Daniel Five

(Ulrike Unruh)

In Revelation an angel says, “Come, I will show you the judgment of…Babylon…that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth…for her sins have reached unto heaven and God has remembered her iniquities…the Lord God judges her…in one hour she is made desolate.” (Rev. 17:1,5,18; 18:5,8,19) In Daniel five we see ancient Babylon on the eve of her destruction. This account helps us to understand the judgment of mystic Babylon at the end of earth's history.

The stories in the book of Daniel reveal God’s dealings with individual kings and people as well as with nations. These stories emphasize that the attitude people have towards God of heaven is of great importance in regards to their well being both in this life and in their hope for eternal life. God never deals arbitrarily with men or angels. He is the author of life, of salvation and justice. He bestows His gifts, He offers salvation, but He also investigates and judges.

5.1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.

The name Belshazzar means “Bel protect the king”. Bel was a name for the chief god of Babylon, Marduk. Belshazzar was in great need for protection at this moment. The Babylonian empire was suffering defeat from the hands of the invading Medes and Persians who had been united under Cyrus. Apparently King Nabonidus had returned from Tema in hopes of defending the empire, but years of absentee government left him rather powerless. The rich eastern province of Gutium fell with hardly any real resistance. Nabonidus rallied an army and fought against Cyrus near the city of Opis. It was a short battle and Nabonidus was forced to flee to the south. Cyrus marched on to Sipper and takes the town without conquest. The Persian army next besieges the city of Babylon itself.

These were the circumstances of that night when Belshazzar decided to celebrate a great festival with great pomp and revelry. After all, Babylon was fortified like no city before or after, it had enough food stored within its walls to last ten years or more.

In the face of doom, Belshazzar celebrates!

Prophetic message--
Modern Babylon, at the end of time, seeks to banish any thoughts of “preparing for the day of the Lord” and encourages all to simply celebrate. The modern message which people term “the gospel“, is that all who believe in Christ are saved, don’t worry about keeping God’s commandments too rigidly, we are not under the law, we’ve been freed from it’s yoke, don’t worry about fundamental doctrines, don’t get all uptight about end time prophecies, just celebrate your salvation. The whole vocabulary of worship is changed into “celebrating” this, and “celebrating” that.

In ancient Babylon, the celebration worked to dull the minds to any danger though they were at the very eve of disaster, so charismatic celebration in the churches with its hypnotic music, and aversion to serious indepth Bible study, dulls the minds, and will totally leave it’s participants unprepared for the fast closing events just before us.

5.2 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.

Belshazzar drinks his wine before the others. He being king, sits at the “head table” where he sets the mood as to how the festivities are to commence. His drinking wine before the others is a signal that all should follow his lead. Yet, this king is setting the example which will lead all his guests to drunkenness.

Prophetic lesson:
Our thoughts move ahead to Revelation chapter 17 and there we see “Babylon” with a cup in her hand and she makes all nations drunk with her wine! Like the wine benumbed the minds of the people at Belshazzar’s feast, so the wine of modern Babylon benumbs the minds of people-- but, as Isaiah explains, “they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink…for them the vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll…they come near to me with their mouth but their hearts are far from me (Is. 29:11-13).

Back in ancient Babylon it is the last night of life for the king. Some slept in unconscious drunkenness, some continued in their revelling under the intoxicating influence of the wine. Music resounded through brilliantly lighted and decorated rooms. Belshazzar makes a command, he would prove that nothing was to sacred for him to handle. Thus he ordered that the sacred vessels Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, be brought in so they could drink from them.

These vessels had been sanctified by the God of heaven for holy use. Belshazzar would use them for his party. His sin was using that which was sanctified for common use.

Prophetic lesson:
In Genesis 2:1-3 we read that God blessed the seventh day, sanctified it, that is set it apart for holy purposes, and by His example made it a day of rest. Yet the Sabbath of the Lord has been used as a common working day. Other things that have been sanctified to the Lord are also treated as common. Reverence in God’s house, the sanctity of marriage, the holiness of worship, nothing tends to be regarded as “sacred” anymore.

