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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Daniel 5

Verses 1-31

HOMILETICS

SECT. XVII.—BELSHAZZAR’S FEAST (Chap. 5.)

This chapter deservedly a favourite with general readers [126]. The magnificence, excitement, and revelry of the royal feast; the profligate king, when heated with wine, calling for the sacred vessels of the Temple, and, with his princes, wives, and concubines, drinking out of them to the honour of heathen deities; the sudden appearance, in the midst of the carousal, of a weird hand, tracing distinct but unintelligible characters on the wall; the consternation of the whole party, and the sudden stop put to all the mirth; the terror of the conscience-stricken monarch, causing his very knees to smite against each other; the hasty summoning of the magicians and soothsayers to decipher the mysterious writing; the perplexity of the king and his party when these men declare their inability to read or understand it; the appearance of the queen-mother [127] on the scene, reminding the terror-stricken king of the aged servant of his father, or rather his grandfather [128], Nebuchadnezzar, whom his excesses had driven from his court, but who was doubtless able to interpret the handwriting; Daniel’s entrance at the royal summons, with his venerable mien and hoary locks, now above eighty years of age; his faithful reproof addressed to the profane and licentious king; the solemn reading and interpretation of the divine message on the wall, each word falling like a death-knell on the ear of the guilty monarch; the bestowment of the promised reward on Daniel, the golden necklace [129] put on his neck and the proclamation issued that made him third ruler in the kingdom [130]; in the midst of this the startling report that the Persians were in the city, and immediately thereafter a tumultuous noise outside, and the entrance of foreign soldiers, brandishing naked blood-stained swords, into the banquet-hall; and, finally, the promiscuous slaughter that ensues, in which the king himself is slain [131], and the great Babylonian empire comes to an end. Seldom, if ever, have so many thrilling events been brought together in so short a space. The whole scene fitted solemnly to remind us of another, of which it may be regarded as a type—that hour of doom which is to overtake a godless and guilty world, when not a mere hand on the wall, but the Son of man Himself shall appear in the clouds, striking terror into every impenitent heart. We may note—

[126] Dr. A. Clarke is of opinion that this chapter is out of its proper place, and should come in after chapters 7 and 8. Chronologically this is true; but for other reasons it has been placed where it is, leaving the whole of the second part of the book prophetical. Hengstenberg observes that in this chapter the objections are less numerous and particularly feeble. An objection has been made on the ground that no king of Babylon of the name of Belshazzar is known in history; and that the name of the last king was not Belshazzar, but Nabonnedus, according to Berosus, or Labynetus, according to Herodotus, who was not slain in Babylon, but surrendered himself a prisoner to Cyrus at Borsippa, and was kindly treated by the conqueror. Strange to say, as already remarked in the Introduction, a clay cylinder, now in the British Museum, was in 1854 discovered by Sir H. Rawlinson among the ruins of Mugheir, the ancient Ur of the Chaldees, on which is an inscription stating that the building in which it was found was the work of Nabonidus; the last of the Babylonian kings, who repaired it in 555 b.c., and that Bel-shar-ezer (or Belshazzar) his eldest son, had been admitted by him to a share in the government. There were thus two kings of Babylon at the time the city was taken; the one, the father, of whom the historians speak, and who was then at a distance; the other, the son, who was in the city at the time, and who, according to both Daniel and Xenophon, was slain on the occasion. According to Josephus and Berosus, Belshazzar, called by Metasthenes and the Septuagint Baltassar, was the son of Evil-Merodach, and reigned seventeen years; the two who reigned between Evil-Merodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, being Neriglessar, his brother-in-law, who slew him, and reigned four years, and Laborosoarchod, his son, who reigned only nine months; whose names, as only petty kings and usurpers, would not, Dr. Cumming thinks, be acknowledged in the chronicles of Babylon or by the sacred writers. Keil, with Hoffmann, Hävernick, and others, is inclined to regard Belshazzar as the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar, and to identify him with Evil-Merodach, it being the rule with Eastern kings to have several names.
[127] “The queen.” According to Herodotus, this was Nitocris, a prudent woman; the queen, not of Belshazzar, but of his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, the former being already at the feast among his wives and concubines. According to Polyhistor, it was Amiyt, daughter of Astyages, sister of Darius the Mede, and aunt of Cyrus. Prideaux takes her for the mother of Belshazzar and widow of Nebuchadnezzar. So Keil. Dr. Rule observes: “Perhaps she was the wife of Nabonadius, left in the city when her husband sallied forth to meet the enemy, but who had not returned. If so, she would well remember the events of the latter part of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.” According to Josephus, she was the grandmother of Belshazzar; while Origen, Ephrem Syrus, and Theodoret, make her his mother.

