Daniel 5

Daniel 5:1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. 

He made a great feast, and was drinking wine in the presence of thousands.  

Who is Belshazzar?

Belshazzer was the last king of ancient Babylon before it was conquered.  His name means “Bell protect the king”, and the meaning is a prayer to the Babylonian god Bel.  Ultimately, Bel is a false god with no power and will not be able to protect Belshazzar from anything.  Belshazzer was also the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar thru Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter Nitocris.  Nitocris was queen of Babylon.

Daniel 5:2 While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 

Belshazzar is probably sitting there smiling and celebrating himself while sipping on his wine and living the good life.  We also get another look at what Nebuchadnezzar took from Jerusalem when he besieged the people of Judah.  Him, his lords, wives, and concubines were going to drink from them.  Belshazzar appears to have a raging ego and is nothing like the transformed Nebuchadnezzar that we see in Chapter 4.  He is more like the traditional king that has put himself at the top of the world.

One thing to note here is the plural “wives” and the mention of “concubines”.  This is a common thing for a king to have hundreds or even thousands of wives.  

King Solomon, son of David (whom God considered a man after his own heart), was the wisest man who ever lived.  This wisdom was a gift from God.  He too, though, fell victim to this trend.

1 Kings 11:1-4 (NKJV) 1 But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— 2 from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.

Like Belshazzar and many other kings, Solomon was looking for love the wrong way.  He had fallen into a world view of taking lots of wives and concubines.  These kings indulged in worldly pleasures to the fullest, but ultimately it was their demise.  Solomon regretted much of his life and ended up dying early.

Something else I take from the story of Solomon is that his wives turned his heart to false gods.  The husband is supposed to be the leader of the household, but it appears here that his wives had more influence on him.  Instead of him swinging them to God, they swung him to false god and worldly pleasures.  

If you’re not focusing on your family, and instead piling up women or other idols, how can you possibly keep your focus on God, or grow in your faith with them?

The same is also true if you’re lusting after other men’s wives.  Take for example David and Bathsheba.

2 Samuel 11:1 (NKJV) It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

There is an initial problem here in this story about David and Bathsheba that often gets looked over.  Can you see it?  And what is the second problem?

First, this was “at the time when kings go out to battle” and David stayed home.  Second, “David sent Joab and his servants with him”.  David not only did not go to battle when he should have, but he sent Joab and his servants in his place.  

Then as the story continues, we see David fall into temptation and sin.

1 Samuel 11:2-5 (KNJV) 2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.”

David not only skipped out on his battle duties, he lusted over a woman bathing and took her for himself.  Now she is pregnant and will both have to face her husband, Uriah.  

I Samuel 11:6-10 (NKJV) 6 Then David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. 8 And David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah departed from the king’s house, and a gift of food from the king followed him. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 So when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?”

David’s plan was full proof.  Instead of confessing, and confessing to God, he decides a cover-up is in order.  That’s ok right?  Uriah deserves a good meal, time with his wife, and a good night’s sleep.  

1 Samuel 11:11 (NJKV) 11 And Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.”

Uh oh.  Uriah’s allegiance is where David’s should be.  With his fellow troops in battle.  Why should he be singled out to have a nice night when they’re not?  David is going to have to confess, right?

1 Samuel 11:14-15 (NKJV) 14 In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the [c]hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.”

David, again, commits another sinful act to cover up what he had done.  He has set Uriah up to die.  If Uriah isn’t going to be with his wife and make it look like their child was from him, David has to take matters further into his own hands.  Where is David’s relationship with God in all of this?  He appears to have wandered very far.  Will Joab really take these orders?

Military people are trained to follow orders.  Sure, some question them, but orders given are orders taken.  Anything less would be treason.  

1 Samuel 11:16-17 (NKJV) 16 So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.

And that was the end of Uriah the Hittitie.  David and Bathsheba were in the clear, right?  Wrong.  Bathsheba mourned for Uriah.  I am certain there was grief and regret from both sides.  This shows the human side of all of us when we try to take things into our own hands.  We get scared, we do the wrong things, bad things happen to people around us.  

1 Samuel 11:26-27 (NKJV) 26 When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. 27 And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.

