Daniel Study – Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Sovereign God who rules over kingdoms

What: Public Denouncement Story

Story told in the 3 rd Person during the reign of Belshezzar who is king of Babylon (1)


  • Belshezzar the king is the one who throws a great banquet (1) apparently his kingship is limited in that he offers the 3 rd Highest place in the kingdom instead of the 2 nd Highest (7, 29) A couple of things come to mind; either he didn?t think the payback was that important (unlikely) he wasn?t allowed to offer more than the 3 rd position (possible and implies that he answered to a higher authority) or that he had the power to offer any position a step lower than him which would make him the 2 nd ruler of the kingdom, Daniel the 3 rd and another the 1 st. History tells us that he was not Nebuchadnezzar?s son but rather the Nabonidus who spent long periods of time in Teima.
  • The wise men couldn?t give the interpretation or reading of the writing (8)
  • The nobles at the party (1) are a noisy bunch (10)
  • The Queen (10) apparently different from the concubines and wives of the king (2) which hints that she either didn?t agree with the party or her position was one that she didn?t have to attend the party. The information she knows (10 ? 12) hints at her being older than the King and probably even the wife of Nebuchadnezzar making her Belshazzar?s grandmother and the Queen Mother in position.
  • Daniel who interprets the dream without seeking reward (17-30)
  • The Hand of a Man who did the writing on the lit wall (5)
  • God whose hand are your life-breath (23)

Why Written:


Belshazzar versus God that he knows

Belshazzar the king holds great feast (1) and gets a bit tipsy (2)

He orders the silver and golden vessels of the temple which his father took so that him and all the guest may drink from them (2) which they did (3)

They also praised the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone (4)

A man?s hand shows up writing on the wall opposite the lamp (5)

The king grew afraid and his knees knocked (6) and he called all the wise men (7) but none of them could read nor interpret the message (8) so the king was greatly afraid as was everyone else (9)

The Queen Mother came in, comforted (10) and reminded the king of Daniel (11-12)

  • He is in your kingdom
  • The spirit of the holy gods is in him
  • Wisdom of the gods in him
  • Your anscestor appointed him chief of the wise men
  • He has an extraordinary spirit
  • Interprets dreams and enigmas, solving problems
  • Re-Named Daniel Belteshazzar

The King summoned Daniel (13) and knew some things about him apparently

One of the exiles from Judah

Brought from Judah by Nebuchadnezzar

The King has heard of Daniel (13,14) and tells him his problem (15) knowing that Daniel is able to give interpretations (16) and thus offers him prestige and power (16)

Daniel tells the king to keep his gifts (17) or give rewards to others

Daniel then explains to the king how God lifted Nebuchadnezzar up (17-21)

  • God granted sovereignty to Nebuchadnezzar (18)
  • All the people trembled before Neb (19) but when his heart was lifted up God took away his throne and glory (20) and Nebuchadnezzar was driven into the wilderness (21) showing that God rules over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes.

Daniel shows that the king knew all this (22)

Daniel explains that the King has exalted himself against the Lord of Heaven and because he was not glorified and they have praised the gods of material over Him this hand was sent (24) which wrote the inscription and this is what it meant (25-28)

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin which are all weights of money (25) which means that

  • Mene-God has numbered the kingdom and put an end to it (26)
  • Tekel- Belteshezzar has been weighed and found wanting (27)
  • Peres- your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians (28)

Results: Purple, Proclamation and Power-shift

Belshezzar gave orders to cloth Daniel in purple and prestige and gave him power of 3 rd ruler (29)

It lasted a few hours for that night Belshazzar was killed (30)

Darius the Mede took the kingdom at 62 (31)


Firstly we see that God has every authority to punish sinners. His proclamation of punishment of Belshazzar is placed where all the partying nobles can see, right across from the lampstand, and very swift in that it comes that very night.

Secondly we see how Belshazzar played a tremendous role in his punishment. It wasn?t that God arbitrarily showed mercy to Nebuchadnezzar and hardened Belshazzar. We can see that Nebuchadnezzar, that old pagan, was operating with his sphere of paganism and still treated the things of God with respect placing them in his own pagan temples, but respectful. When Nebuchadnezzar was humbled he came back praising God and made a public proclamation of his testimony. Belshazzar, says Daniel, knew all these things and decided of his own volition and wickedness to do this thing and it was so heinous in light of the witnesses before him, that God punished him that very evening.

Thirdly we see that the Arimaic writing should have been able to be read: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. The thing is, the people seeing it on the very wall, couldn?t make sense of it and couldn?t read it. It was above them and all it was were the words for weights of money.

Fourthly we see that the very bad ideas one may play with on a day to day basis, in the light and soberly become very approachable ideas when there?s a bit of wine in the mouth. This man has obviously been toying with the idea in that he decides out of the blue to do this wicked thing, but once he has a bit of a buzz and the people are partying around him, he decides ?why not? Let?s see if there?s such a god as God? and he dares God in his actions much more than Nebuchadnezzar dared a God in his unwise words.

Fifthly we see the fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar?s dream in that the Medes and Persians come in and take over Babylon (we may learn from history that it was by night and by stealth). The silver of the statue comes into place confirming God?s word on the matter.

Sixthly we see Daniel?s great position in the kingdom, set up as 3 rd highest in the kingdom. It may have lasted only a few hours, but notice how far God brings this man who merely bent his will to God?s will.

Lastly we may hear Daniel?s witness from the lips of those who hold him in bondage. The Queen Mother has nothing but good to say of him and even though Belshazzar may have summoned the man grudgingly, he also has nothing but good to say of Daniel. This man was upright before God and before Men, bearing witness in the way which matters. Men completely give up their futile attempts at seeking answers and turn to the man of God and seek God?s insight into the matter. He is the only one who can provide the answers and his servants are safe beneath his wings for they rely on his wisdom. Notice that even as Daniel made God?s proclamation plain to the king he did not back down or run away, but rather told it how it is and perhaps even expected death as well, but still relied on the Lord.

On the taking of Babylon: The city had been under assault by Cyrus. In anticipation of a long siege the city had stored supplies to last for 20 years. The Euphrates River ran through the city from north to south, so the residents had an ample water supply. Belshazzar had a false sense of security, because the Persian army, led by Ugbaru, was outside Babylon?s city walls. Their army was divided; part was stationed where the river entered the city at the north and the other part was positioned where the river exited from the city at the south. The army diverted the water north of the city by digging a canal from the river to a nearby lake.With the water diverted, its level receded and the soldiers were able to enter the city by going under the sluice gate. Since the walls were unguarded the Persians, once inside the city, were able to conquer it without a fight. Significantly the defeat of Babylon fulfilled not only the prophecy Daniel made earlier that same night ( 5:28) but also a prophecy by Isaiah (Isa. 47:1-5). The overthrow of Babylon took place the night of the 16th of Tishri ( October 12, 539 b.c.).


Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. 1983-c1985. The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures. Victor Books: Wheaton, IL

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