[128] “Thy father.” It is generally admitted that אַב (abh) frequently signifies an ancestor in general. Belshazzar was probably a son of Evil-Merodach, who only reigned two years, and so was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar.

[129] “A necklace.” Among the Persians it is said to have been one of the highest honours to receive a neck-chain as a present from the king. An emblem, as among the ancient Egyptians and ourselves, of magisterial authority.

[130] “The third ruler in the kingdom.” This agrees with what has been noted as to Belshazzar having been associated with his father in the government, and thus made the second ruler; an undesigned coincidence, and a singular confirmation of the genuineness of the account. Jerome and others, however, understood the third ruler to be equivalent to the Greek τριστάτης, the title given to a member of a triumvirate in the government of a kingdom or empire. Dr. Rule observes that the word agrees with the term used in Ezekiel 23:15; Ezekiel 23:23, to denote Babylonian princes, שָׁלִישִׁים (shalishim), or “third men;” the origin being discovered in the three charioteers or soldiers who rode in the war-chariots (1 Kings 9:22), as seen in the war scenes on the slabs of the Assyrian marbles.

[131] “In that night,” &c. For the account of the taking of the city, as given by Herodotus, see page 48, note (7). The night of that event is regarded by Gaussen as “a prophetic type of the last solemn judgment of the Lord; a night so great and so terrible that the Holy Spirit frequently refers to it as the emblem of that night, a thousand times more terrible, when the Lord Jesus shall be ‘revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.’ ”

I. The feast (Daniel 5:1-4). It was—

(1.) Large; a thousand guests besides the king’s wives and concubines [132], marking the dissipated character of Belshazzar, as the kings of Chaldea are said to have rarely invited guests to their table.

(2.) Magnificent; held in the banquet-hall of the royal palace, the guests being the highest nobility [133] in the land, the king himself reclining apart on his sumptuous couch [134].

(3.) Idolatrous; celebrated with songs of praise to their gods of gold, silver, brass, and iron, wood and stone, the feast itself being possibly in honour of the tutelary deity of the city, as the supposed author of their fancied prosperity, and the successful competitor of Jehovah, to whom Nebuchadnezzar had shown so much partiality.

(4.) profane; the king, not satisfied with praising the gods of his own country, must insult and defy the God of the Jews by sending for the golden vessels of the Temple, which, nearly seventy years before, Nebuchadnezzar had brought from Jerusalem; and then, with his riotous guests, drinking out of them to the honour of his gods, as if he would again triumph over Jehovah whom Bel had conquered, like the Philistines when they placed the ark in the temple of Dagon.

[132] “His wives and his concubines.” The presence of women at feasts was a custom with the Babylonians, as appears from Xenophon. The Alexandrian translator (the Septuagint), following the custom of his own time, has, strange to say, everywhere passed over the women at the feast of Belshazzar; another corroborative evidence of the genuineness of the account, as showing the writer’s intimate acquaintance with the manners and usages of the country.—Hengstenberg.