If you read through Judges, you can see the effects of displeasing the Lord.  Everytime His people turned away, he let them go to some bad king and live under harsh terms and oppression.  Things didn’t go quite right for David either.

1 Samuel 12:15b-22 (NKJV) 15b And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. 16 David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 

Perhaps David realized what he did, and is both grieving over what he’s done, and grieving for what he’s now taken from a newborn baby.  

1 Samuel 12:18 Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, “Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!” 

Who do you suppose he would do harm too?  Word may have been out what he did to Uriah.  They may have been afraid for their own lives.  But I personally think they were afraid of what he would do to himself.

1 Samuel 12:19 When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.” 20 So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22 And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

This is where the belief that all infants go to Heaven when they die comes from.  David was very close to God.  He talked to him and knew him.  He wouldn’t say something like this if it wasn’t true.  In my opinion, it wouldn’t be in the Bible if it wasn’t true either.  God cannot lie.  His word is Truth.

Daniel 5:3 (NKJV) Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 

Here we rewind the Daniel story all the way to the beginning of the saga.  Verses 1 and 2 get right into it.  Jehoakim was given up by God to Nebuchadnezzar.  Nebuchadnezzar took some of the things from the House of God.

Daniel 1:2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.

Let’s revisit 2 Kings from our very first lesson on Daniel 1.  

2 Kings 24:13 (NKJV) And he carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house, and he cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said.

Now we have two pieces of information about what was taken.  The first being articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple, cut into pieces.  The second being gold vessels.

Let’s examine the word “vessel” from Merriam-Webster:

(noun) a container (such as a cask, bottle, kettle, cup, or bowl) for holding something.

And now Strongs H3984:

(Aramaic) ma’n (pronounced “mon”) – “vessel, utensil”

Oftentimes when you look at a word, it’s obvious.  In this case, “vessel” was probably pretty obvious, but this is ancient times we’re talking about.  This is also a ravenous king wanting to drink wine out of something made of gold.  This is one reason to always do a word study on words like this.  

If you read a verse slowly and carefully, you can find keywords.  At first, words might not jump out, so start with words you don’t necessarily know the definition of.  After that, start breaking down nouns.  Then finally, I’d suggest taking the entire verse and breaking it down to the original writing.  Websites like ‘blueletterbible.org’ are perfect for this type of thing.  They’ll allow you to see a parallel with the english and original language.  From there you can click on the original language word and read the definition and see the pronunciation.  

Doing a keyword search will give you more insight into the verse.  It will also help clarify the verses meaning whether you think you understand it or not.  This can also be a fun exercise to do while studying a book or passage.  I find it an invaluable practice.

Daniel 5:4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. 

I don’t think I need to take you on a lesson of whether or not we should consume alcohol.  For starters, that isn’t what this lesson is focusing on.  That is a much bigger discussion.  I will say that there are two translations for the word “wine” as you read the Bible.  In most places, “wine” is just what it says.  It’s probably different from what we have today, but it’s still wine.  In other places, the word “wine” translates back to a word that describes hard liquor.  

In either case, in most places, nothing good is happening around “wine’.  And whether you believe drinking alcohol is ok or not, getting drunk is clearly spoken against in the Bible.  We are to remain sober and clear minded.  What happens when we don’t?  Let’s look at Lot.  Lot was the only person to lead his family out of Sodom and Gomorrah.  As his family left, Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt.  You can read this story in Genesis 19.  We’re going to fast forward to the end of Genesis 19 where Lot’s daughters are talking about his lineage.

Genesis 19:30-33 (NKJV) 30 Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave. 31 Now the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” 33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

They did this a second night, and both daughters became pregnant.  All of this by way of a drunken Lot under the influence of alcohol.  So whether or not you consume alcohol of any kind, do not get drunk.  If you’re a Pastor or Elder, I would encourage you to read 2 Timothy 3 and take note of “not given to wine” in verse 3.  

Now let’s talk about praising the “gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone”.  These are obviously not gods, they’re idols.  What does the Bible say about idols?

Exodus 20:3 (NKJV)  You shall have no other gods before Me.

What is a god?  Is it an image of someone or something?  Is it the wind or the sun?  Is it a baseball player who hits 50 HRs per year?  The answer to all of these questions, and many more, is Yes.

