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Da 5:1-31. BELSHAZZAR'S IMPIOUS FEAST; THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL INTERPRETED BY DANIEL OF THE DOOM OF BABYLON AND ITS KING.
1. Belshazzar--RAWLINSON, from the Assyrian inscriptions, has
explained the seeming discrepancy between Daniel and the heathen
historians of Babylon, BEROSUS and
ABYDENUS, who say the last king
(Nabonidus) surrendered in Borsippa, after Babylon was taken, and had an
honorable abode in Caramania assigned to him.
Belshazzar was joint king with his father (called Minus in the
inscriptions), but subordinate to him; hence the Babylonian account suppresses the facts which cast discredit on Babylon, namely,
that Belshazzar shut himself up in that city and fell at its capture;
while it records the surrender of the principal king in Borsippa
to Daniel). The heathen XENOPHON'S description of
Belshazzar accords with Daniel's; he calls him "impious," and
illustrates his cruelty by mentioning that he killed one of his nobles,
merely because, in hunting, the noble struck down the game before him;
and unmanned a courtier, Gadates, at a banquet, because one of the
king's concubines praised him as handsome. Daniel shows none of the
sympathy for him which he had for Nebuchadnezzar. XENOPHON confirms Daniel as to Belshazzar's end. WINER explains the "shazzar" in the name as meaning
2. whiles he tasted the wine--While under the effects of wine, men
will do what they dare not do when sober.
3. This act was not one of necessity, or for honor's sake, but in reckless profanity.
4. praised--sang and shouted praises to "gods," which being of gold, "are their own witnesses" (Isa 44:9), confuting the folly of those who fancy such to be gods.
5. In the same hour--that the cause of God's visitation might be
palpable, namely, the profanation of His vessels and His holy name.
7. He calls for the magicians, who more than once had been detected
in imposture. He neglects God, and Daniel, whose fame as an interpreter
was then well-established. The world wishes to be deceived and shuts its
eyes against the light
[CALVIN]. The Hebrews think the words were
Chaldee, but in the old Hebrew character (like that now in the
10. queen--the queen mother, or grandmother, Nitocris, had not been present till now. She was wife either of Nebuchadnezzar or of Evil merodach; hence her acquaintance with the services of Daniel. She completed the great works which the former had begun. Hence HERODOTUS attributes them to her alone. This accounts for the deference paid to her by Belshazzar. (See on Da 4:36). Compare similar rank given to the queen mother among the Hebrews (1Ki 15:13).
11. spirit of the holy gods--She remembers and repeats Nebuchadnezzar's
(Da 4:8, 9, 18).
As Daniel was probably, according to Oriental custom, deprived of the
office to which Nebuchadnezzar had promoted him, as "master of the
at the king's death, Belshazzar might easily be ignorant of his
13. the captivity of Judah--the captive Jews residing in Babylon.
17. Not inconsistent with Da 5:29. For here he declares his interpretation of the words is not from the desire of reward. The honors in Da 5:29 were doubtless urged on him, without his wish, in such a way that he could not with propriety refuse them. Had he refused them after announcing the doom of the kingdom, he might have been suspected of cowardice or treason.
18. God gave--It was not his own birth or talents which gave him the
vast empire, as he thought. To make him unlearn his proud thought was
the object of God's visitation on him.
19. A purely absolute monarchy (Jer 27:7).
23. whose are all thy ways-- (Jer 10:23).
25. Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin--literally, "numbered, weighed, and dividers."
27. weighed in the balances--The Egyptians thought that Osiris weighed
the actions of the dead in a literal balance. The Babylonians may have
had the same notion, which would give a peculiar appropriateness to the
image here used.
28. Peres--the explanation of "dividers"
the active participle plural there being used for the passive
participle singular, "dividers" for "divided." The word "Peres"
alludes to the similar word "Persia."
29. Belshazzar . . . clothed Daniel with scarlet--To come from the presence of a prince in a dress presented to the wearer as a distinction is still held a great honor in the East. Daniel was thus restored to a similar rank to what he had held under Nebuchadnezzar (Da 2:48). Godly fidelity which might be expected to bring down vengeance, as in this case, is often rewarded even in this life. The king, having promised, was ashamed before his courtiers to break his word. He perhaps also affected to despise the prophecy of his doom, as an idle threat. As to Daniel's reasons for now accepting what at first he had declined, compare Note, see on Da 5:17. The insignia of honor would be witnesses for God's glory to the world of his having by God's aid interpreted the mystic characters. The cause of his elevation too would secure the favor of the new dynasty (Da 6:2) for both himself and his captive countrymen. As the capture of the city by Cyrus was not till near daylight, there was no want of time in that eventful night for accomplishing all that is here recorded. The capture of the city so immediately after the prophecy of it (following Belshazzar's sacrilege), marked most emphatically to the whole world the connection between Babylon's sin and its punishment.
30. HERODOTUS and XENOPHON confirm Daniel as to the suddenness of the event. Cyrus diverted the Euphrates into a new channel and, guided by two deserters, marched by the dry bed into the city, while the Babylonians were carousing at an annual feast to the gods. See also Isa 21:5; 44:27; Jer 50:38, 39; 51:36. As to Belshazzar's being slain, compare Isa 14:18-20; 21:2-9; Jer 50:29-35; 51:57.
31. Darius the Median--that is, Cyaxares II, the son and
successor of Astyages, 569-536 B.C. Though Koresh,
or Cyrus, was leader of the assault, yet all was done in the name of
Darius; therefore, he alone is mentioned here; but
shows Daniel was not ignorant of Cyrus' share in the capture of
Isa 13:17; 21:2,
confirm Daniel in making the Medes the leading nation in
destroying Babylon. So also
Jer 51:11, 28.
HERODOTUS, on the other hand, omits mentioning
Darius, as that king, being weak and sensual, gave up all the authority
to his energetic nephew, Cyrus [XENOPHON,
Cyropædia, 1.5; 8.7].