[133] “His lords,” “his princes,” רַבְרְבָנוֹהִי (rabhrebhanohi), the reduplication of רַב (rabh), great; “great men,” “magnates” of the realm. An objection has been grounded on the use of this word, which is found in the Targum, but not in the older Aramaic writings; an objection, as Hengstenberg remarks, which would apply also to the pseudo-Daniel in the time of the Maccabees, and so prove too much.

[134] “Before the thousand,” לָהֳבֵל (laqabhel), “over against.” So Dr. Pusey, who gives the paraphrase of Ephrem Syrus, “Alone he lay over against all reclined.” A Greek scholiast, quoted by Dr. Pusey, observes, “It was their custom that each should have their own table.” So Athenæus: “When the Persian king makes a drinking feast, they (the guests) do not drink the same wine as he; they sitting on the ground, he lying on a couch with golden legs.”

II. The handwriting (Daniel 5:5-9). It was—

(1.) Sudden; in the midst of the mirth and revelry of the feast.

(2.) Mysterious; a hand seen tracing characters high up on the wall, without any one appearing to guide it.

(3.) Real; the hand and the writing visible to every one on the wall over against the great chandelier [135]; hence no effect of excited imagination or of priestly imposture.

(4.) Alarming; all naturally seized with fear, but more especially the king, for whom it was intended, and whose eyes it now opened at once to his guilt and danger.

(5.) Perplexing; no solution of its meaning obtainable through the usual channels, in fulfilment of Isaiah 47:12-13; while there is felt an inward certainty that the writing must have a meaning. The handwriting on the wall a picture of the many denunciations against impenitent sinners written by the same divine finger in the Word of God; with this difference, that while that handwriting was obscure and unintelligible till Daniel interpreted it, the denunciations in the Bible are clear as written with a sunbeam, and so plain that a child may understand them.

[135] “Over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall.” Keil says, “The fingers wrote on the plaster of the wall over against the candlestick which stood on the table at which the king sat, and which reflected its light perceptibly on the white wall opposite, so that the fingers writing could be distinctly seen. The feast had been prolonged into the night; and the wall of the chamber was not wainscotted, but only plastered with lime, as in the chambers found in the palaces of Nimroud and Khorsabad, covered over only with mortar.” Dr. Rule thinks there was no ink nor colouring, the visibility of the writing being only by the effect of light and shade on the sharp relief of the characters made on the lime or cement of the wall, such as is actually found remaining on those ruins where the walls are not lined with slabs.

III. The reproof (Daniel 5:10-24). Daniel, sent for by the king at the queen’s suggestion, before interpreting the writing, addresses to the king a solemn reproof. That reproof an example of uncompromising faithfulness,

(1.) Reminds him of an admonitory fact in the history of his great ancestor, Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 5:20-21).

(2.) Points him to his own sin in disregarding that solemn monition (Daniel 5:22).

(3.) Charges him directly with pride, impious defiance of the God of heaven, sacrilegious profanity, and honouring with his praise dumb idols, instead of the God in whose hand his breath was, and whose were all his ways (Daniel 5:24).

(4.) After thus faithfully convicting him of his misdeeds “in the presence of all the wealth, rank, beauty, and power of his kingdom,” he declares that the writing on the wall proclaims to him the righteous judgment of God which now overtook him, and of which it was sent as a solemn precursor, announcing at once his guilt and his impending doom.

IV. The interpretation (Daniel 5:25-28). Daniel, who had been appointed by Nebuchadnezzar head of all the Magi in Babylon, and had already been distinguished as a prophet of the Most High God, now again is enabled to make good his title. Sent for in the hour of distress, after having been probably banished from the court for at least seventeen years as a drivelling fanatic, he proceeds, with the confidence and calm solemnity of an inspired man, to decipher the writing. He first reads the mystic words: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN [136]. He then slowly gives the interpretation of each. MENE—repeated for emphasis, and to indicate the completeness and certainty of the fact—“numbered, numbered;” “God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it,”—the days of thy reign, thy dynasty, and the empire of which thou hast been the guilty head, are numbered, and now come to an end. TEKEL, “weighed;” “Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting,”—the cause of the approaching doom. PERES—the singular form of the verb of which UPHARSIN is the plural with the conjunction u (and) prefixed—“divided;” “Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians”—the very words seeming to indicate those to whom the empire was now to pass.