An idol is anything that gets between you and God.  You have to examine yourself very deeply and honestly to see what idols are in your life.  We all have them and many don’t even realize it.  If you’re spending more time with a hobby and skipping out on praying and studying the Bible, that is your idol.  If you have a stamp collection that you can’t stop adding too, neglecting your tithe or other finances, that is also your idol.  

How can I find out what my idols are?  Great question.  

First, I want you to close your eyes and tell God that you have idols in your life that you want to get rid of.  Repent of this and ask Him to guide you to what these are so that you can remove them.

Second, I want you to go through everything you do with your days and ask yourself a simple question.  “Does this take away from my relationship with God in any way?”  

Third, I want you to pray about each one of them and ask God to give you the strength to remove them from your life.  Admit you’ve done wrong and sinned and are too weak to remove them under your own power.  

Finally, if you have idols in your life that are causing you addiction, and you’ve prayed over them and still fall, please pray for guidance in finding help for this.  Seek out your Pastor, and Elder, or a close friend that you can trust to help you.  These should be Christian friends that will guide you in a biblical way.  Finally, if you decide that you need to seek an expert, find someone or somewhere to go for this help.  Even if that help is someone to guide you to another person or organization.  There is no shame in seeking restoration.  This will do a complete 180 in your relationship with God and get you back on track.  He will then take control of your life and you will enjoy every minute of the ride.

Daniel 5:5 In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. 

Back to the party.  Belshazzar is sitting there drinking it up with gold vessels and thousands of people.  It was the party of a lifetime.  In fact, he’s about to see how much of a lifetime.  There was a hand that came out of nowhere and wrote a message for him on the wall.

This is where the phrase “The handwriting is on the wall.” comes from.  Now sit back and think about what is happening here.  Close your eyes and imagine the largest banquet hall you can think of it.  Decorate it in lots of light, the best table clothes, gold cups, and lots of the best food and wine.  Then you look at the wall and next to the lampstand, a giant hand appears and writes something.  How would you feel?  I would be terrified alone that the hand appeared, let alone it start writing something.

Daniel 5:6 Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other. 

I want to start with a keyword study.  Go back and re-read that piece of this lesson if you need to before you further.  This is one of those verses where I read it and that’s the first thing that pops up.  It’s not a normal word, and I am not sure if I understand it.

Merriam-Webster (noun) says “look, expression”.  

Strongs H2122 (Aramaic) is “ziyv” (pronounced zev) meaning “brightness, splendor”.

The king’s express on his face changed quite a bit here.  He was most likely stunned, confused, scared, etc.  He was troubled for starters, and threw his hips out of joint trembling so much that his knees were knocking together.

Think about how scared you’ve been in your life at different times.  Was it in the dark as you heard a loud noise?  Was it a scene from a scary movie?  Maybe you thought something was after you in the woods.  Did you tremble so much you dislocated your hips from your knees knocking so much?

When I was a kid, I saw a snake for the first time on my grandparent’s property in Northern Michigan.  I was scared out of my mind.  To put it in perspective, I was a slow runner.  I was with my brother and three cousins.  I was probably the slowest of them, but I was by far the first one back to the house ½ acre away.  Why?  I was scared!  I later learned that 12 inch gardner snakes won’t harm you.

A few years ago a funnel cloud engulfed my house to the point I couldn’t see out of the windows from either side of the house.  I grabbed the dog and ran down the stairs to the basement.  There was crashing and banging and a huge crash above me.  I then called 3 people in hysteria and left them all voicemails saying “Don’t come home!  I’m fine!  I’m really fine!  Tornado!”  I was ok after I realized my house wasn’t flattened and the tree that fell on it did no damage.

These were probably the 2 times in my life that I was the most scared.  They were also 2 times that I was not scared enough to dislocate my hips because I was trembling in fear.  Think about the perspective there.  A hand writing on a wall compared to a deadly snake and being crushed in a house collapse.  This was a big deal to Belshazzar.

We don’t need to fear if we’ve put our trust in Jesus Christ and live in His footsteps.  We don’t have to wonder if where we’re going in life is going to condemn us, or get us into trouble.  There are a lot of verses in the Bible that talk about fear.

Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV) Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

I would encourage you to go to biblegateway.com and search for “be not afraid” and read all the passages that come up.  Time after time God reminds His people that they are not alone, he is there with them to shield them from all things.  He never turns His back on anyone.  All throughout the Bible he is right there when someone turns back to Him.

If you’ve fallen astary, or think God has left you, I encourage you to pause for a few minutes and pray, asking God to reveal Himself to you or to repent of something you did to put a wedge between you and God.  If you have idols, I hope you’re already thinking about what they are and how God can help you take them out of your life.  God wants to walk with you through life, you don’t have to do it alone.

Daniel 5:7 The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spoke, saying to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck; and he shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 

There’s those “wise men” again.  Any one of them that can tell him what the message says will get the usual prize.  Purple clothes, gold chains, and a promotion.  See a theme here?  This is how things went back then.  Unfortunately for Belshazzar, you can’t turn to evil to translate God’s messages.  

Daniel 5:8 Now all the king’s wise men came, but they could not read the writing, or make known to the king its interpretation. 

Think about a language you don’t know.  For me, it’s basically anything not english, but I’ll pick Japanese.  If someone put me in front of a Japanese sentence and asked me what it says, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.  There isn’t any amount of reward that could make me understand it either.  

Daniel 5:9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly troubled, his countenance was changed, and his lords were astonished. 

There’s the word “countenance” again.  Belshazzar must have really thought his “wise men” could read it.  They were also “astonished”.  Let’s look at that keyword.

Merriam-Webster defines “astonished” as “feeling or showing great surprise or wonder”.  

Strongs H7672 (Aramaic) “shebash” (pronounced shev ash) means “to confuse, be perplexed”.

I would certainly be perplexed if the king told me a giant hand came and wrote that on the wall and I had no idea what it said when I am supposed to be wise.  I would also wonder why he’s trembling in fear so much.  Although, given the circumstances of what just happened, maybe I wouldn’t wonder.

Daniel 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came to the banquet hall. The queen spoke, saying, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change. 

“The queen” here is Nitocris, his mother.  She came to calm him down and tell him not get all bent out of shape.  “O king, live forever!” has appeared in previous chapters of Daniel and reads to me as a salutation.

Daniel 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. 

Let’s rewind a bit to where I introduced you to Belshazzar as Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson.  He is.  “Father” in this context is a generic term meaning “ancestor”.  The Aramaic word is “‘ab”, pronounced “av”.

She also references “a man” that in him lives “the Spirit of the Holy God”.  She knows who the real God is, she learned that from her father and Daniel.  Remember when God fed Daniel and his 3 friends full of knowledge and skill?

Daniel 1:17 (NKJV) As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

We also must never forget what James taught us about wisdom.

James 1:5 (NKJV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Daniel 5:12 Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.” The Writing on the Wall Explained 

Daniel had incredible gifts from God.  Daniel had unwavering faith and was doing God’s work while living in Babylon.  His work was so powerful that it was never forgotten.  

It is also interesting that she still used the name “Belteshazzar”, but suggested they call for “Daniel”.  It could have been that if she also tossed out that name, he might remember him from his childhood.  So here we go.  Daniel has been called to come and help.

Daniel 5:13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke, and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? 

Daniel arrives and Belshazzar asks if he’s Daniel, the one that helped his grandfather out.  The one that was captured when Judah was besieged.

Daniel 1:6 (NKJV) Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

Remember, Daniel and his friends weren’t the only ones captured.  They are simply the 4 written about.  

Daniel 5:14 I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 

I wonder if he had heard of him from his childhood or if he is really saying “My mother, the Queen, just told me about you.”  I also find it interesting that he acknowledges that the Spirit of God is in him.  It’s not really a stretch to find a person with wisdom.  Being that Daniel was over the wise men, it makes sense that his wisdom would be known.

Have you ever met a person who’s light is shining so bright, that you can tell that they’re a follower of Jesus Christ?  Have you ever had anyone say that of you?  That’s how we’re all supposed to be.  There shouldn’t be any wondering or surprise about your walk with God.  It should be obvious from the way you treat people, handle yourself, and talk.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

Paul was writing to the Romans and opening up his letter to them with this statement.  This is a clear example of how God wants us to be.  Jesus didn’t hold back.  He wasn’t ashamed of who he was or what he was doing.  He stood up to Pharisees and other leaders to the point they crucified him.  Paul also stood up for what he believed to that same end.

