Daniel Chapter Five

Below are your questions for our Bible study of Daniel chapter five.

Our last lesson was a study Daniel chapter four.  We saw yet again how God demonstrated his sovereignty.  He humbled the king of the world’s largest and most powerful kingdom in a remarkable way.  King Nebuchadnezzar became insane and acted as though he were a bull.  He actually lived as an animal for seven years until he repented and was then restored to his throne.

We noted that the chapter was written by a pagan king and that it was unusual in that it changed tenses from first person to third person and back to first person again.  We also saw the role Daniel played in the story, how he interpreted yet another one of the king’s dreams.  But this time Daniel actually called for the king to repent and avoid the forecasted penalty of his pride.  God gave him a year to do so, but he didn’t and suffered as a result.  This took place late in the king’ life and now we see a new king in chapter five — Beshazzar. 

According to historical records, at this time in the story of Daniel, the Babylonians had just suffered “a crushing defeat at the hands of the Persians” under King Nabonidus two days prior to the feast fifty miles to the north.  Only the greatly fortified city of Babylon remained unconquered.  But why then would King Belshazzar hold a feast?  

Three possible explanations are popular:

  • One idea is that the feast was held to build morale and encourage the Babylonians to have confidence — the walls seemed invincible and the river ran through the city, and the greek historian Herodotus reported there were food stocks that would have lasted years.

  • Or possibly the feast was held so that Belshazzar could quickly proclaim himself king and the feast was to celebrate his coronation, hence the thousand nobles.

  • A final option is that the feast was simply a customary festival that happened to fall at this time, perhaps to convey a sense of normalcy to the Babylonians despite the chaotic conditions of the Persian army camped outside the city walls.1

One commentator explains that “Belshazzar’s banquet was sheer bravado, the last fling of a terrified ruler unsuccessfully attempting to drown his fears.” 2

But who was this person Beshazzar?  From what we have learned from a study of Babylonian records, we know the following:

  • he was the eldest son of King Nabonidus
  • he was frequently named on the contract tablets acting on behalf of his father in his absence (who was gone for years at a time)
  • he received royal dues and exercised kingly prerogatives
  • he was king in all but name3

But what does the text tell us about him?  What does the Bible say?

Let's study Daniel chapter five.

Day One

Daniel 5:21

1.  Let’s check out the following verses to help us understand who King Belshazzar is:

  • Verse 2
  • Verse 11
  • Verse 13
  • Verse 18
  • Verse 22

Look at verse 30, the author simply says that Belshazzar, the King of the Chaldeans, was killed.  The question before us is, was he the son of Nebuchadnezzar of not?

2.  Verse four tells us that the king and his guests praised their gods made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone.  Do you think people still do this — or something similar to this today?  How so?

That very night Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans was killed, and Darius the Mede received the kingdom at the age of sixty-two.

Daniel 5:30-31

2020. Christian Standard Bible. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Day Two

Daniel 4:3

1.  Didn’t God hand over to Nebuchadnezzar the objects from the Jerusalem temple as we saw in chapter one verse two?  Why was this so offensive to God?

2.  What was it that led Belshazzar to make this mistake?

Day Three

Daniel 5:26-28

So here we have the Almighty God — the Creator of all things — sending physical writing to the people of earth.  Of course we have the Holy Bible inspired by him and written by men.  But when had he given a handwritten message to mankind in a supernatural way previously?  How are they related?

Day Four

Archeologists have excavated the palace of ancient Babylon to reveal what they believe to be a throne room measuring 170’x55’.  It had one wall with a design in blue enameled bricks and three white plaster walls.  

Facing the doorway along the back wall was a niche which likely was were the king’s throne was placed.  The lamp stand (nebraštâ), spoken of as though it were the only one in the huge hall, may have been unusual, for the word is not otherwise known.

So imagine if you will, the party is happening in this beautiful throne room.  The wine is flowing, there is a first toast to the pagan gods by the king with the goblets he ordered to be brought in.  Then another toast, and as the toasts to the pagan gods continue, suddenly someone screams and points, the wine spills as the king drops his goblet on the floor and moves away from the hand that appeared above him writing on the wall.  Others around him look up and they too shout and rush to move away from the ghostly hand.  All attention turns to the hand.

As the hand continues to write, everyone quietly watches.  Some murmur, some simply stare with their mouths open in awe, some glance at the king who’s obviously afraid and watches with them as he soils himself in fear.  Everybody sees the writing and all can understand what it says but none can understand what it means.  Imagine the desire to understand this miracle that the thousand nobles had just witnessed.  

All attention is now on the king.  He “orders” the “logical” solution to the problem — bring in the “wise men” to interpret the writing.  Notice the king prescribes no penalty for not solving the riddle, but the riddle will spell out a penalty for the king.  The three words written were Mene, Tekel, and Parsin.  

Mene - which coveys the idea of numbered or appointed

Tekel - which coveys the idea of weighed or assessed

Parsin - which coveys the idea of divided or shared

If you were to share this story with someone how would you explain why God chose to use these three words to pronounce his sentence for the king? 

Knowing the story and using your own words, how could you explain to someone the handwriting on the wall?

Day Five

 Why was thing Belshazzar did considered inexcusable?

1 Miller, Stephen R. 1994. Daniel (The New American Commentary). Vol. 18. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

2 Baldwin, Joyce G. 1978. Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries). Vol. 23. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

3 Ibid

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