[136] “Mene, mene,” &c. “According to the account, it was only by supernatural illumination that Daniel was able to read and explain the writing, and only because the king believed him to possess it that he was called in for the purpose. The characters must therefore have been quite uncommon, so as not to be deciphered without divine illumination.”—Hengstensberg, who also remarks that the existence of a mystic writing in Babylon is supposed in the entire narration. He supposes the “magicians,” חַרֻמְמִּין (khartummin), of whom Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel the master, and who are included in the wise men of chap. Daniel 2:48, were probably men skilled in such writing, such persons being found among the Egyptians, whose religious system stands in the closest relation to the Babylonians. Dr. Cumming remarks that these persons were not “magicians,” but philosophers, who held converse with God’s outer world, not with evil spirits, like the sorcerers and diviners of old. He thinks that the writing was in the pure Hebrew character, which we call Samaritan, and that it was simply from the strangeness of the character that the wise men were unable to understand it. Some of the old interpreters, as Polanus, Calvin, and Willet, ascribe their inability, not so much to the strange and unknown characters, as to the fact that they were blinded and astonished by the power of God. Dr. Rule thinks that the difficulty may have arisen from the characters or the language, or from both; and that the charracters were most probably cuneiform, no other being used in that age in Assyria and Babylonia, while there were many languages or dialects. All the ancient versions except the Syriac have, instead of four words, only three, Mene, Tekel, Phares, exactly as explained in the verses which follow. The words are differently rendered, according to the supposed form of the verbs, whether as perfect, participle, or imperative. Some think the first word is doubled for emphasis; others, as Calvin, for confirmation, and to show that the numbering was now completed. Maldonatus thinks that the reduplication, according to a Hebraism, indicates “he hath diligently numbered” alluding to the seventy years of the Jewish captivity, or the existence of the Babylonian empire. Calvin and Polanus, after R. Saadias, favour the idea of exactness. Dr. Rule observes that מנא (mene), whether in Chaldee or Hebrew, signifies to “number, count out, allot,” and is employed here in the sense it bears in Isaiah 65:12. In connection with the last word, פרס or ופרסין (peres or upharsin), Dr. Rule observes that the division or distribution indicated in the first word is unfolded in the distinct announcement of the prophet that the Medes and Persians, now employing their united forces in the siege, shall have the kingdom divided between them; the Medes, according to Herodotus, being Aryans, and the Persians of Aryan descent. Darius the Mede had precedence in the attack over Cyrus the Persian because of seniority, and held the sceptre till his death, when Cyrus took it; Darius, according to one account, having called him out of Persia to assist him in the war by taking the command of the army. Willet remarks that upharsin, the plural, refers to the Medes and Persians as the instruments, while peres, the singular, points to God as the author of the division. He thinks the writing gives both the thing predicted,—the division of the empire,—and the parties between whom it was to be divided, the Medes and Persians, Darius having Babylon, and Cyrus Assyria. Calvin, however, properly remarks, that the city was truly taken by the valour and industry of Cyrus, but that Cyrus admitted his father-in-law to the great honour of allowing him to partake of the royal authority, and that the Medes and Persians are said to have divided the kingdom, although there was properly no division of the empire. Gaussen remarks that each of the words appears to have a double signification, one in Hebrew and another in Chaldee, so that they became equivalent to six terrible sentences.

