King Belshazzar threw a large banquet for 1,000 nobles and drank wine with them. As they were tasting the wine, Belshazzar ordered that the gold and silver utensils which his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem be brought to him. He wanted to drink from them with his nobles, his wives, and his concubines.
So the servants brought the gold utensils that had been taken from God’s temple in Jerusalem. The king, his nobles, wives, and concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised their gods made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, or stone.
Suddenly, the fingers of a person’s hand appeared and wrote on the plaster wall opposite the lamp stand of the royal palace. The king watched as the hand wrote. Then the king turned pale, and his thoughts frightened him.
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Insights from the Text & Historical Records
Belshazzar is portrayed as the King of Babylon and son of King Nebuchadnezzar, though he was actually the son of King Nabonidus—one of Nebuchadnezzar’s successors—and he never became King in his own right, nor did he lead the religious festivals as the King was required to do.
Babylon was a large, impregnable city measuring 13.5 miles on each side as a square with a perimeter of 55 miles. A deep wide moat surrounded the walls that were 304 feet high and 76 feet wide. Around the wall were 100 gates of bronze. The Euphrates River flowed through the center of the city.
Belshazzar’s name means: May Bel or Marduk Protect the King. This arrogant young man deliberately blasphemed God by using the holy cups of the Jerusalem Temple for his banquet. The queen was probably the Queen Mother or daughter of Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel first reminded the King that his grandfather had blasphemed God and then been humiliated by God. This is what was happening to Belshazzar.
Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah all used the title God of Heaven because this was the title other people in the Persian Empire gave to their chief god. While King Nebuchadnezzar heard a voice from Heaven, Belshazzar saw a hand from Heaven.
The fall of Babylon took place that night. The Persians diverted the water from the Euphrates River so that they could walk under the gate on the riverbed into the city. Darius the Mede now became ruler of Babylon.
Things to Think About
- Why did Belshazzar want to use the holy cups of the Jerusalem Temple for his banquet?
- What did this action of God teach the future rulers of Babylon?
- Daniel is now 80 years old. What does he think of this action by God?
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