Chapter four of Daniel was a written testimony of King Nebuchadnezzar. He described how God humbled him and how being humbled caused him to finally acknowledge that the Most High was the only one to have full authority and gives and takes away as he wills. Like many people today, the king had to endure hitting rock bottom before he would acknowledge God’s sovereignty.
Everything begins to shift starting in Chapter 5 of Daniel. Chapter 5 takes place 23 years after the king’s restoration to the throne and a lot has happened during these years. It is also 70 years past chapter 1. Do you know what that means? Babylon would rule over Israel for 70 years, the 70 years is now up.
Daniel is in his late 80’s. After 43 years of reigning King Nebuchadnezzar has died and his “son” is now the ruler of Babylon. Daniel didn’t list what has happened over the last 27 years, so I’ll fill you in.
After Neb’s death the empire began to deteriorate. Neb reigned 43 years of the 70, his son Amel-Murduk aka evil-Merodach (mentioned in 2 Kings 25; Jer. 52) was next in line, during his reign he released Jehoiachim from prison.
Amel-Murduk reigned for two of the 70 years and was killed by his brother in law Nergel-Sharezar aka Neriglissar who was next to rule the land. Nergel reigned for four years (Jer. 39), he aided in Jeremiah being released from prison.
Nergel was succeeded by his son Labashi-Marduk. Labashi was a child and only ruled for nine months when he was beaten to death by conspirators.
One of those conspirators appointed a man named Nabodidus to be monarch, he was no relation to Nebuchadnezzar at all, he had no noble blood, yet he ruled for 17 years. Constantly looking over his back because his right to the throne wasn’t legit and he was constantly being threatened. He did marry one of Neb’s family members and this solidified his claim to the throne as regent.
There is uncertainty if Nabodidus adopted the noble son or was the biological father, either way this child is named Belshazzar and this brings us to Chapter 5. Belshazzar is probably the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar which is why they use the term “son”. Grandson and son were basically viewed as the same, same blood line.
It was during Nabonidus’ reign that Cyrus the king of the Medes-Persians began making strides to conquer Babylon. Nabonidus was captured and held captive until he died, leaving his son completely in charge of Babylon, prior to this they worked together to run the empire. Belshazzar is about 36 years old; he was known to be decadent, idolatrous, immoral, and unworthy. Nevertheless, he was heir to the throne, and he was sitting on that throne the night Babylon fell.
Read chapter 5 of Daniel
The scriptures read as though Cyrus and his army came out of nowhere, but Cyrus and his army have been surrounding this walled fortress and they’ve began their process to seize Babylon. They have already made strategic attacks throughout the land and they are on target to take the last step in being the next world kingdom.
While being fully surrounded Belshazzar is still living in Babylon and instead of protecting his kingdom he decided to ignore the coming war. He felt that he was secure and that nothing could get to him or take away his kingdom and his power. Belshazzar chose, instead, to have a grand feast. A party to beat all parties. This party would rival any frat house party of today’s world.
In attendance was 1,000 of his lords, his wives were all there as well as his concubines. The best wine was served, and the king drank it freely and heavily before his guests, so much so he became a bit tipsy, he had a buzz, he was drunk.
Drinking from the palace’s ordinary wine glasses wasn’t cutting it, so Belshazzar got the brainy idea to use the gold and silver wine vessels his grandfather confiscated when he took over Israel, the very vessels that the priests used that were property of the temple of God. The king is now serving wine in the very vessels that are to be used to honor God. Not only is he oblivious, but he is also now desecrating, blaspheming, and openly defying the God of Israel.
Drinking from these vessels and getting drunk wasn’t enough, the king and his guests took it a step further. They began to worship a slew of their fake gods. They used holy vessels to worship false gods.
Earlier I said this was the frat party of all frat parties. This scene wasn’t just a booze party, this was a full tilt heathen party filled with loud vulgar music, alcohol, sensual dancing, orgies, and all sorts of nakedness, let’s not forget the potions aka drug abuse. Hardcore partying going on here.
It was at the epitome of this horrific party that a man’s hand or fingers appeared by the lamp and began writing on the plastered wall behind the king. At the time you least expect it, is when God will appear. When the sex, drugs and alcohol were at their climax is the time when God’s hand began to move. The very word of God was written in stone.
God wrote his word on the plastered wall by the lampstand. The word of God was placed by the light, the one place it could be easily seen by everyone. The moment the king saw the hand his countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him. He became very concerned; fear of God had stricken him emotionally and physically because even the joints in his hips became loose and his knees began knocking. I picture him crumbling, collapsing onto his throne in fear.
Then he began to shout, crying aloud for help. Demanding his Chaldeans, astrologers and soothsayers be brought to him immediately. He wanted his wise men to brought in to help him understand what was going on.
The king wasn’t concerned in the slightest about what was happening on the outside of the city, but what was taking place on the inside was another story. Isn’t that true, what happens on the inside is what makes the difference.
These wise men were useless when king Neb needed them most, and here it is 70 years later, and they are still useless. Belshazzar even sweetened the deal for them, promising to give them a high place of honor, but even that was of no use. Only God can interpret the written word of God. Only God give understanding of his word.
Hearing the commotion, listening to the conversation, and seeing that it was going nowhere fast, the queen enters the banquet hall with good news. This is most likely the “queen mother” as the wives of the king were already at the party and there was no mention of him mother being in attendance (vs. 10). Being the mom of a 37-year-old, and the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar she would have known who Daniel was.
She explained how she knew of a man who had the Spirit of God. She shared how God would speak through Daniel and she urged the king to call on him. Guess what? He did, he was desperate after all. Daniel was brought before the king to read the written word of God.
In verse 17 Daniel begins by telling the king how God is the one who gave Nebuchadnezzar a kingdom, his majesty, his glory, and honor. It’s because of what God gave the king that the people feared him. The king was given the power to give life and to take life, he was able to promote and demote whomever he wanted, but when the king’s heart was hardened with pride that is when God removed his kingdom, his majesty, his glory, and his honor from him.
Daniel also told Belshazzar how his father/grandfather was made, by God, to live like an animal in the wild for seven years until he finally relented and acknowledged that the Most High God rules everything.
Verse 22 is where Daniel drops the news, he gets to the point telling the king, “You Belshazzar have not humbled your heart, you’ve blasphemed and defiled the holy property of God by using his vessels to worship other gods. You chose not to worship the true God, the God who holds your breath in his own hand.”
Then the interpretation was given:
Mene: God numbers your kingdom and finished it. Your number is up, you are out of time.
Tekel: You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. You’re not worth your weight. You took things too lightly, didn’t take God seriously.
Peres: Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes-Persians. You didn’t do what was expected of you and now you are being replaced.
While King Belshazzar was living the high life without a care in the world with his false sense of security the Medes-Persians were busy moving forward in life. While the Babylonians partied like it was 1999, the Medes-Persians were outside the walled fortress digging tunnels and building dams. They dammed up the Euphrates, diverted the water to a swampland which at the precise moment flooded the banquet hall. The now shallow water allowed the soldiers to walk through the empty riverbed, under the massive wall and right into Babylon. Once inside they killed the guards, opened the gates, the army flooded in causing the city to fall in one fell swoop. With one shot Belshazzar was assassinated.
Belshazzar was in the worst possible place when he was killed. He literally died in his sin. He was drunk, covered in the filth of his sinful lust. He died in the sins he worshipped. Two hundred years later Alexander the Great will have a similar fate, he will also die while in a drunken stupor.