In this episode, we talk about the handwriting on the wall. In Chapter 5, Daniel interprets this miracle and awes the people of Babylon. Just like He does with King Nebuchadnezzar, God takes modern leaders and people in power and invites them into The Kingdom of God. These authorities have an opportunity to be a faithful witness, just like everyone else.
The handwriting on the wall
Chapter 4 is actually the set up for chapter 5. So now we’re going to fast forward into a whole different realm of Babylon, at the very end of Babylon.
We met Nebuchadnezzar the first year of his reign, and then 40 years later or something, now we’re going to see another episode where his grandson is now on the throne, Belshazzar.
Chapter 5. Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand.
While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.
It’s important to remember here that he’s got his wives with him. That’ll come into play in a second.
Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them.
They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.
In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.
Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other.
You get the picture here, right? You can understand his anxiety, can’t you? You’re in this big giant palace having this big party. You’re inebriated, and suddenly this hand comes in, unattached from anything else and starts writing on the wall. I think I would be scared.
He’s scared to the point where his knees start knocking together. That’s really scared.
The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers—This is a real pattern, isn’t it?
The king spoke, saying to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck; and he shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”
Now all the king’s wise men came, but they could not read the writing, or make known to the king its interpretation.
Then King Belshazzar was greatly troubled, his countenance was changed, and his lords were astonished.
The party kind of ground to a halt.
The queen recommends Daniel
The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came to the banquet hall.
Now, remember, his wives were already there, so what this is, probably, is a queen from his father or grandfather’s time. Somebody that knew some history here.
So the queen came in saying, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change.
There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers.
Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.”
It’s interesting isn’t it? The queen knows Daniel’s the best of all these guys. She knew the lesson, but somehow it was lost on Belteshazzar.
How that took place, we don’t know. This is a very political set up. The eunuchs are the ones who run the place. We’ve seen—and we’ll see again—that when there’s an opportunity to bump somebody off who’s ahead of you, they take advantage of that opportunity. Certainly it would not be unusual in a political setting for someone who was righteous like Daniel to get shoved aside and forgotten. Nothing would be unusual about that whatsoever. New administrations usually come in and want their own people from their own generation. Daniel’s a really old guy by this point in time, 80 or 85. He’s pretty old. So it’s not hard to envision how that could take place. And we’ll see the result of casting aside the wisdom.
Daniel is brought before the king
Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke, and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah?
I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you.
Now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not give the interpretation of the thing.
And I have heard of you, that you can give interpretations and explain enigmas. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”
See, I’ve got my knees knocking, but I’m still somebody.
Daniel’s exhortation to Belshazzar
Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another—This might be why he’s not in power anymore. —yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation.
O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor.
And because of the majesty that He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished, he kept alive; whomever he wished, he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down.
But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.
Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses.
Do you see a theme here?
“But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven.
You know, a lot of the time God gives us an opportunity to learn stuff firsthand, but sometimes the only chance we get is to learn it from someone else. In this case you saw this and you didn’t pay attention and —you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.
Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written.
“And this is the inscription that was written:
MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
Daniel’s interpretation of Belshazzar’s dream
This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it;
TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting;
PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”
Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
This may be one of the shortest rules ever.
That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
The fall of Babylon
So now we go back to the last lesson. We’ve got the statue. Head of gold, Babylon. Chest of silver, the Persian kingdom, the Medes and the Persians.
We’re still in the book of Daniel, and now it’s happened. The Medes and Persians come in. And Cyrus the Persian is going to be the one that gives the order for Israel to go back to be repopulated by the Jews. And Jeremiah’s prophecy is going to become true, the prophecy that we’re going to see Daniel fretting over in chapters to come. It’s happened. We’re already in the second part of the statue.
Now we have a little treat for you. Brandon is going to come and he’s going to talk to you about this event from the standpoint of Herodotus the Greek historian. Because this event is something that’s pretty well known in world history.
Okay, so like Tim said, this is Herodotus who was a Greek historian. He wrote about the Persian Wars. If you’ve seen the movie 300 or heard about the Battle of 300 at Thermopylae, that’s what he’s accounting. So you have King Xerxes coming over to attack Athens, Greece and to subjugate it.
Herodotus is this Greek historian who wrote about that event. But he did more than just merely write about the event as it pertained to Greece. He also studied Egypt and Persia, Babylon, and several of the other empires during that time.
And the event that you guys just heard in Daniel gives you the inside story of what’s happening at that party.