V. The end (Daniel 5:29-31). Daniel’s interpretation soon tragically verified. The cup of Belshazzar’a iniquity now full. The hour of Babylon’s doom and his own had struck. The prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah were now to receive their fulfilment. The Medes and Persians already prepared by Jehovah to fulfil His purposes against Babylon (Isaiah 21:2). While Daniel was speaking, the Lord was admitting Cyrus and his Persians into the city by the two-leaved gates of brass (Isaiah 45:1-2), which opened on the river, and had that night been strangely left unshut [137]. “One post runs to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to show the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end. I will dry up her sea. The mighty men of Babylon have forborne to fight; they have remained in their holds; their might hath failed; they became as women. In their fear I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not awake, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 51:28-39). Belshazzar falls among the slain in the same night, and Darius the Mede, otherwise called Cyaxares [138], takes by courtesy the kingdom which Cyrus his nephew had conquered.

[137] Xenophon says this was done by Gadates and Gobryas, who had gone over from the Babylonians to Cyrus. Herodotus relates that in Babylon there prevailed such recklessness that no inquiry was made as to what was doing among the enemy, and so nothing was perceived of all those operations by which Cyrus had been preparing for the conquest of the city.
[138] “Darius the Mede.” Some have thought that this was Darius Hystaspes. So Porphyry, Tertullian, and Cyril of Jerusalem. But, as Willet observes, Darius Hystaspes reigned third after Cyrus; and Babylon was taken twice, the first time by Darius and Cyrus, and the second by Darius Hystaspes, through means of Zopyrus. Bertholdt, Bleek, and others object against the genuineness of the book, as a historical error, that he whom Xenophon calls Cyaxares II. is here called Darius, and assert that the later author of the book only gave him the name by a confusion with Darius Hystaspes; that of Cyaxares II., Herodotus and Justin say nothing, while Herodotus, Ctesias and others, state that the Median kings close with Astyages, after whom the Persian kingdom commences with Cyrus. To this Hengstenberg replies that clear reasons can be given to show that the scanty testimonies to the existence of a Median Darius are correct. Differences of names occur also in the Hebrew writings without any one thinking of charging them with error on that account. It is also generally allowed that Darius, like many other names of kings, is not a proper name, but an appellative or surname, a mere title borne by different kings, and denoting the Tamer or Subduer. The Armenian Chronicon of Eusebius confirms the credibility of Daniel by making mention of a Darius as the last of the Median kings. Dr. Pusey says, “Who Darius the Mede was is a matter not for sacred but for secular Babylonian history, whether the Cyaxares II. of Xenophon, or Astyages, or neither,” but some descendant of Cyaxares. The name Daryawash (Darius) is confessedly an appellative, and so it is consistent with his being known in secular history by some other name. The coin called Daric is said to have been so named not from Darius Hystaspes, but from an olderking. The Darius who expelled Naboned from Carmania more likely to have been a contemporary of Cyrus than one fifteen years later. Æschylus, moreover, makes Darius Hystaspes recount his origin from Darius the Mede.

Among the thoughts suggested by the narrative are the following:—

1. The short-lived nature of unhallowed pleasure. “As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of a fool” (Ecclesiastes 7:6). Belshazzar and his nobles had given themselves up to pleasure, heedless of warning and danger. Their godless revelry had reached its height when king and princes are summoned to their account.

2. The certainty of divine retribution. Belshazzar’s life one of licentiousness and immorality. Despising the lesson taught by the case of his grandfather, and trusting in his fortifications, lofty walls, and brazen gates, he expected to sin on with impunity. But the judgment of hardened offenders “lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Peter 2:3).

3. The suddenness with which punishment often overtakes the wicked. Here it was in the midst of festivity and mirth. The sacred vessels of the Temple were still in their hands, and the God defying praises of Bel on their lips, when judgment falls upon the profane rioters. The king, his princes, and his people, thought themselves secure, and laughed at the besiegers, when destruction burst upon the doomed city. “When they shall say, Peace and safety! then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and so that day come upon you unawares” (1 Thessalonians 5:2; Luke 21:34).

