Daniel Chapter Five

Daniel chapter five discusses the final day of the Babylonian empire. Belshazzar, the final king of Babylon is surrounded by the Medo-Persian army and his city is under siege. Belshazzar is not particularly concerned about being under siege because he perceives that his bread and water are sure. Babylon was built by Nebuchadnezzar to withstand a siege for 20 years. Nebuchadnezzar reasoned that since the city had the mighty Euphrates river running through the center of Babylon that it’s waters would be sure and that there was sufficient food in store, and there were sufficient lands under cultivation within the walls of the city, that no earthly army could, or would wait out a siege on Babylon. The interesting part of this section of the story is that Nebuchadnezzar was correct. No earthly army would wait out the siege. But neither Nebuchadnezzar, nor Belshazzar, were aware of the fact that God had ordained the fall of Babylon, when they chose to rebel against God. As we have seen all through Daniel, God is in control of all things. He raises us kings and brings them down, as He sees fit. Yet in His great mercy God does things without violating the freedom of choice of mankind. We will see how this works out in this chapter.


King Belshazzar was aware that he was being threatened by the Medo-Persian army. Yet at the same time he was not a king that got involved in military activities. In this story Belshazzar made a fateful decision. Rather than fight the war, Belshazzar decided to throw a party instead. During this party Belshazzar decided to do something that the greatest king of Babylon’s history, Nebuchadnezzar, had never done. Belshazzar decided to show his disrespect to the God of Israel by commanding his servants to go into the storage areas and get the gold and silver cups that belonged to the temple service of the God of heaven, and then he wanted his party goers to drink from these cups. While drinking from these cups they then praised the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone. It would appear from the story line that this decision, to drink out of God’s cups, was a deliberate act of defiance toward the God of heaven.


In the same hour, or soon after, that Belshazzar had committed his act of defiance against God, God chose to respond to Belshazzar. A hand was seen writing a series of thoughts on the wall of the king’s palace. Now instead of brave defiance the king’s face was changed and his knees began to knock together. In his panic he called for all of the wise men of the city to interpret the writings on the wall. So all of the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers were called and as in each spiritual struggle recorded in Daniel 2, 3, 4, so in this case; the wise men of the land could not interpret the spiritual communication from God. In each of these cases the only one who could interpret the writings, or dreams, was a man of God who was surrendered to God and who was in total obedience to God.


After the failure of the intelligentsia of Babylon the Queen mother comes before the king and reminds him that there is one man in all of Babylon who could answer such a question and that was Daniel. She reminded Belshazzar that Daniel had been exalted by Nebuchadnezzar to be the master of the wise men of Babylon. She also reminded Belshazzar that Daniel was so wise it was as though the Spirit of the Holy Gods was in him. So Belshazzar swallowed his pride and called for Daniel.


When Daniel arrived, Belshazzar tried to come across as a man of action and decision and he tried to remind Daniel that he was of the captivity of Judah, and wanted to remind Daniel that he was a slave. Yet in Belshazzar’s magnanimity he would offer the man of God a spot as the third king of Babylon, if he could answer the question of what the writing on the wall was.


When Daniel heard the offer, and the need, Daniel told the king that he could keep the offer but that he would answer the questions for the king and he would read the writings on the wall. But before he did the interpretation God had a message for the king. Daniel reminded King Belshazzar of how his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar had attempted to conduct business in spiritual matters. Daniel reminded Belshazzar that Nebuchadnezzar had been given all of his glory, honor, and victories over nations, by the God of heaven, the very One whom Belshazzar had despised that very day. Daniel reminded the king that when Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was lifted up in pride that God had taken away his gifts of greatness and made him like an animal in the field until Nebuchadnezzar had been humbled and acknowledged the God of heaven as the true God.


Then Daniel confronted Belshazzar again but proclaiming before all that Belshazzar had known all of this and still had chosen to rebel against the very God who had humbled his grandfather. On top of that he had chosen to life himself up against the God of heaven and had chosen to bring the cups of God before his servants and drink praise to the gods of Babylon who could do nothing to deliver Nebuchadnezzar and that could not speak or do anything on their own. On top of that Belshazzar would not acknowledge that the God of heaven was the very God who sustained Belshazzar himself and gave him his breath.