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. 5.4

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

This is a “religious” feast as we see references to “praising the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood and stone.” (See Daniel two) So why not take sacred vessels from a temple to use in a religious feast? Don’t all religions lead to the same god? Don’t all religions aim to approach God and so whichever one you follow will get you to Him? What makes one religion more “sacred” than another? Is this not the sentiments we hear today? Why not celebrate with ALL the methods men have used to find “god”?

Why not take the sacredness God gave the 7th day, and even the name “Sabbath” and wrap it around another day, a day that was never sanctified by the Lord and call it the Lord‘s day, a day which possesses no sanctity whatever and cloth it with the attributes of God’s holy Sabbath day. It’s still worship, is it not?

Or, is God particular?
Yes, God is particular, because these other “paths” do not lead to HIM at all. Their destinations wind their way to different gods, not to the God with consistent moral requirements.

5.5 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.

Suddenly a mysterious, bloodless hand appeared writing blazing letters on the wall. The words were visible, but unintelligible to the terror stricken revellers. It appears that the king alone saw the hand that wrote, -- the hand of a power far greater than he.

Once before, in the history of man, God's hand wrote a message for mankind. God engraved the Law on tablets of stone. These were not written by the hand of a man but by the Lord’s own finger.

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.

In the light of a special lampstand the king saw the hand moving as it wrote the message upon the plaster wall. He was seized with symptoms of extreme fear. He had been sure that he was equal to the gods, but now the intrusion of the supernatural left him in a state of shock and collapse.

Prophetic lesson:
In the last days, Babylon again claims divine prerogatives and "causes all nations to drink the wine of the wrath of her fornication", she has taken things sanctified by God for His holy purposes. She will impose upon the world a false worship. They have taken the sacred Sabbath day, which the Lord our God blessed, and sanctified, from its true place in God's worship, first claiming that God's commandments are no longer binding upon them. They have desecrated it, then they take the attributes of this day the Lord our God blessed and sanctified, and transfer them to another day , setting up a day that God never sanctified, and which was used to praise the powers of pagan gods and enforcing that day as the Lord's day.

But man is not above the Creator and Law giver of the universe. Just like that bloodless hand at Belshazzar's feast, the day will come when--

there appears against the sky a hand holding two tables of stone folded together. Says the prophet: "The heavens shall declare His righteousness: for God is judge Himself." Psalm 50:6. That holy law, God's righteousness, that amid thunder and flame was proclaimed from Sinai as the guide of life, is now revealed to men as the rule of judgment. The hand opens the tables, and there are seen the precepts of the Decalogue, traced as with a pen of fire. The words are so plain that all can read them. Memory is aroused, the darkness of superstition and heresy is swept from every mind, and God's ten words, brief, comprehensive, and authoritative, are presented to the view of all the inhabitants of the earth.

It is impossible to describe the horror and despair of those who have trampled upon God's holy requirements. The Lord gave them His law; they might have compared their characters with it and learned their defects while there was yet opportunity for repentance and reform; but in order to secure the favor of the world, they set aside its precepts and taught others to transgress. They have endeavored to compel God's people to profane His Sabbath. Now they are condemned by that law which they have despised. With awful distinctness they see that they are without excuse. They chose whom they would serve and worship. "Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not." Malachi 3:18.

The enemies of God's law, from the ministers down to the least among them, have a new conception of truth and duty. Too late they see that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is the seal of the living God. Too late they see the true nature of their spurious sabbath and the sandy foundation upon which they have been building. They find that they have been fighting against God. Religious teachers have led souls to perdition while professing to guide them to the gates of Paradise. Not until the day of final accounts will it be known how great is the responsibility of men in holy office and how terrible are the results of their unfaithfulness. Only in eternity can we rightly estimate the loss of a single soul. Fearful will be the doom of him to whom God shall say: [You are weighed in the balance and found wanting]. GC 639-640

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 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.

