sexta-feira, 12 de agosto de 2011

The Prophet Daniel

by Cooper P Abrams III

I. Background on the Book

The modern Bible places the Book of Daniel as the first of the Minor Prophets, as well as did the LXX (The Septuagint [70], the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) and the Vulgate (Latin Bible). However, in the Hebrew Bible the Book of Daniel is placed among the Poetic Books of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Ester, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1-2 Chronicles.

Daniel was not a prophet in the normal sense because God did not deliver a message through him directly and publicly to the people. Yet Jesus called Daniel a prophet in Matthew 24:15. Through him God revealed some of the most revealing of all the prophecies of God. The Book is referred to as being the "Book of Revelations" of the Old Testament because both books are apocalyptic. "Apocalyptic" means an unveiling, disclosing or revelation.

The Book is believed to have been written in 537 BC after the Captivity was ended. The liberal unbelieving scholars (so called by themselves) of the 18th and 19th Century rejected Daniel as the writer of the Book. Their chief premise was that the prophecies in Daniel of the fall of the Babylonian Empire followed by the Persian, Greek and Roman Empires was proof that the Book was written during the Roman period because no could have known of the session of these empires in their correct order. They denied that God could reveal coming history to a man many years in advance. They purported other supposed discrepancies in the Book, however their arguments have been proven invalid by many modern archaeological discoveries.

It is clearly established Daniel could and did write the Book. In Daniel 12:4, he claims to have written the Book and this is verified in the New Testament by Christ's reference to him. (Matt. 24:15, Mr. 13:14)

I I. About the Prophet Daniel

Daniel's name means, "God is my judge". In Ezekiel 14:14, 20, the righteousness of Daniel is attested to as well as to his wisdom in Ezekiel 28:3.

"Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD. . . .Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness." (Ezekiel 14:14,20)

Daniel was born to the royal family and of noble birth (Dan. 1:3,6). His physical appearance is said in Daniel 1:4, as being without blemish and well favored. The Book of Daniel covers his life from a teenager to his death as a captive in Babylon. He lived to the end of the Captivity and was possibly eighty five when he died, if he was taken into captivity at age sixteen.

I I I. Historical Background

Only the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained in Canaan before the Babylonian captivity. The ten northern tribes called Israel had been taken into captivity approximately 722 B.C. This left only the two southern tribes called Judah in the land of Israel.

Judah also was taken into captivity beginning first with an invasion by the Chaldean king, King Nebuchadnezzar. The word "Chaldeans" refers to the Babylonians. Chaldea was originally a small providence in the southern territory of Babylonia at the head of the Persian Gulf. Later when King Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562) established the Neo-Babylonian Empire ("neo" means "new") the name came to be applied to most all of Babylonia.

Judah was not completely destroyed, but was looted extensively. This invasion is referred to as the first deportation. King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah, took all the vessels from the Temple and deported the healthiest of the Hebrews back to Babylonia to be slaves. Judah was made a vassal state and was allowed to keep its king. Daniel was among those taken into captivity. Eight years later there was a second deportation in 598, when Ezekiel was prophesying, followed almost eleven years later in 588 when Judah was completely destroyed and cease to exist.

The reason God allowed this to happen is found in the following passages of Scripture:

"The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; The which Jeremiah the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, that is the three and twentieth year, the word of the Lord hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened. And the Lord hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear.

They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever: And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the Lord; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.

Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words, Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years." (Jeremiah 25:1-11)

"Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till {there was} no remedy. Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave {them} all into his hand.

And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all {these} he brought to Babylon. And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: {for} as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years." (2 Chronicles 36:14-21)

God's stated reasons for allowing the destruction of Judah and their deportation were (1) their continued idolatry, (2) they mocked and abused God's messengers, (3) they failed to give the land the sabbatical years.

