Daniel 5:29-31

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Daniel 5:29
  • Daniel 5:30
  • Daniel 5:31

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.

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.

Despite hearing that his kingdom is going to end, Belshazzar keeps his word. This is another irony. The arrogant king does not reject the unwelcome message. Perhaps he hopes that by acknowledging God, he can be spared judgment. He gives orders to fulfill the promised reward for anyone who could interpret the writing on the wall, and that person is Daniel. So Daniel is clothed with purple and has a necklace of gold placed on his neck. Daniel rejected these rewards up front, prior to interpreting the writing, but they are bestowed on him, regardless of his preference.

Belshazzar gave orders to other servants to bestow the gifts on Daniel. In addition to the fine clothes and jewels, Daniel is given authority as third ruler in the kingdom by way of a proclamation from Belshazzar. This will be short-lived, since now it is clear that God will give Babylon to the Medes and Persians. Still, it is consistent with Daniel’s career. His entire life in Babylon has been marked by his gift of interpreting God’s revelations to the kings, and being promoted and exalted every time.

This new promotion, the most meteoric rise in power of them all, is brief in Babylon. God’s message was timely and true, for that same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. The Mede and Persian armies took the city of Babylon, and Belshazzar was immediately killed in the conquest.

Darius the Mede received the kingdom subsequent to Belshazzar’s death. The passage concludes with this transition of power. Although Daniel’s rise to power in the Babylonian kingdom was brief, the next chapter opens with Daniel in a high position. When the Persians came under the wall and took the city, very few lives were taken. Virtually the entire city was captured. We can imagine Darius interviewing the king and his nobles, who were conveniently assembled together, and learning of the story of Daniel predicting the fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians. So although Daniel’s reign as third ruler was brief, it may have catapulted him to prominence in Darius’ administration.

Daniel survives and continues serving in Babylon, while remaining faithful to his God. A stranger in a strange land—living in the world, but not of it.

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.

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.

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