Online Bible Commentary
Against the Lord of Heaven
Daniel 5:23 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. 24 Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written. 25 "And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of each word. Mene: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; 27 Tekel: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; 28 Peres: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians." 29 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. 30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old. (NKJV)
It was the evening of October 12, 539 B.C. in Babylon. King Belshazzar had been defeated by the Persians outside the walls of Babylon. However, the king was not worried, since impenetrable walls surrounded the city and they had enough provisions to last twenty years.
So, the king decided to have a feast in the palace throne room to lift the morale of the people. He invited a thousand of his subjects and there was much drinking of wine and praising of their gods.
During the feast a bizarre event happened. A hand appeared and wrote a phrase upon the wall of the throne room. The king was greatly troubled and shaken by the event. He called for his wise men but they were unable to interpret the writing.
Then the king’s mother remembered that Daniel had interpreted dreams for her father, King Nebuchadnezzar. So the king called in Daniel. Daniel recounted the sins of Nebuchadnezzar, and then told the king that he was also guilty of the same sins, pride and idolatry.
In this passage, Daniel proceeds to tell the king that he is guilty of even more sins than was Nebuchadnezzar. He is guilty of blaspheming God, “the Lord of Heaven” (v. 23a).
During the feast, Belshazzar had called for the sacred “vessels”, goblets, taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that he and his lords, wives, and concubines could drink from them. They proceeded to drink from the goblets while worshipping idols, which, unlike God, “do not see or hear or know” (v. 23b). The king was using the goblets to glorify idols, and not “the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways” (v. 23c).
The phrase “the writing on the wall” is a warning of coming doom and misfortune. Daniel has first prepared the king by telling him why there is coming doom. Now he interprets the coming doom, the writing from the hand of God (v. 24).
Daniel reads the writing, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (v. 25). These are Aramaic words. The word “Mene” means “numbered” or “mina”, a unit of money. It is repeated to denote certainty, that what is numbered is also finished. The word “Tekel” means “weighed” or “shekel”, a unit of money. The word “Upharsin” means “and divided”. The “U” means “and” and “Pharsin” means “divided”.
Then Daniel interprets the writing. He says “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" (vv. 26-28). He uses “Peres”, the singular form of “Pharsin”, which also means “a half shekel”. The word “Pharsin” has the same letters as the word “Persia”, which may have been a play on words to mean that the kingdom would fall to the Persians.
Even though the news was bad, the king rewarded Daniel as he had said he would (v. 29). Daniel had previously said that he did not want the reward, but the king gave it to him anyway.
During the feast the Persian army was hard at work. The Euphrates River ran through the center of Babylon and there was a water gate to allow the river to enter under the wall. The Persians diverted the river and gained entrance to Babylon on the river bed.
Belshazzar was killed, and the Babylonian Empire fell, after 1,422 years, on that eventful night in history, October 12, 539 B.C. Babylon was located in Chaldea, the land of the “Chaldeans” (v. 30).
Cyrus the Great, the Persian emperor, defeated Babylon. It then became part of the Medo-Persian Empire when Cyrus handed it over to Darius the Mede to oversee (v. 31).
So Belshazzar met his doom. He was punished for his sins of pride, blasphemy, idolatry, and failure to glorify God. The writing was on the wall and it was too late to change anything. God had already lost patience with Belshazzar, and the previous kings of Babylon. God is a patient God, but He is also a just God. His judgment will come, sooner or later, if there is not change, repentance.
This story should serve as a wake up call to America. America has lifted itself up against the Lord of Heaven. It must turn back to God before it is too late. If He can turn over a country that is 1,422 years old to their enemies, He can certainly turn over America, 240 years old, to its enemies. America must turn back to God, before the writing is on the wall.