“The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing you couldest reveal this secret. 48 Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.”
Daniel Chapter 5
From Feasting to Fear and Death
Daniel 5:1-4 “Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. 3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. 4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.”
Belshazzar the king - Nebuchadnezzar had died in 562 B.C., leaving his son Evil-Merodach [Amel-Marduk] to take over the kingdom 562-560 B.C. He was succeeded by Neriglissar 560-556 B.C., who was succeeded by his son Laborosoarchod who ruled for 9 months. Nabonadius ruled next 556-539 B.C. with the last three years, 541-539 B.C. co-jointly with his son Belshazzar. This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah 27:6-8 where Babylon would rule until his son and his son’s son, as Nabonadius was Nebuchadnezzar’s son and Belshazzar therefore his grandson.
Made a great feast - In 560 B.C., with Neriglissar ruling, war had broken out between the Babylonians and the Medes. Darius, the king of the Medes, summoned his nephew Cyrus, the king of the Persians, to aid him in the war. At the time of Belshazzar, Babylon the city was the only city in the east not under subjection to the Medes and Persians. So Cyrus laid siege to the city of Babylon. But prior to this, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah 51:44-46, a rumour came that Cyrus was coming to lay siege. He had to turn back due to the death of a sacred white horse, but came out again 1 year later 538 B.C.
With Belshazzar knowing all this, but being full of pride, still made a great feast as an act of defiance. For Babylon’s walls were too thick to break through and too high to climb, and with approximately 25 years supply of food, plus an abundance of food growing within the walls, and with the Euphrates running through the centre they had an indefinite supply of food.
A thousand of his lords plus wives and concubines were present at the feast.
Drank wine before the thousand - The word before can also be translated as against. It would not be unusual for Belshazzar to have been in a drinking contest.
While he tasted the wine - With his reason impeded by the intoxicated state he was in from the fermented wine, he commanded to have the golden and silver vessels, that had been taken from the temple of God at Jerusalem, brought to him so they could drink out of them.
His father Nebuchadnezzar - These were the same vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken when he took over Jerusalem.
As seen already, Nebuchadnezzar was Belshazzar’s grandfather. It was customary to call any parental figure by father.
Drank in them - The wives, concubines, king, and princes all drank out of sacred vessels from the house of God.
Praised the gods - They continued in their debased state by praising the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone. In reality, what they were doing was mixing their pagan religion with the true worship of God. We will see the results in the next verse.
Daniel 5:5-6 “In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. 6 Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.”
In the same hour - Hour comes from the Chaldean word sha’ah, which means a moment. In the same moment that they began to use the vessels, which are for the true worship of God, to drink wine out of and praise their gods, the sentence was pronounced. We learn from this that true and false worship do not mix, but endanger a person of closing their probation.
Fingers of a man’s hand - Obviously the hand of God, as the writing was a judgment from God pronounced upon Babylon. This we will see in Vs 24-28.
Wrote - The finger of God wrote upon the plaster of the wall of the kings palace. Belshazzar saw the hand and the writing which was for all to see.
Countenance was changed...joints of his loins loosed... - This had an immediate reaction upon Belshazzar. It struck so much fear into him that it caused his knees to knock together, a vast change from the drunkenness and revelry of the feast.
Looking at the prophecy of Isaiah 21:2-5, we see the same event described by Isaiah. He likens Belshazzar’s experience to a woman that is in labour. The onset is sudden and unexpected, the night of his pleasure was turned into fear.
Daniel 5:7-9 “The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spoke, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and show me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. 8 Then came in all the king's wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof 9 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonished.”
Bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers - Belshazzar cried aloud, or with might [margin], to bring in the wise men. Here was a man whose voice would have bellowed throughout the king’s palace, crying out to bring in the wise men so they could give him an answer as quickly as possible.
King spake - The king told the wise men that, whoever could read him the writing and give the interpretation thereof would be clothed in scarlet, [margin, purple] as purple was a symbol of royalty, and have a gold chain about his neck.
Third ruler in the kingdom - Above all of this they were to be promoted to third ruler in the kingdom. But why third and not second? Nabonadius, Belshazzar’s father, was still ruling at the time, though he was absent. This made Belshazzar the second in charge, thus the next person would naturally be below him in the third position.
