Bible Commentaries
Daniel 5

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-7



Verses 1-7:

Verse 1 begins the history of a cruel and impious king Belshazzar whose name means "god of fire." History recounts that he killed one of his nobles who killed some game ahead of him one day while hunting; On another occasion he cruelly unmanned or castrated one of his courtiers, because one of his concubines thought he was handsome.

One day he made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine before them, a thing that a king normally did not do. He usually ate and drank apart from them, Ezra 1:3; Proverbs 31:4; Ecclesiastes 10:17; Hosea 4:11.

Verse 2 relates that as Belshazzar "tasted the wine," at length, until inebriated, then he commanded his servants to bring into the festival hall the golden silver vessels which his father (or grandfather) had taken out of the temple at Jerusalem, at his first conquest of the city, Jeremiah 27:7. This was ordered by their god; It was ordered by the insolent king, as an act of contempt toward the captive Jews and their God. It was further ordered that further wine served to the king and his princes, and his concubines should be served out 146 those vessels of gold and silver, brought from the temple in Jerusalem, Proverbs 20:1. In times of drunkenness men and women stoop to do things they would not do while sober, Galatians 6:7-8.

Verse 3 states that the cruel and insolent king’s orders were obeyed and shortly he, his wives, his princes, and his concubines were again drinking their glut of wine, out of the sacred golden and silver vessels of the house or temple of God. Their actions were profane, as they wallowed in moral debauchery, Proverbs 31:4.

Verse 4 states that they drank wine, praising the gods of gold, and silver, and brass, and iron, and wood, and stone. In a drunken stupor they offered a toast, in derision, to each god, Exodus 20:1-5; Isaiah 44:9; Psalms 115:4-9; Acts 17:25-30; 1 Corinthians 8:5-6.

Verse 5 states that "in the same same hour," that or while they were drinking wine out of those sacred vessels of gold and silver, taken from the sacred temple in Jerusalem, as they were toasting their heathen gods, in bacchanalian revelry, the invisible living God appeared in that hall, Daniel 4:3. He appeared in the form of the fingers of a man’s hand (three fingers), the writing fingers. There was no man’s body or hand, just the writing fingers, as they wrote on the plaster of that huge festival hall, just above the candlesticks, where it was clearly visible to king Belshazzar. The king "saw the (part) of fingers of the hand that wrote."

God warned Belshazzar, not by a dream or vision, as he had Nebuchadnezzar, but by "writing fingers," perhaps three fingers only, that held the pen. The writing that appeared over the candlestick or candelabra was likely also the golden one taken from the temple in Jerusalem. This episode confirms that "pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall," as certified Proverbs 16:18; And in Herod’s actions and death, Acts 12:-23.

Verse 6 relates that the king’s countenance was changed, his bright look suddenly turned ashen gray. His conscious thoughts troubled him, shook him up within, so- that the joints, his vertebrae or backbone of his loins loosed, he becomes so weak with fear that he could hardly stand on his feet, Job 18:11; Isaiah 5:27. So loose were his joints and weak were his knees that they "smote one another," knocked together, Nahum 2:10.

Verse 7 continues that when he was sufficiently composed he cried with a mighty voice to bring in the magi or wise men in haste, the astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. Like Nebuchadnezzar in earlier life he trusted these fraudulent imposters to help him in this hour of terror, Isaiah 47:13. When these imposters entered that drunken festival hall King Belshazzar pointed to the writing on the plaster and vowed that any of them who would read to them the writing and give the meaning would be: 1) clothed in scarlet (or purple, a royal robe), and 2) have a chain of gold placed about his neck, and 3) be made the third ruler in the kingdom, Daniel 6:2. The first place was to the king, the second to the son of the king, or his wife the queen, and the third to be given to the interpreter of this three finger writing from the invisible hand.

Verses 8-16


Verses 8, 9 recount that all the king’s wise men (imposters), one by one, conceded that they could neither read nor give the meaning of the writing--For "spiritual things are spiritually discerned," 1 Corinthians 2:14. This honor God reserved for Daniel. It is further explained that at this point of "no answer" or explanation of this message on the wall, Belshazzar was again "greatly troubled," with near convulsive fear. His countenance was again changed in him, as his lords saw deathly paleness come over his face again. They were all astonished, milled about that place in awe, aghast at the scene. See Genesis 41:9; Isaiah 47:9; Isaiah 47:12-15; Daniel 2:27.

