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Daniel (2010)

Writing on the Wall

Daniel  5

Lesson audio


For the sake of space, we omit the Scripture. The lesson is based on the NASB translation; however, any solid translation should do as well.

Historical Background

A little genealogy is in order, first. Belshazzar is probably the grandson of the Biblical Nebuchadnezzar, not the son. The word used is more accurately translated, “male descendant.” His father was probably a ruler named Evil-Meradoch.

It’s an interesting time for the kingdom of Babylon. For one thing, the city is being besieged by Cyrus, king of Persia. He will on this night divert the flow of the Euphrates so that his troops can pass into the city via the dry entrance. He will then give this portion of his empire to Darius, king of the Medes, who was his ally.

What’s really interesting is the timing: according to the (not always reliable) Codex Chrisianus, this night is the anniversary of the founding of the Babylonian Empire. What makes this interesting? This prophecy:

Jeremiah 25:11-12 NASB 'This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. (12) 'Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,' declares the LORD, 'for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation.

According to the Codex, the prophecy is accurate – to the day.



It's not obvious, but Daniel is pushing 90 years old. If you remember, the land of Israel is to be in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. Daniel was taken captive at this time, and as he was a young man when taken into captivity, he would be about 90 years old at this time. Interestingly, his reputation is quite high. Notice that he is now called Daniel not Belteshazzar. But his reputation largely rests with the old geezers in the court. Belshazzar is a young man. However, his successor Darius is 62 years old, and is old enough to know who Daniel is. As we shall see, Daniel continues his service in the reign of Darius.

Being 90 years old has its problems, but also its benefits. As we shall see, Daniel has learned a disdain for pomp, show, and wealth. He will refuse Belshazzar’s offer of promotion and great wealth. Of course, Daniel knows just how long the appointment would last.

The Queen

The woman identified as the Queen is probably Belshazzar's grandmother. She is in fact sticking her neck out by entering the party. (You might look at Esther 4:10-11 to see the regulations in this court.) But as every young man should know, it is not a bright idea to mess with grandma.

She comes in and attempts to soothe the boy. But her main purpose is to puff Daniel. The memory of his performances in Nebuchadnezzar's court was likely a strong one. One cannot help but see how often the elderly are ignored until it's too late.


It is interesting that Belshazzar has not heard of Daniel. As a Prince, he must have studied the history of the kingdom. So he is not ignorant, but he is willfully refusing to learn the lessons of his own history. This is not ignorance; it is pride.

Even more interesting is the fact that he is throwing a grand party when the Medes and Persians are outside the city gates, besieging the city. Just where should this young man be? Partying, or leading the defense?

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

The words

·         the word Mene has two meanings: the first is to be numbered. The word is past tense; it carries with it a sense of complete finality. The second meaning is simply that the matter is finished. The word is used of a completed transaction.

·         Tekel - this word means weighed, as in weighed in the balances. It is the simple word meaning that the scales have been used to determine the weight. It also is past tense.

·         Upharsin - this word means divided. It is interesting to note that the words do not say “turned over to another,” but instead that the kingdom will be divided. This indeed happened. Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon and gave that portion of his empire to Darius the Mede.

Sacrilege and idolatry

It's like the song said: you don't tug on Superman's cape. Sacrilege is essentially that action. It is to treat the things of God as if they were no more meaningful than the things of the world. The concept is lost on our home church today. Nothing is sacred; everything is meant to be mocked or used like so much tissue paper. But in these days all would know that these items used were sacred to the Hebrew God. Therefore, their use was indeed sacrilege.

The question is one of fear of God. In our time, we do not teach the fear of God. It seems out of place with the gentle Jesus. But if God is to be feared, then we should worry about the consequences of our mishandling his things. The Scriptures, for instance.

Belshazzar knew all this. Therefore, his judgment was accurate.

"Vice always glories in defiling what is noble.” (St. Jerome). The principle is still with us today. The barbarian is within the gates; that which was noble and honored in America is now the butt of the joke. Indeed, our courts have now ruled that "stolen valor" is perfectly legal. You are now allowed to brag that you received any number of medals from the combat service you never had.


Daniel’s reproof of Belshazzar is simply this:

·         first, he has committed sacrilege.

·         Then, he has failed to repent. As Daniel tells him, "you knew that."

·         Even in this, however, Belshazzar maintains his pride. Despite what Daniel has told him, he insists on giving Daniel his reward.

Why did God do this for Belshazzar?

It’s an interesting question: after all, He could just have allowed the conquest on schedule. Nothing prophesies that there will be a hand. So why?

Fulfillment of prophecy

You notice that the king actually saw the hand writing? Not just the result? This is to prove it’s not someone’s graffiti. God’s style is to be convincing – to those who are willing to listen.

Consider also what this must have meant to the Jews. It’s not just that they had exchanged conquerors; rather, God was delivering on his promise. If the demise of Babylon happened on schedule, they could take hope that the rest of the prophecies would happen as well.

How God deals with the mighty

Belshazzar knew that he was the man in charge – right? He saw that as power and privilege; God sees it as responsibility. We hold the man in charge to higher standards. God is just; he judges according to the situation. And when he does, he shows just who is really in charge.

You and I, then, need to know that the course of history is not set by revisionist liberals, but by God Almighty. They can lie about the past as much as they like; the future is not theirs.

Showing us God’s way

The history in the Bible is there for our profit, if we will but read it. May I suggest some points of interest?

·         God is owed the fear due him – despite the emerging church theology. Ignoring this is extremely perilous, especially for those who call themselves his children.

·         God punishes the nation that ill-treats his children. The lessons today might include the nation of Israel; I might suggest that our nation’s treatment of Christians will soon provide another example.

·         An abundance of intelligent, educated advisors means nothing when God speaks.

·         God seeks our repentance in humility, hoping to restore us. Sometimes we cooperate. Sometimes, the Persians are at the gate.

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