Daniel 5:1-31

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Text: Daniel 5

BELSHAZZAR’S FEAST

INTRODUCTION:

Let me refresh your memory on a few things. The year Daniel 5 occurred was 539 B.C.

Sixty-six years earlier in 605 B.C. Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

We read about this in Daniel 1:1-2 .

Daniel 1:1-21 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.

Belshazzar was the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar and according to Daniel 5:22 , he knew some things Nebuchadnezzar had experienced.

There was Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 .

Daniel 2:20-2220 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: 22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.

Daniel 2:46-4746 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. 47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.

There was the episode of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3 .

Daniel 3:23-2923 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. 27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.

There was Nebuchadnezzar’s vision and its interpretation in Daniel 4 .

Daniel 4:10-1710 Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. 11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: 12 The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. 13 I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; 14 He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: 15 Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: 16 Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. 17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

Daniel 4:24-2524 This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: 25 That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.

Daniel 4:29-3729 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. 30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. 32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. 33 The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. 34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? 36 At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. 37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

I. BELSHAZZAR MADE A CONTRIBUTION TO THE FEAST: CONTEMPT FOR GOD AND THE THINGS OF GOD – 5:1-4

1. Belshazzar showed contempt for the Medes and Persians who were outside the city walls, having laid siege to the city of Babylon.

The walls were high and thick. They were impregnable. There were supplies stored in Babylon which would sustain it for 20 years. They had an unlimited water supply because the Euphrates River flowed right through the city.

According to the historian Herodotus, Babylon’s protecting walls were 87 feet thick and 350 feet high dominated by 250 watchtowers and encircled by a moat 35 feet wide.

There was enough pasture land available within the walls to sustain the populace for 25 years under siege. The Euphrates River flowed diagonally across the city furnishing an unfailing supply of water.

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

Daniel 5:2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father [i.e. grandfather] 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.

Daniel 5:3 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.

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

II. GOD MADE A CONTRIBUTION TO THE FEAST: THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL – 5:5-6

Daniel 5:5 In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

Daniel 5:6 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.

III. DANIEL MADE A CONTRIBUTION TO THE FEAST: AN ANNOUNCEMENT OF DOOM – 5:7-29

Daniel 5:7 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 shew 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.

Belshazzar was co-reigning with his father Nabonidus. They would be first and second rulers in Babylon. Whoever would read this writing and show the king the interpretation of it would be the third ruler. Of course, it would not last through the night.

Daniel 5:8 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.

Daniel 5:9 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied [i.e. astonished, perplexed, baffled].

Daniel 5:10 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:

The queen. Belshazzar’s mother or, perhaps, grandmother. She would either have been Nebuchadnezzar’s wife or daughter. In either case she would have been familiar with Daniel.

Daniel 5:11 There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods [i.e. of the holy God]; 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;

Daniel 5:12 Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing 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 shew the interpretation.

Daniel 5:13 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?

Daniel 5:14 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.

Daniel 5:15 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 shew the interpretation of the thing:

Daniel 5:16 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.

Daniel 5:17 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.

Daniel 5:18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:

Daniel 5:19 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.

Daniel 5:20 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:

Daniel 5:21 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.

5:22-23 – Daniel accused Belshazzar of pride, desecrating the vessels from God’s Temple, and idolatry.

Daniel 5:22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;

Daniel 5:23 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:

Daniel 5:24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.

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

The writing was not in an unknown language, though possibly in an unusual script and perhaps also mixed up as an anagram. In any case the meaning was unknown until Daniel interpreted it.

Daniel 5:26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

Daniel 5:27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

Daniel 5:28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

PERES. The singular of PHARSIN (v. 25; the U means “and”).

Daniel 5:29 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.

IV. DARIUS MADE A CONTRIBUTION TO THE FEAST: THE DESTRUCTION OF BABYLON, 5:30-31

Daniel 5:30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.

Though the city had been under a long siege, the Babylonians thought they were secure, having stored 20 years of supplies and having the Euphrates River flowing through the city. The night of the banquet the enemy had diverted the water of the Euphrates by means of a canal linked to a lake, which enabled the soldiers to enter under the gates. Both Herodotus and Xenophon describe this. The date was Oct. 12, 539 B.C.

Herodotus tells us how it happened. Darius divided the attacking troops into three forces. One was stationed at the place where the river entered Babylon, and another was stationed where the river left Babylon. The third diverted the water. When the river bed was dry enough to permit them to enter it, they entered the city, surprised the defenders, and took the town in tact.

Daniel 5:31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

Darius. His identity is uncertain. He may have been Gubaru, a governor under Cyrus the king of Persia; or Darius may be another name for Cyrus himself; or he may have been Cambyses, son of Cyrus, who served as ruler of Babylon.

CONCLUSION:

Although God used Babylon to punish Israel, God also punished Babylon for its treatment of Israel. It shows as Nebuchadnezzar learned that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. God would raise up Cyrus who would permit the Jews to return to Palestine four years after the fall of Babylon, in 535 B.C.