Stephen also comes to mind.  He stood for Christ so much that he was stoned.

Acts 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

Take note that Jesus was not only at the right of God, but he was standing.  That is significant.  We know he is seated at the right hand of God.  But to be standing in here shows that he was standing in honor of Stephen.  Stephen was then stoned and died a martyr.

Is your faith as strong as Paul and Stephen?  Would you put your life on the line to defend your relationship with Jesus Christ?  These are very serious questions that you should ask yourself.  This isn’t something to take lightly.  Denying Jesus or God could have dire consequences.  

Matthew 10:32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

Jesus has promised to confess us before the Father, but he also promised to deny us if we deny him.  It is important that your relationship with Jesus be rock solid.  You must always be studying and praying and asking Him for strength daily.  

Daniel 5:15 Now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not give the interpretation of the thing. 

The “wise men” have again failed to do what only God can do.  Daniel is God’s servant in Babylon for this very thing.  There was no chance at the “wise men” of Babylon being able to tell Belshazzar what the message said.

Daniel 5:16 And I have heard of you, that you can give interpretations and explain enigmas. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 

Again, Daniel finds himself in a position to be a ruler over all of Babylon.  Another chance at some fancy clothes, a big necklace chain, and a promotion.  Belshazzar seems to understand that Daniel can, and will, come through for him.

Daniel 5:17 Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation. 

Daniel doesn’t care about the king’s stuff.  He didn’t want the king’s diet when he first arrived, and he doesn’t want anything from the king right now.  What he does want to do is take up the task and use the incredible gift that God has given him.  

Daniel 5:18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor. 

God handed Jehoiakim over to Nebuchadnezzar.  God raises up all the kings and puts them into their positions.  He put him through 7 years of eating the grass, but ultimately he gave him back his kingdom.  God wanted him there.  God chooses who gets to be in power.

Oftentimes when elections come and go, we are disappointed.  We lash out and say that “he isn’t my president!”  And while the basic idea of not wanting to obey immoral things that are against God’s laws are fine, we must be obedient to the government that has been put in place.

Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

We have instructions from God (through the apostle Paul) to be subject to our governing authorities.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that we should burn our Bibles, close our churches and start worshiping idols.  That is extremely not true.  It means that if they post speed limits, curfews, and other laws, we should obey them.  

Daniel 5:19 And because of the majesty that He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished, he kept alive; whomever he wished, he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down. 

The unfortunate truth is that this is a broken world full of sin and sinners.  There are good government officials, and there are bad government officials.  There are good Presidents and there are bad Presidents.  It doesn’t mean we need to tremble in fear.  Take hold of Romans 13:3 and let God take care of you. 

Daniel 5:20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him. 

Let’s look at what happened.

Daniel 4:30 The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” 31 While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!

God will always take care of things in his time and his way.  In Nebuchadnezzar’s case, he was cut off from his ungodly ruling and taught a lesson.  When he straightened up, he got his keys to his kingdom back.

Daniel 5:21 Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses. 

Daniel 2:21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise

That was quite a story in Daniel 4.  The chapter penned by Nebuchadnezzar himself, talking about his journey through a dream and life as an ox.  Nebuchadnezzar always gave God credit for things, but it took a huge event to turn him completely.  If you haven’t read my commentary on Daniel 4, please go back and do so.  It is an incredible chapter.

Belshazzar was his Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson.  He knew of God.  I am sure he knew of Daniel.  It is unclear if his mother the queen knew and followed God, but even if so, Belshazzar did not choose that path.  Anyone can make this decision, you’re free to turn away from God and live your own life.  Just don’t expect to escape Hell and eternal suffering.  

Jesus had not come yet, and had not died for the sins of the world.  Still, the people of the Old Testament had a chance to live with God in Paradise.

Let’s examine a story (not a parable) by Jesus about a rich man and a man named Lazarus.  This isn’t the same Lazarus, friend of Jesus that He raised from the dead.  This is a real story, not something made up designed for a teaching lesson.  