What Herodotus gives you is an account of—here’s how Cyrus the Persian general takes Babylon.
Babylon was a city that was walled. It was a huge city. It had these massive walls. It was viewed as being impregnable. You couldn’t take it. You couldn’t starve it out through famine because it had farms inside the city, and it had the river going through the city as well, it’d just going through a hole in the gate.
So even though Babylon’s been under siege for a long time, they’re not worried about what the Persians are going to do. But Cyrus finds a way to take the city. And what he does is he diverts the river. He goes upstream and then diverts the river, breaks the dams, and has his troops come through once it gets about knee high.
I’m going to read a brief account of what Herodotus writes about this. This is in Herodotus’ Book 1, 191.
“When the Persians who were posted by the city saw the river Euphrates drop to the length of mid-thigh for a man, they entered Babylon according to Cyrus’ plan. Now if the Babylonians had been able to surmise what Cyrus was doing, they could have allowed the Persians to enter the city by the riverbed and destroyed them utterly for they could have locked all the little gates leading to the river by climbing onto the ramparts extending along the riverbanks, would have caught the Persians there as if they had been so many fish in a barrel. But as it was, the Persian maneuver took them by surprise. Because the city is so immense, its inhabitants say that when the Babylonians at the edges of the city were taken, those Babylonians who lived in the center were unaware of their capture because they happened to be celebrating a festival at that moment, and so they sang and danced and enjoyed themselves until they found out all too well what had happened. This is how Babylon fell to the Persians.”
It’s just a really cool substantiation of world history, Herodotus writing from a Greek perspective just validates completely what Daniel tells you happens in chapter 5.
The statue prophecy is already coming true
Now we go back to the statue from last lesson.
The next kingdom is the Greeks. The battle between the Persians and the Greeks was epic, really. The battle of Marathon. And then you have the 300. And then the big battle between Xerxes and Athenians, well, actually the Greek league. It’s really the time when the axis of the world shifted from the east to the west.
And we’ve already read what was going to happen in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. Because, why? Because the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men and appoints over it whomever he chooses.
So, you’re a Jew. You’ve been ripped out of your home. You’ve gone to a foreign land. They told you that God wouldn’t do this. He did do it. You want an explanation. Here it is. The explanation is the people that wouldn’t listen to Jeremiah were lying to you. They were false prophets. And the Bible is always true. And it’s happening just like God said it would happen.
Daniel is a book that the liberal theologians said was written in two pieces. All the prophetic stuff was written after the prophecies already happened and the historical stuff was written in the time period. And the reason they said that is because it was so deadly accurate. And they come with the premise of there’s no God, and there’s no real prophecy. So that can’t be true. So, therefore, it was two different books, and they claim it was true.
But then the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. And now they just don’t talk about Daniel anymore from what I can tell.
And, if you go to Israel today, it’s fascinating because of the Arabs who want Israel eliminated. The Arabs claim, “We were here first”. And the Jews claim, “No, no, no, no! This is our historical homeland”.
So the Jews are excavating historical stuff right and left to prove that this is their historical homeland.
And when they want to excavate under something that is controlled by Arabs, the Arabs will filibuster it. They won’t let it be excavated. If an Arab owns some land that has some ripe excavation stuff under it and wants to cash in on that, the Jews will pay them huge amounts of money; but they basically have to go into a witness-protection program because if you sell to a Jew, and it gets excavated and that shows that this is their historical homeland, they’ll slit your throat.
So, we still have the massive battle going on, but there’s all this massive amount of historical validation of the Bible. It’s become overwhelming, I would say.
I’ve now been to Israel four different times.
You know, God does mask himself where if you want to disbelieve his word, you can because his presence is not compelling you to bow your knee in this life like it will in the new earth when his presence is so bright, you don’t need the sun. We saw that in Revelation. And every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess.
But in this time, if you want to disbelieve, you’re not compelled to believe. But if you’re paying attention at all, and you’re willing to just open your eyes, it’s overwhelming that God is God and he puts whoever he wants to in charge.
Now, he can also take somebody that has a donkey-heart and give them a man-heart. And he can take somebody with a man-heart and give them a donkey-heart. And you should take great comfort in that as you watch things go around the world.
And my prayer for our current situation is that we will have a Nebuchadnezzar moment in our history when God takes very ordinary men and turns them into his servants. And he can do it.
But God can also use bad leadership to judge us. And so whatever we see, our appropriate response is God’s in control, and our job is to be a faithful witness, same message as Revelation and has been throughout the scripture. Pretty cool, isn’t it?