4. The terror of a guilty conscience. It was Belshazzar’s guilty conscience that blanched his cheeks and made his knees smite against each other as he beheld the writing on the wall. “Tis conscience that makes cowards of us all.” “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” A heathen poet could write, “A righteous man will be found fearless, though the heavens should fall and crush him” [139].

[139] “Whiles he tasted the wine,” בִּטְעֵם חַמְרָא (bit’em khamra). Keil understands the expression to mean when the wine was relished by him, as Hitzig says, “In the wanton madness of one excited by wine.” The Vulgate has “temulentus,” tipsy. Vatablus and Calvin: heated and excited by the wine. Grotius: while drinking, the wine became more and more pleasant to him. M. Henry: when he had tasted how rich and fine the wine was, he, with a profane jest, thought it a pity not to have the best vessels to drink it in. A. Clarke: he relished it, got heated by it, and when wine got fully in, wit went wholly out. Belshazzar is usually represented as addicted to the lowest vices of self-indulgence. Wintle, however, thinks that the expression in the text may simply refer to the libation to the gods made at the beginning of the feast, and quotes the words of Virgil,’ “Primaque libato summo tenus attigit ore.”

5. The aggravated guilt of unheeded warnings. Belshazzar’s special guilt that he lived a life of sin, with the case of Nebuchadnezzar before his eyes. “Thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this.” “He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be cut off, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). Unheeded warnings and neglected calls both hasten the stroke of judgment and make it heavier when it comes.

6. The sin of not glorifying God. The sin charged upon Belshazzar, as the sum and essence of his-guilt, that the God in whose hand his breath was and whose were all his ways, he had not glorified. The sin that robs God of His right and proclaims man a rebel against his Maker. “The Lord hath made all things for Himself.” All creatures to glorify God according to their several natures and capacities, because He has created all things, and for His “pleasure they are and were created.” The universal sin. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” “When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.” The sin especially marked by God. Herod Agrippa eaten up of worms because he “gave not God the glory.” Yet few consider it a sin at all.

7. The stupidity of the human heart. Belshazzar’s riotous feast at the very time when the city and country were in imminent peril. With such an enemy as Cyrus at his gates and in possession of great part of the country, a fast would have been more becoming than a feast. Men often most heedless when in greatest danger. “In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth; and behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (Isaiah 22:12-13).

8. The destiny of men and nations in the hand of God. The days of Babylon and Babylon’s king were numbered. So the days of each State and of each individual in that State. “The number of his months is with Thee.” The hairs of our head are numbered, much more the days of your life. Yet man, as a free agent and a rational creature, generally responsible for the preservation of his own life and the life of others. The effect of sin to shorten the existence both of States and individuals. “The bloody and deceitful man shall not live out half his days.” On the other hand, prayer added fifteen years to Hezekiah’s life, and repentance saved Nineveh from an impending and threatened destruction.

9. The beneficial influence of woman. A woman’s presence and voice powerful amid the terror and consternation of Belshazzar’s banquet-hall. The aged queen the only one able to give counsel to the terrified and bewildered king. Presence of mind and perception of what is needed in times of perplexity and peril often found in woman. “The adaptation of woman to promote the comfort of life is a gracious provision of God; and the disposition to soothe anxiety, to alleviate suffering, to shield or aid in danger, is alike certain to operate and honourable to display.”—Cox.

10. The crime of wantonly profaning sacred things. This the acme of Belshazzar’s guilt. Men not unfrequently tempted, especially amid festivity and mirth, to commit this sin. God’s Word and ordinances sometimes profanely made to contribute to that mirth. “When the facts and the expressions of the Bible, its sublime, its pure, and its holy truths, are used, as they not uufrequently are, to point a pun, add edge to a jest or keenness to a sarcasm, to excite a laugh or to provoke a sneer, you have God’s vessels desecrated to an unhallowed and profane end. Never try to construct jests from the Bible.”—Cumming.