I V. Israel's Failures: 

A. Idolatry

Idolatry is worshiping any created thing. God's First Commandment is "to have no other Gods before Me."(Exodus 20:3) Israel came into being at the divine decree of God. He made them a special people, the people to whom He would give the special privildedge of revealing Himself to the world. No one could know of God and receive eternal life apart from the agency of the Nation of Israel. He further gave the special promises of land and prosperity and most of all He promised them the Messiah the Savior of the world. They had more knowledge of God than any people on the earth, yet with the knowledge of God they refused to obey God's instruction and receive salvation and eternal life. They rebelled at almost every step of their history.

Rather they chose to worship inanimate objects such as stones, trees, rivers and a host of other things in nature. They worshipped the heavenly bodies as the sun, moon and stars. To try and understand why is to look into the very depravity of man. Man is at heart carnal and a sinner. Paul in Romans 1 states it clearly. "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things." (Romans 1:21-23)

God's love is shown in that even when man willingly rejected Him, He would not be deterred from His plan to save man. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

B. They Despised the Word of God Mocking and Misusing God's Messengers.

It should be understood that not all of the Hebrews rejected God. Through Israel's history there were those few who believed God and longed for the day when their nation and its leaders would also. (See 1 Kings 19:18 as an example) They worshipped God and they lived their lives trusting God in faith.

These believers were always the minority and were always oppressed and persecuted by those who practiced false religion. These true saints and prophets believed and taught God's truth which offended the hypocritis and leaders of false religion within their nation. These wicked men hated the very word of God because it exposed their false teachings and their sins. Their shameful treatment of God's messengers the prophets is clear evidence of their despising the Word of God. The messenger was the one who delivered the word of God, but the message was from God! Yet, with no apparent fear of God, they imprisoned and murdered many of the prophets God sent to them.

Note what God says of them in the Bible Hall of Faith, "And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:36-40)

It is clear that the unrighteous hated the men who delivered God's Word to them. Many would even conclude that it was the messenger's fault. But think for a minute. Who called and sent them the messenger? Who was it who chose "that" particular man? The answer is clearly revealed in God's Word. God did. Jesus said in John 10:4-5, that His sheep hear His voice!

Those that are truly sheep know when God's speaks and they know who speaks for God. There is no rebellion against the message of God from His children. But that is not so with the children of this world. They hate the instruction from God and they will rebel against it and the messenger sent of God. Jesus said the time would come when in the name of religion they would kill the saints of God and think they have done God a service. (John 16:2)

C. They Refused to Observe the Sabbatical Years

In Leviticus 25:1-7, God directed the Children of Israel to allow the land to rest each seventh year. After the forty ninth year they were to declare a special "jubilee" in which all land returned to its original owner and slaves were returned to their families. In Lev. 25:21-22, God promised to bless them abundantly in the sixth year with enough harvest to provide for them in the seventh year when no crops were to be planted or harvested.

Israel never kept even one sabbatical year! For four hundred and ninety years all went well and not obeying God seemed to be of little consequence. In Leviticus 25-1-27 God instructed Israel to allow the land to rest every seventh year. God promised that in the sixth year He would abundantly bless them and the land would yeild enough food to las them for two years. Thus to keep the sabbatical year was an act of faith in trusting in God's provision recognizing that they were God's people. This would be a testimony to Israel and also to the nations around them of God. Yet, the Bible does not record that Israel ever kept even on sabbatical year. However, God's day of accounting was coming and as 2 Chronicles 36:21 states the land rested for seventy years. Because of their deportatation they would not be in the land to disturb it. This period is figured from the time of the first deportation in 605 BC until 536 BC when the foundation of the temple was rebuild. (See Dan. 9:2 and Ezra 1:1)

If Israel had repented God would have forgiven them and they would have been spared this judgment. They refused. God is loving and merciful and His longsuffering can be seen in that He waited for them to repent for four hundred and ninety years!

God wanted Israel to live by faith and live according to His promises, yet they would not. They refused to trust God to meet their needs. They trust was in human ability and them missed the blessing of God and reaped the destructive result of their sin. In human terms it was unthinkable to "waste" a year of crops. Humanly it would seem they would be poorer for trusting God. It was a simple test of their faith. In the six years before the sabbatical year they did not live by faith and their ignoring God's instruction in the seventh was proof they were not living by faith at any time.