Verse 10 relates that the queen mother or grandmother, upon receiving the report of the king and his lords, hurried into the banquet hall. She offered comfort to the king who stood or now sat ashen pale, with fear, bordering on an heart attack. Her greeting was "O king live forever," don’t ever let your thoughts trouble you or your countenance be changed. She assured him that everything was going to be all right.

Verse 11 continues her testimony that there was (existed) in his kingdom nearby, right at hand, a man in whom existed the spirit of the holy gods; She remembered the words of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 4:8-9; Daniel 4:18. And she reminded him that in the times of his father (or grandfather) v. 2, this man (Daniel) was made master of or over the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers, over all the magi in the land, Daniel 4:9. She assured Belshazzar that it had been proven that this man had demonstrated that light and wisdom of the gods existed in him. Her memory of Daniel’s former deeds was much like the testimony of Pilate’s wife concerning Jesus, Matthew 27:19-25.

Verse 12 certifies that the aged queen-mother who knew of Daniel’s former relating and interpreting dreams for Nebuchadnezzar, appealed to Belshazzar to send for him, call him in, and he would be able to do what the imposter magis could not do, either read or interpret the finger writing over the golden candlesticks upon the festival hall. She witnessed that she believed Daniel had: 1) an excellent spirit or attitude, 2) excellent knowledge, 3) excellent understanding, 4) could really interpret dreams, 5) could make known hard sentences, things hard to be understood, and 6) dissolve doubts, Daniel 6:3.

Verse 13 certifies that then, upon the testimony of the queen mother, Belshazzar had Daniel brought before him. Note, Daniel had acquired a good name (good reputation) even among the heathen, a thing more to be desired than silver or gold, Proverbs 22:1. Belshazzar first inquired of Daniel’s identity, whether or not he was that Daniel whom his father or grandfather, v. 2, had brought captive as a Jew, out of Judah. And he was, Daniel 1:4-6.

Verses 14, 15 add that Belshazzar had heard (good reports), that the spirit of the gods was in him, so that he had light, wisdom, understanding, and ability to interpret dark matters, v. 10-12. Then he advised Belshazzar that the writing on the wall before him had not been read or interpreted by his own magi who had been brought in, and they could not, v. 8, 9.

Verse 16 continues to relate that he had heard that Daniel was or would be able to do this, v. 11. Belshazzar then proceeded to promise that if he could and would read to him those finger-written words on the plaster, above the golden candlestick, he would grant him: 1) to be clothed with scarlet or purple, a royal robe, 2) place a gold chain about his neck, and 3) make him third in power of administration over the kingdom of Babylon, quite a lucrative and elevated matter. And why should Daniel not interpret the writing? For it was his own Father’s handwriting? And it was to be spiritually discerned, 1 Corinthians 2:10-14.

Verses 17-31


Verse 17 discloses that Daniel made a waiver of any desire or requirement of gifts or reward or fee for interpreting the writing on the wall that had shocked king Belshazzar. He told the king that he might keep his offered gifts and dole out his reward or fee elsewhere, as Elisha had done, 2 Kings 5:16. However, he did assert that he would read the writing, (his heavenly father’s handwriting, so familiar to him.) And he assured him that he would gladly interpret the meaning of the writing.

Verse 18 notes that Daniel reminded Belshazzar that the most high God (the living Jehovah) had given Nebuchadnezzar his father a kingdom with majesty, glory, and honor, as recounted Daniel 2:34; Daniel 2:38. He reminded him that his father did not build that kingdom for himself, of his own ingenuity, Daniel 4:17; Daniel 4:22-25.

Verse 19 reminds Belshazzar that Nebuchadnezzar, in exercising the might and majesty and glory of power that the Lord gave him, caused all nations and people and languages to tremble and fear his cruel hand. He had ruthlessly slain whom he chose, and kept alive those he was pleased to have as captives. He had elevated to rule under him those he pleased, and dethroned those he pleased, as an absolute monarch, Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 27:7; Daniel 3:4.