11. The danger of indulging in intoxicating drink. It was while drinking wine [140], perhaps not deeply, that Belshazzar, in his impious madness, called for the sacred vessels of the Temple to drink still more. The king, wicked and profane to begin with, made more so by the excitement of strong drink. Herod the Tetrarch a similar example. Wine given by a beneficent Creator for man’s refreshment and strength. But the same authority which states that wine “gladdeneth man’s heart,” says also, “Wine is a mocker, and strong drink is raging; and he that is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). The foulest crimes often, as at Belshazzar’s feast, the result of strong drink. “All those sanguinary conspiracies which issued in such a frightful effusion of Protestant blood in France were concocted at Blois, Bayonne, Paris, and Orleans, amid the festivities of the table, and in the society of the Salomes and other immoral women who constantly attended Catherine de Medici, the Herodias of the French.”—Gaussen.

[140] “Whiles he tasted the wine,” בִּטְעֵם חַמְרָא (bit’em khamra). Keil understands the expression to mean when the wine was relished by him, as Hitzig says, “In the wanton madness of one excited by wine.” The Vulgate has “temulentus,” tipsy. Vatablus and Calvin: heated and excited by the wine. Grotius: while drinking, the wine became more and more pleasant to him. M. Henry: when he had tasted how rich and fine the wine was, he, with a profane jest, thought it a pity not to have the best vessels to drink it in. A. Clarke: he relished it, got heated by it, and when wine got fully in, wit went wholly out. Belshazzar is usually represented as addicted to the lowest vices of self-indulgence. Wintle, however, thinks that the expression in the text may simply refer to the libation to the gods made at the beginning of the feast, and quotes the words of Virgil,’ “Primaque libato summo tenus attigit ore.”

12. The condition of unconverted men in general. That condition exhibited in the case of Belshazzar, as described in the writing on the wall,—

WEIGHED IN THE BALANCES AND FOUND WANTING (Daniel 5:27)

1. Weighed in the balances. The figure taken from the practice of weighing the precious metals to test their purity. The balances those of the sanctuary, of Him who is the Judge of quick and dead [141]. Held by One who is omniscient, and whose knowledge no action, word, thought, feeling, wish, or secret motive can elude; who “searcheth the heart and trieth the reins;” who is impartial and no respecter of persons; and, finally, who is spotlessly just, judging of each act, word, thought, and feeling according to its real character and circumstances, and awarding accordingly. His balances just ones, such as He loves and requires of men. The weights in the balance to weigh these actions, &c., are His own law, which is just, and holy, and good, and adapted to man’s moral nature; a law which he was created capable of fulfilling, and in the obedience of which he finds his happiness; a transcript of God’s own character, which is love, and therefore requiring only love—supreme love—to our Maker, the sum and source of all excellence, and the fountain of all blessings to His creatures, with disinterested, universal, and impartial love to our neighbour; a law that is spiritual, taking cognisance of the inward thoughts, feelings, and motives, as well as outward acts and words, and requiring love as the character and mainspring of them all; a law as broad as man’s moral nature and capabilities, requiring him to glorify God with his body and his spirit, whether he eat or drink or whatever he does, and to desire and seek the welfare of his neighbour as his own in respect to his whole being as an immortal creature, possessing body, soul, and spirit; a law that admits of no sin or the least disobedience, all such being rebellion against God; a law the penalty of which, for even the least transgression, is, as it ought to be, death, or the separation of the sinning and polluted soul from God, who is life and purity itself. Against such a law, written in men’s consciences and revealed in God’s Word, men are weighed. “The Lord weigheth the spirits.” “By Him actions are weighed.” Job gets here his desire: “Oh, that I were weighed in an even balance.” Men weighed now as they are at each moment; every action, word, thought, and feeling as it passes. The great day of public weighing hereafter, when God shall “judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has appointed,”—shall “judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.”

