message: a fatal message.

And think of where this King was sitting. He was inside this massive hall in the midst of the compound of his Palace. With all of these walls surrounding him, he feels so secure while having this party. He’s worshipping gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. These are what make him feel regal. Note that this wall is his security. Then on that wall is the edict that finishes him. His demise is stated on the very thing that he trusts the most. What irony! 

Added to this is the fact that these items of gold, silver, and bronze had been taken from the temple of God. These were items that were consecrated to the service of the God of heaven and he, a mortal king, is using them in a very unsanctified manner. And he was using them with people who were not thinking of the God of the universe, the God of the creator of the fruit of the vine. Not only is it an unsanctified setting,  but he is actually praising the gods of the elements. He was aware of the God of the universe. He was very aware of what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel points that out. He knew all this and still went his own way. So he fell that night and that was the end of “the gold head.”

It says that the hand wrote in the plaster on the wall.  For what it’s worth, deposits of this plaster were excavated at the site of where this wall stood 500-700 B.C.  Some skeptics were doubting whether the plaster reference was authentic and then in the 1980s A.D,. plaster was unearthed and found at the site of the decaying dining hall/temple of ancient Babylon.  The Bible is right again, as usual.  The appearance caused a great panic for the guilty king Belshazzar.  Notice that the queen enters and assures that the mystery can be solved by a certain Daniel.  Remember Nebuchadnezzar had a running relationship with Daniel.  His grandSON  didn’t.  So Daniel comes in to overstep the astrologers who have proven to be hapless in their craft for interpreting when the real God is working.  Daniel is not disrespectful, though he is thoroughly unimpressed with Belshazzar.  His entrance is markedly downscaled from how he entered into Nebuchadnezzar’s presence the first 43 years he was in Babylon.  He links Belshazzar, in talking to him, to say that he was just like his father in power and regal prowess.  AND Both of you were arrogant (Daniel is talking to the king in front of 1,000 nobles!).  Nebuchadnezzar however acknowledged the real God in heaven and was restored to glory before his death.  Belshazzar however has desecrated God’s Name, God’s articles, God’s people and has been paid a visit to deliver him to his doom and his tomb.  This will happen tonight.

While this food and wine orgy is going on, the Persian Army, led by Darius, (other sources say “Gobryas” is mentioned as a military leader) had easily walked into the city since Cyrus had diverted the Euphrates river upstream and the moat was drained that surrounded Babylon; the city.  So without warning, they reached the banquet hall, busted in, and in a haunting manner restrained themselves to walk through the establishment, go straight to Belshazzar and kill … only him!  And just like that, the Babylonian Empire was under new rule and was therefore a satellite of the Persian Empire.   

As is reported in II Samuel chapter 1, three times it says, “how the mighty have fallen” when Saul went down.  That phrase applies here too – 472 years later.  Babylon is over with and will never rise again.  It was 539 B.C. by the end of chapter five.  Daniel was about 80 years old now.  There was soon to be a 7th king in charge of the palace where he resided in.  How would this new king be toward Daniel?  How long would Daniel live?  What else does Daniel have to tell us?  Daniel’s word tell us of the future –even today.  These kings needed to listen to Daniel.  So do we.                      

The silver people, the Medes and Persians, are now in charge. We continue more of this story next week.

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