After confronting Belshazzar and stating the facts of the situation then Daniel turned and interpreted the writing on the wall. The writing was MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. It is interesting that there are two other places in the Bible where writing occurred that was all in capitals. The first one is in John 19:19 where God records the phrase “JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS”. Because of this statement Jesus would be judged in Roman laws of being worthy of death because no other king on Earth would be tolerated to be accepted in opposition to Caesar.


In addition because of this statement Jesus would be accounted as the king of rebels, both literally and spiritually. Jesus would be crowned as the king of all that is against the laws of God, and He would receive His crown of thorns, a symbol of the rebellious people of the nation of Israel and of all of the peoples of the world. Ezekiel 2:1-6; Hosea 10:1-16; Psalms 118:10-12; Proverbs 22:5 Jesus would be crucified for the sins of all of the rebels in the world, even though He was innocent of all sin.


In Revelation 17:5 is the remaining statement all in Capitals. In this text is quoted the following judgment “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” This judgment statement by God will eventually result in Babylon being brought before the judgment seat of God and she will be pronounced guilty of opposing God. She will be destroyed for her sins and for the sins she has brought upon the Earth. Revelation 18


Daniel read the writing then he presented the interpretation of the writings. The interpretation was as follows: MENE – “God has numbered thy kingdom and finished it.” To number something, in the Bible, is to account it as a part of God’s kingdom or to be removed from the kingdom. We see this especially in the case of Judas in Acts 1:15-26. Judas was “numbered” to be part of the ministry of Christ. But when Judas was shown to be an evil one he was removed, or numbered, from the disciples. In Revelation 7:1-17; 14:1-5 there is a group of people who are numbered to be among God’s special last day people – the 144,000. This group was numbered very much as the group of people who were to be claimed as the ministry of God in the wilderness in the book of Numbers. But in Daniel 5:26 God proclaims that He has numbered the kingdom of Babylon and it is finished. Again this is very similar to that statement in Revelation 16:17 where He states that the numbering is completed and “It is finished.” Babylon’s time as the leading nation of the world had come to an end.


The second part of the message was as follows. TEKEL – “Thou are weighed in the balances and have been found wanting”. Again, this is a statement of judgment – weighed, numbered, measured, and in all cases Babylon has not met the mark. Babylon rejected the offers of God to heal it and now the time has come to make it final. Jeremiah 51:9.


The third part of God’s message is PERES – “Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” This text certifies that the kingdom that replaces the Babylonian kingdom of gold (Daniel 2:36-39) would be the Medo-Persian empire. This testimony from God also confirms an important principle in Bible study, and prophecy study and that is that time and history are important factors in understanding what God is trying to say. The kingdom of Babylon started in 605 BC and lasted until 539 BC. This date system means that between the times of 605 – 539 BC that events happening during this time can apply to Babylon and to none of the following kingdoms. For example the texts referring to the Little Horn of Daniel 7-8 could not happen during the time of Babylon because the Little Horn must be a part of the fourth kingdom, not the first kingdom. So this phenomenon of time protects us from drawing wrong conclusions as we study. It also shows us that God is the Master of time and that He knows the end from the beginning.


After presenting the interpretation of the writings given by the hand of God, Belshazzar fulfills his promise and makes Daniel the third ruler of the kingdom. Sadly, Belshazzar did not learn his lesson and that very night, as the second ruler of the kingdom, he was killed. The first ruler of the kingdom of Babylon was Nabonidus, who entrusted Babylon to his son Belshazzar. But Daniel, the third ruler was not killed that night. Darius the Mede took the kingdom, and apparently knew enough about Daniel to not harm him but to preserve him. Thus the mighty rulers of Babylon fell but the servant of the Most High God was preserved.


There is one last series of thoughts I would like to share before we move on to Daniel 6. Daniel knew from the book of Isaiah that Babylon would be over thrown. Isaiah 44:26-45:1-7 God has stated that Cyrus, Darius’ general had been called by God and had shown him that he could enter into Babylon through the gate beneath Babylon. So Cyrus was guided by God to come up with these thoughts and was given the insight to divert the Euphrates and enter into the city of Babylon by an avenue that Belshazzar had not thought of.


Daniel also knew the time period because of the prophecy of Jeremiah 25:1-15. Daniel had prepared himself to know the mind of God by reading the revealed will of God. Daniel did things because as God revealed His will Daniel made it his habit to explore these things by study and by prayer. These things are available for us as well. God will bless us as we seek to know His holy will. I pray that each of you will study to shew yourselves approved of by God. I pray also that these little studies will help you process that which as been revealed by God. Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts with you.