[141] “Weighed in the balances.” The ancient Egyptians represented in a symbolical manner this weighing of individuals and their actions, as taking place after death, on one of the mummy cases in the British Museum. The soul is represented as “weighed in the balances,” and answered for by the embalmer of the dead. The soul was believed, by the Egyptians at least, to repose in the tomb till its gradual increase in virtue and size demanded its translation to heaven. It is seen, on the case, after being weighed, larger and larger still, and at last, when fully grown, rising up to heaven on the spread wings of the attendant scarabæus, its cherubic emblem. The idea, however, of God as our observer and judge, weighing men and their actions as moral agents, was already a Biblical one. See Job 31:6; Psalms 62:9; 1 Samuel 2:3; Proverbs 16:2; Isaiah 26:7.

2. Found wanting. Universally true ever since man fell. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” A fact universally admitted, even by the heathen. That man is a sinner as true as that he is mortal, and the latter simply because he is the former. Man not merely a sinful creature but a fallen one. “God made man upright, but he hath sought out many inventions.” Man’s fall from a state of innocence a universal tradition. His character, when left to himself, notoriously not love but selfishness. “Mind number one” man’s rule of action; not “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” which is the law of God. Instead of loving God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, He is not in all our thoughts, and we do not desire to have Him there. The language of the natural heart, “Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.” Dislike to a just and holy God, disregard of His will, and independence of His authority, the characteristics of fallen man in respect to his Maker. His nature corrupt, and no more the transcript of his Creator. Sin the character of his inner and outer life. His whole life oue continued shortcoming. Found wanting at every moment. The same true of every action, word, thought, and feeling, so far as they are the product of his own unrenewed nature. Even when the will may be to do what is right, the performance is wanting. Found wanting in all the relations of life, as parent and child, master and servant, ruler and ruled. A continuance in all the requirements of the law, day and night, all life through, in thought, word, and action, necessary to make him weight. Yet he continues in none, not even for an hour or a minute of his life. Hence the penalty of death incurred daily and hourly. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” “The wages of sin—all and any sin—is death.”. “Guilty before God,” the charge against every child of man; “guilty of death,” his sentence.

3. Our only hope. Hope of acceptance with God from ourselves or any works of our own impossible. Every such attempt to gain acceptance only a further shortcoming. No action, word, thought, feeling, put into the scale, but is itself short weight. No more hope from our neighbour than from ourselves. Each in the same predicament. Every man must bear his own burden. Yet man’s case not hopeless. Hope not found in himself but in another. That other is Jesus Christ, “our hope.” The hope provided by the Creator Himself. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help found.” “He hath laid help on one that is mighty.” He who was the “hope of Israel “is the hope of a guilty world. The glad tidings from heaven—“There is born unto you a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” “This is the name by which He shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness.” God in our nature, the Eternal Word made flesh, He is provided as our surety and substitute, the just one taking the place of the unjust. God’s “Righteous Servant,” fulfilling all righteousness, that, accepting and trusting in Him, His righteousness might be reckoned to us, and we might be accepted in Him. “He hath made Him to be sin who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). To those who accept of Him, and so are in him, He is of God made righteousness as well as sanctification and redemption. Made one with Him, through acceptance of Him and trust in Him, His perfect obedience is ours, and is thrown into the scale as our own. “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one many are made righteous.” Christ’s works, not our own, make us full weight; His, and at the same time ours by virtue of union with Him. His righteousness, not our own, the garment for the marriage feast. The sin and ruin of the Jews that they rejected this robe of righteousness. “They being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). Reader, what have you to weigh against God’s law? Christ’s works or your own? If the former, as evinced by a new heart and life, you are accepted; if the latter, still “found wanting.” Lose no time in accepting Christ as your righteousness. You may even yet have His works put into the empty scale as your own. But soon it will be too late. Accept in time, or you are undone.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Daniel 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/daniel-5.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.