V. Purposes of the book  

The section V. is from the study by David Malick

To establish hope in future restoration by reflecting in vision God’s dealing with Israel’s national sin through the times of the Gentiles.

To instruct and admonish the people of God in the crisis of faith.

To challenge “the faithful to be awake and ready for the unexpected intervention of God in wrapping up all of human history. 

V I. The Hand of God in History (Daniel 5:1-31)  

The section V I  is from the study by Bob Deffinbaugh

A. Belshazzar’s Blasphemous Banquet (5:1-4)

1 Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand. 2 When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, in order that the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

One thousand of the king’s nobles were invited, along with their wives or other women. The king was responsible for what happened, and too much wine seems to have contributed to his poor judgment. A false sense of pride and self-sufficiency seems to have dominated the dinner party. The king remembered the expensive vessels which Nebuchadnezzar, his father, had taken when he defeated and captured Jerusalem.

How much more impressive the evening would be if they drank their wine from the gold and silver vessels from the temple in Jerusalem.

B. The Handwriting on the Wall (5:5-9)

5 Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing. 6 Then the king’s face grew pale, and his thoughts alarmed him; and his hip joints went slack, and his knees began knocking together. 7 The king called aloud to bring in the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, “Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me will be clothed with purple, and have a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or make known its interpretation to the king. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, his face grew even paler, and his nobles were perplexed.

Knowing the power of the Babylonian kings, Belshazzar must have seen many men stand in fear and trembling before him. Now it was his turn to tremble. In that torch-lit banquet hall, the revelry had reached its peak, doubtlessly with loud boasting and toasting, laughter and celebration. Likely, the king was the life of the party. Perhaps he was closest to the sudden emerging of the mysterious hand in the light of the nearby lamp.

The king’s eyes were fixed upon the hand as it wrote. As a sense of foreboding and panic fell on the crowd, all eyes turned to the mysterious writing on the wall. The king’s actions alarmed all who were present.

One can only imagine the scene. Already affected by too much wine, the king’s terror robbed his legs of all strength. The lower part of his body seems to have lost control. Crying aloud in fear, his speech probably slurred, the king immediately summoned his wise men to the banquet hall. What did these words on the wall mean? He must know. A tempting reward was offered to anyone who could interpret the meaning of the handwriting on the wall.

Some think the king did not recognize the words, while others believe he only failed to understand their meaning. Since the words seem to be written in Aramaic, and there are only three, it may be that he recognized the words but did not understand their meaning. Unable to decipher their meaning, the wise men come and go. The king’s fear and distress intensifies while the others remain terror stricken.

C. The Recommendation of Daniel (5:10-12)

10 The queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles; the queen spoke and said, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale. 11 “There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father, illumination, insight, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him. And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans, and diviners. 12 “This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas, and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel now be summoned, and he will declare the interpretation.”

The queen mother does not seem to have attended the banquet, but eventually the cries of those in the banquet hall reach her ears, and she arrives on the scene. Taking note of Belshazzar’s appearance and demeanor, she tries to calm him. She informs the king that in the past a man named Daniel had successfully dealt for many years with such difficult matters. Daniel could decipher the words and their meaning.

The queen has great confidence in Daniel’s ability based upon his track record in the history of Babylonian affairs. Her summary of Daniel’s accomplishments in verse 12 suggests that Daniel performed other amazing tasks throughout the lifetime of king Nebuchadnezzar. Those recorded in the Book of Daniel are but a sampling of Daniel’s ministry to the king.

Sadly, we must observe that the queen mother’s confidence in Daniel does not seem to have been related to any personal faith in his God. She refers to Daniel and his great wisdom in pagan terms and makes no reference to Daniel’s God as the God of the Jews. She simply refers to his wisdom as having its source in “the gods.” His wisdom was extraordinary, but not the wisdom of a sovereign God. Her knowledge of Daniel and his God is superior to that of Belshazzar, but inferior to that of Nebuchadnezzar’s final assessment (see Daniel 4:4:2-3; 34-37). Her confidence does seem to produce a calming effect on the king and his guests. The king summons Daniel to appear before the king and his guests that very night.

D. Daniel is Summoned (5:13-16)

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the exiles from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? 14 “Now I have heard about you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that illumination, insight, and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you. 15 “Just now the wise men and the conjurers were brought in before me that they might read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not declare the interpretation of the message. 16 “But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and wear a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.”

When Daniel arrived, the king was eager to assure himself that this was the man the queen mother had recommended with the credentials to perform the task at hand. His questions all pertain to Daniel’s ministry during the reign of his “father” Nebuchadnezzar. They will, to some degree, become the basis for Daniel’s indictment of the king’s sin in the verses which follow. The question then will not be whether Daniel demonstrated divine wisdom, but what this king did with the knowledge of such wisdom.

The failure of all the other wise men in the kingdom is reported to Daniel in the words of verse 15. Daniel was being asked to do what no other wise man in Babylon could do, all having failed before Daniel was summoned. If Daniel was able to fulfill the king’s request, there would be a reward. The king promised royal clothing, a gold necklace, and a position of power directly under him. Obviously, the king was eager to know what those words on the wall meant.

E. Daniel’s Indictment (5:17-24)

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him. 18 “O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory, and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father. 19 “And because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed, and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated, and whomever he wished he humbled. 20 “But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne, and his glory was taken away from him. 21 “He was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind, and that He sets over it whomever He wishes. 22 “Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, 23 but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified. 24 “Then the hand was sent from Him, and this inscription was written out.

Daniel begins by turning down Belshazzar’s reward. Let the king keep his gifts or give them to someone else.

Why would he decline Belshazzar’s offer? Daniel knows that the king’s gifts are virtually useless. What good would it do Daniel to be given the third highest office in the administration of Belshazzar when his reign would end that very night? Daniel was God’s servant, divinely gifted to interpret dreams. He would not prostitute his gift by using it for his own gain. His was a gift of grace, and he would use it that way. Finally, Daniel was not “for hire.” As God’s prophet, Daniel spoke to men for God. He was not like Balaam, whose ministry could be bought. When the king pressed Daniel to take the gifts, Daniel did so, knowing he had faithfully carried out his task as God’s servant.

Verses 18-24 are fascinating. In these verses Daniel explains the guilt of king Belshazzar. The writing on the wall, explained in verses 25-28, speak of the imminent judgment of God which will fall upon Belshazzar and his kingdom, due to sin. Daniel spends more time on the king’s guilt than on his punishment, as he devotes more time to explaining the reason for the writing than the meaning of the writing.

Verses 18-24 are intriguing also because they focus on Belshazzar’s father, Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar’s sin is attributed to his failure to learn from history. The great head of gold was Nebuchadnezzar, the one into whose hand God gave king Jehoiakim, the king of Judah. He was the one who had brought the vessels from the temple in Jerusalem to Babylon (1:1-2; 5:2). Under his reign, Daniel’s divinely bestowed wisdom became evident and was displayed on various occasions. The queen mother’s words in 5:10-12 focus on Daniel’s wisdom during the days of Nebuchadnezzar. Now, when Daniel rebukes this king, he does so because he ignored the lessons he should have learned from the past, through his father’s experiences with Daniel and his God.

The events of Daniel 4 are now repeated, as a lesson which not only Nebuchadnezzar learned but which Belshazzar his son should have learned as well. God sovereignly granted Nebuchadnezzar power, glory, and majesty, and he exercised that power and authority over mankind. But his heart became proud, and he acted arrogantly. God temporarily took away his power and his kingdom, and he became like the beasts of the field, eating grass and living in the elements without shelter. All this happened so that he might recognize God as the ruler over mankind and recognize that all human authority is delegated to men by God, from whom all authority is derived.

