Daniel 5:1-17 — Our God is Holy and Sovereign

(Photo: John Snyder/Wikimedia Commons)

Dan 5:1-17

God puts down the proud. Do we learn the truth of that? Looking back from now, we see the sudden judgment and fall of not only King Belshazzar, but also of the magnificent city of Babylon and kingdom – in one night, maybe in one hour! (Rev 18:10)

About 70 years have passed since Chap 1, and about 20 years or so since the end of Chap 4. Daniel is close to 90 years old. The first four chapters in Daniel – 1/3 of the book – is about Nebuchadnezzar, the king whom the God of Israel used to chasten His covenant people, and to burn the holy Temple in Jerusalem built by King Solomon. Those chapters relate the interaction of King Nebuchadnezzar with a faithful remnant of the Jewish people in exile, and with the God of Israel. Chap 5 brings the end of the first kingdom of gold, which Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed about in Chap 2 (Jer 25:11-1351:11-13), and leads into the second kingdom of silver – that of the Medes and the Persians – a kingdom of lesser quality, but which ruled over more land and people. God judges the Babylonians for their idolatry and for destroying His Temple.

4:37 (34 Heb) – the peak of the first six chapters: the Babylonian King of kings, Nebuchadnezzar, the head of gold, submits and repents to give personal praise and honor to the King of Heaven, the Most High God, to the God of the Jews, and of the Gentiles, and the Ruler over the kings of the Earth. (Rom 3:27-30Rev 1:4-7) He declared this “to all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the Earth” (ed., at least in all his kingdom at that time, and through the Scriptures to all). (4:1)

5:1  Belshazzar, the ”son”, most likely grandson, of Nebuchadnezzar (Gen 28:13Mt 21:9), gave a great feast in his over-confidence, and drank the best wine in the presence of his 1000 wealthy and powerful guests, whom he would serve afterwards.

v 2  The pride and the wine brought out his foolishness to bring out the holy vessels for the service of the Lord of Heaven, which his father/grandfather Nebuchadnezzar had brought from Jerusalem to Babylon, for those close to him to drink from. (Pr 20:1)

v 3   They did that, including the king’s wives (see v 10).

v 4  They drank the wine and gave praise to the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone – idolatry of created things and of human works of their hands — the opposite of what Nebuchadnezzar had learned to do. Belshazzar disregarded that, even though  he knew. (5:22Acts 17:29-31Rev 9:20Dt 29:16-18) God gives time for repentance, but to His own people less, for we have received His Torah. Idolatry is in the sinful nature of man, and sin is deceitful.

v 5 The true God was there at that very time to give His hand to write a message on the wall, in the light from the lamp on the opposite wall. The king saw it.

v 6 The king was completely discombobulated; he knew that this was something supernatural and highly unusual, and not good for him.

v 7 The king cried aloud to the Babylonian ‘wise men’, even though they have already proven to be false, promising again honor and gifts to those who can explain it to him. He had learned nothing from the recent past with his father/grandfather, but he knew that this was significant.

v 8  These Babylonian wise men and religionists could not read the writing, just as in the case of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. We know that the writing was in Aramaic, the language of Babylon. Why couldn’t they read the words? Perhaps they were too drunk? Or maybe it was written in another script that they had not learned? We know that there are some among us who can read either the block or the cursive letters, but not both.

v 9  The king was greatly troubled, and the official guests noticed, and were astonished. Their King who lorded it over them was now being lorded over:  the handwriting was on the wall. His fall and end was imminent.

v 10  The Queen (probably his mother; see v 3) came in – she was not drunk! — and gave sober and wise counsel to her son, which is one of the most important things God has given mothers for to their sons. (Prov 1:8-9) However she did not realize the seriousness of the situation, for she told him not to worry.

v 11  There is a man in the kingdom who can explain this to you. In Nebuchadnezzar’s time, this man helped to bring God’s counsel and purpose to the disorder.  Your father elevated Daniel above the ‘wise men’, because of the Spirit of the God of Holiness in him, the light, understanding, and his wisdom like the gods….but he was not sought out by Belshazzar.

v 12  The holy qualities for why Daniel was elevated over the ‘wise men’, and the king’s wife did know and remember what Belshazzar did not, or ignored:  excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining riddles.  Call for Daniel!

v 13  Daniel was brought in, and asked if he is among the exiles of the Jews.  Belshazzar wanted to be sure that this was the Daniel he had heard about, but had not sought out firstly, even though the Jews and their God had blessed the Babylonians. To Belshazzar, Daniel was just one of the captives in exile.

v 14  I have heard that the Spirit of God is in you.

v 15 The wise men and spiritists were brought in but failed to give an answer.

v 16  I have heard that you can, and I will reward you if you do.

v 17  Daniel was God’s faithful servant and prophet to the kings of Babylon; he was not for sale; his gifts were from the LORD to represent Him in this foreign land and kingdom. He would speak what God gave him to speak, not what the king might want to hear.  Daniel was not like Balaam, who did want the gifts and honor from King Balak.  What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination before God. (Lk 16:13-15)

What can we learn from this for our own life and times?:

  1. God hates pride, that expresses itself as if there is no God who judges in righteousness, or that justifies itself by its own works or power or wealth. Jesus says to learn of Him, who is humble and lowly in heart.
    2. God raises up and takes down kings and kingdoms:  the whole world is in His hands!
    3.  We need to learn from history that the Lord is holy and sovereign, giving us faith and hope in the truth of His Word.  Jeremiah had also prophesied about the fall of Babylon at the end of 70 years.
    4.  We who believe in Yeshua/Jesus are holy vessels for God’s service and must learn to
    maintain the sanctification of our bodies and thoughts.  Do not be drunk with wine, but filled with the Holy Spirit.  The Father is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and truth.
    5.  We should seek out the help and wisdom of real believers before looking to those without the fear of God, or whose counsel is only “of the world”.
    6.  Daniel understood the times in which he lived and could speak to others and into their lives to help them become followers of the one, true living God, and not suffer His judgment. (11:32-35)  We can learn from Daniel to take courage to speak the truth even to kings as the Holy Spirit gives us the words, in the fear of the LORD and not of man; seeking God’s praise and not man’s. (Mt 10:18-20Jn 12:42-43Lk 16:13-15)

This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, June 17, 2020, and reposted with permission.