Daniel 5:17-31 — The First Kingdom Expires

(Photo: John Snyder/Wikimedia Commons)

Dan 5:17-31

v 17  Daniel refused the king’s offers of gifts and prestige and authority, but agreed to tell him the meaning of the writing on the wall that so shook Belshazzar.

v 18-21  Daniel recounts to King Belshazzar the story of his father/grandfather, King Nebuchadnezzar. The Most High God had given Nebuchadnezzar a kingdom, majesty, glory, and honor. All peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared him.  All persons were under his rule and authority, and he had the power of death and life over them.  He had the power and authority – given from God – to raise up and to put down persons, as he wished.

Because of all this, his heart was lifted up, and his spirit strengthened for evil. It was then that God deposed him from his throne, and his glory taken away from him. He was driven from among the society of men, and his heart was made like the beasts (instead of like a human).  He was made to dwell with wild donkeys, and to eat grass like cattle, and to get wet with the dew of heaven. All this (and it took seven years!) until he knew that the Most High God rules from Heaven in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomsoever He chooses.

v 22-24 Daniel rebukes the king for not learning the lesson of King Nebuchadnezzar, and humbling himself, even though he knew all this.  Daniel tells him that he has lifted himself up against the Lord of Heaven, blaspheming Him by bringing out the vessels of God’s house, and that he and his wives and concubines have drunk wine from them. You have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see nor hear nor know that you are praising them, and you have not glorified the God in whom your life depends and to whom you will give account.

With this deadly combination of pride, idolatry, and blasphemy, the fingers of the hand were sent from God, and this writing was written on the wall:

v 25 Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

v 26-28 These three Aramaic words (one repeated) were short-and-to-the-point. These few words sealed the destiny of the king and of the kingdom of Babylon of gold. No one else knew the meaning except for Daniel:

Mene: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it. (In other words, Your time is up!)

Tekel: You have been weighed in the balance, and found deficient.  (In other words, unequal weights: not equal justice; bad deeds outweighed good deeds; dead works rather than giving glory to the sovereign God of Creation; excessive pride and little, if any, humility; etc.)

Peres (Pharsin): Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (This is the second kingdom of silver of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The prophecy is about to be fulfilled!)

v 29 The king did reward Daniel as he had said he would to whomever could interpret the writing on the wall. He did not repent, nor did Daniel call him to do so. He knew that what Daniel said was the truth of the writing on the wall. His fate had been sealed, and God’s longsuffering had come to its full period of grace. THIS IS A LESSON FOR US ALL IN THE LOVE AND WISDOM AND RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD.

v 30-31 (5:30 – 6:1 Heb) That very night King Belshazzar of the Chaldeans was killed, and Darius the Mede received the kingdom at the age of about sixty-two. Darius was a mature man coming in to replace the king and the kingdom. (There are critics of the Bible in general, and of the Book of Daniel in particular, who deny its historical accuracy, and who say that there was no actual Darius between the collapse of Babylon and the rise of Cyrus the Persian king. But Jesus confirms Daniel as a prophet who wrote the book, inspired by the Holy Spirit. (2Tim 3:16-17Mt 24:15)Therefore, the account is true.)

Belshazzar was not promised that his kingdom would be restored, as Nebuchadnezzar was. His rebellion affected not only himself, but all those connected to him and to his kingdom.

Daniel did continue to be a very important person in the transition of the kingdom, and for some time afterward. (Dan 1:216:289:1-2) His honor was from God.

Some lessons for us:

  1. Pride is deadly! God hates it. The spirit of the world says that we need more of it! It is called “self-esteem” in today’s culture; finding significance in our selves, rather than in God. For those of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ, our significance is found in HIM. Knowing the Father and the Son rightly produces humility rather than ungodly pride. God has given much power and authority to rulers; it is how they wield it which determines their standing and judgment from the Lord.
  2. Pride or prejudice can prevent us from receiving help from those whom God may give for that. Belshazzar did not seek the help from Daniel, the Jewish captive in exile, because he did not acknowledge or respect him, even though he knew about what he had done for his father/grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, and the Kingdom some years before.
  3. The wisdom of this world runs counter to the wisdom of God. The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God. God has revealed to us truth in The Bible. He can not lie. Any “truth” which the world claims as such must be in agreement with what YHVH has said and the Holy Spirit has inspired the writers of Scripture to write. If it is not, then it is not truth.  Even on subjects that we think has to be otherwise, God will always be found true. Faith, like a child, believes Abba.
  4. God works in history in the affairs of men. God’s reasons for the destruction of Babylon are spiritual; the world’s history of the fall of that kingdom are military and political. God uses political and military means to accomplish His righteous judgments, and He brings the three together at the same time. Jesus died on the cross for our sins as a sacrifice from God so that we can be forgiven of our sins, and receive the gift of eternal life with Him. From the Jewish people’s point of view, Jesus was killed because they thought He was a false prophet, a Sabbath-breaker, and a blasphemer. The Romans carried out the execution because of indifference and in order to maintain order in the province of their own kingdom. Which historical explanation of the death of the Son of God changes our lives?
  5. We are to help people know the futility of their false religions and gods, and love them enough to tell them the truth of the true God of Heaven and Earth – the Most High God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob/Israel — and of the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah.
  6. God can act very quickly and suddenly – and take us by surprise – when the time He has set has come. Yeshua says at the end of the Bible that He comes quickly. He did not say nearly 2000 years ago that He is coming soon, but quickly. Let us be awake regarding the times which the Father has determined by His own authority. (Mt 25:1-13) The writing is in The Book! (Rev 22:16-21)

This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, June 25, 2020, and reposted with permission.