At a great feast, King Belshazzar drunkenly calls for the Jerusalem temple cups to be brought from the treasury. He and his nobles, wives, and concubines drink from these sacred cups and then worship idols.
A hand appears and carves words into the wall. King Belshazzar is terrified to see this strange sight. He calls all of his magicians and wisemen to interpret the message, but none can. Everyone is alarmed and confused.
The Queen arrives and reminds Belshazzar of Daniel, who was famous for having insight and godly wisdom. Daniel can help in this situation, because he always accurately interpreted the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel is summoned to King Belshazzar. The King lists all of Daniel’s abilities and accomplishments, and promises great reward if Daniel can interpret the writing on the wall.
Daniel rejects the promised reward but assures the king he will interpret the words on the wall. First, Daniel reminds Belshazzar that God gave Nebuchadnezzar power and majesty over all men.
Daniel further reminds Belshazzar that Nebuchadnezzar was humiliated by God because of his pride. For seven years, the king lived like a wild animal, until he acknowledged that God is the true ruler of mankind, and grants authority as He chooses.
Daniel concludes by telling Belshazzar that he is not like Nebuchadnezzar. He, Belshazzar, has not humbled his heart before God, rather he has exalted himself against God by drinking from the Jerusalem cups and worshipping lifeless idols. The hand was sent by God in response.
The meaning of the words, MENĒ, MENĒ, TEKĒL, UPHARSIN, is that God will bring Belshazzar’s kingdom to an end because He has judged Belshazzar as an unfit ruler. Therefore, God will give Babylon to the Medes and the Persians.
Belshazzar rewards Daniel for his interpretation, making him third ruler in the kingdom. That night, Belshazzar is killed—and Darius the Mede takes over rulership.
The Bible Says Commentary on the Book of Daniel
King Belshazzar, king of Babylon and successor to King Nebuchadnezzar, holds a great feast for thousands of his nobles and his wives and concubines. He becomes drunk with wine and commands that the Jerusalem temple cups be brought to his feast. When the cups are brought, he and his nobles, wives, and concubines drink wine from them, then all of them worship idols carved from metal, wood, and stone. Immediately a hand appears and carves words into the wall.
Belshazzar is disturbed by this, and calls on his wisemen to interpret the words. But none can. The queen mother reminds Belshazzar of Daniel, who was famous during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign for his insight and connection to God. Daniel is summoned, and Belshazzar promises him wealth and authority as the third ruler of the kingdom. Daniel rejects this, but reminds Belshazzar of Nebuchadnezzar’s relationship with the Most High God.
Nebuchadnezzar was proud of his power, when God humbled him, and Nebuchadnezzar realized God is the true ruler over mankind, and can give or take away authority as He pleases. But Belshazzar has no humility, and has insulted the Most High God by drinking wine from sacred cups and worshiping idols. Then Daniel interprets the words on the wall: MENĒ, MENĒ, TEKĒL, UPHARSIN. The words mean that God has numbered Belshazzar’s days as king, had judged him to be lacking as a king and a man, and will give the kingdom of Babylon to the Medes and the Persians.
Belshazzar rewards Daniel for his interpretation, and that same night Belshazzar is killed. Belshazzar had been conducting the feast in defiance of the Persian army encircling Babylon. But he fell that very night and Darius the Mede took over as ruler of the province of Babylon. Thus the Babylonian Empire falls, and the head of gold in the statue of Daniel 2 passes to the next kingdom, the Persian Empire, represented by the breast and arms of silver. Daniel will survive and become an advisor to Darius. It could be that his prophecy was made known to Darius, causing Darius to give favor to Daniel.