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Daniel Chapter 5

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

I asked my women's group while they were on break to read the first half of Daniel, specifically looking for indications in the text of God's sovereignty. The theme of the book of Daniel is God is sovereign. He is sovereign over the nations/ kingdoms and over individual lives. I wrote some posts on the history leading up to the book of Daniel, and indications of God's sovereignty in chapters 1-4. If you are just joining us and want to follow along, see links to those posts at the bottom.

So we established in the last post (A Whole Post on Just Daniel 5:1!) about the gap in time between Nebuchadnezzar (4:37) and Belshazzar (5:1). Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylonia) dies in 562 BC. Four more Babylonian kings reign. Belshazzar takes over in 552 BC just 10 years after Nebuchadnezzar dies. Also, Belshazzar is the last king of the Babylonian Empire - along with Nabonidus. (They must have ruled jointly somehow - co-regents.) Being the last kings is important to know for the text about God’s sovereignty. Remember the pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, came to know who God was. He came to believe in God - to praise, exalt and honor Him. But then other kings take over (they aren’t important to the text and they aren’t mentioned in the Bible, but the author, Daniel, would have known about them) and God is getting ready to judge Babylonia. God is sovereign over the nations.

5:1-4 We have already established that Nebuchadnezzar was not literally Belshazzar’s real “father.” My reference books say this was an “orgy of revelry and blasphemy”"confirmed by the ancient Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon.” Just reading the text I would think he was just having a big party/ banquet. But apparently it was an orgy!

5:2 He called for the gold and silver vessels which had been "taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem.” In my Bible the word “was” is italicized to emphasize Nebuchadnezzar had the temple pillaged and destroyed and Jerusalem burnt down in 586 B.C. The temple and Jerusalem no longer exist at this period of history. Don't miss the significance that these vessels they were drinking out of had been used in holy service to God and could only be used in the temple by the priests who had consecrated themselves before using them. Talk about not having any fear of God! ("fear of God" - a humble reverence - is a key phrase in the Bible.)

5:5 This is where we get our common phrase “I see the handwriting on the wall.” We have many sayings which come from the Bible.

5:7 Chaldeans is the same thing as Babylonians. Belshazzar is talking here. He says “third ruler” because apparently the king before him was still alive and they ruled together - “Nabonidus was the first, and Belshazzar second” in authority over Babylonia.

5:11 The queen is talking about Daniel and we have established Nebuchadnezzar was not the real father of Belshazzar. This happened sometime towards the end of the Babylonian empire.

King of Babylon Period of Reign (Approx)

Nabu-naid (Nabonidus) 555-539 BC

Bel-sharra-usur (Belshazzar) 552-542 BC

5:16 There is that third ruler of the kingdom again.

5:17 Daniel tells the king to keep his gifts.

5:18 “O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father.” God is sovereign.

5:19 "Because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated and whomever he wished he humbled.” God is sovereign.

[First reading of this verse made me thing God bestowed, people feared and trembled before God, and God spared or killed or elevated or humbled who He wanted. But I was reading it wrong. I read from the NASB which capitalizes all pronouns referring to God for clarity and honor. So in this verse - God bestowed on Nebuchadnezzar. The nations/ people feared Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuchadnezzar spared/ killed/ elevated/ humbled because God bestowed that on him.]

5:20 God deposed Nebuchadnezzar from his throne and his glory was taken away from him by God. God is sovereign.

5:21 “... until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes.God is sovereign.

5:22 Belshazzar had not humbled his heart, even though he knew everything that Nebuchadnezzar had gone through and realized about God.

5:23 “But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified.” God is sovereign.

1984 NIV study Bible text note for 5:22-23:

Three charges were brought against Belshazzar.

1. He sinned not through ignorance but through disobedience and pride.

2. He defied God by desecrating the sacred vessels.

3. He praised idols and so did not honor God.

5:25-31 MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and UPHARSIN. The inscription means God is putting an end to the Babylonian kingdom. God has judged and Beshazzar was deficient. God is giving the Babylonian empire to the Medes and Persians!

ESV study Bible text note for 5:25:

The words are clearly Aramaic and form a sequence of weights. It was not that the king and wise men could not read them, but they failed to understand their significance for Belshazzar. Read as verbs, the sequence becomes: “Numbered, numbered, weighted, and divided." The Lord has numbered the days of Belshazzar’s kingdom and brought it to an end because he had been weighted in the balance and found wanting. The repetition of “numbered” may suggest that it will occur quickly.

1984 NIV study Bible text note for

5:27: weighted on the scales - measured in the light of God’s standards.

5:28: Medes and Persians - the second kingdom of the series of four predicted in chapter 2:39-43.

[2:39-44 Unless you understand the history of the world powers - you really aren’t going to understand these verses. But this is specific prophesy which came about! This truly makes the book of Daniel incredible.

  • 1st Empire/ Kingdom - Babylonian

  • 2nd Empire/ Kingdom - Medo-Persian

  • 3rd Empire/ Kingdom - Greek (Alexander the Great came into power in the time period between the Old Testament and New Testament. He united everyone to Greek language which is why the manuscripts of the New Testament were written in Greek)

  • 4th Empire/ Kingdom - Rome which came into power just before Jesus was born. Rome was as strong as iron.]

Real nations. Real people. Real lives.

God is sovereign.

5:30-31 That same night Beshazzar the Chaldean king was slain and Darius the Mede became king.

ESV study Bible text note for 5:31: The identity of Darius the Mede and the exact nature of his relationship to Cyrus is not certain. It is clear that Cyrus was already king of Persia at the time when Babylon fell to the Persians (539 B.C.), and thus far no reference to “Darius the Mede” has been found in the contemporary documents that have survived. That absence, however, does not prove that the references to Darius in the book of Daniel are a historical anachronism. [anachronism - a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists] The book of Daniel recognizes that Cyrus reigned shortly after the fall of Babylon (6:28), and knowledge of the history of this period, while substantial, may be incomplete.

God is bringing His plan for the nations/ for Judah/ Jerusalem and the temple/ and the birth of our Savior about. God is in control of the fate of the nations. God is sovereign.

What should you be getting from the first 5 chapters?

My take-aways:

  • God is sovereign. He is in control of history/ nations/ people.

  • We must have a humble heart before a holy God.

  • If God can rule the nations, can He not certainly handle what we face daily? We are to honor, exalt, and praise Him.

  • You should be getting what I call a “high view” of God. He is sovereign and holy, just and merciful, almighty. We are not.

“The single most powerful, liberating, peace-giving truth I’ve ever learned in God’s Word is the fact that He is sovereign.”

Kay Arthur, in As Silver Refined (affiliate link)

Continue reading chapter 6.

Previous Related Posts

History prior to Daniel: Get This One = Changed Forever!

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