Daniel Ch. 5 - The Writing On The Wall


King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. (Daniel 5:1-4)

The term father here means predecessor –it could have been his actual father, but for this study either one works equally well. Unlike Nebuchadnezzar (our human soul), this king was interested in the fleshly desires: partying, showing off his authority to the nobles, and his women. Belshazzar represents our human flesh –our corrupt nature that desires the things of this world. Even after the soul is in tune with God’s Spirit (Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and acknowledged God), the works of the flesh continue to be disobedient to God.

The goblets Belshazzar had brought to him had been used in the Solomon’s temple for praising and worshipping God. Following the parallel here, the New Testament temple is the believer’s body and the equivalent to the goblets would be whatever abilities God has given us to praise and worship Him with –our words, songs, compassion for others, etc.

Did you notice that he asked for gold and silver goblets, but only gold ones were brought to him?

All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days. (1 King 10:21)

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way. (Daniel 5:5-6)

This is a picture of the flesh being confronted with God Himself holding us accountable to the Law of Sin and Death. It is terrifying to know that God demands nothing less than perfection –thankfully, that is achieved by salvation through Jesus.

The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.” (Exodus 24:12)

The king called out for the enchanters, astrologers and diviners to be brought and said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled. (Daniel 5:7-9)

As we read in previous chapters about the other king, this king appealed to his own “spiritual” resources hoping for a way out. Just as Nebuchadnezzar discovered, there was nothing Belshazzar could find on his own to escape the consequences of his actions.

The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “O king, live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar your father– your father the king, I say– appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. This man Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.” So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? (Daniel 5:10-13)

Everything Belshazzar had influence over –his magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners– could not help him. Once again Daniel (the Holy Spirit) was the only one left to call upon.

As an aside, in foreshadow studies most women represent relationships. And the relationship described by the queen in this passage shows that the king’s needs could only be satisfied by Daniel. Each one of us begins life with an emptiness –a set of needs– that we try to fill by satisfying fleshly desires with things of this world. But that emptiness can only be truly filled by a spiritual relationship with Jesus.

I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” (Daniel 5:14-16)

The king was willing to give Daniel the position of number three in his kingdom. According to the history buffs, Nebuchadnezzar was still alive and number one in command making Belshazzar number two. Daniel (the Holy Spirit) had an important role in the kingdom, but was still under Belshazzar (the flesh).

Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means. “O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position he gave him, all the peoples and nations and men of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like cattle; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes. (Daniel 5:17-21)

The things that Nebuchadnezzar (our human soul) went through were prideful existence; dreams and visions from God (hearing the gospel); a rebellious period; a humbling set of experiences and finally a restoration to what God had always wanted for him (received salvation). Now, aren’t those the same things that each of us experience on our way to salvation?

But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. (Daniel 5:22-23)

Belshazzar knew what was going to happen –whether it was from what he personally witnessed or hearing what happened to Nebuchadnezzar– he knew!

Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription. “This is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN This is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. (Daniel 5:24-29)

The words written here tell the fate of our flesh –our Belshazzar– because of sin. It is doomed to destruction.

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24)

There is no way for our flesh to be pleasing to God –it must die.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:50-54)

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two. (Daniel 5:30-31)

This is the beginning of the divided kingdom of the Persians and the Medes.