Belshazzar knew these things, and yet he had not learned from them. His heart was now proud and haughty like that of his forefather Nebuchadnezzar. He exalted himself against the God of heaven, as evidenced in his profaning the holy vessels taken from the temple. His sin was shared by those who ate and drank toasts with him that night. Rather than glorifying the God of heaven, whom he had heard about in relationship to his forefather, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar blasphemed the name of God by profaning the temple vessels.

This was the reason for the writing on the wall. The blasphemous use of the vessels and the writing on the wall were inseparably related. Judgment day had arrived.

F. Daniel’s Interpretation (5:25-28)

25 “Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’ 26 “This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’— God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. 27 “‘TEKEL’— you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. 28 “‘PERES’— your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”

Three little words compose the message, one of which was repeated. They seem to be Aramaic words. While these words may have been familiar to the king, the message in writing was so terse he could not understand it. Now, Daniel is about to interpret the meaning of the words on the wall.

Scholars have spent considerable effort to explore the origin and meaning of each of these three terms. We need not rely on such efforts to determine the meaning of the writing on the wall. The king did not need a dictionary; he needed the interpretation of the meaning of these three words as written, in the context of that moment of history. In effect, it would seem that the message on the wall was a kind of abbreviation, summed up in three words. Imagine a three point message!

Daniel explained that the twice-used term ‘MENE’ informed the king that God had numbered his kingdom and was putting an end to it (verse 26). In effect, God seems to be saying to Belshazzar, “Time’s up.” ‘TEKEL’ meant the king had been weighed on the scales of divine justice and found deficient. The king had given God short measure. ‘PERES’ is the divine notification that the Babylonian kingdom was to be divided and handed over to the Medes and the Persians (verse 28).

G. Daniel’s Reward (5:29)

29 Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.
Verse 29 describes the king’s response, which, like his life and administration, was found wanting.

Belshazzar’s response to Daniel imply two sad realities:

First, the king’s response indicates he believed Daniel had given him the true interpretation of the writing on the wall. He rewarded Daniel as he had promised to anyone who could interpret the writing on the wall.

When he rewarded Daniel, he gave testimony to the truth of the interpretation Daniel had given. Surely he would never have rewarded Daniel for an interpretation he believed to be inaccurate.

Second, the king’s response is sadly deficient. While Daniel is not said to have urged the king to repent, as he did with Nebuchadnezzar (4:27), prophecy affords sinners the opportunity to repent. Daniel does not indicate how much time is left for the king. We know from the final verses of the passage that the night would not pass before the king was put to death. For him, there were only minutes—at the most hours—to repent, and he did not do so.

Is this one final act of pride described in verse 29? Did the king take such pride that his word would be carried out that he spent his last moments bestowing the promised reward upon Daniel, a reward Daniel had already turned down? Or did the king think that putting Daniel in a position of power might change things? I believe Daniel turned down the reward before he interpreted the writing on the wall because he wanted the king to know his was a ministry of grace.

The king’s insistence on rewarding Daniel, even in the last moments of his own life, was to be understood as a rejection of grace. The king’s promise was fulfilled, but at the same time, his doom was sealed. How tragic to be preoccupied with purple clothing, a gold necklace, and the promotion of men, rather than with eternal destiny.

H. Belshazzar’s Reward (5:30-31)

30 That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. 31 So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.

While Daniel had not given a time frame for when his kingdom would end, the inference of Daniel’s words was that time had run out for the king. Did the king even have time to sober up enough to understand what Daniel had told him? That very night the writing on the wall was fulfilled. Belshazzar was killed, and Darius the Mede came to power.


We see from our passage that the events of that fateful final night in Belshazzar’s banquet hall did not profit him at all. We may conclude then that Daniel 5 was written more for our edification than for Belshazzar. Let us conclude our study by highlighting some of the lessons we should learn from the writing on the wall.

A. The deadly nature of the sin of pride.

Pride is the evil response of sinful men to the grace of God. It is taking personal credit for what God has given or accomplished. Pride was the root sin necessitating the disciplining of Nebuchadnezzar, as we learn both from Daniel 4 and our text in chapter 5. Pride was also the sin of Belshazzar. It led to his blasphemous acts with the temple vessels and, ultimately, to his death.