How quickly the revelry ceased. Conscience was awakened. The fear and dread that overwhelms the guilty conscience when in the presence of the law Giver completely erases the self aggrandizement, and boastfulness of the human creature. The guests at the festival see that the king, who had magnified himself as superior over the God of heaven, is now in a state of collapse and uncontrollable terror, desperately calling out for help to decipher the words on the wall.

The music dies away, the loud laughter ceases, as a thousand guests look from the form of the quivering, terror-stricken king to the writing on the wall.

He is offering them a position in the kingdom next to himself (his father Nabonidius being the “first” ruler of the empire) if they can tell him what the words mean.

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.

It’s strange that the wise men who taught languages, could not read the writing. Yet, the theme is consistant throughout the book of Daniel -- earthly wisemen are totally incapable of interpreting divine messages. We saw it in Daniel two and again in Daniel four, now here, the earthly wise men are helpless and incapable when it came to explaining God’s truths.

Prophetic lesson:
In the last days the scientists, scholars and intellectuals who are not connected with the true God, will be totally astonished by, and incapable of explaining God’s truths. This lesson is repeated so often in the book of Daniel, that we must take it serious and not look to the intellectuals of this world to explain divine truths.

5.9 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.
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:

When the wise men of Babylon were unable to read the writing on the wall, the kings’ terror increased. There was no doubt in his mind that the words were a rebuke to his life and actions, but he desperately wanted to know just what they said.

The queen mother enters and reminds the king of Daniel. Some commentators think this was Nabonidius’ mother, Shamua Damqu, but this can’t be, for the Nabonidius chronicles record her death in the ninth year of his reign. The queen-mother, is most likely Nitocris, the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, mother of Belshazzar and the wife of Nabonidius.

5.11 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;
5.12 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.

The queen mother remembered Daniel, who, over half a century before had made known to King Nebuchadnezzar the dream of the great image and its interpretation, she remembered the also the dream of the great tree and it’s fulfilment.

Why does she stress the words “your father” so much. Belshazzar was the son of Nebonidius. Yet his mother stresses his relationship through her to the great king Nebuchadnezzar. Obviously the queen holds her father, Nebuchadnezzar in high regard. He was a king in the true sense of the word. and wishes her son would emulate her father.

One must stop to wonder. When Nebuchadnezzar was converted, after his seven years of mental illness, it must have affected those around him. We can be sure the hierarchy of wisemen, priests, magicians and Chaldeans were sorely displeased for this type of conversion was totally against Babylonian culture. But Nebuchadnezzar was too powerful a king for them to do much about it.

Then his son, the real son and successor to Nebuchnezzar’s ascends to the throne at his father’s death. Amel-Marduk however is assassinated within two years of his reign. Not much is known of him except the general thought that “he ruled badly”.

The Bible has this to say about Nebuchnezzar’s son Amel-Marduk

2 Kings 25.27-30 and Jeremiah 52:31-34 And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the year that he began to reign did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison; And he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the Kings that were with him in Babylon; And changed his prison garments: and he did eat bread continually before him all the days of his life.

There is evidence suggesting that Abednego, one of the three young men from Daniel 3, was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar as Amel-Marduks secretary, and that Daniel was his chief officer. This, with the Biblical affirmation that the former king of Jerusalem was taken from prison and became a favored member of his court, causes one to wonder if this king, Amil-Marduk, who reaped the wrath of the Babylonian hierarchy and was assassinated within two years of his reign, might not have continued in Nebuchadnezzar's new faith; something the powerful priestly society in Babylon would not tolerate.

Belshazzar’s mother, may be hinting here that any true descendant of the great king Nebuchadnezzar, a true son of the great king would act differently, and not be a pawn in the hands of the Babylonian hierarchy, but like Nebuchadnezzar place a man with a real connection to a real God in charge.

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?
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.
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 show the interpretation of the thing:
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.
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.

Hurriedly they sent for Daniel, who is now an elderly man. The king promises Daniel rich rewards if he unravel the meaning of the words.

A single hour remained for the kingdom of Babylon. What good is the reward of earthly riches and prestige now? Daniel is not interested in the offers, but rather gives the message as it comes from God.

