Journey with Daniel

Journey with Daniel

“Daniel 5”

Categories: Journey with Daniel

Daniel 5

The picture painted for us in Daniel 5 should not surprise us. We see a proud king, drunk and showing off to his visitors. We see a wealthy man who is overly-pleased with himself, taking satisfaction in “his own accomplishments.” We see a son who had not learned from his father’s mistakes. This is the glimpse we see of King Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar.

While feasting and partying with his guests, officials, and women of choice, he calls for the gold utensils which had been used in the Israelite temple so that they may drink from them. While doing so, they worship their false gods of precious metal and other materials. Should it surprise us that the one true God responds? A hand appears and the fingers begin to write in the wall of the palace: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. Belshazzar is quite rightly frightened out of his wits. In a scene reminiscent of chapter two, the king calls for his wise men and promises a reward to any who can interpret the writing. Like the magicians in chapter two, none are able to tell the king the interpretation. Fortunately for Belshazzar, the queen knows of Daniel and has him called before the king to interpret the writing. Unfortunately for Belshazzar, Daniel does not bear good news.

First, Daniel tells the king that he has no interest in the reward. Secondly, he prefaces the interpretation with this observation: The one true God had blessed Nebuchadnezzar. When Nebuchadnezzar had become proud, God had brought him low until he recognized God’s authority. Then Daniel drops a bomb by saying “You his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this. . . And you have praised the gods. . . which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath,. . . you have not honored.” At this point, I can only imagine that Belshazzar feared what Daniel would say next, and rightly so.

Daniel interprets the meaning one word at a time: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom. TEKEL, you have been weighed and found wanting. PARSIN, your kingdom will be divided between the Medes and the Persians. God had been merciful to Nebuchadnezzar, sparing his life and allowing him to rule again once he had learned God’s authority. His son, on the other hand, had witnessed his father’s rule and had not learned. It would seem that this fact is at least part of why God’s judgment was so sudden and complete. Belshazzar was killed that very night and Darius the Mede received his kingdom. Once again, Daniel is there to warn and advise arrogant kings, pointing them to the God who reigns over all. This Israelite of the tribe of Judah, exiled to a foreign land, is an excellent example of teaching the world about the King above all kings.