Luke 16:19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ 27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”

The rich man was able to cry out for help, but none was coming.  There was an impassable “great gulf” so that no one could cross, in either direction.  

How does one avoid burning in Hell for eternity today?  

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

It is simple, you put your trust in Jesus Christ.  John 3 tells us a story of a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus.  He greeted Jesus as Rabbi, or Teacher, and said that he knew he was from God.  Jesus then explains salvation to him.

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

This threw off Nicodemus.  He did not understand how to get back into his mother’s womb, and understood that was not even possible.  Jesus explained it to him.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Being born of the flesh is coming from your mother’s womb.  We all went through this process.  That is how we came to be.  Being born of the spirit is much different.  You must repent your sinful ways to Jesus Christ, and ask him to forgive you and save you.  After that, the Holy Spirit enters your heart.  This is being born again or “born of the Spirit”.  

If you have not taken these steps, I would encourage you to pause this study and start reading through the Book of John.  If you need to, seek a fellow Christian out that can guide you.  In the end, though, you need only talk to Jesus and confess your sins, and ask him to enter your life and save you.  After that, find a good local church and a small group to help you start growing as a Christian.  The seed in you is there for cultivating.  It is up to you to follow Christ on the path He has set before you.

Daniel 5:22 “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. 

This is the state of a lot of people in the world.  They know about God.  They believe he exists.  They choose not to humble their hearts, accept Christ, and live for Him.  Instead, they choose to live their own life for themselves.  The reward for this type of life is eternal punishment and suffering, separated from God.

How many people have you met in your lifetime that knew the Word of God, but refused to humble their hearts towards Him?  I have known several.  

Back in April 2020, I was traveling from my family’s land in Northern Michigan to my home in Southeast Michigan.  An old coworker of mine named Steve posted a message on Facebook that I saw while waiting for my pizza to be ready.  I wanted to grab a quick dinner to go for the ride home.  Steve asked if Chrsitians believed they were living in the end times, why wouldn’t they just let things go and the end come?  

We were in the height of the pandemic rise of Covid-19.  He was referring to letting the virus take hold and heading home to see our Lord.  There had been protests at our state capital with guns rejecting the stay at home orders issued by our Governor.  

I explained to Steve that these events, to me, were really not related.  Not all Christians have guns, and those people protesting were looking at themselves as patriots.  Still, I had some back and forth with him in comments about how I felt about the end times and the rapture.  I explained Matthew 24 and the end times explanation the disciples got from Jesus.  I explained why I thought we were entering a time of the sorrows.  

Steve’s interest seemed perked, but to my knowledge, 2 months later, he still hasn’t turned his heart to God.  He even said he knew his theology.  That told me he had read the Bible.  Here is a king over all of Babylon that had exposure to God and still turned to idols and wine.  He’s in deep trouble.

One really important judgement that will come to unbelievers is the Great White Throne Judgement.  

Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

There is talking your way out of this once you get there.  That is the end.  If your name is not written in the Book of Life, then you will be cast into the lake of fire and separated from God, in torment, forever.  We must rescue as many people we can from this fate.  Jesus died to save us all, let’s spread the gospel as he instructed.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

And there it is.  Our mission.  What is your part in this great story of life?

Daniel 5:23 And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified. 

Belshazzar made himself THE GUY.  He put himself before God and then he took His vessels that were taken from His house and blasphemed God with them.  These are inanimate objects.  They cannot save you from anything.  Only God can do that.  God held his breath in His hands and owned his path.  Belshazzar ignored God.

Daniel 5:24 Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written. 

This was the hand of God writing a message directly to Belshazzar.

Daniel 5:25 “And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. 

Remember when I asked you to sit down and read a sentence in a language you didn’t know?  Here’s a first look at that.  No one else could read it either.  This appears to me to be written in some special language that God gifted to Daniel so Daniel could authenticate it as God’s writing.

Daniel 1:17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

God gives everyone a set of spiritual gifts.  This gift mix is how we plug into God’s ultimate plan.  Some are teachers, some are leaders, some are givers, etc.  You can read all about spiritual gifts in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 2, and 1 Peter 4.  

