Online Bible Commentary
God is a Just God
Daniel 5:13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke, and said to Daniel, "Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? 14 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. 15 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. 16 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." 17 Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, "Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor. 19 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. 20 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. 21 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. 22 But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. (NKJV)
It is the evening of October 12, 539 B.C. King Belshazzar of Babylon and a thousand of his subjects are having a feast in the palace throne room. They are worshipping their gods. They have just witnessed a bizarre event. A hand came from nowhere and wrote words on the wall of the throne room. The king was troubled and shaken by the experience. He called in his wise men to interpret the writing on the wall, but they were unable to do so.
Queen Nitocris, Belshazzar’s mother, remembered Daniel, who had interpreted dreams for her father, King Nebuchadnezzar, and recommended him to the king. The king has now called for Daniel to come before him.
“Daniel was brought in before the king” (v. 13). The king addresses Daniel as one who is indwelled by the Holy Spirit and has “light and understanding and excellent wisdom” (v. 14). The king refers to the writing on the wall and tells Daniel that his wise men were unable to interpret the writing (v. 15).
The king tells Daniel that he has heard that he “can give interpretations and explain enigmas” (v. 16a). He offers Daniel rewards if he can interpret the writing. The rewards are to “be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom” (v. 16b).
Daniel is now about 80 years old and the king’s rewards are not attractive to him. Besides, Daniel had already been a ruler, his reward for interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream. Daniel offers to interpret the writing but declines the rewards (v. 17).
However, before Daniel interprets the writing he needs to prepare the king. The writing on the wall tells of doom and misfortune that will come upon the king. So, Daniel first tells the king why this doom and misfortune is coming upon him.
Daniel recounts how God gave Nebuchadnezzar, the king’s grandfather, “a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor” (v. 18). But Nebuchadnezzar did not use God’s gift wisely. He abused his power and the people “trembled and feared before him” (v. 19).
Because of his pride and his worship of idols, Nebuchadnezzar’s throne was taken from him (v. 20). He fell captive to a mental illness that caused him to live as cattle in the pastures (v 21a). It was not until he humbled himself and acknowledged the sovereignty of God that he was healed and restored to the throne (v. 21b).
Daniel then tells the king that he has not learned from the sins of his grandfather, and he should have (v. 22). The king was old enough that he served in the government of King Neriglissar in 560 B.C. So he would have been old enough to know of his grandfather’s illness which ended in 566 B.C., just six years earlier.
Even though he knew the sins of his grandfather, and the punishment, Belshazzar still committed the same sins. In the next commentary Daniel will explain Belshazzar’s punishment, the writing on the wall.
In God’s eyes, we are not held responsible for the sins of our forefathers. We are only responsible for our own sins. We are not responsible for slavery, or any other atrocities against people groups, such as the American Indians. God does not punish us for the sins of others. God is a just God.