But they could not read...– They could not even read the writing, thus they could not give the interpretation though such a great reward was on offer. The false system fails again.
Greatly troubled... - All the hopes and confidence that he had in his wise men vanished, which sunk him into a troubled state. His countenance also showing his despair and disappointment.
Daniel 5:10-12 “Now the queen, by reason of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banquet house: and the queen spoke and said, O king, live for ever: let not your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance be changed: 11 There is a man in your kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar your father, the king, I say, your father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; 12 Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”
The queen - This is obviously not one of Belshazzar’s wives, as they were with him at the banquet Vs 2-3. If we look at what knowledge she has of Daniel, in the days of Belshazzar’s father/grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, it is quite possible that this is Nebuchadnezzar’s wife. Plus she would be about the only one, unsummoned, to be allowed to come into him without being killed.
Her recommendation to the king was that of Daniel. The reason being that in him is an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts.
Daniel 5:13-16 “Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spoke and said unto Daniel, Are you that Daniel, which are of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? 14 I have even heard of you, that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in you. 15 And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not show the interpretation of the thing: 16 And I have heard of you, that you canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if you canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, you shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”
Daniel is brought in before the king. After a couple of short sentences, the king comes to the all important point. He acknowledges that the wise men have failed in the matter of reading and interpreting the writing on the wall. He also acknowledges Daniel’s abilities regarding the situation at hand, and offers to Daniel the same reward as was offered to the wise men.
Daniel 5:17 “Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let your gifts be to thyself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.”
Daniel’s answer to the king is one of humbleness. He has no desire of the earthly gain offered by the king, yet he is willing to read the writing and make known the interpretation.
Daniel 5:18-24 “O you king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: 19 And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. 20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: 21 And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. 22 And you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled thine heart, though you knewest all this; 23 But have lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before you, and you, and your lords, your wives, and your concubines, have drunk wine in them; and you have praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand your breath is, and whose are all your ways, have you not glorified: 24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.”
We will not take the time to look at these verses in depth as we have already touched on this situation in the previous chapter. But we will bring to light the main points to Daniel’s opening words to the king.
He shows the greatness of Nebuchadnezzar, but also the pride that he had when at his peak.
The judgment that passed upon Nebuchadnezzar because of his pride, which drove him to not acknowledge the God of heaven as the one Who is in charge of all things and gave him his greatness.
He tells Belshazzar that he has followed the same path in not humbling his heart, but lifting it up against the Lord of Heaven by desecrating the vessels of God through their pagan worship. Just a quick note as well; look at the order of metals in verse 23 compared to verse 4, gold and silver have been reversed as if to imply that the kingdom of Babylon is finished and the Medes and Persians have taken over. This we will see in the following verses.
Even though he knew all this, he still did not glorify the one that gives him life. It was at this time of self exaltation and lack of glorifying God, that finished filling their cup of iniquity and sealed Babylon’s probation, thus the writing on the wall from the finger of God.
Daniel 5:25-28 “And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it. 27 TEKEL; You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting. 28 PERES; Your kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”
The writing that was written - Now to read the writing and give the interpretation.
Mene - God, Who holds the kingdom of Babylon in His hand and has power to set up kings and pull them down, has numbered the kingdom and finished it. He finished the ruling days of the kingdom of Babylon.
Tekel - Weighed in the balances and found wanting. God had weighed Babylon in the balances and found it wanting of righteousness, for it was in rebellion against the God of heaven. God also weighs each of our actions (1 Samuel 2:3) and brings even the secret things into judgment. (Ecclesiastes 12:14) As Peter says “what manner of persons ought ye to be”, and in answering this he says to “be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” 2 Peter 3:11, 14. Let us not be found wanting on the day of our visitation.
Peres - This is the singular root word for Upharsin. When used in the plural form it means pieces. We thus could say thy kingdom is broken into pieces. God had finished the kingdom of Babylon and divided it between the Medes and Persians.
Daniel 5:29-31 “Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. 31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.”
Then commanded Belshazzar - Even after the bad news was given to him, he still kept his word of promoting the person that could read the writing and give the interpretation. Daniel was not wishing any reward for the service given v17, thus the king was doing this against Daniel’s desire.
Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain - The judgment that was pronounced upon Babylon was carried out the same night with Belshazzar being slain.