It’s quite simple to start learning what your gifts are.  Read through Romans 12:3-8 and simply ask yourself “Yes, No, or Maybe” after each one.  If you have any “Yes”’s, cross out the rest and focus on those.  Figure out which one is the more prominent and drawing, and work on that one.  After that, you’ll find other gifts show themselves to you in time.

Romans 8:27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

A good amount of prayer and searching your “hearts” is also the right approach.  Once you get a clue of where to begin, pray asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to you how you’re built and what you’re made for.  

Take special note of “hearts” in this verse.  This is plural and points directly to your physical heart, and the Holy Spirit living inside of you.  

1 Corinthians 12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

The Holy Spirit has a plan.  He knows everyone very deeply and will distribute to you your gifts as he sees fit.  At that point, it’s up to you to use them and develop them for the work of God.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

This is one of those verses that has a lot of depth.  First, we know things are working together for good for God’s purpose.  Second, Paul writes about “the called”, which if taken out of context, you get into a humanised version of salvation.  The called are simply those of us who accept Christ and accept God’s mission.  Christ died for everyone, not for some.  Finally, take note of His purpose.  If you take off that piece of the verse, the meaning completely changes into something else.  It is very important that we remember that our gifts, our build, our plan and purpose are His plan and His purpose and we are not to question that.  We are to simply obey.

Daniel 5:26 This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; 

This is it.  Belshazzar is done.  His days were numbered and they are up.  The end.  This reinforces Daniel 2:21 and God removing kings.

Daniel 5:27 TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; 

When I think about a legal group, I think of the Scales of Justice.  These relate to fairness in the judicial system.  They represent that a decision will be made by weighing the evidence in a fair manner.  This is what just happened to Belshazzar.  God judged him and found the balance leaning towards him wanting.  He was guilty on all counts.  This was the verdict.

Daniel 5:28 PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Who will take over?  It’s time to divide it up and give it to the Medes and Persians.  We’ll read about them in Daniel 6.  This is the sentencing phase.

Daniel 5:29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 

I am not sure if I heard this, that I would hand over a bunch of gifts and a promotion, but Belshazzar did just that.  He kept his word to Daniel, even though the message was dire.  

I often wonder if Belshazzar accepted that his time was up.  I wonder if he even realized that he was going to die.  I wonder if he got his heart right with God.  Probably not, but that’s way above my pay grade.  The lesson here is we should keep our hearts on God.  

Daniel 5:30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. 

The end of his story on earth.  Belshazzar was killed and his kingdom and his story came to an end.

Daniel 5:31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Darius takes over as king.  Darius was born in 601-600 BC.  It is now 538 BC.  We’ll read more about Darius in Daniel 6.

I want to go back to the message of Salvation.  Belshazzar didn’t have to die like this.  He didn’t have to face God’s judgement.  There’s nothing written to suggest he turned his heart, as there was about Nebuchadnezar.  Belshazzar’s life was but a vapor and then Hell was waiting for him.  You don’t want to follow that path.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Do you hope for oxygen to breath and have evidence of it, even though you can’t see it?  This is the kind of faith you should exhibit with God.  If you sit down and form a relationship with Him, it is the same way.  You can feel Him there, always.  He breathes life into you.

Daniel knew and understood this with unwavering faith.  You’ll see this as we read the story of his life in Babylon.  He prayed faithfully.  He never questioned God.  He always knew God would be with him, and everyone around him did too.  Everything he did proved God was there and real.  Even the kings he worked under acknowledged God as the true God. 

Our God isn’t a myth.  He is real and wants to reveal himself to you.  If you haven’t taken the step of faith, please take some time to read through John 1-3.  In John 3 you will read about Jesus’ encounter with a man named Nicademus.  There Jesus explains the concept of being born again and the Holy Spirit.  

There are also many verses throughout the NT in Romans, Acts, and other places that will take you through salvation.


This is a great resource to read through.  It answers many questions about what you need to do and how God can save you.  If you’re even a little bit curious about accepting Christ, please read through this.  There is even a video that goes along with it.

Written by Dan
This is my collection of bible study lessons and book reviews. I am the Executive Pastor of Cross Waves Church and graduate of the Willmington School of the Bible, part of the Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity.