ch. 5




In regard to this chapter the peculiar state of the Septuagint text has to be

noted. At the beginning of the chapter there are three verses which seem to

be either variant versions of the Septuagint text, or versions of a text which

was different from that from which the Septuagint has been drawn.

Throughout the chapter, further, there are traces of doublets. Most of these

variations occur in the Syriac of Paulus Tellensis.


1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his

lords, and drank wine before the thousand.” As we have just indicated,

there are two versions in the Septuagint of several verses in this chapter,

and the verse before us is one of these. The first of these is “Baltasar the

king made a great feast on the day of the dedication of his palace, and

invited from his lords two thousand men.” The other reading, which

appears to have formed the text, is, “Baltasar the king made a great feast

for his companions.” The first version seems to have read the dual instead

of the singular — a proof of the state of the language, for the dual has

practically disappeared in the Targums. The second version has evidently

read ˆ הברין instead of רברבין. Theodotion reads, “Baltasar the king

made a great feast to thousands of his lords, and drank wine before the

thousands.” The Peshitta agrees with the Massoretic text. The numeral is

thus omitted in the text of the Septuagint,inserted in the dual in the margin,

and appears in Theodotion in the plural. As the shortest text is also the

oldest, and omits the numeral, we feel inclined to do so also, the more so

as the numeral may have resulted from אַעּלּפ (aluph) being put as the

interpretation of רברב  (rabrab). The clause in the marginal version, “on

the day of the dedication of his palace,” or, as it is rendered by Paulus

Telleusis, “in the day of the dedication of the house of his kingdom,” is

worthy of notice. From the fact that early in his reign every Ninevite king

seems to have begun a palace, this statement has a great deal of

verisimilitude. The clause in the Massoretic text, “and drank wine before

the thousand,” is meaningless, unless as a rhetorical amplification. From

the fact that only the first clause appears in the text of the Septuagint, the

authenticity of the rest of the verse is rendered doubtful; the more so that

קובלא  (<ARAMAIC>) means “a feast” in Eastern Aramaic, though not in

Western. It is a possible solution of the presence of the clause that קבל,

excluded from the text and its place supplied by לחם, was placed in the

margin. לקבל, however, means “before.” If there was also in the margin

אלפא, “thousands,” in the emphatic state; as the translation into Hebrew

of רברב  (Genesis 36:17, 15 Onkelos). If, further, ˆ חברין,

companion,” appeared as a various reading for רברבין, that would easily

be read חמר, “wine;” the verb “to drink” would be added to complete the

sense. We have thus all the elements to produce the different versions of

the story of the feast. The fact that in what we regard as the marginal

reading the clause appears quite differently rendered, confirms us in our

suspicion that the Massoretic text presents a case of a “doublet.” The

reading which begins the chapter in the Septuagint may be due to regarding

קבל as the verb “to receive.” The name Belshazzar has been the occasion

of much controversy. It was regarded as one of the proofs of the non-historicity

of Daniel that this name occurred at all. We were told that the last King of Babylon

was Nabunahid, not Belshazzar. The name, however, has turned up in the Mugheir

inscription as the son of Nabunahid, and not only so, but in a connection that implies

he was associated in the government. From the annals of Nabunahid (2 col.; vide

Beitrage zur As-syriologie,’ Delitzsch and Haupt, 1891-92, pp. 218-221)

we find that from his seventh to his eleventh year, if not from an earlier to a

later date, Nabunahid was in retirement in Tema, and “came not to Babil,”

and the king’s son (Mar Sarri) was with the nobles (rabuti) snd the army.

Even when the king’s mother died, the mourning was carried on by the

king’s sou, Belshazzar. Dr. Hugo Winckler (‘Geschichte Babyloniens u.

Assuriens,’ pp. 315, 316) says Nabunahid remained intentionally far from

the capital, and abode continually in Tema, a city otherwise unknown. Not

once at the new year’s feast, where his personal presence was

indispensable, did he come to Babylon. What occasioned it, we know not;

but it appears as if he had devoted himself to some kind of solitary life, and

would not disturb himself with the business of government. Not once while

Cyrus was marching against Babylon did he rouse himself, but allowed

things to take their course. The government appears to have been carried

on by his son, Bel-shar-utzur, for while Nabunahid lived in Tema in

retirement, it is mentioned that his son, with the dignitaries, managed

affairs in Babylon, and commanded the army. Also in several inscriptions in

the concluding prayer, he is named along with his father, while it is usually

the name of the king that is there mentioned. Belshazzar is, then, no mere

luxurious despot, like the Nabeandel of Josephus, no incapable youth

flushed with the unexpected dignity of government in the city of Babylon,

while his father was shut up in Borsippa; he is a bold capable warrior.

Tyrannical and imperious he may be, yet faithful to his father, as had

Nebuchadnezzar been to Nabopolassar his father. We need not even look

at the identifications of Belshazzar with Evil-Merodach, with Labasimarduk,

or with Nabunahid. The name Bel-shar-utzur means “Bel protects

the king,” and is rendered in the Greek versions “Baltasar,” and in the

Vulgate “Baltassar,” and identical with the name given to Daniel, as we

have remarked elsewhere. In the Peshitta the name here is rendered “Belitshazar,”

while Daniel’s Babylonian name is “Beletshazzar.” We do not

know when this feast took place. If we take the Septuagint text here as our

guide, it did not take place at the capture of the city by Cyrus. If for five,

six, or seven years he was practically king, Belshazzar may have built a

palace, and the feast may have been held at its dedication. We knew that

the Babylonians were notorious for their banquets — banquets that not

infrcquently ended in drunkenness. Although the number of the guests is

doubtful from diplomatic reasons, the number itself is not excessive. We

read of Alexander the Great having ten thousand guests.


2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring

the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had

taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his

princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.” The

Septuagint has included the last clause of the Massoretic recension of the

first verse, “And he drank wine, and his heart was lifted up, and he

commanded to bring the vessels of gold and of silver of the house of God,

which Nebuchadnezzar his father had brought from Jerusalem, and to pour

out wine in them for those companions of his (ἐν αὐτοῖς τοῖς ἑταίροις

 en autois tois hetaroismight drink from them).” The translator

seems to have regarded the first syllable of the  name Belshazzar as a separate

word, and has translated it according to the meaning the word has in Eastern

Aramaic, “heart” (Exodus 12:23, Peshitta). After this initial mistake — if mistake

it was — the remaining change was easy. The syntax here, according to the

Massoretic text, is different from what we should expect. אמר (‘amar), “to say,”

is translated “command” in eight cases in this book, and in every other case it is

followed immediately by the infinitive’ of the action commanded. Hence

we are inclined, with the Septuagint, to omit “whiles he tasted the wine.” While

the Septuagint Aramaic seems to have בהין, “in them,” it has not had “king,”

“wives,” or “concubines.” As the Septuagint is the shorter, on the whole,

we prefer it, though we maintain the Massoretic reading of “in them,”

referring to the vessels. Theodotion and the Peshitta follow the Massoretic

reading. Whether or not the libation offered to the gods was in the mind of

the writer, the mere fact that the sacred vessels were used for the purposes

of a common feast was desecration. The addition of the “wives” and

“concubines” adds at once to the degradation in the eyes of an Eastern, and

to the stately rhetorical cadence of the verse. This renders all the stronger

the suspicion engendered by the omission of these features in the

Septuagint. It is to be observed that the Septuagint translator must have

had an Eastern Aramaic manuscript before him, or he could never have

translated bal “heart.” At the same time, the presence of women at

Babylonian feasts was not so uncommon as it was in the rest of the East, as

we learn from the Ninevite remains. Certainly Quintus Curtius mentions

this in connection with Alexander’s visit to Babylon (v. 1). But was an

obscure Jew likely to know this in Palestine? It is very difficult for a person

writing in a different age to keep strictly to verisimilitude in these matters.

Even a contemporary may make a blunder in writing, not a novel, but a

biography, as Froude, in his ‘Life of Carlyle,’ declares he was “quietly

married in the parish church of Temple.” To be quietly married in a parish

church in any part of Scotland, in the early years of this century, would be

a contradiction in terms. Yet Froude had often been in Scotland, and knew

Carlyle well. Could a Jew living in Palestine have all his wits about him so

as to note every varying feature which distinguished the habits of Babylon

from those of the rest of the East? The question may be asked why were

the vessels of the Lord in Jerusalem singled out to be desecrated by a

common use? It might, of course, be that the sacred vessels of the temples

of the gods of all conquered nationalities were brought in, and thus that the

singling out of the Jewish sacred vessels was due, not to the preference of

the Babylonian monarch, but to the Jew, who saw only those. We think

this can scarcely be. It was certainly the policy of Nabunahid to draw all

worship to Babylon (Annals of Nabunahid, col. 3. line 20, “The gods of

Akkad, which Nabunabid had brought to Babylon, were carried back to

their city”). But this would lead him to avoid anything that would savor of

disrespect to these gods whom he had brought to dwell in Babylon. We do

not think it would have been merely the beauty of those vessels that led to

their desecration, for the temple at Jerusalem had suffered several

plunderings before the capture of the city, and the period between the age

of Hezekiah and Zedekiah was not one in which wealth and artistic talent

were likely to increase. Some suspicion must have reached the court of

Babylon that the Jews were in league with Cyrus; perhaps the contents of

the second Isaiah had reached the knowledge of the Babylonian police. If

so, the act of Belshazzar was an act of defiance against Jehovah of Israel.


3 “Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken

out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the

king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them.

4  They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass,

of iron, of wood, and of stone.” The corresponding verses in the

Septuagint differ in several points from those above; the Septuagint third

verse contains, condensed, the Massoretic third and fourth verses, but adds

new matter in its fourth verse: “(3) And they were brought, and they drank

in them, and blessed their idols made with hands; (4) and the God the

eternal, who hath dominion over their spirit (‘breath,’ πνεῦμα - pneuma),

they did not bless.” In the introductory portion, which contains, as we think,

marginal readings, we have the second and fourth verses brought into

connection, “In that day Baltasar, being uplifted with wine, and boasting

himself, praised in his drink all the gods of the nations, the molten and the

carved, but to God the Highest he gave not praise.” The reading of the

latter portion of this seems better than the text, as it is briefer; the

description of God as He that has power “over their breath,” is a

preparation for what we find in v. 23, “and thy breath is in His hand.”

Theodotion is, as usual, much nearer the Massoretic text, but while the

Massoretic only mentions the “golden” vessels being brought, Theodotion

mentions the silver also, and the verb hanpiqoo is translated singular, as if

it were hanpayq, and “Nebuchadnezzar” understood. A various reading

adds, “and the God of eternity, who hath power of their breath, did they

not bless,” according to the Alexandrine and Vatican codices. In both these

cases Jerome follows Theodotion. The Peshitta agrees only in the latter,

putting the verb in the singular. Modern translators, as Luther and Ewald,

the Authorized and Revised English Versions, retain the plural, but make

the verb passive, as if it were written honpaqoo. Calvin alone preserves

both number and voice. The French Version, which makes it impersonal, is

probably as good as any. It is, however, not impossible that the true

reading is huphal; that seems better than Calvin’s suggestion, that what

Nebuchadnezzar had done is now transferred to all the Babylonians. The

praises of the gods being sung was especially natural, if this were a

dedication of a palace. In such a case the various elemental deities would

be invoked to bless the residence of the king.  The fact that the vessels

belonging to the temple of the God of the Jews were brought forward from

the treasury of Bel would afford an occasion for praising Bel, the god who

had given them the victory. While they praised these god, of the nations,

they did not even mention Jehovah — an addition in the text of Theodotion

and the Septuagint, both text and margin, and therefore one that, we think,

ought, in some form, to lie in the text. It is singular that in the Cyrus Cylinder, 17,

the overthrow of Nabunahid is attributed to Marduk, “whom Nabunahid did not

fear.” The reason of Belshazzar thus ostentatiously praising the gods might be to

get over the reputation of unfaithfulness to the gods, which was weakening them,

father and son, in their struggle with Cyrus. Belshazzar most likely was, at this

very time, carrying on war against Cyrus. The object of this festive gathering of his

nobles might be to hearten them in their struggle against the King of Persia.



The Downward Road (vs. 1-4)


Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and

drank wine before the thousand “(v. 1). The history of the fall of Babylon

must form the background of any homiletical treatment of this chapter (see

the histories; and the Exposition above). The clearing up of the difficulty of

this portion of Scripture, of the seeming discrepancy between Daniel’s

statements and the records of secular history, by the discovery of clay

cylinders, simultaneously by M. Oppert and Sir Henry Rawlinson in 1854,

is one of the most interesting episodes in the history of Christian

apologetics; and is eminently suggestive in that line of things, showing

particularly how easily Biblical mists would be cleared away if only we

could have at hand all the facts. But we turn here to the bearing of the

passage on the ordinary life of man.


  • THE POSITION OF PRIVILEGE. Guilt must ever stand related to

knowledge. What were the king’s opportunities of knowing the will of

God? They were more than some may think, such as ought to have saved

him from the degradations of that night. The parallel with our own position

is clear. Though our advantages are in degree greater. For Belshazzar there



Ø      the witness of creation.

Ø      the open page of providence. (See v. 22.)

Ø      the voice of that moral nature which is common to every man.

Ø      the interpretation of them by the high Chaldean culture; e.g. the

revelation of the glory of God in the stars of heaven was one that

shone with special clearness on the Chaldean plain (see Sir G. C.

Lewis’ ‘Astronomy of the Ancients,’ ch. 5.).

Ø      Special Divine revelations; e.g.:


o       in the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (he had not

been dead twenty-three years);

o       in the deliverance of the heroic three, by the presence of the

Saviour in the fire;

o       by the insanity and recovery of the king.


Nor must we forget that Belshazzar was not further away from the Divine

than a modern worldling; for in his own realm lived the Church, with

whom lay the oracles of God. Compare Louis XIV. and the Huguenots.

And enough had been done to draw attention to these.


  • THE STARTING-POINT. The sin of the king was nothing else than

that practical atheism (vs. 22-23) which so often shows itself callously

indifferent to all those serious considerations which even people of

ordinary prudence entertain (note: the city at the moment in a state of

siege); and which usually is associated with epicurean life.


  • THE ROAD DOWN. A distinct gradation in evil is marked in this, as

in every other career. The steps may be different with different sinners; but

there is a gradual descent with all, though it must be admitted that on “that

night” some were taken by the king at lightning speed. The king:


Ø      Ignored all the circumstances of his position. This was indeed terrible.

For long the Persian lines had been drawn round the city; engineers had

been turning the river from its bed. At this hour things were becoming

critical. Facts are stubborn things, which even a heathen might note.


Ø      Defied Providence.. Such extravagance at such a time. Imagine the

authorities of Paris banqueting in the late siege (or Americans

neglect of her borders in the current illegal immigration threat! –

CY – 2014)  A false security THE PRESAGE OF RUIN!


Ø      Sacrificed his own dignity. As king — as man. Not usual for Babylonian

kings to make themselves the boon companions of their subjects — even

the highest. We owe respect to men, as made in the image of God —

rational, moral, immortal, etc.; but not the less to ourselves.


Ø      Plunged into drunkenness. The lightning leaps which immediately follow

are to be distinctly assigned to the drunken condition of the king. Much

may and should be here said on the intimate relation existing between

moral and spiritual degradation generally and ALCOHOL,  and also on

the close connection between alcohol and many forms of vice. It is the

root of many vices. (The writer of these notes feels that educated men

are still the children of many illusions concerning this powerful chemical

agent; (not to mention drugs! – CY – 2014)


Ø      Jested with things sacred. Sure mark of a “fool” in the Bible sense.

“Holy vessels will we have for such delicious wine,” may the king be

supposed to say. (Matthew Henry is full and good on this.)


Ø      Violated the decencies of domestic life. The bringing the harem into the

banquet-chamber was a gross offence against even the Oriental idea


Ø      Insulted God. Drank they out of vessels sacred to Him, unto other gods.

So the indifference of a passive practical atheism culminates in open defiant

antagonism against God.


  • THE DREADFUL END. The loss of everything — kingdom, life, etc.

Many things will need to be looked at ere the final ruin of the night comes

up for consideration; but this is the place specially to observe that it was

the kings own sin and folly of that very hour that led STRAIGHT TO

RUIN!   Had the king and “the lords” been on the alert, not even the

turning of the river from its bed had laid them at the mercy of the besiegers.

But the revelry incapacitated them. Sin is its own avenger!


5 “In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and

wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the

king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.”  The

two versions given in the Septuagint here do not seriously differ from each

other or from the Massoretic text, only that they both omit “the part of,”

and represent the king as seeing the hand. Theodotion has ajstraga>louv

 astragalous - which maybe rendered finger-joints; otherwise this version is

very like  both the Massoretic and the Septuagint. The Peshitta presents no point

of remark. The word translated “lamp” (nebhrashta) became in Talmudic

times the equivalent of menoorah, “the golden candlestick.” From this it

has been supposed that “the candlestick” was the golden candlestick which

later proved the crowining glory of Titus’s triumph, and is still to be seen

carved on his arch. When the other vessels of the house of the Lord were

brought to deck the table of the monarch, it would not be unnatural that

the golden candlestick should also be brought. In the great hall in which a

thousand guests were accommodated, more lamps than one would be

required. The Septuagint (text) adds, “over against the king:” this would

individualize the lamp referred to; but there does not seem to be any

support for this reading, which may be due to the desire to explain the

satatus emphaticus. Gesenius derives the word נֶבְרַשְׁתָּא from נור, “light,”

and אש, “flame.” As ו as a consonant was unused in Assyrian, this

derivation is by no means impossible We know that the Ninevite monarchs

surrounded the great halls of their palaces with bas-reliefs of their

victories. The remains of Babylon have not given us anything like the

gypsum slabs of Kouyounjik. Yet the Babylonian monarchs not unlikely

followed the same practices as those of Nineveh. The walls were built and

plastered, and then the slabs were moved up to them. In the case of

Belshazzar, the palace walls might well be fresh; no gypsum slabs had yet

recorded his prowess. As he looks to the white plaster, the fingers of a

hand come out of the darkness, and write opposite him. “The king,” thus it

is in the Massoretic text, saw the “part” of the hand that wrote. Pas is the

word. Furst renders it “wrist;” Gesenius, “the extremity;” Winer, vola

manus,” the hollow of the hand;” with this Buxtorf agrees. The balance of

meanings seems to be in favor of “hollow of the hand,” only it is difficult

to understand the position of the hand relatively to the king when he saw

the hollow of the hand. The smoke from the numerous lamps would

obscure the roof of the hall of the palace; however numerous the lamps,

their light would be unable to pierce the darkness, so out of the darkness

came the hand.



The Writing on the Wall (v. 5)


We have here a declaration of judgment, the circumstances, form, and

effects of which are full of significance.





Ø      It was in the kings palace. The guards who may keep off the human

intruder cannot shut out the Divine messenger. Judgment may find

a man in his own home (ch. 4:29; Isaiah 37:38; Luke 12:16-21).


Ø      It was at a time of pleasure. The intoxication of pleasure may blind us to

approaching judgment, but cannot stay it. It is foolish to rest our security

on our experience of present enjoyment. The moment of greatest pleasure

may bring us to the brink of the deepest ruin.


Ø      It was in the midst of sinful revelry. Drunkenness, profligacy, and

profanity were rioting at the feast when the judgment came. So the

sinner is sometimes summoned to judgment in the midst of his sins.

It is a delusion to suppose that all of us will have good warning and

time for repentance, before we are called to meet the Judge.


Ø      It was under circumstances of gross negligence. The enemy was at the

gates; yet the king was reveling in effeminate orgies. Negligence as to

the danger into which our sins have brought us is itself a sin, and one

which wilt meet with certain, merited punishment (Jeremiah 6:14;

Matthew 24:38-39).




Ø      It was public. The message was not given to the king privately. It was

written up on the wall of his banquet-chamber, in the presence of his

courtiers. Sin may be secret; but judgment will be public (Luke 12:3;

I Corinthians 4:5).


Ø      It was silent. There was no awakening trumpet-blast, but a silent hand

writing on the wall. God often speaks quietly (l Kings 19:11-12). This

method is often the more impressive to the observing; and until we are

observing, no method is of much use. It is most fitting in the solemn

declaration of judgment. In speaking of future punishment, it is most

seemly not to indulge in noisy declamation, but to use quiet, weighty

words, bordering on awestruck silence.


Ø      It was decisive. Written words are more decisive than spoken words.

They are generally more weighed. They are more enduring. They admit

of more study. Illustrate this by Pilate’s reference to the superscription

on the cross (John 19:22). Apply it:


o       to the written Bible;

o       to the written book of judgment;

o       to the written names in heaven.


Ø      It was mysterious. The king and his courtiers and his wise men could

not read the writing. ALL DOOM is mysterious till it falls. Scriptural

intimations of doom are generally vague, though terrible. Note in



o       sinful indulgence blunts the spiritual sense for discerning


o       the language of heaven is an unknown tongue to


o       God’s revelations to the heathen need interpretation by His

clearer revelations to His prophets and apostles.




Ø      It produced terror. The mystery and supernatural character of the event

alarmed the king and his courtiers (vs. 6-9).


o       Here is an instance of the common human weakness in

presence of what appears to be supernatural — a weakness

which is as great in the proudest monarch as in the lowest

slave. Before the unseen we are level in our common humanity.

o       The terror was augmented by guilt. Sin fears to meet the

Spiritual world.  (The devils coming out of the tombs asked

Jesus “Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?”

Matthew 8:29 – CY – 2014)

o       It was deepened by the surprise of unfamiliarity with the unseen.

Daniel was in frequent converse with the other world, and could

meet its messages with calmness. Belshazzar was buried in

sensuality, and felt the first touch of the spiritual with the

shrinking of startled horror. What alarm and confusion the

engrossed sensualist will experience, when AFTER DEATH,

 he wakes to his first vision of the spiritual!


Ø      It led to the introduction of the best counsellor. Daniel had been

neglected by the dissolute king in favor of more congenial company.

Now he is sent for. Trouble is good if it leads to wisdom. Though the

wisdom which comes too late may only deepen the consciousness of

one’s punishment, it must be better to meet this intelligently, than with

the blindness of a brute.  (II Peter 2:12)


6 “Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his

thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and

his knees smote one against another.” The Septuagint differs in a

somewhat important degree from the Massoretic text, “And his

countenance was changed, and fears and thoughts troubled him.” In this

clause not improbably φόβοι phoboi – fear -  and ὑπόνοιαι huponoiai  -

thoughts - are double renderings of ˆ רעין. “And the king hasted and rose up, and

looked at that writing, and his companions round about him (κύκλῳ αὐτοῦ ~

kuklo autouaround him) boasted.” It is clear that the text from which the

Septuagint had repeated the verb בֶהַל, (bebal), which means originally “to hasten,”

and had the word “king “after it, if the Septuagint Aramaic were the original, we

can easily understand how the word repeated might be omitted by bomoioteleutoa.

While קם could easily be read קט  after the square character had got place, קמ could

not in the script of the Egyptian Aramaic papyri be easily read קם consequently we

are inclined to look on the reading of the Septuagint here as being the

primitive one. The king, according to this verse, saw the handwriting, but

not till he rose did he see what was written. This representation of the

succession of events is natural, whereas the statements about his loins

being loosed is mere amplification. The last clause storms to be a

misreading of the clause which appears in the Massoretic at the end (which

see). The first word seems to have been misread heberren, and thus a

meaning is violently given to the other parts of the clause. The probability

is in favor of the Massoretic reading here, Theodotion and the Peshitta

agree with the Massoretic text. The omen of a hand appearing to write on

the wall of the palace was one that might easily cause the thoughts of the

king to trouble him. Much more was the omen of importance when the

king saw that the hand which had appeared to write had actually left

certain words written. It was but natural that the brightness of the king’s

countenance should depart from him when he saw the hand. thus awfully

coming out of the darkness, and writing, and that his knees should smite

one upon another when what was written gleamed upon him from the wall

before him. He might well be sure that the message so communicated

would be laden with fate. Fear is naturally the first emotion occasioned by

any mysterious occurrence; and then Babylon was, in all likelihood, being

pressed by the advance of Cyrus. If he had any suspicion of the treachery

that had sapped the power of his father, his apprehensions would be all the



7 “The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the

Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the

wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and show me

the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a

chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the

kingdom.”  The Septuagint here also differs from the Massoretic text, “And

the king cried out with a great cry to call in the (ἐπαοιδοὐς epaoidous

enchanters) and (φαρμακοὺςpharmakous - sorcerers), and Chaldeans, and

soothsayers, to announce to him the interpretation of the writing, and they came

in for inspection (ἐπὶ θεωρίανepi theorian – look at; examine), to see the

writing, And they were not able to make known to the king the interpretation of

the writing. Then the king made commandment, saying, Any man who shall show

the interpretation of the writing, he shall put on him a purple robe, and shall put

round his neck a  golden chain, and authority shall be given him over a third part

of the kingdom.” Theodotion is an exact rendering of the Massoretic text in the

sense represented by the English versions, save that it wholly omits the

conjunctions between the various classes of wise men, so that Ξαλδαίους

Chaldaious Chaldeans - might be an adjective qualifying either μάγους

magous soothsayers or γαξαρηνούςgaxaraenous, and the

article is also omitted, which is represented in the Massoretic text by the

status emphaticus. The Peshitta has four classes of wise men called in; as

the Septuagint has, otherwise it agrees with the Massoretic text. It is a

matter of some interest to observe that the position of the Chaldeans is

somewhat precarious here, as in the second chapter. They disappear wholly

from the list in the next verse, which really seems to be another version of

this. It is a marginal gloss that has crept into the text. If we accept the

reading of the Septuagint here, so far at least as to assume the entrance of

the wise men before the king’s declaration of the reward, the succession of

events becomes more natural. The king calls for the presence of these

interpreters of omens, and then, when they fail to interpret the writing to

him, he proclaims his offer of a reward to whoever can do so. It is to be

noted that there is in the Septuagint no question of ability to read the

writing, but simply to interpret it. It has been pointed out to me by a friend

that if these words were written in cuneiform, the signs that would

represent them might have a great variety of possible sounds, and with

these differing sounds, differing meanings. Sometimes a sign was phonetic

and a syllable, sometimes it was idiographic and might represent a whole

word. There is this to be said for this view — the Assyrian was the writing

expected in inscriptions. Still, from the fact that the Septuagint omits the

demand that the inscription should be read, we may regard the matter as

doubtful. Assuming that the wise men were required to read the

inscription, some of the Jewish interpreters, as Jephet-ibn-Ali, think that

the letters of the word were inverted; others have it that the letters were

arranged in columns. Even, however, if the words were written correctly

enough as Aramaic words, it would be a difficult matter to put any

meaning in them as they stood, as we shall see when we consider Daniel’s

interpretation. The reward promised is of special interest. The word

argvana, translated “scarlet,” appears in Assyrian as argmamm; hamneeka,

the word rendered “necklace,” is of doubtful origin. We find in the

Ninevite sculptures and on the cylinders from Babylon many instances of

splendid robes (vide Rawlinson, ‘Five Great Monarchies,’ 560); the rich

necklace is also to be seen (ibid., 2. 497,499). The great difficulty has

arisen over the rank given to Daniel, “the third ruler in the kingdom.” The

difficulty is that the ordinal here is not in its usual form, although

Petermann gives taltu as one of the forms of the ordinal. There is, further,

the unusual position of the numeral in relation to the verb, though the

abnormality is less than Professor Bevan represents it, as the Peshitta

follows word for word the arrangement of the Massoretic text. The truth

seems to be that the word really was toolta, as in the Syriac, and the

difficulty has risen in not recognizing the transference from one dialect of

Aramaic to another. It is used in the Peshitta (II Corinthians 12:2) of

the third heaven. Professor Bevan’s interpretation, that it means “every

third day,’) may be dismissed as absurd. Ewald (in loc.) regards the title as

one of a board of three — not an impossible meaning, in the light of what

we find in the following chapter. Yet his reasoning, that it cannot be third

in rank, because the queen-mother could not be counted in, is inept now,

when we learn that Belshazzar was colleague with his father, and so the

third place was all he had to give. On this question Behrmann takes the

view discarded as impossible by Ewald, and holds that Daniel was placed

third because of the queen-mother. It is one of the commonplaces of the

criticism of this book that the history ascribed to Daniel is borrowed from

the history of Joseph: why was the position offered not made “second,” as

was that of Joseph? We have the reason in what we know of the history of

Babylon at the time. The Septuagint and Josephus were unaware of the

facts, and translated as they did.


8 “Then came in all the king’s wise men: but they could not

read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation

thereof.”  As we have already said, the Septuagint here repeats the list of

wise men. and omits “the Chaldeans.” If the word “Chaldean” had been in

the text originally, the fact that astrologers were frequently called

Chaldeans would render it unlikely that the word should be omitted.

Whereas from this very ground it was a word specially apt to be added on

the margin, and once on the margin it would easily drop into the text. Even

in the case of the Massoretic text, there seems to be a repetition here. It is

certainly more obvious in the Septuagint text. The verse according to the

Septuagint is, “And there entered in the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the

astrologers, and were not able to announce the interpretation of the

writing.” Theodotion agrees here with the received text; the Peshitta omits

“all.” The only way in which we can escape the idea of this being a

repetition is by holding that the word “all” is emphatic. The omission of the

word “all” from the Peshitta is against this. It is to be observed that in the

Septuagint there is no reference to “reading the writing;” it is only to

announce the interpretation.


9 “Then was King Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his

countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.”   This

verse presents signs also of being a repetition. The last clause appears to be

the original form of the mysterious clause at the end of the sixth verse

according to the Septuagint; the word mishtabsheen, which occurs here,

seems to have been read mishtabhareen, from שַׁבְהַר (shabhar), “to be

glorious,” in the ittaphel; this becomes “to boast one’s self,” as in the

Targum of Proverbs 25:14, also the Peshitta of the same passage; also

II Corinthians 12:1. And this is the word used by Paulus Tellensis to

translate καυχῶνταιkauchontaito boast. The Septuagint has a verse

here that has no  equivalent in the Massoretic text, “Then the king called the

queen about the sign, and showed her how great it was, and that no one had

been able to declare to the king the interpretation of the writing.” This verse

avoids the repetition we find in the Massoretic text, and explains the presence

of the queen in a much more plausible way than the received text does. In the

Massoretic text it is the noise and tumult that pierces the women’s

apartments, and brings out the queen-mother; though not impossible, this is

unlikely. The action of the king, as given in the Septuagint, is very

probable. The wise men are baffled by this mysteriously appearing

inscription. What is to be done? Belshazzar calls his mother, the daughter

of Nebuchadnezzar, as she at least possibly was, to see if she knows

anything in the past that might be a guide in such a matter. He not only

shows her the sign, the inscription, but shows how great it was, by telling

of the hand that had come out of the darkness, and had written it.

Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text. While the

repetition is obvious, it is also true that the failure of all the wise men in

Babylon to read the writing, as the Massoretic text has it, would increase

the trouble of the king, and this trouble would naturally spread to the





                                    Blasted Merriment (vs. 1-9)


All merriment is not forbidden. Banqueting is not in itself a sin. Jesus

Christ Himself honored with His presence a marriage festival, and

contributed, by miracle, the wine for the occasion. On the restoration of

the prodigal son, a banquet was prepared, while music and dancing were

the fitting exponents of the father’s joy. God is not a foe to rational

pleasure. He gives both the capacity and the occasion for joyful hilarity.

But when excess of wine inflames the carnal passions, when it degenerates

into sensuality, extravagance, and profanity, IT IS A SIN!


·         ROYAL REVELRY. We are not told what was the occasion of this

banquet. Possibly it was to celebrate the anniversary of the king’s

accession; or else an annual festival in honor of Chaldea’s gods. But:


Ø      It was an unseasonable banquet. The foe was already besieging the city.

Belshazzar was presuming that Babylon could resist any siege, and that

their supplies could last for an indefinite period. There is a time to be

merry, but there’s also a time for fasting and penitence. The man is a fool

who cannot be serious at fitting times. Gravity is more seemly than gaiety

when disaster occurs. He is a doomed man who will not listen when God

speaks with voice of thunder. But he shall hear.


Ø      The revelry proceeded to the extreme of self-abandonment. Wisdom,

dignity, good sense, decorum, reason, were all drowned in the depths of

the wine-cup. The king led the way to extravagance, revelry, folly,

debauchry. He who should have been a guide to virtue, and a pattern of

propriety, uses his high influence to pervert and to pollute men. Belshazzar

alone is mentioned as the leader of these bacchanalian orgies. All manliness

and nobleness were sacrificed at that foul shrine of pleasure.


Ø      Excess led to wanton profanity and sacrilege. We do not attempt to

measure the sin of these Oriental lords by the standard of modern

refinement or modern religious belief; but judged only by the standard of

public conscience prevailing in that age, they stand censured and

condemned. The ancient nations, however strong their attachment to their

peculiar deities, allowed other peoples to worship their chosen gods, and

held it to be the grossest sin to lay violent hands on. temple furniture,

Throughout the long reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the gold and silver vessels

of Jehovah’s temple had been scrupulously preserved; and the captive

Hebrews had always cherished the hope that these precious vessels would

again adorn the temple in Jerusalem. Though Belshazzar had now reigned

probably eighteen years, he, too, had not ventured to secularize these

sacred things. Nor do we think he would have done so now unless he had

been madly inflamed with wine. Sensuality is twin-sister to impiety.


·         AN ALARMING OMEN. It came in the form of writing. God might

have chosen other signs to betoken His displeasure. An earthquake might

have shaken the palace to the ground, and buried these revellers in the

dust. Fire from the seven-branched candlestick might have streamed forth,

and consumed both king and guests. A voice of thunder might have

announced, in unmistakable tones, Jehovah’s anger. But this unveiling of

His presence and His indignation implies the calm and undisturbed

patience with which God proceeds. The kings of Babylon had been famous

for writing grave decrees. God will show them that a mightier King than they

is upon the scene, and that he too can write decrees in the sight of all. And

there was an element of kindness mingled with this judgment. It did not

proceed with summary and overwhelming suddenness. Though destruction

was near at hand, there was yet time for repentance. But why should king

and courtiers be so terrified? Why should they conclude that the portent

was unfavorable? Perhaps it was an indication of approaching conquest:

tidings that the siege should be raised? Why tremble? What cowardice is

here? Why is conscience lashing them with thongs, and afflicting them with

such strange alarms? They have just been praising their gods of silver and

stone. Will not these protect them now, and recompense their homage with

good things? Alas! a sense of sin has fastened itself on them. Self-accusation

has sent its fangs into their inmost souls. In a moment they are

like dead men. After all, justice slumbereth not. “Verily, there is a God in

the earth!”


·         IMPOTENT PRIESTCRAFT. The astrologers and soothsayers are

summoned to the scene. These were the royal counselors in matters of

religion, and professed to know the secrets of the gods. They had been

maintained at the king’s expense, and surely should render some proper

service in return. But in the hour of urgent need these false supports fail.

Ah! better not to lean upon a staff than to lean upon a rotten staff! Better

not to trust to a cable in a storm than to have a cable with a faulty link!

Every scheme which the king can devise to stimulate these men to attempt

the solution is done; but in vain. He does not upbraid them with their

empty pretentiousness. He tempts them with fascinating bribes. They shall

be raised to affluence and to honor if only they will relieve the king from

this scare of terror. Yet the “oracles are dumb.” Stricken with feebleness

and silence are all the votaries of idolatry. False religion may serve some

temporary advantage as an instrument of worldly government; but when a

storm of Divine anger beads upon a man, no refuge nor retreat can false

faith furnish. When sharp disease invades the vital parts of the body, it is of

unspeakable importance that the medicine should have genuine virtue. But

no comparison can fitly set forth the moment, the urgency of having sterling

piety. To be deceived in matters of the soul is to IMPERIL EVERYTHING

 — is to lose body and soul everlastingly.


10 “Now the queen, by reason of the words of the king and

his lords, came into the banquet-house: and the queen spake and said,

O king, live for ever; let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy

countenance be changed:  11 There is a man in thy kingdom in whom is

the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and

understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in

him; whom the King Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy

father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and

soothsayers;   12 “Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and

understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of hard

sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel,

whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he

will show the interpretation.” No one can fail to feel the presence of

rhetoric here, especially in the last verse, which, we may remark, has no

equivalent in the Septuagint. We see the rhetorical character of these

verses more clearly when we consider the ineptitude of the special powers

ascribed to Daniel to meet the present difficulty. Interpretation of dreams

was a common attribute ascribed to wisdom in the East of old, as it is yet.

But this was not a dream, and therefore the qualification was not to the

purpose; still less to the purpose are the attributes that follow. Showing of

hard sentences. Giving riddles that nobody could read was an evidence of

wisdom all over the East (see Josephus, 8:5. 3; besides Talmudic stories of

Solomon). This, however, is not a case of competition in riddles; above all,

there is no opportunity of one giving riddles in return. “Dissolving of

doubts” is the solving of these riddles. These qualities, which the queen-

mother, according to the Massoretic text, ascribes to Daniel, might make

him delightful as a boon companion, but were not at all to the purpose in

the matter troubling the king. The version of the Septuagint is much

briefer, and, it seems to us, much more satisfactory, “Then the queen

reminded him concerning Daniel, who was of the captivity of Judaea, and

said to the king, The man was understanding, wise, and excelling all the

wise men of Babylon, and there is a holy spirit in him, and in the days of

the king thy father, he showed t (ὑπέρογκαhuperogka - difficult)

interpretations to Nebuchadnezzar thy father.” This has every sign of having

been translated; thus the phrase, Ἐμνήσθη πρὸς αὐτὸν περὶ τοῦ Δανιήλ

Emnaesthae pros auton peri tou Daniael -, which we have

rendered, reminded him concerning Daniel. This use of πρὸς – pros beside;

aboveafter μιμνήσκωmimnaeskoremind; put in memory - is unknown

in classic Greek. In Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ it is accusative of person; in Plato, ‘Laches,’

200 D, it is dative of person; in ‘Legg.,’ 3:688, it is accusative of person. It is,

however, exactly parallel with Genesis 40:14, Μνησθήσῃ περὶ ἐμοῦ πρὸς Φαραὼ -

 Mnaesthaesae peri emou pros Pharaomake mention

of me before Pharaoh. Πρὸς represents אֶל, in the Hebrew; in the Targum of

Onkelos and in the Peshitta this is translated by קְדָם; in Paulus Tellensis it is

 rendered by ל.  Moreover, according to the Massoretic text, Belshazzar asks Daniel

if heis “that Daniel which art of the captivity of the children of Judah, whom the

king my father brought out of Jewry?” The queen-mother had said nothing,

according to the verses before us as given in the Massoretic recension, of

Daniel being a Jew. According to the Septuagint, the queen-mother tells

him whence Daniel is. Theodotion agrees with the Massoretic text, save

that it inserts “watchfulness” instead of “light,” and omits the repetition of

“thy father.” The Peshitta is also substantially at one with our received text.

One of the great difficulties which commentators have found in this part of

the incident is how Belshazzar could be ignorant of Daniel. Various means

have been adopted to get over the difficulty. One is that Daniel was away

from Babylon up to this time (Jephet-ibn-Ali). Archdeacon Rose is certain

he must have known about him. The explanation of this is as recumbent on

the opponents of the authenticity of Daniel as on its defenders, for they —

the latter — declare it the work of one author, and it has had powerful

effect on people: it must be artistically written if it is not a record of facts.

No artist in fictitious narrative would present to his readers so obvious a

difficulty. We learn now what was the probable reason of Belshazzar’s

ignorance of Daniel. Nabunahid, a usurper, was at variance with the whole

clergy, as we may call them, of Babylon, and most likely Daniel acted with

the others, and possibly, as far back as the revolution in which Evil-Merodach

perished, had been away from the court. It is the height of

unfairness of any one to press the name here given to Nebuchadnezzar,

“my father.” That title was very loosely used among the Babylonians and

Assyrians. Jehu is called “the son of Omri,” although he had swept the race

of Omri off the face of the earth. So Dr. hugo Winckler, in his ‘

Untersuchungen zur Attorientalischen Geschichte,’ p. 53, note, says, “This

word ‘son’ after the name of a Chaldean prince, is only to be taken in the

sense of belonging to the same dynasty.” Had the phrase used been that

Nebuchadnezzar slept with his fathers, and Belshazzar his son reigned in

his stead,” something might have been said for the view maintained by all

critics, that the author thought Belshazzar the son of Nebuchadnezzar.

How can the critics assert this, and yet, as does Professor Bevan, maintain

this author intimate even with the minutest portions of Jeremiah, Kings,

and Chronicles? If so, how is it that he did not know that both Kings and

Jeremiah asserted Nebuchadnezzar to have been succeeded by Evil-

Merodach? This information occupies too prominent a place in both books

for him to have been ignorant of it. We can only understand his action in

thus putting down Belshazzar as the son of Nebuchadnezzar by assuming

his acceptance of usage. The critics cannot explain it. Those who maintain

the traditional view may do so by saying that Daniel, writing at the time,

knowing the real state of matters, the claim of Belshazzar to be descended

from Nebuchadnezzar, the fact that Evil-Merodach had been killed, simply

relates facts. Had he been inventing history, and acquainted with the holy

books, and all the information they conveyed to everybody, he would of

necessity have spent some pains in explaining how his history came to

differ so much from what one could draw from the Books of Kings and

Jeremiah. The two accounts of Saul’s meeting with David are not

comparable with this, as we find the reason of the contradiction in the

coalescence of two different accounts.




                        The Representative of God (vs. 11-12)


There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods” (v. 11).




Ø      Intelligence. “Light, understanding, wisdom” (v. 11).

Ø      Excellence of spirit. (v. 12.)

Ø      Faculty. (v. 12.)

Ø      Experience. Some achievement (v. 12).

Ø      The indwelling of the Divine Spirit. (v. 11.)




Ø      Comparative obscurity.

Ø      Even after years of distinguished service.


·         THE CERTAIN CALL. When God wants a man, He is sure to call (by

providence, by His Spirit); and when He calls, man must answer. .


13 “Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the

king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of

the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father

brought out of Jewry? 14 I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the

gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent

wisdom is found in thee.  15 And now the wise men, the astrologers, have

been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and

make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not

show the interpretation of the thing;  16 And I have heard of thee, that

thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts; now if thou

canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation

thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold

about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.”  There is a

great deal of rhetoric in this, and the attempt to restore the stately etiquette

of the Babylonian court. The king is represented as repeating very much

what his mother had told him. It is to be observed that, although the queen

mother — as the Massoretic text records her words — has not spoken a

word of Daniel’s origin, and implies that Belshazzar knew nothing of him,

yet when he comes, Belshazzar addresses him as knowing who and whence

he is. The suspicion that is engendered by the mere reading of the text as

we have it is confirmed by a study of the Septuagint text, where these four

verses shrink into very modest dimensions, “Then Daniel was brought to

the king, and the king answered and said, O Daniel, art thou able to show

me the interpretation of the writing? and I will clothe thee with purple, and

put a gold chain about thy neck, and thou shalt have authority over a third

part of my kingdom.” The brevity of this, the utter want of rhetoric, not to

speak of its dramatic verisimilitude to the speech of a man beside himself

with terror, make it the more probable text. Condensation was rarely the

work of a falsarius; he might omit statements that were antagonistic to

some preconceived notion, or, if only a leaf or so remained of a parchment

otherwise filled up, he might endeavor to utilize the space left him by

putting down as much as he could of some work he valued. Then, in such a

case, a copyist might really condense. But neither of these causes can

explain the omission of the rhetorical passages here. We are compelled,

then, to regard the text behind the Septuagint in this place as the true

Daniel. Theodotion, while on the whole agreeing with the text of the

Massoretes, is briefer in some respects. There is one addition, the insertion

of “magicians” between “wise men and “astrologers. This shows the

process of the evolution of the Massoretic text. The Peshitta, though but

little, if at all, later than Theodotion, is in yet closer agreement with the

text of the Massoretes. Yet the Massoretic text shows certain peculiarities.

The presence of נ, in the second personal pronoun, which was disappearing

from Targumic, but is regularly found in Daniel, is to be observed. Further,

there is אב with the suffix of the first person, which is not Targumic, but is

found in the Sindschirli inscription. In the Targums it is אבא, not אבי, as

in Genesis 9:34, Onkelos. Eastern Aramaic retained it, as may be seen

in the Peshitta Version of the passage before us, and of that to which we

have referred. This is another of the many slight indications which all point

to the Eastern origin of the Book or’ Daniel. It may be observed that we

have not here תַּלְתִּי (talti), but תַּלְתָּא (talta). This is regarded by

Behrmann as status empbaticus. The king in his terror makes appeal to one

who, perhaps, had been dismissed the court on suspicion of being opposed

to the new dynasty. That dynasty had displaced and murdered Evil-

Merodach, the son of Daniel’s old master, and one who had shown himself

specially favorable to the Jews. As the text of the Septuagint gives the

narrative, we have the king eager to have his terrors laid, and, to lead this

opponent, whom his father, if not also Neriglissatr, had displaced, and put

in opposition to his rule, to look favorably on him, he mentions the

reward he offers.





                        Good Counsel in Perplexity (vs. 1-16)


One had abstained from that scene of insane revelry, and she alone in the

royal household was competent to take the helm amid the consternation

and panic. Possibly the king had declined to invite her to the carousal; he

did not, however, decline to receive her judicious counsel. This queen (or

queen-mother) was by far the worthier sovereign, and now used the regal

power with regal skill.



PAST, If we condemn the spendthrift, who has never learned the value of

money, and only wastes it upon trifles, much more must we condemn the

man who throws thoughtlessly away the lessons taught by history and

experience. Whether we know it or not, we are responsible for the right

use of the past. “A burnt child dreads the fire.” A sensible navigator will

avoid the hidden reefs on which former mariners have suffered shipwreck.

If our father has found a wise and worthy friend, we shall be fools if we do

not trust him too.



been elevated, for his virtues, to the chief place among the magicians; and

if, after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was consigned to obscurity,

we can attribute it to nothing else than sheer prejudice. He was a foreigner

of the number of the Jewish captives — therefore whatever his

goodness or skill, he must be degraded. So prejudice robbed the king of an

able and worthy statesman. But the wisdom of the queen advocated that

the services of this injured man should again be sought. The occasion was

precisely such a one in which his skill was priceless. No matter what his

origin, or nationality, or outward condition, if he have superior wisdom or

prudence, he is the man for the publie crisis. There is a littleness and a

meanness about prejudice that genuine wisdom cannot endure.


·         TRUE WISDOM GAINS HER ENDS AT LAST. She has often to

hide her head for a time, while Folly is jingling her bells and is making a

blustering noise; but her occasion is sure to come. Her voice will prevail at

last, and men will chide themselves bitterly that they had not followed her

counsels at an earlier day. Wisdom is always patient, because she knows

that, sooner or later, her presence will be sought and her guidance

followed. Belshazzar had “sown the wind;” now he was “reaping the

whirlwind;” and, dismayed with the menacing storm, he became a docile

pupil of Wisdom. Without hesitation or delay, he sent for the counselor

whom he had long neglected, and confessed his need of the prophet’s

service. Even the king is dependent on his subjects for a thousand things.

Supercilious pride is the sure forerunner of disaster.




The Dissolving of Doubt (v. 16)


“I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve

doubts,” etc. A most important subject (not growing exegetically out of the

passage, nevertheless) is suggested by the text, which is admirably treated

by Horace Bushnell, in ‘Sermons on Living Subjects.’ For the sake of any

who may not have access to the book, we give a brief outline, for the most

part in Bushnell’s words.


  • THE PREVALENCE OF DOUBT. The prevalence of doubt is exhibited

and illustrated at considerable length. “Science puts everything in question,

and literature distils the questions, making an ATMOSPHERE of them.

          (In the 21st century the media [equivalent to Belshassar’s soothsayers,

Astrologers, magicians, lords, etc.]  is constantly STIRRING AND

            CONTAMINATING this atmosphere!  - CY – 2014)


  • CAUSES OF DOUBT.  “They never come of truth or high discovery,

but always of the want of it.”  (“Ever learning, and never able to come

to the knowledge of the truth.  Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood

Moses, so do these also resist the truth:  men of corrupt minds,

reprobate concerning the faith.  But they shall proceed no further:

for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.”  -

II Timothy 3:7-9)


Ø      All the truths of religion are inherently dubitable. They are the subjects

of moral evidence, not of absolute demonstration.

Ø      We begin life as unknowing creatures that have everything to learn.

Ø      Our faculty is itself disorder; e.g. a bent telescope; a filthy window.



hide her head for a time, while Folly is jingling her bells and is making a

blustering noise; but her occasion IS SURE TO COME. Her voice will

prevail at last, and men will chide themselves bitterly that they had not

followed her counsels at an earlier day. Wisdom is always patient, because

she knows that, sooner or later, her presence will be sought and her guidance

followed. Belshazzar had “sown the wind;” now he was “reaping the

whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7); and, dismayed with the menacing storm, he became

a docile pupil of Wisdom. Without hesitation or delay, he sent for the

counselor whom he had long neglected, and confessed his need of the

prophet’s service. Even the king is dependent on his subjects for a

thousand things. Supercilious pride is THE SURE FORERUNNER





Ø      Counsel negative. Not “by inquiry, search, investigation, or any kind of

speculative endeavor. Men must never go after the truth to merely find it,

but to practice it and live by it.”


Ø      Counsel positive. Bushnell asserts and illustrates at length that man has

universally the absolute idea of right and its correlative wrong; and then

enforces, with power and manifoldness of illumination, this: “Say nothing

of investigation till you have made sure of being grounded everlastingly,

and’ with a completely whole intent, in the principle of right doing as a

principle.” (No condensation can give any idea of the grasp and fullness

with which this is exhibited and applied.)


  • THE RESULT.A soul thus won to its integrity of thought and

meaning will rapidly clear all tormenting questions and difficulties. They

are not all gone, but they are going.” “The ship is launched; he is gone to

sea, and has the needle on board.




Ø      Be never afraid of doubt.

Ø      Be afraid of all sophistries and tricks and strifes of disingenuous


Ø      Getting into any scornful way is fatal.

Ø      Never settle upon any thing as true, because it is safer to hold it than


Ø      Have it as a law never to put force on the mind or try to make it

believe.  It spoils the mind’s integrity.

Ø      Never be in a hurry to believe; never try to conquer doubts against

time. “One of the greatest talents in religious discovery is the finding how

to hang up questions and let them hang without being at all anxious about

them What seemed perfectly insoluble will clear itself in a wondrous

revelation.” And here is a thought: “It will not hurt you, nor hurt the truth,

if you should have some few questions left to be carried on with you when

you go hence, for in that more luminous state, most likely they will soon be

cleared, only a thousand others will be springing up even there, and you

will go on dissolving still your new sets of questions, and growing mightier

and more deep-seeing for eternal ages.”


17 “Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let

thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read

the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.”



The Crisis of Waking (vs. 5-17)


“Then was Daniel brought in before the king” (v. 13). In introducing the

present subject the following features and incidents of the history need

vivid and powerful setting: suddenness of the apparition — only fingers

writing — in ancient Hebrew characters (same as those of the two Sinaitic

tables) — on the plain plaster over against the candlestick — seen by its

light — the effect upon the king, pale, trembling, sobered (he will not die

drunk) — a great cry for help — why “third ruler”? (Belshazzar co-regent

with his father Nabonadius) — inability of the magi — consternation and

confusion of the assembly — Daniel still in the king’s employ, but probably

in some obscure position (ch. 8:1, 27) — appearance of the queen

mother on the scene — Daniel called — the advent of the seer, now more

than eighty — had been sixty-eight years in Babylon. Picture the

tremendous scene, with a background of night, through which seen

obscurely the action of the besieging army.


  • To the sinner sooner or later comes A MOMENT OF AWAKING. It is

somewhat hazardous to make a universal affirmative; but all we know of

God and his dealings with men justifies us in asserting that, sooner or later,

God effectually awakens every sinner to his own condition and the Divine

claim.  (“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared

to all men.”  - Titus 2:11)


Ø      The means.


o       Words from God. Give breadth to the contents of this phrase, whilst

insisting on the fact that God oft appeals to sinners by giving a new

setting and power to Scripture words. The truth is to be impressed

that He speaks variously to men — by aspects of nature, providence, etc.


o       Accompanied by some evidence of the Divine. Along with the mystic

characters the king saw “the fingers,” but only the fingers.


o       But not all that would be possible. The hand, the arm, the whole form

of the agent writing might have been discovered. The effect over-

whelming.  But, no! This ever like God in all His dealings. No evidence

of the Divine so overpowering as to shut the mind up to one irresistible

conclusion.  Nothing like mathematical demonstration. If so, where were

the moral elements? This is nevertheless what sinners ask, and what God

will not, cannot (respecting man’s moral nature) grant.


o       Coming with impressive undemonstrativeness. No vain show, or noise,

or thunder, or lightning; no flaming sword! Only writing! “A still, small

voice!”  (I Kings 19:12)


Ø      The immediate effect. Note:


o       What it was. Terror.


o       Why it was. Nothing in the writing to alarm, so long as uninterpreted.

The reason lay there in the king’s own conscience. God set His own

thoughts against the king.


o       The final end. Not necessarily judgment; the rather mercy. Nor do we

know the warning wasted. Many who began the night in revelry may have

been awed to penitence and prayer ere they slept the sleep that knows no



  • At such a moment HE MAY FLY FOR SALVATION TO THE

INCOMPETENT. To look at matters in the light of modern experience,

we may observe that the king fled for help to the scientists real or

pretended. The following propositions may well be insisted on in our time:


o       Scientists fall into three classes.


§         Those acquainted with things material.

§         Mental things of the ψυχή - psuchae (psyche).

§         Moral, spiritualthings of the πνεῦμα pneuma - spirit.


This classification may not be philosophically perfect, but can be

understood by the people;” and is sufficient.


o       A false science is useless. Such was much of the magian learning.


o       A true science avails only in its own sphere. A competent leader in

natural philosophy or in psychology may be of no use in dealing with a

conscience awakened and alarmed. Disregard of this in our modern life.

Scientists of the first class (see above) dogmatizing in both metaphysics

and theology (“Let no man beguile you…….intruding into those

things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.”-

Colossians 2:18 – “…....profane and vain babblings and oppositions

Of science falsely so called” – I Timothy 6:20).


o       Man needs one who knows the moral nature, and its relation to God,

and both lighted by special revelations. Such was Daniel — the Christ in

Daniel (John 1:9; I Peter 1:11) — the Christ of all the ages, and they

who have His Spirit.


  • BUT ONLY TO BE DRIVEN BACK ON GOD. In this case the king

was constrained to seek unto God in the presence of his representative



18 “O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a

kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honor:  19 and for the majesty

that He gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and

feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he

kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put

down.  20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in

pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory

from him:  21 And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was

made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: 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 ruled in the kingdom of

men, and that He appointeth over it whomsoever He will.  22 And thou his

son, O Belshazzar, hast not humblet thine heart, though thou knewest

all this;  23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they

have brought the vessels of His house before thee, and thou, and thy

lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and

thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood,

and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose

hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not

glorified.”  We have gathered these verses together, as they all relate to one

matter and come under one condemnation. Long ago yon Lengerke, and

more recently Hitzig, have shown that such an insulting speech as Daniel

addressed to Belshazzar would certainly be visited with punishment. The

king had no guarantee that the promised interpretation of the writing on

the wall would be true, especially when the interpreter had such an animus

against him. Then the fact in the twenty-ninth verse, that Daniel received

the gifts he had rejected, makes his conduct here all the more

extraordinary. A writer of fiction, of even moderate skill, would not make

the blunder here made. It could easily be made by a falsarius interpolating

a speech he thought suitable to a Jewish prophet in the presence of a

heathen king, who had dishonored the sacred vessels by drinking wine in

them himself, and his wives, and his concubines. It is to be noted that the

princes are omitted from the enumeration here. In proof that our

contention is correct, we find the mass of this entirely omitted from the

Septuagint. There are signs of confusion, and coalescence of different

readings in the text of the Septuagint, yet we have no hesitation in claiming

that it represents a much earlier state of the text than we find in our

Hebrew Bibles, “Then Daniel stood before the writing, and read, and thus

answered the king: This is the writing: It hath been numbered; it was

reckoned; it has been removed.” The marginal reading which we find in the

beginning of this chapter has, Mane, Phares, Thekel. The interpretation

here follows a different succession, “And the hand which wrote stood” —

a phrase that seems to be a mistaken rendering of the latter clause of the

twenty-fourth verse as we find it in the Massoretic text. It seems difficult

to imagine what Aramaic word has been translated ἔστη estae. Paulus Tel-lensis

has <ARAMAIC> (קמת, qmath), which may have been mistaken for

sheliach, though it is not easy to see how. The clause is, at all events,

misplaced. The following clause also is misplaced, and is a doublet of the

first clause of the twenty-sixth verse. The twenty-third verse seems to be

the nucleus of the speech ascribed to Daniel, “O king, thou madest a feast

to thy friends, and thou drankest wine, and the vessels of the house of the

living God were brought, and ye drank in them, thou and thy nobles, and

praised all the idols made with the bands of men, and the living God ye did

not bless, and thy breath is in His hand, and He gave thee thy kingdom, and

thou didst not bless Him, neither praise Him.” The wives and concubines are

not mentioned here. There is no word of the madness of Nebuchadnezzar.

Although from the disturbed state of the text in the immediate

neighborhood one is inclined to suspect the authenticity of this twenty-third

verse, given in the Septuagint, yet there is nothing that contradicts the

position created by the two early decrees of Nebuchadnezzar, which placed

Jehovah the God of the Jews on a par with the great gods of Babylon to

whom, though no worship was decreed, at all events no dishonor was to

be done. Belshazzar is not so much blamed for praising the gods of wood

and stone as for omitting to praise Jehovah. Belshazzar had dishonored

Jehovah, and therefore this ominous message had come forth. The first

clause here seems the primitive text. What was more natural than that

Daniel, coming into the presence of the king, should go and stand before

the mysterious writing, and then, having read it himself, turn to the king

and address him? The words of the Massoretic and of the text behind the

Septuagint differ very considerably, but not so much but that the former

may have grown out of the latter by expansion, and the insertion of

paraphrastic additions. A peculiarity to be observed in the Massoretic text

(v. 17) is לְהֵוְיָן (lehayvyan), the third plural imperfect of היא, “to be.

It is difficult to understand this form of the third person, save on the

supposition that Daniel was written in a region where ל was the

preformative. This preformative along with נ was used in Babylon so late

as the period of the Babylonian Talmud. Theodotion and the Peshitta

practically agree with the Massoretic text. Even when we omit all the

insulting elements, we have Daniel’s speech to Belshazzar as we find it in

the Massoretic text; no reader can fail to notice the difference of Daniel’s

demeanor towards Belshazzar as narrated here, from that towards

Nebuchadnezzar as narrated in the preceding chapter. When he learns the

disaster that impends on the destroyer of his city and the conqueror of his

nation, Daniel is astonied and silent, and bursts out from his silence, “The

dream be upon thine enemies, and the interpretation thereof upon them that

hate thee.” He shows no sign of sorrow when he learns the fate impending

on Belshazzar. We can understand this, if we regard Daniel’s love for the

splendid conqueror making him feel the blood of his murdered

descendants, Evil-Merodach and Labasi-Marduk called for vengeance. So

far as we can make out from external history, Belshazzar was a gallant

young prince, who seemed to be able to maintain himself against Cyrus,

while his father lived in retirement in Tema; but the judgment of God often

falls on those who are not worse than their predecessors, only guilt has

accumulated and ripened. Louis XVI. was not worse than, but really

greatly superior to, his two immediate predecessors, yet on him, not on

them, broke the vengeance of the French Revolution. There probably was,

as said above under v. 2, a special defiance of Jehovah, which therefore

merited special punishment.



Natural Religion (v. 23 – last clause)



though we had no relations with God but those we voluntarily assume in

religious worship, so that if we chose we could have nothing to do with

God. THIS IS A GROSS DELUSION!  . We have relations with God:


o       apart from our will; and

o       apart from our consciousness, dependent upon our very

nature and existence in the world.


Ø      Our life is dependent on God. In his hand our “breath is.” He is the First

Cause — the Origin of life (Genesis 1:24-27). He is also the constant

Sustainer of life, and without Him we could not continue to exist for one

moment, any more than we could live without the air we breathe (Job 12:10;

Acts 17:25). Therefore the existence and the continuance of our

life depend on His will (Numbers 16:22). These facts are not affected

by our ideas about God. If they are facts, they apply as much to the

atheist as to the believer, and to the most godless as to the most devout.


Ø      Our destiny is shaped by God. Whose are all our ways.” We think to

carve out our own career, and no doubt it is largely dependent on our

conduct; but it is subject to numberless apparent accidents, which are

really governed by the providence of God (James 4:14-15).



TO GLORIFY HIM. As our primary relations with God are not dependent

on our own will, so our obligations toward God cannot be regulated by our

free choice. Religious obligations are not simply determined by our

“profession,” nor can they be discarded by our renunciation of any

connection with religious worship, Church relationship, etc. We are all

subjects of God’s spiritual kingdom, WHETHER WE WILL OR NO.

The man who refuses to submit to its laws is not to be regarded as an alien,

but as a deserter and a rebel. Therefore, though Belshazzar had never

professed obedience to God, he was not exonerated from blame when he

failed to render it.


Ø      The universal human duty of glorifying God is determined by the fact

that we are all enjoying life and its advantages simply as the fruits of the

goodness of God.


Ø      It may be enforced by the reflection that since we are entirely in the

hands of God, no attempt to rebel against Him can ultimately succeed

(Isaiah 40:15).



ROOT OF ALL SIN, This is the one sin to which Daniel calls attention,

although Belshazzar was guilty of all kinds of wickedness. So long as we

live in the effort to honor and serve God, our conscience will be kept

pure; but when God is dethroned from the shrine of our hearts, all forms of

evil take his place. Idolatry, the worship of false gods, is only possible

when the worship of the true God is neglected. Profanity is the direct

opposite of the reverence which glorifies God. Indulgence in sinful

pleasures is only possible when the pure pleasures of Divine things are lost.

Thus the special sins seen in Belshazzar in the incident of his feast are all

connected with the neglect of the honor and service of God.  Note:


Ø      The very blessings which are proofs of the goodness of God are often

used as temptations to allure us from our duty to glorify Him.


Ø      Godlessness may bring present delights, but it must ensure



24 “Then was the part of the hand sent from Him; and this

writing was written.”  As we have seen, the real equivalent of this verse in

the Septuagint is a clause in v. 17, “And the hand which had written

(γράφασαgraphasa) stood.” If we take this to mean that the hand now “ceased

to write,” then the original text might be פְסִאָק יָדִא כְתָבָא, the verb being

written fleaum, in Mandaean manner. Then it would easily happen that ק

(in the older script <ARAMAIC> and <ARAMAIC>) was resolved into ד

(in the older script <ARAMAIC> and <ARAMAIC>). In support of this, it

may be observed that while in the fifth verse the older construction of

construct state and status emphalicus is used to exhibit the genitival

connection, in the present case the relative די is used as a sign of the

genitive. Starting with this, it is easy to see how the Massoretic text arose;

but, on the other hand, it is difficult to see the sense of the reading of the

Septuagint, unless this fiery hand is to be imagined as tracing and retracing

the characters on the wall of the palace, and that the hand only ceased

when Daniel stood before the inscription to read. Theodotion differs very

little from the Massoretic text, and the Peshitta coincides with it. The word

for “writing,” רְשִׁים (resheem), is really “engraving,” and therefore

peculiarly descriptive of the Assyrian mode of impressing on clay tablets or

incising in stone the thing to be preserved.


25 “And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL,

UPHARSIN.   26 This is the interpretation of the thing:  MENE; God

hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.  27 TEKEL; Thou art

weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.   28 PERES;

Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persian.”  The

Septuagint has two versions of this passage, one m the text, the other in

the portion at the beginning, which we think is really composed of marginal

readings. In the text the Aramaic is not given at all. As we have already

seen, the verse which corresponds to v. 25 here is really the latter part of

v. 17 of the Septuagint, “This is the writing: It hath been numbered; it is

reckoned; it has been carried away.” In the verses which are appended to

the beginning of the chapter, we have the Aramaic words, but given in a

different order, and without the repetition of the first word: “MANE,

PHARES, THEKEL. MANE, It has been numbered; PHARES, It is

carried away; THEKEL, It has been set up.” Here not only is the order

different, but the meaning assigned to phares is singular. פְרַס means in

Syriac, “spread out.” It would seem that ἐξαίρωexairo -  meant stretched out

as well as “carried away.” It is still more difficult to understand how thekel

can mean “set up,” unless the words, ἐν ζυγῷ – en zugo - on the balance,

are understood. The Septuagint of the best version is briefer than the

Massoretic, though less so than it is in some of the other passages,

“Numbered is the time of thy kingdom; ceases thy kingdom; cut short and

ended has been thy kingdom; to the Medes and the Persians has it been

given.” The word interpreted is not repeated as in the Massoretic text, and

תְקִל is derived from קְלַל, which in some of the conjugations means

destroyed,” whereas in v. 17 it is rendered κατελογίσθη katelogisthae

it is reckoned - a rendering of תְקִל which makes it mean “weigh.” The

Septuagint rendering of the first clause is an evident attempt at explaining

the numbering implied. The Massoretic reading involves a pun in both the

last words; there is a play between תְקִל (teqel), “to weigh,” and קְלַל

(qelal), “to be light,” although the introduction of שכח  rather conceals

this. In the last the play is between פרס, “to divide,” and פדס, “a

Persian.” Theodotion avoids the repetition of the first word, otherwise he

is in somewhat close agreement with the Massoretic text, “MANE, God

hath measured thy kingdom; THEKEL, It is set on the balance, and found

wanting; PHARES, Thy kingdom is cut asunder, and given to the Medes

and the Persians.” The Peshitta is in close agreement with the Massoretic

text. The actual meaning of the words, taking them as they appear in the

Massoretictext, as Aramaic words, is, to give English equivalents, “a

pound, a pound, an ounce, and quarters;” hence the impossibility of

interpreting the words. We find all these words, mena, teqel (shekel),

pares, in the Ninevite inscriptions. As the words are interpreted, we cannot

fail to be impressed with the peremptory style of the inscription, as Hitzig

has it. Zockler refers to the sculpturesque style (lapidarstil). This brevity

rendered it difficult for the soothsayers to put any meaning into the words

at all. In all the versions the fact that the kingdom is to be given to the

Medes and Persians is emphasized, but, moreover, the play on words in the

last clause implies the Persians as the prominent assailants of the

Babylonian power, but really that the two powers were united. It seems

extraordinary that any one, in the face of this, should maintain that the

author of Daniel separated the two powers, and thought the Median power

succeeded the Babylonian, and then that the Persian succeeded the Median.

We know now that Herodotus’s representation of the history of Media and

Persia is utterly false and misleading.




Found Wanting (vs. 25-28)


The mysterious writing on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace is a revelation of

the judgment which must certainly follow all misuse of the talents and

opportunities of life. It brings vividly before us:


o       the summons,

o       the trial, and

o       the sentence


which awaits every one who neglects and abuses his mission

in the world.


  • THE SUMMONS. “Numbered” is the first word. The days of the

Babylonian supremacy are numbered, and the days of the life of King

Belshazzar are numbered; their end has come, and now he and his nation

are called to give account of their stewardship.


Ø      Every life has its limit. God gives us all sufficient time and opportunity

for the work which He requires of us, and, conversely, He requires no

more of us than our faculties are equal to. Therefore we have no reason to

murmur at the brevity of life, and no excuse for neglecting our proper

duties on account of it. But there is a limit to our opportunities. We have

not the leisure of eternity before us. We cannot postpone the work of

today till to-morrow, without interfering with the work of the morrow

(John 9:4). The time draws on apace when the end will come to all

these opportunities of doing our work in the world. How foolish not to

consider what our position will be at “the end of the days”! How vain to be

satisfied with present ease, since these days of sinful idleness are few and

shortening! Who of us will be able to say at the end of life, like Christ,

“It is finished”?  (Ibid. ch. 19:30)


Ø      Abuse of opportunities will lead to the loss of them. The kingdom

appears to be “numbered and finished,” swiftly, abruptly, and in judgment.

Both king and people might have been spared longer, if they had lived

better. Time is a talent which is justly taken from those who do not make a

good use of it (Psalm 37:9; Matthew 25:28-29). This applies with

special force to kingdoms — the judgment of which belongs to this world

(Isaiah 14:22).


  • THE TRIAL. The second word, “weighed,” is explained by Daniel to

mean that Belshazzar and his kingdom have been “weighed in the balances,

and found wanting.”


Ø      There is a judgment awaiting us all. Our future will not be determined

by chance, or fate, or easy indifference. It will depend on OUR PAST!

This will be revealed, examined, proved, tested, weighed in every thought

and word and deed, for every moment of life. None can expect to escape

this trial. The greatest king is here subjected to its searching scrutiny.


Ø      This judgment will be effected by weighing our conduct, and testing it

BY A DIVINE STANDARD!   We shall be weighed in the balances.

On Egyptian mummy-cases there may be seen representations of the soul

weighed in scales with truth as a counterpoise. The truth or ideal conduct

by which we shall be tested may be variously viewed as


o       absolute right;

o       God’s will;

o       God’s idea of our life;

o       duty and vocation;


     these being shaped and modified according to our powers, our opportunities,

     and our light (Romans 2:6-12).


Ø      The ground of condemnation will be to be found wanting. As darkness

is the absence of light, so evil is the absence of good. We can only keep out

sin by being filled with holiness Romans 12:21). To be “wanting” in

truth, or purity, or love, is the essence of sin. More particularly we shall be

judged by our defection of duty, not merely by our commission of offences.

(“To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  -

James 4:17)  Mere negative harmlessness will be of no avail if we have

failed in our positive service (Matthew 25:42-45).


  • THE SENTENCE. The third word, “divided,” is interpreted to mean

that the Babylonian “kingdom is divided, and given to Media and Persia.”


Ø      After a verdict of “guilty,” there must be a sentence of punishment.

Whatever be the nature of future punishment, justice, present analogies,

and revelation concur in pointing to the certainty of its execution. For

individuals this is mostly reserved to the future world; but for kingdoms,

which remain in this world for successive generations, allowing time for

moral laws to work out their ends here, it is executed on earth and is

witnessed by history.


Ø      The most natural punishment is the loss of the honors and powers

which have been abused. The kingdom is taken away. The unused

talent is taken away (as above - Matthew 25:28-29).


Ø      The worst form of punishment is DEATH!   The kingdom is to be divided —

to die as a kingdom. Corruption, disintegration, dissolution, spiritual death

in outer darkness, are the awful mysterious doom of sin unrepented and

persisted, in to the end (James 1:15),


29 “Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel

with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a

proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the

kingdom.” The Septuagint runs thus: “Then Baltasar the king clothed

Daniel in purple, and put on him a golden necklace, and gave authority to

him over a third part of his kingdom.” The only difference here is that there

is no word of a proclamation. Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the

Massoretic text. We have תַּלְתָא here instead of תַּלְתִּי. The presence of

the haphel form instead of the aphel, is to be noted. No reader whose

attention is directed to it can fail to be struck with the magnanimity of

Belshazzar; he had promised that whoever would interpret the inscription

should be clothed in purple and gold, and be made third ruler of the

kingdom. Had he been a mean man, he might have higgled (wrangled) about

the matter; he might have declared an uncertainty as to whether Daniel did not,

out of his spite against the murderers of the son of Nebuchadnezzar, invent

the evil interpretation. The treatment Ahab meted out to Micaiah the son of

Imlah shows the way a tyrannical monarch may act towards one who has

uttered unpalatable prophecies against him (I Kings 22:26-27).  He might,

according to the Persian story, have proclaimed Daniel exalted to all the

promised honors, and then instantly had him executed. But, no; in noble

simplicity he fulfils his promise to the last letter, without any apparent

afterthought of vengeance. 



The Value of a Good Man (vs. 17-29)


The value to a community of a wise and good man is not to be measured by rubies.

The safety, welfare, and happiness of society hang upon him.



refuse to come when sent for in haste by the king He might have taken

occasion, from the fright of the king, to remind him of past neglect. He

might have accused the king of selfish inconsistency, in that he had

dishonored Daniel in the days of kingly prosperity, but was prompt to use

him in the hour of dire adversity. But Daniel was too noble a man on such

an occasion to think of himself. He speaks not of his good services to the

king’s grandsire, nor mentions the ill requital he had received. Nor will he

permit the king to imagine that he is now moved to render fresh service by

any prospect of reward. This very offer of royal reward had stung the mind

of the prophet with pain. Pride and mercenary selfishness were ingrained in

the nature of the king, or he would not, on an occasion like this, have

spoken of rewards. His vile, base nature could not appreciate the generous

nature of his Jewish subject. So Daniel declined the king’s proposal with

high disdain. They who are employed in the service of God are content

with the rewards which their own Master gives. It would savor of treason

if an ambassador from the British court should take the pay of a foreign

empire.  (Article I – Section 9 – Clause 8 of the United States Constitution

forbids foreign emoluments.  Bribery should have no place in society!  -

CY – 2014)


  • THE GOOD MAN’S RECOGNITION OF GOD. An ambassador to a

foreign court will be forward to present his credentials, and will take every

public opportunity of maintaining the rights of his sovereign. So, in the

very preface of his address, Daniel requires recognition of the supreme

authority of God. He reminds Belshazzar of the majesty and glory and

dominion which Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed before him — a degree of power

far superior to that wielded by Belshazzar — but even Nebuchadnezzar

had been compelled to admit that this extensive sovereignty was but a

grant from God — a trust delegated by the Most High. Even

Nebuchadnezzar was but a vassal prince, and was required to bring his

tribute to the supreme Monarch of the skies. To reject the jurisdiction of

God is contemptible folly and weakness.



effect of God’s judgments on Nebuchadnezzar ought to have been the

exhibition of pious humility in Belshazzar. God’s chastisement of a father is

intended to benefit a son, and God’s intentions cannot be frustrated with

impunity. To despise the lessons of the past is wanton sin and irreparable

loss. If Belshazzar’s pride had only been equal to that of his grandsire, the

guilt would have been greater, because he had inherited all the warnings of

the past. In proportion to men’s advantages are their responsibilities.

Daniel, though a subject and a captive, does not spare his monarch’s sins.

No prospect of preferment, no fear of disfavor, weakens the severity of

his reproofs. He charges the monarch with his haughty pride, with his

blatant atheism, his sacrilegious profanation of sacred things, his insane

trust in graven images. He arraigns his monarch, as if he were a prisoner at

the bar brought up to receive sentence for his crimes. He accuses him of

ingratitude to the God who had daily sustained him; accuses him of a

wanton misuse of power; accuses him of a flagrant abuse of the gift of life.

Now the edifice of his guilt has been crowned! Now the last element of

aggravation has been added! God’s sacred vessels have been desecrated for

human debauchery. The die is cast; the hour has struck. “Because judgment

against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the

sons of men are fully set in them to do evil.”  (Ecclesiastes 8:11)



FUTURE. God is not so highly exalted that He cannot see what occurs

upon the earth; nor is He so indifferent to human actions that He will pass

by any sin with impunity. The hand that wrote the ten commandments on

stony tablets — the hand that wrote Belshazzar’s doom upon the palace

wall — records all our misdemeanors also. Never still is that Divine hand.

The Chaldean monarch’s days were all exactly numbered; the sands had

nearly run out; there was but an hour or two for repentance. The Orientals

had a belief in future rewards and punishments, and were accustomed to

represent the supreme Judge as weighing, in the separate scales of a

balance, men’s good actions, and the bad. Here God accommodated

himself to this prevalent belief, and represented himself as weighing in his

balances the character of the king. Daniel plainly announced the result,

“Thou art weighed, and” — oh! dread conclusion — “thou art found

wanting.” The final stroke was near and overwhelming. The thunder-cloud

was, even then, gathering under the dark covert of night, and was about to

discharge its fatal contents over the doomed city. Not another sun should

rise upon Belshazzar’s earthly life. His course was run; and in his ruin ten

thousand others would be involved. We cannot sin alone; we entice others

into the fatal way.   We cannot suffer alone; we drag others into the

whirlpool of destruction. “In that night was Belshazzar, King of the

Chaldeans, slain”


30 “In that night was Belshazzar the King of the Chaldeans slain.”