Darius the Median took the kingdom - Darius the Mede took the throne of the kingdom at the age of 62.
Darius came to his nephew, Cyrus the Persian, and asked for his allegiance in laying siege to Babylon. He accepted and thus went out to take over the city.
Seeing the immense size of Babylon, he knew there was no way to bring the walls down or scale them with any success. Learning of the feast that was to take place, Cyrus decided to divert the river Euphrates and march his army in when the water level was low enough. With this accomplished, his army marched in, and if it were not for two gates that had been left ajar, they would have had to march out the other side as there were walls and gates down both sides of the river.
On gaining access to the inside of the city, they quickly subdued it and put the king to death. Thus ending the short reign of Babylon over the then known world. Cyrus gave the rulership to his uncle Darius out of respect for his seniority, but Darius only ruled for two years then died at the age of 64.
The way in which the city was to be taken and the person that was to take it had been prophesied of by Isaiah approximately 150 years prior. (Isaiah 44:27 - 45:3) Truly God is in control.
But this directly parallels to the end of time with the overthrow of spiritual Babylon when Jesus comes the second time, as described in Revelation 16:12. In this verse we see the drying up of the River Euphrates so as to prepare the way for the kings of the east. See Insert A. Just as literal Babylon’s life support was the Euphrates, and the drying up of it would sound a certain death, so to it is with spiritual Babylon when its support [water in prophecy is a symbol of multitudes, peoples etc. Revelation 17:15] from the people and kings of the earth is dried up. It sounds an imminent death for her, and in doing so it prepares the ways for Christ to come, who comes from the east as King of kings and Lord of lords. (Matthew 24:27, Ezekiel 43:2, Revelation 19:16)
Just as Cyrus came from the east, so too does Christ come from the east. As Cyrus dried up the Euphrates, Babylon’s life support, and thus conquering it and setting the Jews [who were God’s people] free from their captivity and back to Jerusalem, so too does Christ dry up spiritual Babylon’s life support which is the multitudes of people and the kings of the earth that give her its power. Thus preparing for Christ to conquer it when he comes and set spiritual Israel [who are God’s people] free from their captivity and back to the new Jerusalem.
Insert note A.
Approximately 150 years before the overthrow of the Babylonian Empire, it was prophesied by God through Isaiah that Cyrus was going to do it and how he was going to do it. Told in Isaiah 44:27-45:5 that the deep (which is a reference to the River Euphrates) would be dried up, Jeremiah even stated that a drought would be upon her waters (Jeremiah 50:38) and that the two leaved gates would be left open so as to gain access into the city via these.
God named Cyrus as the man who would overthrow Babylon. His mother, Mandane, was a Mede, and his father, Cambyses, a Persian, which shows the connection for Cyrus having an uncle that is a Mede. The Persians were in subjection to the Medes for many decades until Cyrus led the revolt and reversed this position.
Jeremiah 51:46 shows that there was to be a rumour one year that Cyrus was coming to besiege Babylon. This was so until Cyrus and his army came to the river Gyndes (one of the tributaries of the Tigris River) and one of his spirited sacred white horses decided to swim across. The horse drowned as it was pulled under by a rapid current. So Cyrus, to appease his fury, divided his army up and told them to dig 180 trenches each side of the river, thus attempting to make the river’s flow weak. With this episode past his attention was turned toward Babylon. Thus 1 year later he came, just as was prophesied in Jeremiah.
In the taking of Babylon Cyrus diverted the river Euphrates, thus somewhat drying it up, so his men could march up the river and hopefully into the city. Because the river ran through the centre of the city, there were high walls with a large number of gates for access down each side. If it were not for the hand of God in having the Babylonians forgetting to close one of the gates of brass, Cyrus and his men would have not been able to enter the city. Thus the city was captured exactly how Isaiah had prophesied.
General historical information can be found in ‘The Histories’ by Herodotus, pgs 49-60, 83.