Verse 20 recounts that when his heart was exalted in pride he was deposed from his throne and his glory was taken from him, to cause him humiliation as recounted, Daniel 4:30; Exodus 9:17; Exodus 18:11; Job 15:25-27; Job 40:1; Job 40:12; Proverbs 16:5; Proverbs 16:18; Isaiah 14:12-17; Luke 1:51-52; Luke 18:14; Exodus 18:11.

Verse 21 reminded Belshazzar that his father Nebuchadnezzar was driven (by violent insanity), from social fellowship among human beings and his heart or emotional affections were made to be like beasts, Daniel 4:32. He thought he was an animal; and he dwelt in the open fields with wild asses where he was fed with grass or herbs like oxen. In this experience of mental derangement his body was wet with the dew from heaven. He remained in this state until in a moment of recovered temporary sanity, like the prodigal, he "came to himself," and recognized that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and it was He who repeatedly appointed whom he pleased over the governments of men, Luke 15:17; Daniel 4:17.

Verse 22 chides, reprimands, or scolds Belshazzar that though he had known this chastening experience of his father, he had still arrogantly refused to humble himself. He had just led in deriding the most high God before the lords and rulers of all his provinces by drinking wine from the golden and silver vessels taken from the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, v. 1-4; 2 Chronicles 33:23; 2 Chronicles 36:13; Psalms 9:12; Psalms 10:12; 1 Peter 5:5-6.

Verse 23 charges Belshazzar with deliberate insolence and contempt toward the living God of heaven, in the deed of display and arrogance of drinking wine before his lords and their wives and concubines, out of the golden and silver vessels taken from the house of the Lord. They toasted the gods of gold; silver, brass, iron, wood and stone, dead gods that see not, hear not, and understand not, in derision toward the living God in whom they lived, moved, and existed. He gave no glory for anything to the true God; Habakkuk 2:18-19; Hebrews 4:13; Isaiah 46:6-7; Jeremiah 10:23.

Verse 24 states that then, at that point of Daniel’s address to king Belshazzar, the "part" of the hand, the writing fingers on the plaster wall, sent from God, was taken away, removed, or disappeared, v. 5. And the following was boldly written over the candlestick in that banquet hall, v. 5.

Verse 25 states that this is (exists as) an identical copy of the written statement "mene," meaning numbered; "Tekel" denoted weighed; and "upharsin," meaning dividers.

Verse 26 adds that "mene" meant that God had numbered or limited his kingdom days of reign, or cut short and finished it, resolved to terminate it forthwith, Jeremiah 25:12.

Verse 27 further affirms that "tekel" meant that Belshazzar was personally weighed in character, in God’s balances, and found to be far too underweight to reign further in Babylon, 1 Samuel 2:3; Job 31:6; Psalms 62:9; Jeremiah 6:30.

Verse 28 concludes that "peres" as "upharsin", v. 25, means "dividers" or "divided" meaning Belshazzar’s kingdom would be soon divided between or among the Medes and the Persians, as also foretold Isaiah 21:2; Ezra 1:1; Daniel 9:1; Daniel 6:28.

Verse 29 relates that then Belshazzar mandated that Daniel be clothed with scarlet, a royal robe, and have a chain of gold put around his neck. He then made a proclamation, caused it to be known through all his kingdom, that Daniel should be recognized then and thereafter as the third in order of power in the kingdom of Babylon, the thing he had promised, v. 13-16. He had held a similar rank under Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 2:48.

Verse 30 records that "in that night", with sudden judgment, "was Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans slain, "as further confirmed Jeremiah 51:31; Jeremiah 51:39; Jeremiah 51:57. History relates that Cyrus, king of Persia, diverted the water of the Euphrates river around the city, during that extended drunken international feast of Belshazzar, and marched his army by the dry land of the river inside the city, as the king and his consorts were carousing at the annual feast of the gods. See Isaiah 21:5; Isaiah 44:27. As to the slaying of Belshazzar see Isaiah 14:18-20.

Verse 31 discloses that Darius the Median seized the kingdom at about the age of 62 years, Daniel 9:1. Though Cyrus led the army assault that conquered Babylon it was done in the name of Darius. But Daniel 6:28 shows that Daniel was aware that Cyrus had led in the capture of the city of Babylon. The Medes were the leading power in her destruction, Isaiah 13:17; Isaiah 21:2.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Daniel 5". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. 1985.