The Bible views pride as a dreaded and deadly sin. In our culture today, pride is seen more as a virtue. In our culture, it is not something men have too much of, but something men believe they lack and need more of. Why does the Bible condemn men for thinking too highly of themselves and command them to do otherwise (see Philippians 2:1-11), while our culture tells us the great evil, the source of many social ills, is the lack of self-esteem? If self-esteem is not another name for pride, then what is it, and when is it ever described, defended, or advocated in the Scriptures?

B. The inadequacy of secular wisdom. 

Three times in the first five chapters of Daniel, the wisest men in the land were summoned by the king to tell him the truth which had been divinely revealed. Each time, the wise men were forced to acknowledge their inability to do so. Secular wisdom can never provide the answers for the all-important, spiritual and eternal issues of life:

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Why are Christians turning more and more to the secular wisdom of men (sometimes Christian men) for that which is essential for life and godliness? Are the Scriptures not sufficient? Is the cross of Christ not the solution for sin? What does the world offer that is better than the Bible has to offer? Christians are turning to secular wisdom for truth, guidance, and direction, when the Book of Daniel turns us to divine revelation. It is time to get back to the Book!

C. Seeing the hand of God in history. 

The spiritual, divinely inspired account of the fall of Babylon differs greatly from that of secular accounts. I must admit it was tempting for me to “fill in” some details of the fall of Babylon from sources outside the Scriptures. But then it struck me: Daniel’s account includes all that God felt it necessary for us to know. It is not wrong to know more, but all we need to know, God has revealed in the Bible.

Daniel focuses on the moral failures of Belshazzar and the nobility of Babylon. Secular history would look at the death of Belshazzar and his kingdom from a political point of view. The Bible describes the same incidents from a spiritual viewpoint. The moral failure was that of pride. The sin was that of blasphemy and failing to give God the glory which is His. Secular accounts would focus on diverting of the river which passed under or through the walls of Babylon, while the Bible focuses on divine judgment. The city fell because this was God’s judgment on a wicked nation and a wicked king.

Daniel 5 describes the hand of God in the writing on the wall, but it also describes the hand of God in the history of Babylon and of Israel. To Belshazzar the “hand of God” was a bizarre and frightening thing. To the Christian, seeing “the hand of God” in history should be a constant mindset.

D. Learning from history.

I am impressed that while Belshazzar’s punishment was revealed by the writing on the wall, this king’s sin was the result of his failure to heed the lessons which his father, Nebuchadnezzar, had learned. The basis for Belshazzar’s judgment was his failure to heed history and the lessons of his father. All the king needed to know in order to honor God and be spared from divine judgment, he did know. But he failed to act on what he knew from history. Even when the day of judgment was revealed through the writing on the wall, he still did not repent.

When you and I stand before God, all of the Bible will be the basis for divine judgment. We cannot say we did not know better nor can we plead ignorance. No one, in all of time, has been given so much revelation as we. I must ask: “What have you done with the revelation you have received through the Bible?”

As God held Belshazzar responsible for what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar, so he will hold you and I responsible for what has happened to men through history, as revealed in His Holy Word. We must learn to heed the lessons of history.

E. The judgment of God.

Daniel 5 is the inspired account of the judgment of God, falling upon the kingdom of Babylon and upon its king, Belshazzar. How sad to read of a king who parties while his kingdom crumbles, and who fails to repent even when the day of judgment is divinely revealed to him. Refusing to heed the “hand-writing on the wall,” he was judged for it. The final minutes of life were spent in matters pertaining to his earthly kingdom, rather than in seeking entrance into the eternal kingdom.

The judgment of Babylon and of Belshazzar were certain. They were also imminent. Yet the king never seemed to grasp this and act accordingly. His actions are typical of all who are blinded by sin. For this reason, our Lord warned of the dullness of men’s hearts and minds, even as the day of judgment approaches:

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