5.18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:
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.
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:
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 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;

Daniel reminds the king of the history of Nebuchadnezzar. It is obvious from the account that Belshazzar was well aware of the situation. When a king is converted in a society like Babylon, it would make a big impacted, and Belshazzar no doubt knew all about his grandfather’s conversion, he probably knew all about his uncle’s favourable leanings toward the God the Jews had introduced to him, he knew his uncle had been assassinated. He was acquainted with the stiff opposition of the powerful Babylonian priestly class to the God of the Jews. There was no doubt that the issues had been abundantly evident to this king who was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar through his mother, but whose literal father was a usurper of the throne.

Belshazzar had made a very definite choice, he would follow the pagan gods, and despise the true God in open defiance, as being just another god, like all the other gods, whose divinely appointed things could be used in false worship at his own command.

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:

The three angels’s messages can be seen these verses--

“Fear God and give glory to Him for the hour of His judgment is come, worship him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, … but he that worships the beast and his image…the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.” (Rev. 14)

Belshazzar refused to worship the ONE who had created him. God is not just “the God of the Jews” He is the Creator of all mankind, the giver of life and breath. Yet men, would rather praise other gods, who allow them to be in control of the god. One can do anything they want, praising these gods that don’t see, hear, or judge. The wine of false teachings flows freely till all are too drunk to care about truth. They think that as long as they celebrate and praise “gods” all will be fine. But God is glorified by the changed lives of His followers, not by the drunken stupor of celebration feasts. When God pours out HIS WINE, there is a quick and terrible sobering.

5.24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.
5.25 And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
5.26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
5.27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
5.28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

The hand that wrote the letters was no longer visible the letters themselves gleamed from the plaster wall. In the last night of revelry Babylon had filled up her cup of guilt. God had worked wonders and signs for the Babylonian people, He had given them blessings and prosperity, with tenderness and patience He had tried to turn them to Himself, the only true God, but the strange perversity of the human heart had clung to their idolatry and self glorification. The faithful watcher had kept an account. There is an investigative judgment where people and nations are weighed in the weigh scale of God. We cannot escape from our accountability to Him. People can boisterously advance in defiance of God’s law until they pass the boundary, and when their names come up in the investigative judgement it will be seen that they are “weighed and wanting”.

Christ is the judge who does the investigating, the weighing. Men have all sorts of weights that they think are going to satisfy, but they will find that they are altogether vanity, and lighter than vanity.

The ultimate truth is that man can NEVER “lift up his heart” and say I am righteous, I am good, look at my goodness, surely I will have enough weight in the scales of the investigative judgment to satisfy any god.

No, the achieving moral man is as guilty as the rest. His morality cannot save him. "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3, 5).

It took Nebuchadnezzar seven years of “madness” to learn that his glory was not what counted. It was his submission to God.

"Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3).

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

If we had to live forever with our sins in the handwriting of God on the wall, it would be hell on earth. But thank God for the Gospel of Jesus Christ whose blood can cancel the sins! If we repent, our sins will all be blotted out.

It is for the eternal interest of every one to search his own heart, for there is nothing God does not see. Come to God for cleansing, for renewal. He is God, and He alone can fill the heart submitted to Him with His righteousness, so the balances will not be “wanting”.

Now is the day of salvation, do not wait until it's too late, like Belshazzar.

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.
5.30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.

This is the executive judgment. When Christ comes to execute judgment, earthly kingdoms cease. The wicked are slain.

That very night, in Babylon, while Belshazzar was celebrating to his gods, Cyrus’ army was outside the walls of Babylon diverting the river, till they could walk under the gates. While still in the banquet room, his fate sealed, the king is informed that “his city Is taken”. The army now enters the palace, and Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans is slain” Another nation took over the throne of Babylon.

As it was in the days of [Belshazzar], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be, they were eating and drinking, celebrating with wives and concubines, even assigning people to high office, until the hour came and took them all away.

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Cyrus and the Drying of the Euphrates
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