1. Let’s check out the following verses to help us understand who King Belshazzar is:
Verse 2 - According to the author:
Verse 11 - per to the queen:
Verse 13 - per the king himself:
Verse 18 - per Daniel:
Verse 22 - per Daniel:
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?
To answer this question, it’s important for us to understand that the term “son” in Semitic languages has a wide range of meanings. One scholar has listed seven ways in which the term “father” was used in the time of Nebuchadnezzar and twelve possible meanings for “son.”1
“Father” may refer to one’s immediate father, grandfather, ancestor, or as in the case of kings, a predecessor. Likewise “son” may mean one’s immediate offspring, grandson, descendant, or successor. Jesus was called the “son of David”.2
So Belshazzar was not actually the son of Nebuchadnezzar but was a succeeding Babylonian king. In fact — he was the last Babylonian king.
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?
One man's answer: Statues in some churches offer an opportunity to confuse people who are encouraged to pray to an inanimate object as opposed to God himself.
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?
Up until this point, there’s no indication that any of the golden objects were used to insult God in the 50 years or so that they had been in the treasury of the pagan god. But now it’s an insult to God that what he allowed is now used to insult him. God doesn’t need to be provoked to anger which is what seems to be happening here.
2. What was it that led Belshazzar to make this mistake?
One commentator viewed it this way:
“The king must have lost his sense of decency to commit what is to the Oriental view a sacrilege even with the holy things of another religion. It’s safe to conclude that the king was intoxicated, and his judgment had become impaired.
Belshazzar now commits an incredible act of sacrilege against the God of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar had taken these gold and silver goblets from the temple in Jerusalem fifty years earlier, and they had remained trophies of war in a pagan temple treasury until this night (cf. 1:2).
Now Belshazzar brought them into his drunken orgy so that he, his nobles, his wives, and his concubines might fill them with wine and drink toasts to the pagan gods of Babylon. This, of course, was a blasphemous act against Yahweh, the God of Israel. Although it was a custom to offer libations to the gods after feasts, such an attack upon other deities was not routine.” 3
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?
In Exodus, we see the hand of God producing the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-6) which Moses brought down to the people of Israel.
In the first commandment God states that there shall be no other gods before him. He also forbids the making of idols and their worship and says that he is a jealous God. Granted that he gave these instructions to Moses for the Israelites, but it demonstrates the demands of God regarding how people should worship him only and how he views any worship of idols or any other god (little g).
1. 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.4
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 the king screams and points, the wine spills as someone 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?
One man's answer:
Bottom line - Nobody — not even a king — escapes the judgement of God.
Why was thing Belshazzar did considered inexcusable?
Daniel explains in verse 22, that Belshazzar knew how his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, also was prideful but paid a dear price for it until he humbled himself. Daniel explained that Belshazzar should have learned from this and humbled himself.
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2 Miller, Stephen R. 1994. Daniel (The New American Commentary). Vol. 18. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
4 Baldwin, Joyce G. 1978. Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries). Vol. 23. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.