See tables below for more parallels showing that Cyrus is a type of Christ, and parallels between literal Babylon and spiritual Babylon.
|1. The name Cyrus means Sun.||Jesus Christ is called the Sun of Righteousness.
|2. At his birth, attempt by reigning king to destroy him.||At His birth, attempt by reigning king to destroy Him.|
|3. Named by God 150 years before his birth.||Named by God 700 years before His birth.
|4. Raised up in righteousness. Isaiah 45:13. The righteous man.
|Christ Jesus, is made unto us…righteousness. 1 Corinthians 1:30. This was a righteous man.
|5. He shall call upon my name.
|Jesus continually called on God’s name in prayer. Our Father which art in heaven.
|6. I will direct his ways…Isaiah 45:13. Whose right hand I have held.
|I seek…the will of the Father who hath sent me. John 5:30. I will hold thine [Christ’s] hand.
|7. Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus.
|We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ [margin: the anointed].
|8. That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd.
|I am the good shepherd. John 10:11. The great shepherd. Hebrews 13:20. The chief shepherd.
1 Peter 5:4.
|9. The man that executeth my counsel. Isaiah 46:11 [margin: the man of my counsel].||The counsel of peace shall be between them both.
|10. Cyrus was officially titled, the king of kings.||Jesus will be titled ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.
|11. God ‘gave the nations before him; as the dust to his sword; as the driven stubble to his bow; to subdue nations before him.
Isaiah 41:2, 45:1.
|Out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword that with it he should smite the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron.
|12. Cyrus came from the east of Babylon, Persia. The righteous man from the east. Isaiah 41:2. Calling a ravenous bird from the east.
|The dayspring [margin: sunrising] from on high hath visited us. Luke 1:78. The glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. Ezekiel 43:2. As lightning comes out of the east, and shines even to the west; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.
|13. He overthrew literal Babylon: That saith to the deep, be dry, and I will dry up the rivers. Isaiah 44:27. A drought is upon her waters and they shall be dried up, I will dry up her sea and make her springs dry, and Babylon shall become heaps.
Jeremiah 50:38, 51:36-37.
|Christ overthrows spiritual Babylon The sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates and the water thereof dried up. Revelation 16:12. And great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give to her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
|14. That saith of Cyrus...Jerusalem, thou shalt be built, and to the temple, thy foundation shall be laid. Isaiah 44:28. He shall build my city and shall let go my captives, not for price, nor for reward.
|A city whose builder and maker is God. Hebrews 11:10. He shall build the temple of God. Zechariah 6:13. The captives of the mighty shall be taken away and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered.
|1. Literal Babylon ruled the then known world.||Spiritual Babylon is to rule the world.|
|2. Literal Babylon claimed to be the lady of kingdoms, I shall be a lady forever, I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children.
|Spiritual Babylon will reach a similar position. I sit as a queen and am no widow and shall see no sorrow.
|3. Literal Babylon was situated on the Euphrates river. That dwellest on many waters. Jeremiah 51:13. The Euphrates and its many canals.||Spiritual Babylon will be situated on the symbolic Euphrates. That sits on many waters. The waters...where the whore sits are people, multitudes, nations, and tongues.
Revelation 17:1, 15.
|4. The literal river was literal Babylon’s glory and protection.||The symbolic river, peoples and nations of the world, will be spiritual Babylon’s glory and protection.|
|5. The literal Euphrates in flood was used to represent invasions by literal Babylon, from the north, against literal Israel.||The symbolic Euphrates or peoples will rise in rage, like a flood and invade spiritual Israel.|
|6. In the downfall of literal Babylon, her literal waters were dried up.||In the downfall of spiritual Babylon, her symbolic waters [or supporters] will be symbolically dried up.|
|7. This prepared the way for Cyrus and other kings from the east to invade literal Babylon.||This will prepare the way for Jesus Christ, the symbolic Cyrus, to invade this world, the realm of spiritual Babylon. Revelation 16:12.|
|8. Cyrus conquered literal Babylon.
|Jesus will conquer spiritual Babylon.
Revelation 17:14, 19:2.
|9. Cyrus delivered literal Israel from literal Babylon.
Isaiah 45:1, 13.
|Jesus will deliver spiritual Israel from spiritual Babylon.
Revelation 18:4, 8.
|10. Cyrus came from the east.
Isaiah 41:2, 46:11.
|Jesus comes the second time from the east to destroy spiritual Babylon.
|11. Cyrus ordered the rebuilding of Jerusalem and restored Israel to the promised land.
Isaiah 44:26, 28.
|Jesus builds the New Jerusalem and restores spiritual Israel to the earth made new. John 14:1-3, Revelation 21:1-5.|
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