Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6


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“HIS Story”

Our Scripture reading is Daniel 5 and 6, but today’s devotional will focus solely on Daniel 5.

In earlier Bible studies, I observed that the History of the Nations is “His Story,” the Story of God’s Sovereignty.The rise and fall of nations testify to God’s hand. The ruins of failed nations dot the landscape of the world. Sometimes, they are buried under desert sands or discovered out of the relics of past civilizations. While leaders of nations boast about their wealth and might, they would do well to remember, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).


Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

Babylon’s rise from a city-state to a world empire came to a sudden and decisive end in Daniel 5. The Chaldean empire barely spanned a century. Her rise to power under Nebuchadnezzar and sudden fall under Belshazzar fulfilled God’s prophecies of judgment against Israel and the promise of her restoration to the land after 70 years (Isaiah 13:17-22; 21:1-10; 47:1-5; Jeremiah 51:33-58).


A Foolish King’s Actions (Daniel 5:1-12)

The Scriptures presented King Belshazzar without an introduction, whom we believe was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 5:1). He would have known the astonishing history of his grandfather and no doubt the humiliation he suffered when he scorned the LORD (Daniel 5:21-22). Yet, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was a fool and dared to blaspheme the God of heaven.

Handwriting on the Wall

Hosting a banquet for a thousand nobles, the drunken king commanded the gold and silver vessels from the LORD’s Temple be brought to his tables. The king and his guests drank from the sacred vessels and scorned the Creator of the Universe. They toasted their “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (Daniel 5:2-4).

Suddenly, the king spied the “fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall, over by a candlestick” (Daniel 5:5). Illuminated by the glow of the light, a man’s fingers were seen etching words into the plaster. Belshazzar was terrified and visibly shaken (Daniel 5:6). The banquet guests observed the change in the king’s demeanor, then fell silent as he summoned the wise men of his realm to come, read, and interpret the words on the wall (Daniel 5:7). Belshazzar offered a reward of a scarlet robe, a golden chain (probably a symbol of authority) and the office of “the third ruler in the kingdom” (Belshazzar’s father is believed to have been his co-ruler, Daniel 5:7). Yet, none of the wise men could read the writing or tell the meaning of the words on the wall (Daniel 5:8).

Though not part of the drunken revelry, the queen mother of the realm (most likely the wife of the late king Nebuchadnezzar) received news that the banquet had been interrupted. She came to the hall to see her grandson (Daniel 5:10). She comforted him and reminded him that a man of the Hebrews, Belteshazzar, served Nebuchadnezzar. He had the reputation of being a man of wisdom (Daniel 5:11).

The queen counseled Belshazzar to summon Daniel, for he had the reputation of being a man with “an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams” (Daniel 5:12).


A Foolish King’s Appeal (Daniel 5:13-17)

Belshazzar summoned Daniel, now an elderly man (in his 80’s), and inquired if he had served Nebuchadnezzar as a counselor (Daniel 5:13-14). The king then related to Daniel the failure of his wise men (5:15) and appealed to the aged prophet to read the writing on the wall. He promised to reward Daniel with a scarlet robe and a gold chain and promote him to “the third ruler in the kingdom” (Daniel 5:16).

Daniel, however, was indifferent to the promise of reward and promotion (for a man of God will not be bought or bribed). He rejected the king’s proposal (Daniel 5:16-17a); however, he assured the king that he would read “and make known to him the interpretation” (Daniel 5:17).

Numbered, Numbered, Wanting, and Broken

Daniel’s Analysis of the Inscription (Daniel 5:18-23)

Before he interpreted the words on the wall, Daniel reminded Belshazzar that his grandfather had been a great and powerful king, “but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he [had been] deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him” (Daniel 5:20; Daniel 4:23). Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation lasted seven years until he humbled himself and acknowledged that “the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” (Daniel 5:21).

Daniel then rebuked the king and said, “Thou his son [i.e., grandson], O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (Daniel 5:22). The king had mocked “the Lord of heaven” and taken the vessels that were for His Temple, and blasphemed God (5:23). He had praised idols “of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone” (Daniel 5:23). However, his gods could not see, “nor hear, nor know” (Daniel 5:23). Even though the God of heaven held his breath in His hand, Belshazzar had “not glorified” Him (Daniel 5:23).


Numbered, Numbered, Wanting, and Broken (Daniel 5:25-28)

Fulfilling his promise and obligation as a messenger of the LORD and the king, Daniel boldly declared and interpreted the writing on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (Daniel 5:25).

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, whom the LORD allowed to humble himself and repent, there would be no mercy for Belshazzar and his kingdom. He would not escape God’s judgment, for his days were numbered and fulfilled. He had been weighed in God’s just scales, and the kingdom would be divided “and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:27-28).


The Interpretation of the Vision Fulfilled (Daniel 5:29-31)

There was no escape for Belshazzar, for he was guilty. He was guilty of pride, defiance, and blaspheming and profaning God’s name. He was guilty of idolatry and had failed to honor and acknowledge God as Sovereign.

The foolish king’s final act was to honor Daniel by proclaiming he was the third ruler of a doomed kingdom. He dressed Daniel in a purple robe and hung a chain of gold about his neck. Yet, all was for naught (Daniel 5:29). By diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, the Medes and Persians were already pouring into the city, and that night Babylon fell and “Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans [was] slain” (Daniel 5:30).

Babylon perished as a nation, and “Darius [believed to be the title of Cyrus] the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old” (Daniel 5:31).


Closing thoughts

Every citizen in every nation of our day would be wise to note that the greatest nations are not insulated from the consequences of their sinful, wicked ways. I observe again and again how the leaders of my country defy the God of heaven with their insolence and wicked ways. They mock the God of creation, legislate all manner of evil, and suppose they will escape the wrath and judgment of the LORD.

Be forewarned, America, for your days, like the days of Babylon, are numbered if you do not repent and turn to the LORD.

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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