 The Septuagint is here very different, “And the interpretation came upon

Belshazzar the king, and the kingdom was taken from the Chaldeans, and given

to the Medes and the Persians. There seems no possibility of connecting these two

readings so that either should be shown to have come from the other. The

Massoretic text, which is here supported by Theodotion and the Peshitta, is the

shorter; but in this instance, as neither can have sprung from the other, Brevity has

less probative force. If we look at the probability of the situation, we are

compelled to accept the Septuagint reading. If the Massoretic reading had

been the original, the dramatic completeness of the disaster, following with

such rapidity on the back of the prophecy, would certainly have been

preserved in every translation. Whereas the desire for this dramatic

completeness might lead to the Massoretic verse being fabricated. Further,

when we look at the events of the night, it seems impossible to place all of

them in the short interval of one night. The feast had begun after sundown,

for the lamps were lighted. It had already gone on some time ere

Belshazzar thought of the vessels of the house of God. Then, in contempt

of Jehovah, the guests sang praises to the gods of Babylon. It is after all

this that the writing appears. There is next the calling of the wise men, who

were in the vicinity of the palace. On their failure to explain the writing, the

other wise men are summoned by proclamation; they assemble, essay the

reading, and fail. The queen-mother comes — either is called, or, hearing

the tumult, comes in herself — and tells Belshazzar of Daniel. Daniel is

summoned, and reads the writing. Even if we maintain — although it does

not seem the natural reading of the passage — that the proclamation of a

reward to him who could read the writing followed immediately on the

order to call in the astrologers and other wise men, still, it is difficult to

imagine all the events, especially the summoning of all the wise men in

Babylon by proclamation, and the finding out of Daniel and bringing him to

the court, taking place in one night, and that in that very night was

Belshazzar slain. On the other hand, the Septuagint makes no such demand

on our belief. According to it, the prophecy was not so closely connected

with its fulfillment. The feast recorded here may have taken place six, eight,

or ten years before the actual fall of Babylon. We know that from his

seventh year till some time between his eleventh and seventeenth year

Nahunahid was in Tema. This feast might be the inauguration of

Belshazzar’s viceroyalty; in that case it would be nearly ten years before

the capture of Babylon by Cyrus. If that is so, the supposed contradiction

between this verse and ch. 8:1 vanishes. We need only look at the

various theories of who Belshazzar was. Niebuhr assumes it as a second

name for Evil-Merodach — a view for which Keil has some sympathy.

Niebuhr ingeniously combines the statement from Berosus, that his reign

was ἀνόμως καὶ ἀσελγῶςanomos kai aselgoslawless and

licentious.  This, however, might mean a favor for the Jews, shown by the

special honor given to Jehoiachin — a thing which would be readily

regarded by the Babylonians as “lawless and outrageous.”

He maintains that the change of dynasty implied in Babylon was the

assumption of the supremacy by Astyages the Mede, who, according to

Niebuhr, is Darius the Mede. After one year’s personal reign, he placed

Neriglissar on the throne. This view is definitely contradicted by the

contract tables, which have no reference to a reign between Evil-Merodach

and Neriglissar. The other theory is that he is Labasi-Marduk. This view is

maintained by Delitzsch and Ebrard. All of them assume the murder of the

king the very night of the feast — a thing which is in the teeth of

probability, and not supported by the Septuagint reading.


31 “And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about

three score and two years old.”   It is probable that the Massoretic division

of the chapters here is to be preferred. According to it, this verse is

assigned to the begining of the next chapter, but most of the more ancient

versions, Theodotion, the Peshitta, and the Vulgate, agree with our English

arrangement. The Septuagint, like the Massoretic text, assigns this verse to

the sixth chapter. Its rendering manifests several striking peculiarities,

“And Artaxerxes of the Medes (παρέλαβεparalabe received) the kingdom,

and  Darius was full of days, and reverend (ἔνδοξοςendoxosglorious;

renowned; honored) in old age.” This is the product of doublets ארְטַחְשַׁשְׁתְ,

Artaxerxes, being suggested by some scribe as in his opinion a more probable

name than Darius. So the one name begins the first clause, and the other the

second. The last clause is evidently due to כְּבַר] (kebar), “about” (“as the son of”),

being read כַבֵר (kaber), “great,” “multiplied” — a meaning this word has in Syriac,

but not in Chahlee (Genesis 35:11). Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the

Massoretic text. The uncertainty as to the name has to be noted. We shall

reserve for fuller discussion the question of Darius the Mede, only we

would say that the name not improbably was modified from a less-known

name to one somewhat like it but well known. We know that “Go-baru,”

or “OybaruGobryas,” in Greek — was appointed governor by Cyrus

when he conquered Babylon, and that, in the script of the Sindschirli

monuments, Gobryas, <ARAMAIC> or <ARAMAIC>. is not unlike

Darius. One point to be noted is the fact that the verb used is wrongly

translated “took.” <ARAMAIC>really means “received.” When this is said,

we naturally expect some one, either God or man, from whom he has

received this honor. If this purported to be a history of Babylonia, then it

might be reasoned that the implied source from whom the kingdom was

received was God; in such a case קבל would be used of one who

succeeded to the kingdom by inheritance; this cannot be the meaning here.

In this passage it is merely incidentally mentioned in order to explain the

events that immediately follow. The more natural interpretation is that he

was put on the throne by another person, his superior. 




At the Bar of God (vs. 17-31)


“The God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast

thou not glorified” (v. 23). In this tremendous scene Daniel may be

regarded as counsel for the crown — for the everlasting crown, for the

throne of eternal righteousness, against the unhappy prisoner placed by

these awful events at the bar. As such he is the representative of all earnest

preachers of righteousness. He was marked by zeal for the right of the

crown; fidelity to the position; sympathy for the arraigned (this may be

argued from what we know and have seen of Daniel); fearlessness; and

absolute disinterestedness (v. 17, Any honors given and received might

have been recognized by any new king). All these should make every one

that pleads with man or against man (ultimately to win the man to the right

side) for God.


  • THE INDICTMENT. In order to make forcible modern applications, it

will be better to formulate the indictment in the most general way.

Belshazzar’s particular sins may not be just ours; but he and we both

commit sins that fall under like categories.


Ø      Infidelity to accorded revelations. (v. 22.)

Ø      Substituting shadows for God. (v. 23.) In the king’s case there had

been inflation of himself against God; sacrilege; indecency;

drunkenness; prostration before idols, which are “nothing in the world.”

(I Corinthians 8:4)  The inflations, profanities, improprieties, sensualisms,

and idolatries of the twenty-first century differ in form, but are quite as

real as those of Belshazzar.

Ø      Failure in mans prime duty; viz. to glorify God.


o       The duty. To honor God. We put the highest honor on Him when

we repeat His likeness. To glorify God is to REFLECT GOD,

 as the  lake does the heaven above with all its light. This the final

end of our creation.

o       Its ground. Our complete dependence. That dependent life should

be a devoted life is a truth of natural religion (see v. 23).

o       The default is so general and notorious as to require no proof

(“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” –

Romans 3:23).


  • THE AGGRAVATIONS OF GUILT. The king’s guilt had been

aggravated by what he had been permitted to see of the way of the Divine

mercy and of the Divine judgment.


Ø      The vision of the Divine goodness, in his grandfathers prosperity.

(vs. 18-19.)

Ø      The vision of sin, in his grandfathers misuse of position. (v. 20.)

Ø      The vision of judgment, in his grandfathers punishment. (v. 21.)

Ø      The vision of mercy, in his grandfathers restoration. (v. 21.)


o       For every sinner a vision of the great realities of the moral world.

o       Coming oft in very affecting forms, as here, through the experience

of the near and dear.


  • THE ABSENCE OF DEFENSE. The sinner dumb at the eternal bar.

No defense possible. Judgment goes by default. There is no counsel for

defense; for there is no defense. Sentence must pass. The only thing that

can be done IS TO BE DONE NOW!  There is a free pardon through


            See How to Be Saved - # 5 – This website – CY – 2014)


  • THE JUDGMENT OF THE COURT. Of the supreme court — the

court of heaven — the judgment of God against the sinner; in this case

written with the very finger of God — the same finger which traced ages

before “the Law of the ten words.” In the Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin,”

read these permanent truths:


Ø      The day of probation is limited. “Numbered!” and numbered to the end!

Ø      The character of the probationer is exactly estimated. “Weighed!” Yes,

and found light. God does as perfectly know a man’s true character as the

goldsmith knows the weight of that which he has weighed in the nicest

scales. Note the moral import of phrases like this: “a man of weight and

character; .... a light and frivolous man.”

Ø      Deprivation of endowment is the punishment of infidelity to trust.

“Divided!” Given away (see parable of the talents  - Matthew 25:14-30).


  • EXECUTION. It was:


Ø      Swift upon the climax of a life of sin. “In that night.”

Ø      Sure. By an agent long prepared (Isaiah 14:1-6).

Ø      Sudden. Utterly unexpected.


  • A GLEAM OF HOPE. The king died sober: did he die penitent.? The

way in which he received the awful words of Daniel look very like it

(v. 29). A star of hope shines above the dark cloud in the horizon.



The Word of God Verified (vs. 30-31)


It is not often that the word of Divine warning is so swiftly and so visibly

accomplished as it was here. Frequently God allows time (according to

human calculation) to intervene. Yet, in every case, the agency is set in

motion, so soon as the purpose is formed, and that agency, whether it

moves slowly or swiftly, moves surely to its end. But the idea of time is

human. The structure of the human mind compels us to introduce the

element of duration. But God is superior to this limitation. “With him a

thousand years are as one day,” and vice versa (II Peter 3:8)


  • THE SWIFTNESS OF THE RETRIBUTION. Although this one act of

sacrilege and self-debauchery is the only event in Belshazzar’s life which is

recorded in the page of sacred history, we are warranted in the conclusion

that his public life, and probably his earlier private life, were series of guilty

and impious acts. No man reaches great excesses of sin at a single step. In

all likelihood God had condescended to warn and counsel Belshazzar again

and yet again, and this last daring act of defiance was the CLIMAX OF

HIS DEGENERATE COURSE!   This was Belshazzar’s reply to God’s

Patient expostulations, and sudden destruction was the most fitting penalty.

We are surprised, not at the rapid execution of God’s warnings, but at His

unparalleled forbearance.


  • THE SUDDENNESS OF THE CALAMITY. We are not informed by

Daniel the minute steps of the royal overthrow; but possibly Belslhazzar

had retired to rest, little supposing that retribution was at his very door. It

may be that his senses had been overcome by wine and fear; that deep

stupor succeeded, as the natural reaction of his sensual excess; and. that

the noise of the city’s capture did not reach his ear. Very likely he heard no

rumor of alarm until some bold and reckless besiegers gained the palace,

and slew the king in his bed. In this case he scarcely woke to die. It is not

an uncommon thing for punishment to come on the ungodly at last,

suddenly, as “A THIEF IN THE NIGHT!”  (This will be the scenario

at the end of time!  (I Thessalonians 5:2; II Peter 3:10).  At the moment

when Daniel declared the heavenly Monarch’s will, AMENDMENT

WAS TOO LATE!   The king was not in possession of his faculties.

He had drowned them in the wine-cup; and, before the fumes of his

 intoxication had worn off, HE WAS A CORPSE!   Our sin


Esau, who forsook his birthright, No place for repentance was found,

though he and we seek it carefully, and with tears.  (Hebrews 12:17)


  • THE COMPLETENESS OF HIS DOOM. It was not a partial

disaster, such as the infliction of disease or the loss of his crown; not such

a disaster as might yet be repaired by reformation or obedience. It was:


Ø      complete,

Ø      final, and

Ø      irreparable.


In a moment every possession he held ceased.  His sovereign power, his

worldly possessions, his health, his life, his hope, — all were destroyed

at a single blow. The stroke was overwhelming.  Nothing was left behind

but an obnoxious reputation — a beacon to future voyagers. No human

mind can estimate the extent of that calamity. What blacker hell can there

be than for a man to awake to consciousness in the next life with a sense

 that HE HAS LOST ALL?   He had a splendid opportunity,

but he wasted it! He might have gained heaven, but he has irretrievably

failed. Existence has become intolerable misery. (“What shall it profit

a man to gain the whole world and to lose his own soul?”  - Matthew

16:26; Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25)  Now he is compelled to hear this knell of

doom, “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still.”  (Revelation 22:11)



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